Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Christmas Tree!

The Christmas tree is probably the most common Christmas decoration. They are found in homes, yards, malls, restaurants and stores. Although the Christmas tree may seem to be a secular decoration, it holds a great significance hidden beneath it's branches.

We may find it difficult to see a connection between Christmas and Easter, but there is an important connection which should not be overlooked. The Christmas tree helps to bridge that gap.

At the first Christmas, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a town whose name means “House of Bread”. He was born in a stable which was most likely a stone cave and was laid in a wooden manger, which is the place where the animals eat. The shepherds, who had very little social status, came to worship Jesus in that cave and they found the Savior, who later proclaimed Himself to be the Bread of Life.

At Holy Week, Jesus gave the Apostles the Eucharist, the Bread of Life which is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Then he was nailed to a wooden cross and after he died was laid in a tomb which was actually a cave. The women, who had very little social status, came to attend to His body and found that he had resurrected.

As you can see, Christmas and Holy Week mirror each other in special and significant ways. One commemorates how Jesus came from Heaven into the world and the other commemorates how Jesus redeems humanity in order to bring us from the world into Heaven.

The Christmas tree is a wonderful, rich symbol of this connection between the Crib and the Cross. One provided a place for the Jesus to begin His earthly life and so begin His ministry of salvation and the other provided the place for his death and the fulfillment of his ministry of salvation.

When you see a Christmas Tree, remember that it gives honor to Christ in His incarnation, death, and resurrection as it stands as a symbol of the trees that became the crib and the cross.

Monday, November 08, 2010

I need someone competent

Some time ago, I worked for a church supply company. One day a priest came in and when I asked him if I could help him, he said, "I don't think so. I need to talk with someone who knows that they are doing".  I assured him that I was very capable and wouldn't he please at least tell me what he was looking for. He repeated that he needed to talk with someone competent. I said, "I am the only salesperson here. Can I at least try to help you?" Father then said, "You wouldn't know anything about what I need." I went on a hunch and said, "The only other person here is our warehouse guy?" He looked a little embarrassed and said, "Yes, I bring him out". 

I went into the warehouse and asked the only other employees to come out. He was a 20 something man who worked as our truck unloader. He knew absolutely nothing about what we sold. When he arrived, Father said, "Finally, someone who can help me". He took a candlestick out of a plastic bag and said, I need unbleached candles to fit this. The unloader looked at him with a puzzled expression and turned to me. He said, "I have no idea, she's the candle expert here". and walked back into the warehouse. 

Father looked bewildered as I informed, after just glancing at the candlestick for a moment, that he needed a short 4 candle (7/8 inch candle with a self fitting end). I recommended a short 4 candle (7/8 x 12) and told him that they are called short 4's because 4 of them weighs a pound and candles used to be sold by the pound. 

That was my first experience with the inequality and lack of respect I would receive throughout my time as a parish worker. Time and time again I encounter people who assume I know little or nothing because of my age, gender, or title. Believe it or not, I am more adept than my boss when it comes to pastoral theology. I also have more experience in parish administration. There is a reason why he hired me to do my job and it's not because he felt bad for me. I am here to help him do his job. 

Don't get me wrong, Father is a wonderful priest with a great many talents, but like the rest of us, he isn't perfect and he can't be everywhere. That is why he hired a parish staff to do the things he cannot do and to help him and round out his abilities. 

My primary job is to teach and to administer the faith formation programs of the parish. I recruit and train teachers and ensure that your children are safe. I plan the curriculum, sacramental liturgies, and retreats. I teach specialized classes for your children as well as for the parents. I also determine whether a child is ready to receive a sacrament. 

Still, parents call the rectory and tell me that they must speak with the pastor for countless things which fall under my jurisdiction, such as: calling to say their children will be absent and to ask about the time of classes.

Other parents, refuse to attend workshops when they discover that a layperson will be giving the instruction. Trust me, there is a better chance that you will understand and not fall asleep if I teach the workshop that if he teaches it. Father knows this! That's why he asked me to teach it. My instruction will also be accurate. Father knows that too! That is why he asked me to teach it.

