Feb 10, 2010

One Who Dies Well

Fran at St Edward's Blog points us to a remarkable women she met and to St. Scholastica as well.

Over the months Carol would dip down and come close to death. She would often call me from the hospital to say hello and give me an update. She knew exactly what was happening and I never heard or saw fear in her. She had a rich quality that combined deep and ancient wisdom with a childlike wonder. And Carol had no fear about meeting the God she adored.

It seemed that Carol might never die - a hopeful thought for those who knew her. Yet that was not to be the case. She kept dancing with death, but with a bit of a polka beat, as her Polish heritage dictated. Carol neither rushed towards nor avoided her death in my experience, she was in relationship with her life through her relationship with God and God's people. It is utterly impossible to live well without being able to have some insight that this also means to die well.

Indeed. I'm off to re-read Tuesday's With Morrie once again to remember that point even better. And read more of Fran's post on St. Scholastica as well.

My Sister's Birthday

Yes--that's right. My sister and I have a birthday one day apart.

But we are also 16 years apart.


Ouch that was my sister hitting me for revealing her age on this blog.

But having a big sister was a real blessing to me as a child. She taught me to read and she took me everywhere with her friends without much complaining. She's got a heart for children and while never married and no children of her own to speak of, she has been a teacher for students with extremely special needs for decades.

She's also been a primary caretaker for my parents who are now in their 80s and my mother has lots of health problems. So she's truly someone who I think is a saint, much moreso than I'll ever be.

In many ways, we are alike, but in some ways I wish I had a heart as big as hers. It's 40 years and "little Michael" is still chasing his big sister, Kathy.

So Happy Birthday, Kathy...enjoy your day and know that you have a little brother who loves you and always has.

But your Reward in Heaven is Great...

Deacon Greg was asked a question on Lino Rulli's radio show yesterday which I've been asked several times, by people who know that I'm considering the Diaconate.

Do you get paid to be a deacon? Deacon Greg responds in today's post:

Deacons are not salaried. Unlike priests, we don't get a stipend for masses, weddings or funerals. At Christmas, the pastor might slip an envelope into my hand and thank me, but that's about it. As I told the caller yesterday, summoning the only cliche I could think of, "My reward will be great in heaven. But here? Not so much."

I knew that and find it interesting. The principle at work here is that Deacons are men in the world, who's first ministry is to their families and their chosen vocation in life. Their ministry is an additional matter. The two Deacons in my parish both have lots of things going on in their lives and yet they still make time for ministry. It's a tough balance, not unlike what we lay ministers go through, although our full time jobs are our ministry most of the time.

So today pray let's for our Deacons who do a lot for our parishes and sacrifice much of their time with their families for their parishes.

Feb 9, 2010

I'm moving...the blog that is....

I'll be creating a new home for this blog over the next few days. You'll be able to find me at GooglingGod.com--which I was finally able to acquire with the help of a good friend.

So fasten your seat belts. I'll be letting you know soon when we flip the switch. For those of you who subscribe via RSS, I will let you know if you need to change anything soon.


Feb 9, 2010: The End of Young Adulthood

I'm 40.

There I said it.

Indeed the great minister of those in the 20s and 30s has now aged out of the demographic. I remember back when I started I often wondered why people over 40 insisted on grappling on to ministry to young adults instead of paving the way for someone new within that age demographic.

So on my 33rd birthday, I made myself I promise. I would not be working full time at BustedHalo® when I was 40. I started to remember that promise around age 38. And it started to frighten me around age 39. And now it invigorates me at the ripe old age of 40.

I just know someone's going to send me a rocking chair today.

But the truth of the matter is that the students here find it hard to believe that I'm this old. I guess that makes me a "young 40" which I think is funny because the slightly overweight and bald headed part of me that I see in the mirror used to always think that he looked older than he is.

It seems time has slowed down for my friends and colleagues to catch up with my baldy, paunchy self.

40 years is something though. Over these four decades I have done much to be proud of and I think I have been quite happy with what I have done with my life. As the son of a custodial worker who grew up around a sick mother and who still has these two loving people in his life as they move into their 80s, I have indeed much for which to be grateful.

They say you do your best work in your 40s and so I hope that my next 10 years will bear that out and that my best years are not behind me, as great as those years were.

