Jun 30, 2009

Student Bloopers

Always an interesting and humorous writer, Dr. Thomas Beaudoin, now at Forhdam after two stints at Boston College and Santa Clara has a hysterical piece in America Magazine this week. Beaudoin, now solely teaches graduate students but has collected a series of undergraduate "student bloopers." After reading these I laughed but was also slightly shocked that these bloopers came from two of our top collegiate institutions. In fact, my college roommate got wait-listed at Boston College and will relish seeing these mistakes, the type of mistake he would never make.

On Faith and Relationships

My girlfriend is my most coveted possession. Our love is similar to that shared by Adam and Eve during the reading of the creation story. I believe that God gave sex for humans to use in the pretext of marriage.

On God

The question of whether a higher being exists has plagued man since the beginning of civilized society. The question “Who is God?” is one that has been bounced continuously back and forth. Many ask why God acts the way He does, while others ask the question why doesn’t God act the way He does. The dessert ascetics believed in the ascendance of God. I think God’s ways are mysterious, and the meaning is not going to jump out and bite us in the ass. God is a different person to everybody, and to some he may not have a corpulent form at all. Theocratically, God is so far more advanced than mankind. And while there is nothing you can do to impress God enough to give you internal life, universal salvation is a huge turn on.

On Catholicism

Certain aspects of Catholic belief are founded on realty. The Catholic religion remains strict on their teachings in order to withhold tradition. However, through Vatican II, Christians are now not the only good people in the world. Doris Day started the Catholic Worker.

On Scripture

The closest written text to the period of the Big Bang is the Bible, which is the underlying scripture of the Christian tradition, and one of the earliest and most influential texts available for theologians. In the Bible, God is loving, forgiving, powerful, and a creationist. In the Book of Genius, God created all the living and nonliving, proclaiming his intention ‘good.’ For tempting Adam and Eve, God scalds the serpent. With regard to Adam and Eve, I am so tired of being told that because of two fictitious people I am not dancing around naked with Brittany Spheres. God promised never to erase mankind again but there is no mention that He won’t screw with us. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of cannon, so they could make scarifeces in the woods. God wreaks havoc on the Egyptians in a fairy tale manor. I really like interrupting the scriptures in class.

Luke’s gospel tells of shepherds who come to worship a babe. In the Greek language of the Gospel of John, Jesus is described as the “haggis” or Word of God. Mary Magdalene was the first to see the woman Christ. Women were whitenesses of the death of Jesus. Jesus always tells people that he is the sun of God. Jesus amazed people, starting with his emasculate conception. The passion of Christ is a dramatic, griping story. The New Testament ends with the reformation, and allows the writers to see into heaven. The Bible should not be rewritten because it is apart of the Christian Tradition.

No Hands Now But Ours

Human hands have held great power for all eternity. It is a hand that signs a bill into law or a prisoner over to be executed. Hands have reached out to shake another hand in friendship but have also pulled the trigger of a rifle in hatred or stabbed a person to death.

Hands have caressed a lover's cheek or held a baby tenderly aloft. But have also abused children and pushed others away.

I know I've failed to use my hands when I'm too scared to touch the homeless or write that letter to someone who I need to ask for forgiveness. Even as my hands type this entry I wonder if my hands are truly doing the will of God.

Jesus knows all about hands. His hands reached out to those who nobody dared to touch. He healed with his hands, spitting into mud and opening the eyes of the blind. He blessed bread with his hands and the food was miraculously shared by 10,000 more hands who would've gone hungry. He even caused others to re-think their own use of their hands as the stones fell from the hands of those who were accusing the woman caught in the act of adultery.

His hands offered bread to be His body and wine to be His blood. He washed the dirty filthy feet of the disciples with his own hands knowing that these feet he was washing were indeed going to run from Him soon.

His hands were shackled, bound and finally pierced; nailed to the wood of the cross. Those mighty hands once so powerful now seem to be completely useless in the horror of the crucifixion.

But it is later when Thomas doubts that Jesus is truly risen that it is Jesus' hands that he sees. Those same hands that had once called Thomas to be a disciple. The same hands that slapped him on the back or handed John a piece of bread to inform him of his betrayer. These are the familiar hands of Christ...and Thomas sees the scars of the cross and is ashamed that he had run away and moreover refused to believe that these hands of Jesus were real and human once again.

These hands of Jesus are now our hands. And while our own hands are at times scarred and calloused from years of hard work, pain and anguish, we still have an opportunity each day to use our hands for some good.

Who can we reach out to this day? Who needs a hand? Who can we applaud for doing a good job? Who can we write a letter of support to just to let them know we are thinking of them? Who simply needs an embrace?

We need to remember our hands are often all we have. Let us pray with this music video below that our hands indeed can be the hands of Christ and that just as our priest's hands bring Christ to us in the Eucharist at mass, we too, can bring Christ to others with the actions of our hands. Amen.

Jun 29, 2009

Cutie Weds

From the Miami Herald: Fr Alberto Cutie weds his girlfriend of two years in the Episcopal Church. While this guy is saying that he doesn't want to be the poster boy for optional celibacy that seems to be exactly what he is becoming. Check the video below at this link which would be so much better if the Miami Herald would get with the program and allow embeds.

More from the article:

In an hourlong, private ceremony, Cutié, 40, said ''I do'' and kissed the new Mrs. Cutié at the historic St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church in North Miami Beach. The couple, who dated for two years, then danced at a reception that followed late into the night.

A handful of private guards and several North Miami Beach police cruisers were on watch at the church gate as Episcopal church priests, the couple's families and friends, were ushered in.

