Aug 26, 2009

More on Mass in Latin

Since some commenters have been saying that perhaps our small survey might not be reflective of a large portion of the population, the great Melissa Cidade of CARA --the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown offers this report from CARA on the Latin Mass.

The short answer for their results which are far more scientifically based (and by the way I wasn't claiming that our little survey of people who read this blog o' mine was social science--even if it certainly is reflective of the general population as it turns out) than ours here is the following:

As you may be aware, Pope Benedict XVI recently eased restrictions
on the use of the older Latin Tridentine Mass, as celebrated just
before the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960’s. Do you
favor as an alternative to the newer Mass, bringing back the older
Latin Tridentine Mass for those who would prefer this option?

Favor 25%
Oppose 12%
No opinion 63%

Millennials and Gen Xers by the way were also the least likely to oppose the Latin Mass but also the most likely not to have an opinion one way or the other. Which doesn't surprise me on both counts.

And perhaps an even more interesting question:

If the Latin Tridentine Mass were made readily
available at convenient times and locations,
and you were able to attend, would you?
Respondents who “Favor” or have “No opinion” about
easing restrictions on the Latin Tridentine Mass

Yes 29%
No 25
No opinion 46

So as King of fairness (because I am King of fairness) I think some conclusions that we can draw is indifference towards the Latin Mass and not opposition which has been my point the whole time. We need to decide what is a more passionate effort that would get people excited and put our efforts there. Shoring up preaching, welcoming and music at mass is far better use of our time in my opinion. I would also say being more visible in social justice outreach as Catholics is also something worth putting efforts in. After all, who has had more influence on Catholics in the world, Mother Teresa or the head of Liturgy at the Vatican or the USCCB?

Do YOU Want Mass in Latin? - SURVEY RESULTS

OK people...results are in after about a 24 hour wait. Thanks to all who took the survey. We have a small but significant sample.

66 people took the survey.

Would you like Mass to be in Latin?
15 YES
51 NO

77.3% said NO.


Do you wish the priest would face away from the people during mass?
(OK before we get to the answers, I'll take responsibility for a poorly worded question. Better stated, "Do you wish the priest and people were facing the same direction during mass? Now regardless, I don't think it would change the answers)

13 YES
53 NO

80.3% said NO.


Do you want to NOT have the option of receiving the Eucharist in the hands?
11 said YES
54 said NO
1 person skipped the question

83.1% said NO.

Now before we move on to the latter three questions, I'd just like to point out that I think our sample speaks conclusively on this issue. That there's really not an interest in having mass in Latin or some of the other options from before the council being restored. Interestingly there have been comments from both sides of the aisle on this issue. Some of these include the following:

Philip Schweiger: As long as it's always in addition to, and never in place of the local language, sure, let's have Latin mass. If some people feel more comfortable worshipping in Latin, then the addition of that choice is a good thing. I think the vernacular should be the norm, though.

Melissa McKerroll Francis: I don't want the Latin Tridentine. I get the fact that some of the most famous composers of all time have written for the Mass, but I don't think I've heard a convincing reason other then that, and that reason is purely aesthetic--so an occasional *performance*, sure. Otherwise, no.

Gladys Izquierdo: My Parish holds Mass in Latin once a month on a Sunday for anyone interested in attending. That's an idea for Parishes. I have never been to one but would like to one of these days.
Yesterday at 9:08pm · Delete

Vickie Figueroa: Mass in Latin is good for honoring tradition and a universal common language - because regardless of our tongue, we are one. But I prefer Mass in each culture's vernacular to allow for full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium 14 Vat II - gotta love it.

Larry Rice: The fact that the mass in English is often celebrated poorly isn't going to be improved by switching to Latin. Ask someone in their 60s and 70s, and they'll tell you that the old rite was often celebrated so poorly that any sense of transcendence and mystery was obliterated.

That said, I'm not going to get all pushed out of shape by the revised Roman Missal...

Fr. Charlie Donahue: I am of two minds (at least) with this. I have a growing respect for the hunger for the 'Extrordinary Form of the Mass' as I do for the Mass as celebrated by the Church ordinarily.

From my student ministry there has been a group, sometimes small, sometimes more, that has ben deeply nutured and comforted and challenged by full and conscious participation in the 'Extrordinary Form of the Mass.' Even though it looks quite different from the 'full and conscious participation' as I have been used to it.

As I celebrate the Mass I was trianed to celebrate and try to teach myself the "EF" Mass, I am struck by:

-How many people are suspicious and angry that I am doing this, because it 'must betoken' some agenda.

- How different the 'operative theologies' of the two Masses are - for example - 1) the 'locus' of the 'Holy' 2) Is the table an altar or is the altar a table or both? 3) Are we gathered for a celebration or a sacrifice or both 4) Is the Priest 'in persona Christi' or leading the community communitas' in it's offering?

- It is a very different undestanding of what we are doing as 'liturgy is the work of the people.'

Looking through the lens of the theology of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the Extraordinary form is lacking... Looking through the lens of the Extraordinary Form, the Ordinary Form is lacking.

And so many speak pejoritivly about the other. It is as if theologians are choosing "shirts or skins" and then playing dodgeball.
I think that it may lie in Myers Briggs or left brain right brain or some other representative of human differences that speak to how liturgy nutures and worships God in Spirit and in Truth.

So it seems even those who MIGHT want it don't even want it exclusively. Now let's look at the three remaining questions:

Do you wish Sunday preaching was more interesting and engaging?
59 YES
6 No
1 person skipped the question.

90.8% said YES

Do you wish that music in your church was actually singable?
57 YES
7 No
2 I don't want music at all

86.2% said YES

Do you wish that people were actually engaged in parish life and that it became more than a place to go to mass for one hour each week?

60 YES
2 No

90.9% said YES

Again some significant good comments were made on Facebook

Crissy Bowen: The "do you wish questions" were skewed... yes, I wish songs at Church were singable... most of the time they are, people just don't sing... though occasionally the cantor can't be matched and people just leave it to her/him... liked the preaching question but rarely is there no room for improvement. On the East Coast many parishes are understaffed leaving parish life to be lacking... and now I am seeing parishes being consolidated... it is all very sad, very sad. Going back to the Latin Mass isn't going to solve the Church's problems...

Susan Francesconi: the one question about music presumes that no where is the music good or singable. My parish St. thomas the apostle in naperville has fabulous music and we can all sing it.

I would agree that the questions presume that this isn't happening already. So perhaps there's an assumption at hand that things aren't as great as we'd like them to be.

But my point is along the same lines as Fr Larry's. People aren't engaged when the mass is in ENGLISH. Why? Because most places simply don't do liturgy well. Preaching is lousy, music is downright embarrassing and welcoming attitudes are not present at all. Doing things in Latin might ratchet up the curiosity scale for a Sunday or two but is that really the change that is needed?

Not by a long shot.

Good, relevant preaching that is engaging and challenging, professional sounding music that we can all sing along with, a sense of mystery and transcendence running throughout the mass and an attitude of welcoming. If we can get the parishes to just do these things well I think we'd be doing the church a huge service.

Or we can do something that most people aren't interested in.

Have you been seeing Busted Borders?

These videos are the starkest things ever! They are true stories of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. No matter what your opinion is on the immigration issue, these are real people who you can't help but feel for.

Check out all the videos here and check this video out and weep for these kids.

You Have Searched Me And You Know Me Lord

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite and it is the responsorial psalm today at mass. I used to love the Dan Schutte song "Yahweh, I Know You Are Near" which is based on the psalm. Soon (if not already) in honor of our Jewish breathren we will probably not be allowed to sing it since the term Yahweh is really not supposed to be said.

