Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Countdown is on...9 More Days!

We are a sport-loving family. Hockey, football, baseball, soccer, track and field, volleyball, basketball, and the list goes on. If it's on TV my son Tyler, who is just short of requiring medication for a severe sports obsessive-compulsive disorder, will watch it for hours. The big sports go without saying - he'll watch the pre-game, the game, the post-game, and the post-post game. Golf? Loves it. Tennis? Okay. Fishing? Sure. The fine art of Curling? Riveting action. Doesn't matter, he'll watch.

We love to go to sporting events as a family. Most especially, we LOVE baseball. Our local team, the Buffalo Bisons, symbolize summertime for us. There is nothing like sitting in the stands on a warm, breezy evening, watching the kids gorge on fried foods and candy, dancing to YMCA blasting out of the big-board and wondering if this time you and the little missus will end up on the "Kiss-Cam". That's livin'.

Over the years our community at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy has been sending kids and grown-ups alike to games through the generosity of the Bison's. It has been a joy getting groups of folks down to Coca-Cola Field to take in the sights, sounds, and smells. For the big trips my wife, kids and I will grill up around 80 hot dogs (give or take one or two dozen), put 'em in buns, wrap them up in tin foil, and bring them to the game for all the fans from the Mission. By about the third inning hot dogs are flying through the air like little silver missiles in answer to "Pass a dog!". By then I usually turn to my wife with a smile and ask, "Is there a game going on?"

For many years the game wasn't complete without the attendance of our good friend, Odell. "Odie" lived at the Mission for several years. He was a big barrel-chested man, with a bigger heart. His mind was a little slow, which made him nothing less than a great big kid. As the game unfolded his loud, booming voice would yell, "Put 'em on that bus!" He ate more hot dogs than anyone at the game. Probably more than anyone in the state. He had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, and those games were his joy. I can hear his laughter even now...

This Christmas Eve Odie was called home to Jesus. He was only 45 years old, but his big heart was just too big, and it gave out too soon. He was a good man. A simple man. He loved his friends and family with everything he had, and was as loyal as anyone I have ever known. He didn't get mixed up in the silliness that gets us into trouble in our relationships; he only knew that if he loved you, you were family. And family stuck together.

Odie and I spent many summers sitting at the ball park together. This year at the first game I attend I'll remember the fun, the laughter, and all that he was to me; to all of us. And I intend on throwing my head back and yelling with all my heart, "Put 'em on that bus!!"

Odell Stewart, Rest in Peace. Eternal rest grant unto him, Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. Bright, warm, sunny light, just like at the ball park...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thoughts on hockey and holiness...

The Buffalo Sabres have really laid an egg this season. Don't get me wrong - there have been moments of excitement and triumph - but those were usually followed by mediocrity and lackluster performance. Play has been flat for most of the season, and when Ryan Miller, our beleaguered goalie, was injured in a game where his teammates allowed him to be hit time after time until the other team finally knocked him out, everything fell apart.

The bottom line is that most of the year this team didn't show up to play; they just went through the motions. That won't get you in the playoffs. That won't get you much of anything.

"Going through the motions" isn't unique to the Buffalo Sabres. Many of us are guilty of the same thing in our workplaces, our families, and in our faith. I have a son who shines in school every once in a while, but most of the time he just coasts (my wife says this irritates me because it was the way I was in high school...). There are days at work when I feel numb and do the bare minimum to get by. As a missionary I sometimes find myself avoiding work and taking the easy way out. My bathroom is STILL NOT FINISHED nearly a YEAR after the "remodel" began. My faith life suffers when I quickly and rotely mumble off prayers to check off my daily "list" of spiritual "to-do's", or at times skip praying all together.

When we go through the motions and coast through life we pretty much find ourselves in the same position as my favorite hockey team: struggling to get by, feeling frustrated, and accomplishing very little. Not a recipe for success. It's a self-perpetuating cycle of mediocrity. We become "lukewarm." And that is NOT the place to be...there are a few things Jesus was rather specific on. This is definitely one of them.

