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.

Nov 13, 2008

Is Evolution Making a Monkey Out of the Catholic Church?

Here's the latest video that I narrated and wrote for

It's an interview with Fr George Coyne, S.J. who was the head of the Vatican Observatory.

Nov 12, 2008

Barack to Benedict: The Call

President Elect Obama called the Pope to thank him for his congratulatory message. No further details are available as all calls with world leaders and a President or President-elect are private.

I wonder who was more nervous on the phone--the President or the Pope--most likely the incoming President as he's rather new at this "let's call the Pope and thank him" thing.

One of my friends said that perhaps the call went something like this:

President elect Obama: Thanks for your telegram, we should hang out sometime.

Pope Benedict: Ya, that sounds good, grab a beer, ya?

President Elect: Let's do this before January, I'll never get to hang out anymore after the 20th.

Pope Benedict: You don't know the half of it. When the gullitine fell on me, I had to cancel a lot of appointments. I can't even take my cat Chico to the vet anymore. By the way the girls should have a cat too.

President Elect: Your holiness, don't give them any ideas.

Pope Benedict: I'll get them to change your mind on abortion too--just give me five minutes with them that's all they'll need. They'll even beg you to convert!

President Elect: This isn't the best way to persuade me to come to the Vatican, your holiness!

Pope Benedict: (laughs) Come anyway, I'll let you wear my Mitre and take some pictures to put on our facebook pages!

President Elect: OK...I'm sold. See ya Benny!

Pope Benedict: Sure Barry, God bless.

Both laughing hang up.

If anyone could help figure out a way that this administration can work with the Vatican, it's this Pope and this President--two brilliant and vastly reasonable men.

Worth a Read Today

Cathleen Falsani offered her pre-election interview with Barack Obama to beliefnet today. Steven Waldman has it all here

Two Money quotes:

Obama: I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.

I think that, particularly as somebody who's now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

Do you pray often?

Uh, yeah, I guess I do.

Its' not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why am I doing it.

One of the interesting things about being in public life is there are constantly these pressures being placed on you from different sides. To be effective, you have to be able to listen to a variety of points of view, synthesize viewpoints. You also have to know when to be just a strong advocate, and push back against certain people or views that you think aren't right or don't serve your constituents.

And so, the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I'm having internally. I'm measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I'm on track and where I think I'm off track.

It's interesting particularly now after this election, comes with it a lot of celebrity. And I always think of politics as having two sides. There's a vanity aspect to politics, and then there's a substantive part of politics. Now you need some sizzle with the steak to be effective, but I think it's easy to get swept up in the vanity side of it, the desire to be liked and recognized and important. It's important for me throughout the day to measure and to take stock and to say, now, am I doing this because I think it's advantageous to me politically, or because I think it's the right thing to do? Am I doing this to get my name in the papers or am I doing this because it's necessary to accomplish my motives.

Amen. Looks like we picked the right guy to move us away from the usual fundementalism that we see associated with so-called religious people and go into a more nuanced view of what religion truly needs to become--an influence that moves people to do good things in the world because their faith experience COMPELS them to do so.

I hope that we all can take our own faith experience and go out and help someone who is in need today. Someone who hungers for a connection with God needs you today. Someone who is struggling to feed their kids needs you today. Someone who is thinking about what their next step in life is--they need you today. A child who is confused needs you to set them straight today. A mother considering abortion needs you to help her not kill her baby today and the world needs you to do that without being haughty or condescending.

And someone who is hard to love needs you as well.

Will you go and follow Christ somewhere that might make you uncomfortable? Will you allow the power of God's unfailing love to push you to serve all of God's people?

What are you waiting for? Go!

Living Saints

Relfection from Fordham University's Sapientia et Doctrina Vespers Service at the Graduate School of Religion

I woke up this morning a bit poorer…no I’m not talking about my 401K…I woke up thinking about the tragedies that I’ve seen both globally and personally in my own fairly young life.

I’ve seen madmen take over airplanes and take the lives away of 50,000 New Yorkers including 3 of my friends. I’ve seen the government ignore the poor who floated in the devastating waters of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve seen young soldiers come back maimed, scarred, and psychologically damaged…and I’ve seen students lose their lives simply by going to class.

