Eucharist: A Sign of Unity? Or, A Sign of Fragmentation?

When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record, many argued that the new record of 61 homeruns in a baseball season should be marked with an asterisk … * … Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns when baseball had 154 games in a season.  When Roger Maris hit 61 homeruns, there were 162 games in a season.  After 154 games, Maris had 59 home runs.

Maris hit his 61st homerun on the last day of the season, in the 162nd game.  Therefore, while he hit more homeruns, it took more games.  Therefore critics said, his “record” should be marked as 61*.

For so long, the Eucharist has been seen as a sign of unity — many grains to make one bread.  One bread, one body.  Many parts, but one body.

The Eucharist was seen as “food for the sinner.”  No one was “worthy” that the Lord would come under “our roof.”

Today, for too many church leaders, the Eucharist is held up as a “reward for those who are orthodox.”  Cultural warriors have wanted to withhold the Eucharist from those who hold positions contrary to the Church — notably, abortion.  This question was brought forth loudly when John Kerry, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi — Catholics — were running for election.

Bishop Thomas Proprocki of Springfield, IL has been the most recent of the cultural warriors to tell those who do not support the Church’s anti-abortion policy to refrain from the communion table.

Perhaps today we ought to write:  Eucharist: Sign of Unity*

There are dioceses in the US that have proclaimed that the Marty Haugen song, “All are welcome” should not be sung at mass.

For me, this attitude seems to “fly in the face of” Isaiah 55 (Easter Vigil) which tells all who are hungry or thirsty to come and to eat and drink.  Those who come forward, can do so without worry about money.

When Jesus fed the 5,000 — I am sure there was quite a variety of folks present — some who were there simply for curiosity — while many others came because they were interested in hearing what Jesus had to say.  There must have been kind and caring people in the crowd — mixed with those with questionable “reputations.”

If we believe that the “last supper” was the “first mass” — then Jesus gave communion to Peter who would in a few hours deny him three times — as well as to Judas who would betray him.  Even with knowledge of what Peter would do — and what Judas would do — Jesus still shared the bread and cup with both of them.

I wholeheartedly believe that the Eucharist is a sacred time of prayer.  I believe the Eucharist should be prayed with dignity and respect.  The Eucharist is not a picnic or a tailgate party. It bothers me that anyone might come to the table casually/automatically.  I want everyone to be aware of what and who they are receiving.  But, I am not sure that I or anyone can really judge the human heart or determine the worthiness of one person over another.

Everyone of us — each of us — should look into our hearts each time we participate in Eucharist.  Is our mood openness or closed-mindedness?  Are we holding on to anger, prejudice, or judgments?  Do I support the Church’s teaching on Capital Punishment, Universal Health Care, Immigration?  Did I put others at risk by driving and texting or “under the influence?”  Was I a bad example to children around me? Did I judge the person who came to mass, failed to genuflect “properly”, then sat down without kneeling to say a prayer?

If I keep adding to the list of exclusionary behaviors or attitudes — then few of us could approach the Table of Plenty.

During the June meeting of the U.S. Bishops in Baltimore, Bishop Robert Barron (Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles — and known for his videos and books — The Word on Fire) reported to the Bishops that 50% of those people 30 years of age and younger, who were baptized Catholic, now identify as “NONE”, when asked to claim a religion.  He called for better teaching the truths of our faith — and teaching our young people how to defend the faith and to answer our critics (apologetics).  I agree with Bishop Barron that we can always do a better job of educating others about our faith.  HOWEVER, I believe Bishop Barron addresses only one part of the human person — the intellect –while ignoring the heart.

Many years ago our Church was big into a “Come Home for Christmas” evangelization effort.  But, when people came “home”, they did not always feel at home.  For too many, it was:  glad you are here, welcome!  Now, as soon as you get your marriage blessed, then you can come to communion — OR –once you get an annulment and get your marriage blessed — the you can come to communion.  So — it was “welcome home — BUT, you cannot come to the table.”

Or,  someone raised Catholic — and now living a gay lifestyle — it was — glad you are here —— but, there’s a problem with the way you are LIVING the way you are.

Or, people came back to the church to find dull preaching, poor music, and no sense of community life.  Church was a place to go — not a place to be.

I would like to see the Church as a “symphony of different sounds” — a community of different sounds — a communion of different sounds.

If we become what we eat — then cannot the Eucharist — the living Christ change the human heart and mind?  Telling someone to stay away from the ONE THING that might help them to change [grow] might actually bring about the opposite result of what is desired.


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Mine v. Yours v. Ours

Over these past weeks I have been binge watching on NETFLIX.  I have watched the TUDORS and five Seasons of the VIKINGS.  There seems to be a common story behind the different stories.  Whether it was the 7th and 8th century world or the world of the 16th century —- someone seems to always want what the other has.  If the weak do not submit, then the stronger will eliminate them.

AND SOMEHOW, God is invoked by all.  Whether it was the Viking God Odon v. the Christian God — or the God of the Roman Church v. the God of the Church of England, all was done in the “name of God” and with the belief that God is on MY SIDE.