Clad in a white dress, Canellis arrived at 7 p.m. in a black stretch limo with tinted windows. Bridesmaids in dark red dresses sat by her side. Donning a black tuxedo, Cutié arrived in a black SUV.

Dozens of reporters from local and international media staked out the church grounds in addition to many local residents aching to see the famous couple.

''I don't like the way Alberto has handled himself,'' said Maria Rivas, 62, of North Miami Beach, who had heard reports about the wedding and rushed to the church to try to get in.

''It's a free world,'' remarked Victor Gutierrez, 49, of North Miami Beach. Let them have fun and be happy.''

Cutié legally married Canellis before a Miami-Dade County judge in a private ceremony at the Coral Gables courthouse on June 16th. The couple had joined the Episcopal church in late May, and Cutié announced he had begun the process required to become an Episcopal priest.

Cutié left his post at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Miami Beach on May 5th after a Spanish-language celebrity magazine published photos of him entwined with Canellis on a Florida beach, a violation of his vow of celibacy as a Catholic priest.

With its lush greenery and Gothic architecture, St. Bernard de Clairvaux, commonly referred to locally as the Spanish Monastery, is one of the most popular spots in South Florida for weddings and photo shoots.

A h/t to the Deacon for this info.

Extending Jesus' Message

I was recently asked about why we use the media at Busted Halo® to do ministry and my answer was simple: We're just doing what Jesus did.

That's right. Jesus used the media of his day: storytelling, itinerant preaching, mountaintop gatherings.

And moreover the church has kept that going: St. Paul was a letter writer (and we close the year of St Paul today--so blessings to our friends the Paulist Fathers). Isaac Hecker, Servant of God--the Paulist founder was a public lecturer and a publisher and believed in using all kinds of media. His theory was that we need to proclaim "old truths in new forms."

And we extend that message of Jesus today using all that we have at our disposal. TV, Radio, Internet, Facebook, You Tube whatever.

What kinds of things have you sampled on the net or TV that have faith based material on them?

Jun 28, 2009

Priesthood and American Catholicism

We need priests.

This has been the echo of not merely vocation directors, other men in the priesthood, the faithful themselves but also the call that has not always been a welcome voice: the sociologist.

I got to spend a portion of this weekend with the noted Purdue University Sociologist Jim Davidson at the Murnion Lecture sponsored by the National Pastoral Life Center and their Common Ground Initiative. It was not lost on me that both of these entities were founded by good priests namely Msgr. Phil Murnion and Cardinal Joseph Bernadin. We dearly miss both of these giants since their deaths.

But interestingly enough, the lecture was not about priesthood but about laity and what American Catholics think about the church. The aforementioned Dr. Davidson keynoted the evening and I sat on a panel of responders with 3 other noted experts in their fields all of whom I was humbled to just be associated. Sr. Amy Hoey, RSM, a Lay Ecclesial Ministry Consultant, Fr Alan Deck, SJ a noted expert in Hispanic Ministry and Melissa Cidade, a Research Associate, CARA, Georgetown University.

We spoke a lot on how an older generation of Americans were what Dr Davidson named "Cuture I" Catholics. They viewed the church springing forth from the priesthood to the people. The clergy made the rules and the laity followed them and moreover supported them.

As Catholics have become more middle class and more theologically educated over the past 50-60 years, there has been a shift in a majority of people's thinking about the church. "Culture II" Catholics as Dr Davidson again notes are people who see themselves as contributing to the life of the church just as much as the clergy. Note that we didn't say MORE than the clergy, but rather it's more of an equal partnership. The Second Vatican Council opened the doors for laity to express their baptismal call as Church, the people of God.

Naturally this has caused a type of culture clash, has it not.

My point in all of this is that young people don't seem to belong to either culture, but rather have seen the forest for the trees. They have seen the value of making their own contribution and for a need to critically challenge the clergy in matters that are scandalous (such as clergy sex abuse and finances). And yet, young people still hold the priesthood in high regard in most matters--most often they trust that they know their theology and hope that they can make sense of spiritual matters for them not merely on Sunday but when they search (most often online and anonymously) for answers of faith.

But we don't have enough priests and so many get lost in their own spiritual search.
It seems to me that one of the interesting issues of the vocational crisis is that the newly ordained have stated that having an experience with another priest or campus minister was what inspired them to the priesthood (and I would think the same is true for religious women).

But if we have less of these relationships building with our priests (and dare I say, more of these opportunities with young teens will fall to the wayside now because the sex abuse scandal has made everyone skittish about priests interacting with young children) then are we really to expect vocations to the priesthood to rise in number? I think that's somewhat doubtful.

However, there is some good news in store. We have a growing diaconate and a growing educated laity who are slowly making more contributions to the life of the church. I know in my own role as a lay minister tons of people come to me to ask me about how I decided to enter into this phase of my still-young life. Many men don't consider priesthood simply because of the celibacy question. Many want a family and feel called to marriage and still feel a call to ministry. Women who aren't able to be ordained in the Catholic Church today are also called to ministry and where would we be without them today? Women have made HUGE contributions to all kinds of things in Catholic Life. It was not lost on any of us that we honored a woman at the Murnion Lecture this year Carol Keehan, President and CEO, Catholic Health Association of the United States--and what a significant contribution indeed one woman has made in the name of all that is Catholic.

But herein lies a huge problem. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the moment when the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus can only happen at the hands of a priest. How do we sustain ourselves as a Eucharistic Community? Can we sustain that community--or will we indeed need to look at new and creative models? It seems to me that if our faith is based on Eucharist and not necessarily on priesthood that it is merely a more creative solution to continue getting the Eucharist to the people of God that we need (communion services, Diaconate use, etc.).