How do we break the cycle? How do we rise up and live the words of Ephesians 5:14: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."? The entire fifth and sixth chapters give us the plan:
1. Be imitators of God. 2. Live in love. 3. Don't even think about immorality or impurity. 4. No obscenities or silly talk. 5. Give thanksgiving always. 6. Be obedient. 7. Don't hang with people who would lure you into sin. 8. Learn what pleases God. 9. Don't live foolishly. 10. Try to understand the will of God. 11. Don't be a drunkard. 12. Think and speak in holiness, remembering psalms and hymns. 13. Be subordinate to others in reverence for Christ. 14. Husbands, love your wives! 15. Wives, be obedient to your husbands! 16. Children, obey your parents! 17. Put on the armor of God and prepare for battle. 18. Realize that we are running out of time and need to get to business (just like the Sabres!).

"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."
Could someone please forward this post to Lindy Ruff and the guys?

I know it's early, but...oh, what the heck!

Dyngus Day! The very name of this "holiday" makes us laugh! This time-honored tradition in the Polish communities of Buffalo, South Bend, and Chicago (and a few other places) marks the celebration of the end of Lent, the beginning of spring, Polish food and culture. Not to mention a little romance (as you all are aware, Polish is the language of love...), where guys and gals quietly approach that special someone they have their eye on and beat them silly with pussy willow branches! Yeah, it hurts, but we're Polish! We can take it!

I have posted a link on the sidebar for more information on the Buffalo festivities, so check it out and join the fun. Buffalo's Bishop Grosz, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church (Polonia's mother church in Buffalo) will welcome everyone and start the day off with blessings. Witamy!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

He's baaack!


Jiminy Cricket almost had it right...

"Take the strait and narrow path and if you start to slide, give a little whistle, give a little whistle! And always let your conscience be your guide!" -Jiminy Cricket

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa has a big job. Since his appointment in 1980 by Pope John Paul II he has been the Church's Apostolic Preacher, or Preacher to the Papal Household. In this position he is the ONLY man allowed to preach to the Pope. During Advent and Lent his homilies and meditations are presented to inform, inspire, remind the Holy Father of his role and duties, and to assist him on his journey of faith. I know a lot of people that would LOVE to be in that position, most of them women and most of them angry, but that is another story.

The Lenten homilies presented by Fr. Raniero this year have focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the life of the Church. If you are interested here is a link to the homilies:

His most recent homily pertains to the twofold manner in which the Holy Spirit communicates with the faithful: through the conscience and through the Magisterium of the Church. He writes, as reported on Zenit.org:
Father Cantalamessa stressed that the Holy Spirit is not only the one who guides
us "to the fullness of truth," according to the words of John the Evangelist,
but is also the "interior teacher," as St. Paul describes him. "He does not just
say what should be done, rather he also gives the capacity to do what he
commands."The Capuchin explained that conscience is the ambit where the Holy
Spirit exercises his function."Through this 'organ,' the guidance of the Holy
Spirit goes beyond the Church, to all people," specified the preacher.

He goes on, though, to explain the danger of the individual not informing and discerning his or her conscience through the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Holy Spirit, on a more "macro" level, guides us all. There is a balancing act to be recognized in this situation; there are inherent dangers in forgoing the Magisterial teaching for the conscience and vice versa:

"It is just as deadly to try to forego either of the two guides of the
Spirit," warned the preacher. "When the interior testimony is neglected, we
easily fall into legalism and authoritarianism; when the exterior, apostolic
testimony is neglected, we fall into subjectivism and fanaticism."When
everything is reduced to just the personal, private listening to the Spirit, the
path is opened to an unstoppable process of division and subdivision, because
everyone believe they are right."

"It is the ideal of a healthy harmony between listening to what the Spirit
says to me, as an individual, and what he says to the Church as a whole and
through the Church to individuals," said Father Cantalamessa.

