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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If I asked you if you were prepared, I would expect you to ask me for what?

Clearly, the message of this 2nd Sunday of Advent is that we are to be prepared — and that God sent — and sends — messengers to help us prepare.  For what does God want us to be prepared?  For what is God preparing us?

As I look around my house, I have more decorations and décor out than at any time over the past 10 years.  Most of my Christmas cards are mailed — and I will soon finish this pleasurable part of being in touch with friends and family.

Gift giving is secondary to spending time with family and friends — and plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, including menus, is fairly well set. Gifts to be shared are purchased.

So — I can say, I am very well prepared for the celebration of the Christmas holiday.

AND, I KNOW THE UNEXPECTED CAN happen and I need to be prepared for those things, too.  Last week at this time, I certainly did not think that someone would pull out of a parking lot into the street — leaving car repairable, but not drive able.  I did not think I would wake up on December 8th to almost 2 inches of snow in my yard.  BUT, BOTH THINGS DID HAPPEN.

I can get as prepared as possible for a meeting in Baton Rouge on Monday.  I can be as prepared as possible to bring my “dish” to the work social.  AND, I better be ready — and prepared for the unpredictable, the unexpected.

In looking closely at the scripture of this weekend [Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 and Mark 1:1-8], we see that the message is for us to PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD.  This call this weekend is not about us getting ourselves prepared — it is not about watching — it preparing the WAY OF THE LORD.  The message of John the Baptist — is to ready a way for the Savior — one greater than John — one greater than each of us.

We are called to make sure that ….

  1.  God is the focus — not only for the Season — but for our lives.  More than any project or task facing us … we declare that serving God is most important.

2.  God is working through us — what we do is NOT ABOUT ME — it is about God working through me.  John declares that the one who is to come is so different, that he (John) is not worthy to loosen the sandal strap  of the one to come.

So, as a teacher, God wants to use me — to bring his word, to be a messenger, to be a witness.

So, as a parent, God wants to raise children in his image — to allow children to experience the love of God through me.

So, as a business person – God wants me to build his kingdom — to make a fair profit, to pay a just wage, to make the community a better place.

3.  To live the values of our God — “to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion.” (2 Peter 3:8-14)  This means we have to let go of grudges, we have to accept responsibility for our actions and not blame someone else, to resolve to use my talents to benefit others.

4. To know that one day this earth and everything on will pass away — but before then, it is likely that I will pass away.  My years are limited — that I live “ready” for that unexpected day. I am not glum — I appreciate everything I have and every person around me.  I am grateful — but I do not live as if I have a guaranteed 45 more years.

Prepare the Way of the Lord.




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How to “DO” Advent

The good news:  From my viewpoint, there is no wrong way to DO advent!

I know there are many people who believe that Advent is Advent — it is a time of preparing for Christmas.  AND, Christmas does not begin until Christmas Eve.  Before then, there are no symbols or semblance of the Christmas season.

From a liturgical standpoint, I maintained “purity” for the first two weeks of the Advent Season.  The church was fairly bare with lots of purple and of course —- a HUGE advent wreath hanging from the ceiling in the center aisle of the church.  On the 3rd weekend of Advent I added wreaths to the windows and an undecorated “Christmas” tree.  Music was of Advent and no Christmas carols.

From the pastoral standpoint, I never put down Christmas decorations in the home, shopping, or Christmas music.  I always thought — it is about both and — not, either or.

As I write this — and Advent has not even started — my home has a decorated tree, decor, and an ADVENT WREATH.

The key, for me, is how we use this time to WATCH.  Each of us, individually, needs to choose what will help us WATCH.

Long before “multi-tasking” was a common phrase — if we look back — we can realize how much our mothers/moms were able to multi-task.  They were able to cook supper/dinner while they made sure we did homework.  They were unpacking groceries and transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer.  They were taking care of us kids — while being attentive to our Dads.  Moms then — and today — are called upon to do many things at one time.

So—-how can one not do Advent while starting to do Christmas — at the same time?

Do what you need to do to WATCH — while I DO what I need to watch!!!

God is about to do something new — something never done before.  God is coming into our world and my life anew.

For me — this year — I am watching with the soothing lights and calming effects of the many symbols of Christmas — and a lighted Advent wreath.  In the past, there have been years when only a few decorations have been out — and only a few poinsettias have adorned the house.  Being watchful — expecting something new — is a matter of the heart.  Externally, DO what is needed to slow us down to watch.  For me this year — it was having things set early — and sitting back ….. others will rush around like crazy — and hopefully find a few moments of quiet — to collect themselves before Christmas.  Your life situation dictates what you need and what is possible.

Traditionally, people have used Advent to:

1. Read a daily devotional

There are many devotionals prepared for Advent — some people use these daily reflections to ready their hearts for Christmas.  Some make sure to read the daily Scriptures.  Some attend daily worship.

2. Put up an Advent Wreath

Lighting the candles — one week at a time — reminds us that we are moving closer and closer from darkness into light.  Our “four weeks” are moving by — even if we do not notice.

3. Finding some time for quiet

Even if we are busy with shopping, tying things up before the year ends, and getting ready for travel or to welcome guests — finding 15 minutes in the morning or 15 minutes at night —- to simply breathe deeply in the quiet — can collect oneself and focus on what is important.

4. Reaching out to those in need

Realizing how blessed we are — we see that others are not as well off as we are.  We make Christmas better for others by sharing with them.  Coats for kids — toys for tots — food for the hungry — all are worthy causes and deserving of our support — to the level to which we are able.

5.  One visit to someone — a shut-in, someone in a nursing facility —

God came to us in the flesh in his son, Jesus.  We can embody concern and love to someone who is mostly alone — a friend, a neighbor, a family member, a fellow parishioner —- someone who was once so active and present — but because of age or health is no longer present as they want to be.  So — we are present to them as a representative of the BODY.

