Feb 26, 2009

40 Day Giveaway: Who got the green pumas?

I kinda dig this guy! And he gives BustedHalo.com a shout out at the end!

Pray, Fast, Give...King

Today Martin Luther King weighs in on BustedHalo's Pray...Fast...Give Lenten Calendar.

See what he calls us fast from as well by clicking here

Feb 25, 2009

"What's that crap on your head?" and other Ash Wednesday greetings

I was proud of myself yesterday on Ash Wednesday. I fasted for good deal of the day, stretching myself a good bit. But I also fasted from laziness. I woke up early and hit the 7AM mass and received my ashes. I'm usually uncomfortable about wearing the ashes but I decided this year I was going to be very intentional about wearing them all day. I even knew I was going to be at work late yesterday--so I had the ashes on publicly from 7AM - until 9 PM.

The experience was a new one for me and I found myself feeling less uncomfortable and more like a walking signpost for Catholicism. Wearing the ashes is a public reminder to others that Lent has begun. I heard the following quotes yesterday on the subway and streets of NYC:

"Oh shit, it's Ash Wednesday! I forgot. And now I just cursed--I'm off to a great start." - Random person on the street
"It's Ash Wednesday...cool, what are you giving up?" - Woman buying a soda
"Nice Ash!" - my friend, Melissa.
"If someone smudges their ash and makes it look like an upside down cross would that make it Ash-backwards?" - an old friend who requests to stay anonymous
"Ugh...I hate Ash Wednesday. It's a silly superstition." - drunk woman who did in fact, have ashes on her head.

And my all time favorite:
"Excuse me, you've got some kind of black crap on your forehead."
Me: "Nah dude, It's Ash Wednesday!"
Guy: "Huh?"
Me: (Louder) "It's Ash Wednesday!"
Guy (obviously taken aback: "Oh! Oh!...I didn't know that!"
Me (realizing I sounded harsh): "Thanks for looking out for me anyway, man."
Guy: "No problem. I thought I saw a bunch of people with stuff on their head but then I thought I was just seeing floaters!"

Regardless of your ash-feelings...we remind ourselves that our time here is limited. That we are made for connection with God and others. What are we doing today on that journey?

Twitter: Testing Out the Blog

So twitter will let me push this content using twitterfeed. So I'm trying to see if this actually works. We'll see. Cmon over and comment if it does.

Great Book for Lent: Living Well

From John Roberto, who some may recognize as the former head of the Center for Ministry Development, comes this latest book (more like a workbook) to which I am a contributor. John is now running his own outfit called LifeLong Faith which is a great new venture for him and for people of faith.

Living Well: Christian Practices for Everyday Life presents twelve essential practices for a Christian way of life: Caring for the Body, Celebrating Life, Discernment, Dying Well, Eating Well, Forgiving, Keeping Sabbath, Managing Household Life, Participating in Community, Praying, Reading the Bible, and Transforming the World.

Written for adults, parents, and families to use in learning about and living Christian practices, each chapter presents the Biblical foundation of the Christian practice and a variety of practical suggestions for living the practice and how to make it an integral part of everyday life

I plan to use this throughout lent as well with my wife and dog! Order yours today by clicking here

For those interested I contributed to the chapter on discernment.

The 40 Day Giveaway

My friend Frank a Campus Minister at SMU in texas pointed me towards this. I'll keep up with him and BustedHalo's Pray fast give calendar here.

I think it's admirable that he wants to give away something from his closet but I wonder if anyone who wasn't a member of the Oakland A's in the early 70's will want these?

Reminder: Ash Wednesday

Today is the start of Lent and is a day of fast and abstinence.

While I'd recommend going to mass today (As I did at the harrowing hour of 7AM today) contrary to popular belief today is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation. It is truly just the day that marks (literally) the start of lent.

Also check out BustedHalo's Pray, Fast, Give Calendar that helps walk you through some Lenten practices. A piece of today's Ash Wednesday's reflection:

What is it that holds us back from really living? What do we have to die to — or, at the very least, fast from — in order to liberate ourselves from our bad habits? What do we have to give of ourselves to others, to causes, to God, so that we may stretch ourselves into new ways of being? How does prayer center us into growth?

Also...BustedHalo asks you to Show Us Your Ash today by sending us a picture of your ashes. Here's mine:

Feb 24, 2009

Bad Homilies

Deacon Greg pointed me to this great article on Catholic Preaching which talks about what I would call "the general unpreparedness" of Catholic preachers.

Listening to sermons at Mass, one often thinks, like the professor in the Narnia Chronicles, "What do they teach in school?" Not that the sermons are necessarily all that bad, but they are rarely as good as they would be had the priest been better taught. It's like listening to a fiddler who hits most of the notes but doesn't know how to keep time -- because, one suspects, he learned the fiddle from an accordion player.

I am not going to deliver the usual lament about preaching (often delivered, a friend reminded me, by lapsed or lukewarm Catholics). When I was an Episcopalian, friends worried that I might become a Catholic always brought up the liturgy and the preaching. Even then this struck me as irrelevant, but they saw the two bodies as brands in competition, and so thought that I was about to spend the same amount of money for a bashed-up Saturn as I would for a perfectly maintained Mercedes. Why endure old Father O'Shea when you can sit at the feet of the Rev. Canon Horace Q. Swizzlestick III, D.D.?

But in my experience of almost eight years as a Catholic, I have rarely heard a genuinely bad sermon, and I have heard a few very good ones. Even some of the most ineptly composed and delivered sermons included some striking insight that redeemed the mess. Perhaps I've been blessed -- or maybe my standards are low -- but I haven't found Catholic preaching to be the horror show I was led to expect, even by some Catholics. (I hear horror stories, and I'm sure they're true, but I cannot tell any.)

Bravo! On Busted Halo® several years ago I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on preaching. I suggested in the article that I will give a particular amount to the weekly collection based on how hard i think the preacher worked on his homily. Here's a few points for preachers to ponder that would garner my top $25 donation:

The $25 Heavenly Homily: This homily breaks the bank (notice that I’ve provided an extra $5 tip over our allotted amount). I’ll eat ramen noodles all week if a preacher can cover these points:

Does it step into the Present? The stories of scripture are over 2000 years old but that doesn’t mean that it was only relevant then. What implications does the story have for us in the 21st Century?

Did I learn something new? A preacher should never reach into the file cabinet for the “canned homily” they gave last year. If I have to hear Fr. Tony’s story about his grandmother one more time during lent, I’m going to rush the pulpit and sack him.
Is it based on the scriptures of the day? The priest who went over the new mass practices issued by the Bishops during his homily took the lazy way out.

Did it mention Jesus Christ at least once? Hello? Isn’t this obvious?

Does it contain an element of challenge? (see the “Snuggles Teddy Bear Homily” below).

Is it vibrant and engaging. If Father talks in a low monotone he shouldn’t wonder why Timmy’s asleep in the 5th row every week.

It’s called a public speaking class—find one.

You can read more "homily types" here. As there are $25, $20, $15, $10, and even the loose change in my pocket homilies.