What’s more is that I’ve seen this in more than one country. For several summers I spent time working in an orphanage and with the poor in Nicaragua. I’ll never forget holding a child who was abandoned by the side of the road because she couldn’t walk…she couldn’t talk…she was half the size that a child her age should have been. And as I sat with her in the makeshift chapel that we had helped build the year before…I felt completely helpless. With my master’s degree from Fordham and all my knowledge and all my gifts and with my so-called first world know-how…I was completely unable to do anything for this little girl. And she was completely unable to change her lot in life too. Together we sat in this… poverty…in a third world country. All I could do was hold her and love her. She’d smile this big wide smile…and laugh when I’d tickle her belly. She didn’t need the latest ipod or a pair of cool sneakers…somehow….I was enough for her. And in that moment she was more than enough for me. Together we were poor…and but by God we were blessed.

Could this be what Jesus means when he says "How blessed are the poor in spirit?"

Tonight…we have people amongst us who indeed have blessed the world with their gifts their talents and have done it all—simply by being themselves—by being the best version of who they already are. Moreover, they have done it in a world that indeed can make one feel an immense poverty.

We see that in Fr. John Grace who in the aftermath of the violence and unexplainable madness that took place during the shootings at Virginia Tech, Fr John showed us that the raising of young voices in song can carry far higher than the sounds of gunfire.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

We see that in religious educators like Sr. Marie Pappas, Fr James DiGiacomo, and Carole Eipers, who have spent their lives passing the faith along in a world that often seems faithless and sometimes to students who don’t seem to appreciate them. Their teaching has blessed the minds of literally thousands of students and helped to shine Christ’s love to a world that often tells us that Christ doesn’t matter in business, or law, or science.

Saints are among us…You know it….I know it.

We see that in people who minister to young people. Like Bob McCarty who doesn’t look at the young as a bunch of no-good, do-nothing nuisances but rather as people who hunger for God in a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog technological world where everyone tells them that all they need to do is become productive members of society and to hell with everything else.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

Charlie Mayer and Sr. Joanne Piccurro counsel and direct people and become companions for people who are often so stuck in crisis that they can’t even see where God is working in their lives. They help pull that veil away that the world often puts there that tells us we are not loved—we are not be-loved by anyone or anything. And when they do that and reveal that God has been there all along in the rhythms of all of our lives—not only does deep conversion happen but lasting psychological and spiritual healing does as well.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

Tonight we honor those who are able to see the face of Jesus amongst the poor near Penn Station, and they all have brown robes. That when everyone in society tells us that the homeless are far too hard to love—these Monks—moved by the spirit of St Francis remind us that God’s love holds no boundaries and calls us not only to mercy but also to drop our own prejudices towards people that are often kicked to the curb.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

Mario Paredes and Carl Landegger have been able to use their financial resources not merely for their own personal gain but to indeed move all people into conversation—They remind us that we need to keep talking to one another whether we are young or old, rich and poor, Hispanic and Asian. Whether we love the church or disdain it—We have to keep talking to get beyond all of our prejudices and biases.

Saints are among us…you know it…I know it.

And finally, when a young man, filled with rage shoots a police officer in the prime of his life and puts him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his days—I think I’d be the first to start throwing the stones his way. But with every last ounce of energy Detective Steven McDonald would not let violence beget violence but would remind the world that violence can not hold a candle to forgiveness.

Saints are among us…you know it…I know it.

Thomas Merton while walking with his good friend, Robert Lax was asked who he wanted to become…he told his friend he didn’t know…perhaps a Good Catholic. His friend, a practicing Jew, responded…You should say that you want to be a saint. Merton laughed…a saint? How can I do that?

Lax responded, “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

Merton, of course, knew his friend was right. And he would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century and His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself -- and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke are also for us.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. It’s fairly easy to be ordinary—and while the people who are behind me are probably too humble to tell you how hard it is to be extraordinary—to be saint-like—I think they’d all say that they really discovered just who they were in the tough jobs that they all have done with such grace and fortitude.

Yes, brothers and sisters there indeed are saints among us…They are people who simply live their lives as best they can—they become all that they can be, nothing more and more importantly NOTHING LESS. They are like little Elvira…who couldn’t do much…but yet with all of her disabilities she is one of the only people in the world who has been able to provide me with such an intimate and profound feeling of God in my very midst. These are the people we have come to honor as—and we don’t toss this word out very casually---living saints.

