Thursday, August 24, 2017

Good Bye and God Bless.

After a few years of not posting...
After a few years of trying social media and never really gaining anything except lost time...
After a few years of creative illusion...
Good bye.
May Almighty God bless you, May His Son Jesus be in your heart, May the Holy Spirit inspire and heal you... and may His Holy Mother protect you.

Thank you for reading.

-Michael

Monday, February 9, 2015

Vanilla

This entry is really an elongated response to my friend, Fr. Len Stoviak's reflection found posted on his blog; Journey Thoughts.

I follow his thoughts and musings simply because I know his story and it's good.
He's waiting for a new bishop to be assigned, and if I am keeping track it will be his fifth.
But that isn't his only concern....

It grieves me terribly to see our churches less that full, and most importantly to see major celebrations at the Cathedral and elsewhere poorly attended.  It speaks of a lack of pride or of apathy or of schedules that are too busy, but it does not speak of vibrant faith and joy.  Bishop Coyne in his homily of installation the other day in Burlington, VT spoke of someone whose conversation he overheard that chose a "mega church" over the Catholic Church.  The person said of the Catholic community that "it was like they mourn their religion".  He said that he could relate to that statement, and so can I.  He went on to say that "If we are going to call people to our churches and they do happen to come in, what will they find?  People who have the joy of the "good news" in their hearts, people who are welcoming and encouraging, who celebrate the Church's liturgy with care and commitment or a people who `mourn their religion`."

     We have been blessed with four very different bishops, each bringing their own personalities and talents to the job - one was a big city priest and bishop called to the "country" ... one was an inner city pastor who came as a father figure ... one came as an administrator and was often misunderstood ... and one came with a diplomatic background.  I realize this is over simplistic, but that is my observation.

It doesn't sound too hopeful.  First, the new bishop's comments--yep 'mourning' the religion.  It isn't anything new.  During my time as an episcopal rector, one vivid memory I have (unfortunately) was when I preached a sermon asking the few church goers, "What would someone see if they were to walk over our landscaped grounds and peek inside our beautiful windows?"  I went on to share my observations....which probably contributed to my getting fired a few months later. 

 I'm not sure if I or anyone knows what is being mourned or if  it even existed.  Perhaps what is being mourned is an idea--similar to falling in love with the idea of being in love--it simply doesn't exist.
So a church in mourning--perhaps Avery Dulles could use it as a new model of ecclesiology.

Unfortunately we have many bishops who are bishops simply because, as priests,  they made it to a certain age without a personal scandal and no hair raising episodes in their ministerial career (and I use career on purpose to show how far off we are in describing ministry).    Vanilla is the flavor.  Really can't go wrong with it and it does nothing to inspire.  And, while we are at it--a good operational definition for 'inspire' would be--a creative shepherding of the soul to God.

Vanilla--Nothing.
I'm so glad Fr. Len didn't use the word 'leader' when it came to bishop.  Back in the 90's leadership and its study was the cash-cow of universities and even clergy gatherings.  It was a waste of time.
You can teach parish administrative leadership in one hour with a good computer program.
You can't teach inspiration.

Inspiration fills the pews, not some leadership approach.
Solid liturgy, across the board, not focusing on the life of the priest--fills the pews.  Don't have a dramatic performance of a liturgy that can easily be confused with some kind of re-enactment in order to keep the people 'entertained.'
Inspiration.  The 'leaders' have lost their sense of inspiration, and we continue to validate and promote the process.

Sorry this sounds a little tough--but really what is it going to take?
Another celebrity priest?  Another media brainstorm and blitz?  Another re-envisioning, re-inventing the church?  I recall one such diocesan meeting where we were all going to discuss a book--because that was the new movement in leadership--and the speaker never showed!  As a priest, (and I share this from a glass house where I failed miserably many times in the life...but that said) I probably should have been visiting the hospital or praying or offering some sort of personal or communal sacrifice--anything that would have been more 'priestly' than sitting in a convention hall spending time being taking in by nothing more than a book selling gimmick.
So what is it going to take?  Another book...series...or movement?  Another academic process, degree, or relearning?  Another sports program that is masked as 'fellowship'? Another mis-allocation of funds in the name of outreach and ministry and ecumenism?  

