Friday, January 21, 2011


Something happened today that is so human that it can only come from G0d.  For a long time now, the Voice from my Kitchen and I have been following Keith Olbermann, commentator featured on MSNBC.  For a long time now we have lived alongside him, through the protracted illness and eventual death of his father to the time when he announced his departure from the commentator's chair that he had held for eight years.  He did announce also that unlike some of the experiences that he had in the past when he had about thirty seconds to pack up and leave, this time he had been granted the time to bid the audience good-bye in proper form.
Since the death of his father, on every Friday, Keith had been reading, on air, short stories taken from James Thurber.  He would read a story at the end of the program just as he had done for his father through the last days of his agony.  The day of his departure from MSNBC was a Friday, so he announced that as part of his adieu, he would indeed read a final time from James Thurber.  He read  the story about the "Dog Who Knew Too Much."  Actually, a story that I am sure he chose because of the parable nature of it as applied to Keith's own personal situation.
That is but the introduction to the point of this reflection.  

The Voice from my Kitchen remembered the last times of her mother and compared what Keith had done with and for his father and she suffered a wave of guilt for not having been more present to her mother at a similar time.  She told me that she remembers her mother every single day.  She said that she doesn't feel well about the fact that she did not do enough for the suffering lady, just as Keith had done for his father.  I have tried to console her on a number of occasions, but I can see that my offerings have not hit the mark.
My experiences with death of parents and other "nexts" of kin is quite different. Except for one of my sisters, no one has had any need of my services.  Not one of them was around for more than a few seconds between life and death.  That doesn't leave much time to develop a lot of guilt.  But it does offer equal opportunity to experience and cultivate memories.  I have two favorites:  my maternal grandfather and my father.  I have lived my life experiencing daily mental and emotional encounters with these two people.  50 years for the one and 63 or so years for the other.   It's like yesterday, and I wouldn't give it up.  Now, believe it or not I actually had an inspiration about that tonight when after our night prayer, Voice from my Kitchen expressed  her sense of guilt again.  Without thinking I said, "Guilt is perhaps not the proper disposition to have about your mother's presence in your memory.  Your mother's presence to you is not meant to weaken you through guilt, but to strengthen you through memorialization.   It is like the mission of Jesus to His disciples to 'do this in memory of me.'  it is the strength that we get from God who keeps Himself in our minds and hearts every moment of every day.  The presence of your mother is God's message to you through her that the Grace of doing His Will is constantly with you.  Think about it."
I might be all wet, but its not from tears spilled at funerals.  My memories of my forebears, all of them, some great, some not so great, are God's light shining in my soul.  I have my weaknesses and my downright nasty side, close to the surface.  That's not God's fault and it's not from my forebears not having tried to make me right in every way.  I know, and He knows, and I believe that they know that they still have a lot of work to do on this particular clay pot.  Why else would I still be here?  He keeps trying to get me ready for the walk in the garden.  Why else would He give me the grace of His constant presence through these dearest of the dear God fearers in my life?  
I didn't say all of this to her.  I'll send her the link to this and let her turn it over in her own mind and heart.  Bottom line, this is a story about what we Catholics call the Communion of Saints.  It is the greatest assurance that we have that once life is given, it is never taken away.  God gives us the grace of memory to strengthen us along the earthly portion of the way.  Let us not weaken that great gift by burying ourselves in unrelenting guilt.

