Dec 29, 2005

The Holy Family: Adopting God

Here is my piece on St. Joseph from that I mentioned:

The God-Adopter
Reflections on St. Joseph from a soon-to-be adoptive father
by Mike Hayes

As Christmas Day draws closer and crèche scenes start to pop up in New York City, I inevitably begin to think about the Holy Family. But this Christmas, as my wife and I begin the process of adopting a child, I find myself drawn closer to the life of St. Joseph than ever before.
Imagine Joseph’s surprise when, in his old age, he accepts Mary as his betrothed only to find out later that she is pregnant. By law, Joseph had the right to stone Mary. So the first intended audience for the gospel must have found it quite surprising that Joseph decided to simply “divorce her quietly.”

A second surprise is that this choice causes Joseph so much angst that he can not even sleep soundly. A dream instructs him to be unafraid to take Mary into his home and also tells him to take this child, who is clearly not his biological child, and adopt him as his own. In his time this surely would have brought him shame and ridicule and yet, Joseph stays faithful to the dream; a vision of something he probably didn’t fully understand; but a dream that he felt held the very revelation of God within it.

To read the rest of this article click here

Dec 27, 2005

The three kings had nothing on my wife

My wife outdid herself this Christmas by buying me the shorts of Wallace and Gromit, the loveable claymation figures made famous mostly in the UK but now in the USA with their feature film, The Curse of the Were Rabbit.

She also bought me a similar coffee table book on the duo.

I got her a lot of books that she asked for and a Mad About You compilation DVD set. I also got her a last minute gift--a pair of Elephant slippers--you know the huge shippers with big animal heads on the front (my wife likes elephants). Turns out someone stole her elephant slippers in college (my guess is my boss, Fr. Dave, who was also a college classmate of my wife's). Her mom had given them to her and she treasured them. I never knew. Cool intuition huh?

Can't wait until next Christmas when our gift may be a little girl from Nicaragua named Patricia!

Dec 23, 2005

At Christmas: Why bother celebrating?

Today we remember that God literally breaks into the world as one of us.

Not only does God come into the world as ahuman being but he enters as a vulnerable little baby--justas we all did. How often do we fail to see the many ways that Godcontinues to break into our everyday lives?

It seems manytimes as if we want to push God out of our human existence;to pretend that God isn't present--especially when God calls us to places we may not wish to go:

To care for the poor

To sit by a sick child's bedside

To watch a parent die

The world is often indeed a harsh and bitter place. Tonight we remember that Jesus knows all too well just how harsh a place the world indeed can become. Jesus comes to us in all of our human vulnerability--in need of a parent's care, as a baby in the middle of the cold winter storm. Homeless and ostricized at the start, Jesus' life also ends just as it begins.

So why celebrate Christmas at all?

Simply put, God could simply have not bothered with us humans at all. In breaking out of the comfort of being God, the omniscent God becomes the God-man--filled with an equal mix of heavenly power and human vulnerability. It's the choosing of this human fragility that stymies all of us. God so loved our world that he chooses, freely to enter into a world that we all know can indeed be cruel to human beings.And when the world is indeed cruel to our God, our God trumps that cruelness with the power of love, a power so great that death itself cannot kill this little homeless baby that comes on a frigid night in the middle of nowhere.

Let us pray tonight that we can simply remember the gift of God's life breathed into our human flesh that dwells amongst us. May we be aware of the fragileness of humanlife and care for it, embrace it and honor a life that is so precious that, harsh or not, even a God would choose to live.

Dec 22, 2005

Transit Strike Over

Thank God. Today wasn't terrible though. I got to my express bus stop at 7:15 and hopped on the first bus and was in the city at 8:30....half an hour faster than before. Coming home it was tougher about 1:45 because of traffic. Marion and I thought we were going to pass out because they had the heat on full blast on a balmy winter's night in the big apple.

I think Gov. Pataki should get a lot of credit for saying that no negotiations would start up until the union agreed to put people back to work. The mediator also seems to have done a good job. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Toussant, the transit union head were moronic mudslingers. I hope the union gets some help with health care and the concede some items on their pension. That seems to be the easy solution.

Spent most of the day at Paulist Press today with Fr. Kevin Lynch, CSP - a legend at Paulist Press for the last 48 years and Fr. Michael Kerrigan, CSP who will be editing Googling God...the book! Fr. Mike is very insightful and has already contributed some great ideas towards the final revisions.

Fr. Dave and Bill McGarvey and I at exchanged our Christmas gifts today.

