Dec 31, 2008

2008: Feeling Adequate...Finally

As we begin to turn the page on another year, I look back on my own experiences in 2008. One of the main things I decided to do as a 2008 resolution was to work on my own self-esteem issues.

One wouldn't know it to look at me, but I do struggle with my own self-worth at times. Writing my book, Googling God has helped me really come into my own this past year and has helped me solidify a place as someone who is a well-known expert in the Young Adult Ministry field.

I recently had someone come to me for spiritual direction and without divulging the person or the nature of her spiritual was a moment for me when I saw a lot of myself in another person and therefore I think I may be the right person to help her find meaning in her life with God's help.

We are both people with meager upbringing. Her, from a small Podunk-midwestern town and me, the son of a school custodial worker. Both of my parents did not graduate high school (my mom came close but had to quit to support her family when her dad got sick). I think my dad's best year he made $27,000. Somehow, some way they sent me to college--and not just any college but, my beloved Fordham. No easy task on their behalf--and I'm very proud of them and their efforts.

But let's face it. There were probably a lot of naysayers who didn't think I would amount to much (and there still are). I remember telling people that I was going to work in radio and they told me "fat chance". For someone who had no connections and no experience to work for 10 years in that business is itself an achievement. I even got to cover some professional sports and did "phone-in voicers" and broadcasted a year of minor league baseball! I was an arrogant young kid who didn't listen to people when they told me to get out of New York and develop my on-air skills somewhere else and then try to work my way back east. Had I actually done that, I may have done somewhat better than I did in that business, but ultimately, I think I would've been unhappy in the long run. So I'm thankful for the experience nonetheless.

Regardless, becoming an expert in the field of ministry is something I never thought I could or would do. Writing a book was never a long-term dream or goal. And I have done both of those things. A friend recently pointed out that a lot of people I know have had many connections and have been able to use those connections to help them get what they want. A friend had a parent who wrote a book--so when they wrote a book, they were able to get it published a lot easier. Another friend has a sister who worked in politics so they had an inside track to their job.
"But you, Mike, had none of those connections. You should be really proud of yourself because you did it all without anyone's help. And probably with quite a few people saying that you never would be able to do any of it."

I started to say some of the same things about all the gifts and talents that my directee has to her and mentioned how far she has come with her own limited means and several other challenges that would have made a lot of people quit on themselves. I hoped to reveal to her just how great she really is and how much she has accomplished despite all the struggle. And it hit me really hard after the person left:

I really need to say the same things to myself from time to time about my own accomplishments. I often have struggled to be happy about things--or to feel good about myself. Sometimes all it takes is one naysayer to bring me back down. "See you're not that good." Or I start sensing impending doom: "Someone is going to prove my book wrong." (One of my first thoughts after my book was published).

One of the things in this past year that helped me get past some of these feelings of inadequacy was when David Gibson, who is a religion writer and reporter that I admire asked me to sign a copy of Googling God for him. I used to get so surprised when people would ask me to sign their book. I had these feelings of "Who me? Sign what? Huh?" I was often overcome by the fear of my own inadequacies. When David asked me to sign, my first thought was "I should ask him to sign this book for ME!" I began to have a rather paradoxical mindset. I was somebody who had written a book but then I was minimizing that accomplishment because someone who I regarded as a great writer asked me to autograph it for him.

But then something happened, as I signed an inscription for him, I began to allow myself to finally feel comfortable about my success--to still remain humble, but also allow myself some pride as well. I think something was holding me back from really accepting success and it was Dave's gesture that helped me push much of those inadequate feelings to the wayside. When people thank me for signing their book now I often thank them--not merely for purchasing it or even just for reading it--but for their anonymous help in allowing me some further self-esteem.

I have noticed since then, that I have began to stand up for myself more (and others too). I don't let the naysayers have the final word and when I feel like someone has minimized me, I remember that theirs is only one opinion and that it's not one that many others share. I also look more carefully about what people are really saying and where my gifts really lie and how I can do more of those things more frequently and how I can continue to collaborate with others who make me feel more alive, empowered and connected to God.

So 2008 is nearing its completion and while the Dow is still down (my retirement accounts are getting wacked!) my spirits are at an all time high. I'm an author, an expert, a minister, a husband, a son, a podcaster, a retreat/spiritual director and my dog's best friend. Whew! That's a lot and yet there's still more to evolve! I am excited about a new year for the first time in a very long time and know that God has much more in store for me and for all of us.

Blessings on your 2009. May your year be filled with self-esteem for all you do for yourself, others and God.

The Holy Family--Joseph's family and God's

NOTE: Edited due to a stupid error on my part. 4th graph below is now correct--reading that Joseph died before Jesus died--not before he was born. I simply mis-typed. Apologies for the confusion.)

A few years ago my wife and I decided that we would look into adopting a child. We found that the cost was relatively expensive and we wanted (for a number of reasons) to insure that we could adopt a toddler with no special needs and found that this was actually a relatively unusual thing to come across. It turns out that most adoptions are either newborn babies or are much older children. After a long period of discernment, we decided to table the idea of adoption for some time until we were more financially and even emotionally stable. I wanted badly to be a father but have been unable to do so through natural means and now am even finding it difficult to adopt a child. While my dog feeds some of my parental longings, he is not a child but rather a canine best friend. I had to come to terms that I may indeed not ever become a father.

Throughout that time (and ever since then, actually) I began to pray to St. Joseph for guidance. Like myself he too found himself in some strange circumstances. Scholars tell us that St Joseph was probably around 30 (a ripe old age for someone at that point in antiquity) and a craftsman of some sort (some say Carpenter but he was probably a bit more than that). He was probably a widower who had made a deal to marry another young woman and now that time had come. Mary a young girl of about 14 was his betrothed. And then it all fell apart.

The teen was pregnant and he had not yet taken her into his home. So how could this be? Think of the scandal that this must have caused. Mary was probably accused of being a loose woman and Joseph was most likely embarrassed that he let his wife-to-be go off gallivanting with someone else. Perhaps Mary didn't want to marry him at all and so, she decided that this would be a way out.

However, Jewish law gave Joseph the right to stone Mary for becoming pregnant. And because Joseph was "a righteous man" it would be natural for others to suggest that he would do so. I often wonder if Joseph ever considered going through with this? What we know from scripture is that Joseph indeed decided to "divorce her quietly." It would spare everyone the embarrassment and would allow him to remain ritually pure and not the husband of some harlot. But something with Joseph did not sit right here. And thus he can't even sleep soundly--he begins to dream and God takes that opportunity to talk to Joseph to assure him that all is well and that he should take Mary as his wife. Later he also convinced him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt even when that would go against any Jewish person's common sense (didn't we escape from Egypt into the promised land? Why would I want to go there?). The worst part of Joseph's experience is that he most likely died before Jesus died (since we don't see him at the foot of the cross) and never really figures out what the whole picture means.

But, Joseph, nevertheless, trusts in God and believes that all will be well just because God says so--even when his own experience tells him to think differently.

Do I ever have faith like that? Do I think that I will be OK even if God has decided that I won't be a father? DO I think that all will be well when the world often seems upside down? Do I consider that things might not be askew just because I don't always get what I want? Do I ever trust God enough to lead me when things seem dark?

If I'm honest with myself I'll see that I'm really no Joseph. That I want everything tied up in a nice neat package where life is predictable. And life, as Joseph knew all too well is rarely ever that easy. And trusting in God doesn't make it any easier but rather, it most likely makes them all the more harder.

The good news in the end is that Joseph was able to raise Jesus into a man who was able to see such compassion for the poor. He was able to awaken people to see all the good that was in them and make simple fisherman disciples and the founders of a church that still exists two thousand years later. Are we able to trust God that much when we may not even see the plan completed?

Perhaps therein is the point. Before God's kingdom is ever re-established--most of us will long be gone from this earth. Do we have faith strong enough to let go and trust that God really knows what he's doing? Do we have enough faith to allow God to use us without really knowing how it will all end?

I hope so. Because if so, then we are like Joseph.

