Friday, December 30, 2011

Winter Overnight

Usually the weather cooperates--cold, dark, snowy--great for reflection and personal time.  But it is only 30 some degrees and rain is in the forecast.
Still we will meet, talk, pray, eat, and pray through the night before Jesus.

I ask for your prayers for the youth and young adults retreating at the 'second' annual winter overnight.

This evening at the communal dinner some collegians will be arriving--their purpose? Not only a reunion of sorts but some faith sharing.  In addition they are planning their first pilgrimage to Medugorje (for more info on this trip--check out the link at the top of the page).
I hope their excitement about the faith and their future will ignite and enflame the younger youth present.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Does Mary Have a Sense of Humor?

For the past few years I have been writing a book--A Lost Shepherd; an ex-priest's journey from sin to salvation

Of course I'm not going to tell you about it right now.  It will soon be available.

---what I want to share (at the urging of my lovely wife) are just two of the many coincidences--or God Incidents--which have marked the endeavor throughout the years.  Actually they might be considered the 'book ends' of the project.

In 1989 someone gave me a book entitled--Medjugorje The Message  by Wayne Weible.
---I didn't read it.  I threw it away.

I spent most of 2009 and 2010 sending the manuscript out to a variety of publishers.
--The story was eventually accepted by a new publishing company that didn't even exist when I began writing the manuscript six years ago.
The name of the company that finally accepted the manuscript?--New Hope Press Publishing Company
which is owned by--you got it...Wayne Weible.

I wonder if Mary laughed at that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Gift

Something lite....

My lovely wife gave me a clock this Christmas.  It took a couple days to regulate the chimes with the correct hour so time was a bit confused for the first 24 hours.
It's a great clock.  It fits the house perfect.

Here is what's weird....from the moment my brother helped me hang the clock...
time began to move faster

Every hour a chime goes--my wife or son will say "Well, there's another hour"

Now, I know that, in the land of cause and effect what I am suggesting is impossible.
Though we joked about it, I couldn't help but conduct a little experiment (I am after all a bit Narnian in my approach to the physical and spiritual and metaphysical world)

So I looked at the other clocks in the house when I heard a chime.
The microwave was flashing a :10 which meant I forgot to clear it from reheating the risotto (so I couldn't use it as a verifiable source)
The oven clock read within one minute.
My father's clock read within one half hour.
My phone was off.
My wife's phone was off.
My son didn't know where his phone was.

I suppose the new clock was correct.
Still, time is moving faster.  And my gut tells me it's the new clock.

God entered into our time (which is ultimately God's time).
He enters into our living, suffering, loving and dying.
So we can enter into His Eternal Time.

On another lite note...
My wife also gave me the new Roman Missal as a gift.
I'm not sure too many other husbands received such a gift on Christmas morn.
"Once a priest, always a priest." She said with a smile.

So on Christmas nite, after everyone retired,  I turned on my new book light (from the best son in the world) and cracked open the binding...
an hour later I closed it--(or at least I thought it was an could have been more..or even less)

Not that it matters--but my take on the whole thing?
I loved it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fatherhood, Husbandhood and Silence

I really try to listen to my wife
...most of the time....

My wife regularly attends morning Mass on her way to work.
I, on the other hand, haven't been--for reasons that really are inexcusable--
See, my son and I would attend morning Mass at another church, a little closer to home.  But, since the Nicene Creed had been changed (by the pastor) --we decided that we really ought not go--besides it became a near occasion of sin since I became judgmental.
So we were in a little diaspora.

My wife suggested that we all go with her in the morning.
Well, this means getting up earlier--and a few other arrangements--then driving back home---then driving back to work.
I wasn't in favor of it.
Too much driving.  Too much work.  Too much effort.
Yeh--I preach sacrifice and even blog about it---okay okay I get it.

So we went today--and the Gospel was appropriate--the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah is doing his priestly duty when the angel Gabriel appears and announces all the salvation news that an old guy can handle.  Of course Zechariah's doubting upsets Gabriel who reacts with a little God humor and mutes the guy.
I couldn't help but wonder how my not wanting to make a drive for Mass would be interpreted by Gabriel.
I don't want to be stricken mute.
I need to listen to my wife.

So there you have it.
We never 'get' God the way we want.

John the Baptist wasn't born the regular way--while Elizabeth and Zechariah were younger.  Think of how the man filled with the spirit of Elijah was called into the desert to proclaim and make ready and baptize.  The gospel actually describes his appearance--not a usual approach for Luke--so John must have been a sight to see.  I wondered if Zechariah ever told him to get a hair cut or his mother ever worried about what he was eating...

God never, ever comes as expected.  He was making ready the way in the midst in Elizabeth's womb and even in the midst of Zechariah's unbelief.

Don't be silenced--be made ready.

I'm glad I listened to my wife.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Immaculate Conception

Well, we seem to be in the midst of it.
It is dark when you come home from work.
It is dark when you rise in the morning.
We only have about nine hours of light.
And, in our particular neck of the woods--the temperature has been in the 30's and it has been drizzling for one week---cold, damp, dismal.
You get the picture--yep we are in the middle of the darkness.
We are in the middle of the thickness of Advent.

Mary of Tihaljina
 pilgrimage 5/2011

So breaks in our God.
Like into the womb of St. Ann.
Today in the Gospel we hear of Mary's fiat--"Be it done unto me..."
But what of Ann's?
It's all connected, more than our feeble imaginations can allow
Ann and Mary and Jesus and Joachim and Joseph
Into and through humanity our God arrives.
In the midst of darkness there is light.
In the midst of sin there is redemption.
Tired of darkness?
Echo Mary's 'Yes'

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fr. Ego vs. Fr. Real--comment

 I copied the following comment because it sums up the predicament priests like 'Fr Ego' pose for the good clergy and parishioners and bishops out there.  The reader Dionysus said it well...

Dionysus said...

...My questions are: What happens to the parish community after the "celebrity priest" leaves it because of reassignment or he is off to bigger and better things? Will the people who were drawn to the parish because of the "celebrity priest" leave the community and try to find another good weekend show elsewhere? Will the people who do remain be burdened with debt because the "celebrity priest" got people to agree to some special building project(I like to call it the "file builder" in the Bishop's office)?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fr. Ego vs. Fr. Real

Here's a juxtaposition for you

I read a news article today about a priest who is 'revitalizing' an inner city parish.
It was all about the priest.  He is packing them in, numbers are up, baskets are full, and the best part...
The people love him.  They adore him.  You know the drill--the smooth talking schmoozer preaching feel good pop spiritual psychology (i know 'cause i did it).
The people adore him.  Throughout the story the priest's name was mentioned a bunch of times.
But guess whose name was missing?

Not once was the name Jesus Christ mentioned.
They even mentioned the names of Hollywood celebrities who he has acquainted. That sure makes me want to go to church there.  If he knew a Hollywood star then he must really be the cat's meow (actually I am a dog person).

The name of Jesus Christ isn't mentioned once.  Not even in a quote from the priest.  Remember that name?  Jesus.  You know, the name that makes demons flee.   shhhhh don't say it you might ruin a good thing.