And now for the 'not-so-good-news'...
I don't think anything will change when it comes to the forms of ecclesial leadership that Fr. Len enumerated.  Actually they've had quite the spectrum.  And guess what?...it doesn't sound promising--little to no growth, more financial challenges, less clergy, probably more discontent among the laity, little to no collaborative ministry because it probably is the same people doing the same things just in a different way or at a different church.  

Sounds as if the diocese, barring any inspiration, is on the path to geographic division and 're-allocation'--i.e.  spilt up and given to neighboring dioceses. After all isn't that what the current corporate movement and model of church dictates?  1. merge schools, 2 merge parishes, 3 merge diocese.  It is a linear progression that is dictated by many factors.  Sometimes those socio-economic factors are contained as in some rural communities.  However, when a cathedral is described as being empty--well that is indicative of something much greater and this is not the moment to speculate.  Because speculation really does nothing.  

Suffice it to say that Fr. Len describes and empty church--how sad...how vanilla.

I have a little bit of a story when it comes to my public faith life--but I have to be honest, I have never been more uninspired than now when it comes to the lived experience of Church.   I have quietly and quickly become that middle age man who sits in the pew and closes his eyes. 
I sit at the church blind and waiting to see the Messiah- nothing more, nothing less.

Fr. Len labels his blog with 'What Do We Need?'  

I would venture to say... True Inspiration.



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holy Family

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family.

Family is one of the messiest things I have ever encountered...EVER.
 That is why I shutter when I hear someone describe their church as "family" Because, often times what they mean is 180 degrees opposite of what the reality is.  They simply mean Norman Rockwell, perfect gathering photo op....
That's not what I am talking about...

Family is the only reality I have of interaction with others.  It is the very foundation of where I spring forth to enter into every and any relationship.  Even my relationship with God. Family is so ingrained in the fabric of our soul that even when one is born without a family then something/or some institution/ or someother 'become' his family.

Family is, well...Family.

And it is messy.
Every broken piece of humanity is found in family.
Every vice.
Every virtue.

And we have to keep on living in it...even if we choose not to---there really is no choice because even when a person chooses to absent and vacate---well it is still FROM the FAMILY.  They are defined by their absence from a relationship with their 'family'.

And back to the Holy Family.  Think about it for a moment....I'm choosing to forego the family tree of murders and adulterers (of which David got both titles in one fell swoop), liars, cheats, and swindlers....let's just talk about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus--the Holy Family.
Mary was young, unwed but already chosen by God as an Immaculate Vessel.
Joseph betrothed (and we have no real idea how all that went down), had dreams and now his bride to be was pregnant with God's Son.
Still they married.
And now on the road---pregnant and giving birth in a cave among animals and feed and dare I say fecal matter?  The very birth is poverty exponentially exploded.
Young couple--no bridal or baby showers.

Soon after--the Presentation, the prophecies of Simeon and Anna with swords piercing Mary's heart and Joseph... Now on the run because of Herod's pride and ego and murderous ways...They had a murder squad stalking them! (Did I mention they didn't have a bridal or baby shower?)

So they flee....young mom, faithful celibate husband, and infant God.

Really?  We get bent out of shape over what in our family?  Yes there are awful things, members cease talking, anger, hurt, pain, threats, misunderstandings, seem to at times outweigh any good memories or the hope of a future many times for many families. Members move away and forget and maybe they need to forget...that isn't the point...

The point is about Jesus and Mary and Joseph.
Who the shepherds found together
Who the kings found together
Who were at Joseph's death together
Who were at the Cross of Jesus together

We never here of the Holy Family having a birthday party, or a night on the town, or a family vacation, or the giggles and smiles and happy times that society tries to sell us---
No, we hear always of the Holy Family together cooperating with God's Will  They were found together in the midst of difficult and trying times.

So what makes a family holy?