You know it…I know it… and let’s be sure we let the saints amongst us know it too.

Nov 10, 2008

Monday's Prayers

Hey little fella, I pray with my doggie too!

For Nigel, who is mourning the loss of his brother.

For Kim, who deals with illness and does it all with a smile on her face.

For those fighting anger and hardships today--may they find peace.

For our bishops who began their meeting today.

For all those special people in our lives and for those who have nobody to pray for them.

For those who wish we would stop praying altogether.

And for what else shall we pray....?

Proverbial Wisdom

"The scoundrel suffers the consequences of his ways, and the good man reaps the fruit of his paths."

-Proverbs: 14:14

Recently, I've been feeling a bit blue. As an old friend once said to me, "People disappoint me." I have certain expectations of friends and even of people I respect and they often fall short of what I hope for them. Many times I'm surprised at the levels some people stoop to for their own personal gain.

The proverb above has much for us to think about. The scoundrel, the person who is always out for themselves, suffers those consequences. Most often, I find scoundrels end up alone and unhappy and then they have to take out that loneliness on others. In many ways, a scoundrel is responsible for their own lot in life. Nobody likes them because nobody can trust them.

The second half of the proverb provides much more for our thoughts. Whose path is the the writer is referring to here? Does the "good man" reap the fruit of his own paths--or does he reap the fruit of the path of the scoundrel?

The answer may be both. The scoundrel most often overlooks the goodness that is right in front of his face and focuses only on the negative elements. They don't believe in anyone but themselves and have to cut someone down for them to get ahead.

The good man however, is almost always outward-looking and positive. They reach that extra yard not merely for themselves but rather for another and what they find is that they end up gaining much more than what they gave. I've found that most happy business people are almost never that self-involved but are rather concerned about the needs of the people who work for them ahead of their own self-interest. They are, in a sense, on vacation every day--basking in the fruit of what they have created and hoping that it brings joy to the world.

Jesus created that kind of joy. The joy that awakened people to all they could become. The joy that lifted up the lowly and cast down the mighty in their conceit--as we hear in Mary's Magnificat. The people whom the scoundrel has tried to keep down, end up being exhalted through the actions of the "good man", the one who always creates healing and gives people a sense of belonging and self-worth.

As someone who struggles with self-esteem, I need to remember that I am not a scoundrel, and that I need to overcome the scoundrels in my life and find the good man who will bring me to that place where I am loved, where I am valued and where I can trust others.

May we all pray to find that good man or woman in our lives.

Nov 9, 2008

Beyond Blue

Which is a blog on beliefnet has nothing on me. It was a dank, rainy day here in New York and so I spent most of the day depressed on the couch with my dog watching movies. I have to say that Office Space really makes me feel good after a stressful work week as does my dog.

Friends also have an ability to lift me from the funk. My friends Jonathan and Marianne went to brunch with me today and they are just so joyful that I couldn't help but feel good.

I plan to spend Sunday morning hitting baseballs in the batting cage and hope that this gets the endorphins moving. Perhaps thinking about the stressful things in my life and releasing that on the ball in an eruption of hard hitting action.

What do you do to de-stress?

Nov 8, 2008

Prayers for the Day

Lots to pray for today:

My mother has taken ill once again...and Marion's uncle is still in the hospital as please offer some prayers for a speedy recovery for both.

Today in general, was one of those trying days that we all have from time to also add a word for the lifting of some sadness.

My wife, Marion's cousin just informed us of the death of his brother. So prayers for the family are needed.

On a more positive note,

Prayers for a new baby in our clan, Drew Friedlein and his mom and dad, our cousins Christine and Kurt. Simply awesome. His sister Audrey joins in the joy.

Also in Thanksgiving for a wonderful priest who touched my heart at mass today and for colleagues in Chicago who always lift my spirits.

Nov 7, 2008

Sunday Readings

The Readings can be found at the USCCB's website here.