Now, here's the juxtaposition--don't give up hope yet---
While the name of Christ was not mentioned in the article about a Roman Catholic priest--I hear of another new pastor (this is not in the newspapers because it isn't 'popular') who has begun perpetual adoration at his parish.  
Good show.  He lives his pastorate with Eucharistic Adoration not a media blitz.

pray for our priests.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Worth Taking a Look...Strong Words From Vatican Exorcist

Read this "Exorcist laments apathy...."

These are some strong words for everyone--clergy included.

Exorcist Interview

Replay--Satan's Pings

As a blogger I am aware of the 'statistics' page.
There are a few very popular blog posts that continue to get 'hit'.  

I decided to revisit one--Satan's Pings (feb 2011)

Tissot--Jesus Tempted in the Desert

Satan pings you. Rarely is it a flat out onslaught of evil but an insipid encircling that takes jabs at you throughout the day.

The objectives of pinging are simultaneously simple and interconnected.  They are temptation, distraction, frustration, anxiety and fear.
The goal of pinging is also simple--keep the soul distracted, frustrated, anxious, or afraid just enough that it forgets God or worse--consciously turns from God.
The origins of the daily pinging we endure are found in the seven deadly sins--sins that play on human nature;
wrath, greed, pride, sloth, envy, gluttony, and lust.
And of course the ultimate origin of these is found in satan.

But the church doesn't talk about these anymore.  Why?  Is it because sin has been explained and rationalized as an excused human reaction to stress or, even worse, has sin been intellectualized to non existence?  On the rare occasion when I hear the mention of sin in a homily--the connection is never made to the presence of evil and the existence of satan. (no disrepect meant to the clergy, just an observation from the pew)  Perhaps it isn't preached because it isn't a popular product and if the church lives a philosophy of consumerism and the customers aren't buying it--well it's dropped from the product line. Satan is laughing.

But the movie theatres are full when a movie like The Rite comes out, why?  Because it plays (sometimes in a mixed up way) on that deep inherent knowledge of the human experience--- there is a battle for the soul.
Yes, the soul is created for God.  And that is the whole reason satan keeps pinging.
He wants to keep you from God.

People in the work place, and (hang on here) even in the church, are affected by the seven deadly sins everyday.
You can't tell me that greed and pride haven't replaced God.  Actually greed and pride may be two of the sins that receive the most rationalization.  After all, financial and social injustices are just the way of the world.  And, in the world today any lack of pride is interpreted as a weakness.
Use who you can to get what you want--what a bunch of crap from the father of lies.

You can't deny that lust and gluttony have control over people's lives and are excused more readily than ever.  Go ahead and feel what you want and even act on it--God will always forgive you.  Yes we believe He will--but what happens when you stop even asking for forgiveness?  Follow a sin and it becomes your
How about wrath and envy--who hasn't been on both sides of those?   And, in the time it took you to read this another soul fell victim to sloth or laziness--the spiritual quest is just too tiring and excuses are a dime dozen.

I used to think that when I was aware of being pinged it was a little easier to take.  But sometimes a ping does more than just distract or frustrate or play on a fear or anxiety.  Sometimes a ping can cut right to the heart and make the soul feel completely helpless and useless maybe even feel like God abandoned you.

Then again I am reminded of Jesus being tempted in the desert and then later on the Cross--satan didn't want what was coming so he was throwing everything he had at Christ.

If you are pinged today--look to the victory that resides only in and through Christ.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Good Sermon

At seven in the morning on The Feast of All Saints at Holy Mass--
I heard a good sermon.
From an older established pastor who I knew from years back.

He didn't have to prepare--come on it's seven in the morning.  People are shuffling in and mixing with the usual morning Mass crowd (maybe even taking their pew).
He didn't have to prepare--but he did and I knew it.

He spoke of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant--descriptors that were never taught to my generation.
He spoke about how we need to be 'militant' in pursuit of our faith--how we need to do the work and be aware that satan is always thwarting God's love and God's way.
He spoke about how we are connected to those who were once the 'militant' and are now 'triumphant'

It was a good All Saints homily.
No agenda except inspiring people to go a little harder in their pursuit of holiness--you know--like a saint!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

St. Raphael

According to the old Roman Catholic liturgical calendar today is the Feast Day of the Archangel Raphael.
Even during my old 'progressive' days I secretly kept track of feast days that occurred on the old calendar--those mystical connections certainly weren't wiped away in 1969.
Prior to moving St. Raphael to September 29--he had is own day--and a pretty neat history.  Take a moment and read a little on him (yeh I used a gender specific pronoun to describe--)

In many ways our descriptions and stories and cultural manifestations of angels describe a spiritual reality denied in today's world.

St. Raphael is depicted either standing on a fish or holding a line with a fish at the end.
My kind of angel.  The fish has to do with the story of Tobit and his healing from blindness.  Prior to laser surgery God's approved method of healing involved the guts and gallbladder of a fish.
Because of Raphael's relationship with Tobit and his son--he is also consider the patron of travelers.

So we have an angel who sits at the Throne of God and directly intervenes in our lives.

Do you want that?
Then simply ask.
Somewhere along the line (no fishing pun intended)--Tobit asked for it.  He was healed, fed, and didn't have to travel alone.

Who couldn't use some healing and a companion on the journey?
God provides--He always does.
May the saints and angels intercede.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Politically Correct Crap vs Nicene Creed

Council of Nicea Sistine Chapel
Okay, the short of it is this.
Went to Holy Mass today.
The priest shared a pretty good homily on the upcoming changes to the liturgy, focusing today on the Nicene Creed.

So far so good--he even described some of the heresies the Creed addressed.

Then came the kicker--He shared that the phrase  "For us men and for our salvation..." will be recited by himself as "For us and for our salvation..."
With an authoritative voice he urged the congregation to join him or not--but he leaves it up to 'our conscience'  Gee, thanks.

Okay--no problem I've been around enough of this liberal crap and I can turn a numb ear.  It would have been better if he never said anything--just preach the Creed.  The pulpit became a soap box.
Bad form.

Here's the deal--if the bishops said "let's take the word 'men' out"  (which they have in other parts of the liturgy)  no problem.  It is the teaching authority of the church that decided that--the inspired teaching authority.

But they didn't.  "Men" was left in.  If they take it out tomorrow--still no problem.  But until that day comes--stop it.

Stop confusing personal agenda's with pastoral authority.

So afterwards my wife approached this priest--
You can guess the response.  In the name of oppressed women--he became the standard bearer.  His was a weak argument--the very essence of his homily about the Creed was one of unity of expression of the faith and with one personal opinion he dissolved,
-----no he obliterated it.

So sit at the top of the slippery slope-- change the names, change the genders, meld the genders, --it's all relative right?  I've been around, excommunicated and back---i've seen what changing and omitting words in Creeds can do----DON'T DO IT--even if it is just one little word--just leave it alone until the Magisterium changes it.
Satan is banking on it--and he's cashing in a lot of chips as of late.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Parish

I'm thinking about piggy backing on the Occupy Wall Street movements---



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Staying Honest

For about two weeks the battery in our bathroom scale was dead.
I knew we had a replacement--but just couldn't seem to remember to put it in.


I kind of liked not having a scale.
It sat dead in the corner.  Yeh.