Actually, the term centers around the second commandment of not taking God's name in vain. We often think this refers to uttering God's name as a curse, but the commandment itself centers on vanity, meaning thinking too much of ourselves. Ancient Judaism took the idea of vanity very seriously. We can almost hear the stereotype of the Jewish mother saying, "Who do you think you are?" (Cultural note: My Irish mother has the same tendencies--we are united in guilt). And that indeed was exactly their point about the name of God. Jews don't even write out the letters. Instead, they write G-D. God's name is so revered that they wouldn't dare say it or write in. How did the term Yahweh come into being? Try this.

Take a deep breath...all together now.... YAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH


It is our very breath, our being that is centered in God, the sound of life. We don't dare say the name of the one who is Lord who is as mysterious as the wind. For anything more would be our own vanity.

I still love the song and will share it here and hope that it's still on the books as an OK hymn for at least a while longer. Here is a funky version by the Jericho Youth Choir:

I also have a fondness for the song because a priest friend who will remain nameless here used to sing a parody version:

Yahweh, I know you drink beer
Standing always at the keg
You guard me from the foam
And You lead me to bars that are cheesy.

I hope that I haven't alerted anyone's heresies. And if I have...well, it's probably not the first time.

Aug 25, 2009

Do YOU Want Mass in Latin?

Click Here to take our brief survey

It's amazing how people jump to conclusions regarding conferences that offer suggestions to the Pope. This is from today's National Catholic Reporter.

VATICAN CITY -- A Vatican spokesman downplayed a report that major liturgical reforms are being considered by Pope Benedict XVI.
"At the moment, there are no institutional proposals for a modification of the liturgical books currently in use," the spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, said Aug. 24.
He was responding to a report that a document with proposed liturgical modifications, including a curb on the practice of receiving Communion in the hand, had been sent to the pope last April by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
The article, published by the newspaper Il Giornale, said the document was a first concrete step toward the "reform of the reform" in liturgy planned by Pope Benedict. It said the congregation proposed to promote a greater sense of the sacred in liturgy, recover the use of the Latin language in celebrations, and reformulate introductive parts of the Roman Missal to end abuses and experimentation.
The article said the worship congregation had voted on and approved the recommendations almost unanimously during its plenary session last March.
Vatican sources told Catholic News Service that the worship congregation did not, in fact, suggest a program of liturgical change, but simply forwarded to the pope some considerations from its discussions focusing on eucharistic adoration, the theme of the plenary session.
Some individual members may have added opinions on other liturgical issues, but they in no way constituted formal proposals, one source said.

Read the rest here. I wonder why people love stirring this pot? I'd like to take a poll of the 150 or so of you who regularly view these pages here. How many here would like Mass to be in Latin? How many want the priest to face away from the people during mass? How many people want to not have the option of receiving the Eucharist in their hands?

OK those are three easy questions. Click Here to take survey

Now let's ask three more:

How many here wish their Sunday preaching was more interesting and engaging? How many here wish that music in their church was actually singable? How many wish that people were actually engaged in parish life and that it became more than a place to go to mass for one hour each week?

Click Here to take survey

Why Baby Boomers in the Church Need to Hand the Torch to the Gen Xers Already

I've long been a supporter of the movement to close the School of the Americas, a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. The SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. The school trained the assassins of the 6 Jesuits from the Central American University in El Salvador.

Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois has long been at the front of this movement with the support of his community. But recently, he got himself in trouble by participating in a woman's ordination ceremony. Gary Stern at Lo Hud, a Westchester paper, has been following the story and they assumed that Fr Bourgeois had been excommunicated by the Vatican. Fr Bourgeois disagrees.

Bourgeois told me that he has not heard from the Vatican since the fall. Not a note, an e-mail, nothing. So he is continuing to celebrate Mass and baptize babies.

"I have not gotten anything saying I am defrocked," he said. "I continue to be a Catholic priest in good standing."

Hmmm. Two months ago, Maryknoll's superior general, the Rev. Edward M. Dougherty, issued a statement saying that Bourgeois had been "automatically excommunicated" when he did not meet the Vatican's deadline to recant.

I contacted Maryknoll this week, and they were taken aback that Bourgeois disagrees.

"We are surprised and are saddened that his actions may present an obstacle in the path toward his reconciliation with Church authorities," a new statement said. "We are still hoping that he will reconsider his position and be reconciled with the Vatican, a hope that they also have expressed."

Seeking clarification, I faxed a note to the Vatican press office. No response so far.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would not touch this one.

UPDATE: Bourgeois recently stated after the report that he no longer celebrates mass or administers sacraments out of respect for his superiors but he maintains that he is still a priest.

In December, the Catholic News Agency, a church-affiliated organization, reported that a Vatican official promised that Bourgeois would be excommunicated after the Vatican responds to letters on the case.

Things move slowly in Rome, but Bourgeois' priestly days appear to be numbered. If he is excommunicated, he cannot administer the sacraments as a priest or receive them.

He is actually more adamant than ever about the need to ordain women as priests.

"The exclusion of women is a grave injustice and a sin," the 70-year-old priest told me. "This is a movement whose time has come. It's not going away."

A friend and I had a recent discussion about some of the issues that strong willed baby boomers who seek reform in the Catholic Church really care about and how younger Gen-Xers in their 30s and 40s react to these things slightly differently, and even moreso, the younger millennials, who react an even different way.

While many men and women in these younger cohorts might believe that women should have an ordained role in the church, they don't get as passionate about this issue in particular. This drives the baby boomers crazy and they then see the younger generations as apathetic or unwilling to fight for justice.

And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Younger people are certainly willing to fight for issues they believe in but they also know that this takes prudence and deft skill. It also means that you need to be wise enough to know what fights you can win and can't win and how to work within a system for EFFECTIVE change.

I've often said that I think that the church should consider ordaining women at least to the diaconate...

But I don't think we should simply start ordaining them on the corner of 42nd and 8th without Vatican approval. All that does is get people angry! It's akin to saying "I think baseball should start playing with 2 outs in a half-inning instead of 3." Which might be a fair idea and even good for the game, but I don't think that the Pittsburgh Pirates should start playing the games on their home field that way without the agreement of the other teams in the Major Leagues.

A friend said to me, "I'd like to see women have a greater role in the church too, but I'm not going to get all bent out of shape over it and start leaving the church. I'm willing to pray and wait for things to change or not to change. I will work to give women more prominent roles that are currently sanctioned and will praise their work, when warranted, to highlight the good that women bring to the church in these more prominent roles."

I agree that this is a better course of action. Only then will those in authority think about listening to the wisdom that might be present. The renegade option closes the door for good conversation and paints that group with a color that screams "bitter grudge holders." And as long as people see you that way, they ignore you as the fringe element who are focused on the extreme.

Gen-Xers don't have time to be considered a fringe element. They are willing to seek middle ground. They are willing to listen to the wisdom of the other point of view. They are willing to keep the conversation open.

Here are people that you probably have never heard of but who all play prominent roles in the church:

Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna was named an undersecretary of the Vatican congregation that deals with religious orders. That's No. 3 in the chain of command, and it made her the highest-ranking woman at the Vatican.

Section chief at a major Vatican agency was U.S. Sister Sharon Holland, a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who works at the congregation for religious.

And there are hundreds and thousands of unsung women who have changed the livelihood of the church for years without virtue of ordination ever stopping them.

As someone who grew up of very humble stock I would say that women in the church should be proud of themselves for all they have done. It has not been easy for any of them. That should make them even prouder. Priests and men of privilege have done much but their road to get there has been fairly easy for them with few applecarts needing to be overturned. The accomplishments of women have much to owe to a lot of blood, sweat and tears alongside a bunch of doors that they needed to kick open in order to serve the needs of many in the church.

For them, we are grateful and proud. We stand with them knowing their contribution was no less because they were not priests.