Dave and I received a gift card to Barnes and Noble from Bill which will certainly go to good use!
I gave Dave a DVD of the 2nd season of Da Ali G show--I can already hear him laughing.
Dave gave me a itunes gift card (cool!) and a small jewelry box from Russia which he bought on a recent cruise.

Here's the kicker: Dave bought Bill a Tom Petty album and I gave him a Bruce Springsteen DVD series album thingie. Music lover that he is Bill already owned both of them! Glad I got the gift receipt!

By the way speaking of Bill and music--check out his album on itunes or some samples at He's really talented and put on a great show recently at Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken.

Googling God: The Book

I'm working on a book for Paulist Press with the title Googling God. It's about what I've learned about both milennial and gen x young adults and possible ways the church can minister to them. I would think that anyone trying to understand this demographic would find it useful (sez the humble author).

I be working on some revisions over the next month and then we zip it through the publication process. This will be my first book, so I'm excited. Thanks to my professors at Fordham--especially, Kieran Scott, my mentor and Harold Horrell and Fr. Jim Bacik for their contributions toward the final product.

Dec 21, 2005

NYC Transit Strike: Day 2

It took me a little longer to get to work today but it wasn't terrible. Door to door it was 1 hour and 45 minutes. God bless the Green Bus Line--a non-MTA Queens to Manhattan express bus that I've been taking with my wife, Marion who works around the corner from me in Manhattan.

The bone of contention is the contribution that management expects the union members to contribute to their pension funds. They required 2% before and now it's up to 6%. I usually fall on the side of labor in these disputes but this time I think labor is being silly. They asked for an unbelievable 8% pay rate (average salary is 55K/year--I know people who have two college degrees who don't make that much!) which they seem to now see is not going to happen--although they might get 4% which is a bit more than the cost of living right now. They asked to keep their retirement age at 55 instead of a raise in the age to 62..which management was all too willing to hand them. I mean who retires at 55 anymore?

I wonder if their pension contribution is tax free money--like one contributes to a 401K fund? As someone who has a pension fund and who contributed to a 401K for a short time while I was in radio--I know that the key is to crunch the numbers to try to take home the same amount as you would if you contributed nothing. That usually falls somewhere in the 8-10% if management is asking for 6%--THAT'S LITERALLY NEXT TO NOTHING. Friends who have no pensions but contribute to a 401K all say they'd trade it in for a 2% buy in and retirment at 62.

My commute home was a nightmare. I waited for that express bus for over an hour before selling out to a cab driver for $10/person--so $20 since my wife was also freezing with me. Walked in my door at 9:45 after leaving my office at roughly 7PM.

Teaching Bible

Hat tip to today's NY Times op ed section:

Teaching the Bible in Public Schools is a great idea. As someone who studied it extensively in Graduate School, it tested my faith immensely. The Bible indeed is a misunderstood book in secular culture and perhaps an in-depth conversation and study on it is something that can forge much dialogue and understanding between people of different faiths.

However...there always seems to be a however doesn't there?

Do we honestly think that public school teachers are qualified to teach the bible in a critical and non-judgemental manner? How many will teach that the bible is pure bullshit and how many will teach it from a fundamentalist point of view? How do we guard against religious bias and misinterpretions by instructors?

It seems to me that we first of all need to point out that the Bible isn't a book but rather a library of books. We need to get experts in, for example, the Wisdom Literature to design a course in those books and Gospel experts to design a course for those books.

Instead we'll get a knee jerk reactionary course for high school students that give them a superficial knowledge of the bible and not one that critically engages it on a number of levels.

Most teachers can barely expound on the wisdom in a book like Huck Finn. Do we expect them to know all the symbolism in the bible off the bat without any instruction?

Dec 20, 2005

NYC Transit Strike: Maybe a good thing?

So I live in the outer boroughs of NYC (Queens) and today we have a major transit strike. The subway is a major and preferred way for most New Yorkers to travel--I take it every day. It is by far the safest way to get into Manhattan.

Now I'm lucky and have a non-MTA union express bus near my house that I took this morning. I was in the city at 8:00 leaving my house at 6:45 and waiting a half hour for the bus (bus #1 at 6:50 was too crowded). So overall my commute was fairly painless.

Cars need to have at least four people in them in order to come into the city. I think this is a good idea in general. I hope Mayor Bloomberg enforces this all the time. Traffic flowed pretty easily in the city this morning--especially with fewer buses clogging up the lanes.

I f I were the Mayor: "You want to bring your car into the city--OK fine--you need to bring 3 other people with you. Can't find three other people? Ok, fine--that'll be a $25 toll plus $10 to park."

