May 29, 2009

Diaz Gets Praise from Nuncio

President Obama's pick for the Vatican Ambassador spot got the thumbs up from Archbishop Pietro Sambi at the Catholic University of America. Rocco has the scoop

In an unplanned intervention here at CUA, the papal nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi leaped to the mic for a second time during this morning's program to note the "wonderful and unexpected coincidence" of Miguel Diaz's nomination as the next US ambassador to the Holy See on the eve of today's symposium for the 25th anniversary of Vatican-Washington relations.

"I would like to express to [Diaz] my congratulations and best wishes," Sambi said, "as his partner on the other side to collaborate with him on what is our main reason of life: to improve relations."

The unexpected move was the nuncio's first public comment on an action of the Obama administration since it came to office.

Nice. Good to see that this will be a pick that puts a smart theologian into the public sphere and will help the church make sense to people of faith. I would also think that Dr. Diaz will be someone who the Holy Father can talk with about the perception of the church to Americans and that he can learn from his expertise, especially on matters of inculturation.

Fr. Cutie to the Episcopalians for a prayer to be named later

He's outta here! From Catholic News Agency:

Miami, Fla., May 28, 2009 / 03:54 pm (CNA).- Father Alberto Cutie, a priest and television host who was well-known in the Miami area, has left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal Church. The priest's change comes after he was photographed kissing a woman on a beach earlier this month.

Fr. Cutie was received into the Episcopal Church today at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami.

At a press conference Fr. Cutie thanked God and those in the wider community who have supported him. “Your prayers have truly sustained me at this time of transition in my life. With God's help, I hope to continue priestly ministry and service in my new spiritual home."

In an announcement about his leaving the Catholic Church, Fr. Cutie said, “I want to assure you that this journey did not begin a few weeks ago. I have searched my soul and sought after God's guidance for a long time. I have also spoken to friends in and outside the Episcopal Church about their service to God and the many similarities that exist among the various branches of Christianity, which profess the Catholic faith.”

"I will always love the Catholic Church and all its members. But I want to start today by going into a new family,” Cutie said.

This disappoints me on many levels and makes me wonder about the repercussions of this:

Do people follow him to the Episcopal Church?
What does this say about his commitment to Catholicism?
He talked about some deep soul searching--which I think is a bunch of malarkey--if he didn't get caught he wouldn't have been making this move.

What do y'all think?

May 26, 2009

Sotomayor: Pro lifers have something to like about her

President Obama nominated Federal Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court pending congressional approval. Judge Sotomayor would be the first person of hispanic ancestry to rise to the Court. The question of her pro-life record is sketchy as she's never really decided a case which directly involved abortion rights. But here's an interesting case:

From Christianity Today

Shortly after President George W. Bush reinstituted the Mexico City Policy (which bars government funds to groups that support or perform abortion), the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy sued.

The pro-choice group's argument was that the Mexico City Policy unconstitutionally violated rights of speech (since it couldn't "actively promote" abortion) and association (it couldn't work with abortion rights advocacy groups overseas) as well as the constitution's Equal Protection Clause (it wasn't on "equal footing" with prolife groups in competing for funds).

When the case came before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Sonia Sotomayor (whom President Obama this morning nominated to the Supreme Court) ruled against the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy.

"The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds," Sotomayor wrote.

Sotomayor also has strong bi-partisan support. She was first appointed by President George H.W. Bush (the older, not the moron) to the federal bench and then later was nominated by President Clinton to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She was involved directly and most famously in upholding the players grievances during the 1994 players strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series.

She's got an interesting background. From NPR:

Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx housing project after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. She suffered from juvenile diabetes that forced her to start insulin injections at age 8. Her father, a tool-and-die worker, died when she was 9, and Sotomayor was raised by her mother, a nurse.

As a girl, she was inspired by the Perry Mason television show and knew she wanted to be a judge. "I realized that the judge was the most important player in that room," she said in a 1998 interview.

Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and went to Yale Law School, where she served on the law journal.

I love rooting for people who had to work hard to get where they are. So I hope for an easy confirmation.

May 25, 2009

Susan Boyle: Through to the Semi finals

Well...she was a bit clunky at the start of this rendition of "Memory" from Cats. But she came through in the clutch.

Eccentricity at the end but that only adds to her charm, thinkest I.

Irish Sex abuse Scandal: Treated like "brute animals"

From the Catholic Review and a h/t to Deacon Greg:

– At Goldenbridge Industrial School in Dublin, children who had been taken away from their parents would regularly wet their beds; for this, the Sisters of Mercy beat them on their hands and buttocks. Children who had wet their bed were obliged to wait on a landing for their punishments, and one complainant said that this waiting was worse than the actual beatings. In an attempt to stop bed-wetting, the sisters would not give water to some children in the evening, so some children would drink from toilet bowls to assuage their thirst.

– At Artane Industrial School in Dublin, one boy who soiled himself was forced to eat his own feces by a Christian Brother, who admitted the incident in his evidence to the commission.

– In 1944, an inspection of St Michael’s Industrial School, run by the Sisters of Mercy in Cappoquin, found children living in overcrowded conditions and on a semi-starvation diet. A doctor found that, of 75 boys, 61 were under the normal weight for their age-height groups by 3-21 pounds.

– In the 1980s, children in Cappoquin were left in the care of an alcoholic nun, who was regularly drunk on duty, who beat children regularly and who would take a girl to bed with her every night.

– In 1950, the bishop of Galway wrote to the Christian Brothers about one of their employees at Salthill Industrial School whom he said was beating boys severely. The bishop wrote that the man’s “methods would evoke indignation if they were directed against brute animals.”

– In 1944, St. Anne’s Reformatory School in Kilmacud, outside Dublin, was established to accommodate girls who were considered a risk to other children because of sexual experiences. Girls as young as 8 who had been raped or abused, or even those children in contact with such girls, were considered unsuitable for an ordinary industrial school and were sent to St. Anne’s.

Is it any wonder that people think Catholics are a bunch of hypocrites? And anyone who knows anything about Ireland can tell you that the church hardly holds any relevance there anymore for people. A friend recently went to Ireland to do a workshop on young adult ministry and he said: "When I got back to the United States I literally kissed the ground I walk on."

I would say that when I was in Ireland, the clergy seem saddened and standoffish. But not because they are mean themselves, no. They are afraid and unwelcomed by their parishioners now. I went to the parish my dad was baptized in and the priest seemed to be waiting until everyone left before he went outside. I caught up with him and he seemed happy to find someone from the states. A justified reaction from the laity, perhaps, but also one that is unfair to those who are not abusers and who hope to give their life in service to others.

Today as our prayer: Let us remember those who have been abused in Ireland and all over the world but let us remember that priests are not all abusers and that not everyone should bear the brunt of the sins of their brothers and sisters. Amen.

May 23, 2009

3 Tips for Lectors

So as not to embarrass the lector in question, I attended mass tonight (which is unusual for me to go to a Saturday night vigil mass but we were out and about and the timing was right and we can now spend the next two days more lazily) which featured possibly the worst proclaimed first reading I have ever heard. Now I'm nearing 40 and I haven't missed mass much over my 40 years of life so a generous estimate would be that I've attended mass about 2000 times (it's actually a lot more, but who's counting?). So I've heard some pretty poor proclamations, but this one may indeed have been the worst. The reading is from Acts and it concerned the election of a disciple to replace Judas Iscariot. They nominate two people: Another Judas, called Barsabbas and Matthias. The lector not only mispronounced these two names but she called them (you can't make this stuff up folks): BARRABBAS (I don't think the guy who Pilate set free instead of Jesus was going to be named a disciple!) and Matthew (the first time) and then later, Matt, um, us (or something even weirder that certainly was not Matthias.