I ate more ice cream.
and cookies
and a burger here and there
and a beer
..maybe two.

Each day the scale sat there---dead.

Then I bent over to tie my shoes and felt my gut pushing back.

We need scales in the spiritual life.
We need to stay honest.
We can't delude ourselves into thinking everything is okay while we fill our senses and souls with crap.

I can do what I want--cause Jesus died for me and I'm already saved.
Yeh, right. Bank on your soul making it to purgatory (which is pretty good...) while your free will satiates itself.  Really?
No scale.

Last evening at a youth ministry meeting I went out on a limb and shared with the few members present--"You're not praying enough."  I continued "I'm not lining up missions and retreats and overnights if you guys don't start taking prayer more serious."
At first I had a couple looks like I was being judgmental--until someone said "How'd you know?"

Spiritual scales help keep us honest in our quest.
It is so easy to get spiritually sidetracked--in fact satan is banking on sloth and laziness and gluttony and lust and anger and greed and all those things that take our focus away.
Stay away from the spiritual scale and you can grow fat on paganized sugar.

During the month of October we have the tradition in our family of erecting and decorating The Saint Tree.  
Everyone in the family takes a day and makes an ornament depicting some aspect or picture of the Saint of the Day--using old and new calendars.
Saints are not only our intercessors but our spiritual scales--they give us their lives to measure ourselves with.  Of course I'm no saint (please don't crash the site with comments on that statement)--but I can try and try again to unite myself with Christ--after all isn't that what they did?

So don't be afraid to get spiritually weighed today--examine your conscience--be honest--ask a saint to help.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

St. Michael the Archangel Feast Day (of Course Along with Gabriel and Raphael)

Revelation 12:7-12
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.
St. Michael the Archangel outside the shrine in Italy
  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
  and the Kingdom of our God
  and the authority of his Anointed.
  For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,
  who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb
  and by the word of their testimony;
  love for life did not deter them from death.
Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
  and you who dwell in them.”

It is no surprise that St. Michael the Archangel is the patron of this blog.

Years ago there was a movie entitled Michael.  It played on the story of the Archangel Michael returning to Earth and doing some good.  It was a fun movie.
There was a phrase that Michael would use over and over--"Battle"
He reduced a bank to rubble, cleared out a bar, and even took on a bull.

Praylium the blog is a play on the Latin word--praelium which means battle.

There is always a battle for your soul.  There is no other way to share this spiritual truth.
It's difficult to keep at it though isn't it?
Evil and the demonic constantly comes at us.
It somehow awakens in us our fallen tendencies of pride and anger and lust and sloth and gluttony--it builds on these.  In fact it is counting on us cooperating with it.
And then when we do--it darkens another part of our soul.

Go to Confession.
Receive Eucharist.
Pray the Rosary today--pray it with St. Michael--
Read Scripture and know that the story is one the end God wins.  The question is--are you doing the work to be on the winning side?

Click on the picture of St. Michael on the right and say the prayer--

St. Michael the Archangel...defend us...pray for us.

Here is some interesting stuff--St. Michael

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Caution--Depression Ahead


This morning I came across a line in my son's church history book (Story of the Church, Tan Publishers) that addressed the church's need of reform during the time of St. Boniface (680-755 AD).  There existed not only corrupt pagans and political forces but bishops, priests, and religious.  It was ugly.  Of course we live in a different time today right?

Here are my mental notes from this morning...

Church is corrupted--which at first is very well disguised.
Holy person leads reform of the church or religious order or diocese.
Demonic eventually enters--which at first is very well disguised.
Holy person usually martyred.
Demonic does it's best to kill the reform and re-corrupt--which at first is very well disguised.
New holy person is born--leads new reform---demonic re-enters---
and so on and so on and so on.

The battle seems to never end--

Come to think of it--the above cycle is a little like the spiritual life and confession, no?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Standing at the Top of the Slippery Slope

So an elderly priest from Canada spoke his heart and was silenced.
The diocese played the "we need to love everyone card" -- which translated to diocesan garble means--"don't offend any one and please be politically correct."
It smacks of relativism and if you follow the reasoning of the diocesan spokesperson--we end up with no absolute truths--a slippery slope.  But how can you argue with a diocesan spokesperson who says "we are all loved unconditionally...."?
You can't--
But, by taking that position the church hung the elderly priest out to dry and aligned itself with moral relativism.  Bad form.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Excuse me...NGSR

When I was a young seminarian we would attend evening prayer and Mass with the monks.
So, for the first part of the Mass we would chant the psalmody.  It usually was a beautiful experience.
On one such evening I had a monk sitting to my right.
He thought it best to change every gender identifying pronoun to a non-specific non-gender pronoun.
So every time God was referenced in the psalm as He--it became God, or Lord, or Creator (but too many syllables would not flow--you get the aural picture).
Every psalm.
Every messed up syllable.
Every blessed pronoun.

Yeh, good prayer.

Later that week someone in seminary referred to the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
Okay...I get it.  I know the arguments from all sides and all genders (only two genders right??)

Yesterday at Mass my wife had a non-gender-specific responder or (NGSR's) as I am now officially coining the phrase--post this and tweet it from the blogosphere
Now parishes will have to post on their bulletins and pages and promotions if they are NGSR.

Anyways this woman was next to my wife at Mass.
I think she was a nun.

In the old days you knew of a women religious by their garb---now you know them by their response at Mass.

I know, in the greater scheme it is no big deal.  In fact if I was the therapist for this rant I would laugh and tell myself to chill.
It just gets old. Why does someone need to pointedly not respond the way the community is responding?
Is it really about praising God the Father? (excuse me--God the Creator)--or is it more about simply drawing attention to one's own relationship with Christ? (excuse me--Redeemer --cause the descriptor 'redeemer' is so much more personal to me).

When I didn't want to live and play by the rules--I left--(canonically we call it excommunicated.) BUT when I returned (by the Grace of God) I understood one thing--I had to leave my agendas and baggage and crap at the door--(and believe me I had some crap)--but nothing that a letter from the Pope couldn't clear up.

My point?--NGSR is inherently flawed.
They need to stop.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pride and Money and Bishops and Priests

Looks like the demons are raising their ugly heads.
There is a story in the church about a pro life priest and a bishop.
The priest is being called back to the diocese by the bishop.  He isn't suspended or anything, just called back, plucked out of his pro-live apostolate.
I think the priest is ticked.  He played his hand to the media early and basically said that the old bishop understood, but this new guy...well it just isn't working out, so he's going to find some other place to 'be a priest'.

You can search the internet for all the takes on the story--from the financial concerns to the ministerial.  I won't plague you with all of that here.

But, from a praylium perspective--the whole entire thing just smells bad--the demonic has taken up residence.

Pride and ego and money are in the mix, actually ALOT of money.  Now don't jump to conclusions but between you and who has it....are you surprised?  Really?

Money (or lack of it) and entitlement go hand in hand.
If a person has money and wants for nothing--they live in the world of entitlement.
And, the opposite is also true--I found as a therapist that many people who were 'playing the social system' felt entitled to do whatever, whenever, to whomever, because they had nothing and something was 'owed' to them.
And, if that isn't enough there's more to this web of entitlement--if a person is jealous or envious of another's money, they may begin to believe that that are somehow entitled to have a piece of it.
In all three scenarios the behavior of the 'entitled' is selfish, obnoxious, and maybe even abusive and violent.   Clericalism really is entitlement with robes.