Jesus Drives Out the Moneychangers from the Temple

It is hard to pray when worldly things are on our mind--is it not? The reving motors on the street, the contant staccato of television, even the hum of electricity all serve to distract me from prayer. It's hard to pray when we have disagreements with co-workers or when we can't figure out how we are going to make ends meet. And when the ways of the world envitably begin to sneek into and sometimes overcome our sacred space, our temples both literal buildings and the ones within our own selves, we need to shake things up again.

We need Jesus to us drive out...and into a more contemplative space.

The Moneychangers were not simple salesmen selling gifts and animals and such in the temple like we sell books and rosaries in our parish bookstore. No the moneychangers were people who took advantage of the poor. In order to be ritually clean, Jews had to literally exchange their money from the usual secular coins to a temple coin in order to buy an animal to feed their family or trade for other goods. The exchange was never a fair one with the moneychangers profitting off the poor. Some scholars say this is what evoked Jesus' anger--but it goes beyond the moneychangers themselves into a system that allows this to happen in the first place. The temple chief priests certainly knew what was going on--and they let it happen. They were allowing the poor to remain poor and keeping them indebited unfairly to a temple system that kept them in the inertia of poverty.

We need Jesus to drive us out...into a world that keeps people at bay and allows us to remain as a prejudiced people in society.

But what else does this system prohibit? The moneychangers did all of this within a temple that was designed to include everyone in praying together. In keeping the community one--despite the obvious differences of race and class.

Who are the moneychangers today? We all are. I know I hold some reservations about working with the homeless. I don't often pray for people I don't like--much less, pray with them. I'm ready at times to step on people in order to be just a slight be superior to them as well.

I need drive me out of my comfort zone where I indeed am a moneychanger from time to time.

In Nicaragua there is indeed a temple that was built by my own hands with other people at an orphanage for disabled children. Whenever I go to that chapel I notice a few things:

1) It is far from beautiful. There's no stained glass. The foor is usually dingy or has paint stains on it. There's cheap and tacky Catholic knick-knacks all around the place.

2) It is almost always quiet--until the children come in and then it is excruciatingly noisy and rambunctious.

3) It is the one place I always go to in my mind when I need to feel God's presence in my life.

In that sacred space I would sit with Elvira--a child who had spina bifida and really couldn't do much of anything--and in those peaceful moments there was no need for money, racial segregation had no place there, our gifts and talents were often rendered useless and in the silence within the filthy walls and the torn drapes, we realize that God is very much present.

We didn't need the best choir or good preaching and I didn't long to put my ipod on or escape into a good book. I was enough for her and she was enough for me.

And our temple, dirty and all, was more than enough for Jesus to drive me into His loving presence in the simple silence.

The White House and the Vatican

John Allen at NCR gives some prudent advice so that the picture to your right of the wax figurines at Madame Tussaud's isn't the last picture we have of the Pontiff and the President. Hat tip to Mark Wilson for the photo.

Allen suugest that the Vatican does not simply wish to forgo having conversations with the President simply because our President is pro-choice. Perhaps there's a message there for many people in the Catholic pundantry and others who probably think otherwise. In fact, the Pope is doing quite a bit of outreach.

The pope sent a telegram on Wednesday calling your election “a historic occasion,” and offering his prayer that God will “support you and the American people, so that through the good will of all, a world of peace, solidarity and justice can be built.” Lombardi likewise expressed hope that you “will be able to match the expectations and the hopes directed towards the new president, effectively serving justice and rights, finding the best ways to promote peace in the world, favoring the growth and dignity of persons with respect for essential human and spiritual values.”

You’ll notice that neither the pope nor his spokesperson explicitly mentioned abortion or other areas of disagreement, and certainly their tone suggests that concern for the “life issues” will not exclude cooperation in other areas. On the contrary, the Vatican seems to be doing everything it can to invite it.

Allen goes on to suggest one way that the White House and Vatican can work togther:

I believe there is a historic opportunity for your administration and the Holy See to work together to move the international community, at long last, toward serious engagement on behalf of peace and development in Africa.

You are a hero to much of Africa, giving you a degree of political capital on the continent that no other Western leader could rival. At the same time, 2009 is shaping up as a “Year of Africa” in global Catholicism. Over the next 12 months, Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cameroon and Angola; the African bishops will hold their plenary assembly in Rome; and bishops from all over the world will converge on Rome for a “Synod for Africa.” All this suggests the possibility of synergy between the world’s most important political and spiritual leaders -- i.e., you and the pope -- to promote peace and development for Africa, where the world’s most impoverished and abandoned people are today found.