And, so it continues today.  There are divisions — and then divisions within divisions.  There are “Pope Francis – Catholics” who want growth through change — and “Cardinal Burke and Archbishop Vigano – Catholics” who question the orthodoxy of Pope Francis.  There are Methodists who wanted greater openness to same-gender marriage and those who wanted a more traditional plan.

Thus the divisions among people of faith is not merely between Christians and Muslims — but divisions among Christians and  within “denominations”.

This comes to mind as we celebrate the mystery of the Trinity – a Christian belief that there is ONE GOD — but a God with three distinct persons.  

Here are words of Fr. Walter Burghardt (Lovely in Eyes Not His) as quoted in “Give us This Day” (June 2019):

The Father, John declares, ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ (Jn. 3:16) The Son, Paul lyricizes, did not think His glory something to cling to, a prize, to clutch.  He took our bone and marrow, our skin and sinews.  Not because He needed them.  He took what is ours only to give us what is His, to let us share God’s life, God’s glory.  And the Holy Spirit?  The Spirit is not only the love between Father and Son; the Spirit is God’s gift to you and me.”

A lesson we teach to 4 and 5 year olds — a lesson we were to learn ourselves in Kindgergarten — TO SHARE — is a lesson hard to put into practice.  Egoism creates a world of mine and yours.  There is little to no room for OURS.

Pope Francis said this week that “Unity is the greatest witness to the Christian faith.”

Rather than trying to explain the mystery of the Trinity, why don’t we just live the mystery:  three persons — distinct — equal — living as One God.

In marriage/family counseling, I would often ask:  would you rather be right or happy?   For some people being right — or winning — is more important than anything.  Thus, as long as there have been humans on the earth — there has been conflict.

To live with greater happiness, let’s:

  1.  Be happy with what we have – rather than worrying about what others have or what we do not have.  Let’s not compare ourselves to others.
  2.  Be able to accept that we are not going to agree with anyone on everything — and that it is ok to have difference of opinions and beliefs.  Does it really matter that Catholics and Methodists and Episcopalians and Baptists are all “branches” of the Christian faith —- and that Christians do not even make up the majority of people on the earth?
  3.  Accept that I do not have to convert everyone.
  4.  Understand that war in the “name of God” makes no sense.
  5.  Believe that just because I do not agree with you does not mean I don’t like you or, even worse, that I hate you.  We just disagree.

So many of us take blood pressure medication — and it has something to do with our salt intake — but not totally.  We allow ourselves to get “worked up”  — inflamed –by too many things that are not significant.

For me, watching The Vikings and the Tutors has been entertainment.  But, it has also allowed me to look at human nature —and how humans really try to make God in our image rather than allowing ourselves to be shaped and reshaped, formed and reformed by the image of God.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit — make us one as you are One, Dear God.




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Holy Spirit Atheism

In late March,  I read an article entitled   The church is suffering from Holy Spirit Atheism written by Franciscan Friar, Fr. Daniel Horan.  I have pondered his words and challenges these past months.

And then on his return flight from Romania,  our Holy Father, Pope Francis, seemed  to criticize traditionalist Catholics who try to “safeguard the ashes” of the past.  An article in the National Catholic Reporter quoted the Pope as saying, “The tradition of the church is always in movement….The tradition does not safeguard the ashes.”

As we celebrate PENTECOST — the day the Church was birthed — when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples — I ask:  What happened on that day? What/who was begotten?  And ultimately, when — if ever — did the Spirit of God stop working to create new things and new ways?

In his article, Fr. Horan, in speaking about Holy Spirit atheism, he states: By this I do not mean that most Christians outright reject the divinity of the spirit.  Rather, I have a sense that many Christians think and act as if the Holy Spirit did not exist and therefore this phenomeon is largely implicit.”

Was not Christianity something new and different at some point?  Was not “the Church” at some point new and different than what existed “before?”  Has not the Church evolved over time —– not by the MEN who held authority —- but by the Holy Spirit moving men and women in new/different directions?

When did the Holy Spirit stop acting and leading in new directions?  When did Holy Spirit evolution stop?

In returning from Romania, Pope Francis compared tradition to roots.  He said: “Tradition is like roots [of a tree] which gives us nutrtion to grow…You will not become like the roots.  You will flower, grow, give fruit.  And the seeds become roots for other people.”

In praying the NICENE CREED, we profess:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son,

is adored and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

The same Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters of creation, who was there when the Father sent manna from the heavens, the same Holy Spirit who was there when the angel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the same Holy Spirit who came upon the apostles and disciples on Pentecost — came to me and to you at Baptism — and again at Confirmation.

When you and I pray — we pray IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  That Same Holy Spirit is leading and guiding the Church today.

The Holy Spirit OPENED hearts and minds and stretched the human spirit.  The Holy Spirit came upon ordinary men and women and inspired them to do the extraordinary.

In the Acts of the Apostles we have seen that from the earliest days — there were those who wanted to assure that the old ways prevailed — of course — new members must be circumcised because THAT IS THE WAY WE CAME FORTH — AND THAT MUST BE THE ONLY WAY!!