If I took a poll of that congregation and asked who did the disciples vote in as Judas' replacement, I doubt that anyone would get it right unless they read along in their missalette (which I usually do, as a strong "sensing person" on the Myers-Briggs).

Now not to be a snot, or even a liturgy ogre. But you have got to do better than that. She also messed up a bunch of words that changed the meaning of the whole reading in places. Clearly this was the first time she was reading this at all, never mind reading it aloud.

To contrast, there was a young woman who read the second reading who was a phenomenal lector. She read slowly and clearly and got all the words right. She garbled one word which happens to the best lectors from time to time. But here was a woman who was more than 30 years younger than the first lector who really just did a superior job. Just a note: the parishioners noted this as well.

So with all of my ranting here are three quick tips for lectors from a lector who thinks he knows what he's talking about:

1) Read the readings beforehand several times
OK this should be the minimum of preparation you do--just to recognize the words that might be difficult or any names that are really hard. This is especially important for the prayer of the faithful where the names of several parishioners may be read. If nobody knows how to pronounce someone's name, pick a pronunciation and stick with it. If you're wrong you may have annoyed the family of the person but the rest of the parish will never know you goofed if you proclaim it confidently.

I mean this one always seems obvious to me--but it's clear to me that many times the lectors just don't even know the story--or they don't think that they are TELLING a story. An old lector trainer that I had told all the lectors in training the following: "I know you all can READ, but what I don't know is if you can PROCLAIM." That indeed is the difference between a great lector and a lousy or even a mediocre one. People shouldn't need to look in their missalettes to understand the story if you proclaim it well. So know what the story is and then think about how you would tell the story in your own words. Then go back and see how the writer tells the story. What point is he trying to make? You need to proclaim that purpose in your reading. The Pauline letters can be particularly tough in this regard--but it helps if you remember that they are letters and usually they are trying to exhort or praise a particular group of people. I tend to try to read those letters as if they are political addresses at a city rally. What point does Paul want to get across to the people of that town?
For the readings that actually tell a story (like today's first reading, sigh) these are among the easier readings to proclaim. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE STORIES!! Read them as if you are telling a story to someone. I often try to picture myself telling the story to a small child or someone who has no knowledge of the story at all. It allows the story to come alive once again for me --and I can act as if the congregation doesn't know what the ending is and they are waiting for me to tell them. It works well as a device and people tell me they appreciate it.

3) Proclaim with confidence and read slowly and deliberately:
Read each word as if it is important. Don't gloss over them. There is no rush. Read it too fast and people get distracted and can't follow you. Read it without confidence and people won't pay attention because you haven't convinced them that this is important. Read it carelessly and people will be confused. If you happen to mess up, be honest and do what you can to correct it--but don't call attention to a minor error. As an example, I once read a line wrong and it changed the entire meaning of the reading. I knew that what I read didn't make sense--the sentence didn't follow from what was read before. So I paused and said "Sorry, I read that last sentence wrong. Paul didn't exit the city--he ENTERED the city." The congregation even chuckled a bit at that. There have been other times that I've missed a word and just kept going--if the word is innocuous enough that practically nobody would notice because it's not central to the story it's not a huge deal--but be careful next time. After all this is the Word of the Lord--we need to treat it with respect.

Now that THAT'S off my chest...I'm going to read next Sunday's readings as I'm lectoring next week. Maybe I'll create a short podcast of it and y'all can rip me apart when I mess it up!

Congrats to the New Brooklyn Deacons

I spent the morning watching the entire ordination mass for the 20 new Brooklyn Deacons on Net TV. Just a note, but when was the last time you heard a diocese or religious order ordaining 20 new priests?!

I'm just sayin....

Deacon Greg, a Brooklyn Diocese Deacon himself, has great pics--one of which I have stolen and therefore offer a h/t to him for with the recommendation that you go and check the rest of them out as well.

Twas a beautiful ceremony. I was particularly impressed with seeing the differences between a priest's ordination which I have seen several times and a deacon's ordination which I think I've only seen once before. In particular the candidates promise the Bishop their obedience to him as well as his successors. This is followed by the laying on of hands by the Bishop (which differs from a priests ordination where all the priests lay hands on the candidate. And lastly, the book of the Gospels is given to the Deacons. The last part offers one of the more beautiful lines in the church parlance:

"Receive this book.
Believe what you Read,
Teach what you Believe
and Practice what you Teach"

So congratulations to the class of 2009 and may God continue to bless your ministry and may we be blessed by your dedication to God's people. A special word of thanks to the wives of the Deacons who sacrifice much of their family time so that their husbands can serve the church.

May 22, 2009

Cardinal George Praises Obama on Conscience Rights of Health Care Providers

The USCCB released this statement from their President about President Obama.

I am grateful for President Obama’s statement on May 17 that we should all “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion,” and his support for conscience clauses advancing this goal.

Since 1973, federal laws protecting the conscience rights of health care providers have been an important part of our American civil rights tradition. These laws should be fully implemented and enforced. Caring health professionals and institutions should know that their deeply held religious or moral convictions will be respected as they exercise their right to serve patients in need.

Catholic providers, in particular, make a large and essential contribution to health care in our society. Essential steps to protect these conscience rights will strengthen our health care system and enhance many patients’ access to necessary life-affirming care.

A government that wants to reduce the tragic number of abortions in our society will also work to ensure that no one is forced to support or participate in abortion, whether through directly providing or referring for abortions or being forced to subsidize them with their tax dollars. As this discussion continues we look forward to working with the Administration and other policy makers to advance this goal.

Awesome. Seems quite a change of pace from his remarks that inviting the President to speak at Notre Dame is "a complete embarrassment:"

The good news is that it looks like both sides are working more amiably together for the first time in awhile. Perhaps we can begin to be more than merely cautiously optimistic?

May 21, 2009

"Cautiously Optimistic"

After seeing what the fallout has been regarding President Obama's speech I've seen several people who would never think about being supportive of the President speaking at a Catholic school now saying that they are "cautiously optimistic" about the possibility of Catholics working alongside him to limit abortions. I find this to be sound discernment and even mature. Let's face facts, we really don't have much history of any President really helping us change the minds of women--even though some have worked on the legislative element of this issue. President Obama's overture seems to be breaking new ground--and that, as Catholics, should give us hope.



My mom was released from the hospital after finding out thankfully that she is fine. We were afraid that she had colon cancer.

Thanks for the prayers.


May 20, 2009

Today's Inspiration: Where Will You Send Me Lord?

I've been humming this for about a week now and don't really know why but I thought I'd share:

Let us pray for those discerning new paths and especially for my friend Nathaniel who begins his path to the priesthood this coming September.

Ireland's Sex Abuse Scandal Will Make Boston Look Like a Day at the Beach

From the fine folks at Associated Press and a h/t to Deacon Greg

DUBLIN (AP) — A commission report into the abuse of thousands of Irish children in Roman Catholic institutions is published Wednesday after a nine-year investigation repeatedly delayed by church lawsuits, missing documentation and alleged government obstruction.
The Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse will release a 2,575-page report in an attempt at a comprehensive portrait of sexual, physical and emotional damage inflicted on children consigned to the country's defunct network of reformatories, workhouses, orphanages and other church-run institutions from the 1930s to 1990s.
Most of the children were ordered into church care because of school truancy, petty crimes or because they were the offspring of unwed mothers. Many faced regimes of terror involving ritual beatings and intimidation. But until the investigation came along, thousands of survivors said they had nowhere safe to tell their stories — because swathes of Irish Catholic society sought to label them liars.
Some of those victims say they feel hopeful now that vindication might be at hand.