So, money and entitlement, and power and authority--good mix for satan.
By the way, the priest is appealing to Rome.  He really really doesn't want to go back with this bishop.  Do you think he has any connections in Rome?

Who has the bigger 'connections' the bishop or the priest?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A little story about Real Presence

A long time ago in an Episcopal Diocese far far away a Bishop lead an Episcopal priest to a parish with the request that he get them back on track with the Book of Common Prayer and celebrating Holy Eucharist.

The priest tried and failed.  People got angry at the priest and his family.  They threw stuff like gossip and opinions at them.  Eucharist was not to become the center and the priest couldn't do what the Bishop wanted.
The Blessed Virgin Mary intervened and took the Episcopal priest and his family away and has taken care of them ever since.

As the years progressed a few more rectors attempted to lead the congregation but did not stay.

Still, when the moon is full and that old congregation awakens its' inner tumultuous past--the name of that priest, and perhaps even his family, now three times removed from the rectorship-- is whispered and even published as one of the  'aborted rectorships'
Why do they need to keep bringing it up?

It must have something to do with Eucharist.
Pope Benedict Eucharistic Adoration
photo from St. Anne's parish
It has to have something to do with Eucharist.

Moral of the story:  Real Presence--what are you doing with it?

Interested in a little more on Real Presence?

The best thing to do--is go and sit and kneel and stand and whatever you need to do--before the Blessed Sacrament.  And if you can't make a visit today--then do it in your right now.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Football Season

My lovely wife and I attended a high school football game this past Friday night.

Here is what I thought.

Stadiums are planned, contracted, politicized, and built. Turf is grown, mowed, fertilized, or maybe installed, and painted. Goal posts are set. Lights are replaced. Electricity and PA systems are installed. Plumbing and water and sewage is set. Landscaping and trees and flags are readied. Buses pull up--teams dressed in colors and equipment are unloaded. Special shoes and gear and helmets and pads. Bands unload--instruments and music and pit crews and uniforms are all readied. Bus drivers park and sit and wait. Cheerleaders practice their routines. Concession stands are stocked and selling. Parents and fans arrive and begin to take their seats.
All this on opening night-- and not just for the two schools I was watching.
And, weeks before the teams and bands and coaches and parents and families all put in thousands of collective hours and made thousands of different sacrifices and changes in schedules--and not just for the two schools I was watching.

Multiply the above by hundreds and hundreds. Then escalate it into the college and pro ranks....
Then add more money...

All this so--a ball can cross over a goal line?

If only we put as much energy into spending time with our God.

I enjoy the competition and I love the music. I'm not out to stop it.
I was just thinking--what if the approach to our relationship with God even hinted at the hours of preparation, stamina, discipline, and energy?

What would happen if we held band camps and football camps and spring trainings for our souls?
Days of confession and purifying and stretching and praying and receiving Holy Eucharist?

satan wants us to just 'get' by and we fool ourselves thinking that an occasional Our Father and sitting in a pew for an hour is enough.

We put more work into getting that ball across the goal line--for a fleeting moment that really has nothing to do with our salvation.

I ought to conclude at this moment and not even get into the realm of sports in Catholic schools.
Actually there isn't any discussion since Jesus gets cut from the roster every year.

He's the first to go--making way for a brand of elite and entitled sports programs that are 'catholic' in name only--many of them dictating school and parish resources and agendas.

Right--I'm not going to discuss that.

Just Do It.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If a soul kneels to receive and there is no archbishop to see does it matter to God?

**Warning--rant ahead**

So an Archbishop in Scotland has told his 'flock' to stop kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion.

Give me a break.  Really?
If someone kneels--they are what?--drawing attention to themselves?  Maybe.  Or maybe they have an agenda?  Or maybe they just want to have a moment with Christ?
Does it really matter?

Haven't you ever been brought to your knees?
Hasn't it ever hit you what miracle you just received?
Not that it's every time--but occasionally doesn't it just knock you down?
----off your high horse?

What's the big deal if a person approaches God that way?

We've focused so much on the 'gathering of the assembly as the Body of Christ'--that we've lost the reason why we are gathering.
Maybe a little kneeling would help slow us down and not be concerned about the constraints.

Maybe more people who are confecting and distributing Eucharist ought to kneel.

I have heard the argument that standing in western culture is a sign of respect.  I've heard the argument that we are an "Easter" people standing in the midst of the Resurrected Christ present before us.  Yep, I've heard them--and I've stood.  I'm just saying a little kneeling when the Spirit so moves is not a bad thing.

What is the greater issue is that an Archbishop has decided that people must conform to his liturgical mandate.  Really?  Everything else must be going pretty well in his diocese for this to become the focus of the latest liturgical energy.

Now, this blog entry is on the heels of a rather disheartening experience of Eucharist an Episcopal church (remember Jesus in the plastic baggie) -but in all fairness I want to share the following.
One of my holdovers from my Episcopal priest days was the altar rail--There was something humbling about the whole action.
The priest and chalice bearer would distribute Holy Communion from behind the altar rail.  Contrary to popular belief it was still very efficient and you didn't feel like cattle being lead to milking.  And, if you don't want to kneel, then don't--it was never and issue.
One day I stood waiting for an elderly gentleman who was having difficulty kneeling down.  At first I grew impatient and thought "Why doesn't he just stand?"

My heart was opened as I watched him humbly kneel and hold out his worn arthritic hands to receive his savior.  He looked at the Host as I held it, "The Body of Christ."
"Amen" --his eyes welling with tears.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Breakfast Club

Sometimes the third time may be the charm.  This is, after all, is the third time this post has been published in just as many days.

I wasn't sure whether it actually fit into the 'praylium' world of blogging.

A couple of days ago I was at a rather unusual breakfast gathering.
Around the table sat;
My lovely wife and son.
Myself (who, for the sake of this story, will be referred to as the 'ex-episcopal rector')
A rather eccentric man who hails from Texas--the convener of the breakfast
A recently-fired-church organist, her husband, and son
A recently fired Anglican priest and his wife.

The bond?  The Anglican priest, myself, and the organist all at different times served the same Episcopal congregation and we were all fired.

Before any accusations of gossip and slander are thrown--the breakfast was really more about laughter and perspective-with an occasional horror story thrown in.
While the organist and priest were much closer to their departure date--myself and my family were years out.  I felt bad for them.  I couldn't imagine going through what the others at the breakfast table went through--because when I was fired--the Virgin Mary was already leading us back home.

But here is what I want to talk about...
At one point the Anglican priest asked me, "Do you miss it?"
"Nope."  I quickly answered, then added. "I do miss celebrating Eucharist and hearing confessions."  (Yes Reconciliation is in the Book of Common Prayer--but in my five years I never heard one sacramental confession)
I then went on to talk about how the Episcopal bishop (at that time) wanted me to re-institute the proper celebration of Holy Eucharist at that church on a weekly basis---
"No problem"  I thought.
Boy was I wrong.
When I first arrived at the church I found consecrated Hosts stored in a plastic baggie in the aumbry (tabernacle)
For my remaining time we used a ciborium.