The tradition of our FAITH is not in Latin Liturgy, kneeling with our hands under a communion cloth, at a altar rail — our tradition is not merely glorious hymns and fancy vestments.  There is nothing wrong with these “things” —- and they are part of our historical-tradition.  BUT OUR TRADITIONS are much deeper and richer than this — and many of our traditions are intangible bonds between the past and the future.

If we believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and well — why would anyone fear discussion of priestly celibacy or the ordination of women?  If the Holy Spirit is alive and well and given to all the faithful, then must the development of doctrine and discipline be decided by an all-male-ordained clergy and then passively received and embraced the lay faithful.

Were prophets called only in pre-Christian days?  Did prophecy stop with people like John the Baptist?  Must one be ordained to be prophetic?

Did not Martin Luther speak a prophetic message?  Did not Martin Luther King speak a prophetic message?  Did not Sr. Thea Bowman speak as a prophetess?  Did not Nelson Mandela speak a prophetic message?  Did not Oscar Romero speak a prophetic message?  Were not the suffragettes women speaking a prophetic word?   Is there not a prophetic message spoken by those who call for universal health care?  Could not Pope Francis be speaking a prophetic message?

There are those who want the Church to be like a museum preserving relics — while there are those who want the Church to be a living body — actively passing on a lived-faith with a presence in the marketplace and participation in the socio-political-economic process.

In prayer we ask for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon God’s people, the Church.  We will sing, “Come Holy Ghost” —- do we really mean it?  Do we really want the Holy Spirit to come upon us?  Is there HOLY SPIRIT ATHEISM in our Church?

Cannot God be about something new in 2019?  Was there only ONE PENTECOST?


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Forgiveness – a strange kind of love

How is it possible for the father/parent to forgive the prodigal son/child?

To be able to accomplish this form of love and generosity, it seems to me that the father has a deep knowledge of his own humanity and sinfulness — and the he himself must have been forgiven somewhere along the way.

For most of us, reading the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, we  can understand how the faithful son feels — we wonder how the father could be so lavish in his love — and we think how lucky the ungrateful son was.

In a world where centuries old grievances still cause war – where name calling is more prevalent than praise — where we no one accepts blame or fault — the challenge to forgive seems unreal and impossible.  We hold up the father as an ideal — rather than a model we can actually emulate.

To forgive like the father — we have to reach the point of feeling — I am tired of keeping score, I do not care who wins …. let’s just move on and be happy.  I know this doesn’t make sense — but for the sake of peace, I just do not want to argue, fuss, or GET EVEN.

To forgive like the father one has to realize that all is gift — that I have nothing, I own nothing — that I deserve.  So, if I kill the fatted calf, if I dress my ungrateful son in fine clothes and give him a few of my rings — so what — I am taking nothing out of this world anyway — so what does it matter?!

To forgive like the father, one has to have hope that this will do the son some good — and that just maybe, just maybe — he will pay it forward and do good for someone else.

We know the parable of one who was forgiven much demanded much from those who owed him — he was an ungrateful servant.  He wanted to throw those who owed him into prison, right after he had been forgiven —- that is always a possibility.

As one with no children or grandchildren — but as one who is 69 — I do grow weary of family feuds — tribal rivalries — name calling — that I KNOW WILL LEAD TO NO BENEFIT.  So, why not try and give forgiveness a chance — wipe the slate clean and start over.

Forgiveness does not mean I will forget the pain or the ingratitude or the hurt.

Forgiveness does not mean the other was ok in doing what s/he did.

Forgiveness does not mean I have to roll over and get kicked upside the head again.

Forgiveness does mean — I can’t change the past — she/he cannot change the past — but, we can do better in the future.

Maybe when we grow tired — when we are weary — we will stop living with the desire to get even — maybe as we face our own sinfulness and our own mortality — maybe when we see the uselessness and IMPOSSIBILITY of trying to get even, we will begin to forgive — to let go — to go free — to free.

At times, at times — but not always — justice will demand restitution — justice will demand PUNISHMENT — but, sometimes the greater good — the real justice is the offer of mercy —- unmerited love …. which is forgiveness.




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The TEMPTATION to Blame!

As a fan of the New Orleans’ Saints — I agree that the referees blew a call at the end of the game, that affected the outcome of the game.  If the referees had called passed interference or “targeting”, the Saints would have been given a first down with time to almost run out the clock before scoring — and then off to the SUPER BOWL.  No doubt.

BUT, is that the only reason the Saints lost the game?  Is it just to BLAME the missed call and the referees for the loss?  Could there be other reasons?  Could the Saints have missed a tackle, or a block, or a pass that could have changed the outcome of the game?

There is a tendency — a TEMPTATION — to find fault, to blame — someone for all the problems that exist.  Remember:  Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.

Most people — most people — would agree that it was a sham for Hitler to blame the problems that faced Germany on the Jews and those who “took advantage of Germany” after World War I.  Whose fault was it that Germany faced economic ruin — find someone, how about the Jews?