In short, I pray every day for more priests. But I also pray that we all can continue our partnership with them, called to our own ministries sharing equally in bringing Christ to one another.

Jun 24, 2009

And you thought Susan Boyle was inspiring

If these kids don't win, there's something wrong with the world. Their mother was hit by a drunk driver and they literally sang her and others in her hospital back to health. She was comotose for 8 months and now is in a wheelchair. Amazing.

Let us pray for more inspiring voices who are able to sing when tragedy strikes.

Jun 22, 2009

Longing to Be Like "Mr. Mike Hayes"

There's only one "Mr. Mike Hayes" and he's my father.

Now at 81, I've started to realize that I have fewer Father's Days ahead of me with my Father, than are behind me in the distant past. Long gone are days of running in the park and instead are the days where he watches me from afar running with my dog in the park I grew up in as we did yesterday.

But while I 'm able to continue to enjoy my dad who I am named after, I know there are plenty of people who don't have that luxury. My father being one of them. Yesterday he was feeling nostalgic and mused about his own father, a man he never knew.

"They told me that he died when I was a baby. I don't know if that's true. He could've been a merchant marine who passed through my beautiful Waterford County and...well. I guess I'll never know the whole story and what I don't know can't really hurt me."

But the one man that my Father called "Pop" was my mother's father. An uneducated, French-Canadian gravedigger and "the nicest man to ever wear shoes" --or at least that's how my father recalled him yesterday.

"And when he met me...he looked at your mother and said "That's the one."

Thinking that this might be my father's inflated sense of himself, I asked my mother and she corroborated the story.

"Yep. That's right. He said, 'Of all the guys you've brought home, this is the one you'll marry.' And he was right, I did marry him. Nearly 60 years now (their 59th anniversary is this August, God -willing)."

Family traditions are hard to come by at times, but I remember being in my parent's kitchen alone with my Father and bringing Marion, my now wife of merely 7 years, to meet him for the first time. I had brought only two or three other women to meet the family and I'm not sure if they met with his approval. He never offered an opinion on any of them, he merely was polite and hospitable. But nobody was ever able to keep an interesting conversation with him as my wife continues to do each time she enters his home.

So after a bit of awkward silence I asked my Dad after meeting and talking with Marion:

"So...? What do you think?"

Dad: "About what?"
Mike: "Daaaaaad! You know what! C'mon!"
Dad: (Now laughing mischievously) "OK, OK. (long pause) I would say, of all the ones that you've ever brought here I like her the best of all."
Mike: "But Dad, you didn't like anybody else I've brought home."
Dad: "Michael, stop it. She's lovely, she's the one. You know it and I know it."
Mike: "OK, Dad. Thanks."

I wasn't asking for his blessing. I was looking for wisdom from a man whom I've admired for nearly 40 years now. A man who could judge a person's character with a few gentle conversations and who dismissed people who treated people unjustly with his own pleasant disposition that never required him to be nasty in return. His silence spoke volumes to those people and to others. In essence, he'd be saying "You are not worth talking to because I am not worth talking to in your eyes."

If for the next 53 years I can be half as good as being my wife's "Mr. Mike Hayes" as he has been to my mother. I'll be doing OK. He's lived those vows:

"For better and for worse,
For richer for poorer,
In sickness and in health
until Death do us part."

While never having a lot of money nor owning his own home and living through my mother's many illnesses for the past 30 years or so, nothing but death can ever and will ever keep this man, the only one really worthy of being called "Mr. Hayes", from being just that--my mother's husband and my sister and my own father.

And for nearly 60 years, it has been more than enough.

For him and certainly for me.

Thanks for another great day with you, Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Jun 18, 2009

DJ Gregory is my new hero

Jun 17, 2009

Taking a Brief Vacation

Blogging will cease here until Firday (most likely) as I am spending two days on vacation. I'm not really going anywhere just spending time with the wife and dog (pictured here)--but am trying to rejigger the energy which has been waning of late.

At times, doing nothing on vacation often drives me crazy but over the last few years I've found that it's been good for me to shut things off. So I'll see you all on Friday and hopefully have some good insights from the downtime.

By the way, pray for Fr Dave Dwyer who twisted his knee somehow and is hobbling on crutches.

Jun 15, 2009

All God's Creatures, Praise the Lord

While the blessing of the animals usually falls on the feast day of St Francis, in San Francisco, that's not always the case.

Clad in flowing golden robes, Deacon Charles McNeil read from Genesis and then sprinkled holy water on the drooling, panting worshipers. Some barked. Others sniffed their fellow supplicants. A German shepherd shook his head, spraying his neighbors with holy water.

The event, in its 15th or so year, was a highlight of the North Beach Festival, which continues today. In addition to bringing pets to church, festivalgoers could watch artists draw chalk masterpieces on Vallejo Street, eat Italian sausages, and drink beer at Washington Square.

Another dog in need of spiritual serenity Saturday was Alex, a rambunctious pit bull mix who was recently neutered.

"He wasn't too happy about it. His voice changed," said his owner, Fernando Arocha of San Francisco. "Is he Catholic? He will be after today."

After blessing the dogs and cats, McNeil said a prayer for those that had ascended to pet heaven in the past year. The prayer reminded him of his beloved childhood Chihuahua mix, Corky.

"Corky loved carrots, and he loved people," McNeil said after the ceremony ended. "He'd sneak out every day and go to the McDonald's on Ocean Avenue. He was the smartest dog I ever knew."