Dec 30, 2008

Newish iPhone Application: ibreviary

I own an iPod touch and downloaded the ibrevary application at Deacon Greg's suggestion. I've seen a few of these types of online apps that one can use online or on phones and I think this one is #1 the most readable version. A nice font size and a fairly intuitive navigation. Check it out in itunes and here from America Magazine's blog.

Note: this application is now available in English. I do notice an occasional translation from the Italian that's slightly off--but I must say it is impressive.

The creator of iBreviary, Fr Paolo Padrini, runs a popular Italian website called Passi nel deserto ("Steps in the desert").

Emilie Lemmons' Catholic Spirit

A fine writer for the great Catholic Spirit Newspaper in Minneapolis who wrote one of the more balanced pieces on Catholic identity not that long ago. Lemmons fought cancer not long after having children. Her blog Lemmondrops was poignant and often tearful but yet honest as it addressed her fears and hopes for life with cancer and eventually, life after death.

A money quote if there ever was one from her editor at The Catholic Spirit:

How can a person facing death possibly experience joy? Here’s a little of what Emilie wrote:

“What if I just let go of that? What if I trust that even if I die tomorrow or next month or next year, things will somehow work out? What if I allow myself to put the outcome in God’s hands and just live intensely in the present, absorbing and embracing life as it happens? It’s not indifference or admitting defeat; it’s seeing the bigger picture.”

And she concluded:

“Maybe I am capable of experiencing joy after all. Maybe I don’t need to approach joy with resentment. Maybe that message is what my Advent light is illuminating. I pray that I can enter into the lesson God is trying to teach me.”

Rest in Peace, Em, and may your kids become great people by simply becoming half the person you were.

A hat tip to Rocco Palmo for the pic and the sad news.

Refusing Communion in Oz

This one comes from Deacon Greg over at the Deacon's Bench, it seems in Australia, a minister (I assume a lay person who is an extraordinary minister) refused a governmental official communion because of a recent vote on abortion. Turns out, however that the official voted against abortion in the proceedings and his wife is a pro-life lawyer. He was refused with his kids in his arms to make it even more embarrassing.

As a layman who is also a Eucharistic minister, I feel compelled to apologize to the official on behalf of all people who serve as Eucharistic Ministers. A priest, who knows him well, gave him communion on another line (good for him for going to the next queue (That's Aussie for line!).

Here we have one more another reason not to politicize communion. It becomes selective at the whimsy of the minister and there can be times, when that minister abuses that privilege or in this case, is simply an idiot who didn't get his facts straight. Maybe the Dingo (pictured above) ate his brain?

Jim Mckay

Here's the second of my pieces on The Faithful Departed for 2008. Jim McKay who I never had the pleasure to meet in my years in Broadcasting was someone who I really admired.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May Jim's soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The Faithful Departed - Tim Russert

It is customary at the end of each year to look back and remember important figures who have died over the previous twelve months. But, instead of offering a laundry list of well-known deceased people's accomplishments, for Busted Halo's Faithful Departed feature we asked our writers to reflect on the spiritual impact that people—or institutions, buildings etc.—that passed away in 2008 had upon them. While most of our subjects had no explicit religious connections, their ability to touch souls—testified to in this year's reflections—is beyond doubt. From a sports commentator and a cardinal to a comedian and the "House that Ruth Built," these reflections demonstrate how powerfully alive the sense of the sacred can be in the most unexpected people and places.

Here's the first of my reflections on those that died this past year. We start with Tim Russert.

Dec 29, 2008

Always Advent For the Jets

I root for the New York Jets. Not only do the Jets lose every year they seem to be experts on finding out new ways to do it.

It's always Advent when you're a Jet fan.

The Jets at 8-3 seemed destined for the playoffs at the very least. But Jet fans once again let their team fool them, myself included.

1-4 in their last 5 games puts them out of the playoffs and after a disastrous loss two weeks ago in Seattle they really would've done everyone a favor if they just went out and shot themselves before taking on Miami this weekend. Coach Mangini, once known as the Man-Genius, was fired today and rightfully so.

I ask myself every year why I put myself through the trouble of rooting for these guys? They will always lose, or so it seems. However, like the Red Sox fans know now--losing builds character. It makes victory all the more savory.

It's also more interesting to lose. When I covered baseball I always found that the better stories were in the losing locker room. The pitcher who was tortured by personal demons, the rookie who dropped the ball and feels like he's going to be placed on the next bus out of town, the coach who simply made a bad decision, the complaints about officials and umpires. The other guys just won--but the losers ended up being a greater story.

I also find that losing creates opportunity for self-reflection (or at least it should). What am I falling short at in my life? What could I have done better? Am I satisfied with being #2? Am I really using all my gifts and talents wisely? Who do we need to help us? What needs to be my focus today?

And so... we have the Jets, asking many of the same questions. They now must deal with finding a new coach after him being touted as the next big coaching success and then crashing and burning. They have their aging Quarterback who wanted to have one last great day in the spotlight but couldn't push the hands of time back even one minute more. And they have their cursed history that reminds all of us of a Lucy-football--the one that she pulls away from Charlie Brown and sends him crashing down and nearly killing himself.

One year...the longing...waiting for the savior...the small candles and seeing just a bit more light each week...

But when does the savior come?'s always Advent when you root for the Jets.

But Advent is often a lot more interesting than Christmas.


"What do you do when you're not sure?"

Indeed this is the question that epitomizes the entire play turned movie Doubt in which Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep turn in Oscar worthy performances of a priest and nun at odds with one another over the possible molestation of a Catholic School's first black student by the priest himself.

The beauty of this movie is that as all good stories go--it is the characters themselves that draw the viewers in and make the entire production a thrilling and vivid whodunit adventure.

The play is set in 1964 which is a strange year for Catholics. Kennedy was just assassinated and the winds of change have been blowing in the Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council. They play makes no apologies for using the wind as a symbol throughout and placing change as a sideline debate between said priest and nun.

Streep plays Sr Aloysious who is a dour old school crank who keeps the children of the Catholic School living in fear of her but at times, shows glimmers of condolence. A second nun, Sr James seems like a naive woman who accepts the priests explanation of trying to protect the boy from a minor transgression as an alibi for the accusation of sexual abuse. It is here that we find that nearly everything is upside-down. Sr Aloysious is hoping to keep the church's winds of change at bay but is also tied down from having Fr Flynn removed because she holds no power as a woman to bring forth an accusation to her superiors who will most likely not find her credible. At the same time, the simple-minded Sr James is open to ideas of a "more welcoming church" but is naive of the ways of the world and the mere possibility that Fr Flynn might indeed be a predator ("Isn't it easier to just believe him?" Sr Aloysious asks her). Fr Flynn is looking to bring the church into a new time but then paradoxically uses the church's hierarchical structure to defend himself and even to try to gain some psychological advantages (he enters Sr Aloysious's office and sits in her chair at one point and threatens to recommend to the pastor that she be removed as principal).

The mere simplicity of easy answers brings Doubt to what we all think of the characters make-up. Is the priest guilty or is the crotchety nun just harboring a grudge, cranky that her church is changing without her?

I would've loved to see this play but I think the movie does a good job of staying true to the play's make up. Shanley directed it after all, so there's not much of a surprise there. I did read the play after seeing the movie and it does seem more suited for the stage. However, catch this movie and become enraptured by two great performances and shake hands with the winds of change that will blow your convictions all over the theatre.

The Ending of the Year

A lovely, yet, bone-chilling reflection on the end of another year from Nicole Sotelo over at the National Catholic Reporter.

And then I thought of Jesus who also wept when faced with the possibility of his own death. He must have known his radical actions were catching the eyes of authorities who could end his life. Did Jesus ever make anything resembling a six-months-to-live checklist, I wondered? What would have been on his list? How did he spend his final days?

Please keep her and other survivors of cancer in your prayers this year's end and read the rest of her article here.