But — I think — if we pause, when we reflect —- that tendency, that TEMPTATION — is all around us.

why are we having communication problems in our relationship?  If my wife/husband would just do this, there would be no problem.  The only reason I did that was because he/she did this first?  If she/he had not done THAT FIRST, I would never have done that!

why is my child doing so poorly at school?  it is the teacher(s), it is common core, it is because there is too much/too little homework.

who is to blame for the sexual abuse problem in the Church?  It is the gay priests, it is the gay sub-culture in the clergy!

you know, I wouldn’t be this way if my parents were more caring and considerate; my mother always showed more love to my sister; my father was never home — was an alcoholic — etc.

Are the Chinese to blame for our trade-imbalance?  Or, could it be our desire for cheap/inexpensive things?

Are immigrants the reason for crime, violence, and drugs in our culture?

Is “trashy television” the cause of declining social values … or a reflection of our deeper selves?

On this first weekend of Lent we are called to reflect on the temptations that Jesus faced in the desert as he confronted the devil, the evil one, the tempter.  A traditional reflection on the power of the devil — the evils of the world — our personal demons of alcohol, food, sex, a vulgar mouth — could be preached.

But, I offer a twist —- thinking of what I see as pervasive — the desire to blame someone for the problems around us.  It is my spouse, it is my bishop, the Democrats, the Republicans, the immigrants, the gays, the people on welfare, my parents, my children …..

When do we reject this temptation and accept personal blame for my own behavior, my own destiny, the place I find myself?

I am not going to say we need to own all blame — maybe our parents’ behavior did affect me; maybe my children are unappreciative; maybe I am irritated by the person who has already been deported twice and who is responsible for a crime; maybe a teacher was less professional than he/she SHOULD HAVE BEEN; maybe a gay priest acted inappropriately.

But — is it right and just and helpful —- to blame others for everything bad/wrong around me?  Is it fair to blame an entire group of people for what is wrong?  Just I do not want to be considered just like EVERYONE in my family — or EVERYONE who is WHITE, then maybe we need to see with a wider – broader lens.

If someone or something else is to blame — then I seem to have little power or chance to make things be different – or better.

We all want things to be different.  But, how different are we willing to be?

We all want things to change.  But, how willing am I to change?

We all want things to be better.  But, how willing am I to be better, to do better?

Is it possible that I have some blame for my problems — for the problems around me?

Jesus rejected the temptations of the devil — even with his hunger, he knew “who he was” and he focused on the promises of the Father.

We have 40 days to reflect — to pray — to create a plan for a better me — and a better world because I am better.

Blaming others — to keep out of trouble — is a learned behavior.  And, it can be un-learned.

I have no doubt that sometimes during this week there will be a temptation to blame someone — some group — for the problem(s) around us.  Let’s face the tempter, and not give into temptation.




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When does the grace of God eliminate power of the past?

The “Me Too” movement impacted all areas of life, business, and industry.  Beginning in the entertainment world, it swept through television and news agencies, and impacted the political landscape.  Producers, news anchors, a US Senator, and others were forced to give up their positions — and many have faded away.

This week the State of Virginia is experiencing a “political earthquake” as the Governor is dealing with allegations that when he was in medical school he posed for a picture in blackface along with someone in a KKK outfit.  Then the Lt. Governor is defending himself against allegations of sexual assault when he was in college.  Then the Attorney General stepped forward to admit that when he was in college, he used blackface as part of a costume at a “Rapper themed” party.

Last year, a top college baseball pitcher went undrafted by any pro team because of a juvenile charge of sexual assault came to light.

Pro baseball and football deal with the issue of domestic abuse?  How long does one have to be suspended without pay before they return to play?  should they be permanently barred from playing?

QUESTION:  When does a “stupid mistake” from the past become a permanent disqualifier from public life?  

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians [15: 1-11], Paul writes:

For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.

SAINT Paul, who once persecuted those who followed Jesus — became — BY THE GRACE OF GOD — an Apostle — a great preacher, a foundation of the church.  So, his sin, his mistake, his “stupid choice” was put behind him and he started down a new path.

Yes, there were those who were suspicious — was the change real?

Yes, there must have been those who did not want him in their company.  After all, he did hurt our friends — he insulted us — he stood opposite us.

Is this Scripture for real?  Does this Scripture have meaning in today’s world?  Should the sins of the past haunt us forever?

Is the Governor of Virginia a racist?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Without a doubt — in my mind — appearing in blackface was not smart–he “should have been more aware” and sensitive to what his actions meant.  Being a member of the KKK is certainly greater proof of being a racist than appearing in blackface.  If his attitudes and actions were racist 30+ years ago, does that mean he is racist today?

Can’t people change?

Isn’t there a difference between what someone does and who someone is?

If someone tells a lie, is s/he a liar forever?

If someone commits adultery one time, is s/he an adulterer forever?

If someone gets a DUI, are they a drunk forever?

If someone takes a ballpoint home from work, are they a thief?

If we are serious about the effectiveness of the grace of God — cannot people not only change — but, can’t they me made anew —and different from the old self?

Haven’t we all said at one time or another:  if not by the grace of God, there goes I.

Racism is evil.  Sexual assault is unacceptable.  Stealing is wrong and a sin.