McNeil said the annual pet blessing is a chance for pet owners to take the love they feel toward Rover and Snowball and extend it toward humanity at large. People should feel as much compassion for homeless people in the Tenderloin as they feel for homeless puppies at the SPCA, he said.

"People always think of St. Francis preaching to the birds," he said. "But he didn't just have a love of animals. It went beyond that. My hope is that somehow the people here today carry that same sense of respect out into the world."

Check out the pics here at this link

As many of you know I'm obsessed with my dog, Haze, a Chihuahua. You can check him out at his own blog which he types as fast as his little paws can go here

Reading the Velveteen Rabbit at a Wedding??!!

This might be the funniest Princess and the Priest ever! These short videos that ask the questions of marriage prep in a creative way.

Check it out. I just love the crack addict rabbit that pokes his head out.

Jun 14, 2009

Corpus Christi

An outstanding thought from Msgr. Michael Hardiman at St. Sebastian today on the Feast of Corpus Christi, where they have a procession through the streets of Woodside. I will paraphrase:

"We actually have this procession every week. When we receive the Eucharist we become what we receive and we walk out the doors into the streets of Woodside, bringing Christ into the lives of all those we meet! For WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST!"

Indeed! And to further Msgr's point...

If we become what we recieve, if we are truly changed by this moment, if we really take this change seriously, then what are we compelled to do with our lives? This "encounter" with Jesus is truly intimate and truly merits much reflection on our part. How are we changed by the fact that God chooses us, God feeds us with His very self?

How are we becoming the body of Christ in the world today? Or are we just going through the motions?

Jun 11, 2009

This is Me...on TV

Deacon Greg Kandra had me come over to the studios of New Evangelization Television last week and the episode aired last night but for those of you outside the NY area can watch the entire episode on You Tube. Currents, the show I was on is a nightly news show from a Catholic perspective and I have to say it is a great watch. Check it out.

In this particular episode, besides some recent news on the Markey Bill which has grabbed major headines in this area, Lino Ruilli interviews Justin Fatica, the founder of Hard as Nails Ministry which features a drill-sergeant-like youth minister who uses the same kind of tactics in connecting youth to Christ.

That's where I come in with Marilyn Santos, Coordinator for youth ministry for the Diocese.

Thanks to Deacon Greg for the invite and to all the staff members at Currents. Here's to a bright future!

Holocaust Museum: The Worst Side of Us

The New York Times tells you all you need to know.

The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials as James W. von Brunn, who embraces various conspiracy theories involving Jews, blacks and other minority groups and at one point waged a personal war with the federal government.

This is especially sad because President Obama recently went to a concentration camp with Elie Weisel. There have been random shootings elsewhere in the South (a church in Knoxville) and of course the shooting of the abortion doctor last week. I fear that the people behind these shootings have new resolve with the election of President Obama. To be honest, I fear this is just the beginning of their response to that and that we might be in for much worse and indeed that is a shame. There's just no cause for violence in any circumstance.

A friend recently said to me that it's about time that we woke up to our ugly side and that at the very least this is now out in the open so we can deal with it and not bury it under the rug. I would add that it's a shame that people have had to die so that we can admit that people have these violent tendencies and that sometimes they act on them.

To our Jewish brothers and sisters please know that we will never forget the horror of the Nazi regime. We stand with you today denouncing hate crimes and violence. May the God of peace be always with us now and forever. Amen.

Jun 10, 2009

And the winner is...BEAKER!

Maybe he'll get a date too! =)

Jun 9, 2009

Great Reflection on the Movie "UP"

Paul Jarzembowski from Spiritual Popcorn did a great reflection revolving around the movie Up.

Have you ever had the experience of watching someone on television half your age who has accomplished so much already? I know I have, and it leaves me with a frustrated feeling that I have not really had the chance to leave my mark on this world.

That's what old Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) felt, too, in the Pixar film Up. Sure he enjoyed his life, but he never realized all the dreams that he and his wife Ellie had over the years. The two of them always wanted to explore Paradise Falls in the jungles of South America, but life got the best of them.

In a scrapbook, they never got to fill in the pages marked "Things I'd Like To Do." And after Ellie dies, Carl dwells alone in his frustration.

But soon, adventure calls - when the city wants Carl's house torn down and Carl put into a retirement village. With thousands of helium-filled balloons, Carl charts a course for Paradise Falls, away from everyone but his happy memories.

I kept thinking back to Carl's scrapbook throughout the movie. How many times have I daydreamed about all the "Things I'd Like To Do" too?

Check out the rest here...a fine review of a great movie.

Ireland's Holocaust?

The sex abuse scandal in Ireland is starting to be termed a "holocaust" which in this humble blogger's opinion is a bit much and a bit condescending to our Jewish brothers and sisters. But nonetheless, it is a huge tragedy and has seriously damaged and abused far too many children. The Pope weighed in with Ireland's two senior clerics who reported his thoghts.

From Independent.ie

POPE Benedict was "visibly upset" by horrific revelations of sexual, physical and emotional torture of children uncovered by the Ryan inquiry, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin revealed yesterday.

The Pontiff also told Ireland's two most senior Catholic clerics that the victims of abuse must get justice.

In a Vatican meeting with Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin last Friday, Pope Benedict reiterated his call for the Church hierarchy to make amends to the thousands of children who suffered at the hands of abusive priests, brothers and nuns.

"He (the Pope) was very visibly upset to hear of some of the things told in the Ryan report and how the children had suffered from the very opposite of the expression of a love of God," the Archbishop said.

a h/t to Whispers.