This "balancing act" between conscience and the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the Magisterium of the Church has been a problem through the centuries. One needs not look any further than the 30,000 Protestant denominations that have sprung up like weeds in the wheat field. Each one was created by a man who was certain that his particular interpretation of Christianity was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Somewhere, somehow, someone seems to have gotten it wrong. Yet year after year that number grows as the latest preacher pushes his or her latest revelation on a society whose collective conscience suffers. Juxtapose that with the Catholic who ignores the prompting of the Spirit in his conscience: Fr. Raniero describes that person as legalistic and authoritarian: the consummate "church lady", judgmental and cold. We all know people like that, and occasionally I can fall into that trap myself. Hence the balancing act.

Jesus asked us to love God and our neighbor. On Pentecost Sunday, the Church He formed was born through the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that appeared "as tongues of fire" over the apostles that day is the same Spirit that guides our Church today. It is also the same Holy Spirit that calls us to live in the love of Jesus, for as He has said, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you." We need to live in that love fully, reaching out to one another, living our lives informed by a conscience and our Church, that all things may be restored to Christ.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Lent and I Still Don't Have It Right...

The fifth Sunday of Lent will be here in just hours. My Lenten journey has been a disaster. I have been working overtime like nobody's business. Homework never stops. Not to mention nine children, a wife, a home...

Anybody struggling or am I the only schmuck?

Every year I construct elaborate plans to pray earnestly, attend mass daily, do more spiritual reading, go to confession frequently, and just generally acheive adequate holiness for ascension. It never seems to happen.

I'll tell you what - you pray for me, and I'll pray for you. Maybe we can get this together. In the meantime, join me in a little sackcloth and ashes. MERCY!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vaccums, British Accents, and Life Lessons

"I just think things should work properly".

These are the words that were ringing in my brain as I disassembled my Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner this afternoon. You've heard them, too. That annoying chap from across the pond repeats them every time he tries to convince us his vacuum cleaner is the most intelligent machine ever invented. I mean, come on, who doesn't want things to (add British accent here) "work properly?"

My vacuum definitely does not work properly, which I am reminded every time I carefully unscrew anything on it that has a phillips head. In my humble opinion there are blatant structural flaws. The hose that connects the collection canister to the sucking end (I am not fluent in vacuumese, forgive the terminology) is a tortuous, twisted affair that begs for clogs. Second, the "HEPA" filter that supposedly keeps dust from spewing out all over the house clogs in about three minutes, reducing suction to the equivalent of my left nostril during a severe case of rhinitis. Finally, the spinning brush-y thing on the bottom is STILL completely wound up with the plastic Easter Basket grass from the last two egg hunts. Anything remotely string-like is sucked up and so tightly wound around the brush that it takes a machete to hack it off. With five daughters and a wife, each with long, straight hair, this becomes problematic. Eva Gabor could make five wigs with the hair wound up on that thing.

The biggest problem, though, for our Dirt Devil, is the LAZY TEENAGER. You know the type. They would rather run over anything with the vacuum than bend down and pick it up, no matter how big it is. Here is a sampling of items I have pulled out of the poorly-designed hose: pencils, crayons, Lego's, bottle caps, chicken McNuggets, checkers, grapes (seedless), Oreo cookies (sans white cream), and my personal favorite, a pair of chopsticks. Dutifully I unscrew the hose attachment almost daily and at the first of several 180 degree turns pull out the unsuckable. And each time I repeat James Dyson's pithy phrase, "I just think things should work properly". With the accent.

As I am wont to do on occasion, I looked at my vacuum woes as a metaphor for life. Shouldn't things "just work properly"? Reality is, most things don't. Whether the economy, politics, family, or our own bodies, most of life is fraught with structural flaws. We have to do things carefully because if we don't they won't work properly. When we are too lazy and look for quick fixes, our proverbial "hoses" get clogged up and everything breaks down.