It is disappointing when those held up as models fall short of expectations.  But, at what point does the sin/mistake of the past disqualify one forever and ever and ever.

We celebrate that St. Peter, who once denied Jesus, turned his life around.  We acknowledge that St. Augustine seemed to have a “colorful past” before he set his sights on Jesus.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was recently canonized — he stood up for the poor, the marginalized, and the victims of violence of El Salvador and was murdered [martyred] while he celebrated mass.  BUT, before he became a friend of the poor — and advocate for justice — he sided with the military and seemed to turn a “blind eye” to those in need.

I seem to have more questions than answers today.  Maybe we need to not generalize and pass judgment without knowing the person and where s/he is today.  What have they done to “make-up” for the past?

Criminal matters are a different — and there are various statutes of limitations.

Is their a statute of limitation for a stupid choice?

Could it be that good men and women are not offering themselves for service is the fear that their past record is not perfect?  Is there a fear that maybe something embarrassing might be revealed.

Let’s remember the words — forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Let’s think about — may the cup we use to measure mercy be used to measure mercy back to us.

Somehow, I think we all hope God will be merciful in judging us.  At  the same time, we know it is not so easy to forgive the sins of others.


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Covington Catholic High School — MAGA — Martin v. Malcom

I have seen it written: Smart people learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.  Wise people learn from the mistakes of others so as to never make them in the first place.

Over the past few weeks we have all had the opportunity to learn a lot from the mistakes of others.

Until a few weeks ago, I knew nothing about Covington Catholic High School in Covington, KY.  Then, all of sudden, social media, print media, television was filled with images and commentary about the students of CCHS — following an incident in Washington, DC following the annual Pro-Life March.

Then, for the world to see, there were young (mostly) white young men —-some smiling, some chanting, some making a tomahawk motion —and an old-native-American man beating on a drum.  Many of the students were wearing “Make America Great Again” caps.

Then —- there was more video — giving a “bigger picture” of what happened.  There was more information about Mr. Phillips.  There was information about the “Black Israelites”.  Students involved in the incident — and their parents — spoke to national media.

In the midst of it all — was the annual holiday remembering Dr. Martin Luther King and his fight against injustice.  I attended a debate conducted by young men —- about the philosophy of Dr. King v. the philosophy of Malcom X.  Dr. King espoused peaceful resistance and peaceful confrontation —Malcom X proposed more radical confrontation — even allowing for violent protest.  Who had the right approach?  Martin or Malcom?

Then came the alleged attack against actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago.  He was brought to a hospital with serious injuries — following an attack that he said included physical beating, racist and homophobic slurs, the pouring of some liquid [bleach?] on him, and a rope around his neck.  Reportedly, the attackers yelled, “this is MAGA country.”

So, what have I learned?

  1. Be slow to pass judgment – we know this – but at the same time we need to be reminded over and over — even if there is “A” video — it may not tell the entire story. A picture may be worth a 1,000 words — but there is always the 1,001st word.  The initial images from DC seemed to show young white men blocking the way of a [what was reported] a elderly Native American man — who had served in Vietnam.  There seemed to be a sassy-smirk on the face of one particular student.  The wearing of MAGA hats — in my mind, made things seem worse — here were Trump supporters confronting an innocent man.

Then, there were videos of the Black Israelites yelling racist and sexual slurs at the students.  There was a video of the native American man walking into the midst of the students.  There was news that Mr. Phillips and about 50 of his followers attempted — a few days before the confrontation — to enter a Catholic Church and to disrupt mass.

The picture was no longer clear.  Questions were being asked:  what really happened.  Be slow to judge.

2.  Like it or not–the MAGA CAP is a divisive symbol.  When someone puts on the hat, s/he has to know it is divisive and must ask:  why am I wearing this cap in this situation?

I was recently in Cuba — I bought a couple t-shirts with CUBA on the front of the shirt.  But, I chose NOT to buy t-shirts with Fidel Castro’s picture or the picture of Che Guevara. As much as I support “liberation theology” and the ideals of revolution, I would not wear the t-shirts in public because I KNOW IT WOULD STIR TROUBLE at the gym, along the street, in stores.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, KY has stated this week that the MAGA cap is not a pro-life symbol because President Trump’s pro-life stance is limited to abortion — that his stance against immigrants, about health care for poor children, and about capital punishment are all in conflict with the stance of the RC Church.

Yes — as individuals — the students have a right to wear the cap.  But — because religious institutions are prohibited from supporting a particular candidate — to have a group of students from a school wearing the MAGA cap — clearly associated with President Trump — is a violation of the IRS’ code for non-profit agencies.  Wear the cap — pay the tax.

I question why teenagers chose — or were allowed — to wear MAGA hats in DC at a time when multiple groups were marching.  

3.  Where were the chaperones?  I have chaperoned many school trips — including a trip to DC.  Teenagers are not adults — they make good decisions, and sometimes they don’t make good decisions.  Adults must be near by — to watch, guide, to correct, to lead.  That many young men should never have been, in my opinion, on their own.  Someone “should have said”, — come on over here — let’s wait for the bus over here.

I would hope that …..