Jun 8, 2009

I Love Dug

If you haven't seen the movie "Up" yet from Pixar, it's a must see. As many of you know I'm obsessed with my dog, Haze. And Dug the Dog in the movie reminded me of Haze's kind of goofy enthusiasm--especially when it comes to those distracting Squirrels. Take a look at a clip.

I loved this movie, especially the underlying themes about longing and marriage that are embedded in the adventure. Fun for the whole family--even dogs!

Jun 7, 2009

Blessed the People the Lord has Chosen to Be His Own

Today's responsorial psalm is a nice way of summing up the theme of all three readings. God has freely chosen us, reminding us of His great love for us and breaking in again and again throughout our salvation history.

For us, I fear God seems quite distant at times doesn't He? We wonder where God is when madmen crash planes into buildings or when a child gets abused, especially by clergy, or when a young person dies too young in a car crash. Where the heck is God and why does God seem to be ignoring the plight of the same people He has supposedly chosen to be his own?

We sometimes forget that while God gives us the freedom to choose to love God and others we sometimes ignore that choice ourselves don't we? I know I choose options contrary to love often. I act grumpy when my wife asks me a favor and I feel like being a couch potato. I don't hear the cry of the poor on our city streets or in foreign lands. I think I know better than God does when I choose my own conveniences over what God might want for my life. In short, it's not as easy for me to love God, by keeping His commandments than it has been for God to love us.

Sin is that very consequence of ignoring God's love and it turns everything upside down. It's our choice to sin and it's God's choice to continue to forgive us, knowing our own imperfections and having the courage to give us that gift of free will, that gift to ignore the God who loved us into life itself and who unabashedly forgives us each and every time we come before him, guilty, broken and forgetful of how much God has loved us.

Jesus tells his disciples that He will always be with them in today's gospel. That message is also for us. That while God seems distant, God indeed continues to choose us, continues to love us beyond measure, even when we don't always choose to love God or anyone else and are caught up in our own egos and selfishness.

The atheists laugh at us for believing in this kind of a God. They would have us believe that we are merely "cosmic accidents" floating on a sea of meaninglessness until the end of our lives when we are snuffed out and all the events of our lives fade into the abyss and all the love we have shared is for naught. Life is meaningless--there is nothing beyond this life, this world, our empty actions. The atheists tell us that religion--this God of ours is merely a trick that our mind tells us to allow us to deal with the truth of meaninglessness. We convince ourselves that life has meaning by inventing this God.

But don't buy it.

For the Christian believes that God has broken into our world in a physical tangible way. Jesus is alive and has defeated not just death but the meaninglessness of the world. It is Jesus who reminds us not only that God has chosen us--who are made in the image and likeness of God--for Himself. God chooses to live our life and enter into our death,not out of revenge or because of some need for sacrificial blood...but because of love. And it is that love, that perfect love that we witness in Jesus and it too, turns the world back around--from sin and death into new life.

We forget that we need God, that without God we are merely what the atheists want us to believe. Accidents, lives without meaning. God's choice of bringing us into salvation gives us our transcendence our goal-oriented purpose of returning to God by knowing God's gift of forgiveness and by offering that same forgiveness to others. Of knowing God's love for us and thereby loving others in return and being mindful of all of this.

That's faith. Having the love for others when you very well don't feel like loving--when it's easier to not love and to be caught up in your own ego. When we don't choose people to be own own in racism, genocide, or hate. When we separate from our families over petty squabbles. When we place our need for control over letting go of that need in order to love another.

I'm often reminded of this by my wife, in our marriage because she knows that I am far from perfect and yet, each and every day she chooses me. She chooses me to be her own. And I too, know her imperfections all too well and yet I too choose her. In our imperfect marriage, we strive to remind each other that we need to continue to choose one another, to love even when it's hard and even when one of us doesn't live up to our ideals. How much more will God who is perfect, love all of us?

Even when we turn our backs on God and choose another God: like money, fame, sex, drugs, booze, or simply plain old convenience. Because most often we don't choose God to be our own.

We choose ourselves and our own egos. We know what's good for us. Who needs God?

Today, let us consider God's love. God's free gift of grace and of forgiveness that allows us to start over each and every time. For it is there that we see God's love has no boundaries and it is there that we also see that eternal life is there for us if we merely choose to follow Christ.

You Just Don't Get It, Do You?

A hat tip to Deacon Greg for pointing me to this picture. This is possibly the worst picture of all time. These are protesters at the funeral of abortion doctor George Tiller. If these people are really pro-lifers than why are they insisting that this man's death by murder is a good thing. Their vengeful ideal that they attribute to God is ludicrous and bad theology. I find it hard to believe not only that there are people in the world who are this STUPID but also this hateful.

This is a major detraction to the pro-life movement. Unfortunately, these people are the ones who represent the pro-life movement to the world because the news media has to cover these outlandish stories instead of the people who do the hard work of the pro-life cause, like those who work at pregnancy crisis centers.

Today, let us pray for respect for all life and that we can work together for life without violence and hatred.

Jun 6, 2009

A Queer Conversation

I take full credit for coming up with this title in our editorial meeting and indeed it fits the bill.

What do you do when you're a nun in a very traditional religious order--one that still wears the habit--and you have an openly gay cousin? Do you chastise him? Do you shun him? Do you embrace him? Do you seek relationship with him?

Sr. Bernadette Reis and her cousin Paul Mages tell us their story on Busted Halo® to Bill McGarvey.

BH: I can’t tell if you’re trying to say, ‘I’d like to call Paul to greater integration’ — meaning greater integration with himself as a homosexual man? Or are you saying, ‘Okay, you’re homosexual, but the Church is calling you not to be sexually active.’ — which adds a whole slew of issues? Or, ‘integrate yourself in terms of reparation therapy’-type stuff? Can you talk a little bit about that?