One more quick story about preaching:

A young woman had her three rambunctious boys (Ages 7, 5 and 3) in the 4th row at a particular parish in New Jersey. Of course, as boys are wont to do, they weren't the best behaved in the pew despite the best efforts of the mother to keep them in line.

One would slug the other and then was kicked in return. Another would pinch the youngest who would then cry or scream and hit the oldest with a missalette. While the family was of course a slight distraction, most of their poor behavior occurred before mass began. During mass an occasional elbow might hit someone and the usual fidgetiness of young boys took hold. So the priest about half-way through his homily bellowed:

"YOU! The one with the three horrible children! You are a terrible mother! I have worked so hard on my homily all week and your children are distracting everyone from hearing it. Take your children and get out! Come back only when they are more well-behaved!"

What an awful man and such an unkind dismissal. It was then that a parishioner rose and stated:

"Um, Father. Perhaps if you weren't so boring and actually had something interesting to say the children would be less rambunctious! And maybe the rest of us would listen if you weren't being such a jerk!"

25 other people left the church with that young woman that day. So for those of us who get the opportunity to preach at mass or as i do in other formats (reconciliation services, etc) it should be a good reminder to us not too get too high and mighty about our own efforts.

The Colbert Report Chaplain: Fr. James Martin!

America Magazine and occasional Busted Halo contributor, Fr. James Martin, SJ, is now the official Chaplain of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Hysterical last night right out of the box.

Hopefully, he'll be back for many more appearances.

Feb 23, 2009

NY's New Archbishop is St. Louis' Favorite Son

From the St. Louis Beacon today:

While the joyful, witty Dolan is a champion hugger, he is no light weight. Brilliant theologians including the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, a Jesuit, considered Dolan an intellectual with a special gift for relating realistically to modern life. Two years ago, the late Dulles told this reporter of his appreciation of Dolan’s ability to put crises and challenges into the context of church and American history.

Friends and associates cite Dolan’s qualities that serve his church well: his down-to-earth friendliness, keen intellect, his analytical powers, his joyful presence, his gifts of mediation and what more than a few call “holiness.”

Sending a fine communicator to media capitol of the world seems a natural, for Benedict whose recent appointments seem to show that he is adept at putting pastorally gifted men in dioceses where their talents can be used.

And for those who wonder about the Bishop's pastoral approach and how he is viewed by his brother priests:

This was Dolan’s way. Twice most years Dolan called Catholic Wisconsin public officials to a spiritual and intellectual discussion. He explained the theology behind church policy statements on capital punishment, immigration, poverty, abortion, war and embryonic stem cell research. Then, he took questions about the theological underpinnings. No fire and brimstone, just thoughtful give and take, elected officials have said.

Dolan is held in high regard by other U.S. bishops. At his very first meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, just three months after he was installed as St. Louis Archdiocese’s auxiliary bishop, the bishops elected him to head the committee on priestly life. Such a committee chairmanship is unheard of for a new bishop. However, in the midst of the sex abuse crisis American bishops expected that Dolan could be a spokesman for good priests, for the joy of the priesthood and could work on policies to improve discernment, even testing of men seeking to become priests. Even then, Dolan was a popular retreat master for priests.

The St. Louis native has given thought-provoking papers at several prestigious Catholic intellectual societies. No matter how deep the academic topic, he always paces them with a bit of his Irish wit. Now he is board chairman of Catholic Relief Services, which serves people of all faiths overseas. He has been a gifted fund-raiser in Milwaukee. He currently serves on the bishops’ conference budget and finance committee.

I have heard nothing but good things. God Bless Archbishop (undoubtedly soon to be Cardinal) Dolan on his new assignment here in Gotham. Read more here including his personal story.

Pray, Fast, Give

As Lent begins its dawn...We have constructed our annual Lenten Calendar--this year with the theme of Pray...Fast...Give.

Check it out:
Traditionally, Lent was intended as a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. The belief is that our consistent participation in these practices—like exercise we do for our physical health—is a form of purification that improves our spiritual well-being by stripping away all that is unnecessary and by becoming more mindful of our ultimate dependence on God in our lives.

But instead of chocolate, alcohol or tobacco, what if people thought of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in a broader context? What if those disciplines involved practices like reducing your dependence on electronic devices for twenty four hours (fast); contemplating the 1.6 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity for a few moments (pray); and spending the extra time you’ve saved on personal interaction with someone important to you (give)? Or what if people reduced their carbon footprint for a day by using less energy (fast); then reflected for two minutes on the magnificent gift our natural environment is (pray); and finally placed $1 in a bowl they’ve set aside to collect money to be given away to a favorite charity—perhaps one that plants trees—at the end of Lent (give).

It's Dolan: We told you so

As previously reported here with many hat tips to Rocco Palmo, there's no time like today to blog as Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Edward Cardinal Egan of New York and has appointed Archbishop Timothy Dolan the new head of the huge Archdiocese of New York.

Archbishop Dolan is a fine choice to head up Gotham's Chancery. He's by all means a moderate, a voice of reason, a practical and pastoral man who will bring a much-needed public face and good humor back to St Patrick's Cathedral.

Set your calendars for April 15th, as Archbishop Dolan will be installed at St Patrick's Cathedral then. I always find it funny that they say "installed." It's like we just bought a toaster and we're going to plug it in and make sure it works. The only difference is if we don't like this model we can't exchange it for another one!

I've had limited experience with the new Archbishop. Some members of my wife's family live in Milwaukee, so I've had a chance to be there often. During his time in Milwaukee Archbishop Dolan replaced the fairly liberal Archbishop Rembert Weakland . Weakland had been mired by a scandal in which he paid off a man with Archdiocesan funds who alleged that he had an affair with him. So Archbishop Dolan had quite a few fences to mend and he did so fairly quickly and he'd be the first to say, with the help of a great lay staff.

"He appreciates the laity," say sources in Milwaukee. "He knows he needs good lay people with a good sense for business around him so that he can administrate the diocese well."

I would also say that the new Archbishop Dolan will quickly become a media favorite. He's great with a one-liner and friendly and answers questions thoughtfully.

Prayers today for both the new Archbishop Dolan and for Cardinal Egan who will be moving on after cleaning up quite a financial mess in the NY Archdiocese.

Feb 19, 2009

Show Us Your Ash

BustedHalo.com asks us to send us your pictures of your Ash for the start of Lent!

“Is the minister giving out ashes making a cross or signing his name on there?” you wonder in a panic. “His thumb must be the size of a 5 wood…is he blind?” you ask yourself. Before you know it you’re at the altar offering your own cranium as a canvas for this zealous finger painter.

Sound familiar? As part of Busted Halo’s Fast, Pray, Give Lenten Calendar we want you to show us your ash. Simply take a picture of your ashes and send us the jpeg at ashes@bustedhalo.com. We’ll post the best ones we receive and enter your name in our drawing for the “Ultimate Lent Incentive” grand prize that includes an Easter basket stocked with a brand new, customized iPod Nano as well as Busted Halo M&Ms, Swedish fish, a copy of The Green Bible and an assortment of other books from our Halo store.