Read more here, but this indeed is shameful. One of the things that seems to be at work here is the laity's complicit behavior with clergy in creating a culture of demonization of these children who were placed into the system and then essentially told that they were "less than." Talk about a denial of Catholic principles.

As a son of Ireland, I'm pretty ashamed to be Irish today. I hope that we can at least look upon this report as an opportunity to own our mistakes and learn from the hate-filled practices aimed at those who have made children objects for sexual pleasure and to break down their self worth to make that possibility easier.

Shameful, Shameful, Shameful.

Today's Prayer

Mom's a bit better--so thanks for the prayers.

Let us pray today for those who struggle with family problems. People who are facing divorce, difficult children, financial burdens, foreclosures and unemployment.

May God bring them closer to one another and remind them of their love for each other and their commitment to doing God's will by loving when it's not particularly easy to do just that.


For what else shall we pray?

May 19, 2009

Vatican Paper: Obama invites us to work in common effort

David Gibson quotes L'Osservatore Romano today:

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said the president also confirmed that pushing for a more liberal abortion law would not be a priority of his administration. The comments came in a L'Osservatore report May 18, the day after Obama spoke at the university in Indiana.

"The search for a common ground: This seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in facing the delicate question of abortion," the newspaper said.

It said Obama had set aside the "strident tone" of the 2008 political campaign on the abortion issue.

"Yesterday Obama confirmed what he expressed at his 100-day press conference at the White House, when he said that enacting a new law on abortion was not a priority of his administration," it said.

The newspaper, which was reporting on the Notre Dame commencement for the first time, acknowledged the controversy caused by the president's appearance at what it called "the most prestigious Catholic university in the United States."

"Yesterday, too, as could have been predicted, there were protests. But from the podium set up in the basketball arena, the president invited Americans of every faith and ideological conviction to 'work in common effort' to reduce the number of abortions," it said.

I guess the Pope's paper is run by a bunch of heretics too? Would anyone dare to say that they are a bunch of people who are "killing our children?"

More moderate voices are arising. Thank God for that. After all, if President Obama is suggesting that we stop women from aborting by offering them viable alternatives than I think it's time we took him up on the help he's offered--as opposed to stating that he's trying to hoodwink us.

More on President Obama and Abortion

So I've heard tons of comments online and in person with the new buzzword: President Obama is the biggest pro-abortion President in the history of our country.

Well, that wouldn't be hard since there's only 8 to choose from... let's also remember that in 1973 the President was a Republican.

But let's also think about something else. President Obama may indeed uphold the right of women to seek abortions, but what he also said yesterday is that nobody makes those decisions lightly. And that's where we as Catholics come in.

At some point, a woman makes a choice to abort, it's that window where we have an opportunity to present other options despite the fact that the law tells her that she can just kill her baby growing in the womb. Are those options presented to her in ways that don't place undo pressure on her? Do they seem overly coercive or do they seem like sincere care and love? I fear that most often alternatives are presented as the former and not the latter.

President Obama, however short-sighted his view on the law may be, did have one very valuable point that we need to listen to:

"Let's work together to reduce the number of abortions."

Think about what that statement says:

Women have other choices than abortion, better choices. They just think that they can't choose them for whatever reason. The main one is that they feel they have no support. The issue here is that Republicans most often think that these women should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, from their family or from the church rather than get help from the government. They think women will abuse the system and get pregnant to get more welfare money.

Fair enough. Some will most certainly abuse the system, but does that mean we make overarching rules for the exceptions?
Are we really motivated by love when we think that way?

But no matter, welfare is not and can not be the only solution--perhaps not even the main one. What are we doing as Catholics to lobby for the care of women seeking abortion? If President Obama is serious about helping us reduce the number of abortions, then at least we're on the same page in SOME way. It also means that if we present a plan to put bigger and better pregnancy crisis centers in cities all over the country, we should be able to gain some support from the Obama administration.

The sisters of life are one group I know who does lots. Malta House in Connecticut is another good model. But there aren't enough of these models out there. Why is every parish in the United States not saying, we'll go an live in a tent so that these women can bring their children to term? Why is the outreach so minimal when it comes to offering to help these women?

President Obama seems to be saying some magic words to us and instead we are spitting venom back at him with our mantra of "most pro-abortion president". The magic words are "Let's work together to help these women not choose abortion to begin with." If we help them not make the choice to abort at least we'll save somebody, perhaps more than a majority begin to choose life--then we will be very successful at reducing abortions.

Women who abort despite these efforts are probably going to do it anyway. And if the law was not present they'd still find a way to do it illegally. I think that's the big fear from the majority of the pro-choice camp. They think that women who can't be convinced of the moral conviction that we hold dearly, are going to be placed in harm's way. While we value life in the womb, we also value life outside of the womb and sometimes we will lose one of those battles here. It's sad but even if the law were repealed, we'd still lose babies and we'd lose a few women along the way as well. Some people remain lost.

But the pro-life camp, of which I consider myself part of, also has its shortsightedness. They have an all or nothing approach. Now obviously our work isn't done until we eliminate abortion entirely, but shouldn't we also at least take small victories where we can get them. We seemed to do this with President Bush when he outlawed partial-birth abortion. We didn't have an all or nothing approach there did we?

So the larger question is: Are President Obama's efforts not welcome, even though he is much more vocal than previous Presidents about limiting abortion--where other Presidents would merely state that they would not limit a woman's right to choose. While we may not agree with him that these issues are complex (for us murder is murder in our view), we need to at least acknowledge that he sees some room in working alongside us.

Or we can just parrot back mantras.

May 18, 2009

Today's Gospel Had to be Difficult to Hear

From today's Gospel:

"I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you."

Ouch! Imagine, if you will, being a disciple and hearing these words. What kind of reactions would these words bring you?

"This is way too hard--I'm outta here."

"Jesus, you're crazy! There's no way that this will happen."

"Dude, you're a real glass is half empty kinda guy, aren't you?"

But in essence, this is not the heart of the gospel message--our Good News for today.

Those last two lines speak about remembering and remembering that Jesus tells us that this is going to be a difficult journey. That people will not like us. And that those who don't like us may even try to kill us and they will think they are doing God's will.

But what we need to remember is not that these people are making things harder for us and even trying to kill us--as we've seen throughout history and even in our culture today that is filled with the madness of terrorism. No, we need to remember that we have known Jesus. That we have had an encounter with the Risen Lord and that encounter is what changes us.

We can not live any other way because of this encounter. And others hate us for that. We challenge their ideals and principles, we care for the poor who they'd much rather dispense with. We love those who indeed make it hard for us to do so--and those we love may even try to kill us--and we love them anyway.

It is the encounter with Jesus that we need to remember--the words that he has given his disciples have strong effects on them and so today he knows they have already changed his disciples. These are words he knows that can be hard to hear and the results of living out these words can indeed be deadly.

It may even get you crucified.

But what about us? Have we had the encounter with Jesus? Or is Jesus just a nice image that we call upon for help now and again? Is Jesus the one who changes us--who calls us to live our lives differently? OR...

Do we hope that we can change Jesus instead?

It would be much easier to not have the encounter. It would be easier to not care for the unborn, or the elderly, or the homeless. It would be easier to sleep in on Sunday rather than to come together to pray. It would be easier to not struggle with moral issues and to just follow what everyone else is doing.

It's easier to make ourselves into Gods than it is to actually have an encounter with Jesus, the God who changes everything by his very presence amongst us.

For when we decide to engage in an encounter and are changed by the radical love of God, the result is always the same:


Are we willing to have the encounter? Are we willing to go to the cross? Are we willing to be reviled and hated because of Jesus' call to love?