The bottom line: The solution to maintaining the spiritual life of Catholics is not to start ordaining everyone, nor is it to even ordain more single men. The issue is that the rest of us need to step up and start making as many contributions as we can within the establishment of the church.

And there is much that we all have to contribute and we don't need to be ordained to do it. Gen Xers get that and their time is now.

What is Inside also Reflects the Outside

A short time ago I worked alongside one of the loveliest women I have ever met. She was African-American and treated all of the people in her department at the radio station like they were her own children. In short, she loved us and we in turn loved her and worked hard for her. I would say that if anybody ever even dared to say a bad word about her dozens of people would come to her defense.

One day we had a guest at the station who was an elderly Southern born woman. She grew up as a white woman in the South on a plantation. We started to ask her about what it was like being on the plantation as a young woman. She replied that she would watch for all the new cotton crops to be ready. And she knew they were ready when she'd see the heads of the little (racial epithet for black) children bounce up and down near the crops to let them know that it was time to pick the cotton.

I was stunned. She had said this on the air and didn't think twice about it. She even repeated a similar word later in the interview. The worst part was that the sound engineer didn't catch it in time and her words went out over the air.

I walked down the hall ashamed and embarrassed that this happened on a show I was associated with. I went into the office of the woman who I admired so much to tell her what had happened and she insisted that i play her the recording of the incident. After I did I think I heard her curse for the first time ever.

We tried to calm her down and made excuses like "She's an ignorant, old, redneck woman. She ain't gonna change anytime soon. Just give her a pass. In her day those words were actually polite words that people used to describe black people (she did not use the infamous n-word).

What this eloquent, classy woman said next was spot on:

"For that kind of hatred to come out of someone's mouth the hatred of black people has to be buried very deep within themselves. So don't any of you tell me that I should excuse that kind of racism. It runs very deep and is very present. She needs to clean up her pre-conceived notions because she really believes deeply that black people are inferior."

Wow. Was she ever right.

Jesus is telling the Pharisees similar words about themselves in today's Gospel:

"You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

Appearances are often everything. NIke for years used the slogan "Image is Everything." And in essence Jesus is saying the opposite:

What you are internally is exactly what you often show to the rest of the world. If you are vile on the inside, you will be vile on the outside. More importantly, if you hold hatred and prejudice deep within, then eventually those notions creep into your everyday speech, actions and ways of life.

Like the Pharisee, I too, need to look at my own pre-conceived notions and prejudices. Who do I pre-judge? How do I treat those who I have judged to be "less than" or "trash" or "low lives?" In my mind I indeed may think I am better than many. But in essence my cup is just as filthy with sin as anybody else's.

Even those who I think are the dregs of society.

We all have our own cups to clean inside and out. Let's make sure we do a holistic job of cleansing our own hearts and minds of the deep seated prejudices and sinful behavior that we often try to hide, even from oursleves--where we think "I'm not really like that."

Much like our elderly Southern guest, we do in fact have vile parts of oursleves. Cleansing them will not be easy but merely glossing over the issues and presenting them in a prettier package does not make them any better. Sin is still sin.

Let us pray today for victims of race and injustice that they made truly be able to keep their cups hate-free and so that those who cause them injustice might see the love that they respond to them with and have their hearts changed and the inner parts of their souls scrubbed clean.

Aug 24, 2009

There Will Be Bread

Our esteemed blogger friend Fran has started a new blog and by the looks of her first post or so, you are not going to want to miss this at all.

I think that one of the reasons I had to start a new blog is this... I had to start to tell the truth. My lies were not so blatant. They were more sins of omission, than blatant lies.

Not that that makes it any better. No, I'm not donning the hairshirt, I am just telling the truth.

The hard part will be this... When I start telling the truth, all sorts of people may be turned off or offended. I have come to the conclusion however, that while I don't want to offend, I also don't want to compromise.

My being alive is pretty unlikely... Yet here I am. I have come to a point in my life where I think I better start telling my story. Which is an unlikely story.

My mother was 43 when I was born. My father was 37. They were an unlikely pair (can you tell that unlikely was in the running for blog title?) to be sure.

I am not trying to make this worse nor am I trying to sugarcoat this, so I will just tell it as I have come to understand this unlikely puzzle of my life.

In any case, my mother drank. A lot. A real lot. And smoked, very smokey. She was also not focused on nutrition. As one who came of age during the depression, she did not have the luxury of choosing good food. I also believe that she was lactose intolerant, something that was yet undefined.

My father was... well it is much harder to describe him. He was someone of enormous personal power and sadly that often came out in anger and violence. The targets of his anger and violence were typically women and children.

Ok you got my attention now Fran! I hope I can dare to be as self-revelatory as Fran is here.

So check it out at

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

After a friend got a nice promotion at a company a fellow co-worker of ours claimed that he had a "better pedigree" and was more suited for the promotion. Another friend one time clearly was being denied a job because she was black and the white person who was also up for the job has "better connections."

How often do we all pre-judge people because of their resume? How much of a parent's reputation gets handed to their children? Older brothers and sisters often set a pace that the younger ones have to live up to...both good and bad.

For people like myself who come from a lower middle class background, this can be both a blessing and a curse. When my first book was published I remember being envious of another author whose first book seemed to reach a much larger audience than mine. A mutual friend said to me, "Mike, you had no connections, no inside track, nobody working for you and yet, you published a book, and a good book. You covered a lot more ground with a lot fewer resources at your disposal. If anyone should be proud of an accomplishment it should be you and your family. You did all of this from nothing."

I didn't know whether to be proud or offended. After all, it's a huge compliment to accomplish so much to be sure. But it's also somewhat condescending to hear that people don't think much of your background.

For those who come from a prominent family, much is expected. Pressure can seem like it is insurmountable, especially when your gifts are not your family's gifts. It can be unfair and unsettling. And you can be caught in a pattern of dissatisfaction because you end up living someone else's plan for your life.

Jesus was from the backwater of all backwater towns. Infant mortality was high and the fact that Mary and Jesus made it to the ages that they did was quite an accomplishment on it's own (and probably a testament to St Joseph's hard work!). Clearly even some of Jesus' own disciples doubted that a man from his neck of the woods could have accomplished as much as Jesus had already.

And Jesus' snarky response: "Pal, you ain't seen nuthin yet! We Nazoreans can do a lot more than you might think."

So everytime we have the tendency to judge someone based on their background, we should remind ourselves of the following poem. Perhaps you've heard it. It's called One Solitary Life and it is usually attributed to James Allen Francis:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant.

He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30.

Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home.
He didn't go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born.

He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
One of them denied him.

He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth.
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race.
I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned--put together--have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that


We all can do much no matter who we are and we all need to see that others can do much as well.

Today may we think about the types of backgrounds that we usually pre-judge. Let us remind ourselves that Jesus own disciples thought less of him because of where he came from. And let us pray that our own solitary lives can contribute much even when others tell us otherwise.

Aug 23, 2009

Guadalupe's Tilma: No Scientific Explanation

I'm usually not one to rave about the miraculous or legendary items that get bandied about, but there are obviously some that I truly want to believe confound science and skeptics. And this is one that caught my eye.

From Zenit:

PHOENIX, Arizona, AUG. 21, 2009 ( A physicist who has spent years researching the tilma bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is affirming that there is no scientific explanation for the phenomenon.

Adolfo Orozco stated this in a presentation given at an International Marian Congress that took place Aug. 6-8 in Phoenix.

The congress, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Phoenix Diocese and the Institute of Guadalupan Studies, was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Orozco gave a presentation on the image of the Virgin imprinted on St. Juan Diego's tilma, stating that it is "completely outside" any scientific explanation.

He explained that due to the humid, salty environment around the basilica where the tilma is kept in Mexico City, the cloak material should have decomposed years ago.