Overall, not a terrible day.

I'm a big union supporter but I think these guys are nuts to ask for an 8% increase. They should take the 3%, 4%, 3.5% increase and keep the retirement plan that asks for 6% of the salaries to go into the plan but lets people retire at 55. Maybe they counter with 4% across the board?

Dec 19, 2005

O Come Do Not Adore Him

I wanted to share an article I wrote last year on with you on my take on why people like Christmas so much.

O Come Do Not Adore Him

Comment below! And stay tuned to BustedHalo for my latest article on St. Joseph.


Should we have Hot Dog Vendors at church too?

Hat tip to Amy here:

A church is selling front row pews for Christmas services. often can some people just not get the point?

Look at the manger scene once in awhile. Perhaps one can take notice that Jesus was placed in the only thing available that would hold him--a trough that the filthy animals ate from. It has scratchy hay and he was wrapped in swaddling clothes. The Ritz Carlton it was not.

Yet in the Holy Land we can buy goods at the Ninth Station Botique. The place Jesus laid his head 2005 years ago is arrayed with gold today. Churches auction off front row seats to keep the riff-raff in their place and make money for their school--teaching the children that the one with the most gold is the most important.

Plain and simple--this is dopey!

Bush and Spying

It's not much of a surprise to me that the government is "eavesdropping" on random people --that's simply what happens in a fearful administration--and this is an administration totally based on fear. The trend that disturbs me is that it this fear has spread not only into our private lives but into private religion as well.

Never before have people been as cautious about what they say within the church. Since Thomas Reese, SJ was asked to step down by the Vatican there is an impending sense of "what's next?" amongst those of us who work within church circles (especially since Reese was fairly moderate in his views).

Bush continues in his fundamentalist strain as our President with the misguided notion that his is alligned with God and can do no wrong. He continues to stay the course even after admitted mistakes.

Some people think that's what a President should be--a guy who makes a snap decison and then lives with it. I think that's the sure sign of a fool.

People at the highest (and lowest) level of our Government and even those in our Catholic hierarchy need to not merely admit mistakes and then resume the usual state of affairs. Rather they need to ask how they have been changed by the new information that has come to light. If the Bishops didn't react to the sexual abuse crisis when they did we'd still be reeling from that.

Maybe President Bush can take a lesson from them?

Dec 16, 2005

Latest Health Care Crisis: Shortage of School Nurses

Hat tip to Blogcritics here:

It seems that there is a shortage of school nurses these days--why should we care? This article on Blogcritics points out that kids have died because there was no school nurse on staff.

I'm thinking back to my Catholic School days (7th and 8th grade only for me) and I don't think we ever had a school nurse. Rather a doofy Sr. Anne Marie would take care of us if we fell or cut ourselves or had a fever. I remember falling and sliding on the gravel as a kid and ripping open my knee and face rather harshly, but I can't remember if anyone other than Mrs. O'Connor, our school principal or Sr. Anne Marie looked at me. My dad came and took me to the emergency room for x rays and maybe stitches--but like the famous Babe Ruth line "X rays of my head showed nothing." And I didn't require stitches either. I did end up with a sprained arm and had to have a sling and a huge ace bandage on my knee. All this was two days before my confirmation and that's what all the dopey teachers I had were concerned about--not whether I was hurt or not.

But the issue at hand is really how safe are our Catholic Schools as opposed to our public ones? All the public schools I attended had full time nurses and my college has a fully equipped health center (Fordham- Go Rams!). So is catholic School education really "safer" than public schools?

How about you folks out there that have kids in school now? Do they have a school nurse on the premises? Did you if you went to Catholic School? Public?

Dec 15, 2005

Golden Gate Bishop

This morning, Pope Benedict named George Hugh Niederauer, Archbishop of San Francisco. Niederauer had been bishop of Salt Lake and is a classmate and friend of Archbishop Levada, the former Archbishop of SF.

This is an excellent choice in my opinion and I have heard many good things about Bishop Niederauer from folks who work in this diocese. Since San Francisco has a high population of homosexuals, it's been obvious that the issue of gays in the clergy would be center stage here. The new Bishop has been quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune to say:

"In every generation, there have been many celibate priests whose principal attraction might be to their same sex," and that a man with "lifelong" same-sex attractions could still be a viable candidate for formation and orders."

I would also like to point out that Archbishop Levada seems to be doing a great job in his new post as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope Benedict's old job). Rumors out of DC state that he was the one who put the smackdown on Bishops saying that gay men are incompatible with the priesthood.