Even the students think I am unqualified to answer their questions. I visited the 10th grade class and one of the students was so disappointed because Father didn't come to answer her question even though he had said that he would. She was shocked when I asked if it was something she could ask me. The teacher even said, "I don't know if you can answer this question". Just as in the candle conversation, I said, "I can try, but I can answer most questions or at least get the answers for you next week". The girl asked one of the most common questions possible and I gave a thorough teaching. I found out later that Father was unsure of how to answer the question and was trying to buy more time. 

I shouldn't have to hand out a copy of my curriculum vitae when introduce myself in order to be taken seriously as a professional. In fact, I would rather not talk about my qualifications. Still, if your must know, I have over 15 years experience in parish administration and religious education, I graduated summa cum laude with a degree in ministry from a well respected orthodox Catholic college and I am currently maintaining a perfect GPA as I work toward a graduate degree in theology. I have worked with bishops and cardinals from around the world and I have even been called on to assist in the Vatican.

Don't let my age, my gender, or my lack of a clerical collar fool you. I know what I am doing. I know there are plenty of people working in parishes who don't have any business being there, but at least listen to what they say before you jump to conclusions. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bishop Nearly Beaten to Death

A bishop was nearly beaten to death last night.
RCMP were called to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the B.C. Interior city on Friday night, and found Bishop David Monroe bleeding on the floor of the church rectory. Police believe he had been beaten with a blunt object.

Monroe, 69, was rushed to hospital, along with another priest who dislocated a shoulder trying to fend off the attacker.

"We pray for the bishop and for the conversion of the guy who hurt the bishop," said Rev. Derrick Cameron. "Certainly, he [Monroe] could have died if we weren't there. Timing-wise, he would have bled to death."
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/10/23/bc-kamloops-bishop-beaten.html#ixzz13EtS4lo3

The police stated that a mentally ill man suffering from religious delusions is in custody. A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also stated the majority of the bishop's injuries were to the face and head. He also said that the crime scene was so horrific that "We are fortunate, quite frankly, that it was not a double murder"

Further reports state Bishop Monroe is drifting in and out of consciousness today and is having difficulty recognizing visitors.

Although we seldom hear about it, I suspect that assaults against priests are more common that we realize.

About 8 years ago a man knocked on the rectory door of the parish where I was employed. It was nearly 10 pm. The knocking was quite frantic and the priest assumed that someone was in serious trouble so he went to open the door. As soon as he opened the the door just a crack, the man who was knocking tried to push the door in. He was yelling for the priest who had been pastor there some 40 years previous, saying "Father P, I know you are in there. You kicked me our of school and that ruined my life." He then proceeded to make threats against the priest's life.

The priest forced the door closed by throwing all his body weight against it and after a struggle was able to close and lock the door. He tried to reason with the man explaining that the priest in question had been dead for over 20 years. He apologized for any harm that may have been done, but the man was adamant.

"You are lying, I know exactly who you are!" he yelled.

Father called the police and the man fled, but he returned several hours later. This time with a baseball bat and a very large knife. He yelled that he was going to break into the rectory and kill the priest.

Because of that event, the priest no longer feels safe opening his door to strangers when he is alone or after dark. It's a sad situation.

Mental illness often takes a religious focus. I could write chapters here on the how and why, but I will leave you with just this. Pray for Bishop Monroe's recovery. Pray for all those priests who have been attacked and those who live in fear of an attack. Pray also for those who have perpetrated attacks, their families, and all those who are mentally ill.

Monday, October 04, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi on the Eucharist

Let us all consider, O clerics, the great sin and ignorance of which some are guilty regarding the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy Name and the written words of consecration. For we know that the Body cannot exist until after these words of consecration. For we have nothing and we see nothing of the Most High Himself in this world except His Body and Blood, names and words by which we have been created and redeemed from death to life.

But let all those who administer such most holy mysteries, especially those who do so indifferently, consider among themselves how poor the chalices, corporals, and linens may be where the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is sacrificed. And by many It is left in wretched places and carried by the way disrespectfully, received unworthily and administered to others indiscriminately. Again His Names and written words are sometimes trampled under foot, for the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of God. 1 Shall we not by all these things be moved with a sense of duty when the good Lord Himself places Himself in our hands and we handle Him and receive Him daily?