World Youth Day Changes Lives

Feb 17, 2009

Charis ministries in Chicago Rocks!

In Chicago we had a great gathering of Young Adult Ministry "partners" --people who do retreat work and are looking at what the future holds for young adults and then for retreat ministry in general.

The Jesuits are behind Charis--the retreat organization that got us all together. And the spirit of St ignatius was clearly present amongst us.

My own thoughts--something is happening here with these ministries. It's the start of a type of grassroots movement. One that goes beyond the usual boundaries that much of church ministry seems to be unable to reach.

But more needs to be done. This conference renewed my energy for much work to be done with BustedHalo and NCYAMA. The future is bright indeed.

Thanks be to God, Stay tuned...much more to come.

Blogging to be lax for the next few

I'm in Chicago at a partners meeting for Charis Ministries--the excellent retreat program. My Dell is having trouble connecting to wi-fi connections and even straight internet connections. I'm using the public computer here in the retreat house so blogging might be restricted to the evenings. Might be time for a Mac?

Hoping all is well in your world.

Feb 13, 2009

Rocco Palmo: Archbishop Dolan to NY

Rocco keeps insisting it's going to be Milwaukee's Archbishop to be the next Archbishop of NY. Here's more from him and other Vatican insiders here.

I have not met Archbishop Dolan but inside sources place well within the chancery office there tell me the following:

"He's a very nice man. Funny, down-to-earth, great with the media. Has a good respect for the laity and knows that he needs good administrative people around him. He's a traditional guy but is less traditional than some people make him out to be. He makes a decision and sticks to it."

My only experience of him was when I watched a recording of him addressing the media when he first got the gig in Milwaukee. He had replaced Archbishop Rembert Weakland who was a rather slender man. When a reporter asked him what the main difference between Archbishop Weakland and himself would be, Archbishop Dolan replied:

"Um, I'd say about 100-120 pounds!"

He'll be good here. Looking forward to it.

Do you haveTriskaidekaphobia?

So today is Friday the 13th and let's just say I'm beginning to buy into this. Here's how my day has gone so far:

1) My dog picked this morning to be cranky and clanged around in his crate at 5AM to be let out.

2) My wife let him come into our bed and he pulled her hair.

3) He then decided to "act out" by peeing on my good shoes.

4) I've had a headache and a stomach ache all day.

5) My computer is sluggish and the sound card doesn't work

6) Subway was delayed getting in.

7) I've been waiting for 3 important calls, nothin'

8) I got a package here yesterday but it now seems to have disappeared.

How to go to Confession - Part 2

Feb 12, 2009

Pope Assures Jewish Leaders

Pope Benedict talked with Jewish leaders and apologized for the bad relations that Catholics may have had with our Jewish brethren in the past and assured them that Catholics do not deny the holocaust.

The BBC has more:

The Pope told about 60 delegates from the Conference of American Jewish Organisations that "any denial or minimisation of this terrible crime [was] intolerable", especially from a priest.

"The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah [Holocaust] was a crime against humanity," he said.

"This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures..."

Pope Benedict admitted that the 2,000-year-old relationship between Judaism and the Church had passed through some painful phases.

But he repeated the prayer the late Pope John Paul made when he visited Jerusalem in 2000, pleading for forgiveness from Jews for Christians who had persecuted them throughout history.

He will also be traveling to Israel in May.

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Virtus Training

So I had to go and take Virtus training--for those who don't know what this is it's a training session on protecting children from predators. It's a mandate now in just about all dioceses--although some use other formats.

I wasn't looking forward to it but actually found it well worth spending a few hours of my life on this. We watched two videos which spurred on discussion. Interestingly they had both victims discussing their horrifying experiences on camera and shockingly two abusers were in the video talking about the ways they'd get children to trust them as well as parents. One guy owned a roller rink and another worked at a summer camp. Bone chilling stuff.

The one that stayed with me was a young woman who was having trouble in her English class, so the teacher offered her extra help and then started fondling her. She didn't think her parents would believe her because she was a poor student--so they'd believe her teacher more than they'd believe her.

Folks, I don't have kids, but I do have nieces and a nephew who I care for very much. I can only imagine the horror a parent would feel when this happens to their child. Make sure your children know that they can come to you with any issue and that you'll always believe them. Only 5% of abuse cases brought forth by a child are ever found to be false accusations! Kids might make up things from time to time but they don't make up stuff like this.

Today let's pray for all victims of abuse. I'd like to apologize to victims on behalf of a church that I belong to that obviously didn't handle these abuse cases well. I hope that their pain will be lessened by the work that is being done today to protect all of God's children. I pray too for those who have abused children. The one link we know is that those who have been abusing children were themselves abused as a child. I can only imagine the hell that they have been through and the lack of engagement with that pain has now led them to abuse others. May God have mercy on them, heal them of their pain and allow them to be free from all that traps them in this vicious cycle of abuse.

May God, above all help us protect out children. Amen

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Feb 11, 2009

When starting a blog..expect something like this

I "rejected" this comment but thought it merited some thoughts.


Um, no. I'm not an Episcopalian. I'm not a Unitarian. I'm not a Wiccan. I don't like the song Kum-by-ya! But as I travel around the country I notice a few things about young adults, in particular, (people in their 20s and 30s who I minister with and to) that I found interesting.

a) The events of the world often shape their religious responses and participation. Columbine, 9-11, Katrina, the Indian Tsunami and Virginia Tech all have had a huge influence on them. Many think that because they have some desire for "traditional" worship practices and like some of the old-school traditions (like adoration, the rosary and even yes, the Latin Mass) that this means that they are harkening back to a time before the council, retrieving some of the ancient rituals from long ago and reviving them. But these people and even their parents in some cases have had no experience of the church before the council, so what is going on is different here. I claim that it is a reaction to a culture of insecurity. People long for security in a world gone mad with terrorism, violence and even natural disasters and they look for religion to provide what the world cannot. Our opportunity as ministers is not to mistake this longing for some kind of political affiliation with conservatism but rather to engage their longing and give them appropriate opportunities for worship that also explain and engages their minds as well as their hearts with these rituals.

I would also say I notice something that a friend recently pointed out to me. At let's say at a Catholic event focused on social justice--there are great things going on, great witness by people living out gospel values and even great community, but there seems to be very little regard for prayer, contemplation and personal piety.

At Catholic events that are more focused on family, life issues or even liturgy there seems to be only a contemplative focus and not much on social justice, community, diversity or culture.

Aren't BOTH of these things important?

Now the writer above, claims that I hate "orthodox" Catholics. I say two things in response.

1) I am an orthodox Catholic. The Jesuits who I met at Fordham were orthodox. The Paulists I work for now are orthodox. As are anybody who are in the big tent of Catholicism. We are all in the SAME church and do the same things and are engaging the same tradition. Being orthodox means being part of the entire experience of our church. It also means that we don't reject the Second Vatican Council which is the exact heresy that the "Bishops" who are running the Society of St Pius X were in fact, excommunicated for. Pope Benedict has already said without an adherence to all that the council has placed into our tradition there cannot be ANY reconciliation (this includes the holocaust in light of the document Nostra Aetate)

2) What I am not is a fundamentalist. I don't read a literal translation of the bible. I don't think that the Second Vatican Council was a bunch of hogwash. I don't blindly toss away people's questions when they ask them and tell them to simply read the bible or the catechism and that their questions will magically dissolve. I engage Catholicism with culture and with experience and try to help people navigate that path and show where they are less divergent than what they may think.