A second nice story about Archbishop Levada. At World Youth Day he met with those who has travelled to Germany for mass --really it was more of a good-bye mass for him. At the end of the mass, the group asked him if they could offer HIM a blessing, for all the many years that he has been blessing them. In an unprecedented move, Levada moved to the front of the altar and knelt down in front of the congregation. A humble moment for both Bishop and the flock.

Let's pray for SF's new Bishop and the man he has succeeded today as well as the people of the San Francisco archdiocese.

Dec 14, 2005

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

I know many people take this to heart. But a church in Raleigh has gone too far.

They are paying for advertising that encourages people to shop at stores that do not say happy holidays but rather Merry Christmas.

As Issac over at Sanctuary says best:
I sure am glad they didn’t spend that money fighting poverty, violence, or injustice!
IMHO - I was taught that you are supposed to offer the greeting of your tradition to others. So Christians say "Merry Christmas" to those they meet and Jews say "Happy Chanukkah" to those they meet and so on. Perhaps we shouldn't get all tied up with this is my point. Simply be glad that we have reason to celebrate--because many others do not.

Story here:

Dec 13, 2005

Arnold: He won't be back

Gov. Ah-nold refused clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams--the longtime leader of the Crips gang and he will therefore be executed at 12:01 AM on Tuesday Dec. 13.

"Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case," Schwarzenegger wrote. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption."

NO redemption? Surely Schwarzenegger's Catholic sensibilities tell him otherwise. There is always room for redemption and that is the beauty in Catholic teaching regarding sin and the wonderful sacrament of reconciliation.

May God have mercy on the soul of Stanley Williams tonight and on his alleged victims. Let us pray for all victims of senseless violence whether they are sanctioned by our government or not!

Dec 12, 2005

Yesterday's Mass

Hat tip here to Amy Welborn:

Amy asks readers to post each week on "What they heard" during the homily at mass that week. An excellent way to put it--because even if what we hear isn't what the priest said--it really doesn't matter--the faithful come away with a message nonetheless. It helps preachers make sure their homily is well written and even more well-delivered.

But I read some troubling remarks about masses yesterday:

1) Let's remember that yesterday was Gaudete Sunday--meaning rejoice Sunday. The readings were from Isaiah, Thessolonians and John's Gsopel (read them here). They all have the theme of REJOICE! Isaiah harkens that "The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has sent me to bear glad tidings to the poor" Paul implores the Thessoloinans to "rejoice always" (and since he didn't have a Christmas holiday on his calendar, and Thessolonia wasn't always the brightest place to be--we wonder how people could be rejoicing always or why they would rejoice at all). And then we hear the story of John--the crazy man in the desert and how the religious authorities of the day questioned him about who he was and we hear for the first time about the coming savior.

2) So why are people posting things about pro-life messages and the hi-jacking of Christmas by secularists?

It seems to me that my associate pastor, Fr. Ron Franco, CSP was on the money this week. His message was simple. We rejoice and are mindful of rejoicing because we know that Jesus has already come and redeemed our suffering. This is why Paul has reason to rejoice--because he knows this.

The message for us is how can we be "Gaudete Sunday" each and every day. How do we summon that sense of rejoicing to our consciousness and how do we bring that to others?

We need a reminder of this and the church provides it for us--not merely with Christmas but on a nearby Sunday when we await the big day--a day that we are not really mindful of Christ's coming but are mired in longing and possibly impatience.

I feel bad for those who missed this message and this opportunity to remind people that the coming of the saviour is a profound moment of transformation for all of us.


Dec 11, 2005

We're Adopting

My wife Marion and I are officially adopting (or trying to adopt) a beautiful 4 year old girl named Patricia (pictured with us, left) who we met on a mission trip to Nicaragua last summer.

The decision to adopt was one we didn't take lightly, discerning this over the past four months. All our fears, trepidations, and restlessness bubbled up to the surface but we now have quite a feeling of peace amidst the chaos of becoming parents.

We shared our news with Marion's family at their annual Christmas party yesterday and they were overjoyed. More good news: Marion's cousin Christine is also expecting a baby! So we have lots to celebrate.
Pray for us today and for all those on the road to being parents and for all children like Patricia who have no place to call home. Patricia has a mother who is unable to care for her and has sent her to live at Hogar Belen, a home for disadvataged children in Managua-where we met her. We hope that she'll allow us to bring her into our family.
Isn't she adorable?

Dec 9, 2005

Midnight Mass

Does your church have midnight mass? For years this was one of the most precious of Catholic rituals. Now it seems to have gone by the wayside.