What I have come to learn over these 40 years is a very simple message: Presence is 95% of life. Noticing what is present is what we are all about. The other 5% is reacting to what God presents to us and what the world in its imperfectness throws our way. Within that 5% however, we meet others who provide us with much companionship and support. It is through those special people that we also meet God.

5%... our reactions need not be profound. Sometimes they result in just listening and sharing from our own experience--the rest of that 95% that we need to allow others to know about--where have we met and noticed the presence of God.

Over the past 40 years, so many of you have come to show me where God is present and thus have provided me with the insights that have made up 95% of my life.

And therefore all of you are hidden here in these posts. Whether you've been on a retreat or have sat with me in spiritual direction, or whether we've been colleagues, or depended on one another for support in ministry in some way...you indeed are loved.

If you've been my family, you gave me life. You were the first teachers of my faith, forming me for nearly half of that time.

Let's see, that's 50% of 95% which equals...

I was never great after algebra and that's why I'm in ministry and not accounting.

If you've been my sister, know you are loved and that you have taught me much.

And if you've been my wife...you've known me best of all and have given me your entire self and for that, I am truly grateful and I hope that I am worthy of your love always and never take that gift you are to me for granted.

What do I want for my birthday...

I don't know...for I already have more than enough.

A Birthday Prayer

Lord, you have blessed me with more human years
than you even blessed yourself with
My forty years are a mere shadow to your timeless self
But in your 33 human years you changed to course of humanity
Steering all of us from death to eternal life.
Embracing our lives unto our death.

My prayer today is a simple one
From my simple self
A prayer of gratitude and grace
A Noticing of your presence for forty years

For forty years I have felt
Your nearness in your world of distance
My longing for you to be visible in your invisibility
My desire for you to be tangible in your mystery
And yet you are closer to me
Than the breath of my very life
And the pulse of my heart
beating with the rhythm of life that you have graced to me.

Through the love of a wife who brings me your grace
Family that nurtured me into adulthood
Friends who support me and colleagues who challenge me
Through it all you remain hidden within those interactions
and often paradoxically all too easy to find.

Lord, you often call me to places that I'd rather not go
To people I'd rather not see.
I shuddered in your face in the ramshackle house of Nicaragua
where poverty deprives others of a life I often take for granted.

I see your face in the young, who often do not know or trust
That you are all they need.
The chaos engulfs their desires for security and community
where they long for peace and contemplation--
and ease in a world of dis-ease

To do your work I need to know that in fact,
the love of these brings me to better know myself
and more importantly to know and see you
within the very breath of life--mine and theirs.

Even in the least of your creatures,
I am reminded of your care for me
In the warmth of the puppy dog on my lap
with his slurps and barks and love of simply being.

Truly being alive means seeing grace.
Truly being alive means loving those whom I meet.
Truly being alive means loving my love, Marion
Who graces me with a love beyond my comprehension
a love that again easily brings me to see you in her.

Today I am alive and am filled
beyond belief with the grandeur
that is God's love
And it has been more than enough for forty years...

And it will be more than enough...
forever and ever. Amen.

Feb 8, 2010

Hayesmas Eve

So at our weekly staff luncheon we did a pre-birthday celebration for my birthday and the birthday hats were placed upon me head! Which one should be my new facebook picture?

The waning moments of young adult life are upon me.

God Moments: At a Wedding

The Second of our God Moments comes from our same source as the first, Eileen Hooper Chapoton who is from the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans.

My daughter, Melissa met her husband on St. Anthony’s feast day, June 13, 2008. On December 13, 2008 she became engaged, and on June 13, 2009 she was married. She was living in New Orleans and once engaged decided to move to Charleston, where he was, to be in the same city before they were to be married. We did most of the planning of the wedding before she moved in January of 09. She returned home in late May, 2009.

Her husband Collin tells the story of how they met. They were both at a wedding in Mobile Al. and talking after the rehearsal. They all of sudden realized they were the only ones around, everyone else had left. Melissa was telling Collin how my husband, Mike and I met. Melissa said how love stories like ours just do not happen anymore! Mike and I met, were engaged in 5 weeks and we married in 4 months! It was love at first site and we are still in love after 31 years. It was then that Collin says to her that the same thing is happening right now!

We love that story!