3) I also am not someone who thinks we should just ignore everything that the Second Vatican Council says, but rather we should be critical about what we didn't do well after the council, namely Catechesis, explanation (one Sunday they just turned the altar around!) and a lack of ritual done with mystery and reverence at times. The Second Vatican Council provided some great things for the church that we should not blindly think about tossing away (the proverbial baby with the bathwater) in favor of a reversion to a time before the council. However, we did lose some of what was good about ritual and liturgy from before the council. There was a sense of mystery and rhythm that perhaps we don't do as well currently. Something different and "other-worldly" was going on at mass which perhaps today seems more common to our experience. And yet, people don't know what's going on at mass even when it is in English! So going back to Latin mass may not do anything except serve to confuse even the most ardent mass attender. Perhaps we're asking the wrong questions and I think many of our brothers and sisters who find value in the Society of St Pius X are onto something. Most of these people are not like the so-called Bishop Williamson who denies the value of the second vatican council and the holocaust. I think most of the people who follow the SSPX are simply people who long for a sense of mystery in liturgy and who are tired of having an experience on Sunday that is very much like their experience of daily life. They are looking to TRANSCEND daily life for an experience that brings them into a mysterious connection with the divine.

So no, "anonymous" (who didn't even have the guts to write their name), I don't hate those who use the title Orthodox. I'm actually one of the few people who actually looks at your experience and values it and doesn't dismiss it.

I'm a Catholic. I love our Pope. I love Cardinals (see, here I am with Cardinal George). I love the church. And I hope our experiences can be less judgmental of one another and more focused on providing a window into where we all long for a connection for God.

And I also know how to write in complete sentences.

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Feb 10, 2009

Remembering Rhythms

I posted this on Amy Welborn's blog today after reading about her own struggle with her husband's recent unexpected death, but thought I'd re-post it.

Amy spoke of the following:

It is surreal and odd. Here one minute, gone the next, without a chance to say goodbye. Sunday’s experience did not really help in that regard for as fearful as I was, anticipating, when the moment came, without getting too specific, the line from the gospel flashed through my soul, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” I could not connect that experience with the smiling face in the pictures surrounding us and the voice still echoing in my ears and memory. And the fear was gone. But the dissonance remained. And does.

To use the old phrase: It does not compute.

There is a mystery, as I was telling Dorothy, and what I feel driven to do is not “understand” it, really. It is not even to “accept” it. It is something different, and I don’t get what that is - where that space is and what it looks like.

I am opening comments on this post, but with a specific purpose. If you have had similar experiences, or any experiences with loss and grieving that you would like to share, please do. It will be helpful to me and to others.

I have had three of these, as you say, strange deaths in my own life. They never get easy:

As a young man 2 fellow altar boy friends of mine died much to young. The first died at a summer camp. Friends had received a call from him just days before telling them how awful his camp experience was. Days later reports came back that he vomited in his sleep and choked to death. All kinds of stories followed and all of them speculative at best. Was he drunk, was he high, or just sick? His brother was devastated, his mother even worse.

It wasn't until a year later when a simple weekday mass was said in his memory that I began to feel any comfort. Mass was the rhythm in which I came to know James. We served mass reverently and easily knowing cold what we were supposed to do and our motions moved without much thought around them until the odd thing would happen. A friend tripped and fell into the aisle once. A large candle fell and hit a priest nearly burning him another time. We would react and then move back into reverence once the issue died down and probably we would laugh about it later over dinner. It was all about presence. Being present to one another without thought, with ease, with the rhythm of the mass parts--sometimes mundane, but mostly joyful.

I think much of our lives are indeed like that. And even when those lives are taken unexpectedly, disrupting that rhythm, it is the rhythms in which we knew them that keeps them in relationship to us, praying with us, living with us. It is a different experience for us Eucharistic people who need the tangible and visible sometimes to make sense of the mystical. But the mystical is no less present even without those "accidents". These rhythms to me are indeed communion, and they are always revealing God to us in some way--the God who always lurks where we least expect to find Him.

The last of these strange deaths was my college roommate, who was always a sick young man and who many of us expected that he would die young. He had a heart condition and even had a defibrillator attached to his heart our senior year. That machine gave him and extra 3 years or so. He had been doing so well and so, when he told us that he was simply having his defibrillator replaced we all relaxed and thought it was rather routine.

Surgery is often tough to recover from and in this one, Dave, my friend, just didn't have the fight. Without any warning one of our other roommates called and gave me the news straight. Dave was dead. I beat up a studio pretty good that day at the radio station--angry wasn't the word for the emotion that poured out of me--it was more like frustration. I hadn't had the chance to say goodbye. I didn't feel like it was his time yet--although I knew it probably wasn't far off. His parents lost their only child and had given their very lives over to his care for over 25 years and now he was just...gone. Unfair. Even the dog was upset at it.

But what happened next reminded me a lot of this friend, who was possibly the most unselfish person I had ever met. Everyone rallied around each other that week. We made sure people stuck together, got the things done that needed to be done. We shopped for Dave's family and made sure people had rides to all the week's events. We laughed a lot (he was a stand up comic), cried a lot and prayed together. In short, we lived very full days noticing all the small stuff. It was how Dave, full of illness and pain for most of his life, lived each day and taught us how to live. Dave often healed broken relationships between people by simply making fun of how ridiculous arguments could be--so even now, one of us often plays that role when others are fighting or simply acting stupid.

Timing, rhythm, the adding up of time shared, it is often is like a dance and that all gets lost when the music abruptly stops. But the best dancers don't even need to hear the music. They know the rhythm intimately --and for me it has been remembering the rhythms of the shared experiences where I find that we all almost always find comfort and where we will always dance with joy.

A-Rod and Steriods

I watched Alex Rodriquez with Peter Gammons on ESPN last night. For those who don't know, I covered baseball for over 8 years at WFAN and WOR (a lot less glamorous than it sounds--think of me as a "soundbyte gatherer" as opposed to a reporter) and had the opportunity to meet and interview A-Rod when he was with Seattle. I found him to be surprisingly nice--I say "surprisingly" because many baseball players--especially the bigger stars hate the media and are often surly. A-Rod, at least in Seattle, was one of the rare exceptions.

So keep in mind that this is a guy who I genuinely liked meeting and interacting with and a guy who I found to be an outstanding player on the field as well.

So what do i think should be done to A-Rod after he was caught and then admitted that he used steroids in 2001-2003?

I would opt that A-Rod's contract should be void now with the Yankees and he can only re-sign with them under their terms. He should not be allowed to take on any endorsement deals and should be fined at least 40% of the value of his contract from 2001-2003.