In fact, the researcher noted, this is what happened to a painted copy of the image that was made in 1789, on a material similar to the original tilma.

Although the copy was preserved behind glass, like the original, it had to be discarded eight years later because it was falling apart and the painting was fading, the physicist reported.

The original image, however, which was imprinted on the cloak when the Blessed Virgin appeared to the saint, remains intact after 478 years.

Orozco told his audience that this phenomenon is heightened by the fact that it should have been destroyed twice, once when nitric acid was accidentally spilled on a section of the cloth, and another time when a bomb exploded close to it.

Life's Not Always a Day at the Beach

I just got back from the family beach party...

OK, it's my wife's family, the family I married into but they are also a family that has always treated me as one of their own.

They are a large Italian family and they "Let Irish people in the family once in awhile," according to my wife's Uncle Louis (Pictured here with Dominic, the newest member of the clan and Uncle Louis' grandson).

It's nice that we can all get together even in the midst of the hot and busy summer. We get to learn about each other's summer trips, the usual family happenings and more serious matters like illnesses or job troubles.

This Sunday's Scripture Readings talk much about family. Joshua gathered together his family and stated to all the tribes of the region that they were choosing as a family to serve the God of Israel over the many other Gods that were being worshipped by the tribes of the region.

"As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” - Joshua 24:15

But the reading that will capture everyone's attention this weekend is the famed passage from Paul's letter to the Ephesians where he says "Wives be subordinate (or submissive in some translations) to your husband."

I usually nudge my wife at that juncture to make sure she's paying attention.

But we need to put the reading into proper context for us to really understand it. For to be subordinate to someone else means to put their needs ahead of your own. At the time of Paul's writing, the Jewish people were oppressed by the Romans. The Romans enslaved the Jews and treated them as sub-human. It was a tough time for the men of a Jewish household to get up and go to work each day and be treated like dirt. To come home with the embarrassment of being treated that way, averting their eyes in shame at being essentially a slave.

And it was tougher for their wives to watch them. And the big temptation for the wives was to pile on the abuse with self deprecating remarks.

"Look at this canker sore of a man that I married. Oh woe is me to be married to a man who can't even stand up for himself. If these men would just be men and revolt against the Romans we'd all be better off. But there's a better chance of pigs (well maybe not pigs, Kosher and all! Let's say dogs maybe!) flying!"

And Paul states simply that wives should avoid this temptation, to be subordinate to this man who they can't seem to respect. That when it's hard to respect your husband and you think that he is a slug, that you need to subordinate those feelings to care for a guy who has just been beaten down by life.

In turn, Paul also cautions husbands to love these wives as well. After all, they are traveling a tough road together. And that the most important thing is to stay together being subordinate to each other. Forgiving one another of their faults, of their own pre-conceived notions of each other, of their expectations of the way life should be in favor of accepting to live their lives together, come what may.

Jesus in today's Gospel is looking for the Disciples to accept him fully and completely even though his "sayings are difficult." For some the life Jesus was describing was strange and weird and maybe a bit too counter-cultural.

"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

But the message running throughout all the readings is really about having faith. The faith that keeps us together as one unit. Just as families stick together in tough times, just as husbands and wives stay together even though they know each other's faults, just as Catholics and members of other faith traditons stick together even when the world tells us we are foolish to believe in God and in one another.

It is not easy to stay together, not every day is like my family's day at the beach. We all will face hardships in life. Job loss, sickness, disagreements and even death. But the example that my wife's family gives to us, is that we need to stick together. That's something that I've really come to value in this new family and have not always seen in my own family at times.

But the lesson goes further.

Jesus tells His disciples that family has to expand beyond blood ties to all of humanity. Jesus calls us to stick together despite all the world's hatred. There are may people who we forget about and who fall by the wayside. We must stick together with the homeless, with the elderly, with the children in and out of the womb who need our protection and with all of those who need our assistance.

Jesus' "hard sayings" tell us that we even have to stick it out with those that hate us. We need to love our enemies; those don't do their part in trying to stick it out with us. That indeed is one of the hardest things to do--to stay in relationship with someone who thinks that you're not worth it. To pray for those who persecute us.

It's a call to family. And when we realize that we are all family, and start treating all people as if they were brother and sister and cousin and aunt, we'll call that the day The Kingdom of God is a reality.

And as great as my weekend with the family was, this will be a lot better than a great day at the beach!

Today's Inspiration: The Zimmers: Oldest Band Ever

Anybody feeling old today? You won't after seeing these videos

From Wikipedia:

The Zimmers are a British band, thought to have the oldest members in the world:[1] the lead singer, Alf, is 90, and the oldest member, Buster, is 102. They take their name from the Zimmer frame (the British name for a walking frame).
The band was created as a feature in a BBC Television documentary, which was first broadcast on 28 May 2007.[2] The feature of forming the band and recording a single was intended to give a voice to the feelings of isolation and imprisonment suffered by the elderly.
The Zimmers' logo is a parody of The Beatles' logo, as is the image of them walking across Abbey Road. In September 2008, the band released its first full-length album 'Lust for Life', featuring cover versions of songs by Eric Clapton, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

Here are just two of their videos:

Aug 22, 2009

The Greatest is to Be Servant

Did you ever have someone in your life who took it upon themselves to know what was good for you all the time? I've had about 10 of these people over my nearly 40 years come into my life. Roommates, friends, bosses, teachers, spiritual directors, many of them well-meaning people in their own right, but many who would tear you down in an instant just to make a point about what they think is good for you. They will all too easily know what the answers for you are, but don't really lift a finger to help you in your deep need for assistance.

For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them. -- MT 23:6-10

Dorothy Day often remarked that if you are going to work with the homeless be prepared to work with some very difficult people. My mission trip crew often had to be restrained from acting like "the Americans who clearly knew better" than what they considered the more inferior local clientele (quite often they were very humbled by the simplest of tasks for the Nicaraguans).

Jesus is saying the same thing here. That it's quite easy to tell someone that you know exactly what they should do instead of lifting a finger to suffer along with someone else and do some hard work that needs to be done.

We talk often about many who are "lost causes" in our society. These are people that we outside to the dregs of society, the kind of people that elegant people wouldn't be caught dead with in the same neighborhood. At best, I might be able to throw some money at them and pity them, but I really don't often really give any kind of care for these people. Most of us probably don't.

I can't recall the last time I learned the name of a homeless person, or listened to their story.
I'm apt to think if someone checks off that they've been arrested that they are probably someone i shouldn't hire.
As the elderly get less "productive" do I ever really think beyond their career achievements to their personhood and wisdom?

Do I just forget about people that I don't really HAVE to care about at all?

I'm embarrassed to say that I do.

And that I know what's good for them, but wouldn't dare move forward to help them really get some clothes on their back, food in their mouths, roofs over their heads...maybe even my own roof over their heads.

I pre-judge people without hearing who they are and what the circumstances are that have led them to where they are now.

And that right there, that breaking of a relationship with humanity, that is what we call sin.

And Jesus is all too familiar with seeing it from the religious leaders of his day.

I am not a better Pharisee nor scribe. These have been issues for all people to deal with and nobody has yet to stop the cycle of poverty that too often doesn't get us angry, embittered or sad enough for others.

Today, may we continue to follow the example of Ruth who we mentioned yesterday and is mentioned again in our first reading. May we bless another with our time and efforts. May we challenge ourselves to become one with those that suffer and to move others to help us care and protect all those who are in need of protection and care.

Did You Go Out Last Night?

Then you might relate to this....

Aug 21, 2009


Since today's readings were about commitment this should help us all reflect on our own commitments to someone else.

Ruth and Naomi

Today's First Reading was the reading that my wife and I chose to be the first reading at our wedding because it is all about the commitment that many times can change a dreadful situation into one of joy. It is always commitment that leads us into happiness even though the initially may be tough times ahead. Looking back, we always can note growth and maturity. We see where we have gotten closer with someone else and what we were called to share with one another.