Be a "Yes Man"

A thought-provoking review of a movie I recently saw, Yes Man with Jim Carrey and the adorable Zooey Dechantal, by the esteemed Paul Jarzembowski over at Spiritual Popcorn. Here's the money quote:

Perhaps every now and then, we need to be "yes men" - when a poor man asks for our help, when a friend asks to talk, or when an risky opportunity comes our way.

Like the parable of the talents in the Scriptures (Matt. 25:14-30), it was the servant who took the risk and said "yes" that reaped the greatest reward. Or like the disciples themselves who risked and sacrificed their livelihoods to follow Jesus - who said "yes" to His "follow me" - that had their lives forever changed.

Saying "yes" to new and bold opportunities, to those in need, and to exciting directions in our lives can make our world a lot more colorful - not bleak and frigid like a Chicago winter.

While I have not lived through a Chicago winter, I find winter to be invigorating, even with the gray overcast skies. But Paul's point is a grand one. Are we responding "yes" to the things that truly will invigorate us?

Dec 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." -Luke 2:8-14

Last night I went to Midnight Mass at St. Sebastian's in Woodside and it was possibly the most beautiful mass I have ever been to at Christmas. After communion they shut all the lights in the church out save for the lights on the tree and the manger. The choir sang Silent Night and then after a brief moment of silence, the lights came up and we continued with mass. Really beautiful...and here I was without a camera.

I have been to masses with the best choirs, the best preaching and even ones that welcomed parishioners and visitors well... But sometimes just a very simple ritual can bring an entire church to tears. I saw a lot of people drying their eyes after the lights came up on the altar and off. People from all different walks of life gathered as one into the life of a little baby who would be born in the wood of a manger and give his life on the wood of the cross. Christmas reminds me that in the simple birth of a baby, God comes to humanity as human...a simple birth, but a profound act that changed the history of the world as shows us the depth of our God's love for us.

Merry Christmas

Dec 24, 2008

Pope Benedict on World Youth Day

John Allen reports on the Pope's Year in Review. He seems to say much about what I claim about World Youth Day in my book, Googling God, specifically in the chapter called Pope as Rock Star.

“What, therefore, is the nature of what happens at World Youth Day?” the pope asked rhetorically. “What are the forces which run through it? Fashionable analyses tend to consider these days as a variant of modern youth culture, as a kind of rock festival with the pope as the star. With or without faith, these festivals would be more or less the same thing, and in this way the question of God can be taken off the table. There are also Catholic voices that cut in this direction, seeing the whole thing as a big show, perhaps attractive, but ultimately of little significance for the question of faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. By that account, these would be moments of joyful ecstasy, but at the end of the day they leave everything as it was before, without influencing one’s life in a deep way.”

Benedict then proceeded to take the critique apart.

“That analysis fails to explain the uniqueness of these days, and the special character of the joy they create, their capacity to create communion,” he said.

“First of all, it’s important to take account of the fact that the World Youth Days don’t consist just of that one week which is visible to the world,” Benedict said. “There’s a long path, exterior and interior, that leads to it. The Cross, accompanied the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage through the nations. The faith, in its own way, needs to be seen and touched. The encounter with the Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the Cross for us. The encounter with the Cross awakens in the intimacy of the young people the memory of that God who wanted to become human and suffer for us. We also see the woman that He wanted as his mother. The solemn days are simply the culmination of this long journey, with which the young people meet one another and move together towards meeting Christ.”

“In Australia, it wasn’t an accident that the long Via Crucis through the city becoming the culminating event of these days,” the pope said. “It expressed anew all that had happened in the preceding years, and pointed to Him who brings all of us together: that God who loves us all the way to the Cross.”

“Thus, the pope is not the star around which everything turns. He is totally, and solely, the Vicar. He points to the Other who stands in our midst.”

I would add one thing. That while WYD is an awesome experience of the Papacy and does indeed point towards Christ through the experience, it also is only as good as what comes after it. What kind of follow up programming exists beyond WYD? Almost none. Let's get to work.

(Photo above by Lori Rogers)

Dec 23, 2008

St Monica's

It's the feast day of St Monica and this rendering is simply stunning. She could be a model on the cover of Vogue and nobody would question it. Head on over to The Deacon's Bench and find out more information on this icon and the great Saint.

One of the many cool stories about St Monica, who was the mother of St. Augustine was that she was very concerned about his filandering ways as a young man and constantly prayed for his conversion. It was never her intention for him to so radically convert and become a priest and then, a bishop. (My own editorial comment would be that she wanted him to settle down and give her some grandchildren!) She was told that she prayed too hard!

I often wish that I had that kind of persistence in prayer. I often give up much too easily and think situations are hopeless. Today I pray that I have that Monica-like persistence to pray without ceasing.

Second funny aside: I remember once in college being very down about something at work. I then remember one of our managers was trying to motivate us a bit and make things a bit fun while we worked. So she started cutting out headlines from the paper that referred to all of us. Mine was "Mike: Don't Worry, Be Happy!"
Funny thing is that I still have that headline and it instantly made me laugh, fell better and it did in fact bring me out of my funk and helped me do a better job that day. The woman's name who gave it to me? You guessed it: Monica.

So today pray for people who don't much like themselves and get down on themselves--sometimes for no good reason. All they need some days are a Monica.

Dec 20, 2008

The BustedHalo Christmas Video

Merry Christmas from us to you.

Join Our Cause

Hey folks--

It's that time of year. While the economy is kicking everyone's butt, I realize that it's not the best time to ask people for money. However, I wanted to see if you would consider not only making a donation (big or small!) to Busted Halo this year before the year's out. We have set up a causes page on facebook to make things easy for facebook users. But we also have an appeal on Busted Halo where you can hear more about our ministry.

Dec 19, 2008

I was in the mood to see Cardinals

After thinking about Cardinal Dulles' funeral and Cardinal Egan's words today, I got a bit nostalgic for my World Youth Day Experience in Sydney. Here's the theme song and some snapshots in this video.

Mind you, after going to World Youth Day in Toronto I swore off big crowds and the whole experience--but now I find myself considering attending WYD 2011 in Madrid. We'll see where God leads me. Who knows, I may be close to being a Deacon by then? Rocco Palmo also has details about the early preparations for Madrid.

Dec 18, 2008

Dulles Funeral

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. was laid to rest today at St. Pat's. Fr. Jim Martin has the event covered in depth here. One particular piece moved me to tears.

Cardinal Egan's warm and moving homily took as its central image an ancient crucifix he had once seen in Umbria; from one side the face of Christ appeared contorted in pain; from the other illumined by joy. This image, suggested Egan, could characterize Avery's life, one of triumph and, towards the end, of pain...

Cardinal Egan remembered visiting Avery on his 90th birthday at Fordham Unversity--when Avery was bedridden, crippled by the recurrence of his polio--for a Mass in his honor. The cardinal wheeled Avery's bed up the aisle of the Fordham chapel, but with difficulty, as a result of Egan's childhood polio. "I'm afraid it's a case of the lame pushing the lame," said Egan to Dulles.

With that Avery broke into broad smile, and Egan was put in mind of that crucifix.

Condolences to the Dulles family and to the Jesuits of the New York province.

Fr Jim "McScrooge" Martin Responds

Fr Jim Martin (whose PC is on the fritz) emailed me the following comment:

Of course your card is lovely! It has not only you but the Holy Family, too! Who could object? Actually, that NPR piece really hit a nerve. I think people missed the point that I wasn't saying I was against family photos, just ones that usurped the place of the Holy Family.
Anyway, Merry Christmas from Father McScrooge, SJ.

And if you haven't bought a gift for that special someone in your holy family yet--try Fr Jim's book: My Life With the Saints

Fr Jim Martin, SJ on Holiday Cards

Fr Jim has this cranky take on holiday cards from NPR today.

Family (Christmas) cards display — on the front — a photo of a happy family, typically wearing red-and-green scarves or red-and-green sweaters. Sometimes the family dog is included, wearing a scarf covered with slobber. Just as often, family cards show the clan on their summer vacation, posing jauntily in bathing suits in the Caribbean. These cards don't say "Merry Christmas" as much as "Look where you didn't go!"