  1. School officials continue to “peel away the onion” to see what happened on that day in DC.  I would hope that school officials make sure that students understand that being pro-life means more than being against abortion —– it means taking care of the poor, it means true respect for women, it means being for the underdog, etc.

I would hope that school officials examine diversity on the school staff and diversity in the student body —- if students can go to DC — then the school ought to be able to give scholarships to minority students who can’t afford tuition.

I would hope that an all-male Catholic School would talk about white-male-privilege in 2019.  Haughty and arrogant students might just well become haughty and arrogant adults unless there is some intervention.

2. We as a nation realize how polarized we are — and that the situation is NOT GETTING BETTER.  We cannot be pro-life while being unconcerned when gay, lesbian, and transgender rights are being rolled back and people are physically assaulted while walking along the street.

We cannot be pro-life and anti-immigrant when we understand that we are all immigrants — except for native Americans who are so impoverished today.  [Almost daily I pass a renovation project at our local Cathedral —— and I see people who appear to be Hispanic doing much of the work.  It cannot be ok to welcome the laborer while rejecting those who want to move here permanently.

3. I would hope that, instead of finding fault, it is seen as more important to ask:  what have we learned?  what could have been done to have a better result?  what behavior made the situation worse?  how do we really diffuse a situation?

This weekend’s scripture shares the poetic words of St. Paul to the Corinthians —“if I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Love is not pompous or inflated.

Because Jesus “called out” those whose faith wasn’t made visible in love, the crowd was ready to run him out of town.

What does it mean  to me to be pro-life?  If there was a video of my life, what would people see and say? What does it mean to me that “before I was formed in the womb, God knew me and before I was born, God dedicated me, and appointed me a prophet?” what do I teach through my actions to those around me, especially the youth?




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Church: People? or, Hierarchy?

Over the past three months much has been written and spoken about the Church  — because of the situation we find ourselves following the barrage of news regarding the sexual abuse of minors.

What are the causes?  Who is to blame?  What needs to change?  Where does change begin?

My reflection falls in line with thoughts offered by Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ and many others.

First:  to what degree has THE CHURCH FAILED?  If by Church we mean the people of God, then failure is minimal.  If by Church we mean the hierarchical-leadership of the Church, failure is much greater.  In fact, let’s don’t blame the “Church as the People of God”.  The CHURCH IS NOT THE HIERARCHY.  The Church is the People of God.

Second, while many seem to want to blame homosexuality in the clergy as THE root cause of the problem [Examples:  Archbishop Vigano and Cardinal Burke] This, in my opinion, is not it —- especially when espoused my men who seem to enjoy parading around in ornate dress, gowns, and gloves.

I am not saying celibate-chastity is not an issue/problem — and I will get to that later.

    But, I want to begin with what I see as a major problem — An outdated sense of authority and clericalism and [2] the defense of the power that comes from clericalism.

To understand from where power comes, it is necessary to go back to “who is the Church?”  If the Church is the PEOPLE OF GOD — then power comes from God as given to the PEOPLE.

However, if the Church is the Hierarchy, then one can believe that when Jesus gave the “keys” to Peter — as a sign that authority was given Primarily to Peter as the first Pope, then one can say that those ordained have a greater share in authority — in fact, add all the authority of the PEOPLE TOGETHER, and it is still not enough to equal what the ordained have.

This then trickles down to parish life where FATHER KNOWS BEST.  The parish is where 75 year old men and women address their 30 year old pastor as FATHER.  The parish is where someone arrives one day — usually in July — and he seems to think that what he knows and feels and believes —- is greater than those who have been there 20, 30, 40 or more years.  The unique, lived history can be ignored by someone who wears a ROMAN collar.

So, what can be done?

[1] In seeking candidates for priesthood [in today’s world, men], we not only examine for a healthy sexual history, we also look for psycho-sexual behavior.  We look for people who relate to men and women equally well.  We look for a servant’s heart — we look for those who LISTEN before they speak — we look for leaders who have  HISTORY OF PRIOR SERVICE in food pantries, service in mentor programs, volunteers in after-school tutoring, etc.   We ask about teamwork and working with others.  Having POTENTIAL is not enough — we want to see and hear about prior service.

[2] Have titles become a PROBLEM? Protestant ministers have served well with “titles” such as Reverend, Pastor, Doctor.  Does the word father itself give  some people the wrong idea of entitlement —- then, maybe this needs to be examined when interviewing candidates for priesthood [see # 1].  FATHER does put someone above others in today’s world of male-privilege.  FATHER IS NOT your first name.

[3] The ROMAN COLLAR — I admit my ignorance of the history of the Roman collar.  But I DO KNOW — that there are many priests who see their identity in the collar and/or a cassock.  Apart from the collar and/or cassock, they are unable to relate human person-to-human person.

I was amused [but not surprised] to see a photo of the bishops of the US gathered for mass during their recent retreat at Mundelein Seminary outside Chicago.  There they were: in their collars, albs, chasubles, and zuchettos.  This was a private retreat for bishops — everyone knows you are a bishop — can you pray without all the adornment?  You were a man — a human person before you were ordained.  Now, you are ONLY an ordained-man.