The same punishment should also be doled out to the other 103 ballplayers on that list--that now have become public despite the baseball union's lack of protecting these players who submitted their results for an anonymous test. It's time for baseball to take a stand and while there were no rules in play for this type of behavior at that juncture, the bottom line is that baseball's numbers have now been artificially inflated because of drugs.

And baseball is a numbers game. This has so much stink on it now that a good bath with tomato juice won't clean it. We can never look at this time of baseball history again in the same way. Period. End of story.

A-Rod cited being "young and stupid" feeling pressure to perform and a host of other convenient excuses. While I'm apt to forgive people their faults and move on (we're a forgiving church after all), I'm less apt to do so once someone gets caught and has imperfect contrition. If this report doesn't come out--then A-Rod is still playing and not about to mention anything to anyone about his steroid use.

The worst part about it for me was when he said and I paraphrase, "I don't even know what substance I was found guilty of taking."

So does that mean he was possibly taking many different substances? Who knows?

While our church emphasizes forgiveness and I admit that it takes a big man to stand up and admit that these reports are true as opposed to Roger Clemens (who I suspect is still taking steroids) who will never admit it, it also demands justice.

Feb 9, 2009

The Two Minute Warning of Young Adult Life

Happy Birthday to me! Today indeed is my 39th birthday. Interestingly enough I have spent nearly the entire decade of my thirties in young adult ministry and working for BustedHalo.com.

Birthdays are always time to reflect on not just the past year but on what we do with the years we have left. Hopefully that means many years for me--but one never knows when God will decide to call us home. So for me, birthdays are often a reminder that we have a limited number of days as well--so Carpe Diem!

Where is God calling me this year? That's where I'll be spending most of my praying time, in discernment on how I can spend more of my time helping others do the very same thing--discernment. It's a particular gift that I think I have to give to others and want to intentionally try to do more of it.

I'm also trying to see how I can be more intentional about being home more. I've been on the road so much and miss the rhythms of being at home with Marion and the dog that I feel out of sorts. I get invited to speak a lot around the country and I like doing that but I also feel that my ministry may in fact be a bit more introvert-focused. I think the internet may have lots to teach me in doing that kind of ministry differently--in particular social networking.

But for today....let's celebrate!

Marion's taking me to a nice Italian restaurant tonight that I've wanted to try for some time. Yay!

Also, a Happy Belated Birthday to Paulist Father Jack Collins.

Feb 8, 2009

The Whole Town Gathered at the Door

The Gospel paints an interesting picture today...

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.

Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.

They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.

The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

The whole town? Wow! This says a lot to me about the context of Jesus' life and ministry. Does the Gospel writer mean to imply that nearly everyone in the town was suffering from some kind of malady? Or were people so entranced by Jesus' healings that they couldn't help but stay away?

Or were people scandalized by this and had to come and check it out for themselves?

Perhaps it's a bit of all three. After all, while the whole town was gathered at the door Jesus only cured "many who were sick" --perhaps some were unable to be cured or wished not to be cured.

It is here that I take my jumping off point. Sickness is curable, but only if we really want to be cured. For some of us, spiritually speaking, we think we have no need for a physician. We know better than God and are happy to stay mired in our own sinful ways. It's easier to stay drunk than to seek help, it's easier to keep our distance than to get involved, it's easier to sit on the couch than to seek what we are really called to, especially when that may be scary.

From what do we need healing?

Where do we need to reconcile to heal hatred or misunderstanding? Where have we offended not just one another but God? Do we bring those "illnesses" before God and ask his help in removing what ails us from becoming spiritually whole.

The second point is more systemic. The people of this town were undoubtedly poor. They were the so-called "dregs of society." We should think of them as we picture or have seen the slums of the third world. Most people could not pull themselves out of poverty. Many people were kept in poverty because the Romans continued their oppressive rule.

As first world people--who do we keep down so that we might be that much more comfortable? Who can we bring healing to and by doing so also provide ourselves with much needed spiritual healing? How do we get in touch with the rhythms of the poor and in turn, try to provide them at least some temporary relief from what ails them.

We cannot do it all...we cannot heal ourselves nor can we bring all people to a more fulfilled sense of their own healing. It is what every addicted person knows all too well: We are powerless over what makes us sick.

For any of this to occur, we need Jesus. We need to come into that house and acknowledge that indeed God alone has the power to save us.

World Marriage Day

Over at the Deacon's Bench, Deacon Greg reminds us that today is World Marriage Day and treats us to one of the most beautiful homilies on marriage I have ever heard.

It’s so fitting that the first miracle of Jesus, the changing of water into wine, happened at a wedding, in the early hours of a marriage. Because marriage is about transformation – it is about how the water of our lives, when touched by another, is changed. Life becomes sweeter, richer, fuller. It becomes like wine. It has the ability to intoxicate us.

And, of course, what has become wine can then be further transformed. Wine, at this altar, becomes Christ. And two people, in marriage, become a family. The human story continues – enriched, changed, sanctified.

What this means is so simple, and so beautiful: when joined in the sacrament of matrimony, we become something more than what we were.

Go hug your spouse now or maybe even do something nice for them. I'm off to give the dog a bath.

A bittersweet Sunday

I finally got a chance to get to mass as one of New York's great churches, St. Paul the Apostle, the Paulist Motherhouse in Manhattan, where I was a more frequent worshiper until fairly recently and where I was married and in fact, met my beloved wife, Marion. Since I travel so much the prospect of a 35 minute subway ride on Sunday seems less attractive to me than a simple 3 minute walk up the block to our local church in Woodside.

I also planned to go this Sunday in particular because it was Paulist Appeal Sunday and as a good employee who benefits from such funds I always think that I should attend this mass and make my own contribution. Seminarian Dat Tran did a fantastic job with the appeal pitch.

The bittersweet moment came when it was announced that this was the final Sunday that Director of Music Anne Holland would be at St Paul's. Anne, has been the director of music there for the past 18 years! After a blessing that the parish pronounced on her, a thunderous applause seemed to last for about the same length of time.

The St. Paul Singers were always a big reason for me to attend this parish. Anne's leadership in raising their voices in prayerful song often moved me beyond mere singing into a more holy place. Each Holy Thursday the haunting sounds of the Taize chant "Stay with me...Remain here with Me....Watch and Pray...Watch and Pray" move me in ways that a full Benedictine monastery could not equal. Being near Lincoln Center much of the arts community is nearby and that allows a great number of talented men and women to share their gift of music with the parish. Anne is but one of these people, but in my mind, she was the wingnut that held it all together (I'm just an ordinary nut).

Mostly, I'll remember Anne playing the music at my wedding. I remember being comforted by the fact that the music was in such capable hands and her and cantor Nancy Meyer and a select group of the St Paul Singers did not disappoint. People still remind me of how great the music was at our wedding. What most people don't know is that Anne donated her fee for the day as a wedding gift to us. What an awesome wedding gift!

My prayer today is that Anne's gift of music continue to touch the lives of others in whatever way she feels called to bring her talents to the world. Amen.