But I enjoy the photos more when they're inside the card, not the card itself. Because more and more, even devout Christians have been replacing Jesus, Mary and Joseph with themselves.

I wonder if our card (below) which has our picture with the dog and a spiritual message and manger image would calm his dulcet tones?

St Joseph Who?

Here's my big acting debut as St Joseph with America Magazine:

Dec 17, 2008

More on Cardinal Dulles

Fr James Martin, S.J. reflects on the life of Cardinal Dulles here.

A quick pullquote and a hat tip to The Washington Post:

We arrived in Boston with barely enough time to dress in the Jesuit community where we were lodging. "Come by my room when you're ready," he said. An hour later, I knocked on his door. When he opened the door he was resplendent in his cardinal's black cassock with red piping, and the grand ferraiolo, or scarlet cape. At age 82, Cardinal Dulles couldn't reach the lowest buttons of his cassock so I knelt down to help. "How do I look?" he said with a sly smile. "As my mother would say," I told him, "you look very handsome." His patrician bearing was evident no matter what he wore; that night, the lanky Jesuit looked like Cardinal Abe Lincoln.

The next morning we caught the 8 a.m. train back to New York. (His Protestant work ethic, undimmed by his Catholicism, opted for the earliest train we could make.) Back at Fordham, a few Jesuits asked how things were in Boston; the country was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks. "People in Boston were upset that two of the planes that hit the World Trade Center came from Logan airport," I explained, relating what I heard the night before. Avery said, "How do you think I feel? One of them came from Dulles!"

That was one of the rare times he referred to that place, out of humility. Once, during a stay in Washington, D.C., a young Jesuit was assigned to drive Avery to the airport. He asked, "Which airport are we going to, Father? National or...?" Father Dulles said, "The other one!"

Given his lightheartedness, it seemed appropriate that, in 2001, during the Vatican ceremony when he was made a cardinal, Pope John Paul II placed the customary red biretta on Avery's head, and it toppled into the pope's lap. No one enjoyed telling that story more than the new cardinal.

I remember hearing him at the now infamous meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Meeting when the Dallas charter for zero tolerance was drafted. In his 80s, the Cardinal didn't have a vote in the meeting--something that I think bothered him--but yet he did all he could to influence his brother bishops in any way he could. Hearing him talk at that meeting gave me some insight to how humble he truly was. He nearly sounded apologetic for speaking but yet said some of the most tender and appropriate comments in the room. As Drew Christiansen, S.J., the editor of America magazine points out:
Regarded in his latter years as a theological and political conservative, he continued to take independent positions both as a consultant and a non-voting member of the U.S. bishops’ conference. He strongly backed proposals for “lay ecclesial ministry”, for example, and was critical of the bishops’ Dallas charter on clergy sex abuse for the unfairness of its Draconian measures toward possible offenders.

Dulles was his own man, nay, God's own. He reveled in the person that God had created and never backed down on his well thought out opinions. May he rest in peace. Amen.

My Facebook Status Line Has Caused An Uproar

Look at all these comments from people in my Facebook network from my comment:

Michael thinks the GWB shoe thrower was a publicity stunt

Rachel Bundang at 1:01pm December 16
sad to say, my first thought in seeing "GWB" was "George Washington Bridge".

Joanna Rice at 1:02pm December 16
He dodged it with speed and grace like it was the Vietnam War.

Mary Anne Reese at 1:38pm December 16 via Facebook Mobile
I think it would make a good alternative to all wars: just throw shoes at each other.

Michael Hayes at 2:01pm December 16
He dodged it with speed and grace? He dodged it because he knew it was coming!

Alex Swingle at 2:15pm December 16
he is an expert at ducking stuff...

Joanna Rice at 2:16pm December 16
If only his reflexes were as quick when, I dunno, the country is attacked or an entire city is suddenly underwater.

Patty Jimenez at 3:47pm December 16
OMG, I had the same thought. It looked like he knew it was coming, as if he was anticipating it.

Michael Hayes at 4:15pm December 16
Joanna - LOL---nice line. The book My Pet Goat apparently is his kryptonite.

Michael Hayes at 4:17pm December 16
Rachel--I guess people walk across the GWB and then throw their shoes over? Make a wish? Two shoes in the fountain?

Jen Martin at 5:11pm December 16
What a great opportunity for Kenneth Cole's ad guys!

Juan Antonio Aller at 6:09pm December 16
I hope it was staged, or Obama will have a hard time not being hurt in office or worse......nice job Secret Service......

Elizabeth Fernandez Pinero at 10:10pm December 16
He didn't know it was coming; he's done an excellent job keeping your spoiled brat little American butts safe these last 8 years; and I hope you all get used to the terms Socialism, Nationalization and Taxation. You putzes.

I'd also like to say that the Secret Service needs to wratchet it up a notch or so if they plan on staying on the Presidential crew when President-Elect Obama takes office. Why was there no person diving to knock the shoe away? Not one of these guys moved to block the shoe. In fact, the second shoe got thrown. Shouldn't this guy have been tackled while his arm was cocked back the first time? (Or dare I say perhaps even shot?) Why didn't he get tackled? Because they knew it was coming. I'm 100% convinced that this was a staged event.

Dec 16, 2008

Memories: I loved this song/TV show: The Heights

The saxophone player was beautiful. This show was short lived but I thought it should've been renewed. This one hit wonder is the only remnant of it now.

Was the Bush shoe thrower a Stunt?

Anybody besides me think that this was a publicity stunt? President Bush looks like he knows which way to dodge and the second guy actually blocks Bush's field of vision and yet he still ducks the second shoe.

Dec 15, 2008

Fr. James Martin, S.J. on St Joseph

Nice job here by Fr James Martin, SJ of America Magazine with this reflection on St Joseph.

The Brillance of Cate Blanchett

Read this awesome interview by Jack White of Interview Magazine with Cate Blanchett, one of my favorite actors.

A quick pull quote:

Jack White: So, to start off, I did some Internet research. I'm going to tell you what I've learned about your history, and you can tell me what is true and what is not. Okay, so you were born in Mexico and orphaned at age 1.

Cate Blanchett: Yes.

JW: And then again at age 3.

CB: Shit. That's on the Internet?

JW: Eventually, you were raised by either shepherds or Sherpas on Christmas Island-I don't know which one because I think someone misspelled something.

CB: And then I was kidnapped and raised by a Mormon family.

JW: Well, it says here that you slept every night with a baby goat in your arms until you were 22.

CB: Twenty-three.

JW: Then you attended an all-boys school in New Zealand, only to experience the opposite when you were transferred to an all-girls school in Australia.

CB: Well, such is the life of a hermaphrodite.

JW: After discovering America and claiming it for Australians everywhere, you set about learning to type. You never completed training in this, but it did get you to use your hands, which of course led to acting as a hand model in a series of soap commercials in France. Then you decided to drop out of high school and look for a real job, so you became an actress. How does it end, though?

CB: Then you run a theater company with your friends and your husband . . .

JW: [both laugh]

This whole interview is filled with sarcasm of this kind and it made me long for Sydney--where the Aussies all have a flair for this kind of talk (as do New Yorkers).

She also named her son after St. Ignatius of Loyola! A Hat tip to Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ for pointing me to this article.

Read it all here

This is Beautiful and Sad at the Same Time

The anchoress writes about the death of her brother, unbelievably poignant.

He had no faith, wished for no funeral, no rites, no memorial.

I don’t blame him for not having faith. I can’t think of any example of love he ever encountered that did not - ultimately - get distorted or misrepresented or prove itself to be wholly untrustworthy, not to be counted on, not to be believed.

I loved him, but I was much younger than he, and of a completely different nature. I doubt he believed it, that I loved him. He had no tools to believe it.

How tragically sad is that?