Are we unmindful that we must needs fall into His hands?
Let us then at once and resolutely correct these faults and others; and wheresoever the most holy Body of our Lord Jesus Christ may be improperly reserved and abandoned, let It be removed thence and let It be put and enclosed in a precious place. In like manner wheresoever the Names and written words of the Lord may be found in unclean places they ought to be collected and put away in a decent place. And we know that we are bound above all to observe all these things by the commandments of the Lord and the constitutions of holy Mother Church. And let him who does not act thus know that he shall have to render an account therefor before our Lord Jesus Christ on the day of judgment. And let him who may cause copies of this writing to be made, to the end that it may be the better observed, know that he is blessed by the Lord.

From: The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, tr. by Paschal Robinson, [1905],

Friday, October 01, 2010

Family or Business

Guys! You know who you are in the black shirts with the little squares on the collars. Yeah, you. Listen up!

It's time to start acting like priests not like employees of the diocese. You have a vocation that is far greater than any other. We need you! Not just on Sunday and not during the week between 9 am and 5 pm. We need you all the time.

We call you "Father" because that is what you are. You are celibate so that you can care for us, your family, without depriving a family borne of your flesh. You have adopted us through ordination, but so often we feel abandoned. Care for us!
We call for a priest when a loved one with dying with the hope of having a priest come with the grace of the Sacraments to comfort, heal, and lead that person into eternal life.
We call for a priest when we are struggling with our faith, our lives, our bodies with the hope of experiencing the everpresent love of God.

What parent would tell a child "Sorry, I can't see you now. Office hours are from 9-5. Come back later." Businesses have office hours, families do not.

Life is messy! It's not 9-5.

I'm not bedrudging you of a day off or time to yourself. You need that and have a right to it. You have to care of yourself or you will never be able to care for us, but remember that we call you "Father" for a reason.

Care for each other as well. There are priests among you who need your support and help. It shouldn't matter what you think of them personally. You don't have to like their personality or style, but try to see beyond that to the brother that lies within.

When your brother priest is ill, visit him. When he needs support, listen to him. When he needs some time off, help him out. Businesses are cut-throat, families assist.

We need to all start thinking more like a family than like a business.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Just about everyone will agree that suffering is in general something to be avoided. We don't want to suffer. Still, there are times that there is nothing we can do to avoid it. It can pretty much be assumed that we will all lose loved ones, we will all be betrayed by those we thought were friends, we will all get sick, etc. At one time or another we will also all be the cause of an other's suffering.

Despite of how we may feel or what others may tell us,


God also doesn't usually deliver us from suffering either. Remember what is recounted in the Gospel of Luke:

After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." (And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.) When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test." While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"  Lk: 22:41-48
In this passage, Jesus suffers not only the pain of knowing he will be crucified, but also the pain of being virtually abandoned by his friends and then betrayed by one of them. The mental anguish was so great that "his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground". That is a powerful image. This was followed by his farce of a trial and finally a most brutal death through crucifixion. At his crucifixion, after being beaten and forced to carry the wooden beams of the cross for many miles, he had nails hammered through his hands and feet (wrists and ankles). He then hung there bleeding and gasping for breath for three long hours in the hot middle eastern sun. Some may think that Jesus' suffering was lessened because He was God, but many theologians think the opposite was actually the case. His senses were likely sharper than ours and He would have likely felt greater pain.


And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mt 27:46

Isn't that the cry of each of us in the midst of intense suffering? It is such a human reaction to the feeling of total isolation and confusion which suffering can cause. Still, we know, just as Jesus knew we have not been abandoned. We would love for God to come and rescue us and miraculously heal our wounds. Sometimes he does just that, but most of the time, we have to trudge through as best as we can.

Luckily for us, we do not suffer in vain. Because of the suffering Jesus endured for our sins, we can join our suffering to his. Think of this: a few months ago my son wanted a particular toy. He saved up as much money as he could for several months, but hadn't come even close to being able to buy it for himself. I bought it for him, but when we were at the store he handed me the few dollars he had saved up. His share in the purchase of the toy was minuscule, but important because it helped him to value the toy (which was really a gift from me) more, teaches the value of money, and helps him to mature. Ok, I'll admit that it is a poor example of redemptive suffering, but many of the same principles are at work. Salvation is ours with or without suffering. We don't get salvation because of our suffering. Our suffering is minuscule in comparison to the gift of salvation which God gives to us. Our suffering teaches us, matures us, purifies us and allows us to participate in the saving action of Jesus.