Case in point:

As charge nurse in the emergency room, nearly every day I have to call people to tell them they have a sexually transmitted disease. Buffalo boasts one of the highest rates of STD infections in the nation. The reality is, there is only one way to get an STD: you have to have sex with someone infected. Planned Parenthood, the Trojan company, and your local high school nurse will tell you that condoms are the answer. To me, that is the lazy teenager refusing to bend over and pick up the chopsticks. To paraphrase Reagan's famous phrase, "It's the behavior, stupid!" But addressing behavior means taking things apart and getting them back in order, and, quite frankly, our society seems a little too immature to handle it. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI discovered that when he dared to state that addressing at-risk behaviors in AIDS-stricken Africa was the solution, not flooding the continent with condoms. The media just short of beat him with a stick.

As we look at the AIDS epidemic, whether in Africa, in the gay community, or among IV drug abusers, I am reminded of a line from a song in the musical, "The Sound of Music": Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could. If behaviors cause illness and death, well, the answer is clear. The Pope tried to tell us, and he'll tell us again, I'll wager. After all, I have a feeling he just thinks things should work properly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Holes in my Socks

Every time I put on a pair of socks lately there seems to be a hole in one of them. It started about a year ago, and the problem persists. Whether a white crew sock or a black dress sock, it matters not. The holes suddenly appear, glaringly and uncomfortably present. They make themselves known early in the workday as I go about my routine; I worry that my big toe will have gas gangrene from a lack of blood supply as the sock constricts around it like a tiny cotton blend anaconda. I asked my sweet baboo if we had a moth problem, at which time she looked at me as if I was accusing her of gross household negligence and public drunkenness. No moths. Got it.

This afternoon I looked at my fifteen-year-old son's feet. They are huge. I asked sweet baboo what size shoe he wears; "10 and a half", she said as she strained the tortellini. Wow. Them's big feet. I wondered if his socks had holes like mine. When I asked him he looked at me funny, like he does sometimes when he thinks that I must have fallen on my head from a significant distance as a child. "Yeah, they do, Dad." He kicked off his sneakers that sweet baboo had refranined from reporting the cost of when he was sure he had a future as a cross country runner and needed JUST THE RIGHT SHOE.

He was wearing my socks.

That explains alot. My children, despite groundations lasting several weeks if not years, still have the nasty habit of running about outside in their socks. Honorable son number one is the worst offender. It is no wonder one get's holes in ones socks when the fruit of one's loins insist on running around the neighborhood in one's socks.

Oh well. I have determined this a battle I cannot win. There are others, and their feet are growing. I might as well accept the fate doled out on my socks. Man, when did his feet get so BIG?? He is growing so fast. It really makes me feel proud. Not that he's wearing my socks; that just irritates me. What makes me proud is that he is growing into a man. I have prayed for so many years that my kids would grow into good, holy adults. It's happening right before my eyes, and it took holes in my socks to see it.

Now why is my new "Fusion" shaver sitting on the side of the tub (you know, the one with the razor cartridges that cost six gazillion bucks for four?)? Maybe I'll ask the sixteen year old daughter...

Monday, March 23, 2009

The End of Huggies

My wife and I will be celebrating twenty years of marriage on the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. Twenty blissful years filled with long walks on the beach, candle-lit dinners, pina coladas, and making love at midnight...just like the song.
Okay, well, that's not quite true. Any time we walked on a beach we were too busy making sure our young Mark Spitz wannabees weren't drifting happily in the Gulf Stream toward Ireland. Candle-lit dinners were usually the result of power outages. Pina Coladas really gross me out. If I'm thirsty the last thing I want is coconut cream. And by midnight we're usually comatose and drooling, attracting passing tankers with our snoring.

We'll be celebrating together in the Big Apple this June, living it up in the City that Never Sleeps, because heaven knows we haven't slept much either.