For the past two years my parish has moved the midnight service to 10PM (carols at 9PM).

Why you ask? Because the choir needs to get up for 10AM mass the next day!

Guess what? Midnight mass isn't about the choir--it's about the one guy who showed up in church for the first time all year--maybe all decade. It's a moment of evangelization for us and while I love my parish I think they are making a huge mistake.

What does your church do?

What's Missing?

My friend Rachel Bundang has her PhD dissertation accepted yesterday, no easy task to be sure. I was honored to be asked to sit in the gallery to listen to her professors grill her on her work. One of her professors called her work "foundational," meaning nobody else has quite done anything like this.

Her comments also gave me pause: "Rachel, you have created a foundational work. You've criticized other people's work and discovered "what's missing?" Know that one day someone will come along and ask the same thing of your work. And so on. That's what we call education."

My spiritual director noted that a screenwriting professor he has was often priviledged to be "in the room" on several television series productions. He noted that it took some skill to simply get in the room but once he was there the key was being able to let go a bit of his work, to let others criticize it and make it better--to discover what's missing.

How often do I allow myself to do that with my work? I suppose blogging at times secludes us from the editorial process and can indeed be an undisciplined form of writing. I often get hurt easily when criticized and feel like people have no right to rip my work in half. Recently when my website was redesigned I felt hurt that the previous five years was left in the ash-heap to make way for the new and improved (and much needed) redesign. While my work was foundational in the construction of a new website--a new editor and director came in and found out "what I was missing." While hurtful for me, I realize now how valuable their contributions are to my work and how I help keep them grounded to the foundation and how I've grown enough to let go of my insecurities and how I bring my critical eye to help build on their new additions even further.

God calls us to vulnerabilty and in those deep wounds we find great wisdom and peace. We need to allow vulnerabilty into our consciousness because it is an undeniable truth--we indeed do not know it all and we cannot avoid every instance of pain.

In my life I often worry about having enough money, enough presitige, enough knowledge. The bottom line is that I am not called to have enough--instead I am called to try to see what's missing in each present moment and contribute as best I can.

As my wife and I grow in love, may we realize what is missing in one another and work to build our marriage stronger by complimenting one another as parents to our soon to be adopted daughter and as lovers to one another.

May our God take what is missing and not merely hand us a solution--but allow us to grapple with the broken pieces of our lives, allow us to sit in the mystery, and allow us to be assisted by those who reach out to contribute to our lives with whatever may be needed that is missing.

What's missing in your life?

Dec 8, 2005

Dying too young 10 years ago

December 8th is not merely the feast of the Immaculate Conception for me. It's also the day I lost one of my best friends, Dave Connors 10 years ago.

Dave was one of my college roommates, and he was always in bad health through no fault of his own. Diabetes and a bad heart got the best of him at the too young age of 25.

Dave was also pretty agnostic, but he taught me, a devout Catholic, more about God than I think he ever realized. Through his pain Dave laughed with friends, served the needs of many, and was always around to simply be a friend. He had time for everyone and understood intimately the value of time.

I think God is a lot like that. He realizes our limitations as humans and prods us to make the most of our lives with the short time we have. Most of all, he calls to know and love others. To be intimately involved in the lives of all people and treat them like kin.

This Christmas season, may we remember the life of a man who changed the world by becoming friend to the ostricized, seeing people for more than who they were told they were. He also was often accused of simply having too much fun with his friends.

He also died much too young.

And I ask that you remember that this man was a whole lot like my friend, David Connors.

Pope Movie

Saw the 2nd half of the movie on Pope John Paul II last night and thought that overall the movie did a good job--especially Jon Voight's portrayal of "the deuce"--in highlighting the life of the former Pontiff.

I had occasion to be in the Pope's presence at World Youth Day in Toronto and when he visited NYC in Central Park. I think that his travelling and his sense of giving people an experience of the Pope will continue to be his legacy. I liked when the movie showed the Pope resisting to slow down despite everyone around him pleading. He was quoted as saying: "Slow down? There is ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, genocide in Rwanda. This is a time when people need to see that the Pope is with them."

The young adults I work with (those in their 20s and 30s) often note that they feel that the Pope "was there for them." That he took time to be visible to them, to be front and center and to give the world an "experience of seeing and meeting the Pope."

That's how I'll remember this great man, who despite his own faults and misgivings, still managed to set the bar high for all of us so often.

I think the movie didn't have a lot of breadth or depth to it--everything seemed like a soundbyte to me. 27 years is hard to capture in 2 hours...never mind his life before the Pontificate.

Googling God

Googling God
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