Read more here

I wish all funeral homilies could be as touching and as moving as this tribute. I often say that people only know what they have experienced. In my own family, we have seen people who have only known disfunction, drugs and a life of disorder. Why do we expect their lives to be any different? Still, I often think that we can do more for people like this and unfortunately we can only do so much at the same time. Helping someone is often a full-time job and many of us can't possibly do it ourselves.

Prayers today for John. If he was anything like his sister, I am sure that God is caring for him today.

Dec 14, 2008

Masses on Christmas

A nice gesture at mass tonight from a visiting priest from India...

We attend the 6PM mass at St Sebastian's in Woodside most nights and on Christmas Day the staff decided that they wouldn't have a 6PM evening mass (With Midnight mass and the morning masses serving most people--or at least that's the assumption by the staff).

The presider announced at the end of mass:
"Since I'm not going anywhere for Christmas I'd be happy to come and say the 6PM mass here for those who prefer to come to mass on Christmas in the evening. So go and spend Christmas morning with your families and then come on by later in the day--I'll be here for you."

I almost feel like changing my plans just to show up.

My biggest pet peeve about Christmas masses are the stupid people who decide that they want to have "Midnight" mass at 10PM--or even worse at 7PM! You are taking the most identifiably Catholic thing in the world and throwing it out the window. Stupid.

We will most likely have a late Christmas dinner and then head over to St Sebastian's for a most appropriately scheduled Midnight Mass at Midnight!

Now the old joke, "Hey Father, what time is Midnight mass?" no longer can be told either! Sigh.

Reflection for Gaudete Sunday

"The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God."

How many of us are brokenhearted today because we think we are in captivity? How many of us can't retire because the nestegg is not quite as lucrative as it once was? How many of us are fearful about the future, about our jobs, about what lies ahead for our financial future?

This indeed has been an advent that many of us would like to forget. Christmas shopping has gotten frugal and even in some cases dangerous--like when that person was trampled to death in a shopping mall in Long Island. We'd like to put aside all of this waiting in fear for the Dow to begin the upward climb. We'd like to find someone to blame for this mess and we'd like to hold someone responsible for fixing all of our problems, don't we?

We'd like to simply skip over the advent of financial recovery and come into the time of Christmas--where we get all the gifts in an instant.

But today's readings call us into greater discernment--not merely about the time of Jesus--but also about our own lives today. What kind of Messiah were people waiting for at the time of Jesus? And what kind of Messiah do we wait for this Christmas?

The people of Jesus' time--the people we read about in today's Gospel were eagerly awaiting someone who would finally bring them out from under Roman authority. All those years of waiting. All those years of eating manna in the desert. All those years of getting up and going out to work for people who didn't respect them. All those years of life which were really not their own. They wanted a Messiah, but they wanted their kind of Messiah...a political one who would lead a revolution--God's revolution. And what did God send them? A helpless little baby, who didn't even have clothes or his own bed. In fact his first bed was a feeding trough for animals.

What kind of Messiah do we hope for? In some ways, we want a God who makes us comfortable again. A God who doesn't ever make us uncomfortable and gives us everything that we want. The dow will rise and we'll be able to retire younger, buy that nice apartment and provide for all of our needs and more.

We want a God who doesn't demand that we deal with those who are far poorer than us in the third world or even those who live on our city streets. We want a God who will stay quiet and humble in a manger and never cause us to think about how we outside people into our barns, our stables, our mangers today. We want a God who is comfortable with the wood of the manger--even with the scratchy hay--but who never takes a step towards the wood of the cross.

This advent, we have had to do a lot of growing in ways that maybe we didn't expect. We have had to stretch ourselves into some uncomfortable areas. But where have we really not stretched yet these three weeks into advent? Where have we lost faith in God? Where have we failed to hear God calling us?

Not only do I fail to see the cry of the poor and fail to bring them good news but I fail to believe that Jesus might have some good news for my life--even in the midst of tragedy. Might I be called to live a more meager lifestyle so that I might devote more time to family, friends and other causes that need my attention? Might I be called to care for the least of those amongst us when I'm certainly not in a destitute situation? Might I be called to look more deeply at my own gifts and talents to figure out what I really need and what I really can and can't live without?

This Advent--let us all ask ourselves--what kind of Messiah do we really need this year?

Come Home At Bankruptcy

The NY Times claims that Evangelical churches are showing big increases in attendance since the economic downturn.

Here's a quote with reference comparing Catholic Congregations to the Evangelical sects from a prominent priest-pundit.

Msgr. Thomas McSweeney, who writes columns for Catholic publications and appears on MSNBC as a religion consultant, said the growth is fed by evangelicals’ flexibility: “Their tradition allows them to do things from the pulpit we don’t do — like ‘Hey! I need somebody to take Mrs. McSweeney to the doctor on Tuesday,’ or ‘We need volunteers at the soup kitchen tomorrow.’ ”

In a cascading financial crisis, he said, a pastor can discard a sermon prescribed by the liturgical calendar and directly address the anxiety in the air. “I know a lot of you are feeling pain today,” he said, as if speaking from the pulpit. “And we’re going to do something about that.”

Um, Father, with all due respect...there are ways that the scripture --yes, even the prescribed scripture readings do indeed provide the opportunity to preach on modernity and the recent downfall. Perhaps this is why many young adults don't find the Catholic Church to be a relevant voice when they find themselves at mass. I most often hear these criticisms about mass from young people:

- Dreadful Music
- Nobody cares if I'm there or not--there's no sense of welcome
- The homilies have nothing to do with my life
- The homilies are boring
- The homilies are diatribes against modern culture
- I don't understand the rituals or what's going on and feel stupid.

So perhaps this week...we might want to think about how Gaudete Sunday is in fact bringing us good news--even in the midst of financial downfall.

Dec 12, 2008

Avery Cardinal Dulles - RIP

Cardinal Avery Dulles died this morning at the age of 90. America Magazine has the announcement

Cardinal Dulles was a brilliant theologian and more importantly, a kind a gentle man to all he would meet. I served mass with him as an acolyte during my time at Fordham many times and he had a very gentle nature about him and always had time for students and faculty alike.

One quick story: A Jesuit I know (Who I'll keep anonymous for now) told me that he was doing his laundry in the Jesuit residence and an older Jesuit came in and sat next to him and started making small talk with him--the weather, maybe a news item, etc.

One of his then-scholastic classmates came in and saw this scene. When the older Jesuit got his laundry and left, the scholastic came running over and said to my Jesuit friend, "Wow! What were you too talking about?"

My friend replied, "Oh we were just chatting about the weather. He's always in here when I'm here for some reason. He's such a sweet old man."

"Um, pal...that was Avery Dulles!"

My friend who tells the story so well replied, "So here I was talking to possibly the greatest theologian of the 20th!"

Rest in peace, Cardinal Dulles. You will be missed.

Dec 11, 2008

Fordham Basketball

Hat tip to the Fordham Message Boards.

As a Graduate of Fordham, I wonder what's going on?

Memo to Fr. McShane
« on: December 07, 2008, 06:20:23 PM »

Good morning, Father, it's the start of another week. Since Fordham appears to have closed its Sports Information Department, and since your AD typically takes Mondays off, I thought it would be a good idea to take up the reins and give you a report on the two "marquee" sports (your words, not mine) at the school aspiring to be the leading Catholic University in the country.

Uh, we could use a little help from you here, Father.

MENS' BASKETBALL: The lads are 0-6, and in case you're wondering, yes, that's the worst start in Fordham's 106 years of heaving orbs at the old peachbasket. And it's not really a case of hard luck -- after blowing a lead to a weak Columbia team, the guys have suffered 5 blowouts in a row. That's when they were mostly healthy; they've got two kids hurting at the moment. Sagarin rates them at 339th in the country. That's not good, since there are only 347 teams in the ratings, and the few below us aren't exactly what you'd call peer or aspirant institutions, uh, institution-wise.

They've got a home game Monday night against Lafayette, 2-5 and rated 262nd by Sagarin. A win would really be important. Maybe you could show up at the game and uh, cheer or something to show you care. And an email from you to the students, urging them to attend, would be nice.