I found out at breakfast that when I left that church--the plastic baggie returned.
If that is true--how sad.

That church is still seeking a new rector.
I hope they find what they are looking for.

Now, the reason I finally decided to share the above story is because of an article I read concerning the population of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Episcopal Church Numbers 

You can make all the necessary connections.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Really? This will inspire vocations to the priesthood?

I'm not too sure about this one.
The Cathedral of SS Simon and Jude, diocese of Phoenix has disallowed female altar servers.
The rector says the new parish liturgical mandate will inspire more men to become priests.  This smells like clericalism.

Before I begin you need to know two things.
First I am not in favor of woman priests.  Second I'm not even in favor of married priests.  So there you go. Now, let's address the issue at hand.

I know the theology behind the ministry of acolyte--a ministry in priestly formation (one of the passages on the way to receiving ordination--the ministry of acolyte is a 'minor order')  The altar server has it's roots in the ministry of acolyte--but it isn't that ministry.

The rector wants to inspire males to become priests.  Why?  There is obviously a shortage and the priesthood has suffered a certain diminishment during the past decade or two.  In order to fix that the solution is to allow only the male gender around the altar.  

It isn't a matter of females serving at the altar that diminished the priesthood.  No, the church as a whole has done a fine job.  The magisterium, clergy, and laity have shared in the joint venture of that diminishment.
There are men who have discerned that they are called to formation and ordination in the sacred orders--so let's ask the question; Where was their inspiration?  The Holy Spirit?  Mom and Dad and family?  Perhaps a teacher or coach or friend?  Maybe even a priest?
Or was it that no girls were allowed to serve at the altar?

Perhaps fasting and praying and adoration are what need to be fostered.  Perhaps more priests who spend time in the confessionals and go to confession are what need to be fostered.  Perhaps priests doing the work of priests ought to be the visible sign.

 Perhaps what inspires the heart to answer the call isn't 'who is allowed' but who is holy.

By focusing on the gender of altar servers the focus is taken away from what is really occurring on the altar--Christ's becoming present.  That is the center of the priesthood--nothing else.

Oh, and by the way--When I was an active priest, I found that female servers were much more reliable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


In our 'neck' of the woods (whatever that means)--there is a majority of people who are readying themselves for the start of the academic year.
In my day-- that meant you received a new ruled tablet with glue binding and one #2 pencil that could never write on the tablet because the paper was too cushiony.  For some (except my brother who merely switched between two classrooms for six years) there was a new classroom and new seating.  There may even be a 'new kid'.  It's a mix of excitement and anxiety.

Right now, I'm the newbie at a parish where I recently began some part-time work.
This past weekend I said hello and shook some hands..."Hi, I'm the part-time youth director..."
I don't do well with that kind of stuff--actually the older I get the more difficult it has become.

How many of us have that automatic shut off that is activated whenever a person begins to speak after communion?  Even as a priest I would shut down.  None-the-less I decided to share a quick story (that I had published earlier in this blog).

And so, I preface my request for your prayers for this group with that story...

(The following scene happened to me a few years ago)
The room was filled with about 50 some high schoolers attending a retreat that I was to give.
But I couldn't even get the evening started...

I read the Gospel passage where Jesus was tempted in the desert.

They gave me that blank stare. 
"Crap," I thought "This whole evening is centered on this passage and they're looking at me like I'm some old fart with ten heads."

I put the Bible down and with that my eyes were opened.

"How many of you believe in God?"
There was silence.
"Come on, be honest, we got nothing to lose.  I'm just curious, raise your hand if you believe in the existence of God."
Six hands...out of about 50

"Okay, so lets move to Jesus.  How many believe?"
Four hands.

"Now, what about satan?"

We spent the next two hours talking about why and what's missing, and what can the Church do, and who goes to Mass, and what is going on at home ...and all that stuff.


One of the clergy upon hearing this remarked, "Well you know, it was bad weather that night."

Yep, I base my faith on the weather.

Do me a favor today and pray for the youth who will be gathering this evening.

For anyone interested in following the startup and life of a new youth community you can follow them on twitter @stjoesbol

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Search Keyword

St. Michael the Archangel...defend us in battle our safeguard
...against wickedness
...and snares
...and temptations

Most likely because of the title Praylium and a page entitled Satan's Pings this blog receives alot of 'hits' from people who type a variety of searches using keywords like;  temptation, evil, demons and satan..  I am not sure if they are looking to align themselves with darkness, or for information, or a way out of their present condition.
Not a day goes by where this website isn't hit by some searching soul.

Yes, it is a spiritual battle out there, in there, and everywhere---for your soul.

Where you at?
It takes work you know?  Work and prayer.  Whatever works for you--find it and stick with it.  Never let up...cause darkness always comes around and takes advantage of every moment.  The 'father of lies' will mask himself as good and rational.  satan preys on transition times in our lives.  Those are the times when we excuse ourselves more readily.  satan preys on times when our hearts ache and are broken, when we are depressed and when we are anxious.

Give us this day, our daily bread.
Free us from anxiety as we wait in joyful hope...

So, where are you at?  You doing the work?  You climbing the Cross Mountains in your life?  You praying and fasting?
For those of you who searched a key word and got this site---what are you doing with your soul?
The Holy Spirit lead you here--now it's your turn to do something with it.

And here is the Good News...Really Who are you searching for?
No matter how far off the mark we have been or become---Christ is waiting.
Come home.

pray for all who happen upon this site by 'accident'.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Me and St. Pete

I have to admit--I really didn't listen to the priest's homily today.  My lovely wife said it was pretty good.
I was pre-occupied with a thought that hit me at the conclusion of the Gospel.
Here is a snippet...

It was the story of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on the water towards Jesus.  A storm blew up, Peter lost his concentration, Jesus saved him and then asked him why he had such little faith.

I closed my eyes and imagined my conversation with St. Peter.
"Come on Pete--I mean you have seen how many miracles by now? And you're coming off the feeding of the five thousand--and now Christ is walking to you on the water and you say, 'if it's you--command me', and you're on the water walking man!  Then you become frightened?  What's up with you?
You had everything right before you and you blew it...again."

St. Peter looked at me and quietly said,  "So do you."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An old youth minister and an atheist..

I began another chapter in my ministry 'career' today--still holding onto my imaginary title of being the oldest youth minister in the diocese.
I unlocked the office door and found a place to open the lap top--and I was off.
I set up an email and tweet account, picked some dates for the initial meetings, and started getting some names and numbers.

I sat back in my chair and gazed out the window.  I thought of the first youth ministry I formed many years ago in a diocese far far away.
It was a phenomenal group.  I was a young priest who happened to be at the right parish at the right time.  We did the rallies, retreats, and mission trips-- It was a graced time.
But I didn't do my job.
I didn't teach the faith--good enough.
You see, a few years ago, I heard that one of the members of that original group was now an atheist.
Yeh, I know--it really isn't my fault--but you know what?  It inspired me to do better.

Who knows maybe one of the youth from the past couple of years or one from this about to be formed group will be the one to bring him back?

Jesus did feed five thousand.....

