Monday, March 28, 2011

Confecting or Confusing?

Yesterday I left Holy Mass very confused.
That happens after you spend time in the pew, your soul being bombarded with superfluous crap and agendas.

1.(I looked at my watch for this one 'cause I just had a bad feeling).  Someone spoke before Mass (I suppose this helps to keep the Holy Sacrifice intact in some pretend liturgist's world).  The person spoke for two minutes over and above the pre-Mass chatter (which is espoused apparently at this church--so much that people meander among pews and congregate in the aisles up to the last minute).  By the way, the two minute announcement concerned two monetary collections which were occurring simultaneously.

2.  The Eucharistic Prayer (II) didn't take that long.

3.  The announcement by the pastor following the closing prayer lasted three minutes--because the new website for the parish was being 'launched'.

It could have been worse--the Holy Gospel could have been acted out or as they say 'dramatized'

Yeh--consumer driven church.  
Next up product placement ads during the liturgy along with audible trailers during any proclamation?

Now, here is the catch.  When I was an active priest I supported what I liked to call the 'peripheral Sunday morning chaos'--the greetings, the hellos, the announcements, the name tags and the whole 'keeping people connected' approach.  I was even in favor of some dramatization of Scripture and a dance here and there.  (I was also in favor of married clergy and woman clergy...but that is a whole other story).  

I changed my mind when I started sitting in the pew.
Sometimes you don't want to say 'hello' to everyone.
Sometimes you don't want to hear about money.
Sometimes you just want to sit in the quiet and maybe, just maybe--look at the tabernacle.
Sometimes it took everything just to get to church that day and the last thing you want to do is fake a smile.
Sometimes you don't feel like you want it to be DisneyWorld that morning.
Sometimes you don't want a show or drama.
Sometimes all you want and all you need is Jesus.

Since parishes(and dioceses) seem to be moving in the direction of a consumer based approach (and losing their soul--sorry did i write that?)  might I suggest that each diocese designate parishes that are simply known as "PlaIn Mass Parishes"?  
They could place PMP on their website or there could even be an app for people who travel and simply want a PMP. 
PMP's could offer confessions on Saturdays and Sundays before Mass (the priest would have time because he wouldn't have to orchestrate or control a liturgy).  In short PMP's  might quietly revolutionize Sunday mornings.

So, what is really being confected on Sunday mornings--Jesus or an "approach to liturgy" that simply confuses, scatters, and keeps all the attention away from Christ?

Saturday, March 26, 2011


What spiritual defenses do you have? That question came to me as I stood at what is known as the "High Water Mark" on Gettysburg Battlefield this morning.  I stood in the middle of the "fishhook".

& Holy Scripture

Now there's a good defense AND offense and, not to mention,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Anemic Church Bulletins

Last week I made my way around a few clergy priest blogs and took issue with one priest blogger (My Apologies).
Today I made my way around some online church bulletins (this might get uncomfortable).

Whoa, trees actually die for this?
Where's the meat?  Where's the challenge?  Where's the FAITH?

They all look the same.  Mass Times, Church Fundraisers, Diocesan Campaigns, School Fundraisers, and don't forget Last Week's Offertory.
Then of course there are the remarks of the pastor--which seem to fit into three categories:
1.  look at me
2. we all need to share our gifts (translated--we need money)
3. occasional theological or inspirational treatise (these do not occur as often as 1 & 2)

And don't forget photographs.

I think that's what raised the flag for me--there is a picture for everything---the bulletins aren't about Jesus Christ. 
They're about us. Something seems to have been misplaced or even replaced.
Jesus Christ has been replaced with information, news, financial bullet points, and a few social service activities.

It's just an observation but wouldn't it be great if inspiration was permitted and injected into church bulletins?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Apologies

My apologies to anyone who gets ticked at the following.

The other evening I was cruising through the internet world of clergy blogs--seeing what was on their minds and in their hearts. 
I came across the following:
Being a celibate and obedient priest is not something that people understand. The priest has no money, no wife, and no self-determination, and a lot of responsibility at a young age. 