Feb 7, 2009

Coming to a Theatre Near You: Mary, the Mother of the Christ

Interestingly enough, they didn't title it Mary, the Mother of God. Hat tip to Deacon Greg here and Barbara Nicolosi.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us:

Camilla Belle, who is onscreen in "Push," which opens Friday, has been cast as Mary. Jonathan Rhys Meyers will take on the double role of Gabriel and Lucifer, while Peter O'Toole is set as Symeon, who meets Mary and her family in the temple shortly after Jesus' birth.

The filmmakers are seeking Al Pacino and Jessica Lange for the respective roles of Herod and Anna the Prophetess.

Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti ("The Lake House") will direct the film, scheduled to begin shooting in May in Morocco with production partner Dune Films. Benedict Fitzgerald, who co-wrote "Passion," wrote the "Mary" screenplay with Barbara Nicolosi.

Mary Aloe and Rodrigo Berlanga are producing. The executive producers are Mike Dolan, Mauricio Sanchez and James Volk.

Although New Line recently told the story of Jesus' birth in "The Nativity Story," released in December 2006, to modest boxoffice returns, Aloe said of her project: "This is not a Christmas movie. This is a part of Mary's life that has never been shown on the big screen before. It takes us through Mary's youth, young love, her life as a new mother and the triumph through the absolute terror of Herod the Great's reign. It is truly a story of real female empowerment."

Is it sacrilegious to say that Mary's kinda....hot?

On a more serious note, I wonder if this will be filled with as many theological inaccuracies as The Passion of the Christ was? I liked The Nativity Story so I'm hoping for the best for this project. But who knows? Looks like they're trying for some star power here too with Pacino.

Podcast: Is Addiction a Mortal Sin?

This week's podcast is up and running!

Is addiction a mortal sin? And I preach on Prophets in their own land.

Check it out here

Feb 6, 2009

Catholics: Sponsored by the Word Transparency

John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter cites three big stories all surrounding the word transparency in Catholic life today. As always, nicely done.

Here are the three stories in brief, two of which we've covered ad nauseum here followed by my take on each one.

A rare Vatican review, technically known as an "apostolic visitation," of women's religious communities in the United States was announced last Friday. The news came as a surprise to most leaders in religious life.

The sisters are nervous. The Vatican claims that the reason for the review is a "positive effort to support (women's) congregations." But obviously people will get skittish any time a Vatican review is put forth. Perhaps there is a lack of transparency on the part of the Vatican as to the purpose of these visits but those in charge have started a website--so who knows? The site claims the goals are threefold:

1) To look into the quality of apostolic life in the United States.
Read: How well are things really going? Are we keeping with the church's vision here.

2) To learn more about the ways in which women religious contribute to the welfare of the church and society.
Read: Wow! We hear that women are doing all sorts of things. We need to publicize the good stuff and clamp down on anything that may not be in line with our vision of ministry.

3) To assist the Church to strengthen, enhance and support the growth of the more than 400 congregations to which the approximately 59,000 women religious in the United States belong.

Read: How will we get more vocations?

Fallout from Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who is a Holocaust denier, continued to spread, reaching an apex on Tuesday when German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuked the pope. The next day, the Vatican issued a statement demanding that Bishop Richard Williamson recant his views "in absolutely unequivocal and public fashion."

Obviously we've covered this at length here. Just look at the posts to the right on the SSPX. The problem here is one of transparency as well.

The Legionaries of Christ have acknowledged conduct by their founder, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, which was "surprising, difficult to understand, and inappropriate for a Catholic priest." Reportedly, that conduct included fathering a child out of wedlock.

This was a major story which we touched on here. Jeff Guhin wrote about this on the BustedBlog recently and has a take on this.

Cardinal Egan adds to SSPX outrage

Rocco has the scoop:

"Yesterday, the Vatican condemned in the clearest terms a statement made by an illicitly consecrated Bishop by the name of Richard Williamson in which the evil of the Shoah was questioned or at least minimized. As Archbishop of New York, I add my voice to that of the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in rejecting Williamson’s words as hurtful, baseless, and outrageous..."

Head over to Rocco for more.

It's good to see the Bishops speaking with some unity on this albeit a few days late.

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President Obama: "No religion hates"

President Obama's main quotable from the National Prayer Breakfast:

"No matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. ... There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Now if we could all just agree on what constitutes an "innocent human being" we'd be in business.

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National Prayer Breakfast: Tony Blair Steals the Show

The now Catholic Tony Blair had two poignant moments at the National Prayer Breakfast. The first came when he noted
"religion is under attack from without and from within. From within it is corroded by extremists who use their faith as a means of excluding the other. ... If you do not believe as I believe, you are a lesser human being. From without, religious faith is assailed by an increasingly aggressive secularism, which derides faith as contrary to reason and defines faith by conflict. Thus do the extreme believers and the aggressive nonbelievers come together in unholy alliance."

The second was much less analytical and far more touching to hear. CNS reports

Blair explained how a teacher knelt and prayed with him as he worried about his ailing father.

"Now my father was a militant atheist," he said. "Before we prayed, I thought I should confess this. 'I'm afraid my father doesn't believe in God,' I said. 'That doesn't matter,' my teacher replied. 'God believes in him. He loves him without demanding or needing love in return.'"

"That is what inspires," Blair said, "the unconditional nature of God's love. A promise perpetually kept. A covenant never broken."


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iPod touch blogging

So I'm trying to post with my touch. Let's see if it works.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Feb 5, 2009

I'd be a lousy Slumdog

The poor are much smarter than we are. I just watched Slumdog Millionaire which reminded me so much of my experience in Nicaragua. The slums of India are the centerpiece of Danny Boyle's heartfelt epic of a young boy and his drive to find his true love. Draped around this main story is the gameshow "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" which offers the teen-age Jamal the opportunity to win 20 million rupeesas well as the chance to hope that his love is watching.

Director Danny Boyle took great pains to depict the slums of Mumbai with its tin roofs and little children playing and smiling-- somehow happy. He's drawn criticisms in some corners because some thing he's made the slums seem brighter, or at least a place that's not all that bad. But he's got a point in that regard. Slums in the third world are places that to us first worlders seem degrading, horrible and inhuman. But to the people of Mumbai, it is simply home. And no matter where we call home, it is often a place that we have a fondness for and children, no matter what their social class often play and romp with little care for what surrounds them.

A second point: The poor in slums are indeed ingenious people who struggle to be sure, but yet they always find a way to get by. If any of us were in the situations they are in each day, we'd have a much harder time of it. We have so much to learn from the poor. In Nicaragua, I was impressed by the back-breaking work most of the men, young and old, did without much struggle while I was doubled over with back pain and near heat stroke. My first world ingenuity did me no good in the slum.

While few will escape this poverty, most do just fine there despite their lack of education, resources and comfort. Children are especially telling here. The orphans I visited in Nicaragua didn't need the latest iPod or cool clothes or even a tv set. All they needed was my time and my love.