We need the encounter, the idea that we are called into love by love itself--God. It is here that we are forever changed and forever called into a new way of being.

Today's Prayer

I've been meaning to be a bit more forthcoming about some things in my life on this blog and I usually don't reveal all that much about my personal life here but here's a bit of prayer for today about something that is weighing heavy on my mind:

Dearest Lord,

Please watch over my mother today and for the next few weeks. She's got a pretty bad stomach disorder and the doctors are trying to keep her from being in pain while the figure out what is going on. Keep my father, her caregiver from stress and anxiety. Bless my sister who runs from work to be with her and bless me who sits in uncertainty today. Bless her doctors who are trying to find what ails her and guide their minds and hands to be the healers that they are.

Bless all those who deal with illness today and for those who have nobody to pray for them. Amen.

And for what else shall we pray?

May 17, 2009

Lemonade Stand Awards

I've received two Lemonade Stand Awards from both Wheelie Catholic and Between the Burg and the City. These are great awards given to bloggers by other bloggers. I only wish I had sent them a shout out before they did. Obviously I love the Deacon's Bench as well but he too has an award already.

I'd like to add a few awards to bloggers that I find valuable. I'm supposed to find 5 each time I get awarded so I guess that means that I need to come up with 10. So here goes:

1) Pontifications by David Gibson
2) Via Media by Amy Welborn
3) St Sebastian Pastor by Msgr Hardiman
4) Sister Christer by Sr Christine Wilcox, OP
5) Spiritual Popcorn by Paul Jarzembowski
6) Catholic Mom by Lisa Hendey
7) Diary of a Rookie Priest by Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ
8) Whispers in the Loggia by Rocco Palmp
9) St Edward's Blog by FRAN ROSSI SZPYLCZYN
10) A non religion one! The Mets Police by Shannon Shark and others.

I will send all of them notices of this tonight.

Blog away!

President Obama's Big Speech

One word: WOW! Even some very staunch pro-lifers who disagreed with President Obama's speaking at Notre Dame had to admit that he made a great speech today. Even engaging the abortion issue directly in it and Catholicism's influence on his own life. You can see that portion of the speech below as describing it or even quoting it does not capture its power.

Some thoughts: I agree totally with President Obama's words here about working for common ground with those who disagree with us. I would also say we have but no other choice but to do this as there is a diversity of opinion out there on many issues, not merely abortion. A colleague and I were speaking after mass today and I thought he made a good point about reducing these arguments to mere opinion. That somewhere there is a need for us to identify where we are being led by what we believe is truth. Some will say that all truth is subjective --that things differ in essence based on their context. I would say that we can cite several examples where that is most certain--but also we can cite at least a few where it is far from the truth as well. Therein lies the difficulty in working on issues of life with people who hold differing ideas about truth's objectivity.

So where does that leave us? I think President Obama's words about doubt and about certitude ring somewhat true here. While I know that I truly believe in many of my convictions, I also know that I have been humbled by thoughts and ideas where I was clearly mistaken. In the moments where I believe my more rooted convictions have held and led by the teachings of my church where I have found the fullness of truth residing, I've also found another principle at work. That principle is humbleness.

Truth doesn't need ME. Truth will be revealed despite whether I defend it or not. Truth comes to all people, albeit more slowly to some, and often slower to me and God's mysterious revelations remind us that we are not God. That we do not know everything. As Merton famously said: "The fact that I believe I am doing your will does not mean I actually am doing it."

However, people of good will can take some comfort in the mystery, in the knowing of our own imperfect knowledge, in the knowing that we are not God by following more of Merton's famous words.

"I believe that the desire to please you (God), does in fact, please you."

Today I pray that we all, despite the courage we all have in following our convictions in the desire to please our God, may be able to more graciously listen to one another in humbleness, express ourselves in charity and forgive one another with love.

As the graduates of Notre Dame head into the big bad world, may they know of my prayers for their lives as young adults and beyond. And as the President heads home after inspiring all of us with his words may he find peace and continue to have the desire to please God--and may that lead him to see all human life as sacred. Amen.

All eyes on South Bend

Today's the day. Notre Dame's commencement ceremony in which President Obama will give the address and receive an honorary doctorate of Laws. Devout Catholics of all different persuasions are split on this item. Some, like myself, believe that President Obama should be allowed to speak at Notre Dame despite his pro choice viewpoints. Others think he should be shown the door. Still others have no problem with him speaking but detest that he's getting an honorary degree.

The sideshow is sure to be in full effect as the nutty end of the pro-life faction is sure to be out in full force. They unfortunately always steal the show from those who do the real work of the pro-life cause and who do it quietly and still effectively.

Regardless some thoughts:

I always respected the fact that Catholics--and most especially, the Bishops, would target issues they abhor over individuals. We always seemed to welcome conversation even with those who disagree with us. Bill McGarvey did a good job of pointing that out in his column on BustedHalo recently.

The controversy surrounding Obama at Notre Dame that rages on among Catholics has made that point painfully clear. Admittedly, as a Georgetown graduate, my first thought was, “If Notre Dame is no longer sufficiently Catholic to do this, what institution is?” Initially, those who made the distinction between inviting the pro-choice President to speak and giving him an honorary degree seemed like a good compromise, until I discovered that in 2007 Pope Benedict himself honored the twice-divorced, pro-choice French President Nicholas Sarkozy by bestowing the title of honorary canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Even pro-choice Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was honored by the Pope in Rome this past April on the occasion of his state abolishing the death penalty.

Are we now more Catholic than the pope? Are we incapable of sharing a stage with those we are in disagreement with? Have we grown — as the former New York State Capital Defender Kevin Doyle has said — too comfortable in our bunkers?

Indeed, my esteemed colleague makes a valid point here. If President Obama shouldn't be invited to speak at Notre Dame, and Catholics should not hear a message given by him then what else should we ignore? Should Catholics also stop reading newspapers that print President Obama's words in them? Should they also pass on listening to the state of the union address? How about even turning a blind eye to Supreme Court decisions since they have upheld Roe v Wade for the past 35 or so years?

This sounds a whole lot like book burning to me--and that my friends is a very dangerous precedent.

What may have been a good option for Notre Dame is something that nobody has even come close to suggesting yet...prayer.
Sure, some of the protesters have gathered for prayer services for the unborn but they have served more as protests than as anything that would move people into transcendence. Has anyone even thought of asking President Obama to come and pray with them? It would do him good to hear their prayers and to ask for him to offer some of his own. It would place us together in a place where we all admit that we struggle to hear God's voice but try our best anyway.

Let me be clear: Abortion is an abomination and I have always detested it. I remember having a long-winded argument with a news director in radio about the issue and grew increasing more frustrated at her lack of charity for my view and for her seemingly inane argument that "Women should have the right to abortion because if they don't it's the children in the end that end up getting hurt by a life in the system."

So her argument was essentially "Let's kill the babies so they don't get hurt."

Sigh. Arguments from the opposing side are just as tedious. Calling people baby-killers is a sure-fire way to get them to ignore you. It's a threat essentially that says "If you kill your baby, bad things are going to happen to you." While psychologically and spiritually that may be true, it still doesn't mention anything about the baby nor the mother being valuable to our community. I don't ever hear people screaming "I love you and your baby" from an abortion protest line. I almost never see mothers with their babies in their arms on those lines either. Perhaps they might have a lot of silent persuasion by their simple presence. Moreover, people who support women in unwanted or unexpected pregnancies often do this anonymously and even worse--the media almost never covers these stories--focusing on the less lucid protests that often end or even start with violence.