Okay maybe...but before you isolate yourself and start posing for holy are some thoughts;

The other evening I sat with an older man who's wife had suffered through advanced cancer.  Do I need to extrapolate every detail to show that others do live celibate and obedient lives--and that perhaps they may understand (and live) celibacy and obedience more than those who take public promises?

Do I need to suggest that there are young doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals also have "a lot of responsibility at a young age"  (like life and death responsibilities).  We won't even mention parenthood and the responsibility inherent in that gift.

Do I need to suggest that having no money is really not something reserved to the young clergy?  What about not making the rent that month?  What about being given a pink slip at the company Christmas party?  What about being too old to retool and simply being forced into retirement.  Come on--no money...really? 

Do I need to remind the priest blogger of his life?  The rectory is provided.  Furniture is provided.  Bedding and carpeting and lawn mowers and even people to do those things are provided.  Even his food is provided and if he wants a cook he can have that provided.  The only person a priest needs to get to Mass in the morning is himself (often times walking no more than a hundred yards)--try loading up a family in the wagon---so careful priest blogger--before you paint a picture of monastic hardship and no self determination.

And lastly, do I need to share the observation that no other vocation has the almighty--Day Off? (Hey--remember I started this with an apology)

So be careful, priest blogger, becuase maybe the people of God are not only aware of the challenges to being a priest tht you list--but they are also living them.
And even if they don't understand--so what, does it really matter to your priesthood?

Remember I apologized at the beginning, and before the comments start--please note I didn't say 'all' clergy.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I should have trusted my gut the first time.
I even shared my experience with my wife and brother on the first day of the swim meet.

"There was a guy at the swim meet tonight who asked me about the rules for taking photographs."
"What about him?"  They asked.
"Well, I told him no flash photography was allowed.  And then I asked if he was a parent of one of the children swimming."
"Was he?"
"No.  He just said he was interested in swimming."
I continued, "I thought he had some fascination with numbers and times, because I would see him pull out a piece of paper and jot down notes."

He was at the swim meet for four days.  I saw him every day sitting in the stands.

Then it immediately clicked as I watched the next scene unfold.

I was down on the pool deck when I saw my wife having words with this strange man.
He was holding his camera and she was clearly yelling at him.  Then her she-bear instincts kicked in and she was coming at him.
He put on his jacket and hustled down the steep concrete steps of the pool balcony.
Quickly he turned and snapped a photo of my wife. 

By the time I got to the lobby.  He was gone and Pitt University personal were listening to my wife and brother describe what happened. 

The man was photographing boys and then recording each photograph according to the name on the scoreboard.
He was gone but with four days of film with hundreds of swimmers.

The response of The University of Pittsburgh's pool staff and police was incredible.  Bathrooms and Locker rooms were locked and the swim coaches and officials were notified.

If I sound accusatory or judgemental so what.
The guy was taking photos of my son.
He wasn't a parent, a coach, or even with the press.
Come on this is sick stuff.

It is demonic and evil.

Here is the lesson.  Trust your gut.  Trust your spiritual instinct.
Satan can mask and even seem to be harmless.

This was more than a ping from satan--it was a demonic predator--full of curses.

Doesn't this rot make you sick in the stomach--when your spiritual reaction is so strong that you physically manifest it?

On another note I received an email from Michael Brown who heads up the website SpiritDaily   (--a phenomenal wealth of church and spiritual matters you should bookmark.)

"Your name says it all!"
From one Michael to another I suppose.

Please pray for the kids today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Should be Interesting

The first pastor I was assigned to has begun blogging. 
I was a brand new priest when I arrived some twenty years age under his tutelage --three hours later he took off for a week long vacation.
Some say he has been on vacation ever since. 

Seriously, he has a bunch to offer and I am glad Father Len (aka Uncle Len) is sharing his experiences of priesthood.

Please pray for all the victims of the earthquake.
And for all those who have died...Eternal rest grant unto them O' Lord.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Black Crosses and Temple Tables

Passion of the Christ Movie--Jesus clears Temple
You all know the drill.
Even with the Tabernacle in the center of the Sanctuary--people still look around at each other.  You need to know who's there and who they are with--and what they are wearing.
Don't get me wrong--this isn't just a Roman Catholic thing.