SB: Actually, that’s a really good question because I’ve never actually gone there with Paul because it’s really none of my business to initiate that discussion. But I think that’s a good part of the equation because I think there is some pressure on Catholics to try to convince friends or family who are homosexual that they need to change. This is something I never told Paul, but one of the first times that I called my Dad to let him know that I was going to be seeing you, he asked me if I was going to have a talk with you. And I knew exactly what he meant by that. And I did question if I should do that or not, if I was somehow betraying the Church if I didn’t somehow let you know where I stood. But you know, I really felt that number one: Jesus never did that. He never went up to someone and said, “Hi, you have something wrong with your sexuality and I am here to fix you.” He never did that. It wasn’t even on my mind as something that I needed to do. It was something that all of a sudden came up because of my Dad.

But then I have found out since then that other people have that same dilemma: ‘Am I supposed to convince my homosexual friends that the way that they’re living is wrong?’ I think that I am here to be a friend to Paul. From the level of experience, to go over to Paul’s home and to see a home set up for him and his partner to live as a couple, it was the first time I had ever been in a situation like that, so of course it’s going to feel — what’s the word? — different, you know. But we do exactly the same things together as I do with other friends, we have the same conversations together, they invited me out with their friends — I mean, I really felt a level of acceptance. And I was glad, you know, that they could just freely bring me, when you know in the back of my mind, what I represent is something that Paul has been hurt by. But in terms of what I would hope for everyone, because I’m a part of this too, is that we can be in a dialogue with ourselves about why we behave the way we behave, and the choices that we make, and who we love, and what we like and what we don’t like, so that we each fulfill God’s Will for us. How I do that is going to be different than Paul because my background is different, my calling is different, the way I work things out between myself and God is different. And so I can understand the Church’s teaching. For me, I’ve worked that out. And I mean, I’ve grappled with things, I’m still grappling with some things, and I’m not perfect. And it’s the same for him. But I’m not God; I’m not his God. And if Paul invites me in to that process, that’s different.

I really had to reconcile the fact that I’m the one that has to make the decision about what I feel comfortable with in terms of talking about his lifestyle with Paul. I decided that my gut feeling would be the thing that would lead me. And I had to trust it.

PM: You probably prayed about it, too, I’d imagine.

SB: Yeah, I did. And I just felt, I’m gonna trust my gut on this one. I’d like a relationship with you, and what a way to slam the door on a relationship! I mean, “Hello. Before we sit down to dinner I’d like to talk to you about how wrong this all is. Bon appétit.” [laughs]

Read the rest here. I love how Sr. Bernadette relates all of this to her own calling to be a celibate.

Jun 5, 2009

18 Irish Religious Orders Pay Up

Shocking news from Ireland as the 18 Irish religious orders implicated in decades of abuse of thousands of children in their care have agreed to increase their contribution to the compensation fund for victims.

CNS notes:

A report released May 20 by the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse said a climate of fear created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment permeated most of Ireland's residential care institutions for children and all those run for boys from 1940 through the 1970s. These residential institutions, funded by the state but often run by Catholic religious orders, included schools, orphanages, hospitals, children's homes or any other institutions where children were in the care of nonfamily members.

Describing the meeting of the government and religious leaders as "very good," Minister for Education and Science Batt O'Keefe told RTE radio: "We are pleased that they have agreed with the three principles outlined by the government -- that a further substantial contribution will be made, agreement that a trust (to compensate and support victims) will be put in place and that the evaluation (of the congregations' assets) will be open and transparent."

All 18 congregations were represented at the meeting, which was also attended by O'Keefe; justice minister Dermot Ahern; social welfare minister Mary Hanafin; and Barry Andrews, minister for children and youth affairs.

A h/t to the Deacon

Reuters also reported a few weeks back that:

DUBLIN - Victims of sexual abuse and neglect in Catholic-run schools and orphanages in Ireland swamped counseling services on Thursday after the publication of the harrowing findings of a nine-year investigation.

“We’ve had 30 times as many calls as usual and our phone lines are always quite busy,” said Bernadette Fahy of the Aislinn Center, an organization set up by an abuse victim. “We have had to close the center because we haven’t been able to cope with the amount of people coming in.

“It’s extraordinary the number of people who are contacting services for the first time.”

Am I Going to Hell?

So I led a retreat about a year ago and was reminded of a moment on the weekend when we talked in a Question Box session about purgatory. I took a survey of the room.

"How many people here think that they are going to heaven?"

Not one hand went up and then sheepishly one person dared to say that she merited heaven.

"OK, how many people think that they're going to hell?"

Immediately about 6 hands went up without hesitation.

I slumped in my chair. Do we all think we're doomed? Is this how little we think of God's love?

Now I suppose, I don't think I merit heaven either--at least not immediately, which I think gives a lot of credence to the church's teaching on purgatory. Innately, perhaps we all don't think that we are perfect, but I also don't think that many of us reallythink that God is going to dump us off to eternal damnation either (although I don't doubt that some of us can indeed choose to ignore God's mercy and refuse to change our own ways in response to that and end up there).

So I'd like to throw this out there to y'all...

What do you think about heaven and hell? Purgatory? Where do you think you'll end up?

Jun 4, 2009

Graduation Memories

As high schools move into graduation time, I was thinking about my own high school graduation 21 years ago now (yikes!). I almost didn't make it.

OK it's not what you think, I was an honor student in fact I was ranked ninth in my high school class so I was not academically in danger of not graduating. Rather I nearly circled my graduation.