Tomorrow I plan to watch the Notre Dame commencement to listen to what the President has to say and to what Judge Noonan also says--but I also plan to pray. I pray for the safety of our President, for the students who are graduating, for Fr Jenkins and for cooler heads to prevail. Of course I also pray for those who die in abortion and for the women who feel they have only abortion as a recourse. Know that the church offers you refuge and that we will always support you and help you serve your child and keep you safe.

Perhaps if President Obama could see those kinds of prayers in action more often, we wouldn't be spending our time arguing whether he should be on the podium tomorrow.

For What Else Shall We Pray...?

I was very moved by the words of Bishop PJ McGrath (pronounced McGraw) of San Jose last week. I got to be a "fly on the wall" while he addressed the priests and deacons of his diocese. And I'll paraphrase what he said here about prayer:

"I thought that prayer would come naturally to me as a priest. And I was very disappointed that it didn't always occur to me to pray each day. And it wasn't because I was avoiding prayer or even choosing something "bad" instead. In fact, often I was "choosing the good." There are so many good things that we do in our church and in our individual ministries that we can very easily let prayer slip our minds as busy people. But I'd like to implore you to pray--to be priests and deacons of prayer. To choose the good that we do and to not pray makes us enlightened social workers at best--and we are different. We are people of Christ. While I was disappointed that prayer didn't come naturally to me as priest, nor has it as a Bishop, I realized that I needed to remind myself to pray. So I began a process of scheduling prayer each day and since my young priesthood I have made a habit of scheduling prayer--of making it a priority to pray. I realize that I have to do that, or I'll get carried away with doing other things that are good, and forgetting to reflect on that and spend time with God contemplating on those good things in prayer and reading God's word."

Indeed. I have the same problem. I don't choose something bad most often but begin to choose "good works" over prayer and in essence we need both in our Christian life.

So I am going to ask a favor of my blogging friends and of our posters. Let us all spend at least one post a day on our prayers. This need not be lengthy but simply post one prayer or a song or a reflection on something that we can offer to God as opposed to commenting on the news or on matters of work or recreation. So I'm going to ask that you keep me honest and rip me when I don't pray on this blog each day. "Hey what happened? No prayer today?" I would appreciate it.

I hope we have at least one other time where we pray in an "off-line" way. For myself, I do try to pray with my wife once a day but we're honestly not the best at keeping to the schedule of prayer. I pray before lunch each day with and also with the daily readings and when I can, I do try to make it to daily mass--but I'm not the best at that either to be honest.

Our time is of the essence and should be well spent. So what better post could there be for a blog about God than a brief (or not so brief) prayer?

No time like the present to start:

Today's Prayer:

Lord, today I feel down and disappointed with myself and have forgotten that it is you who are leading me in the path of ministry and life. Help me to be more mindful of your presence in my life especially when I feel like I am lacking direction--as I have felt of late--in all that I do. Make me more mindful of the people who support me and help me be able to see that support when I have the tendency to mistake or misconstrue support as advice, competition, or criticism.

Lead me where you will have me go and I will go as your humble servant. Allow me to be an instrument of your inspiring love and to be joyful in all that I do. Make me a better husband to my wife and help me care for her needs when I grow weary or when I selfishly care only for myself. Make me a better son to my parents, especially to my mother who is presently ill and hospitalized. Guide her doctors to heal what ails her and when you call her home, help me accept that separation with faith in your mercy and love.

Most of all Lord, remember those who go without, who have nobody to help them, nobody to pray for them or with them. May my prayer tonight be not only for me but for all of those who have little hope of prayers for them from others--for you remember all people, especially the poor and the suffering.

I pray this the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.

May 16, 2009

Good News: Perhaps President Obama should know

I've said for some time that most Americans don't like the idea of Abortion and that public opinion has shifted. Gallup tells us more.

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

Moderates and pro-choice conservatives are the majority in flipping their views on this.

May 15, 2009

William Donohue on Catholics Who Support Abortion: "I Hate Them"

The NY Times today had a very interesting and accurate piece on Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, a man who has been parodied by the likes of South Park and poked fun at by Stephen Colbert. With regards to the events of the past few weeks, Dohohue's remarks in the Times towards Catholics who support abortion are most unchristian in my view.

“All the secularists feel that their moment has come, and that now is the time to mount the attack on everything they hate.”

That would be people like him, and his church, and whatever decency remains in the American character, he said with a smile and a wink that makes Mr. Donohue likable in person even as he looms, like a cop with a search warrant, over the intersection of American culture and conservative Catholicism. In Mr. Donohue’s world view, atheism is nowhere near as bad as apostasy: he has been most vicious in attacking Catholics who support abortion rights, and he admits it. “I hate them,” he said.

Hate? I think the line in scripture says that they will know we are Christians by our LOVE. And perhaps that is what escapes people like Donohue who prefer adherence to agenda and the single-mindedness of focus on getting their own way over dialogue and compromise.

However, there is something likable about Bill Donohue. He doesn't take himself too seriously at times including this cheeky bit on Stephen Colbert's program.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
William Donohue
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

When I was in radio, I would put Donohue on the air with some of the talk show hosts I produced (Joan Hamburg and Bob Grant mostly) simply because he was entertaining. I would get to talk with him off the air and we'd have some friendly banter while we waited for commercials to end. I would like to report that he is a very nice man and the "crazy man act" seems to be just an act--but an effective one--he gets lots of attention.

I often think if he wasn't so loud the things he complains about would slowly just fade away (or not so slowly). He calls attention to a lot of things that are just innocuous.

I would say I agree with Donohue about 10% of the time--or more accurately I should say his approach. But I will side with him on one thing: There indeed is a lot of anti-Catholic bias out there--perhaps not as much as he thinks and not as much in Hollywood as he thinks--but it is undoubtedly present.

I tweeted the other day that the two last acceptable prejudices are Catholics and fat people.

I added two last words to that tweet: "I'm doomed!"

They Like Me, They Really Like Me

I've been the road warrior this week and usually have no problems blogging from the road but this time, I had little means of access to the internet in California and what little I had I used during my workshop for priests and deacons. By the time I got to Albany (after a red eye flight and an Amtrak train) I was clearly exhausted and had to get right to work by presenting at the Diocese's Faith Formation workshop.

In short what I do at these things is present how media can be used in ministry. I more or less advocate for the minister here and not really for technology. The idea is not to create another Busted Halo ® Website but to use different types of media to accentuate ministry that you're already doing as a pastoral minister. One participant was our good blogging friend Fran Rossi Szpylczyn (I'd like to buy a vowel) from St Edward's Blog Who I'm pictured with here and whose picture I stole without so much as asking.

Then on Monday night I led a session called Faith & Social Networking: Using Blogs, Facebook & Twitter for Faith Formation, Community Building & Evangelizing. In some grace-filled miracle world, 20 people found their way to my room and attended. If you read this blog you know how important I think that social networking is for faith.

Yes it can be all too postmodern and isolating... if you let it. Since God uses all things for good, that means this is used for good too.

To that end, there is website for young Catholic adults (all are welcome however - denomination and/or age not a problem!) listed on the blog sidebar to the right; it is called Busted Halo. The co-founder of that site is also an author of a book called Googling God, Mike Hayes. He also has a blog called Googling God, also on the sidebar here.

In any case, Mike was the featured speaker yesterday and I was thrilled to meet him. This man has more vitality and energy around how to reach and influence young Catholics than just about anyone I have ever met.

Fran is now hired as my agent.

With all seriousness intact, it's always my honor to go and to speak with people who have dedicated their very lives to Christ and the church. Most importantly I see the dilemma that they see--that young adults are not making the church part of their lives anymore. So what to do? I think my job is to show that young people are still inspired by things in the world and it's our job as ministers to make the connection back to the message of Jesus and the traditions of Catholicism.

