Monday, February 28, 2011

Playing the Ex-Priest Card

Recently two ex Roman Catholic priests have been part of  their own media blitz campaign.
The first was a fellow from Miami who had a popular following in the media world.  Photographs of him on a beach with his love were circulated world wide.  Soon after he left the active ministry, married, and became an Episcopal priest.
I could empathize.  Though not on the same level by any means, but when I left the active ministry to be with my wife (of thirteen years now) we encountered not the cameras snapping photos but  instead people pointing at us while we stood at the deli counter.  There even was the occasional anonymous letter.  I must share however that the strangest reaction was that someone went through our trash--none of our neighbors--just ours.
Like I said I could empathize.
I could even understand the priest going over to the 'ecclesial cousins' house to stay.  We did the same. At one time I knelt down in front of an Episcopal Bishop as an ex-Roman Catholic priest and publicly professed allegiance to the Anglican/Episcopal Church.  When I stood up I was still an ex-Roman Catholic priest but now I had incurred an excommunication. 
Still, I could empathize.
Until recently.
Now the priest is out of the faith closet and is now bashing Rome.
And the media loves it.  After all he is one of theirs.
You left once--why keep stirring the pot?

I know why.

The second ex-priest in the news is one who is also comfortable having his name in the limelight.  This biblical scholar and leader of the modern day historical Jesus debate continues to question the divine nature of Jesus Christ.  He says he is Christian.
Okay, my degree is not in biblical scholarship and I am not entering into an academic or theological debate.  I don't have that gift.  I do know that if you don't believe in the divinity of Christ and His resurrection then you got a lot of theological work to do--let alone soul work.
Why did CNN run his story second to the unrest in Libya?  Amazing when you think of it.  Just float the headline out there that says--God did not become human.  He did not love His people by becoming one of us. He did not conquer sin and death.
Wow--talk about a quick ping from satan?

And here is the kicker--you don't even need to play the ex-priest card to attack the faith or the church.
Think about it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's talk about Bishops

St Augustine of Hippo--Botticelli
My friend Mike Aquilina wrote a few weeks ago, "My friend Michael Ripple has begun blogging, look out--it's going to be provocative" 
Mike certainly knows me.  He also knows his church and the faith--take a trip to his website and check many of the works he has authored.

Now, on with being provocative.
Let's talk about bishops...

Years ago, my wife and I experienced a heartwrenching conversion while on a pilgrimage to Medugorje.  At the time I was an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest who was doing fine as an Episcopal priest (well at least I thought).
Weeks following our return home we were seated in the office of a Roman Catholic Bishop.
After listening to our story, he got up from his desk, walked around, embraced us both and said, "Welcome home."

I couldn't believe it.  No, really.   I was floored.  A bishop was pastoral!!??  He cared?  I mean we had turned our backs on the church.  Come on, he didn't need to even meet with us.

The rest is history.

Today I received a telephone call from that same bishop, simply expressing care and concern over my recent ministry changes and subsequently my family's life change.
He was being a shepherd--it's in his bishop DNA.
Yeh, the church needs more bishops like that.
Priests need more bishops like that.  Other bishops and priests could learn a thing or two from a bishop like that.
Unfortunately when men rise to a certain level of leadership in the church, like becoming pastors or bishops or even just being ordained--the sins of entitlement and clericalism can creep in and become rather insipid.
Not today.  Not in that phone call.  It was pure shepherd.

You weren't expecting that were you?

Say a prayer for your sheperds.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Satan Tried to Tempt Jesus--Tissot
 The following may be miscontrued as an oversimplification of the spiritual life but I believe it is, at its' very least, fundamental in describing the spiritual journey: We were created for God.
Satan wants to keep our soul from returning to God.
Jesus is our Way back to God.

When I was a court appointed family therapist, the majority of my cases involved twisted stuff that didn't stay tucked away in the dark recesses of humanity.  It involved stuff I don't want to remember. After half a year of clinically assessing, diagnosing, and constructing cognitive behavior plans, it hit me--evil feeds on humanity.
People were abusing, drinking, cutting, not eating, over eating, lying, cheating and a bunch of other crap.  Oh, and they were raising their kids in it--just as many of them were raised in it.