We'll forgive you if you weren't aware the season had started. I know, you're used to getting one of those Media Guides when the season starts. Funny thing, there isn't a Media Guide yet. For the marquee program. A month into the season. I know, that's never happened before. I'd say you could find out about the players at the game, but, well -- um, we don't do programs for the games any more, apparently. Maybe you could bring the Registrar with you. If you go to the Rose Hill Gym, maybe you could go upstairs to the Athletic Department offices and see if anyone . . . uh, died, or something.

The small hard core of alumni fans is getting, well, smaller and harder. We knew that this would be a rough season, but if you could see your way to doing something to inject some excitement into it . . . like announce plans for a new arena, or a new AD . . . that would be swell. And much appreciated.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: We'd immensely dumbed down the schedule, and it looked like it was going to work. After beating Wofford (the smallest institution, enrollment-wise, in Division I ball -- the NCAA has some rule that doesn't let us play against crippled kids) by 2 points the other day, the team was 4-4. So what's not to like?

Well, that Megan Mahoney kid -- you know, the one coach Andruzzi was highlighting all last year? The team's leading scorer? The kid who made the A-10 all-rookie team? She's left, or been thrown off the squad. Apparently talking about transferring. Now that can't be good. Also, Raina Spencer, who had the 3rd highest scoring average on the team last year? Off the roster, no explanation. That can't be good, either.

It's like about a year and a half ago, when girls were disappearing from the women's team so frequently that everyone suspected a vampire at work? Uh, maybe it's time to change the garlic and refresh the holy water, Father.

Well, that's this week's report, Father. I figured it was a good idea to tell you some stuff your underlings might be less than willing to headline. You might want to stick your head in the gym Monday night and get some of the story first-hand. Hope you have a good week, and hope that the rest of your campaign to transform Fordham into America's finest Catholic University is going better than the basketball part of it. I looked to see which Catholic colleges in NCAA division I were doing better than us in our marquee sport, and the answer is -- uh, all of them.

It's kind of like the question, "Which NCAA Division I schools have gotten new basketball facilities since Fordham?" The answer to that one is also -- all of them.

Enjoy your week, Father.

Dec 6, 2008

The Devil as Pitchman

Deacon Greg Kandra is headed to NET TV --which will launch Dec 8th. This is the best ad campaign I've seen in a long while.

Dec 2, 2008

Advent Reflection: What are you Waiting For?

This will be in audio form by tomorrow....but I thought I'd give it a test run here:

What are you waiting for?

This advent are you the one waiting for that new job, gripped in the fear of being unemployed with no hope of ever finding work that satisfies you?

- Are you the one waiting for that special someone to come into your life—to be with you forever in marriage? But often find yourself lonely…or depressed?
- Are you the one waiting in hope for peace in the world only to be greeted by violence in Mumbai?
- Are you waiting for that something that will bring you satisfaction or bliss but end up choosing fleeting choices –like drugs, or alcohol, or empty sex?
- Are you waiting for the long workday to end so that you can put food on the table for your kids—even when you’re a single parent and it’s hard?
- Are you the little child waiting for the day when you come forth from your mother’s womb?

What are you waiting for?

We all wait—we wait on long lines, we wait on hold, we wait for a web page to resolve. This week I waited for my computer to be fixed hoping that I wouldn’t lose any files and that my wait for the file I most needed would not be in vain.

And God knows our waiting…and God waits with us for all those things that we most desire too.

What’s more is that God waits for us…

God waits for our own hearts to be moved beyond our prejudices to open a home for the homeless.

God waits for us to have the courage to stand up for injustice when we see it happen to others.

God waits for us to challenge our political leaders with letters and for us to go beyond the political process to serve the needs of all.

God waits for someone who will care enough to love all those who we often deem too hard to love—be they elderly, lonely, filthy, jailed or unborn.

God waits for us in the sacrament of reconciliation when we are ashamed—when we think we cannot be forgiven—that we are not worthy of forgiveness—God waits for us and welcomes us home with open arms.
God waits for us each and every week here in the eucharist—so that indeed we might dare to become what we eagerly wait each week to receive.

And God waits for us to notice that God’s rhythms are in our every day—God waits for us to see where the Holy Spirit is lurking each day of our lives.

Some ask the question each time another bomb gets fired or another soldier dies…Some ask the question each time a child is a victim of sexual abuse or war breaks out or someone dies too young or a huge injustice takes place. Some indeed feel righteous enough to ask the question….


And our God who waits with us…asks us the very same question.

In a world too often fraught with violence, injustice and anxiety—how often do we simply wait and do nothing?

How often to we stay home feeling sorry for ourselves instead of heading out to meet someone new, to take on new challenges, to explore something new?

How often do we make peace someone else’s problem instead of doing something for it ourselves?

How often do we not seek help when we need it and become too proud and try to do it all ourselves?

How often to we take the easy way out—and settle for booze, drugs, or sex when we can make healthier choices?

This advent…may you take time to not merely wait but to consider what you have been waiting for…and ask how Jesus may indeed end your waiting and bring a new life in Christ for you and for the world.

Each day can indeed be Christmas—if we wait for God and allow him to move us beyond waiting and into prayerful action not merely for ourselves but for all.

This advent…may you answer a simple question…

What are you waiting for?

Headed to Cleveland

Will be blogging from the NCCYM Conference in Cleveland...where the heart of rock and roll is still beating.

I'll have a few updates on Young Adult Ministry items that I can't quite reveal stay tuned. Nothing earth shattering but important information.

Dec 1, 2008

Advent is Here

The BustedHalo Advent Calendar is up and running.

Busted Halo has created our own Advent Surprise Calendar. Each day of Advent will open a new link on our calendar with a chance at winning a great prize and an opportunity for reflection, for action, for learning and for Charitable giving. We're giving away great prizes DAILY, including a grand prize of a Sirius Sportster 5Satellite Radio and six-month subscription --a value of over $200.

Click here for the Calendar

Sorry to be blog-less this weekend the Dell computer was having issues but we are now back in good health. So far at least.

Nov 28, 2008

Thanksgiving: Taking Stock and More

A wonderful time spent with friends and my wife today at the home of our friend, Donna. We spent time considering the things we were thankful for, drinking good wine, and eating scrumptious food.

Thanksgiving allows me to not merely take stock in what makes me happy but to examine what makes me feel more connected to God working in my life. Direct ministry and preaching are two things that connect me very intentionally and I think they are what I do best. However, I don't always get to do a lot of these things. I'm getting more focus at work to do both lately which are good things but continue to long to do them more often.

In non-ministerial ways, being with my wife and dog have been central. I love coming home now more than ever to a dog's wagging tail and a big hug and kiss from Marion. I often can't tell who is happier to see me. Truly, I am one lucky guy! Lately, connecting with old friends has sparked something as well.

I had my 20 year HS reunion recently and I was really taken by what a great bunch of people I went to school with(pictured, right)--many emotional conversations took place that night and I really didn't expect that.

I realize that my energy has been waning lately and I need to better direct my thoughts and directions. It's just a small shift but one I need to notice. God calls me to continue to connect with what makes me tick most effectively.

Nov 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Message

On the BustedHalo Cast...

Nov 25, 2008

I Told You So

Peter Schiff should call Ben Stein today and say...

"How's that portfolio doing today? Glad you had Bearn Stearns and Merril Lynch."

Which leads me to say that there are tons of people who are on TV who are wrong every day. Weathermen, financial people, sports predictions, prognosticators of the worst kind, etc. We should keep track of these people and keep careful records. Perhaps I'll keep track myself.

Nov 21, 2008

Great Night at Sirius

We had our first of many BustedHalo Showcases last night...where we invite people to see what we do and to also ask them to help us with our ministry financially. We decided to do this event at the SiriusXM Studios which is an awesome place to be! Here's one of our biggest supporters from the ACTA foundation with Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP the host of the BustedHalo Show on Sirius and me your erstwhile blogger and retreat master (amongst other things).