Not an easy task but the groudswell is forming.

May 14, 2009

Homeward Bound

Blogging to resume in full force tomorrow. I am leaving Albany this afternoon and will be back in the office for sometime as travel will have ceased.

I'm getting old--this is starting to wipe me out.

May 12, 2009

San Jose's Priests and Deacons

I've been doing a bunch (and I do mean a bunch) of workshops for the Diocese of San Jose over the past two days, hence the lack of blogging (I've missed you too!). And the time I have spent with them has not merely been fruitful for them (I pray!) but also has renewed my own faith in the clergy in many ways.

These guys are very concerned about serving the needs of young adults in their diocese--a place where 87 different languages are spoken and lives in the heart of silicon valley. How do they bring people into that contemplative and spiritual space? I'm hoping that at least some of them begin to do at least one of the many things that both and and that they themselves have suggested. They're off to a good start their Bishop, Most Rev. Patrick J. McGrath is already twittering.

But more than simply serving the needs of young adults I've been moved by their fraternal love for one another and for the respect they have for their Bishop and he for them. It's rare to see a diocese so close knit and I think these men are relishing the time they spend here on this working retreat together. Our time has been filled with hard work, joyous singing, sharing the eucharist and then being together around mealtime. The weather has been kind and I'm sitting in the shade now enjoying the California climate.

So please keep these men and the people they serve in your prayers. I'll have at least two interesting stories of people who serve here upcoming.

May 10, 2009

Mom Gets a jib Jab

Mom and the Mets

From our friends at The Mets Police where Shannon Shark tells the story of his mom on her birthday at the now old Shea Stadium:

So, we go to the game - my parents, my sister, and I. Our mom is tickled pink to be at Shea. At the gate they are handing out teddy bears as a promotion to all kids. Of course my mom wants one, and as soon as they hear that it's her 71st, no problem, they give her one. That was very nice.

Skip ahead to the fourth inning. One of the staff comes over and lets my mom know that during the 4th, Mr. Met is coming over to give her a present. Middle of the 4th and here comes Mr. Met to present her with the 1-800-FLOWERS birthday cake bouquet. Mr. Met sat down behind her and she is giddy - starts talking to him and laughing. Then at the end of the inning they put her and my dad on Diamond Vision with Mr. Met. Priceless!

So we thought that was the highlight of the day. After the game, we took some pictures, then went up to check out the Diamond Club. While up there she (as only an older Irish woman does) starts chatting with the security guys - asking about Pedro, her favorite Met, and where he might be. Security actually tells us that because of the Billy Joel concert set up, the players are coming out from Gate D today. So Mom now wants to go down to see if she can spot Pedro. All 0f a sudden this 71 yr old woman is acting like a 16 yr old.

Read the rest here for a very special gift from a great pitcher.

May 9, 2009

Pope Benedict Sets New Papal Record: Mosque Visits

The greatest headline ever from John Allen in NCR

The late Pope John Paul II reigned so long and did so much that it’s difficult to imagine Benedict XVI surpassing his records in most areas, especially after a scant four years in office. Today, however, Benedict moved past John Paul II in one telling category: He’s doubled his predecessor’s total of mosques which he actually entered.

Late this morning, Benedict visited the Hussein bin-Talal mosque in the Jordanian capital of Amman. That makes two mosque tours for Benedict XVI, after a visit to the legendary Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, in late 2006. Though John Paul made appearances at many mosques over the years, he only entered one – the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, in 2001.

Granted, the visit in Amman wasn’t quite the same stunner as Istanbul. For one thing, the symbolism was different; Benedict didn’t share a moment of silent prayer with an imam, and he didn’t take off his shoes. He did both in the Blue Mosque in 2006.
Nonetheless, the pope’s choice to go to the mosque at all, which is named for Jordan’s late King Hussein, offered further confirmation of the rising importance of Islam for this pope and for the broader Catholic church.

In his address, Benedict delivered a version of what has, in effect, become his standard “stump speech” when addressing Muslim audiences: Islam and Christianity as natural allies in defense of common values and a positive role for religion in society, but, at the same time, the need to reject extremism and to respect religious freedom. The latter tends to be an especially urgent concern for church leaders, given the limitations and occasional persecution facing Christian minorities in some Islamic societies.

There's more here including a message for Christians living in Islamic countries.

I say he should pile on about 10 more and become the Cal Ripken of Papal mosque visitors.

Do you think he goes home and closes the door and does a touchdown dance and then says "IN YOUR FACE Wotyla!"

Ahem, sometimes I'm just too much for my own good.

May 8, 2009

How a priest got to be patron saint of mothers: St Gerard Mejella

Wizard asked an excellent question in the comments section and I thought it bore a full post:

How did a priest get to be the patron saint of Mothers:

Our answer from Terry Jones at

When falsely accused by a pregnant woman of being the father of her child, he retreated to silence; she later recanted and cleared him, and thus began his association as patron of all aspects of pregnancy. Reputed to bilocate and read consciences. His last will consisted of the following small note on the door of his cell: “Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.”

Interesting. We're a kooky church sometimes, but this is a great story nonetheless.

For the childless mother on Mother's Day

Vinita Wright has these powerful words that remind us that giving life can take many different paths.

I will not be attending church this Sunday, because it’s Mother’s Day, and I choose not to be present at that inevitable moment when all the mothers of the congregation are recognized. I have nothing against mothers; this is about my life. At many churches, there comes a point in the service where the pastor says, “I’d like all you mothers to stand” and everyone applauds as women of all ages rise and smile. In some congregations, prizes are given for those with the most children, those who are oldest, those who are the most recent mothers, and so forth. I don’t think we do anything like this at my church, but there is always the Mother’s Day Brunch after the service, and during the meal kids from the youth group scatter throughout the crowd and hand a carnation to every woman. At that point I must decide whether to be pissy about it and refuse to take the flower, or to be gracious and carry around the bloom while feeling completely fraudulent in doing so.

For this reason, I don’t attend church on Mother’s Day. I was able to stand up one year, long ago, in another church, the one and only time I was pregnant. But I lost that baby just a couple of weeks later. Today I am past the age of childbearing, and I am happy with my life. I accept it as a gift from God, and I do practice gratitude and recognize the many graces of my days. But I would have preferred motherhood, and so this single boycotted day of the year is my simple protest against the imperfection of life.

Enough of my story. This article is for you, the woman who is childless. I have decided what I would say if I were the pastor on Mother’s Day. I would ask the mothers to stand, because they deserve applause, by all means. But after they were seated, I would ask all those women to stand who were not mothers. And I would say something like this:

Check out the rest here and say a prayer to St. Gerard Majella (pictured above) who is the patron saint of childless couples.

May 7, 2009

Dad's 81

Happy Birthday to my father Michael Hayes Sr today. He is a young 81 and still drives his car and is in generally good health--good enough to continue to care for my ailing mom, which is an inspiration to me and a lesson for all of us.

I think my dad has been a great example of not merely being a good father to his children but an excellent husband to his wife. My parents have been married for nearly 59 years! For those unaware my mother has been riddled with many health issues since I was about 10 or so. Nearly 30 years later my mom is still at it and more importantly, my dad has always been at her side. It would have been very easy for dad to run, afraid of watching his love grow old and frail--but instead he's faced it head on.