I was the state Extemporaneous Speaking champion for a club I belonged to and I had the opportunity to compete in the National Competition in Wichita, Kansas--a city that I have always had a fondness for since visiting there. If I were to make the final round, I would not be able to make it back to my high school graduation exercises--a tough choice. I remember crying about it. I often lived in fear as a child of my mother dying. She has been a sick woman for a long time--since I was about 8 or 9. She's lived 30 years beyond those fears so I think I can let that fear go now. But I remember fretting that I had done all this work and mom was going to be there to watch me graduate...

And now I wasn't going to show up.

Well, I think that pressure got to me. I finished 12th and only the top 10 get to go to the finals. Not a terrible job but not good enough. I flew home with two classmates from Wichita with a stop in Chicago's O'Hare Airport. It was then we got the announcement:

"If you are flying on United Airlines Flight 509 to New York's LaGuardia Airport, your flight has been cancelled."

My friend's Kelly and Iris who were with me at the Nationals as delegates gasped. Kelly started to cry. My teacher bolted to the desk and somehow, I still don't know how, got us booked on the next flight to NY on another airline which was going to cut it close. He called our parents: "Take their caps and gowns to the Westchester County Center and meet us there. We're either going to just make it or be late or not get there at all." And then he made a call to the Yonkers Board of Education. Get a van out to LaGuardia with the craziest driver you've got. We need someone to get us to White Plains in less than an hour from LGA."

We piled in the van which had no seats, we bounced around the highways of New York and we literally started running down the streets with 5 minutes left to get on the line for Pomp and Circumstance.

Somehow we made it. I was zipping up my gown seconds before I walked down the aisle. Whew! What a day. Ironically, my mom was in the hospital on my graduation day but it was only 4 years ago that I got my master's at Fordham and she was there present. One of the proudest moments of my life was when the dean of the school came up to her and my dad and sang my praises to them. Imagine an immigrant father and a mother who grew up in the depression and couldn't finish high school because the family was broke and needed her in the workforce hearing that from an acclaimed dean. That indeed has to be part of the American dream for many.

So graduates of 2009, congratulations. Enjoy your day and if you find yourself running down city streets and zipping up your graduation gown seconds before you grab that diploma just know one thing:

It happens to the best of us.

Jun 3, 2009

Pics from Deacon Greg

Deacon Greg has posted pictures of my recent visit to the Studio over at New Evangelization TV--where he serves as the news director. Rather than steal them, just jump over to The Deacon's Bench and give them a look-see! I don't even look fat!

We barely scratch the surface on ministering to youth and young adults but I liked the segment and thought we gave a good overview. Matt McClure (pictured right) was an excellent anchor for the segment, which I can say as a former media person. He comes to the station from Atlanta and they made fun of the fact that he doesn't yet have a desk--he's using a fold out table at this point. I said to him, "Well at least you got a nice Mac computer." Nice guy with a great sense of humor. Welcome to the Big Apple Matt.

The show is scheduled to run June 10th.

Jun 2, 2009

Confessions: Why Shoo Away God's Love?

Fr Mark Mossa, SJ has a great post on confession in which he refers to our Busted Halo videos on confession which you can view below. He writes:

One of my favorite things to do as a priest--believe it or not--is to hear confessions. Some people are afraid to go to confession because they are afraid that the priest is going to yell at them (and, unfortunately, it may even have happened to them once). Honestly, I can't imagine any reason why I would feel compelled to yell at someone during a confession. One might need to be firm about something at times, but there's still no need to yell. Indeed, my experience is that usually it becomes a joyful and healing conversation, once the person has gotten past the difficult part of confessing his or her sins. Sometimes people laugh, sometimes they cry, but it is because it has been a good experience.
Another reason people don't go is because they feel embarrassed because they don't know what to do. I wouldn't let this deter you because, in my experience, nearly half of all my confessions have been with people who weren't sure what they were doing. I'm happy to help. In fact, I often have to stop people from leaving because they've stood up to go before I've had the chance to give them absolution!

He also pointed out The BustedHalo new cheat sheet for confessions. Which essentially allows you to review the steps for confession before you enter the box or reconciliation room. A good rule of thumb for priests when hearing confession: "Don't hate the playa, Father--hate the sin."

Here are the aforementioned videos:

I would say this from my own sinful experience...

I don't confess enough. And when I do I always come out feeling lighter, free from burden and simply filled with God's love. I really do feel that way. I don't take advantage of it for some reason though and I really can't understand why we all do this. Studies show that confessions are down. Why do we shoo away God's love? It is there freely offered and freely given. But God never forgives sins against our will and perhaps that's where we come in with the giant God-swatter?

We think we know better. We think we know when the best time is for us to have sex with someone instead of freely giving of ourselves in marriage. We justify our petty outbursts of anger by saying that the other person deserved it. We claim that "it's nothing personal" when we stab a co-worker in the back. We ignore the homeless and forget that they are God's children too and claim that we can't help everyone. We say what other choice did the woman have who aborted her baby and we then exonerate her choice as necessity and don't ever ask how we played a part in these deaths.

We know better. There's nothing wrong with us. We're basically good people.

Bullshit. (Now I need to go to confession for cursing!) These are lies we tell ourselves to ignore our need for God and for one another.

Confession exists for precisely this reason: We are imperfect. Better stated: We are not God. We need God and we are not even gracious enough to welcome forgiveness when it is freely given.

So today, go to confession. Seek out a priest you are comfortable with and spill your guts--but first think about what kind of betrayals you really take part in and most of all BE HONEST. You're not going to fool God--he knows your sin even before you committed it.