All of the above is just one more reason why I don't want to catch you crying at my funeral.  If I do, I won't let you remember me.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I remember the silly sayings of George Gobel, of innumerable moons ago. "Funny thing happened to me today.  I was walking downtown when I turned into a drug store."  That didn't happen to me, but in fact a funny thing did happen to me today.  If you want to call it "funny."
I don't know why, but after writing all that stuff about one million eyeballs, I decided for the first time to "Google" myself.  I have to admit that I was rather impressed.  There I was on the third line with my picture.  A little mug shot back in the days when I was a little more beefy.  I did in fact make it on more than one line.  This blog, "No Crying at My Funeral" was there too.  Not too bad for a small town boy, says I.  I was doing quite well so I got sassy and decided that I would turn the page and see what I could find.  After all, after more than one million eyeballs, I figured that there would be something else.  That's when it happened.  Right there on the second page, near the top there's a Paul Dion who maintains a web sight of nude male movie stars.  Really.  No lie.  Of the 116 Paul Dion people in this country (according to Google, right there on the first page), not 15 names on down the list, there he is, the guy with the nice name and the daring enterprise.  I have to tell you, I wasn't very happy, but I did find a way to make lemonade.
I remembered the genealogy of Jesus and my mind took me right to Rahab.  Click there and read all about it.  You can check out the genealogy right here in the very first chapter of Matthew.  So, we're not any better than Jesus, now are we?  So now that "Google" has put me in my place, you are all surely so happy that you've just decided that you don't have to cry at my funeral.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


The shooting spree that took place this week in Arizona has awakened in me a deep conviction that I have had since my teen years when I was in a Roman Catholic seminary in formation for the priesthood.  It was there that I heard for the first time the proposition that the behavior of the priest must be above reproach to the degree  that even the “weakest” among the members of the faithful would not be induced into immoral or even, unbecoming behavior.    This rule of clerical behavior was given to us based on the admonition of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in his first letter to them, chapter 8.
In more general terms and as a definition of what I mean by “scandal of the weak”  I put before you you the following definition:                                
Disedifying morally weak persons by permissible conduct. Circumstances determine the duty in charity to avoid giving scandal to the weak. The existence of such a duty is clear from the teaching of St. Paul, who would not eat meat that had been offered to idols lest he scandalize the weaker brethren. He warned the early Christians not to rationalize their conduct but to follow his example, lest "by sinning in this way against our brothers and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned" (I Corinthians 8:12). This obligation in charity is such that one may licitly refrain from fulfilling even a grave positive precept that is not necessary for salvation in order to prevent serious scandal to the weak. Behind the obligation is the mandate of selfless love that seeks not only to help another in obvious need but also by self-restraint to protect another from spiritual harm.
(All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.  Taken from Catholic

For those of you who do not believe in the Bible as a whole; those who don’t believe in the Christian part of the Bible, I offer this generally accepted, verifiable analogy of fact.
In an epidemic, or a pandemic, it is the weak (the very young and the old) who suffer most and who generally die first.  Those who are more likely to withstand the ravages of the illness do all they can to protect those who are most susceptible to be damaged.  In fact, in such cases behavior that is perfectly legal will in many cases not be exhibited in order to maintain peace and tranquility in the afflicted community.  I once lived in a community that was being ravaged by El Tor (a kind of cholera).  Everyone was warned to boil all water, even water that was not destined for drinking or for the kitchen.  Some of the people had access to bottled water from the Coca Cola trucks, but they would boil that water too so that even (especially, I might say) the less initiated into the ways of the world would not be shocked and perhaps induced to not boil all the water that they had to use.

I submit to you then that the same type of behavior should be practiced by us all when we speak in the public arena.  It is clear to me that some will not agree.  I have already heard some say that they are sure that this event in Arizona will be “demagogued” (sic) by some.  The perpetrator of this act is a lunatic who has taken to understanding political speech in his own way.  This understanding that he gave to what he heard and read was away from the metaphorical meaning that was in the mind of the speakers and/or writers.  The people who uttered or wrote these words are therefore not culpable for the actions of the attacker.
I am sure that we are going to hear this line of reasoning aplenty as the days go by.  

This is the thinking of people who equate their moral life with the exercise of their civil law rights.  The freedom of speech is really a wonderful thing.  But any defined freedom, even this one, is not infinite in its reach.  It is never permitted to use a freedom to do evil or to induce others into doing evil.  The level of violent political speech, both on the literal side and the metaphorical side has escalated in the past twenty-four months.  There can be no denial of that fact.  The examples abound.  It is time that we recognize that we have to tone it down because it is not morally correct.  It is an abuse of the freedom of speech.