Well, the week before the wedding our music person, a teacher of Melissa’s from high school who was also her piano teacher, informed us that he can no longer do the wedding music because his mother was having emergency surgery. So Melissa has to meet instead with the person that does the music for our former parish in Bay St. Louis. This was a person she did not want to use, because of stories she heard about this person being difficult. Melissa and her father went to meet with him the Saturday before the wedding to plan the music, the wedding programs were already done.

My husband is not Catholic, but he attended church every Sunday when raising the kids, once they were confirmed he no longer attended Mass. I have never stopped praying for his conversion. Well the next day, on Sunday morning around 2:30 am, I woke up and he was in the living room. I sat down with him, he said, "I am glad you are sitting down, I want to go to Mass with you today." He proceeded to tell me about his experience with Melissa and the Music director.

He was moved to tears during that Saturday meeting with the Music director and my daughter. He shared with me how the Music director explained the Wedding Mass music, played the songs on the organ, explained how they fit with the ceremony, and how important the role Mary plays is within the ceremony. (Melissa chose to bring flowers to Mary and have the Ava Maria sung) The music director said that our daughter is a beautiful Catholic woman, who knows her faith, is firm in her beliefs, and obviously knew so much already in preparing for the ceremony with the director of music.

The experience was so moving he wanted to attend Mass. The whole wedding experience, beginning with my husband’s God moment, the Nuptial Mass, the reception, the day-after brunch, sending Melissa and Collin off on their honeymoon, the entire week was so beautiful for our whole family.

God gave us so many blessings. Melissa found her true love, and my precious husband found God! The memories from the week of the wedding will remain with me for a long time. God worked with my husband through the Sacrament of Matrimony, his daughter and the Music Director of Our Lady of the Gulf Parish (ironically, all this was able to happen because the music person selected 6 months prior to the wedding could not be part of it). We felt God’s presence so strongly that whole week. At the reception people would come up and say "Look at how happy Melissa and Collin are! Eileen you are glowing!"

All of my dear friends knew that God had everything to do with it!

Feb 6, 2010

Family Time in Yonkers

My sister and parents and I are spending a quick 24 hours today in Yonkers as we celebrate my sister and my birthday early.

It's the big 4-0 for me on Tuesday and as I often remind my sister it's the big 5-6 for her on Wednesday.

Hopefully I'll be able to fly home tonight with the impending snow.

Feb 5, 2010

There was a Faith Bowl I and a Faith Bowl II Apparently...

Faith Bowl III is coming your way...

On February 7th, also known as Super Bowl Sunday, CatholicTV will air “Faith Bowl III”. Faith Bowl is a round-table discussion by sports celebrities about the challenges of living the Catholic faith amidst the glitz and glamour of professional sports. The 2010 Faith Bowl features professional athletes Mike Piazza, Mike Sweeney, and the Minnesota Twins’ Bobby Keppel.

Read more about this here.

Today's Inspiration: We Live on Borrowed Time

Not only is my pastor an awesome guy AND an awesome preacher...

But he can obviously belt out a snappy tune too!

Feb 4, 2010

Living Our Faith...on TV

Kevin Tracy who hosts and produces the series "Living Our Faith" in the Milwaukee Archdiocese out of Marquette University interviewed me for their upcoming beginning of Lent series. Check me out...

A special thanks to Kevin for the invite and for a fun time doing the interview with him and his crew.

More on the Fingerprinting Priest and Confirmation

I missed commenting on this part of the fingerprinting priest story.

The pupils will mark their fingerprints every time they go to church over three years and if they attend 200 Masses they will be freed from the obligation of having to pass an exam prior to their confirmation.

So now we are rewarding students for something they should be doing anyway? That's not even smart parenting. "I'll give you an ice cream cone if you do your homework."

Well, not quite, 3 times 52 would be the weekly obligation which is 156 masses. So he's looking for people to attend 44 more times... divided by 3 ...is roughly 15 times a year-- a bit more than once a month. Add some holy days of obligation, and this is hardly tough.

Go to mass every day in lent ...you're 4 away-- as long as you don't miss on Sunday. Add an Advent season and you've made it easy.

Also, what's to stop some kid from sneaking in and swiping on off-hours? I'm assuming there's a time code. But I can also come in and then leave early...do I also have to "swipe out."