Our suffering and the causes of our suffering can also affect others in ways we cannot imagine. For example: This post is the result of the suffering of another person who doesn't even know I have this blog. I don't know who will read this post, what their situations are, or what they will do after reading this post. I hope that at least one person will be positively affected by this. It's for God to sort out, not me. I do know that watching my friend suffer with such faith has positively affected me.

As part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we are united to Christ. This makes redemptive suffering possible. Without Christ, our suffering is without value, but because we are united to Christ, our suffering is given purpose. We cannot sit back and say, "Oh well, Jesus took care of it all for me" and not even offer to do our part when given the opportunity. Instead, we can offer our suffering for our salvation and that of others. I don't know about you, but I am far from perfect. I sin on a regular basis and I confess those sins, but I still have a responsibility to make up for that sin as best as I can. I will do it either here on Earth through penances and redemptive suffering, or I will do it later in Purgatory.

Before you panic, I am not advocating that anyone even consider harming themselves in order to cause suffering. There is also nothing wrong with doing what one can to relieve suffering (within reason). Taking a pain reliever when you have a headache is a good Catholic practice. While you are waiting for the medicine to kick in, offer the pain to God and remember your dependence on Him.

In the meantime, I am going to try to avoid suffering and pray fervently for my friend, and all those who suffer, to be released from the bonds of suffering. Until then, we can each take comfort in the truth that suffering is not useless when united to Christ and His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Christ is the Point - Part 4

Don't take anything that I have written in this series as my recommendations for you. These posts are my way of sorting through my very confused thoughts over the past several weeks and I thought I would share these thoughts in case they can help someone else.

There are definately times when a person should go to another parish. In my opinion, if your spiritual well-being or that of your family is being harmed and there is another parish within a reasonable distance, then by all means go there.

There are several things that complicate my situation. 1) I am at least partially responsible for these abuses and so feel a responsibility to make up for my sins. 2) I have the knowledge and real ability to work to correct them. 3) In addition to my pastor being part of my spiritual family, he is also, although not by blood, part of my real family. 4) The numbers of priests in active ministry are falling and we need every priest we have. 5) I love my pastor and true love means making hard choices.

Because of those three things I have chosen my path. I don't know if I will make progress or not, but I will take St. Catherine of Siena and St. Monica as my patrons in this task

It's not about what would make me happy or what would be less frustrating. Christ is the point!

Christ is the Point - Part 3

I will admit that my pastor frustrates me. I wish I could say that liturgical abuses didn't happen at my parish, but they do. Most of these are minor when you look at the abominations which occur in other parishes, but they still shouldn't happen. I don't think it was always this way, or maybe he was, but I didn't realize it at the time because I was...ummm...liturgically "progressive". I will even admit to being at least partially at fault for some of the liturgical abuses which take place at my parish. Many years ago I was convinced that these things would be a great advancement and would make great progress in growing the faith of the congregation. Although, I now realize the harm I caused and I can't make it the way it was, Father does not. Still, Masses at my church don't have giant puppets, unordained homilists, liturgical dancers, or butterfly kites and I am grateful for that.

All of this has made me rather bitter and on more than a few occasions I wondered why I was still at that parish. Then, Father got very sick and we were subjected to the neverending cycle of "rent-a-priests". Some of these were very good and others were worse than I could ever imagine. This made me think about how lucky we are to even have a priest and not only only a priest, but a choice of parishes. I have the option to go to Mass at another parish with very little effort. Actually, to get to my parish requires that I drive through several territorial and ethnic parishes. There are parishes where there are no priests and Sunday celebrations are lead by deacons and laity. We are blessed indeed.

I am not saying that the liturgical abuses at my parish are ok, they are not, but I have chosen to stay put, pray for my pastor, and give as much gentle guidance as possible. The reality is that he has been a dear friend for many years and the thought of losing him both to death and illness has changed my perspective on these matters.