I say this because it does indeed induce the “weak” into acting immorally.  The purveyors of such speech cannot hide behind the fact that they have the freedom to say what they want.  In fact, they do not have that freedom when it becomes clear that the mode of speech that they employ  is dangerous for the common welfare.  No one is free to inundate the weak with speech that can influence them and cause them to act in a nefarious way. Those who persist in using speech with violent pictures cannot exculpate themselves from the effects of what they have put out into the community atmosphere under the guise of freedom of speech.
It is not morally correct to hide behind the notion that the vast majority of the population understands what is being said, in metaphor and in literal meaning.   It is not always permissible to use the words that are deemed to be the most powerful for the moment.  Morality is not a democratic concept.  If what is done or said is dangerous for one person, even if not for the many, it must be withheld from those who would be adversely impacted by it for the welfare of the community.

I have said my piece.  I am convinced that I am right, even though there will be those who will disagree.  It matters not.  I will bring this conviction of mine all the way to the grave.  When you get the news that I have gone,  don’t cry, because you know that I will have reached the pearly gates with a sincere and peaceful heart

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I want to engage you in a meditation about the Baptism of Jesus that will not take you down the well-worn paths that you've been trodding now for years as you hear homilies, reflections and meditations that all sound about the same.  I have been listening to my heart and head having a conversation with the Holy Spirit and I will try to express what it is that I have heard and come to believe.
We have to start with the expression, "We are the children of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."  Jesus, by His incarnation was made a child of that genealogy, as St. Matthew tells us in his first chapter.  Keeping this in mind, my inspiration takes me down this path.  Just as Abraham was taken from the shores of the great Euphrates, one of the most fertile areas of the World, so was Jesus, descended from Heaven, taken from the Divine Father's side and placed on earth.  Jesus was given the land that had been given to God's chosen people many centuries before His Incarnation.  In a mysterious and deeply spiritual way, Jesus was following the path of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We are told in the story, that Jesus Himself walked over to John to make Himself available for the ritual of Repentance and Reconciliation and ultimately the ritual which would seal human relationships into discipleship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The Baptism of Repentance and Reconciliation differs from circumcision in that it is an event that introduces humans into spiritual communion with God.  It is more than a physical sign of belonging to a given group or community, call it a people.  Jesus had been circumcised.  John had been circumcised.  By this, they were recognized as People of God, the Chosen People.  John had received the grace of prophecy, thereby living out a dynamic discipleship with God.  It was in communion with this divine grace and in the action of God through His Grace Instrument that Jesus was incorporated into spiritual discipleship with God.  It is this action, this Baptismal ritual that initiated Jesus into His mission to the rest of the world. Circumcision, the sign of belonging to the One True God was perfected by the Baptism of Repentance and Reconciliation in the Jordan.  Like Abraham, Jesus had left His Home, come to Palestine, gone to Egypt and returned to the Promised Land, thereby perfecting and completing the journey of Abraham.
The Mission was not yet complete.  The covenant between God and Abraham had still to be made perfect.  The sacrifice of the Son, Isaac on the one hand and Jesus on the other had still to be consummated and perfected.  The people of God had to be liberated from the shackles of sin, physical animal sacrifices and the Law which, in St. Paul's famous words, "brought death into the world, while grace brought life.  Romans, chapter 5.
Once the wood for the Sacrifice had been carried to the top of the hill and the Lamb was offered, the Covenant was sealed and the long, seemingly endless Mission to conquer the Land and win the hearts and souls of the Chosen People lay ahead.  The Glorious Resurrection suffused the People with never ending light and brought the Spirit of God into the battle to win the hearts and souls that have been enabled to receive the Message.
That is my view of the Baptism of Jesus.  I know that I have not yet finished my race.  I have not yet been held by the hand like my friend Enoch (Genesis 5, verses 21 through 24).  But when God does take me by the hand and brings me for that walk in the Garden, why would you even dare to cry at my funeral?