For this newly formed ministry---your prayers are appreciated
you can follow us on twitter @stjoesbol
let us know your prayers are with us.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Approaching God

So there I was, sound asleep--which for me is a small miracle.  I never was a good sleeper, but now as time continues its linear march forward--I become less and less a good sleeper.
None-the-less, I was at the hour in the morning when the Trappists had already completed there vigils.
In the echoes of between awake and asleep I heard my wife let the dogs out side.
I fell back asleep before I heard them come back in.

Then, I felt it.
First I felt the warmth, then the wet, then it's presence.
One of our dogs (Benedict is his name), a beefy hunting Vizsla, had placed himself immediately to the right of my shoulder---
started shaking out of excitement.....and then...

Yep, that's how I woke up.
Dog urine--on my shoulder, arm and neck.

See. Ben has a bit of a problem.  He really tries to control himself.  But his excitement always gets the better of his entire being, especially his bladder.
Thing is--its every time.
My wife and I can't even hug without him butting in.

Now, I am sure the dog whisperer or someone trained in dog therapy will tell me that he has some issues.
No joke.  Maybe it's the middle dog issue, or the neutered big dog in a pack with a female doberman as alpha dog issue.  Doesn't matter.

Now, I am not assuming the role of "God" in his life, so the following thoughts are not meant to be presumptuous.  Please keep this in mind as you continue.
What it made me think about was simply How am I approaching God.  I mean this dog is this excited every moment he sees us.  How am I with God? Do I approach with Holy Fear and Awe?  Am I aware that I am in His creative hands?

So what is your approach to God?  Are you coming to Him with everything you got?
Now, let's go one step further...What is your approach to other people, familiar and non-familiar?

Later in the day, our family was working outside when I heard my lovely wife yell for help because one of the dogs was in trouble.  There is a very old in ground swimming pool that was covered and Ben had fallen through.  In my rush through the woods I re-injured a bum ankle and fell in a patch of poison ivy.

"He's okay." She hollered.

Yes, he certainly is.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Celibacy--Oh Well

Today I heard of a priest who recently left the ministry.  News like this tends to find me--must be the inactive priest magnet that I ontologically inherited.
Now, having been down the road of leaving the active diocesan priesthood years ago, I want to dismiss this blog from all rumors, slanders, and accusations which I am sure surround the specific situation.  After all it really doesn't matter who or where or even how....does it?

What was interesting was where my brief conversation lead--the issue of celibacy.
The person asked me "Having been on both sides of the ministry" (He was speaking not only of my being a Roman Catholic priest, but a married Episcopalian for a stint) "...what do you think?  Should the Roman Catholic Church allow it's priests to be married?"
I didn't have to think one second.
My lived experience was all I needed.

I used to believe that mandatory celibacy was one of the roots of many evils in the Church--and the uneducated media and issue driven (often angry) people want you to believe such.
Don't even go down the sexual perversion route--last I checked marriage was not seen as a cure for sexual predators.
Getting rid of celibacy is not the answer to any evil in the church or the world.
Last I checked there are other faiths where celibacy is not mandatory for it's ministers and their formation programs are not all filled to capacity.

When I was a Roman Catholic priest--I had no concerns over getting the family to church or dealing with the opinions of parishoners if your family preferred going to an earlier service or if your child didn't smile at someone else's kid or if it was your family's turn to provide cookies after the service--and that's just one Sunday.  Not to mention when you come home on that same day getting called out to the hospital while your family was heading in a completely different direction, or getting the house painted and cutting the grass-------i'm just saying when I was a Roman Catholic priest I didn't have those 'little' concerns.

I have heard all the arguments--theological, social, historical, financial, and cultural--I put alot of effort into trying to convince people for years that the church needed to change and grow..
That's like marrying someone thinking you can make them into someone else.

On occasion a priest who is thinking about leaving will contact me.  Right away I will ask them if they are in an intimate relationship and they answer 'yes'.  At that point I cut right to the chase.  They owe it to themselves and their love to discern properly.  Don't even start giving me the arguments for relaxing celibacy and don't complain to me about the way the Church needs to grow and change.  It is just wasted energy and it deflects from the real discernment that the 'couple' will need to enter into.
I figured they called me so I have nothing to lose by coddling them.
If you are in love then great--you'll grow deeper into God.  If you aren't in love and are just lonely and ticked--well that is a whole other issue.

So my opinion on celibacy is not what one would expect to hear from a 'married' priest.
Oh well.

The Confession Priest

Today on the calendar we remember St. Leopold Mandic--a great confessor from Croatia.
He has a hand in my life story--though I never heard of him until six years ago--he, along with a few other saints in heaven and on earth--helped me reconcile with Holy Mother Church.

But I digress.

I didn't even know it was his feast day until I happened to look at the calendar.
By the way- we went to confession today.
And the priest was phenomenal--I''ve known him for years and have been seeking his gift of presence in the confessional for just as many.

"Hey, hows the blogger?  I better watch what I do or you might write about it."
Yep, he knows me and my soul.
He's one of the best and here is why.
He is always in the confessional.  He is about the business of cleaning souls for God.
Seriously, I 've walked into his church at all different hours and he is never far off.   Either putzing in the sacristy or sitting in the confessional.
Want to know what makes a great parish priest?---one who is there for his people, literally in the church--waiting for another soul to make itself ready for Christ.
He doesn't have any other agenda other than to be there for people who come to confession.  He truly cooperates with grace.

And so in the spirit of St. Leopold--thanks Brother. the way--if you haven't gone to confession--take this as a sign--and just go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

U2 Concert

I was part of a great moment.
In the middle of the concert I wondered what our soul would look like if we put all of our talents and gifts and treasures and knowledge and time and practice and energy into our quest for God--what would we look like?

Am I really living to my spiritual potential?
Am I really praying like it might be my last prayer?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Praylium now on Twitter

Praylim blog is now on twitter.  Check it out and follow it @praylium.
This is at the suggestion of my IT marketing saavy son.

Parenting Classes

Today is the Feast of Joachim and Ann--the parents of  Mary.
So, for you who think your day is pretty heavy--take a moment and think about Joachim and Ann--the parents of the Mother of God.
Talk about pressure???
Oh--and there was no electricity, running water, ready made food, drive thrus, washers, dryers, internal combustion-----you got the picture right?

History, tradition and written accounts describe a holy couple of the temple who were barren--without child.

Life is never, ever, what you think it will be.
It never unfolds the way you may want it to unfold--at least in an exact manner.
Life cannot be controlled by you.
You can't pick the conditions and accidents (Aristotelian) of your birth.
You can't pick the time you were born, the culture you were born into, or the parents who are your genetic pool.
Being born is a chaotic share in the power of creation.

What do parents do with it? ( I know my answer and I won't use this time as a public confession--suffice it to say that I need to confess my failings.)

 If I were preaching a marriage ceremony today, I'd focus more on the model of Joachim and Ann.
In the accounts of their life--they lived in constant prayer, fasting, and keeping of the Laws of God.
The day to day prayer and fasting and seeking the way of Christ in your married life takes work.  There are times you don't (public confession here) 'feel' like doing it.  There are times of strong emotions and opinions and even words that detract and take you off track.  But that is why we have models like Joachim and Ann.  Think about it.  Jesus is God made man--without sin.  Mary is born without original sin--a human temple in preparation for the Incarnation.  Why wouldn't the parent's of that mystical temple strive to be as holy as humanly possible?