The sins of the fathers passed on from generation to generation.

If your nature is laziness--then evil will help you rationalize whatever sin you choose.
If your nature is self loathing--then evil will continue to diminish you.
If your nature is gluttony and lust--then evil will always have you craving more.
If your nature is pride and envy and greed--then evil will make you feel like you deserve something better.
Evil leaves the soul dissatisfied and disrupted.  There is no peace.
It is legion and travels from appetite to appetite.

Some demons, we are told by Christ, can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.

There you go.

My wife and I recently began an exercise program called P90X (my typing is poor due to finger muscle fatigue) 
From the start P90X has the next 90 days planned for you.  All you need to do is trust the program.  All you need to do is bring the desire and execute.

Again--Christ says that some demons can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.
There's the program, trust it and watch Grace build on nature.
Yeh--Lent is coming--maybe we ought to start a Lenten Spritual renewal program through this blog entitled L40X!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not that it matters...

Not that it matters-- but I was impressed with an action of a young priest the other day.
We had arrived our usual fifteen minutes early for Mass (which is quite an accomplishment some days).  My son hurried into the sacristry to ready himself to serve.
Mass began two minutes later--great. 

The Mass times had been changed.  Yeh, we should have known better.
So there was my son, looking pretty torqued during the entrance procession.
No sooner had everyone reached their place in the sanctuary when my boy was pulled aside by a priest who corrected the posture of his hand folding technique.
"Oh we go."  I thought.
I knew what my son was thinking.  "Does it really matter how I fold my hands?" 
Throughout the rest of Mass I watched as he wrestled with not wanting to be part of a bunch of false piety.
As Mass continued he stood, sat, and knelt--and had absolutely no duties to perform.

But his hands were properly folded.

He was a liturgical flowerpot.

Earlier that day I had an article ready to go.  Ironically it was titled;  Entitlement, Clericalism and the Sin of Pride.
In it I was going to share some observations about how some clergy come to believe that certain rights, behaviors, and excuses are inherent with ordination and even priestly assignments.
 ***note I said SOME clergy***
 I was drawing on my experiences from my life behind the altar and in the rectory to outside the church to the present moment of just sitting in the pew. 

But I can't send out the article just yet. 
You see the young priest called the next day to check up on my son and to clarify what happened.  Of course I was defensive.  Of course I wouldn't have handled it the same way (arm chair priesting)--but in the end, the young priest called and that in itself is a worthy action.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So what are we really teaching?

I share the following because people have inquired about the decision we made three years ago to homeschool our son.
To the homeschool parents, the reasons you decide to homeschool are varied but hopefully at the center is simply a care for the soul of your child.
Our approach to homeschooling is rooted in our faith tradition and that faith tradition is one built upon sacrifice.  There is no way around it.  Homeschooling is not easy--actually it can even be downright inconvenient.  God Bless my wife who does all the work and lesson planning (on top of being a physician!).  Even homeschool families who are not practicing a faith based approach are aware of the additional work and sacrifices necessary for success.

There was a time when we thought the neighborhood catholic parish school would suffice, but it didn't.
We should have known there was a problem when, years ago we had a conference with one of our son's teachers.
The issue was the behavior of another child.  Come on we've been there--your kid doesn't even want to go to school--remember those days?
Unfortunately after about two minutes into the meeting my wife and I realized that we would get no where.  Want to know why? Because the problem kid was a child of one of the teachers.
Here, take a listen...
teacher:  "Well, you know your son has upset the class at times."
parents:(cast a glare towards the boy) "Really?"
teacher: "Yes, just the other day we were discussing spending time with Jesus in church"
parents: "Okay..."
teacher: "And how Jesus is with us when we are in church"
parents: "Okay.."
teacher:  "Are you aware that we have quite a few kids who are not Catholic?"
parents: "Well, actually...we're Episcopalians..."
teacher:  "Your son listened to all the other kids of different faiths talk about spending time with Jesus in their church and then announced 'You're all wrong--Jesus is only present in the Roman Catholic Church in the tabernacle"
(My son made a terrible Episcopalian...come to think of did I) goes something like this--don't upset the non-catholic student population, especially because their tuition checks are keeping the school open.