As we look back over the last twenty years there has been a theme to our marriage that has defined our love affair succinctly: DIAPERS. One after another. To the dismay of our environmentally conscious friends we have single-handedly filled several landfills with disposable Huggies. The way we bought and carried them has changed over the years (our first had a Gucci bag with several diapers, twelve full changes of clothes, cashmere blankets - two, just in case, bottles, creams, lotions, perfumes, and lavendar-scented hypo-allergenic disposable comfort cloths. Our last? Mostly I carried one to the car in my teeth while i buckled the chocolate-smeared imp in the car seat with belts crusted with stuff that fell out of her mouth over the last several months). Finally, three weeks ago our little Teresa, age 3, graduated to Big Girl Undies. It was a moment of importance that I would not let go unnoticed: for nineteen years I have been looking at the unsavory end of many a sweet little cherub, smelling things that Fabreeze has not invented solutions for, and hoping against hope that my fingers wouldn't touch something gooshie. Now, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, it is over.

Enough reflection. It's time to make the sloppy joes before the children engorge themselves on string cheese while I blog.,. Teresa just came to my room to inform me that her sister has given her bubble gum. She opened her mouth and showed it to me. Yes, it was indeed bubble gum. What amazing intelligence displayed by the sixteen-year-old bubble gum giver. I will pull it out of the berber later. Hopefully today, as we gather to thank God for the food we are about to receive, ready to dig in to the family grub, Teresa will refrain from repeating those magical words we have heard so often the last three weeks: "Daddy, I pooped my pants."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fabulous Prize Awaits...

God bless you on this fourth Sunday of Lent!

This is a picture of two of my sons, John Paul and Joseph, SOMEWHERE in the U.S.! If you can identify WHERE this picture was taken you win A NEW CAR!
Hang on...my wife is checking our bank balance...
Okay, skip the car. A SPIRITUAL BOUQUET! A week of Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets for your intentions! That'll get you farther than a car, anyway.

Here are three hints: A Capital Idea, Rebuild My Church, and the Resting Place of the Lord.

The answer: Mt. Sepulchre Monestary, Washington D.C.
No winner...boohoo!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Notre Dame Drops the Ball

Stumblin', fumblin, bumblin... Notre Dame has asked President Obama to speak at the University's commencement ceremony this year. Yes, you heard it right. Obama. Notre Dame. I'm sorry I spoke those names together. This is almost comical. We can't make this stuff up.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Flu, Instant Gratification, and the Art of Hurling

Puking is ugly business.

Okay, let's keep this civil. Vomiting is ugly business. It feels awful. It is, as we all know, a time where we just don't seem to be in control. It's distressing. It's uncomfortable. It's unpleasant. We have all been there every now and again...it is as inevitable as taxes and death.

The flu has now taken hold of the community in which I live. Toilets are working overtime. If you listen attentively you can almost hear the rumbling of a collective retch. Restaurants are closing early and supermarkets are stocking up on Pepto. It is that time of the year when we refrain from shaking hands and keep our distance "because you DON'T want this flu bug!" It has made it's way through my family, and the washing machine has been running non-stop.

As an emergency room nurse, I am suddenly surrounded with "emesis" (nice technical name for chunks). But it's an interesting comment on our society, in my humble opinion, on just who is seeking care. The elderly? Nope, these troopers wait it out at home. The middle-aged? Naw, they stay in bed until its done. Children? Uh-uh. Mom takes care of them. Who, then, is flooding my ER?

It is the twenty and thirty-somethings. They can't seem to handle illness. They have no concept of puking in the privacy of their own bathroom. They insist it is food poisoning and ask me to send their offernings to the lab for analysis, or they are certain there is something REALLY REALLY WRONG. They demand to feel better NOW.

In our culture, where information, communication, and interaction are as close as a keyboard and monitor, where texting and cell phones keep us in touch at all times, where a Blackberry can be used to make a call, check hockey scores, balance our checkbooks and find a store that sells Netti pots, there is no TIME for illness! FIX ME! The blind belief that all illness is ultimately controllable is really false. Flu just kind of needs to work it's way through us. Not much we can do about it.

Don't get me wrong. I have a cell phone. I have two computers. I like to blog and I like facebook. When I am sick I whine like a cat that has crawled under the house to die. But, c'mon, the flu is the flu. For those of us who are relatively healthy, we just need to wait it out. Patience? Suffering? Perseverence? We can do it. Just make sure you make it to the bathroom on time...