I wrote an article about him when the movie Million Dollar Baby came out. As an Irish immigrant, the Clint Eastwood character in the movie, a boxing fan like my dad, showed the tortured nature that caregivers all go through. Some have a deep inner resolve that helps them get up each day and face the hard truth--that this person is not getting better and that it's their job to be cheerleader, nurse, psychologist and short order cook all rolled into one. Some can hack it, like my dad and some succumb to the temptation to end their pain by ending the life of those they care for by assisted suicide. (spoiler alert) While I obviously don't agree with what Clint Eastwood's character did in the movie, I did feel for him. Caregivers go through so much and the temptation to end suffering is indeed great.

But at their age, with each passing year, in which every day is a gift, I realize how lucky I am to have a dad with the strength and inner resolve that he has had.

I hope I have half the strength he has as I grow older and as I travel my years with my love, Marion--who my dad truly adores as if she were his own daughter (that's how I knew she was "the one", by the way!). It will be more than enough.

Blessings Dad! Happy 81.

RIP: Dom DeLuise

Deacon Greg mentioned Dom Deluise's death on his blog and growing up with his comedic antics, I was indeed a fan. He had such great timing and such great slapstick energy. Such as on this scene--one of my favorites from the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:

While the Cannonball Run was probably his silliest role, I'm fond of a little known Burt Reynolds movie called The End. It's not a superb film but when you're a little kid, it's hysterical. Deluise plays a mental patient who agrees to help Burt Reynolds kill himself after a failed suicide attempt lands him in a mental ward. The slapstick hilarity begins there.

My favorite scene: Reynolds goes to confession for what he thinks will be his last time to a young priest who in fact, is hearing his first confession.

Reynolds: "I have a hard time calling you Father!"
Priest: No problem, just call me, Dave."
Reynolds: (Kneeling in confessional booth): "Bless me, Dave for I have sinned..."

(laugh track)

Reynolds (enumerating his sins): "Oh yeah, I sell real estate."
Priest: "That's not a sin."
Reynolds: "It is the way i sell it!"

(laugh track)

Deluise was always happy in his role as show stealer from Reynolds and that spoke volumes to me. He never really got top billing in the movies he was in but in a sense, was at least publicly happy "to be typecast" and relished each second on screen. A lesson for us all.

So rest in peace, Captain Chaos, the world will miss you!

May 6, 2009

Father "What a Waste"

Sad to see that one of our popular "media priests" has been removed from ministry.

From the Miami Herald

The Rev. Alberto Cutié, a national figure with movie star looks, was removed from his Miami Beach church Tuesday after photographs appeared in a magazine showing him frolicking with a woman in the sand on a Florida beach.

A wildly popular Catholic priest, newspaper columnist and radio and television personality, Cutié will no longer run operations or say Sunday Mass at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.

Word of Cutié's punishment came during a brief news conference in front of a small gathering of reporters at the Archdiocese of Miami headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami Shores.

''The vow of celibacy is part of the ordination,'' said spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta. ``A man who is a priest is able to totally focus on the church.''

Earlier in the day, Cutié spoke with Archbishop John C. Favalora, who said that the pictures of Cutié and the woman saddened him.

''Father Cutié's actions cannot be condoned despite the good works he has done as a priest,'' Favalora said in a statement. ``I ask for everyone's prayers at this time.''

I see a lot of people calling for optional celibacy here. But that's not the point, I think. The point is that Fr Cutie (you can't make these names up) broke his vows and that we need to be able to see him as a fallible human being. Perhaps it doesn't mean that he can return to ministry until he can be assured that he can live a celibate life but I think there's a more systemic problem here with priests who break their celibacy vow.

Cutie himself hints at what could be the issue at hand in his apology posted on his website:

Before God - full of love and mercy - I ask for the forgiveness of those who may be hurt or saddened by my actions. Since I entered the seminary at the age of 18, the priesthood has brought me great joy. The commitment that I made to serve God will remain intact. I am grateful for the love and support I have received today from so many in our community, especially my parishioners and the supporters of the radio stations who have demonstrated great compassion and understanding toward me as a human being. I ask for your continued prayers and support.

Father Albert Cutié

He entered the seminary at the age of 18! While admirable, I often wonder if it's healthy for some (not all) men to enter seminary so young? This point of our development as a person really involves getting to know ourselves more deeply. I know I learned so much about myself in college and especially learned that I wanted to be married. At 18, I find it difficult to think that most people are ready to enter into a lifelong commitment to ANYTHING much less, a celibate priesthood. I'd like to think that Padre Alberto simply may not have figured out how to deal with amorous feelings nor what to do about them when they arise.

A good friend of mine said one time that one of the questions that was asked of him when he started in seminary was: "What are you going to do WHEN you fall in love?" Not even an "if" was mentioned in that question. I think that's something for all priests and religious to ask themselves and to address with a spiritual director and much like an alcoholic would call a sponsor, perhaps a similar relationship with a confessor or spiritual director needs to take place? As a married person, even living a monogamous life can be challenging, especially for those of us who are in the public eye. We may be more attractive to others because of our confidence, or our bravado, or our wit. Fr. Cutie is an incredibly good-looking man and undoubtedly he becomes the proverbial "forbidden fruit." That can't be easy. But perhaps he may not have been equipped to handle such pressure and succumbed to it? Who knows? Perhaps he may also have an issue with power relationships and found easy prey in a woman who wanted his attention and affection? Again, nobody knows.

My thought is that he needs our prayers and a good director who may be able to help him live his priesthood in a authentic way. So say a prayer today that Fr Cutie may indeed be at peace with whatever decision comes to him with the guidance of the holy spirit and his superiors.

Best Practices: Using the Net FOR Ministry

I'm just leaving the Richmond Diocese where I led a group of parish and diocesan leaders in using technology for ministry. I've come to the conclusion that many on parish and diocesan staffs are beginning to realize that the church is being called to become another content provider on the net. The spiritual search begins online and answers to even basic questions are often at the mercy of a google search--where the best information is not always accurate.

But nonetheless, we need to be content providers because that's where Jesus was. Jesus would be twittering at this moment I think if he were walking the earth.

So my question to those of us who work in this field is a simple one: What have you used technology for in your ministry? Why and how did you choose it? What successes and failures have you had? Did you start out with one idea and then move quickly into another one? How have young people gotten involved and what was the response of the end user? Did you reach your target audience and how are people responding? What has it moved people to do?

What problems occurred? Where were you lacking? What challenges did it bring into your life?

I hope this can be the beginning of a wide ranging conversation.

May 4, 2009

Flight Attendant: Fasten Your Seat Belts for This

While I sit delayed at JFK en route to Richmond, VA, a Concord Pastor posted this which I hope happens on my flight.

And they didn't even charge you for that extra bag.

Swine Flu = God's Wrath for Abortion says priest

From Australia's Canberra Times

Swine flu and Mexico's recent earthquake had been the judgment of God for that country's abortion laws, a visiting US priest told members of Canberra's St Christopher's Parish on Tuesday.

Father Wade Menezes, recommended to the parish by the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Mark Coleridge, is conducting a mission for the parish each evening until tonight at St Peter Chanel's Church, Yarralumla.

Though the exact words used by Father Menezes cannot be quoted, it is reliably understood they had a similar meaning to those by Victoria's Catch the Fire Ministries' leader Danny Nalliah, who said Victoria's devastating February bushfires were the consequences of the state's abortion laws.

Ugh. When did divine retribution (which by the way JESUS refutes in nearly every Gospel passage about healing) start sneaking back into the lexicon.

It makes me sad that this guy is poisoning the minds of people.


May 3, 2009

The Good Shepherd

Reflection on Today's Gospel

There are some people in my life that I would just do anything for:

My wife is one of them. I've really learned a lot about love from Marion. She loves me when I'm sure frankly, that I don't always make it easy for her to love me. When I'm cranky or depressed or upset or just simply mean...Marion finds it within herself to love me beyond measure. And because of that I realize that I too, need to love her in the same way. There's nothing I wouldn't do for that wife of mine.