What a bunch of poop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Satan's Pings

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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Upper Room

I wonder what it felt like to be one of the original disciples of Christ.
To have been born into that sacred time that you were the one who was to become one of the inner twelve.
To have witnessed the miracles, the conversations and the confrontations.
To talk with Jesus about how the day went, the parable, the healing, or the crap the opposition was giving.
To gather in the upper room for Passover.
To witness (or run from) the passion and death.
To see the Resurrection (or hear about it)--and then gather in the upper room, confused, exicited, and maybe a bit frightened--by the power of God.

After all God touched earth.

Years ago I was in Medugorje and happened to be in a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel that was packed to the point of people hanging on the stone window ledges.  It was hot and sweaty and stinky and the rosary was being prayed in a variety of languages simultaneously.
Then...pure silence.

God was touching the earth through the Mother of God.  The Mother of the Incarnate--the one who witnessed her son preach, heal, suffer, die, and rise.  For a short time, in a war torn land, Mary and Christ were simultaneously present.
Talk about the inner circle!
And she has been sharing a message, a way for our soul to reconnect with God, through her Son, wrapped in the love of the Holy Spirit.  It's the message of the ancient way that needs to be recaptured.  Pray, Fast, Receive Holy Eucharist, Go to Confession (apparently there is an app for that now??) and Read Holy Scripture.
Yeh, looks like Mary is inviting us into the upper room.  What are you waiting for?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saint-making in America is Bankrupt

A couple of years ago I travelled with my father and son to a parish 3 hours away from our home in order to attend Mass and listen to a priest from Medugorje.  His name was Fr. Jozo.  Now I have a bit of a history with this guy--but that is for another post or story or maybe a book.
Following Mass, he stood in front of the altar and addressed the people.  At one point he looked out at the congregation and said;  "You don't have enough saints from this country."

I have to say that I got a little torqued.
"Come on man--don't get down on us--our culture is different--we aren't oppressed and last I checked there are no crusades so the saint making opportunities are few."
He's right though...we do need more saints.

Saint-making in America is bankrupt.
It certainly seems bankrupt in the Church.
How many diocesan priests have been canonized?  (one--St. Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney)
Now, I have to be careful here because I have been accused of being dis-respectful towards the clergy on this blog--so the following may upset some people.
My experience has been that the old clergy tend to eat the young.  If a man comes out of seminary with particular devotions he is branded as out of touch with the world of parish ministry. He must adapt and then eventually he becomes what he once despised.
Imagine if a young priest was stationed with the Cure' de Ars--what would he have seen?
A priest hearing confessions, a priest doing the battle against satan, a priest preaching without compromise.
Yeh--saint-making at its' finest.

Saint-making in America is bankrupt in the home
Granted some saints are made in an instant, at the stake and through martyrdom, but other saints are simply raised, nurtured and encouraged.
I've had conversations in the past with parents that went something like this:
 "Johnny never received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and I was wondering when he could get it."
"Okay, how about you teach him?  Let's do it this way,  you take him with you to confession this week and talk with him about why you go."
I continue, "Then call me and let me know how it went.."
They never called back.

Okay, so maybe I'm not the guy who should be on the front line of your parish's faith formation or for that matter even talking to clergy.

None-the-less saint-making in America is bankrupt, not because of the lack of opportunity, but because of the lack of will. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leaving the Church

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call asking me what I thought about the latest news concerning an ex roman priest who wrote a book.  He was making his way on the morning news shows telling everyone about his life, his love, his leaving Rome and going to England. 
                I have no problem with a guy leaving—remember, I have a glass house.
                I have no problem with a guy wrestling with love and celibacy and all that—I know it all too well
                I even have no problem with a guy who decides to go over to the cousin’s house and hang—I also became an Episcopal priest when I left and felt as though my family and I had no home.
                However, I do have a problem with the argument he is using—and sadly enough I also used it at one time.  It went something like this:
1.       Rome shouldn’t be a voice of morality.  (Men with pointy hats ought to stay out of the bedroom)
2.       Did you know that there was a time when the Popes had mistresses and children?  So why should the church now require celibacy of its clergy?
                Let me get this straight--"I don’t want to follow (or belong to) the Roman Catholic Church when it comes to some things but I will appeal to that same Church's history when it did something in the past that I agree with and fits my life today. " ??