My most memorable confession was with a priest that I was very close to in college. I left in tears--but in a good way. It was my most honest confession because I was telling someone that I trusted all the things that I hate about myself.

Yeesh! That is not always easy to admit--especially to those who know us well. Chances are, however, they know our faults anyway--just as God does and they, like God, love us anyway.

Net TV: Currents

I made a guest appearance on the Brooklyn Diocese's new television venture NetTV today. The show will air on June 10 tentatively and I discussed young people and their practice of faith with the Diocese's standout young adult faith formation director Marilyn Santos.

But you don't have to wait that long to tune in to currents. Check them out on the web or just watch this compilation.

The set is beautiful and I wish I had brought my camera with me because they had a lovely chapel where I'm sure they will go and relax and pray often as there is a lot of work to be done. Deacon Greg Kandra of blog fame is the acclaimed news director and he is just so excited to be part of this new and exciting venture.

We'll be getting a clip from them soon and Deacon Greg took some pictures--so I'll steal them from him later.

I think it went well--but I kept the makeup artist in business with my shiny crome dome.

BTW--if you're in the Youngstown, Ohio area, I'll be speaking at their First Friday club (which ironically meets on Thursday) this week...so come on by.

Jun 1, 2009

Susan Boyle Hospitalized

Is fame too much for Susan Boyle? Apparently it is at least taking its toll on the dowdy diva.

The producers of Britain's Got Talent are facing an investigation over their treatment of contestant Susan Boyle after she was admitted to The Priory clinic suffering exhaustion.

Media regulator Ofcom is considering launching an inquiry after receiving 'a large number of complaints' from viewers of the hit ITV programme.

The show's bosses have come under fire for not withdrawing her from the contest after it emerged she had not been sleeping or eating properly in the week leading up to Saturday's final.

A source from the watchdog told London's Evening Standard: 'There are a lot to go through. There are complaints about Susan Boyle being allowed to perform in the final.'

Police were summoned to her hotel following her shock loss to dance troupe Diversity and the 48-year-old was assessed under the Mental Health Act after she had an 'emotional breakdown'.

It gives more credence to those who said she'd have a hard time dealing with the fame--and she didn't even win. Those of us who have worked closely with mentally challenged people of different types probably saw something like this coming. It doesn't mean that Susan can't be a singing star but it does mean that she needs good handlers--people who will be able to keep the limelight shining while allowing her to maintain some reclusive moments to escape the pressure of the public life.

When you're a "star" everyone thinks they know you and that you have time for everyone that comes your way--and moreover, that you owe them a moment. If you don't give them a moment or engage them then you're "the bigshot who didn't have time for the little people." It's a hopelessly impossible situation. You are balancing some kind of privacy with a public personna--and most people just don't get it.

Even small time fame has broad strokes of troublesome times. My college roommate was on MTV's Real World (Joe, from the Miami series--and I'm not answering any more questions about him) and I had a hard time walking down the street with him in nearly any city where he wasn't recognized by someone who wanted to know 10 questions about the show. It was frankly annoying--even for me. College friends would even stop and merely ask him questions about the show and not about anything else and even worse would ignore anyone else who was with him in lieu of getting more "inside information". A good friend once didn't even notice I was standing next to him one day and apologized once he jumped out of the "star stupor."

Some will certainly look at the likes of these reality and game show superstars and say "Oh wah-wah you're life is so hard! You sing and get paid for it." Or "You were on TV and it ruined your personal life." And I think there's some wisdom and truth to their criticism because after all, they did want this kind of fame and public recognition and the mistake is not thinking about the boundaries that you'd have to set up once fame sets in.

However, the real issue is that most likely fame is thrust upon unlikely people--like Susan. And fame moves very quickly and the pressure mounts even faster. Who is going to pick up the pieces when fame rears its ugly head on someone unprepared for the pressure it foists?

Pentecost: Expired and Inspired

Fr. Gerard Sauer had an awesome homily on the feast of Pentecost that I'll riff on today...

Have you ever heard someone in a hospital say when a patient dies that they "expired?"

It bothered Fr Sauer when he worked at a hospital run by the Salvation Army as a young man. Expired?---what have we become? A quart of milk?

But the medical profession got it right, claimed Fr Gerard. After all what does the word itself mean?

At birth, or more importantly, at Baptism, we are "inspired". The spirit comes to live within our very selves. God uniting with us sacramentally. The spirit comes into our very being--we are in-spired.

So when we die we become expired. The spirit leaves our body and goes to be with God. More importantly, we should have expended our efforts at sharing this spirit throughout our lives that perhaps we have nothing more to give. The spirit's work is done and we now can expire. We're done and the spirit can rest easy at a job well done.

The disciples were men of inspiration but they died full expired. The poured the Holy Spirit out upon all they met and many who died a martyrs death inspired others and in this expiration of spirit, in giving of their very selves--they inspire the world--filling it with the Holy Spirit.

What inspires you? What brings you into thinking about Jesus more intimately. At the close of our lives will we be willing to expire--to give our spirit back to God? Or do we cling to craving more inspiration?

After being with numerous people on their deathbeds, I can tell you, people answer this in a variety of ways, depending on their experience and their consciences. Some long for expiration, and they live as best they can with a forward thinking vision. My own mother when she thought she was going to die at one point in her life once said: "I'm finally going to see my father again." A touching statement to her "Pop" who she often dreams about and remembers fondly. Others however, cling to life angrily---feeling cheated. Hoping for more time to make amends--to set things right. To "inspire" others and to seek inspiration for themselves.

How do you hope to expire--when that great day makes it's way into your life?

Googling God

Googling God
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