During the Pope's visit to the U.S. now President-elect Obama also had some positive words to say about B16. Hat tip to the Boston Globe:

"At a time when American families face rising costs at home and a range of worries abroad, the theme of Pope Benedict’s journey, 'Christ Our Hope,' offers comfort and grace as well as a challenge to all faith communities to put our faith into action for the common good. It will not only be Catholics who are listening to the Holy Father’s message of hope and peace; all Americans will be listening with open hearts and minds." go read it all here.

Nov 6, 2008

Obama and the Catholic Vote

Today's Wall Street Journal has more...

I do think that the key here is younger voters who generally as a majority are not tied into the traditional church structures but rather, engage in "spiritual tinkering" as Robert Wuthnow the great Princeton sociologist writes. They create a "virtual faith" to coin another phrase from Tom Beaudion the great Practical Theologian at Fordham (and who bought me lunch today--thanks!) and that leads them to merely be inspired by the many voices who call their experiences into greater light.

For example:

The clarity of the Bush administration when it came to their message on the war, America's security and even on economics may indeed have inspired the young people who actually went out and voted--but probably kept an apathetic bunch of people who saw no positive alternative to the institutional government at that time.

Contrast that with a very easily disputed message:

When the war is a fiasco and people, especially the young, are tired of it--having very specific plans for an alternative was a clear strength of the Obama message.

The campaign's message on having an alternative to simply combating Supreme Court justices and legislation with regard to life issues like abortion was also a secondary message that worked well--and especially was well-received amongst younger Catholics who generally again, are not tied into the message of the Bishops but still are concerned with objective evil like abortion (in short--they don't see abortion as being peachy keen but also don't see an institutional alternatives to overriding the law either--until now).

Moreover, young people are SOLUTION based. They are the God Googlers who expect instant gratification in all areas of their life. Once the economy tanked and it was clear that Mccain had no answers for the crumbling of the economy and planned to keep with the Bush tax plan--a clear alternative was a young person's only choice. I think Obama wins regardless of the economic collapse but add that to the mix and he bodyslammed McCain (in the figurative sense, of course).

54% of Catholics voted for Obama. The bigger question in the inner Catholic world now is whether or not younger Catholics informed their conscience on issues like abortion and voted for Obama anyway, saw both candidates as morally reprehensible on the life questions and voted for what they perceived to be the lesser of two evils, or ignored the issue entirely.

Sociologists---get to work!

Nov 5, 2008

An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

Dear Mr President-Elect,

Congratulations. You have inspired many of us with your candor and energy. Your drive to the Presidency has been well-earned. You ran a great campaign and I pray today that peace will soon come to our country as the result of your efforts.

Mr President elect, I am a card-carrying member of your party and agree with you on most issues. I firmly believe that the poor and middle class deserve support from the government. I believe in social justice and in programs that help bring that about that are also government-sponsored and are supported by private entities as well. I think the death penalty is barbaric and that war is an atrocity. I believe President Bush stupidly got America into an unjust war and hate the face that he used pre-emptive means in doing so. I believe that we have to regain the respect of the United Nations, our allies and countries throughout the world. I believe that the environment is needing much of our support as well and that it should be a national priority. Our economy also needs to become one of our top priorities naturally with the current economic crisis placing not only Wall Street but many global markets in a precarious place.

However, Mr President-Elect, I do not agree with you on the issue of abortion. As a Catholic I have been compelled by not merely my faith but also by scientific fact that abortion is the murder of innocent human life. It is indeed a social justice issue as well. Poor women face abortion a lot more often than anyone else and abortion being available as an option pushes them into killing their baby because we feed into that fear that tells them that they aren't any good, that they should be ashamed and that they can't possibly be a good mother. Not only does the fact that abortion on demand give them that option but many of our citizens makes it an option for them by their indifference.

For the first time I have heard a democrat talk about making abortion rare. I believe that you are sincere and that perhaps you think in your heart that abortion really is as tragic as Catholic teaching professes it to be. With that in mind, I ask for your support in doing just that--making abortion as rare as it can be--or even making the option of abortion a decision that never has to be made because we have all figured out how to support those who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy.