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

6, 4, 2 A generation of non-believers

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."

Yeh, I base my faith on the weather.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Lost Sacrifice

It never fails.  Whenever someone finds out that I “used to be” a priest they quickly follow up with asking; “Do you miss doing anything?”
                “Yep…Holy Eucharist.”
                The older I get the quicker my response. 
                But, before I elaborate I want you to know a couple of things.  First, I am happily married and the love and constant forgiveness of my wife is what allows me to be forthright with you.  I also offer a disclaimer to any priest or lay person who may read this and feel slighted, challenged, or pushed just a little.
                Last year (outside my diocese--maybe…and not in my current diocese—maybe) I was trying to ‘pray along’ with the celebrant.  Unfortunately he appeared to be suffering from some kind of spiritual angst.  His voice changed during the Eucharistic prayer and he seemed to be in some sort of physical pain.  It just seemed way over the top and just a little too much acting.  Then, following Holy Communion he stood up, told a joke, handled the announcements and his voice was back to normal!
                 It was a dual personality experience.   
                That very well could have been me—acting and playing the crowd.
                When I was a young priest,  I never really ‘offered’ the sacrifice of the Mass.  Sure, I was spiritually formed in the theology and liturgy of the Mass.  But, on my part, something was always missing.  Maybe because as  young priest I was taught that I needed to be more relevant to the people in the pew.  I was told that what was needed were action plans and success plans and professional leaders who had clear goals and objectives and job descriptions.  During my first years of priesthood I watched as Altars of sacrifice were replaced with ‘mission statements’.  And I bought into it.  I was to be more than a priest.  I was to be a leader and a manager and a presider at liturgies.  Here I was a priest and I never did a personal holy hour or just went and sat in the confessional—at an unscheduled time.  No wonder I was empty.
                The result of such an approach, years later, is a consumer based social phenomena gone rampant in the Church.  A priest no longer offers sacrifice but a product.  Priests and lay people buy books and programs and go to seminars to learn to be ministers and offer a product—not an invitation to sacrifice. 
                Sacrifice has been lost.  It has completely flipped.  Satan has to be snickering.
                In a world of identity theft we are faced with the very identity of the priesthood and the church being stolen by secular ideals, approaches, and desires to make the church more ‘relevant.’ 
                Relevant is for an American Idol contestant—not the priesthood, not the church.  When you go down the road of relevancy you end up in relativism…and that is for another time.

The Smoke of Satan

The Smoke of Satan

This is a recent post from a Fr. Dwight Longenecker who recently gave me permission to link to his blog.
Good stuff.
Some of the theology he references was what I was formed in and could have been been still shoveling out to the masses if God hadn't intervened.
There is a national campaign going around in the catholic church called Welcome Home.
It's a neat idea...but here are my two questions.
1.  Whose home are we welcoming them into?
2.  What are we welcoming them home to?

Of course I have my opinions.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Light and getting out of Dodge

My son and I loaded the pickup truck with our overnight gear and headed out.
Out of the diocese that is.
It felt good to get away from this week--to get out of Dodge.

A few hours later and we were at Uncle Len's.
After a quick rest stop at his house we headed to church for Mass.
There we sat in the front pew and listened to the priest who happened to be....Uncle Len.

He preached about people who were the Light of Christ in his life and why they were the Light of Christ.

I glanced at the credance table and saw the familiar chalice--the silver one with the Apostles and the deep red background.  I remembered years ago of concelebrating Holy Eucharist with that same chalice.

Uncle Len was my first pastor.  He had me when I was a snot nosed pushy kid out of seminary.
Come to think of it--he's a rare breed.  He is what guys referred to as 'lifers'--the ones who entered priestly formation as a freshman in high school.  I'm not sure if there is such a program anymore, anywhere.
Yeh.  Len put up with a lot from me.

He was the last priest that I actually prayed in community with--as a priest. 
I wonder how many priests living in rectorys pray together.  (Then again, I wonder how many priests are praying.)