It seems to me, then, that preparing during ADVENT — preparing for Christmas — is about being deliberate.  It is about choosing — to see and to be open to seeing.  It is about watching for WHAT I NEED and what OTHERS NEED.

There is no one way to DO Advent.  Advent — is about active waiting — attentive watching.

Let’s start now — and do what we need to do — one day at a time.  Live these days in the spirit of the Jesus who has come and who is coming again ….. SOON.


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To the One — You are the WORLD!

To the world, you are but one.  But, to the ONE, you are the World!

I may have heard this saying before, but the first time that it “stuck in my head” was about six years ago — our Charter Schools in Lake Charles were partnering with a school in Haiti.   A representative of the school spoke to our faculty — and he used the expression. In other words, to the whole world, we were JUST helping one school in a remote village.  To the world, we were barely making a little dent in solving the problems of education in the poorest, of the poorest, parts of the world.  BUT, to that particular school, We were a life-line, we were the world.  Our school supplies of pencils, paper, crayons, books —- our uniforms —- were making a HUGE difference in their world.  AND THEN, when our teachers came to Haiti to meet with them —- we were the world — to them.

The problems of the world are H-U-G-E!  Refugees are in camps everywhere!  Syria lies in ruins.  Iraq seems like a hopeless pit swallowing money, hopes, and dreams.  Immigrants to our country are being deported.  Schools in too many cities are in decay.  Nursing homes all across our country are more and more seeming to be “hell holes”.  Hurricane victims are fighting with insurance companies and the government. Everyday reveals new accusations of inappropriate behavior in Hollywood, Washington, and State Houses.

It is so easy to be overwhelmed and to feel depressed —-there is just too much to be done; there are too many problems bombarding me; there are too many people asking for [needing] help.  Yep, that is true ….. we cannot meet the needs of everyone, we cannot help everyone who needs help.  AND, at the same time, we can do something — we can help someone.

This weekend’s Gospel [Matthew 25:31-46] on this FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING clearly tells us what God is asking us to do — what God is expecting us to do —

to give food to the hungry

to give drink to the thirsty

to welcome the stranger

to clothe the naked

to visit the imprisoned

Not all the hungry — not all the thirsty — not every stranger — not all who are naked — not to all the imprisoned — but to at least one in need.

In JUDGMENT, the King separates the sheep and the goats — the saved and unsaved —

NOT by whether they take communion in the hand or on the tongue, kneeling or standing — OR EVEN IF THEY TAKE COMMUNION ….

NOT by whether they are straight or gay or bisexual or transgender — or asexual —

NOT by whether they or Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, or whether they go to Church or not ….

NOT by whether they are Democrat, Republican, Communist, or a community drop-out …

BUT — the STANDARD OF JUDGMENT– is what a person does for those in need.  The standard is about putting our concern — our care — into practice.

We show our allegiance to CHRIST THE KING not by singing an anthem, not by reciting a creed, not by saluting a flag — our allegiance to JESUS AS OUR KING —- is proven by the help we extend to our brothers and sisters in need.

Too many of us Americans live a bit too smug …. we pay the most taxes in the world.  NOT TRUE.

We have to deal with more illegal immigrants than anyone else in the world.  NOT TRUE.

Our country is going to “hell in a handbasket.”  NOT TRUE.

My recent trip to Italy showed me a country dealing with immigrants who arrive daily by boat — from Syria, Libya, Greece, — places of war, suffering, deprivation a few miles from the shores of Italy.

So —- what do we do?

1.  First be informed — know about the Rohingya people — who are Muslims — who are fleeing from Myanmar where they are being oppressed by the Buddhist majority.  Know about the 600,000 Rohingya people who are refugees in Bangladesh —– an already poor nation expected to protect these people in need.  600,000 HUMAN BEINGS leaving their burned out villages hoping simply to escape death.

We may not be able to help one of these men, women, or children —– but we can be aware of what is happening outside our borders — yes, we deal with security issues, and others hope to live another day.

A small gift to Catholic Relief Services or some other reputable relief agency will make a huge difference to those in need.

2.  Can’t feed everyone — but, we can make an offering to our food banks, meal preparation programs, or to SOME FAMILY we personally know who would find a $25 gift card to a grocery store to be like $100 to us.

3. Make plans to provide clothing to a child or a family in need as Christmas time approaches.  TV stations, Civic groups, the Salvation Army — are all looking for financial donations as well as donations of NEW clothing for those in need.  Make this Christmas be about ME PLUS ONE — my FAMILY PLUS ONE.

4. Don’t know anyone in prison — learn about prison reform — restorative justice.  Contribute to prison re-entry programs in the community.  Be willing to hire someone who has been incarcerated.    Look beyond the tattoos to see the person.

Someone has a car accident — not their fault — but, they end up having to pay for the damage.  Their insurance has a $250 deductible — they do not  have $250.  If this were me—- or most of us —- no problem, we write a check.  Some people do not have $250 in the bank to write a check.  Can I help them in some way?  Of course —

5.  Some starts a GO FUND ME PAGE to help medical bills — $25 makes the burden lighter.

As KING, Jesus is not someone enforcing liturgical purity — musical propriety — or political views —- Jesus is about concern, about compassion, about welcome —- Jesus is about HIS people living together in harmony despite differences.

Jesus is about bridges that unite people and not walls that separate people.  Jesus is about access to health care, education, and safety from predators.

No —- I cannot help everyone —- I cannot address all problems.  I CAN find my passion, what tugs at my heart — my neighbor in need — and to do SOMETHING, not everything.

To the world ——- I am but one —— but, to the ONE, I am the WORLD.




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