The sad thing is that we let people struggle like this and allow people to live in such squalor and yet, their resilience marches on despite our indifference. Would I be able to push all that to the side and go through each day without help or without feeling a sense of control? If I'm honest with myself, probably not. Boyle's point here is not that the slums are just peachy-keen places but that the poor get by without much of what we value and take for granted and are seemingly happy nonetheless.

The movie is really about destiny--a state of life that the people of India with their caste system are deeply in touch with.

Director Danny Boyle, tells us more here with a lilt of Irish charm:

The religious violence in the movie also shows the precariousness of each day in India where lives are routinely hanging in the balance of another senseless killing over religious differences. How often do we take our religious freedom for granted and even wish that we didn't have it...that we could stop others who believe things that we think are simply stupid or backwards.

Do you believe in destiny? That everything in your life just might be leading you somewhere?

Regardless, a great movie and my vote for the Oscar this year. By far! And I've seen all of the Oscar movies.

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Hudson Plane Crash Audio

This is amazing:

Ever been on a plane in which you thought it was soon going to be all over? Coming back from my honeymoon in Montreal my wife and I were on a bouncy plane in one of the worst snowstorms Montreal had seen in awhile (and that's saying something!). Needless to say, I said a few Hail Marys that flight.

However, I'm often surprised when I hear stories of near-miss tragedies. Here's three quick ones:

A priest-friend of mine was flying not long after his ordination and the oxygen masks fell and they all thought the end was near. The plane soon righted itself and the woman next to him couldn't get over how calm and cool he was the whole time. He said, "Well I figured that if I just became a priest and God was deciding to take me home at this point, then I was in pretty good shape for the journey."

A second colleague was on a plane that seemingly just dropped about 20,000 feet very quickly. She said that she just looked at the person next to her and said, "Hi my name is Michelle and you're probably the last person I'm ever going to see. I guess we should know each other's name at this juncture." (Amazing how closed off we can be from people when we travel--I'm at fault here too--I almost never talk to people on airplanes).

Lastly, a non-plane story. Many friends were in NYC on 9-11 when all kinds of things started running through their head. Just North of the towers in Midtown, many wondered if they'd be able to get home that dreaded night or if more attacks were imminent. In the days that followed this attitude pervaded the city. It made some altruistic and piously fearful. Many went back to church fearful of their sinful lives while others took a much more hedonistic attitude and took to the bars in a madcap week of drunkenness and what I call "end of the world sex." They had as much sex as they could, while they still could. They did all kinds of crazy and risky behaviors because who knew what tomorrow would bring.

As for myself, I'm not sure why but I felt very calm both on my honeymoon flight and again during 9-11. I found myself angrier at what had happened than fearful of what might happen or for my own lot in the afterlife. I'm not sure why that's the case because I know I'll have plenty to answer to God for, but I wasn't very concerned about that or even about personal safety. I traveled on the subway and on buses. I flew a few weeks after and didn't have too many cares about it. My friend Dan made me feel much better when he, an amateur statistician told me that the chances of something like an attack or even a crash are infinitely tiny and that I probably have a greater chance of falling down the stairs.

But I'm rambling now...my question to you....How do you spend your final moments if you think you don't have much time left?

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Idol Inspiration

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Pres. Obama says No Money for Religious Groups that Discriminate in Hiring Practices

This just in from CNN

In an executive order to be announced on Thursday, Obama does not rescind Bush's provision to allow faith-based groups to discriminate in their hiring practices, but does provide a legal process for organizations to go through in order to that ensure hiring is legal and non-discriminatory.

Administration sources say the new legal safeguard is a "key step forward" in addressing the thorny issue of faith-based hiring.

But Dr. Joel Hunter, a senior pastor at Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, who will be part of a 25-member council of religious leaders in the faith-based office, said the issue is a particularly tricky one for religious leaders.

"We're going to have to work that out, because on the one hand, you don't want to use federal funds to discriminate. But on the other hand, we can't have religious organizations taking money on the condition that they will hire people who live a lifestyle contrary to what they teach," he said.

This is going to open a large can of worms I think. What happens now to Catholic hospitals that hope to get a grant but won't hire doctors who perform abortions? Would that be considered "discriminatory"?

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Feb 4, 2009

Being the Pope is Lonely

Sandro Magister--Vaticanista par excellence, has much to add about the SSPX story.

In the disaster, Pope Benedict XVI found himself to be the one most exposed, and practically alone.

Both within and outside of the curia, many are blaming the pope for everything. In effect, it was his decision to offer the Lefebvrist bishops a gesture of benevolence. The lifting of excommunication followed other previous gestures of openness, also decided personally by the pope, the last of which was the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," dated July 7, 2007, with the liberalization of the ancient rite of the Mass.

As he had done before, this time as well Benedict XVI did not demand in advance anything from the Lefebvrists in return. So far, all of his acts of openness have been unilateral. The pope's critics have seized upon this in order to accuse him of naivety, or appeasement, or even of wanting to take the Church back to before Vatican Council II.

In reality, Benedict XVI has explained his intention absolutely clearly, in one of the key addresses of his pontificate, the one delivered to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005. In that speech, pope Ratzinger maintained that Vatican II did not mark any rupture with the Church's tradition, but in fact it was in continuity with tradition even where it seemed to mark a clear break with the past, for example when it recognized religious freedom as an inalienable right of every person.

In that speech, Benedict XVI was speaking to the entire Catholic universe. But at the same time, he was also addressing the Lefebvrists, to whom he pointed out the direct route for healing the schism and returning to unity with the Church on the points that they oppose most vigorously: not only religious freedom, but also the liturgy, ecumenism, relations with Judaism and the other religions.

On all of these points, after Vatican Council II the Lefebvrists had gradually separated from the Catholic Church. In 1975, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X – their organizational structure – did not obey an order to disband, and formed a parallel Church, with its own bishops, priests, seminaries. In 1976, its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was suspended "a divinis." In 1988, the excommunication of Lefebvre and of four new bishops he had ordained without papal authorization – who were in turn suspended "a divinis" – was the culminating action of a schism that had been underway for years.

The lifting of this excommunication therefore did not by any means heal the schism between Rome and the Lefebvrists, just as the lifting of the excommunications between Rome and patriarchate of Constantinople – agreed on December 7, 1965, by Paul VI and Athenagoras – did not by any means mark a return to unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. In both cases, the dropping of the excommunication was intended to be simply a first step toward reversing the schism, which remains.

He goes on to add something even more profound:

The question comes naturally: was all of this really inevitable, once the pope had decided to lift the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops? Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions? The facts point to the second hypothesis.

The decree revoking the excommunication bears the signature of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the congregation for bishops. Another cardinal, Darío Castrillón Hoyos, is the president of the pontifical commission "Ecclesia Dei," which, ever since its creation in 1988, has dealt with the followers of Lefebvre. Both of these cardinals have said that they were taken by surprise, after the fact, by the interview with Bishop Williamson, and that they were never aware that he was a Holocaust denier.

But wasn't it the primary responsibility of these two cardinals to carry out an in-depth examination of Williamson's personal profile, and of the three other bishops? The fact that they did not do so seems inexcusable. Such an examination wasn't even difficult. Williamson has never concealed his distaste for Judaism. He has publicly defended the authenticity of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1989, in Canada, he risked being taken to court for praising the books written by Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. After September 11, 2001, he supported conspiracy theories to explain the collapse of the Twin Towers. Just a click on Google would have turned up all of this background material.