I go to Mass for Christ, I am Catholic because of Christ, and I pray for my priest to Christ. I pray that he will understand that Christ is the Point and because of that these abuses will stop. Please pray for him, for me, and for my parish. Because Christ is the point, I will stand with him and do my best to guide him both for the souls of the congregation, for his soul, and for my soul as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Christ is the Point - Part 2

I often hear many criticisms of the priests around me. Father P talks too long, Fr. M is too boring, Fr. C is snobbish, Fr. L has too thick an accent, Fr. N doesn't like people, Fr. A drives too expensive of a car, and the list could go on and on.

It shouldn't be about a preferred style or personality. There will always be those who are preferred by particular people, but if a person is choosing a parish or, even worse, leaving the Church because of a priest's style there is a problem. I'm not talking about abuses here, but ordinary differences between individuals.

"But.....I need to go where I am fed" you say. You are fed at every parish. You recieve the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into your body and you become one with Him. What more do you want? Sure, it would be great if every priest gave 3 minute homilies in which they preached like Bishop Sheen after Mass they each lived like St. Francis of Assisi, had the linguistic abilities of the apostles at Pentecost, and had the personalities of Fr. O'Malley in "Going My Way".

The truth is, that just as I wrote in Part 1, they have the same faults as the rest of us. They get tired, frustrated, and lost for words. They might be shy, outgoing, quiet, loud, and any number of personality traits. If any of those are cause to make you want to leave your parish or the Church you need to reevaluate why you are there in the first place.

Christ is the point!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Christ is the Point - Part 1

We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point. I, myself, admire the present pope, but even if I criticized him as harshly as some do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the Church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing that a pope (or a priest) could do or say would make me wish to leave the Church, although I might well wish that they would leave. ~Frank Sheed
The Church is perfect, the people who are in it and even those who run it are not. I hate to think that there are people in this world for whom I am the voice of the Catholic Church. For them, my words and actions are the words and actions of the Catholic Church, even if I am not working in any official capacity at the time. That is a terrifying thought. Still, that is what what so many are apt to do.

I met this week with a mother who removed her son from religious education and soon afterward stopped practicing the faith because of a volunteer teacher who had some less than ideal teaching methods. For her, that teacher was the face of the Church and she decided that it was better to leave because the teacher had turned her son off from religion.

I will admit that I have a responsibility as a Catholic, as a theologian, and as a parish/diocesan employee to behave in a certain way and to always bear witness to the faith. I also have a responsibility to minimize my faults and lesser qualities, but I am not perfect. I am a sinner who tries time and time again to get it right. I lose my patience sometimes. I don't always know the right thing to say. I may be in a fog and pass you by without realizing you are there. Don't hold these things against God and His Church.

Christ is the point!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Faith Model or Corporate Model

That will never work! I have been in parish ministry for eighteen years, but during this past year that is the phrase I have heard more than ever before. Despite all the people who have told me that my plans would never work, I kept to my plans and in the end they worked out to the surprise of those watching and even my own surprise. My lesson this year could be called “Don’t be afraid to do the ridiculous”.

At the beginning of the year I was in charge of a religious education program with no records, no teachers, no students, and virtually no preparation time. Two weeks before class was ready to begin, I had only half the number of teachers I needed. I debated postponing the start of classes and even considered combining some grades. Nine days before the start of classes I had one last class without a teacher. I got a call from a woman who was interested in joining the parish. After welcoming and registering her family, she mentioned that she was interested in helping out. She had taught religious education for fifteen years in her previous parish in New York. On impulse I went against the unwritten rules that say new parishioners should not take on parish ministries for several years and I invited her to teach 6th grade. Within a week she had the unruly 6th graders under control and interested in their lessons. Now, she is one of the most talented teachers in the program.

Finally, at the beginning of Lent I planned to stage the Living Stations of the Cross. After inviting the young people in the parish to help, I found myself all along at the first rehearsal. The pastor suggested that I give up because our parish is a small parish and the people aren’t used to this sort of thing. I kept inviting kids and at the second rehearsal I had a full cast. Now, I had a serious problem. My cast consisted of children from grades 3-5. The other religious education directors in the deanery suggested that I cancel because as they said, “You can’t stage living stations with elementary kids. It will turn into a mockery”. I decided to put it in God’s hands and trusted in God and in the kids. The kids came faithfully to rehearsals and I made costumes every chance I had with expensive satin fabric that had been donated from the remnants of a curtain factory. Our production not only was a success, but the church was nearly full. Instead of a mockery, the stations turned out to be a moving spiritual experience for the children and those who came to pray with us.