I often picture myself imaginatively in this reading as one of the characters who really isn't in the story as a principle player. I picture myself first as being one of the dead husbands, now long gone from earth but watching over his family, still concerned and somewhat helpless at their plight. I often think that I would run to God and beg him to do something for my family. And when I do, God lends his sympathetic ear and reminds me that we do not need such miracles. That the real miracle always comes with committing one's self to the cause of another. Imagine my surprise as a I watch my daughter-in-law, Ruth, be that miracle for Naomi! Tears stream down my heavenly face as I watch the care and gingerly way that this Moabite woman, a woman not of my own blood, but who assuredly is family, take my wife into her care when neither I nor my sons can any longer. Heaven was even no relief for this suffering of concern that Ruth has lifted from me.

Jesus later calls us to hear the two great commandments. When asked which of the commandments is the greatest, Jesus takes one from Deuteronomy 6:5 as someone who knows scripture well. But this is a commandment that most people knew very well and adhered too and there would be much agreement about this being the greatest.

However, Jesus as is his way turns it all upside down by quoting a lesser-known passage in Leviticus 19:18. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

We need this vertical relationship between us and God but we also need the horizontal relationship with others too. We can picture these relationships as two beams of the cross and we know that when we are in right relationship with God and one another that it also means that we will experience some suffering. Like Ruth who was in misery, we often find ourselves strapped down and alone. It is often another's love, someone who loves us more than we ever imagined we could be loved that sustains us. They love us as they wish to be loved and more importantly they love as God loves.

Today may I be grateful for all the Ruth-like people in my life. The people who have cared for those that I have been unable to care for myself for reasons often beyond my control. But also, let me see the challenge in being Ruth too. Let me be unafraid to go to that place where I know discomfort will be, at least for awhile and let me stay committed to those with whom I am in relationship. To love my neighbor, as I love myself.

Aug 20, 2009

O Lord, Let Me Not Take You For Granted

In today's readings for Mass I found myself horrified at the violence that exists in these dreadful readings.

First Jephthah vows to sacrifice the first person who walks through his door as a holocaust to God in exchange for victory in war. When that person ends up to be his only daughter, my horror begins and grows when Jephthah actually does offer her as sacrifice. And while we don't have evidence that God accepts Jephthah's daughter as sacrifice, there's not any evidence to suggest that He doesn't either.

Then later in the Gospel, we hear of a prince's wedding feast where the invited guests choose not to attend. Some of them even take his father, the King's servants, and kill them. In response, the king murders them and burns the city to the ground.

Then the king invites anyone who would come and chastises a man for not wearing a wedding garment and has him thrown out.

It's not a cheery summertime set of readings, is it?

But scripture often has a way of making a point to us that goes beyond the details of these stories. The irony of the first reading calls me to look at something that I often try to do. I try to control God.

"Oh God...if only my wife wouldn't have cancer...I'll..."

"Oh God...if you just help me pass that test I didn't study for I'll..."

"Oh God...if you let her say "yes" when I ask her out, I'll...."

How many times did I offer that kind of prayer, as if God were some kind of bargain basement swap shop?

God doesn't require bargaining. God requires our fidelity. And when we mix these two things together we get horrible results for all involved.

To further the point the murderous King is upset because people took his invitation for granted. Perhaps they opted for a better deal, or found someone else that they'd rather hang out with, or even just were too lazy to care to respond?

How often am I like that?

God calls me often to places that I may even be uncomfortable in and it is there that I often put up the roadblocks.

"Nah. I'd rather stay home in my nice air conditioned apartment than go to help at the homeless shelter."

"Nope. I'm going to pass by that person who always needs my attention."

"I know my wife needs me to listen to her right now, but I'm just going to ignore that invitation because the game is on."

Sometimes it's even a chore to get dressed for mass, isn't it? And when we're caught unprepared like's mostly because we hadn't been paying attention all along.

Today I pray, that I don't take God for granted. That I take some time each day to be grateful, one of the centerpieces of the Christian life. God has given me much and gifted me with much to give. May I use that grace to praise His name both now and forever. Amen.

Aug 19, 2009

59 Years of Commitment - Warts and All

Today is my parent’s 59th Wedding Anniversary.

That’s fifty...nine...years.

Nearly 60.

They are now barely in their 80s. Were married in 1950...and nobody knows better than they do that marriage is not always about happiness.

Marriage is about commitment. I think that’s something that many people don’t always realize, especially those of you who are not married. Indeed marriage is about commitment. Happiness only comes as a consequence of that commitment, for there will be days in a marriage that are not happy. You are going to get grumpy and tired and angry. You will face tragedies and disagreements and sorrow. You will get mad at one another more often than you care to remember.

Loving one another in marriage faces all of that and yet you love each other anyway.

There's the old expression "I love you, warts and all" and there's a truism to this that people who are married truly understand. Married people see one another when they are not at their best. They know not only what is great about one another but also what the other’s weak parts are as well. My own wife for instance knows that I am not particularly easy to get along with in those early morning hours. We both greet the day with the same three words...She says "Good Morning, God!" and I say...

"Good God! ... Morning!"

But yet, Marion my wife is patient with my moods and I've become a better listener for her. When times get rough I'm sure there are places that we both think about running away to rather than face what the other needs from their partner.

But we don't. We learned very early on that for marriage to work it needs to be about commitment. No matter what happens. So when my mom got sick during that honeymoon phase of our marriage we had to bond closer to support not only each other but my family---not an easy thing for a new wife. When Marion's father, grandmother, and uncle died we dealt with a lot of heartache...but we did so together. Through job losses, disagreements and the fact that we can't make a baby...we have somehow stayed committed to our marriage.

I know I wouldn't have been able to be half the husband that I am if not for my mom and dad, who have known a similar kind of life....59 years worth of knowing each other's joys and sorrows. My mother’s lived the last 35 years or so of their marriage with a lot of sickness and a lot of pain. I’m sure there were days that my dad didn’t find marriage to be a barrel of laughs--but I also know that his commitment to my mom is still rock solid and that he never swayed in his love and commitment to her.

This is the kind of outpouring of love that God has for us all. That love outpoured on my parents by God has turned into a love that they've been able to offer each other through everything that life has thrown their way.

So today, we celebrate the marriage of Michael Hayes Sr and a young woman originally named Evelyn King, who has been his Mrs. Hayes for 59 long and committed years. You have been a blessing to each other, to your children, your extended family and friends. May your life continue to bless one another in marriage and may the sacrament that is your life continue to bring us to see Christ's love in you.

You've Been Heard

So a bunch of people didn't dig the green...some even going as far to say that I was making a political statement!

So I went with a more basic blogspot theme. I'd like to have 3 columns but they don't offer that in the basic package yet. I may also move this to wordpress and begin anew.

But you will notice a few new innovations on the sidebar...

You can now share this blog via twitter and facebook as well as listen to the Busted Halo Cast each week right on the google player!

Hope these innovations keep coming and please let me know if this color scheme is a bit easier on the eye.

Aug 18, 2009

A New Look

For those of you who suddenly went blind, or like me are approaching 40 and are starting to have trouble seeing street signs...

Googling God has gotten a facelift. Let me know what you think. I'll be adding more to the East Wing Sidebar as time goes on.

I seem to be having some problems with the blockquote feature as it always increases the font size of the following paragraph. Any thoughts from other bloggers out there who use custom coding?

Good Sax is Hard to Find...

...but Deanna Witkowski knows her jazz and is simply an awesome singer. Bill McGarvey talks with her in depth on faith, music and the intersection between the two.

A snip from the interview on the mix..