As a therapist, whenever I was placed in a broken home--the issue that smacked me in the face on a daily basis was the absence of any parenting whatsoever.  And because of that there was an absence of God.  The abuses and mental health issues and other heinous happenings all stem from the absence of parenting
Now, here is the kicker--even in the families that appeared to 'have it together'--really didn't because the parents (single or both) weren't actively seeking God.  Parents seek their own self gratification and/or escape from the reality and responsibility of being a parent.
When the active search for God wanes in the soul--the demonic begins to take up residence.  Other things begin to fill up that search.  

Sts. Joachim and Ann,
...pray for us parents.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Riding the Hills

The other day my son shared with me that my last couple of posts sounded 'angry'.  I prefer to use the term 'spiritually provocative'.  After all, the blog is entitled 'Praylium'
None-the-less I will heed my son's advice for a moment.

Still fresh from me being pulled off my bike by an angry suv passenger a couple of weeks back--our family was sitting around the kitchen table talking about our 'best bicycle rides'.
While I have a few--- here is one that I love remembering.

The ride was one of the shortest of my life-- four or five miles and it was on my wife's birthday.
Since it was winter and the weather certainly was not conducive (20 some degrees in January--but the roads were clear) we took our trail bikes.
We decided to go do a certain hill--just to say we did it.
I rode beside her and at the top we hugged and kissed and she was beaming.

My wife was in the middle of her chemotherapy treatments.

The hill we did that day had seen us through the years--when we first moved to that area, trailer-ing our son up it, barely making it up in the mid day sun, racing up it, and simply meandering up it---but nothing quite like that day.  Weeks earlier we were in the ICU when her heart had stopped--now, well, we were climbing the hill.

I don't mean to preach--but here's a little more for you.
My wife was healed of cancer.
We then went to Medugorje (oh yeah, there's some hills there too--but you and I know what they stand for don't we now?)
And the rest?...well--it's kinda like a bicycle ride.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spiritual Coma

If all goes as planned I have only a few weeks until I begin a new ministry adventure.  Followers of Praylium may recall that this blog began in the midst an uncomfortable transition in ministry.  The job and contract that I was hired to do changed and I could no longer meet the responsibilities of being a father, husband, and son.  Often times this happens in 'corporate' approaches to parish ministry and I certainly was not immune.   Fortunately within days of my departure a new opportunity was created and Fr. Larry Richards asked me to come on and create a new high school program at his parish.  I ask your prayers (and perhaps even some fasting) for their community--St. Joe's Bread of Life.  I will begin in just a few weeks.
Fr. Larry and I go way back to seminary studies at St. Vincent's.  Only God knows what is in store.

My time away has allowed me to work through a rewrite and editing of The Lost Shepherd--an expriest's journey from sin to salvation. At the moment,  I am not at liberty to share the details of the publication but the release date will hopefully be in 2012.

Now onto the spiritual stuff...
When I was an Episcopal rector I once remarked how the attendance at church was remarkably low during the summer months.  Someone shared, "Don't you know that God loves the Episcopalians the most and that's why he gives us the summer off?"
Right...they aren't the only ones who think that way.
We relax and excuse our spiritual development in pursuit of---what?

During our last pilgrimage to Medugorje, Ivan shared that the "world is in a spiritual coma"

  • We live attached to all the wires and 'life' support systems for years.  
  • And they feed us, they keep us barely breathing, functioning for years.
  • And we do this not even conscious of how we have been existing.
  • We've become immune to the deeper realities, to our history, to our future--a future of eternal life or a future of damnation.
  • We live attached to the wires that determine how we are to act, be, and live.
  • We live attached to our desires, our whims, our rationalizations, our faulty reasoning, our ego, our addictions.
  • We adopt the "I deserve it" mentality when we want something gratifying but when suffering comes we immediately cry "What did I do to deserve this?"
  • We live apart from God's will and design.
  • We abandon the very gifts He gives us in pursuit of something more exciting and glamorous that, in the end leaves the soul empty, lonely, and dark.
  • There are families, parish's, priests, communities and religious that somehow have developed and morphed their existence into a societal spiritual coma--constantly feeding and excusing itself.  In the end they will consume themselves.
God didn't become manifest to keep us in a 'coma'
He came to set us free and live and breath--on our own--not attached to some predetermined mode.

So I write these words.  One person, re-iterating what a man who sees the Blessed Virgin Mary everyday, shared.  Maybe it was meant not only for me--but you, and if not you--then someone you know--go ahead forward it.

Are you in a spiritual coma?
It's time to wake up.
Pray harder today.  Don't take a vacation.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weeds and Wheat

Yesterday I heard a pretty good homily.  The priest talked about God's radical way--so radical that he allows the weeds to grow right alongside the wheat--a pretty bad farming practice.
Seeing that this blog is about the spiritual battle--I offer a few additional thoughts on the Gospel according to Matthew (13: 24-31)

  • Except to a trained eye--when a seed first sprouts it can easily be confused to be something that it isn't.  Only after time does it show it's true colors and the true intention of it's existence.
  • There is a constant struggle between good and evil--all the time--sometimes this struggle is conscious but often times it is not.
  • The wheat cannot 'weed itself'  This is actually the point I want to play with. Why would I think that I could get rid of the weeds when it was 'the enemy' who sowed them?  No.  I need a much more powerful entity to combat the demonic--Christ.  Evil is counting on me trying to beat it all by myself.  It is my very pride that makes me think that I have a handle on it.  
  • I need the patience in order to continue to grow even among the weeds.  I need the patience and trust to hope that God will indeed keep His promise and send the 'harvesters'--but know that it will be in God's time and in God's way--just stay ready.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Praylium and St. Benedict (revised)

**I had to revise this entry ff. some reflection while on the tractor** 

Our spirits can grow lazy and often times satan is betting on it.

We may not want to do the work of the spiritual life.
We may not want to get rid of the weeds and cultivate the soil and life of the soul.
We may indulge our spirits in pursuits that distract and take us away from being centered on Christ.
We may lose the balance of prayer and fasting.
We may not have the support of a spouse or friends or family or even community to continue to seek the higher ground.
We may simply be too worn out or tired or defeated.

Just a few short days ago we celebrated the Feast of St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism.
During my time in seminary, when Latin was seen as a dead and buried language, we were given the exercise of spontaneous preaching.  One fellow picked the card that said "St. Benedict".  He stood up, cleared his throat, and said, "Ora et labora...these are Latin words.  Let us pray to St. Benedict for his intercession."  Then he sat down.  The professor had a bird.
St. Benedict--F. Angelico

That was it.

For the past 20 years, whenever I'd lead a mission trip, the theme was simple.  Ora et Labora.

I often wonder if the countless youth and adults on all those trips ever connected with the saying.  I wonder, as their years progressed, if St. Benedict's simple method left a mark.  When life got tough, when they questioned the very existence of God, when suffering and despair wouldn't cease or when they were simply overwhelmed and assaulted by evil.
The mission trips were never about building the house--they were about building the soul..and building the soul takes work.

I hope they got it.
But there was something I forgot to share--many years ago.