Lastly, is it any wonder that most children are catechetically stupid? That may sound a bit harsh, but indeed there are people who don't know the difference between the Old and New Testament. They can't name an old testament prophet, nor 3 apostles out of 12. One catechist told me that most students can't say the Hail Mary or Our Father without assistance.

I'm not a "when I was your age" person because when I was getting confirmed while we indeed had to memorize a lot of things if we didn't quite learn it all, the pastor would cave into the parent who complained that their son/daughter wasn't getting confirmed. Cannonically speaking the sacrament can't be "refused" but it can be "delayed." Perhaps we should be a bit tougher in making sure that people are really ready to be confirmed, that they take it seriously and most importantly that they have a plan to continue to contribute to the life of the church...and then we need to hold them to that promise in some way.

Now in fairness, since I am King of Fairness, perhaps mass provides people the grace they need to actually contribute to the life of the church, to garner more information and to learn more about Christ. What do y'all think?

Go South, Old Church?

USA Today talks of a church that has decided to up and move from Buffalo to the Southern State of Georgia.

St. Gerard's was where her grandparents and parents were married, where she was baptized and wore the white dress, shoes and veil of First Communion. Years later, she can still hear the three great bells, still see the ceiling fresco of Mary crowned Queen of Heaven.
Sharon Wilbur took those memories of St. Gerard's Roman Catholic Church with her when she moved decades ago to suburban Atlanta, where such a church exists only in pictures. Now, two years after it closed, her old church could be following her south.

Instead of building a neoclassical church, Wilbur's growing parish wants to buy classical-style St. Gerard's, take it apart and ship it 900 miles from Buffalo's depopulated east side to Norcross, Ga., for reassembly at Mary Our Queen parish. The parish has the endorsement of the Catholic archdiocese of Atlanta, the diocese of Buffalo and St. Gerard's former parishioners. All it needs is an additional $10 million. Advocates of the plan to move St. Gerard's say it could be a template for saving closed church buildings by finding them new parishes in the suburbs or the Sun Belt — "preservation by relocation," as Mary Our Queen's website calls it.

The Catholic diocese of Buffalo and most former parishioners describe the plan as the only way to save St. Gerard's. Buffalo has a glut of closed, empty churches — the diocese alone is trying to sell 22 other buildings — and a small congregation looking for a church probably couldn't afford St. Gerard's heating bill.

Historic preservation groups are split over the plan.

Some, such as Preservation Buffalo Niagara, accept the move as a necessary evil; others oppose it as what Tim Tielman, director of the Campaign for Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, calls "a demolition and salvage operation. They want to harvest our architectural heritage and put it in a box."

David Franczyk, president of the Buffalo city council, has a message for the Georgia parish: "Build your own church. We have enough vacant lots."

At first glance, I thought I would agree with Mr. Franczyk. But in fairness, since I am king of fairness, there are reasons that parishes close, mostly because there is not a growing or vibrant community there. Transplanting a building to another locale is not the same as building a parish community. If there is a vibrant community in Georgia then maybe it's a great solution. Perhaps the issue here is one of substituting the literal sacred space of a building (which, again, in fairness, can be very important) for the creation of sacred space in community with one another and developing that sense of community.

Since I'm new to the community here in Buffalo I looked into why the church closed or I should say merged with another parish in the first place. Buffalo Rising had details:

Following years of declining membership, St. Gerard closed in January, and the parish merged with Blessed Trinity on Leroy Avenue.

The diocese has received no offers for the church, which needs a new boiler, roof repairs and leading for its stained-glass windows — which would total hundreds of thousands of dollars, Keenan said.

“Do we preserve a building for nothing or are we going to preserve a building for a worship community?” asked the Rev. Francis X. Mazur, former pastor of St. Gerard, who supports moving the church.

Those opposing the idea “need to come up with a plan,” he said. “Give me an alternate plan, and I’m willing to listen to it.”

The Catch-22 in this case is that there are no buyers for the church and that leaves the diocese with choosing between letting a beautiful building fall into disrepair or moving the building and leaving another empty lot in Buffalo (of which there are a-plenty). The lesser of two less-than-ideal solutions may indeed be being employed here.