Here are a couple sites on how to get through the flu season I found helpful:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Feast Day!

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph. Happy feast day to all you dads out there! Check out this beautiful video of a dad and his son. It really illustrates the spirit of St. Joseph to me.

Obama Administration Continues Power Grab

As a Catholic Registered Nurse (and I do indeed mark my profession with that distinction) I admit that I have taken for granted the freedom that has allowed me to practice in a manner that honors my religious tradition. I supervise a busy inner-city emergency department in a Catholic hospital that has not only allowed me to express my faith in the way I practice, but actually encourages me to do so.
True to form, the Obama administration is Hell-bent (words chosen carefully) to erode the freedoms that have not only influenced my profession by allowing me to CHOOSE the manner in which I practice but also allowed me to REFUSE those health care procedures and/or practices that conflict with my faith.
A few years ago I was chatting with a nurse that practices in my facility who lives in Canada (we have several nurses employed in our hospital who's residence is across the border - Buffalo is just a bridge away). She spoke of St. Joseph's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. Though it was a Catholic hospital from it's foundation, it is now completely administered by the government as are all facilities in that country. It retained the name it was given by the dedicated religious who founded it, but any semblance of Catholicism was purged long ago. I truly believe the Obama administration would repeat that here in the U.S. Without effort the long, storied traditions of religious communities providing facilities to serve the ill, sick and disadvantaged with the best health care available will come to an end.
Just look north.
Check out this website and especially the video of Cardinal George.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oh boy. Get ready for this...

This is going to stir up the soup. Our beloved Holy Father knows how to kick it up a notch! Read on...

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place...

So here's my dilemma...
About two months ago, my Sweet Baboo was washing the dishes and took off her rings. Mysteriously, one disappeared. Two days later, the ring re-appeared exactly where she left it. Immediately there was a public inquest, and subpoenas were issued. Judge Baboo immediately came up with a verdict - the "Husband" took the ring to have a "twentieth wedding anniversary band" sized. Case closed. She looked with pride upon the husband and giggled in sweet anticipation.
Small problem. The husband did NOT perform the deed as charged. He was too busy being busy and looking in the fridge for cheese and what not. No bother - the plan would be to simply ignore the whole affair and she would forget. We'll even plan an anniversary trip to New York City. That should distract her. Times Square, Broadway shows, David Letterman, middle-Eastern cabbies, and all that jazz.
That plan failed miserably. Sweet Baboo continues to coo at the thought of my thoughtfullness.
Plan B. Small loan. I had it planned all along...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI Releases Letter on the Society of St. Pius X

Papal Letter on Society of St. Pius X
"We Must Have at Heart the Unity of All Believers"


Pope Benedict XVI wrote and released a letter to his “Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry” regarding the remission of the excommunication of four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988. Paul Thomann from Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC asked me to post my thoughts on the Pope’s letter. As Paul is well aware, I am rarely at a loss for words…
This letter is HUGE (to borrow Billy Fucillo’s famous line)! My first impression, as a dad, was that I was reading a personal letter from a father to his sons. My second impression was, HEY! The Church CAN move quickly sometimes! I guess I expected this subject to die on the vine like it seems so many other issues do. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that if the church responded to every issue in real time there would be no time to serve Christ – and most issues don’t stand the test of time anyway, so patiently waiting for them to fade is wise. Nonetheless, this one needed a pastoral, loving and challenging response, and we got one. Finally, this letter challenges each and every one of us to put aside the pettiness “ministry” can sometimes breed and get to the task at hand – Proclaiming the Gospel and restoring all things to Christ!
Some themes of this letter are refreshing: The Pope calling us to recognize the difference between a discipline and doctrine; the challenge to look beyond controversy and ministerial conflict and see the person, loved by God; the pastoral mission of the Successor of Peter to call ALL men to Christ and reconciliation to the Church; the recognition that the world is connected, informed, and influenced by the Internet (yes, the POPE realized, as he wrote in his letter, that he needs to access it more often when looking for information!!!); and lastly, our filial responsibility to call our brothers home. The letter was short, but it was chock full of forgiveness, admonition, apology, and most of all, love.
These lines really illustrated our Holy Father’s love and the heart of the pastor:

Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests. We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim him and, with him, the living God. Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?