I believe in professional attire and dressing appropriately for the occasion.  I know what it feels like to have the respect of people regardless of what I wear.

There is a history in France, Belgium, Germany — and perhaps other countries — where priests wear a coat & tie as much as a collar.

[4]  MONEY — until there is 100% transparency and knowledge by the people, the golden rule applies —- THE ONE WITH THE GOLD MAKES THE RULES.

Lay men and women should not only review DIOCESAN AND PARISH BUDGETS, they should MAKE the budget.  “Discretionary”  accounts need to be explained.  Line-items such as “Bishop’s House” need to be examined and transparent.

[4a] Leadership – Diocesan Councils, Parish Councils, Diocesan/Parish listening sessions need to be real and ACTIVE.  There were times in the 70’s ad 80’s when these groups were actively engaged — with the authoritarian swing to the right — these groups are formalities on paper and not a force for change.

[5] SERVICE – the Church will regain credibility through service — visible, tangible service.  CHURCHES that the RC Church wants to minimize as “faith communities” are leading through service.  We have a long history of social service in orphanages, schools, and hospitals.  Catholic Charities maintains that presence in most of our country.

We are falling behind in providing CATHOLIC EDUCATION to those who cannot afford tuition.  We are falling behind in housing the homeless and feeding people 365 days of the year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are great — feeding the hungry is more than a project.

Here in Lake Charles — one of our non-denominational faith gatherings provides shelter for more than 100 people on our cold days — in their sanctuary — it so happened this weekend that the cold night was on Saturday night — the homeless helped to re-arrange the sanctuary in time for morning worship and joined in prayer and song — before eating lunch and watching the Saints v. Rams game on large screen television.  This faith gathering got support from folks across the community —- Catholic dollars were shared with a true community service.

Until the current leadership is willing to change, PEOPLE have two ways to vote — with their feet and with their checkbooks.  While some want to blame growing secularism and hedonism as the cause for declining attendance and income — other reasons exist — [a] a feeling of being shut out; [b] dogmatic preaching that is removed from daily life  [c] smart people who are THINKING and realize some teachings just are not correct.

I said I would comment on sexuality — here goes:  The Church needs to admit that is has been well served by gay priests from its beginning.  The Church needs to realize that gay men and women have been a rich part of our history — in leadership, music, art, and service.

Homosexuality is not pedophilia.

As has been shown over the past 18 months — we have a problem with sexuality in our world.  People of power in the theater, television, the arts, sports, etc. have used THEIR POWER to over-power and demand from others what the victims did not want to yield.

Yes, sexual-accountability needs to be real and effective.

But —- the challenges facing the Church [PEOPLE OF GOD] are bigger than sexual-challenges.  We as Church must use our VOICE and the two votes we have — checkbook and presence.






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The lost Art of Debate

John Dickerson of CBS News offered a commentary this morning [Sept. 7th] on the The Lost Art of Debate in public discourse and human communication.  Instead of discussing different ideas and opposing view points, the civility seems to have given way to insults, angry invectives, condemnation of others.  Instead of expressing different ideas, there is condemnation of the other person.  Instead of a “bad idea” we now talk about stupid people.  Instead of disapproving of a plan, there is  disgust of a person.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing regarding the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court displayed, in my opinion, the worst possible side of politics.  Procedure gave way to total chaos.  Interruptions were the norm.  Partisan politics was the tone of speech.  Political posturing was more important than judicial understanding.   There was little dialogue — mostly monologue. Dozens of protestors were removed from the hearing room.

I would not have wanted a high school civic class to have witnessed these hearings as “the way of government.”

In the Gospel [Mark 7:31-37] Jesus healed the man who could not hear who also had a speech impediment.  It is amusing that the man’s hearing was restored first — and then it followed that his speech impediment was removed.  We need clear hearing before we speak.  We need to let the other person finish speaking before we begin to speak.  We ought to practice summarizing what the other person has said — before we launch into a speech.

Few of us are unaffected by the changing rhetorical-style that is sweeping the world.  Watching just a few minutes of this stuff on television rankles the spirit and raises the blood pressure.

Beginning in our own homes, within our own families, at our own places of work, at our own Church, we ought to consider — if we have given into what most of think is unacceptable.

Believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable

Talk without yelling

Listen until the other person has stopped speaking — no interrupting

Talk about ideas and solutions to a problem – not about the other person’s character or intelligence

Don’t participate in “gang warfare” or group intolerance

Live by the basic, old-fashioned rule of – treating others the way we want to be treated

The one who talks the loudest and the longest is not the winner

Ask:  is it more important to be right — or to create a solution – are we at stalemate until one side is left standing and the other is wiped out?

At the end of the day, can we say that we were gentlemen/ladies who engaged in quality discussion? Would others say, s/he did well and did himself/herself well.

At the end of the day/week, ask:  how many real conversations did I have today/this week?

Do not participate in conversations where there is shouting or when two or more people are talking at the same time.

  I have no illusion that I will change the way business is done in Washington, DC or that I will make our leaders show respect to one another — but I can do something about my circle of life.  I can show patience and not “freak out” over things that really do not matter.  I can cool things down when I sense they are heating up.