God Moments: Grocery Store

This week's God Moment comes to us Via Facebook from Melissa McKerroll Francis:

"I was in line at the grocery store. The woman ahead of me was buying more than she could afford; I could see her agonizing over what to put back. It was just starting to hit me when the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a twenty. I passed it to the cashier and looked back at him with a question in my eyes. He shrugged at me and pointed behind him. The cashier cashed her out and handed her change before she realized what had happened.

She turned and thanked me with tears in her eyes. "It wasn't me," I said.

"Then who?" she asked.

"It came from back there," I pointed down the line. She looked down the line.

"Who?" she asked.

"I don't know," said the guy behind me. "Someone passed it up."

"Thank you!" she called down the line before grabbing her bags and leaving. She never did find out exactly who it was that paid for her groceries. And neither did I.

And for some reason I kind of like it that way. That was my most recent God sighting. About three weeks ago."

Feb 3, 2010

Doppleganger: Hayes and Cal Ripken

Over at Facebook it's Doppleganger Week. Users have been asked to post pictures of someone famous that they look like as their own profile picture. Here's mine. Oriole Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr. Whattya think?

I would say that his skin tone is darker than mine (like that's hard). He's taller than me too...But other than that...

The Legend of the Heimlich Maneuver

Today is the feast of St. Blaise which traditionally is the time to get your throats blessed. It was a great tradition in New York City and many would participate in the blessings especially at the height of sore throat season.

Blaise was a doctor first and foremost and became a Bishop and Martyr in Armenia. The legend behind his association with throat ailments is renown. Blaise was a curer of many ailments and people came from far and wide to see him. Legend has it that even wild animals would come in herds to receive healing from him. In Armenia, the governor was ordered to kill all the Christians by the Emperor and on his way to prison a mother sent her only son who was choking on a fish bone to Blaise who cured him straight away. They don't say how--only that he was cured. Many suspect that Blaise, who was a doctor, did something akin to the heimlich maneuver, much to the delight of the Armenian people.

It didn't help Blaise, he was beheaded nonetheless and became a martyr rather than renounce his faith which is what he should be more honored for in my humble opinion.

Regardless, throats will be blessed abound and Blaise's faith as a doctor who could cure illnesses of all kinds should be examined critically--not to merely espouse the man as an extraordinary healer, but perhaps an ordinary healer, like most doctors, who also had great faith in God and depended on centering his life in God for his spiritual well-being, so that he might be better able to care for others. It was that faith that was worth dying for, perhaps over and against his own natural arrogance.

Doctors often tell me that they get arrogant, thinking that they can control life and death in so many instances. Blaise teaches us to avoid that arrogance and to place faith in the one from whom all control over life, death and ultimately our freedom stems from.

This Is My Body, Given For You..Try Not to Mess Up the World Now

Thinking more deeply about donating my body to science, I wonder if there's the possibility that the doctors who use my body might learn something that leads them to do something immoral. What if they learned something that enabled them to design a device that would hasten one's death for assisted suicide? Or what if they did research on a woman's body and used that for abortion research?

Hmmm...now we're going down that slippery slope. I wonder if the donor can place stipulations on what their body is used for? From what I can see it's really mostly used to get people used to learning the various parts of the human body in a very "up close and personal" way. So I'm not overly worried about this.

Secondly, I suppose trust in God comes into play here as well as the concept of free will. I can only control what I can control. If a doctor doing research discovers something from researching my body, they then have the choice to do with that knowledge what they will--for good or for evil.

God granted us free will and this kind of gives me a glimpse into that letting go that God had to do in order that we might be free to choose good and avoid evil. Our God is indeed very trusting to us humans, in fact he gave us the whole world. Might I be just as trusting with my old useless bag o bones one day?

Jesus gives us His body each week. And we literally have Christ coursing through our veins, carried by our blood into our hearts so that we might change the world, if we dare to be changed by Christ. It is that body that lay in the arms of His sorrowful mother that was exhausted for us, so that we might become something new, something better, forever.

The resurrected body of Jesus indeed is not like the old bag o bones that lay in Mary's arm and that serves as one of the greatest pieces of artwork of all time--the Pieta. Resurrection is not resuscitation, it is glorification, a much stronger and unbreakable body--one that can laugh at death and never be harmed again. It is the transformation that goes beyond the flesh and bone that we know into the flesh and bone that can never be exhausted again. It is able to be consumed by all of us and there is always more.

God's mercy and trust are also just as plentiful. God never runs out of trust for us.