My son was leaving the pew to go up to Communion.
The woman, marked with the black cross of ashes on her forehead, sitting directly behind us, (with the black cross of ashes on her forehead) turned to the person sitting next to her and said; "Why would someone wear a pair of jeans like that to church?" That's what she said--that woman marked with the black cross of ashes on her forehead.
Did I mention she had a black cross of ashes on her forehead?
So what it that supposed to stand for?

That image of Jesus going loose on the money changers at the temple is an image for Lent--We get comfortable practicing the same spiritual practices every Lent.  We belly up behind our tables and settle in for forty days.

Here's some of the tables we sit at: 
opinion, gossip, judgement, incessant need to be right, self pity, pride, lying, gluttony, lust, greed, rationalizing addictions and venial sins.

Yeah...time for some temple tables to be tossed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

Follow this link to a really neat story.
---with the Feast of St. Joseph just around the corner (you'll get the pun when you read the story).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Getting Ready

At this time last year (when I was the oldest youth minister in the diocese) my wife suggested that I have the group do a communal fast during Lent.
After all they knew the basics of the program--prayer, fasting, scripture, Holy Eucharist, and confession.
And all had been introduced to them except fasting.  
All they really knew was that I would complain when I was doing it because I am the world's worst faster.

This was real fasting.  Not that one full meal and two small supplemental meal stuff that is preached.
This was bread and water for 24 hours.
Not only was fasting going to be a cultural contradiction for them but it was also an ecclesial contradiciton.
Just listen to the preaching going on in two days on Ash Wednesday--take note how many will actually espouse fasting on bread and water.  When I was a young priest I never fasted.

Anyways, the kids signed up, and the Holy Spirit took over.  Before they knew it they were giving retreats and growing in numbers.
It was phenomenal. 
I wonder if they will fast again this year.
Sometimes fasting has immediate recognizable spiritual results.

And then at other times--it is more about patient perseverence.

"And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." Mk. 9:28.

Jesus is pretty clear.  You got a demon?  Then do battle.  Pray, fast and then go to confession.  And then pray and fast some more--actually do it forever.
It will change your life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Confounding Spiritual Confusion

My son and I were on our way to a late night swim practice.  We didn't have time to say our prayers at home so we were reciting them in the truck.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the direction of my wife we began the spiritual practice of praying the 15 prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden and we started them on January 1.  Just as an aside follow the link and learn a little about these prayers--they are a neat approach to meditating on the Passion of Our Lord.

I passed the Methodist church and noticed the sign "Spiritual ADD"

I agree 'Spiritual ADD'  exists.   It exists because there is very little Spiritual discipline.  Spiritual discipline is lacking because, in the end---people do not want to sacrifice. 
Funny isn't it? Jesus' sacrifice is fundamental to my soul--and yet I don't want to sacrifice.  I don't want to remover any external stimuli that are causal or, (at the very least), contributing to my spritual ADD.  I don't want to do the work of sacrifice and exercise patience.  I want a quick, drive thru result to my overnight pursuit of God. 

Know why money is often an issue in congregations?  Because people don't come to church in order to enter deeper into the sacrificial offering.  They want to 'get' something, not give.  Unfortunately many clergy fall into this trap of thinking they are the ones who have to give the people something.  And, before you know it--another Sunday went gliding by--the sermon was empty but at least the raffle tickets were sold!

When I was a young priest I was into all the new approaches to parish life and formation and leadership.  Workshops and mission statements were where it was at.  Looking back it was nothing more than unfocused spiritual ADD.  I am reminded of one diocesan event where hundreds of people were gathered in a hotel banquet room waiting patiently for the speaker to arrive.  He was going to tell us all--clergy and laity and religious--how to re-do or super imagine,(or something really neat) to the church.  He had a book and everything!  It was the latest and greatest way to re-energize everyone.

He never showed up so some priest from the diocese attempted to lead a group discussion.

Satan loves that crap.  That's his approach--confuse and confound and make you think there is 'another way'
There is no other way--Jesus is the Way (remember He even told us!).

Looking back--we should have just celebrated Mass or, at the very least--prayed a Rosary.

So this evening, as my son read the prayers I thought of all the times I failed to do the work of staying focused and disciplined in the spiritual quest. 
I need to go to confession.