If you'd like to donate to BustedHalo you can do so here. But if you'd really like to help us make a dent in things try calling our Development Coordinator, Brittany Morgan Janis at 212 265 3209 x227

What do we do? We're the National Ministry of the Paulist Fathers for people in their 20s and 30s. We use media for our primary outreach with our web magazine and our Weekly Podcast (which I host with Fr Dave Dwyer and Brittany Janis,and now our SiriusXM Satellite Radio Show. What else? We do retreats for young adults and also consult with parishes on how to do outreach to young adults in this age bracket. We published our first BustedHalo book--ahem--written by me...Googling God.

The ACTA Foundation recently gave us a grant to do more online catechesis which you can see here.

An Early Advent Thought

From America Magazine and Fr James DiGiacomo, a good guy and a life-long Cubs fan.

God will try to come to each of us in many ways during the next few weeks. God may remind me of someone who used to be my friend until that ugly quarrel took place a few months or years ago. Would this be a good time to forgive, or at least bury the hatchet? As I run through my address book and decide to whom I will send Christmas cards or gifts, I come across a relative who lives in a nursing home and would welcome a visit much more than a card. Should I fit her into my schedule? A survey of my closet turns up several items of clothing that I never wear. Should I contribute them to a collection for the poor? And so on.

These are not earthshaking inspirations, but they are the stuff of goodness that comes through God’s gentle nudging. If we are watchful and alert to grace, we will help to celebrate the coming of Christ not just as something wonderful that happened a long time ago, but as something that is going on here and now.

This was just part of a reflection in this week's magazine--the whole thing is available here. America makes a great holiday gift for someone--so try sending them a subscription as a thoughtful Christmas gift that keeps on giving. You can even send a web subscription as well. So take some time and subscribe here

Nov 19, 2008

Austrian Cardinal accused of liturgical abuse

Cardinal Schoenborn was accused by many of liturgical abuses all over the net today. This was a youth mass and once might ask a better question:

Was the youth who attended the mass engaged? They seem to be.

In essence look for yourself but then check out the link below.

The good Cardinal provides a huge smakcdown here Hat tip to

Some people have taken serious offense in the Holy Mass for young people which was celebrated by the Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on the 16th of November in Wolfsthal, a village close to the Austrian-Slovakian border.

In contrast to the presumption, due to the in many ways amateurish und unrealistic recorded broadcasting by Gloria TV, it must be clearly stated that in this celebration in no way any kind of liturgical specifications have been violated.

The Eucharistic bread was unleavened and its shape strictly followed the shape which has been used in the Middle East since the 1st century. The “flat cake” is similar to that form used in Mossul in these days – this is the metropolis located at river Tigris where Christians still testify the truth of Jesus with their own blood.

Werner Pirkner, the spiritual councilor for the Holy Mass in Wolfsthal, and Stephan Bazalka, coordinator of the Catholic Youth, paid highest attention to the fact that when breaking the bread no tiny little piece of bread ever touched the floor.

Those who have dared, tempted by a fragmentary news coverage, to bring forward accusations against the archbishop of Vienna, may contemplate, repent and ask God for his forgiveness. Let us pray all together for the Holy Church!

Somehow the good Cardinal's words are still not good enough for some people.

California Fires: Let us Pray...but where?

The Benedictine Anglican Monks lost their monastery and retreat house in the fire.

One of the more inspiring comments I have heard from the Monks was:

"One of the hazards of monasticism throughout the centuries is we become attached to what we have or where we are. This is simply a reminder that what we are called to is not our stuff."

Hat tip to Deacon Greg and the NY TIMES

A couple of money quotes from the Monks

When orange flames sprouted on a ridge below the wood and adobe buildings Thursday evening, the monks and 25 guests, leaders of local nonprofit groups, had just gathered for dinner. They continued eating for several minutes, Brother Brown said, but as wind-whipped flames grew larger, they decided to evacuate. He and the other monks rose from the table and told their guests it was time to go.

“We very calmly and quietly and efficiently and without great gravity got folks’ stuff out of their rooms,” and packed up their cars. The monks, he said, stayed a bit longer, grabbing what they could.

Brother Nicholas Radelmiller, the monastery’s prior, who has lived there for 18 years, carried a century-old painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe under his arm. Others grabbed two 600-year-old paintings, a cash box, laptops and a change of clothes.

Brother Radelmiller, 68, was the only one to get his habit, a white robe with billowing sleeves. The six-inch-long ebony cross he received at his ordination 38 years ago was tucked into the pocket.

The habit and cross, Brother Brown said, are a monk’s only personal possessions. The fire destroyed antique Spanish furniture, oil paintings, books and cherished photographs, he added, but the loss of their habits and crosses stung most. Even in that, though, he found comfort. “We are stripping away the outward symbols that eternally rest in our hearts,” Brother Brown said.

Nov 18, 2008

Oscar Romero, he's not

This story in the National Catholic Reporter is interesting:

The Associated Press reported Nov. 17 that Archbishop Fernando Sáenz Lacalle spoke out against a criminal complaint filed last week in the Spanish High Court naming 14 members of the Salvadoran military and the nation’s president, accused of masterminding and covering up the assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter at a San Salvador Jesuit university in November 1989. Lacalle was quoted, “El Salvador’s affairs should be resolved in El Salvador.”

With all due respect, Bishop...are you bloody kidding me? How can you not stand up for your brother priests when they were clearly killed in cold blood? How can any of your priests ever place their trust in you again? How can anyone who works for a University, much more a Catholic institution ever take you seriously?

Fr Joseph O'Hare the former President of Fordham preached an awesome homily only days after the tragic event took place. Here is an exerpt:

For the Jesuits of the United States, most especially those working at the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in this country, there is an added sense of solidarity with the martyrs of last Thursday, based on the common identity of Catholic universities throughout the world. In eliminating the rector and vice-rector and some of the most influential members of the faculty of the University of Central America, the assassins cut out the heart of one of the most respected intellectual institutions in the country. As you know from newspaper accounts, these men were not merely murdered, but in a gesture of deliberate contempt, their brains were spilled out on the ground by their murderers. This chilling symbol was to demonstrate the power of bullets over brains. It represents the contempt of men of violence for the power of the truth.

There are those who have said, and who will say in the days and weeks ahead, that the Jesuits in El Salvador were not disinterested academics, that they had deliberately chosen to insert themselves into the political conflict of their nation. If they had remained within the insulated safety of the library or the classroom, their critics will charge, if they had not “meddled in politics,” their lives would not have been threatened.

But such criticism misunderstands the nature of any university, and most certainly the nature of a Catholic university. No university can be insulated from the agonies of the society in which it lives. No university that identifies itself as Catholic can be indifferent to the call of the church to promote the dignity of the human person.

Pope John Paul II, himself a man from the university world, has often challenged Catholic universities to confront the crucial issues of peace and justice in our world today. On his last visit to this country in September 1987, the Pope called on Catholic universities to recognize the need for the reform of attitudes and unjust structures in society. He spoke of the whole dynamic of peace and justice in the world, as it affects East and West, North and South: “The parable of the rich man and the poor man is directed to the conscience of humanity, and today in particular, to the conscience of America. But conscience often passes through the halls of academe, through nights of study and hours of power.” Again last April in his address to the Third International Congress of Catholic Universities, Pope John Paul insisted that a Catholic university must measure all technological discovery and all social development in the light of the dignity of the human person.

It was this distinctive mission of a Catholic university that inspired the Jesuits of El Salvador to seek, not only through teaching and writing, but also through personal interventions, a resolution of the terrible conflict that has divided their land. Those of us who carry on this mission of faith and justice in the relatively comfortable circumstances of North America can only be humbled by the total commitment to the ministry of truth that stamped the lives of the Jesuit scholar teachers of El Salvador and in the end cost them their lives.

This liturgy is not the time for political analysis or political advocacy. At the same time, we would not be faithful to the truth of this moment if we did not recognize than another more troubling source of our solidarity with the people of El Salvador is the history of the last 10 years, in which the Government of the United States has worked closely with the Government of El Salvador. The policy of the United States toward El Salvador, in theory at least, has had respectable objectives: to control extremist forces on left and right, to encourage an environment in which the people of El Salvador can choose through democratic process the government they wish. But our Government has also insisted that massive military assistance to the Government of El Salvador is necessary to achieve these goals.