How can we all work together to do this? I'm asking Catholics to pledge to simply support one pregnant woman this year. Whether it's doing something small like buying diapers or a crib for a pregnancy crisis center or giving a pregnant woman a room in your home rent free (or at least low), I ask that perhaps the office of faith-based initiatives makes this a priority in your administration.

Know that I think you are a great man and that while time and God himself will judge us all on how we have treated the unborn, I hope that this transcends mere legalities and that we all directly work to avoid a barbaric choice.

Perhaps helping young women make that kind of choice indeed is the start on the road to peace in our world and to bring us all into concern for the least of our brothers and sisters.

I'd like to suggest that your answer to helping young women in this regard can be met with your own inspirational and simple refrain: "Yes, we can."

Know that you have my prayers today.

Much peace,

Mike Hayes
Woodside, NY

Nov 4, 2008

Abortion and Today's Election

I've been reading on various Catholic blogs that people MUST vote for McCain/Palin over Obama/Biden becauee McCain upholds Catholic teaching on abortion.

Guess what? He doesn't.

John McCain does NOT accept ALL the teachings on protecting the unborn. He is in favor of embrionic stem-cell research which regards life in the womb as disposable at best--a far worse crime in my opinion than the woman who is shuddering in fear at the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy and finds no support anywhere around her--even from us Catholics at times. McCain also supports abortion rights in cases of rape or incest.

Now that being said--it's bad on the other side too. Obama certainly does not support a life position in favor of the unborn. Unlike McCain however, he does support other aspects of a life platform outside of the womb. He's against the death penalty and also wants to fight to keep abortion rare (which is a much better statement than what democrats usually espouse).

I think anti-abortion people are right when they say that we have to regard life in the womb as holy in order to have peace--however...

The sad tragedy is that we are so far removed from that possibility that it's sad.
We're so far away from even being able to convince anyone that a life within the womb--invisible to human eyes without a sonogram--is something worth protecting. How many of us took in a pregnant teen this year? How many of us convinced a woman to keep her baby and promised to financially help her even if it inconvenienced us or made it hard for us to pay the bills (or even just made us give up cable for a month or two)? How many of us REALLY cared?

The truth is that we don't.

What's worse?

We can't even get people to know--never mind care about--their next-door neighbors. People don't see citizens of Iraq or any other Middle Eastern country as valued members of the body of Christ either. We don't do a good job of praying for our enemies for the most part and many of us are more than apt to agree to put grandma and grandpa in a home because it is inconveinent for us to care for them ourselves. And to top it all off, we don't understand the committment involved in being married and we play compromising games with our spouses instead of putting 100% into being in a mutually beneficial relationship that leads to unity and creates life.

What's our big sin these days? It's not relativism--not even close. It's being selfish.

We might talk a good game about abortion but until pregnancy crisis centers are shrines, until Catholics are lining up to be foster parents, until we tithe 10% to pregnant unwed mothers and until we do it all with a smile on our face...we've got no shot at ever ending abortion--not by a longshot.

In short, we've got our work cut out for us.

That's WE...have got our work cut out for us. And we must all start there--with ourselves, with our families, with our neighbors and parishioners and friends and colleagues. We have to live OUR lives as if all of this matters...or simply put---none of it ever will.

What we really need to do is to change our own hearts and let in those who deserve our utmost protection.

And that has nothing to do with voting for President--or changing a law, or electing someone to the Supreme Court. All of that is "helpful" but it doesn't mean a damn thing if we're not really committed.

So before you pull that lever or punch a chad--know that you have a very complex decision to make. Not one that exonerates you from playing a part in making abortion illegal simply by voting for who you consider the lesser of two intrinsic evils. Rather, the decision you make today is to make sure that whoever gets elected sees YOU as a mover and a shaker in making sure that the unborn are protected. YOU...not elected officials...not judges...not even Bishops. YOU.

And ME too.

So I leave you today with far better words than I could muster up. They come from the greatest man to ever walk this earth--our God. Jesus.

Matthew Chapter 7

"Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye?

You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye.

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asks for a fish?

If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."

It's time to put our money where our mouths are and removing the planks from our own eye. Start today...Here's one guy who did just that.

What did you do today?

Googling God

Googling God
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