When I read his words, “What then would become of them?”, tears came to my eyes. He really loves them with the heart of Jesus. He WANTS them to come HOME. He worries about their SOULS, but not in a conceptual way; he loves them as brothers. He continues:

Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love?

These words reiterate the message of 1Corinthians chapter 13 I spoke of at the Ignited by Truth Conference in Raleigh, NC. Who we are, how we call others, how we behave, how we interact, how we live the gospel can be brought back to the most basic and yet, seemingly, most difficult call of every Christian: to LOVE. It doesn't get any more fundamental than that. Yet we still screw it up. Thank God for His mercy. We need it!
Our Holy Father is amazing. This letter was personal, revealing, and loving. It has already born fruit – Jewish leadership have embraced it and declared the situation resolved. I pray the rest of us will respond as quickly and put it into action.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Threat to Catholic Health Care Providers

The greatest threat to our freedom as Catholic health care providers is the push for Obama's administration to legislate away our ability to provide services consistent with Catholic teaching. Read this report from EWTN:


Future Pope?

This is my fourth son, Joseph, praying in the spot where Pope John Paul II the Great prayed when he visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. I have high hopes for him. I mean, "my son, the Pope"? Who can top that?!?

Jesus the "Aggressor"?!?

I was unable to attend Mass at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy today (my community's home base) because my daughter is performing in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at Rockwell Hall this afternoon, so my son and I went to Mass at St. Margaret's Church in North Buffalo. Our Mass at St. Luke's is at 1PM (that's a long story...) and the show is at two, and St. Luke's Masses are NEVER less than an our and a half. Our Masses are always fairly lively, and, well, St. Margaret's just...aren't. No bother, it is nice to attend a "quiet" Mass every now and again.

The pastor's homily really struck me, though. He read the "non-RCIA" reading (I guess they have no converts for the Easter Vigil) about Jesus casting out the money-changers from the temple. He talked about the need for us to be "aggressive" (in a non-violent way) when we perceive injustice in the world. It was a good backdrop for the push to fight FOCA (see my last post). But one thing he said really opened my eyes to something new: the image of Jesus as the "aggressor" on the day He was crucified. Huh?

I always envisioned Jesus as the helpless victim on that day. Let to the slaughter, meek and powerless, and hung on a cross like a common criminal. There didn't seem to me to be anything aggressive on His part at all. I always meditated on Jesus the Victim, Jesus the unjustly punished, Jesus the afflicted. All those are true, I know, but an aggressor? But that is just what he was; by dying on the cross he conquered sin, and by rising again he conquered death! He is a conqueror, and could't be a conqueror UNLESS He allowed all that led to His death on a cross. God really did plan it that way, and those participating in what appeared to all intents and purposes to be the laying low and humiliating end of Jesus, were really participating in His triumph over sin and death. Awesome! All things work for good...

Freedom of Choice Act

President Obama has vowed to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which ostensibly takes away the right for health care professionals and organizations to choose not to provide abortions, sterilizations, and birth control. If you haven't already, please let our leaders know that FOCA is a mistake. Here is a link to the Catholic Bishops' site:


Our bishops have stated in the past and continue to state that the day our government requires abortions in all hospitals is the day Catholic hospitals in the U.S. cease to exist. Can you imagine the chaos? In a system that is already overloaded, losing about half the hospitals in the U.S. would be devastating. I don't think that our president, though, is concerned.


As if working full time, being a Missionary, married man and dad of nine, and part-time student working on the Masters degree were not enough, I have decided to throw my comments into the blogosphere. I invite your comments and look forward to discussions about things that might be important to you and I.

No, I will not make a comment regarding Octomom. I promise.