And therefore, perhaps I should be more trusting of my future gift to these doctors, that they might become a gift to the world for healing and for goodness.

And in that perhaps, I'll be a bit more like Jesus, who helps us all rise to new life.

Feb 2, 2010

Ash Wednesday: Fast, Pray, Give

BustedHalo® expands their Daily Jolt feature every Lent to what they cleverly call Fast, Pray, Give...to reflect the three tenets of Lent: Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. Each day you get an inspirational quote followed by 3 things to try to integrate into your Lenten practice.

Some examples of our FastPrayGive Daily Jolts are listed below:

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fast from thoughtlessness.
Pray for one minute on the gifts or the people in your life you have been given that you sometimes take for granted.
Give by going out of your way to offer a genuine compliment to someone you encounter and perform one small act of kindness.

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.”
–John Wooden, UCLA Coach

Fast from breakfast and dinner today.
Pray for those who miss breakfast and dinner every day.
Give the cost of those two meals (at least $10) to your FastPrayGive Bowl. (Your FastPrayGive Bowl is a container you’ve set aside to hold the money saved from various fasting challenges, to be used for whatever charity you choose at the end of Lent.)

You can contribute some of your own as well. dailyjolt@bustedhalo.com

Do it now.

Don't Lie About Going to Mass...Father has fingerprints

From http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/csi-meets-catechism

Just when you think you've seen it all or Technology inside the church, Polish-style
"A Polish priest has installed an electronic reader in his church for schoolchildren to leave their fingerprints in order to monitor their attendance at Mass, the Gazeta Wyborcza daily said Friday.
The pupils will mark their fingerprints every time they go to church over three years and if they attend 200 Masses they will be freed from the obligation of having to pass an exam prior to their confirmation, the paper said.
The pupils in the southern town of Gryfow Slaski told the daily they liked the idea and also the priest, Grzegorz Sowa, who invented it.

A major hat tip to my colleague, Patty Spear for pointing this my way.

A Concord Shout Out

One of my favorite blogs gave me a major ego boost today. A Concord Pastor Comments included me as his link of the day which is quite an honor. Fr Austin Fleming is The Concord Pastor and he writes with a tender touch and an open heart. I haven't had the pleasure to meet him in person but blogging friends have told me that I need to simply be in the presence of this holy man once in my life.

His blog is sacred space par excellence. I especially like his Monday Morning offerings which my wife and I use for our prayer time on Mondays and his always thoughtful homilies.

Check Fr Austin out...and he's always in the links on the blogroll to the right.

Helping the Poor Deemed Not Good Enough

Deacon Greg points us today towards a NY Times headline about St Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, the last Catholic hospital standing in NYC. Today that last bastion of Catholic Healthcare in the urban jungle is in danger of closing.

“We are not going away,” said Sister Jane Iannucelli, vice chairwoman of the hospital board, standing in the light of the stained glass windows.

“One of the things that’s so crucial to the Sisters of Charity is serving the poor,” she said after the Mass.

It was that very calling, some industry executives suggested, that may have helped make the hospital obsolete.

“Helping the poor is indeed the mission and the cause célèbre,” said Kenneth E. Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospitals Association, a trade group. “Therein lies the dilemma.”

While other hospitals emphasize high-tech care and rush to invest in the fancy equipment and celebrity doctors that attract patients with the means to pay for them, St. Vincent’s stuck to its motto of “compassionate care,” rooted in its origins as a place that trained nurses and that was under the auspices of nuns.

As the Village changed, becoming home to middle-class and affluent families, by many accounts St. Vincent’s failed to change with it. In 2007, several years after an ill-fated merger with other Catholic hospitals, St. Vincent’s management proposed to begin selling off its maze of outdated buildings around Seventh Avenue and 12th Street to build a new, state of the art high-rise building across the street, to be designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects, famous for cutting-edge projects like the glass pyramid expansion of the Louvre museum in Paris and the John Hancock Tower in Boston.

But some said it was too late.

It's a sin when helping the poor is shoved aside in favor of vanity--for lack of a better term. It seems that money is given to the places with the latest cutting edge tools while meanwhile an underserved population --who is probably unwanted in that neighborhood these days--are left to fend for themselves.

That, in a word, is shameful.

Read here for more.

Would You Donate Your Body to Science?