Before his assassination in 1980, Archbishop Romero has written to President Jimmy Carter asking him to curtail American military aid to the Government because, in Archbishop Romero’s opinion, such aid only escalated the level of violence in that country and prevented the achievement of a negotiated political settlement. Now, nearly 10 years later, can anyone doubt the accuracy of Archbishops Romero’s warning? Does anyone believe that the national security of the United States can possibly be endangered by the results of the civil war now raging in El Salvador? At a time when our Government leaders and our corporate executives hasten to socialize with the leaders of the Communist giants elsewhere in the world, why must we assemble our military might to deal with revolutionary movements in tiny Central American nations? Are our national interests really at stake? Or are we obsessed with the myth of the national security state, a myth that is discredited each day by events elsewhere in the world? After 10 years of evasions and equivocations, a tissue of ambiguities, the assassinations of Nov. 16 pose, with brutal clarity, the question that continues to haunt the policy of the United States toward El Salvador: Can we hand weapons to butchers and remain unstained by the blood of their innocent victims?

The final word of this liturgy cannot be one of anger or denunciation. It must be one of hope. For this too, in the end , is the ground of our solidarity with the people of El Salvador. If Jesuits are men crucified to the world and to whom the world is crucified, it is only because we believe that out of the crucifixion of our Savior, El Salvador, came life and comes life. With the people of El Salvador we believe in the words of Jesus cited in today’s Gospel: “Unless a wheat grains falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest: (Jn. 12:24).

When Christians celebrate the Eucharist, they take the bread, break it and remember Him who took His life, broke it and gave it that others might live. With deep hope in the Resurrection of the Lord, we pray that the final word in the drama of El Salvador be one of life and hope rather than death and despair. We pray that the irony of that tiny tortured country’s name, El Salvador, will be redeemed by the resurrection of its people.

AMERICA December 16, 1989

We, in the United States, know all too well about murderous madmen who hope to surpress ideas with violence. We've seen that in the violence of September 11th. We've seen it in the nihlistic shootings of Columbine and more recently Virginia Tech. We see it each day another bullet is fired in anger towards someone because of what they think, proclaim or stand for.

When we don't stand for justice, that, my friends, is not freedom talking. More importantly, it is not the freedom that God gives us that hinders tongues. It is merely fear, perhaps even well meaning fear. Listening to fear is often a safe route--we don't merely throw caution to the wind, after all. But faith indeed is the opposite of fear. Faith is listening to the voice of God, the voice of wisdom, the voice of truth.

The Jesuits of El Salvador listened to that voice, a voice that called them to justice for the Salvadorian people. It was that voice that people in power found so dangerous. Thoughts so profound that the poor began to think that maybe their lives were indeed worth living--that they indeed counted, that they could be more than oppressed members of a society that tried to keep them down with injustice.

That voice was indeed Jesus---who gives voice to the voiceless and hope to those without hope.

It is a dangerous voice to listen to...and if you do. It just might get you crucified.

Nov 16, 2008

An Adult Sense of Faith

I sat with my friend, Liz, at my reunion for a long time...who not only went to high school with me but we were even in the same Kindergarten class! So we've known each other for over 30 years.

Liz, my kindergarten buddy, talked to me about my work with the church at BustedHalo. She seemed impressed that we try to reach young people where they are, to try to help them make sense of how they can believe in God in an often secular world, where science seems to trump religious experience. She's a Godmother to her brother's children and wonders if she's up to the challenge of being an engineer with a scientific mind and a Godmother who has to pass on the faith to a younger generation when she can't seem to square it with her own critical thnking.

Our high school was very science-based. In high school many of us studied electronics, chemistry, or some other form of engineering. If we stuck with that focus we ended up well ahead of our college classmates in that area (I aced my physics class as a Freshman at Fordham due to the fact that my high school prepared me well). If we didn't stick with our then-chosen areas we ended up being prepared for college and more focused on NOT chosing an area of study that didn't suit our personalities. It was great doing this discernment at a young age and at this stage in my life it's given me the opportunity to continue to challenge myself to focus on what I do well.

But it also led many of us into this gray area where we had to do deeper discernment to figure out how we can be both people of faith and still be believers in the religious beliefs that we had grown up with.

What I have come to believe is that we can't simply hold on to the faith of our youth but that we need to create a new faith, an adult faith, one that looks different from the faith of childish simplcity--but still rejoices with child-like awe in God's creation and wonder.

Most of all it calls us into being people of love. People who choose to love when it's hard. People who choose to see God's creation in those who make it hard for us to see that. Can we see God in the homeless when they burden our community? Can we see God in the aged who are lonely and require time and patience? Can we commit to help those in desparate situations--perhaps a pregnant teen or an orphan in Africa? Who are we called to love?

Liz reminded me last night that my own work in helping people translate God into their critial, scientifically-educated adult-sense of faith is hard work indeed. But gently bringing them to discover God in their midst in a way that doesn't deny what is obviously scientifically true is where I'm called to be.

An Awesome Reunion

It's been 20 years since my high school graduation and last night we had our reunion in Yonkers. It was great to catch up with friends like

Karen Lewandowski who was the rowdy one--and still is!

Joe Egan who always had a generous and kind word for everyone--and still does.

Sonja Priest who always brings vibrant energy wherever she goes...and that continues today in her work in a hospital.

The gospel today is the parable of the talents. A man gives his servants talents (coins)...and the important thing to note in this story is that he gives them a different number of coins according to their ABILITY. So the one with the most "talent" if you will, gets 5 coins. Another less talented person gets two and a third, probably with minimal talents gets one. The first two servants do great things with their talents and make more money. The rich always seem to have an easier time making more money --don't they? The least talented one, the one who didn't have much to begin with, essentially gives up. He buries his money in fear and just returns it...much to the master's disappointment.

There's much for me to reflect on here. Yonkers is a working-class city. Many of my high school friends were the children of postal workers, police officers, and in my case, a custodian. Good working-class, union workers who gave their children all they could with what little they had.

As I looked around the room last night, I saw that everyone had turned out to be pretty successful in whatever role they chose. My friend, Liz is now a successful engineer--a successful woman in a very male dominated industry. Karen is in management at an accounting firm. Joe designs sets for the theatre and Sonja cares for the sick as a technician in a huge suburban hospital. None of us had all that much starting out with but, our one talent has indeed become many thanks to our own hard work, the committment of our parents and the training that our high school and college teachers gave us.

The common misnomer of this parable is that the servant who buries the money is one who can't be trusted in large matters. The truth is that that servant can't even be trusted with small matters. That with all the odds already against him he doesn't even try to do something worthwhile. He doesn't discern what might be a good route to go into. He simply settles for what his lot in life is. His is a one-talent life.

I loved looking around that room last night and seeing that everyone I knew had done so well. Many have children of their own and are building their own families now. Many had successful businesses. Many had to get creative and invent their own way of being in the world. And many didn't stop with one career but expanded out into 2 or 3.

I loved having people tell me that I look more confident now than I did 20 years ago--that my skinny frame filled out (perhaps a bit too much), a few asked me for a copy of my book or when my next retreat was, and that, as our first reading also tells us, I married a wonderful woman.

I didn't however, feel like either of those first two servants--who doubled and tripled their master's wealth. I felt like that last servant, the one that many people don't expect much from--but who succeeds despite the odds against them. When everyone tells you to simply accept the cards you are dealt and you don't and you make everyone see that you are worth more than that one talent...that God has given you far more than the world has given to you and God regards you as more than what the world tells you your abilities are. Perhaps you even exceed your own parents expectations.

Surely, the spirit was at our party last night. As the wine flowed and the music blared, we celebrated life. And we all saw that we had made the most of the last 20 years! And that more awaits all of us in the future.

Googling God

Googling God
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