Part of me was surprised, but another part of me knew this would happen. It was then that I realized that we need to go out on a limb for Christ if we wanted to do our best ministry. Jesus didn’t play it safe. He didn’t choose his apostles by their resumes. In fact, all of the apostles would likely be turned away if they applied for a position in parish ministry. After choosing and teaching this unlikely band, he sent them out two by two without money or supplies and commanded them to rely on the kindness of those they encountered.

If that is our example, what kind of ministers will we be if we fear stepping into the unknown? Mother Angelica, who founded EWTN, often said “We have to do the ridiculous so God can do the miraculous”. Our faith is one of paradox. If God is willing to hang on the limbs of a cross in order to save us, we need to be willing to go out on a limb and put the “rules” aside and follow His will. If we set out without a second tunic or a purse, we put out into the deep, and we have faith that the sycamore tree can be moved we may not always get the results we seek, but we will serve with humility and the recognition that the best made plans can fail and the plans which seem doomed to fail can succeed. We just need to discern whether our plans are ours or God’s.

Time and time I set out on missions that seemed impossible but ended in success. I had faith that God would make it work and I had faith that the parishioners would come through. Finally, I made sure the parishioners knew that the ball was in their court. If they wanted these things to happen, then they needed to step up and make them happen. I am not a parish babysitter or a spoonfeeder. The people knew that their participation was needed and wanted and just as the people who the apostles encountered supplied for their needs, the parishioners at this parish supplied what was needed for the parish to succeed.

So many books on ministry and parish life follow a corporate model. While we do need to be concerned with finances, public relations, and those things they can never take a back seat to faith. I can think of many priests who run their parishes as though they were business entities rather than faith communities. Faith must always come first!

I think that much of the difficulties the Church is facing today is the result of the corporate model of parish and diocesan adminsitration. We have to have the faith that we can do the ridiculous and let God do the miraculous. Had the bishops of years past had more faith that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, and had they been more concerned with the gross immorality lurking in their dioceses and less concerned with bad press would wouldn't be dealing with this seemingly endless string of horror stories.

To the heirarchy: Please have faith that God will protect His Church despite our own inadequacies! Put down the canned press releases! Be human and honest! The corporate model says cover your self. The faith model says care for the wounded. The corporate model says bad press hurts business. The faith model says justice and caritas must come first. The corporate model says never give them more than you have to. The faith model says to lie down your life.

The Church isn't a business. The world expects and deserves more from us than P.R. strategies. They expect and deserve true repentence for the errors which have occured without posturing.

We need the bishops of the world to lead the Church as a whole in public penance. Yes, as a whole. As part of the Church we each share responsibility. Remember, "If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy" (1 Cor 12:26).

I think about the recent meeting that Pope Benedict had with the sexual abuse victims in Malta and his meeting 2 years ago with victims in the United States. The most profound part of the meeting seems to have been the Holy Father's tears. In was in those tears that he expresssed genuine sorrow. That is worth more than any P.R. expert's finely crafted script. Jesus is the Good Shepherd not the Good CEO. If Jesus was the Good CEO, he would have never chosen a brash fisherman to be the first Pope. In fact, I wonder if any of the Apostles could he hired today. I doubt they would pass the background investigations.

In the Catholic Church the only corporate model we need is The Corporate Model, the Corpus Christi.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So, Where Have I Been

Ok, I disappear for a year and a half and then return without any sort of explanation...no, I didn't think that would be acceptable.

So, here is a little update on what I have been up to. Well, for one I spent a year on three television shows. The first one was called "Desperate Lay Ministers", the second was called "Who Wants to be a Liturgical Abuser", and finally the third was called "Extreme Makeover: Liturgical Edition".

Well, maybe they weren't tv shows, but they would have made for entertaining viewing.