I turned the corner on my tour of the gross anatomy lab at UB's med school and there he was: a nude cadaver on a slab of steel in the back. He was an older man, a bit chubby, bearded and peaceful. I was less afraid than I thought I would be and after attending the student's human gross anatomy memorial service, I was almost eager to head to the lab to see how someone like me could be of service to the students.

We talk a lot about how death holds no power over us as Catholics. We believe that Jesus indeed defeats death and opens eternal life for all of humanity with his passion, death and resurrection. But I do think that perhaps even our bodies might be able to transcend death, contributing to life even beyond our physical death.

Students talked about how they began touching the bodies almost fearfully, making that first cut anxiously before learning so much about every part of the body. For some it is a frightening experience and I'm sure some call it quits, realizing that they don't have the stomach for medicine.

Others have a different experience: gratitude. The people who offer their body to the school have indeed given a great gift and perhaps it's one that they are not all that comfortable with when they make the decision to do it. After all, their families can no longer touch and feel and experience being touched by them anymore. Why should someone else have that privilege? A daughter of a patient in a letter to the students mentioned her mother being uncomfortable with certain parts of her body and now they were all on display for some stranger to probe.

The students are impressive. Cadavers get named, perhaps not their own names, but the desire to interact with these people is strong and far from disrespectful.

Many of my colleagues and I have talked about where we'd like to be buried, or perhaps we'd prefer cremation. Another expressed a desire to be returned to the earth as soon as possible, so he could start contributing to the growth of the earth once again.

"Let those worms get at me!" he roared as the rest of us squirmed and I nearly lost my pasta.

Another sat quietly, eating his dinner over this unappetizing dinner conversation. We finally had to ask him directly,

"John, what would you like to happen with your body?"

He looked at us blankly and said without blinking an eye:

"I don't give a crap what you do with my body--I'll be dead!"

And that is more of where I fall on the matter of the subject as well. I don't really care.

What I do care about is that someone remembers me as an altruistic person, someone who cared about life and who cared for students and other young adults and who loved his family and his church. Perhaps my letter will be read at one of these memorial services one day and I will be able to cheat death just one final time, living beyond that final breath, giving to another even when my heart ceases beating, healing the anxiousness of a newbie med student who needs to be able to touch me so that he or she may touch another and bring healing, cures and hope to others.

Let us pray for those who have given the gift of death, the gift of what we often think of as a useless dead body to students. May they be remembered for their altruism and for their love of education. I love that idea.

And it sure beats the worms.

Feb 1, 2010

Mother Teresa Going Postal?

America's Fr. James Martin and David Gibson at politics daily have two excellent posts today on the argument over whether or not Mother (now Blessed for you, ecclesiastical types) Teresa belongs on a U.S. Postage stamp.

The argument is seems stems from the law stating that "Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs."

Fair enough, I suppose. I certainly wouldn't want to see Pat Robertson or even Joel Osteen on a stamp any time soon.

Fr. Martin points out that both Dr. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister and Fr. Flanagan of Boys Town were both issued a stamp. Officials say they were not known primarily as "religious leaders." I'd argue that the deep faith of both men is what drove them to effect secular culture in both of their walks of life. To say otherwise, is indeed to denigrate their religious experience.

Gibson also points out that Mary is on a stamp every Christmas. But I guess she's not religious either. You could even argue that Santa is really a saint who was a Bishop who provided dowries for the poor of his day.

How many letters do you send a year anyway? And if she doesn't get on the stamp what's stopping me from creating my own Mother Teresa stamp on Stamps.com anyway?

Here's one place where India used their common sense and honored a woman well deserving of a postage stamp--and a whole lot more.

Clerical Culture - A Good Thing?

Mary Naughton, the great pastoral associate par excellence for years at the esteemed St. Ignatius Loyola Parish on Park Ave. in NYC writes eloquently about our post on "Why Priests Should Wear Their Collars and Why Lay People Need Something Identifiable as well" via Facebook.

Sounds to me like you all want to create yet another layer of clericalization for yourselves. As for Deacons wearing clerical collars - pullease! Aren't they clerical enough already? I've been a Lay Minister in parishes and a college for 25 years and, yes, at first it's hard, but as people get to know you and they see you caring about them and working hard for them, the fact that you are an "ordinary lay person" becomes an asset, not a liability.People who would never talk to a priest or a nun in a habit will seek you out because they feel you will understand them and know how ordinary Catholics live. You won't ever get the knee jerk clerical glory, but what did you get into ministry for anyway? Jesus didn't wear a clerical collar or an oversize pectoral cross.