Pianist-composer-vocalist Deanna Witkowski’s dual paths of disciplined jazz musician and person of faith converge in her fourth recording, the genre-defying From This Place. Marrying ancient and modern sacred texts with the richness of jazz, it is her most honest and soulful work....

BH: We talk a lot at Busted Halo about making the connection between the sacred and the secular. Can you talk about why you don’t see a great wall between the sacred and the secular in terms of your own faith?

DW: I think for me, my experience with God comes from music and it is not necessarily music with any text in it. It can be when I’m sitting down and trying to compose something but more so when I’m playing with my small group like the trio or quartet and there is such intense listening going on since we have played together for years and years and years and years. That sort of sets the stage for moments when you are outside yourself. People don’t necessarily articulate that this is God’s presence coming through but for me it kind of is — it’s being in community and all working for one common thing which is to present music as purely as we can. For me it is similar to prayer when I am just trying to sit and listen to God. I think it is also because the thing that I have found more and more lately is that I love the guys in my band — we are just a community. So it is very much like church in a way.

“My experience with God comes from music and it is not necessarily music with any text in it. It can be when I’m sitting down and trying to compose something but, moreso, when I’m playing with my small group like the trio or quartet and there is such intense listening going on… it’s being in community and all working for one common thing which is to present music as purely as we can. For me it is similar to prayer when I am just trying to sit and listen to God.”
When I’m doing the sacred music it’s easy because it all has text, so I’m really trying to think of ways to bring out the text — let’s say, like a mass setting or some kind of 19th century hymn text — and completely resetting it. That’s been a different experience, but I still feel like its God just having things come out in a different way. For example, for Protestants, I have one song on the CD of a hymn text called “Take My Life and Let It Be,” and everyone knows one tune that goes with that text — especially because many hymns are strophic (meaning every time you hear it there are regular four bar phrases and you know what’s coming.) I try and make it more unpredictable and in some way it makes people have a more emotional connection and a deeper connection with the music.

BH: I’m sure it’s near impossible to articulate but can you try to talk a little bit about those moments?

DW: I think sometimes there are things that are happening that everybody knows, like, for instance, this might not be a transcendant thing but I remember back in February my trio did a concert at my alma mater and some nights I’ll count off tempos that are totally, seemingly wrong, because I’m either tired or feeling adrenaline or whatever. That night we played the first cut on my CD and it was so slow, it was so slow that I thought it was going to fall apart. But what ended up happening was it was a completely different feel and it ended up making us stretch in different ways musically, and, after, my drummer said, “I felt like I was playing like Elvin Jones,” because we just all had to go in different directions. It opened it so that certain things happened that would not normally happen. Sometimes I feel the bassist or the drummer are being so supportive and I can go wherever I want and yet sometimes they do something that makes me do something and then all of a sudden we wind up with this “thing” that I could have never imagined. It is hard to describe and it doesn’t really last, and that’s the thing about music as opposed to painting because you can’t stand there and stare at it as time goes by.

BH: Can you talk about the parallels between moments like that on your spiritual journey and what brought you into the Catholic Church?

DW: Well for me the thing is that it’s all related to prayer. I was about to go on a weeklong silent retreat and I noticed when I go on these retreats I usually feel like I am experiencing God’s love in an intense way and almost in a physical way. This is part of the reason I became Catholic, because I never felt this growing up. I think it was just a divide between my brain and my soul. I knew God loves me and I knew God wants the best for me and of course I still struggle with these things but now, when I am in moments of prayer, I can look back and remember certain things. The second time I went on a silent retreat, the group of people I was with had a person who had drawn a chalk labyrinth. So I walked it a few times and there was this one day that I walked it and, on the way in, I felt like I should raise my hand. But my first thought was I am going to look stupid, but then I thought everyone is here for the same thing, so I just put my hand out and open. I had this thought or heard this thought that said, “Thank you Deanna, I will fill your hands.” I just started crying, and moments like that for me are just moments and they don’t last that long, but I know they are real and I know they are happening. It is intense and meaningful, and hopefully the challenge is to not have that be an isolated incident but to influence how I live and think...

Check out the rest of the article here and then listen to this cool bluesy version of Psalm 141: Let My Prayer Rise

Aug 17, 2009

Today's Question: How do we know Mary was a Virgin?

Ginny Moyer weighs in with some great insight on BustedHalo.

Both Matthew and Luke make a point of explicitly stating Mary’s virginity. Some writers get more graphic: the early Christian text the Protoevangelium of James (around A.D. 150) includes a memorable scene where a woman physically verifies Mary’s virginity, right after Christ’s birth. Obviously, this text doesn’t have the authority of Scripture, but I mention it to show that early Christians were also interested in “proof” of Mary’s virginal state.

Read more to find out if other proof exists by clicking here.

The Sports Headlines Center on Morals These Days

This week two major sports stars have been on the back page more for their actions off the field. Michael Vick the NFL Quarterback has been given a second chance after serving time in prison for running a dog fighting ring. The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a chance on the man who was probably the most talented player in the NFL before his prison time was served.

As a dog owner myself, I found Vick's actions despicable. Harming defenseless animals is an act of cowardice and Vick served his time for a more than major mistake in his life. However, everyone does deserve a second chance. Vick, seems to be rehabilitated, say those in the NFL. How genuine his remorse is will be the real question that only Vick knows for sure in his heart. Judge for yourself in this 60 Minutes interview with James Brown.

Watch CBS Videos Online

I think I believe him, I'd like to, but it is hard to say. He looked Brown in the eye and didn't seem to be lying. Tony Dungy also has nothing to gain by being his mentor and has everything to lose. I'll keep Vick in my prayers even though I still have a bad taste in my mouth about his past. Again, we are a religion of forgiveness, and I need to remember that. Hearing about him being exposed to dog fighting at 8 years old made me feel sorry for him, even though it's still not an excuse for his behavior.

The second person in the headlines is Coach Rick Pitino:

The AP tells the story:

In Rick Pitino's words, his equipment manager's wife was welcomed into Louisville's close-knit basketball family. Beneath the surface, however, was an explosive secret.

Pitino and Karen Sypher had sex at a restaurant eight months before she married the coach's confidant, Tim Sypher. Over the next few years, the three attended the same parties, took basketball trips and tailgated together, despite Pitino's past affair.
What happened over those years is a he-said, she-said story. Pitino recently denied to police Karen Sypher's contention that he raped her, and authorities declined to prosecute her claims, citing a lack of evidence.

Pitino acknowledged giving her $3,000 after she said she was pregnant and was getting an abortion, but didn't have health insurance. Pitino's lawyer said the money was for insurance and he never paid for an abortion.

I've interviewed Rick Pitino duing my days as a sports radio producer and field reporter and always thought he was a stand up guy. However, I've also encountered plenty of powerful men in sports who act in the way that Karen Sypher is stating Pitino acted towards her:

Karen Sypher has called Pitino, who has guided Louisville, Kentucky and Providence to the Final Four, a powerful man who "thinks he can do anything he wants to." She told police that she believes the coach told her future husband to arrange the abortion and accompany her to the procedure. She thinks Pitino paid Tim Sypher to marry her.

Louisville right to lifers believe that Pitino is responsible for a baby that would now be 7 years old had it not been aborted. Pitino, a Catholic, claims that the decision to abort was Sypher's alone--a contention that I find doubtful or it sounds at least like he was washing his hands of the whole thing.

Pitino may very well lose his job and he very well may deserve it. He's an excellent coach but a man who allegedly rapes someone or who at the very least has a sexual liaison with a woman (in a restaurant! Yuck! Remind me not to eat there!) and then gets an underling to marry her...that's pretty disgusting behavior.

I wish that players and coaches would act more responsibly so we can enjoy their antics on the field and not be disgusted by what they do off the field.