On "Desperate Lay Ministers" aging hippie Catholic tried their best to develop banal activities for children and teens which were sure to waste their time while teaching absolutely nothing about the faith. Bonus points were given if these activities took place during Mass. Most of our time was spent in long meetings where the aging hippies would try to create loopholes in Canon Law and the GIRM. Popular activities including gossipping about the daily activites of parishioners, heirarchy bashing, extolling the beauty of the L.A. Cathedral, and plotting to hold VOTF meetings in the church hall. All of this was done while looking down their noses at the poor schlubs who couldn't afford multi-million dollar raised ranches on tiny postage stamp lots all for the privledge of living on Heresy Lane.

On the spinnoff Who Wants to be a Liturgical Abuser, brought in the new characters such as the pastoral associate, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame deNamur with an allergy to religious habits and orthodoxy, the pastor with a checkered past of dissention, a organist with traditional tastes in music, and a cantor who moonlights as Mother Superior in Nunsense and loves to make a spectacle of herself during Mass, and a famous Social Justice/Political Commentator priest living in the top floor of the rectory.

Combined with the cast of Desperate Lay Ministers this group developed ideas such as at the Easter Sunday procession of Butterfly Kites, the banner waving parish minister love fest, sorry, they called it Appreciation Sunday, and the Kiddie Mass. Their attempt to pressure the new Youth Ministry Coordinator to be one of homilists at Mass and the falsified parish visitiation makes for must see viewing.

Eventually, the liturgical police decided enough was enough and Extreme Makeover: Liturgical Edition made a visit to the parish. While the pastor was away and the anniversary celebration for another dissenter a young priest was summoned to fill in at the Masses. Gasps were heard when Fr. Faithful arrived wearing cassock. He entered the sacristy carrying a chalice made of a material which was completely unfamiliar to Sister Pastoral Associate. Upon teaching her that the strange material was gold, Sister said "Oh, just like my earrings!" Ok, so maybe that didn't really happen. Fr. faithful laid down the law right away and told Sister Pastoral Associate that the proper set up for Mass included a chalice pall and veil. Sister didn't know where any chalice palls were so Father Faithful went into his suitcase and took out his own stuff. He then went into the church and set up the altar complete with chalice veil. Sister Pastoral Associate couldn't handle it and left immediately before she melted.

Father then confronted the musicians and informed them that "Keep in Mind" was not an appropriate Memorial Acclamation. The parishioners were totally disoriented by the lack of liturgical abuse and the homily in which Father spoke about passe things such as sin.

Even though at the end of the episode, the parish looked orthodox it didn't take long before the rest of the cast returned and destroyed the renovations.

Needless to say, it wasn't long before the producers decided that I wasn't the person for the job and I was let go.

I am now a cast member of Extreme Makeover: Religious Education Edition where I try to turn a parish Cut Color and Draw program into a place where children learn about the Catholic faith. I am assisted by a traditional Catholic school teacher, and two fans of EWTN who serve as teachers and an orthodox but timid priest who tries to keep up with me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ad Multos Annos

Five years ago I heard the words I, and most of the world, had been greatly anticipating for a little over 2 weeks.
Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:

Yay, we have a Pope, but who??? My anticipation and nervousness grew to levels I could not imagine. There was so much promise! As long as the right pope was chosen. I didn't know who I wanted, but I knew who I didn't want.

The announcement continued as I prayed. The cardinal announced:

Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Josephum

My prayers changed to fervent pleading! No, no, no! Please let it be a different Joseph.

Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger

I screamed "No!" so loudly the neighbors must have wondered what had happened. I sank into the chair in disbelief. This was the man who would destroy everything!

qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI
Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church
There was nothing left for me to do but cry so that was what I did. I cried for days and I feared until I came to the point, several months later, that if I was stuck with this guy I should at least read something that he wrote.

The first book I read was "Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church". I remember I was sitting in the waiting room of the local garage getting an oil change and an inspection sticker when I came across words that have become burned into my mind.
One is Church and one is member therof, not through sociological
adherance, but precisely through incorporation in the Body of the Lord through
baptism and the Eucharist.