Something … somebody has to change.




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The Reformation of 2018

The “McCarrick Scandal”, the Pennsylvania Report, and the internecine writings of Cardinal Vigano  have made anger, questions, and disappointment tangible once again.  The secrets of the Church are no longer secret — but the stuff of national news reports. The deaths of John McCain and Aretha Franklin have brought a brief reprieve from the dark reporting about the sin and crime of sexual abuse.

Many will spend time seeking the causes of sexual abuse of minors.  Some will unfairly blame homosexuality; some will write about a so-called “gay subculture” in the clergy and even in the Roman Curia.  We will hear about the all male power structure and questions will be raised about seminary formation.

Rather than wondering and writing about the causes of today’s crisis, I want to envision the Church that might be in time to come.  Changes are coming.  For me, I see and hope for a Church that is  —-

More Human The evidence of sin, failure, crime – the embarrassment of leaders blaming others – claims of ignorance – the open battle between the conservative and progressive wings of the Church make our humanness evident.  Our leaders are mere mortals. Father, Monsignor, Bishop, Cardinal, Pope – are earthly titles for human beings. Church titles do not give one a bigger portion  of “divine wisdom.”

The spirit of wisdom and truth has been given to the Church — not only the ordained.  A divine message has been entrusted to a cracked, earthen messenger.

Less Royal & Less Pompous – Some Bishops and a large number of young priests want to bring back the pre-Vatican II ROYAL priesthood and its trappings — lace, liturgical garb in public settings, the Latin language, —– all set the clergy in a world apart from the “people of faith.”  With different clothes and bigger chairs on raised platforms, too many clergy attempt to speak down to people from their self-imposed places of judgment.

Self-knowledge and honest self-evaluation should make everyone a bit more humble, speaking from a place of humility.

Pope Francis calls for shepherds who “smell like the sheep.”  He calls for leaders to be among the people – not removed or separated from the people.

Privilege — if any — comes not as a right of ordination — but from true service and sacrifice.

More Ecumenical and Interfaith – For too long we have professed that “there is no salvation outside the Church” and have tried to distinguish the Church of Rome from other “faith communities” or have come up with theological gymnastics to explain how other churches with a little “c” are connected to us with a big “C”.

There is but “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” — “One God” who is Father of ALL.  It is rather difficult — in light of ongoing crises  — to proclaim that we are better than the rest of mankind.  Truth exists outside the RC circle.

We are called to be KINGDOM people who evangelize — not mere keepers of human tradition.

More inclusive of Women in Leadership– Watching the memorial service for Senator McCain, it was impossible to not see the role played by a female bishop in the National Cathedral.  From my own experience of working these past eight years in the legal world and in the world of public education, I have seen a different temperament, a different level of communication, and different decision making when women hold real authority.  Literally, the “old boys club” is shattered.

Of more service and less dogmatic – The Epistle of St. James has reminded us that we are to be “doers of the word and not mere hearers [preachers] of the word.”  We are told that “pure religion” is to care for the “orphans and widows”, i.e. those in need.  It is more important that we tend to the heart rather than cleansing the vessels or worrying about how hands are formed for prayer.

Able to listen before teaching apologetics – It is true that many people do not understand “why” the Church teaches certain things.  We do need to teach apologetics.

However, it is also true that many people do not believe certain teachings because they just do not believe it, i.e. they do not accept it.  And, just because FATHER SAYS IT IS TRUE — does not make it true.  Worrying about Harry Potter and teaching that doing Yoga is equal to worshipping Satan diminishes the teaching authority of the Church.

Maybe the world did begin to go to hell with the rejection of Humane Vitae — maybe not.  Maybe the fact that the majority of people and religious groups now accept same-gender-relationships is a sign that we are all hedonistic — maybe not.

Rather than listening with ears and hearts for the moving of the Spirit — maybe — the Church has convinced itself that it is better to be “lone voice in the desert” speaking a word that fewer and fewer will believe.

Maybe the so-called gay-subculture has actually become a part of culture — in the world of art and entertainment, in the world of law and education, in the world of politics and finances —- in the world of sports and religion.  The gay world is not SUB-cultural — but cultural.

The Roman Catholic Church will surely survive.  Studying history reminds us that we have had hard, bloody times before.

Most people today base their faith on Jesus and the living Holy Spirit.  Faith is not based on priests, bishops, or the Pope.  Most people of faith are able to distinguish between divine precepts and human teaching.  Most people’s faith is based on a faith-community and not the institutional hierarchy of the Church.

The Church will survive — and it will be dramatically different than it now is.  A few years ago people were shocked with Pope Benedict resigned and retired due to health.  How could a Pope resign?  Weren’t Popes suppose to die in office?  Now, we have witnessed a Cardinal [Vigano] calling for Pope Francis to resign.  We are witnessing bishops speaking with different voices and different messages.  It appears that one-side is lining up against the other side as if they were members of opposing boxing teams.

Before God created the world —- there was only chaos.  From chaos God created the world.  From the chaos of today, God will once again create.




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