St. Benedict combats satan.

In the holiest of places on this earth--where God becomes manifest--so too does evil exist--this is a spiritual reality.
During my time on pilgrimages I would witness demons cast out as well as demons that would not leave.
During my time as a therapist I would encounter an innocent child who was beaten and abused.
During my time as a priest I would encounter wonderful growth in community and in people's hearts only to be squelched by the sins of gossip and pride.
During my time as a husband and father, a priest, a brother, a son, and a friend I allowed my will not to cooperate with Grace but darkness.
But the Good News is Christ.... and St. Benedict is a living witness to the quest that evil does not win--and that through prayer and work we become one with Christ.

Yep--that's what I would share with those first mission trips--just a little more info.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Communion Services

I don't think many priests read this blog (i'm not sure many people read it either).  None-the-less, if I knew that there were a few out there I would float the question; Do You Like Attending Communion Services?

Don't get me wrong I see and understand the reasoning behind them.
When all is said and done, the fact remains that they exist because of the absence of a priest.  As an active priest I enjoyed the Communion Service as the 'go to' move when no other priest was available for the celebration of a Mass--but i never had to attend them

This is not a critique of those who conduct the actual service.  I'm just playing with the issue and asking some questions. 

Which leads to the next question; Aside from prolonged absence in the community of a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ--why even have Communion Services if only a couple of days will be missed? Why not just have Morning Prayer?  How many people really want a Communion Service?

I recall my old Episcopal Bishop who desired even on Sunday mornings in the Episcopal Church that Eucharist be celebrated more often than Morning Prayer.  He used to say; "I can do morning prayer at my kitchen table."  He wanted Eucharist celebrated every Sunday at every service (which i took a lot of heat for implementing)

Hey, I'm just asking a question or two.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Demons of Entitlement

A few years ago, when I was an Episcopal rector (which ended up being my last parish ever not only as an Episcopalian but as an Episcopalian Priest), I was sitting alone in the empty church.   When I got up, I walked into the sanctuary and moved ONE chair.
Blessed be the name of Jesus!

The stares and the whisperings at coffee and donuts following the first service that sunday were certainly noteworthy.
Finally a few people let me know that my decision was a poor one and that I had no business deciding to move a chair.  Did I mention that it was never used?

still from film: Jesus of Nazereth
What right did I have?

I was reminded of this during another one of our family adventures that happened just yesterday...

Seeing that bicycle riding was not proving to be as enjoyable as expected (see previous blog entry) due to the previous day's assault, my family decided to take a walk down on the beach of Lake Erie.
We've walked the same beach for years.
I camped out on a concrete erosion pier while my wife and brother sat in the sand casually looking for beach glass.  My son and his aunty were running and jumping into the water.

Suddenly there was a stir in the woods behind us.  Startled and alarmed I turned, my heart started pounding, and then....
out from the woods came a man.
This was no ordinary man...
This was a man dressed in hemmed tanned shorts, little socks with sperry docksider shoes, and a cute pink izod polo shirt (I think the collar was turned up)

He approached;  " I'm sorry I have to ask you to leave this is private property."

Technically it isn' are allowed in that geographic space between the high and low water mark on the beach...which we clearly were.

He continued to babble and babble and claim his territory.
I was too tired.
It was his water, his beach, his entitlement.
He had money--I didn't.
He would pursue it legally--we couldn't.
People like this make me sick.

Entitlement comes in so many forms...24 hours earlier a man was entitled to pull me off a bike.  Now, this guy is entitled to kick us off one of the Great Lakes.

I should have shared that we had deeded access and were his neighbors...just about two miles down the beach.  Maybe we should have pulled that my wife is a phenomenal physician in town and that we at one time belonged to the country club (where they wear shirts like that).   Maybe we just didn't look the part.

Entitlement has roots in the demonic.  It makes the beholder believe that they are deserving of whatever right they want to exercise.  Pride fuels it.  Self puffed up lies are it's kindling. Use anybody to get what you deserve and get rid of anybody who is in your way or on your beach. 
 Entitlement seeks to demean and entrap.

The church continues to wrestle with the demons of entitlement. There are Bishops and Priests who abused their administrative, pastoral, and spiritual authority and now, with the flash point of media we know all too well way too much.  But it isn't just the clergy.  There exists another deadly form of entitlement in parish life and that involves parishioners with money or gossip who entrap pastors and fellow parishioners.  It is difficult to break out of that mode of existence.

No wonder St. Michael took issue.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Assaulted...a Praylium Moment

So there we were on a weekend holiday bicycle ride.  We were coming near the end of our trek which promised a couple scoops of custard for our gang; my lovely wife, son, brother, and my wife's sister.  We waited at a rather tough intersection, clipped in to the pedals and ready to move at the green light.  My wife and her sister were on the tandem, the rest of us on singles.  Out of no where comes a big suburban towing a big boat, cutting us off and passing us in the middle of the intersection--not giving us any time or safety to get through.

If it was just me--I would have said a bad word and let it go--but the move endangered my family.
I gave chase.
Yep, a man in spandex on a bike-- chasing a testosterone fueled suv and boat.
They pulled off the road and next thing I knew....
I was on the ground having been pulled off my bike by a rather large man.
So, cut off at the intersection then pulled off the bike.

My brother was off his bike ready to scrap.  I wasn't so ready physically but at least verbally I started.  My son seized the moment and decided to share his knowledge of some vulgarity...nice.
My attorney sister-in-law had my legal back and added her two cents.
A young lady came out of her house and offered ice...a conservation officer sped past to some other emergency and I called 911.

Here's the funny thing--the man who assaulted me wasn't even the driver.  The driver acknowledged his wrongdoing and laid down in the grass while we waited for the State Police.  The passenger who assaulted me--continued to try to show me how 'right' he was.
My back was torqued and it matched my temper.
Soon calm prevailed and that's when my wife took over.  She convinced me that either I pursue the assault or let it go.
I didn't want to spend time in an emergency room--especially on the weekend of the 4th of July.
I called the State Police dispatch and told them the matter was settled.  Then walked over and told him I am not filing a report.  The man kept trying to talk his way out of it--his ego made me sick.  Cut off people on bicycles and then jump out of your suv and pull a guy off his bike--and you think you're okay doing this?

Where do people get this?  Do what you want, cut corners, save time, tramp on whoever whenever, allow greed and speed to rule your daily way--then if anything or anybody gets in your way--run em over or at least pull them off their bike.

Granted--I should not have rode as fast up the hill towards them after they endangered us at the intersection.  (I should have listened to my wife and 'let them go')  But the world seems to be filled with people like this.  Maybe your family, maybe your workplace--people who seem to think they are entitled to do whatever they want.  For some reason I just had enough.  Maybe it was a PRAYLIUM moment

In the end my wife asked him; "Are you Catholic?"
"Yes I am."
"Then you need to go to confession."
"Okay, I will, I haven't been there in years...but I will."

So hopefully a guy goes to confession and hopefully his soul grows closer to Christ.  Getting pulled off a bike is still easier than being fed to a lion.
In the meantime I will continue the motrin and get some new handlebar tape.

Oh, and be careful out there--cause spiritually there is always someone trying to cut you off and knock you down.