We have a dog named Haze who I am--to put it mildly--obsessed with. He is clearly a pet who gives new meaning to Man's Best Friend and he loves me beyond measure. There's nothing I wouldn't do for that dog.

And while I try not to play favorites with my nieces and nephew--Katie often makes that very challenging for me. She runs down the driveway when she sees me coming and never wants me to head back home. We laugh, we play, we enjoy each other's company. I teach, she learns from me--but often she teaches me much more about simple pleasures: a nice cold drink of lemonade, a ride on the zip line, a good storybook, watching a child grow up. That's Katie--and for that matter her brother and her sisters are not far behind her. There's nothing I wouldn't do for those kids.

Some scripture scholars say that Jesus really was trying to say that he was the "insane" Shepherd. That no shepherd in his right mind would go off to find one or two sheep at the risk of scattering the ones who stayed with the flock. In fact Jesus plainly states that: "A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep." This guy cares more about his own hide than the job he has at hand. The sheep after all are not his. If he loses one or two or 12 nobody is going to make him pay for them--he just might not get paid that day's wage. But if a wolf comes, he is just as afraid of the saber toothed wolf so he runs away not caring if the sheep are sacrificed. If it were the owner he'd do his best to bring all the sheep in and to scare off the wolf somehow.

But then Jesus says
"I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep."

Whoa. The good shepherd. The one who gives all he has for his sheep. This one will even let that wolf tear him limb from limb so that the sheep might survive.

That's crazy--who wouldn't give up one or two of his sheep to a wolf to save the flock from being scattered and moreover save himself to work another day.

Well...Jesus tells us--that depends. It's all a matter of how close you are to the sheep.

Does the shepherd love his sheep? Does he give the sheep a name? Will it be hard for this shepherd to make lamb chops out of this sheep and can he even bring himself to do it? My father had the opportunity to go and work on a sheep farm in Australia when he was young and they sent him to a small farm in Ireland to see if he would enjoy working on the farm. He simply adored seeing all these sheep, all these fluffy, cuddly sheep---baaaaaahing all the day. He's feed them and sheer them and gather them together. All seemed well with the world on the sheep farm until someone handed him the knife. When he looked into the sheep' eyes, Baaaaaaaaah. He realized then that he just didn't have the stomach for this. And I don't think I've ever seen him eat lamb in the 40 years I've known him.

He loved the sheep. And that's how God loves us. And that is the point of Jesus' story. Shepherds really don't care if they lose a sheep or two. The flock is going to all eventually be destroyed anyway when they sell the sheep to the local marketeers who make a nice profit from someone looking to have a lamb dinner. If you have 100 sheep and only 98 make it in--that's a good day. You only lost two.

But does God think that way about his creation. If there are 200 people in church today and 198 of them walk out of here and two of them don't we all begin to talk about the two people who didn't make it--don't we? If we took a group of school children on a trip, we take special care to make sure they all make it back safely.

If God creates us and places us in this world with all of our gifts and talents and our only task is to make it back home to him in heaven--then if we go astray, isn't that a crushing defeat for God? God doesn't think that any of his creations are disposable. They are all important. You, me, our children, those in the hospitals or being ravaged by war, those on the streets going hungry, those who suffer from addiction or mental illness who seem lost, those unborn yet in their mother's womb.

They are all cared for by the Good Shepherd.

We often make the Shepherd's life hard by going on our own path and not that path that brings us all back to where we will be most loved by our creator. We choose the dangerous path where the wolf lurks and where the woods are dark. The Shepherd will look for us, again and again, hoping beyond hope to find us--and that he will not lose more sheep like us.

There is nothing that the Good Shepherd wouldn't do to bring us home.

Jesus is that Good Shepherd and if he is gathering sheep than so must we. Who is it that we have given up on--or said is a lost cause? Who do we let go and forget about in order to take care of the needs of the many over the particular needs of the few? Do we ignore our homeless so as not to deprive our own families of luxuries? Do we avoid marriage or children or our families so that we might more selfishly enjoy a life without obligation to someone else? Do we give up on people at work when they fail to show the promise that we know is hidden deep within them?

Jesus tells us: "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again." That each time we become the good Shepherd and each time we realize that God is this good Shepherd for us--we give all that we are so that someone else might become what they can be. And we gain renewal in that effort. We get more than we give when we teach a child how to walk for the first time, knowing that they are going to fall astray until we help them up and try again. We get more than we give when he fortify the homeless with a nourishing meal. We get more than we give when we help a young mother get back on her feet so that she can bring life into the world free from her fear.

The world needs us to be Good Shepherds and to be Good Shepherds each day of our lives because God has gathered us back gently with his shepherd's crook again and again--gently, firmly, but always seeking us to come back into the flock--no matter where we have been.

Who have we forgotten who needs us to find their way back home?

BTW: A hat tip to Br. Mickey McGrath whose print of the Good Shepherd hangs in my home--in the room my dog, Haze most hangs out in. Get more of his work at

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My Prayer for this week: To be Humble

Inspired by Deacon Greg who can never get enough of the Muppets.

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May 2, 2009

May Day: Mother Mary Comes to Me

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May 1, 2009

St Joseph the Worker

In honor of the feast day of St Joseph the Worker today...we bring back this video that I shot with America Magazine last Christmas.

Do I hear Academy Award Nominations?

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The Twitter Cardinal

A hat tip to The Catholic Spirit via Twitter. The Times of London reports:

The leader of Ireland's four million Roman Catholics has urged social-network users to start sending daily prayers by text, Twitter or e-mail.

"Make someone the gift of a prayer through text, twitter or e-mail every day," Cardinal Sean Brady said. "Such a sea of prayer is sure to strengthen our sense of solidarity with one another and remind those who receive them that others really do care."

Surprisingly, he then suggests shutting off computers and phones to pray more effectively. I guess he means that we should pray in silence and tweet the fruits of our prayer?

Sounds like the right avenue to me!

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Glendon's Failed "Hail Mary"

Amen, amen I say to Daniele Crittenden

Many conservatives -- especially those at National Review Online's "The Corner" -- are praising Glendon for her "leadership." This isn't leadership but the opposite: it's burying one's head in the sand. Here we have yet another example of religious conservatives opting out of engagement with the larger political culture, even that within their own church.

Even if you view President Obama's stance on abortion -- which this is about -- as wrong, or even appalling, wouldn't you want to take this opportunity to address the president directly -- or as the old saying goes, "Speak truth to power?"

Notre Dame has not, after all, invited the head of Planned Parenthood, or a doctor who performs abortions, or even a pro-abortion activist, which the language of Glendon's letter suggests.

Rather it has invited the president. Of the United States. For whom many Catholics and non-Catholics alike voted. Glendon's words suggest that Obama may be president but he is not HER President, or the Catholics' president -- a highly divisive and anti-democratic sentiment.

Glendon should have accepted the award graciously, and seized this rare chance to articulate her principles directly to Obama. As the university rightly points out: it is a "good thing" to advance your causes with political leaders.

And it's exactly the point I've made all along. I have the greatest respect for Ms. Glendon and for her principles, I wish she'd just take the time to share them with a President and inspire graduates as they leave the biggest Catholic University in the country.

I get Glendon's point that she believe the University's invitation is a slap to the Bishops (I would argue that allowing him to speak is not, but perhaps the honorary degree may be), but it's happening anyway. There are so many people who have dismissed the Catholic voice in our country and I fear that she's just made it easier for them to do so.

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Googling God

Googling God
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