Let us pray for the fortitude that athletes need to make the right decisions in their lives. It's tough when things are offered to you at all turns and temptation is around every corner. May Our Lady help these men and women do the right thing and respect their bodies, other people and the defenseless in our midst whether unborn or a defenseless animal.


Aug 16, 2009

Mary and Biology

Today's Question on BustedHalo is answered by moi.

What part did Mary’s biology play in the making of the person of Jesus Christ?

Mike Hayes Anwsers:
The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son. The Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the giver of Life”, is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.” (CCC, 485)
The word “fecundate” means to impregnate. So the best explanation we have lies here that is was the power of the Holy Spirit that makes her pregnant.
That implanting of a divine nature with Mary’s female human egg that starts Mary on the cycle of pregnancy.
I hesitate to say that it was “divine sperm cells” that unite with the egg because that is how we might understand this scientifically in our human experience and indeed this may be how the Holy Spirit was able to impregnate Mary–but we don’t really know that for certain.
This is a miracle, something that confounds science and even goes beyond it into something of a mystery.

Read more here and contribute to the conversation.

Aug 14, 2009

Today's Question: The Moneychangers and Jesus

Joe Paprocki weighs in on the Question Box in the Googling God section of BustedHalo®.

John’s Gospel describes Jesus forming a “whip of cords” (John 2:15) and using it to drive out them out of the temple. How can we reconcile Jesus’ apparent anger with the notion of anger being a deadly sin? First, we don’t know that Jesus was angry. We do not have a description of his inner state of mind. What we do have is a description of bold behavior – fierce action.

Read the rest here

NCR: Young Catholics Accept the Church as It Is

An excellent piece by Tom Roberts in NCR's Emerging Church Series. He interviews 8 young Jersey City parishioners on their sense of being Catholic. The results seem to surprise him, but are no surprise to me.

"I think the church has to earn parishioners to come," said Bridget d'Souza, one of the young professionals who joined the conversation in May at Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in Jersey City, N.J.

She was describing a kind of free-market approach to parish selection that applies to groups across generational lines, but particularly to young people without permanent ties to a neighborhood or diocese. No longer can pastors be guaranteed a congregation because of geography. People go where they're both getting fed spiritually, said d'Souza, and where they can feel ownership of the parish and its activities.

It wasn't that way growing up in a place, she said, where people owned their homes for decades and where churchgoing was determined by parish boundaries.

The loss of those physical boundaries seems symbolic of deeper lines and categories that have become less distinct when it comes to deciding on the bigger questions: whether to be religious at all and, specifically, whether to be Catholic....

D'Souza and her husband, Devantin, have been members of Our Lady of Czestochowa for three years. Both are cradle Catholics. She grew up in New Jersey, and spent time in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps right out of college. He is from Bombay, India, arrived in the U.S. in 2001 and moved to New Jersey in 2005, they year they were married. They met in business school in Washington and at the time of the interview were working as consultants for the financial firm Deloitte and Touche in New York.

In college, she said, she struggled through a period when she asked herself, "Do I want to be Catholic? Do I want to go into a Protestant denomination?" She said she had felt frustration over issues like the sex abuse and financial crises "that you're not as empowered as you might be in other areas, like with your civic government for instance."

In the end, however, it was the tug of "a tradition that goes back 2,000 years" that "draws me in."

She perceives a certain power in the tradition, in the Mass and the Eucharist. "There is something there that his so powerful, and I think the church has nurtured that. I think for me the church embodies that." In the larger culture she mentioned, Catholic Charities and all the things that the church does. I don' think most people are aware o that. If they were aware of it, all of these other things that are perceived as negative, they wouldn't be as proportionally as negative in my opinion."

Read more here and think about the young people you know...and pray for them.

Aug 11, 2009

My reaction to the news "Your wife does not have cancer" went something like this:

Thanks to all for your prayers. Marion's findings were benign. Special thanks to the doctors and staff at Roosevelt hospital.

Deo Gratias!

The best facebook response to the news came from my friend Barbara Baker:

"Alleluia (traditional) and w00t! (contemporary) responses in English. (srsly, wonderful news!)"

We now return you to regularly scheduled blogging.

Aug 10, 2009

Pope says "individuals" need to change in order to change cycle of poverty

Quote of the weekend:

Economy and finance … can be used badly when those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends. …we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up … new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values … it is not the instrument [the economy] that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.

Pope Benedict XVI's third encyclical, which focuses on the economy. Today he furthered this statement by denouncing the deplorable rate of poverty in Argentina.

Aug 8, 2009

And Protect us From All Anxiety...Even by using Facebook

This past week my wife, Marion received word of a small nodule that was found on a recent mammogram. It's tiny, less than a millimeter, but obviously it has shaken us up, especially since her mother died of breast cancer when Marion was in college. She had the needle biopsy on Friday and now we wait. Three to five business days of waiting.

Anxiety-filled waiting.

Friends and relatives have been praying and sending their best wishes for a clean bill of health for her. Even our dog has been nuzzling up to Marion more than me lately, which is unusual for him as he is very attached to me.

At mass today the words that are read after the Our Father ask God to "protect us from all anxiety" which I often find comforting, but today they took on new we wait, we realize that anxiety is something that does indeed occur with life's many travails. The following line is the one that really is more important:

"As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior Jesus Christ."

There's nothing like a medical scare to make you realize that indeed we all need God, that we are not God and therefore we are not in control. Try as we might to protect ourselves from anxiety, it often still finds us and those restless hearts will only rest easy once they rest in God.

Recently, I reported that a Bishop from Great Britain mentioned that Facebook was a considerable factor in the rise of teen suicide. He cautioned that all this technology keeps us alienated from one another. While the Bishop makes a good point about how technology can certainly alienate us greatly, it also connects us as well. With my wife's permission I asked my facebook friends to pray for her on my status update. Within a half hour something amazing happened over 30 people quickly jotted a simple word and maybe a few extra sentences as well. That simple word was "prayers" and it made me feel connected to people that I know well and to many that I haven't heard from in awhile. Friends from retreats and ministry circles, high school, college, family and even my old radio colleagues all weighed in with their own prayers. Some simply said "prayers" and that one word is more than enough to connect me and my wife to them in union with the whole church. Perhaps that's an experience that the Bishop hasn't had but it is one that is worth noting.

And it would not have happened without this technology.

As different as many of us might be religiously (even some of us who share a Catholic faith), nobody ever seems remotely offended when another asks for someone to pray for them or for someone they care about. Even those who might not believe in God don't find it an awful exercise to send a good wish or thought someone's way. We all like and need to pray for each other.

And quite often we don't. It often takes a tragedy for me to remember someone else in prayer or to even pray with someone else. A priest friend of mine always mentions names of people who have asked him to pray for them when we have a shared prayer of the faithful. That impressed me, so much so that I started keeping a log of people to pray for on my blackberry.

So God asks much of us when He asks us to be mindful of Him in prayer. We note how out of control we are and how we need God's help. But we also know that we need the help of others to show us God's care for us as well. It is in the others who become the face of God for us in our toughest moments...those moments of anxiety, that we often seek protection from is in those others that indeed God helps us to find gratitude, when fear can easily take over.

I'm fairly confident that my wife will be fine. Whatever this is, it is tiny...less than a millimeter. So even in the worst case, this should be easy to defeat, especially for a strong woman like my wife. Others face things far worse and far more daunting than we are this week.

But perhaps it is in the others who have touched our hearts this week with their simple prayers where God is calling me to be most mindful.

And to become more like them as a person of prayer...who helps God protect us from all anxiety.

Aug 7, 2009

RIP John Hughes

The Breakfast Club was the big movie when I was in high school. In fact, I remember almost every time we went to my friend Karen's house, we'd pop it in her then-"new fangled" VCR. Ferris Beuller's Day Off was another favorite and I love that it is constantly on cable. I could watch that movie all day long.