I'd like to address the last part first by saying very simply three simple words:

"We're not Jesus."

I think that while Jesus didn't have anything identifiable about his garb, He was also God. Clearly, that had to help.

However, I do think that Ms. Naughton makes an interesting point in this regard. The way we live our lives is what most attracts others. When people see us doing service and doing it because our faith compels us, that speaks volumes. When you are visible in a parish as someone who is involved, or on the parish council or the staff or whatever...that too speaks volumes and as Mary notes (and I have had similar experiences) people who are uncomfortable with priests or nuns might indeed seek out one of us simply because they see someone like themselves and in that is a great moment of evangelization.

However...that takes a lot of time. And in a world of immediacy, especially with young people we can't afford to wait a moment. Studies show that people's attention span are down and that you only have 10 seconds to gain the attention of young people.

That's 10 seconds... about the attention span of a hummingbird.

In the particular case I mention, Fr. Pat got sought out very simply for one reason: a young person in crisis could easily identify him. There wasn't a question about who is was and the young man didn't even have to think about whether or not this man with the collar around his neck was someone who could help him. He didn't need to be a parishioner for 3 months to learn about who people were or to witness someone doing service.

That in essence, is a good thing. It can be abused and it can become authoritarian as well. Which is why we might need something to give us that immediate identification as well as Deacons, women religious, or lay ministers in the world today.

Young people are looking for something and someone IDENTIFIABLE.

I'm just looking for a little help in letting younger people know who we all are...nothing more.

More to come on this topic very soon.

Jan 31, 2010

The Question for Spiritual Seekers: Now What?

We talk a lot about serving the needs of spiritual seekers online but I often ask a bigger question to many of my colleagues.

Once they find you online...then where do they go? The truth is that in order to minister to this generation you need to hustle. That's a lesson that most don't want to hear and the biggest fear of luddites who refuse to put their homilies online or who constantly say that "online does not equal community" is that folks might stay online in favor of an actual, real time, face to face, community.

Michele Nuzzo-Naglieri of Headline Bistro gets this and the main thrust of my book extremely well and thus, gets a h/t as well.

Mike Hayes argues that, almost equal to the desire to find love, Millennials are also concerned with “security” and “truth,” and that the two go hand in hand. In a recent Catholic Focus episode, Hayes explained that for young Americans in particular, events in recent years (Columbine, 9/11, Katrina, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – to name a few) have induced both an overall sense of fear over the precariousness of life, and feelings of distrust in humankind. This in turn is causing many of them to search for something to hold on to that remains unchanged. “God” and “faith in God” have stood the test of time, and while Millennials would perhaps not be prepared to step foot into a church, they are looking for sources that point to the truth.

That being said, we are left to wonder where their search is leading them. They may find answers that are irrelevant to their questions or perhaps too simplistic in nature and either stop there or end their search, dissatisfied. How do we ensure that these modern seekers of God find Him? How do we ensure that they are finding the right gateways that lead them to a community of believers asking the tough questions and sharing insights? How do we provide for them a safe online faith environment until they are ready to take the next step? Time to apply our talents and creativity to the mission of digital evangelization.

As Pope Benedict says, “Life is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful” – let’s make sure we’re doing our part to influence where that search may lead.

Amen. All of this tells me that the most important thing for us to do is to look interesting online, to be a presence for the young people who are struggling to make good choices. We always have to be thinking of the next step, of where young people will be led. Many will find us online and what they find there says a lot to them about who we are, or more appropriately about what our websites or blogs or podcasts transmit to them about who we are.

And that is their first step in spiritual seeking and it serves as a test case for them to find out just who we are as church.

In other words...

If your website looks awful then young people think your church is awful. If it's not up to date than they think nothing has been going on since that last update. if you have wrong information on it than that says that you don't care enough about wanting them to get involved.

I'm assuming that in your case, none of that is true. And if so, then you'd best get to work updating your site.

Because in a digital world, where every piece of information needs to be at the fingertips of young people, if it doesn't exist online...then neither do you.

Googling God

Googling God
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