Uncle Len has been a light in my life.
I am not sure you are aware but there exist unwrittend codes in the clergy world.  One of those codes is you don't check on a guy when he leaves.  You drop him.
Len didn't.  In fact the reason he's called 'uncle' is because my son has known him his whole life.
Len was the one who provided a church for my son's baptism.  He was the one who would travel and visit.  And he was the one who sat quietly in the waiting room at the hospital with me, awaiting word on my wife's surgery.
...the Light of Christ.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


A special thanks to Mike Aquilina for the headline on his blog--Ripple to Tsunami
I love Mike's approach to all things Church.  Take the time and check out his site, buy a book, and go deeper.

Real Prayer is faster than 4G

One of the activities I did with high schoolers on retreat was known as the 'cell phone challenge'  It was born out of my getting tired of watching them glance at their phone or even commit the sin of blind texting.
So I decided to use the phone as a retreat prop. 
And it went something like this...
They paired up and the challenge was for one person to text the Hail Mary to the other person's phone.  While they competed I used whoever didn't have a phone (through the years that number decreased) as a 'reciter'  The reciters simply repeated the prayer, again, and again, and again until someone yelled that they received the text.  Then I had that person read it aloud--usually whole sentences were missing and often times there was a wild morphing of the Our Father and Hail Mary.
Many of them didn't even know the Hail Mary--(yeah religious formation!) but that is for another posting.

Funny though--the reciters felt like they prayed--and the texters didn't. 
Real prayer is faster than 4G.

I picked up a bunch of copies of the Pieta prayer book and spent the last couple of months distributing them.  Originally intended for just the high school kids, soon catechists, and other adults were also asking for them.

They were so grateful.
--all it was was a blue prayer book. 

Their souls were hungry.

Take a prayer book and sit before the Blessed Sacrament-treat your soul.

As a deacon and later a priest I was required to pray everyday the Liturgy of the Hours--the prayer of the Church.
I failed miserably at doing it.  There was a joke that you should buy ribbon insurance so when you died in the rectory someone would sneak in and update your prayer book--to make it look like you died cloaked in sanctity.
When I was released of my priestly life by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict--I was released from the promise of celibacy and the obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Now, as a husband and dad--i pray them more than I ever did as a priest.

Two other prayer books have my attention now.
The Raccolta
The Blessed Sacrament Prayer Book

If your looking ahead to Lent--dust of the books and ready the knees.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First, about the title...

Pray-lium is a take on the latin-proelium.
"...battle, fight, strife."

There will be more on the origins of this title a little later.  For now let it suffice that it came from a recent dream.

It is also appropriate that I begin this blog asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael.

Now, let's get started.

The intention of this blog (at least the catalyst) is to share some observations about the spiritual life.  To those of you who know me or have my aquaintance, such an intention probably is no surprise.  To those who do not know me--welcome. 

We live in a time of spritual warfare.  Good and Evil coexist.

The other evening I attended the showing of the movie; The Rite.
The theatre was packed. 
People are hungry for the spiritual.  It didn't even matter the religion of the actors or those watching.  Fundamentally there is a curiosity and a hunger for the spiritual.  We are spiritual beings.  Our life is spent either cooperating with Grace or cavorting with evil.

The other week I watched an 'ex-priest' launch a book about what is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church.  He left, became an Episcopal Priest and still countinued to blast Roman Catholicism.  It made me sick in the stomach.

I was there.  I was a priest.  I left.  I married. I became an Episcopal priest--but I didn't need to continue bashing the Roman Church.  Then, years later and following an incredible conversion story, I and my family returned.

So that priest ought to study his history and then keep his mouth shut.

Evil deceives.  It lies.  It morphs.  It attracts your soul just to keep you from God and builds up your pride so you can justify your actions.
It uses every possible opportunity and pings you daily.
I've watched it.
I've battled it.
I've even given up at times.

This blog is an opportunity for new possibilities.  It is also a blog entitled; Pray-lium--because the only way do spiritual warfare is through prayer and fasting.  When we do that, lives change, people's hearts change and healings happen.

I've seen it.

And, I will write about it.