John Hughes really understood Generation X, a generation I am part of and have written about in my own book. He certainly influences my own thinking and I am saddened by his death, especially since he had stopped making movies in order to spend more time with his son and apparently because of his disenchantment with Hollywood's greed after the death of John Candy who Hughes claimed was worked to death.

Today a colleague forwarded (or twittered really) me this blog article by a woman who was a pen pal with Hughes. It is well worth reading:

He made me feel like what I said mattered.

"I can't tell you how much I like your comments about my movies. Nor can I tell you how helpful they are to me for future projects. I listen. Not to Hollywood. I listen to you. I make these movies for you. Really. No lie. There's a difference I think you understand."

If just one person would write something that meaningful about me, I will die a happy, happy man.

Aug 5, 2009

Busted Borders: Our latest series on Immigration

Check it out. Moving stories of immigrants:

Aug 4, 2009

I Could See My Wife Doing This...Hence I am a Faithful Hubby

From Fox News

Four Wisconsin women are accused of tying up and assaulting a married man after allegedly finding out he was romantically involved with each of them.

The women are each charged with being party to false imprisonment, a felony with a maximum prison term of six years. One is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault.

Calumet County prosecutors say 48-year-old Therese A. Ziemann of Menasha lured the man to a Stockbridge motel last Thursday. Prosecutors say she was soon joined by 43-year-old Michelle Belliveau of Neenah; 43-year-old Wendy L. Sewell of Kaukauna; and the man's wife.

Authorities say Ziemann punched the man in the face and glued his penis to his stomach.

One word: Ouch!

Aug 3, 2009

Radio Prank Backfires...Seriously Backfires

In Australia a popular radio duo, Kyle & Jackie O, decided that it would be a great goof to hook a daughter up to a lie detector and let her mom grill her with questions. Then the most horrible thing happens:

As a former radio producer, I kind of feel for the hosts who got blindsided, and I have to say that the producer got lazy here. They should've had the participants one sign a waiver stating that they aren't under psychological treatment or been abused or anything else that they could have the legal team think of. And yet this is clearly a case of a mother who is just a moron and who put her daughter in harm's way and didn't get her counseling to begin with.

I had something similar happen to me. We had someone use a racial epithet during a live show with a 7 second delay. It wasn't the N-word but it wasn't acceptable either. My engineer didn't catch it because she was distracted by another staff member and I was on the phone with a caller and missed "dumping" the comment too (which means that we use our 7 second delayed signal to remove the comment from our airwaves).

Boy did we get calls and letters! Sometimes things just happen. I thought I handled it well. I was honest and told them the situation and that I thought it was deplorable what she said. They let me keep my job but they probably should've canned me and the engineer. Ultimately it was my responsibility. Sometimes things happen when you're doing things live--it's just the nature of Live TV and Radio.

Maybe that's why I podcast now.

Archbishop says Facebook causes uptick in Suicide

From the BBC

Archbishop Vincent Nichols said MySpace and Facebook led young people to seek "transient" friendships, with quantity becoming more important than quality.
He said a key factor in suicide among young people was the trauma caused when such loose relationships collapsed.
"Friendship is not a commodity," he told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
He added: "Friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right".

Archbishop Nichols said society was losing some of its ability to build communities through inter-personal communication, as the result of excessive use of texts and e-mails rather than face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations.
He said skills such as reading a person's mood and body language were in decline, and that exclusive use of electronic information had a "dehumanising" effect on community life.

Archbishop Nichols said that social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace encouraged a form of communication that was not in his words "rounded", and would not therefore build rounded communities.

I agree with some of his statements here but I seriously doubt that any sociologist or psychologist would say with any certainty that suicide can be linked with frequent use of social networking.

And they said it wouldn't last!

Dick and Betty Broussard have been married for 54 years, and haven't regretted a moment. So says the Dallas Morning News today.

By most predictions, Betty Sweitzer and Dick Broussard's relationship would never last.

She is gregarious and he is reserved. She's an only child and he's the oldest of eight. "I'm very German and he's French. I'm from a city and he's from a little bitty town. I went to college; Dick didn't." She was Protestant and he was Catholic.

And yet here they sit, 54 years later – married through thick and thin – with three children, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and another on the way.

Back in Baltimore in 1954, his priest said it would be a mistake. He told Dick, "You come down to the social next week and I'll introduce you to a nice Catholic girl."

Her minister said, "Betty, do not marry him. It won't last."

Betty says, "I came out of there crying and said, 'Let's get married by a rabbi.' "

It's very interesting how interfaith marriage has become the norm in today's day and age. Religion seems not to be such a stumbling block for the young and apparently, these folks led the way in this regard as pioneers long ago. Read more about this couple at the jump here but also take to heart that their lives have been far from easy. They've known and lives what I think I learned in marriage prep and has been at the forefront of my own marriage:

Marriage is not about happiness. Marriage is about commitment and that commitment sometimes leads to happiness.

But it always leads to knowing that someone else is always there for you...and that is always more than enough for me.

And apparently that is also true for the Broussard's:

"It takes love and commitment to keep a marriage together this long," Betty says.

Dick sums it up with one word: "tolerance."

Aug 2, 2009

"Give Us This Bread Always"

My wife makes me dinner often. She gets home much earlier than I do and she takes a lot of care to put together a meal for us to share in the evening hours. She never complains about doing this and I always try to appreciate her work and not take her for granted.

But I have to admit, sometimes I do.

Much like the Israelites who grumbled against Moses and the crowd at Capernaum who followed Jesus after he had fed the multitude, I don't always have the right intentions. The crowd showed up and found Jesus because they had been fed by him and they figured that if they kept following Him that they would always have plenty of food. in a society where the majority of people were extremely poor--you could only imagine that people became quite desperate and when Jesus shows up and provides a feast their natural inclination is to stick close to the meal ticket.

And I do the same thing to my wife. I take her work for granted, assuming that her good food will always be there if I just stick close and show up hoping to find dinner on the table.

But what makes those meals great? I've taken to saying to my wife that her meals are great because they are made with just the right amount of love.

And that is the point that Jesus is making as well. Like the Eucharist that we eat each and every week it is that little bit that goes a long way. It is not the feast that Jesus provides that He expects us to long for--but it is the love that God gives to us, the gift of His own Body and Blood, the self-offering of God for all of creation that is what Jesus wants us to remember.

It is the meal that is made with just the right amount of love.

It is in that offering for us that we need to recall. It is that offering that we often forget. We don't always become what we receive for others. Much like I don't always show gratitude for my wife's efforts how much more do I fail to show gratitude for what God has provided.

I sin and yet, God offers me not only His unconditional forgiveness but then offers His own Body and Blood that I may turn from my sin and offer myself for the sake of the world.

If I can't even show my wife how thankful I am for her dinner, what chance do I have of keeping God in mind--of being thankful for an even greater gift, the greatest gift?

And that is why my friends, that we need the Eucharist. And God knows it. We need a physical, tangible, intimate reminder of how much Jesus loves us. Jesus was more mindful of our brokenness than we are. He knows that we really need Him, that too often we are going to forget Him. Like the disciples, those closest to him we all abandon Him time and time again. It's so easy to forget what God has done for us, so easy to long for something more than what we perceive is a simple meal that we often take for granted.

We need to recall the words of the crowd today, "Give us this bread always." We long for simple bread and then God gives us so much more. "I myself am the Bread of Life" Jesus tells us. It is what lies beyond the simplicity of this bread that we share, that Jesus makes into Himself that we need to long for always.

The meal which is not just made with the right amount of love...but that God offers to us as all that He has.

May we offer God all that we can be in return.

Googling God

Googling God
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