Another serious lapse concerned the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity. Reversing the schism with the Lefebvrists is logically part of its competencies, which also include relations between the Church and Judaism. But the cardinal who heads the council, Walter Kasper, says that he was kept out of the deliberations: this is all the more surprising in that the issuing of the decree lifting the excommunication took place during the annual week of prayer for Christian unity, and a few days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Church politics at its best. I wonder if Cardinal Kasper who is known in many circles for being somewhat progressive in his thought was shut out of these conversations simply because of his purported liberalism? A clear case of people not checking with those in the know.

I also wonder how long it's been since either of the Cardinals have touched a keyboard, much less done a google search. They should both hold their staff's feet to the fires for this one. And yet, I wonder if the Cardinal's staff people even had any inkling of this. It seems to me that the two Cardinals "rubber stamped" this along without much consideration. The prevailing wisdom seems to be one of arrogance.

Vatican bureaucrats think only in terms of what the main purpose of events like this are. In this case, it was the start of healing a schism. So if the Pope wants to start that process the Cardinals look at this as something minor--after all, it is just the start of these talks, primarily in theory designed to separate the wheat from the chaff anyway. Or in this case the nutters from those who just value the Latin mass.

But only geeks like me and Vaticanistas like Sandro or Rocco would know that. Joe Catholic has no idea and neither does the mainstream media. A huge learning session needed to go along with this action--and I suppose the Pope will end up taking his lumps for this but it's really the fault of anybody else who knew about the start of this process and didn't act to advise the pope.

And now he's left to take most of the heat in this regard.

Being the Pope is lonely. Even when good intentioned in Peoria, you might make Catholics in Zimbabwe angry. When something makes sense to Chinese Catholics, it might seem repressive or scary to U.S. Catholics.

Moral of the story: Always have good PR people posted at all four corners of every room you're in.

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RIP Michael Dubriel

Please keep Amy Welborn in your prayers. Her husband and Catholic author Michael Dubriel collapsed this morning at the gym and died needless to say quite suddenly.

Our Sunday Visitor adds more about Michael:

Mike had left Our Sunday Visitor last April to go to work for his long-time friend, Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama. In my encounters with Mike after he left, he seemed enthusiastic about the work in the diocese. He was responsible for several areas of concern, and the challenges appeared to energize him.
Mike was always a hard worker. He was also a prolific and gifted author.
Among his titles for Our Sunday Visitor were
· The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas
· The How-To Book of the Mass, Expanded
· How to Get More out of the Mass
· How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist
· A Pocket Guide to Confession
· A Pocket Guide to the Mass
· Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Fulton J. Sheen
· Praying the Rosary

The titles reveal his deep concern for the fundamental practices of the faith by Catholics. He sensed a great pastoral need in this area, and he had a gift for deepening the appreciation of ordinary Catholics for the encounters with Christ that occurred in Mass, during the Eucharist, in Confession.

I didn't know Mike Dubriel personally, only by reputation. Amy and I have shared the occasional email but have never met in person. I know of their deep love for one another, for the church, and for their children most of all. He was clearly a great dad who was revered by his family.

Eternal Rest Grant Unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the soul of Michael Dubriel and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

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Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral on fire

A three alarm fire has broken out at Chicago's Holy Name cathedral. Although the fire has been snuffed out at this juncture the AP reports "severe damage to the attic and quotes the Chicago Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago as describing the water damage as 'humongous.'"

Let's pray for Cardinal George and all those who call the Cathedral their spiritual home. I'm supposed to speak there in a couple of weeks so let's also hope that we will still be able to use the building for our event with Charis Ministries.

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German Bishop-appointee says Katrina punishment for gays and immorality?

Anyone hear more about this guy? It's tearing up the wires in Europe and CNN mentions it briefly.

From CNN

A priest who called the Harry Potter book series satanic and said Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for immorality has been named Austrian Bishop of Zuri, according to the Vatican and Italy’s state-run news agency ANSA.

The Rev. Gerhard Wagner has been a pastor in Windischgarsten, Austria, for 20 years, ANSA reported Saturday, and his controversial remarks have triggered controversy.

After Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, levees broke in New Orleans, Louisiana, flooding most of the city. More than 1,800 people in the region died, including over 1,500 in Louisiana.

Wagner was among some ultra-conservatives who suggested Katrina was punishment for the sins of New Orleans, ANSA said.

A hat tip to Cathcon blog who had this to add to the story:

Many engaged Catholics of the Diocese of Linz will perceive this as a provocation. The diocese could have a test of endurance.

According to unconfirmed information, no candidate was considered appearing on the proposed list of Linz Diocesan Bishop Ludwig Schwarz. Allegedly, Rome has directly taken the decision. Even the Vienna Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn was not directly involved in the decision-making.

Vicar General Severin Lederhilger could feel deep disappointment at this decision. The Vicar-General was considered one of the favorites and was also next to the former Chaplain of the Seminary of Linz, Johann Hintermaier on the Bishop’s three name candidate list.

The future bishop is so far noted mainly for controversial statements and absolute fidelity to Rome. He has said that environmental disasters are close to divine punishment. The diocese was forced to distance itself from Wagner. (Cathcon- nothing comes except God permits it- an understanding of Catholics in all ages but our own.)

Within the Diocese, Wagner stands for a very controversial minority. According to a church insider, the weight of Wagner's future office is less important than the fact of his appointment. Rome wanted to signal to Linz that the era of liberal and moderate courses are gone.

Some other links include:
San Francisco Chronicle

The Guardian

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Pope mandates recant to reconcile with SSPX

For those who doubted:

The Vatican demanded Wednesday that a bishop who denied the Holocaust recant his positions before being fully admitted into the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican also said in a statement that Pope Benedict XVI didn't know about Bishop Richard Williamson's views when he agreed to lift his excommunication and that of three other ultraconservative bishops Jan. 21.

The statement was issued by the Vatican's Secretariat of State a day after German Chacellor Angela Merkel urged the pope to make a clearer rejection of Holocaust denials, saying there hadn't been adequate clarification from the Vatican.

Read more here

This needed some public clarification--so while the Vatican is showing some semblance of PR savvy all of a sudden, they finally are showing the world what the process of reconciliation will entail. My guess is that Williamson won't recant and that he will maintain some kind of renegade society while others in the SSPX will reunite with the Pope. As I believe I stated here and certainly stated to others who spoke to me about it, it seemed obvious to be that the Pope didn't know about this guy even when an easy 30 second google search would've uncovered it. The headline was expected to be "Pope heals schism" which shows the single-mindedness of his intentions but a lack of seeing the big picture. It also shows that the Pope considers this guy a minor player in the society as a whole since he obviously wasn't on his radar.

Perhaps we should consider him in a similar vein. After all, there are nuts in every walk of life and although we don't always like to admit it, in every corner of the church as well.

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Googling God

Googling God
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