The Church is not our Church, which we could dispose of as we
please. She is, rather, his Church. All that is only our Church is not Church in
the deep sense; it belongs to her human - hence secondary, transitory -

If the Church, in fact, is our Church, if we alone are the
Church, if her structures are not willed by Christ, then it is no longer
possible to concieve of the existance of a hierarchy as a service to the
baptized established by the Lord himself. It is a rejection of the authority
willed by God...the Church of Christ is not a party, not an association, not a
club. Her deep and permanent structure is not democratic but sacramental,
consequently hierarchical. For the hierarchy based on apostolic succession is
the indispensible condition to arrive at the strength, the reality of the
Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977Suddenly, it was as though questions I had asked for decades were suddenly being answered, but not from the source I wanted. How dare he answer my questions and make sense! I read more and more and I loved it all. Finally, I decided that since I couldn't argue against the writings I had to go after the man. I read his memoirs "Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977" hoping to find something I could take issue with. Instead, I was deeply touched by this depiction of a man with great faith who had extraordinary experiences.

I kept reading and rereading these books when I had the opportunity to visit Rome and Vatican City for the 2006 consistory for the creation of new cardinals. Four of my 7 days in Rome would be spent in the presence of the Holy Father. Oddly enough, I could not bring myself to see the joy and honor in that. I read the books on the plane still searching for something I could take issue with. I had convinced myself that if I liked the message the problem had to be with the implementation or even with the man himself. I imagined an ogre-like man with a cold hard look about him. Someone whose meanness would exude from his very pores.

Upon arriving at our lodgings which were in the extra-territorial zone of Vatican City and directly across St. Peter's Square from the Apostolic Palace I was told that two tickets to the Papal Audience had been reserved for us. My actual thoughts were, "Ugh, I guess we have to go, but do I really want to see the Pope another time!" I decided to make the best of it and we went to the audience.

Pope Benedict came out in the popemobile and rode slowly around the square. I took pictures mainly for posterity and for this blog (although I don't think I ever posted my feelings here). He approached where I was standing along the barricade when someone threw something into the path of the popemobile. Suddenly, I found that he was stopped directly in front of me. People were reaching out to him, and I was one of the few with a camera aimed directly at him and he stopped and looked directly at me as I took a picture. Then he continued greeting the crowds. He took the hand of the woman to my right and reached for mine as well, but I was completly frozen. In the split second, he saw my dazed expression and chuckled softly to himself. It was as though he was wondering what it was about him that made me freeze like that. Before I realized what had happened, the obstruction was cleared and the popemobile was moving again.

It was at that moment that I knew what the expression "hardened heart" and "heart of stone" meant as I felt my heart crack and bleed and the tears streamed down my face. What I saw wasn't the ogre, but a gentle, humble, kind, grandfatherly sort of man who seemed to be in awe of all the attention which was focused on him. I saw him 4 more times that week and each time I was amazed by his gentleness and humility. He never placed any attention on himself, but always directed the attention to Christ. In fact, he looked totally embarassed by the attention given to him.

Throughout that week, I desired his presence as I never expected. I found great comfort in looking out in the evening at the glowing windows of the Papal apartment and I loved sitting on the balcony and watching the lights go out as the Holy Father retired for the night. I remembered those weeks after Pope John Paul's death and the emptiness in the shuttered apartment. Seeing those windows I could say, "Everything is fine, Papa is home and we are in good hands".

Unbelievably for me, I wished I could have told him about my experience. Partially so he wouldn't think I had been some crazy lady, but also so I could tell him of my conversion. I prayed that he would grow comfortable in his new role and accept that the attention given to him shouldn't be a source of embarassment, but is the result of the dignity of his office. He is the successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ. That is no small order! He deserves the trappings and honors and attention which is office brings not because of who he is as a man, but because of his office, who he represents, and our union with Christ to whom all these honors are ultimately directed.

I haven't stopped reading his writings and I haven't been disappointed. Instead, each book I read and reread brings to closer to Christ and deepens my understanding of Christ and His Church.

God, thank you for our Holy Father, Benedict. Thank you for opening my heart which had been hardened by the words of those around me and my own prideful refusal to accept your wisdom.

My dear Holy Father, I love you! May God protect you as you lead His Church. Thank you for showing me Christ and His Church in it's fullness as I had never understood it before. Thank you for showing me the errors of my understanding and for opening my heart to true Catholic teaching. May you have many more years in service of Christ!
Photos by: Domini Sumus