We Have Been Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Hence the lack of blogging. We had some issues here with the blog that I wanted to take care of before we started causing all kinds of problems for you readers. But we are back online now and will resume a semi-normal posting feed now.

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Oh Jealousy…Jealousy

Deacon Greg pointed this out to me today. Seems that some in the Catholic media are peeved that the Jesuits didn’t release their interview with Pope Francis to a myriad of Catholic Sources. Here’s one such complaint from Greg Erlandson, publisher of Our Sunday Visitor:

It appears that hardly any bishops had a head’s up that this was coming. News organizations had advance copies that were embargoed. That means that they promised not to publish anything before 11 a.m. EDT.

And Deacon Greg responds:

Is it possible that this was a concerted effort to shut out other voices? So that the only ones who could speak definitively about it were, in fact, a small cadre of Jesuits? Once it was published, it would take several hours for bishops, reporters, theologians, analysts to get up to speed and be able to comment on this, but by then, the folks at America had already done it. It’s the “get” of the year, maybe of the decade, and good for them. But for a work of this significance, that kind of strategy strikes me as rather small and perhaps even antithetical to the Franciscan spirit of evangelization. For at least a little while, America elected to keep this news, and by extension some of the Good News, to themselves.

And my response is OF COURSE THEY DID.

When you have the story of the year, you don’t exactly give that up to every other reporter. You want to be the one who breaks the big story. And America Magazine and the other Jesuit journals did exactly that.

Some thoughts from a former journalist:

I think the people complaining about this are clearly jealous and to further this point, perhaps they should go the extra yard and try to cultivate a source or two and write their own big story about something. That’s called doing some WORK and not relying on others to do it for you(That said, I’m riffing on Deacon Greg’s column, so I’m just as lazy as you are). I had the David Cone aneurysm story before anyone else. A college friend working for the Yankees leaked it a full twenty minutes to me before anyone else. And a talk show host at the talk station I worked for wouldn’t put it on the air. I had nowhere to go. I decided to leak to the old station I worked for and they broke the story instead. I was really annoyed. I had the story, I cultivated the sources.

And I had nowhere to go with it.

At Busted Halo I was able to interview Bob Shepherd, the longtime Yankee Stadium announcer, who had been sick and nobody thought he’d be able to return. NOBODY had the story of when or if he would be returning. A reporter from the New York Post, who will remain nameless, took the story and wrote it without ANY credit given to me or Busted Halo. To say the least, I was annoyed and there were plenty of other places sports and otherwise who gave us plenty of credit. It was the top Busted Halo story that year.

And I wasn’t giving anyone a head start on it. I sent it to people who I knew would further our reach and who would give us the proper credit for our hard work.

So, sorry, but I’m not buying that America or any of the other Jesuit journals had to release this to anyone else. And they did give advances to people who they knew would further the story and work with them to make sure it was a big story and that America and the Jesuits would get the deserved credit.

Key bishops, he said, received an advance copy of the magazine by mail. Cardinal Dolan received a copy the day before it appeared online. So did the USCCB’s director of media relations, Sister Mary Ann Walsh.The only other person outside the publishing world who received an advance copy was the Superior General of the Jesuits.

And there’s no reason why these media outlets couldn’t spin America’s story for their own purposes as commentators from any number of angles. There’s no reason why in the breaking news moment of the day they couldn’t sit down and make a few comments and tweet a few tweets and try to capitalize on the “story of the day (Week?).” Breaking news happens and when it does you need to be ready. That’s called being a journalist.

Fr. James Martin, SJ talked with Deacon Greg about this today and didn’t back track.

Why didn’t other Catholic media outlets receive a heads up? ”What would the alternative have been?,” Jim asked. ”The alternative would have been to give it to multiple magazines, and the other Jesuit magazines around the world were very worried about leaks…they did not want their story to be scooped.” Jim explained, too, that some of the other publications had a strong resistance to releasing any of the text in advance at all; they weren’t accustomed to dealing with American media practices. ”And frankly,” he admitted, “we wanted this to be a big story.”

And it was and still is. And America and the other Jesuit journals from all over the world deserve all the credit. They did the work and hustled and used their influence to produce a work that may very well win the Pulizter Prize.

It is pure balderdash for others to be jealous and it’s a typical reaction for non-Jesuit entities to be green-eyed monsters at this point. I’m jealous of them too, but ya don’t see jumping up and down like a two year old saying “WAAAAAAH I want to be invited to the inner circle.”

Please. None of us deserved a head start and I consider James Martin and the guys at America good friends and I work at a Jesuit institution. We didn’t get a head start either and we were able to comment and push the story further for our own purposes in any number of ways. They gave a head start to those who would give America and the Jesuits the props for doing one fine piece of journalism. As an employee of the Jesuits, I have to say I’m really proud of the work that all the journals did in collaborating together and Matt Malone, S.J. and James Martin, S.J. did a yeoman’s job in working the media here in the United States.

Do some work journalists. You’ve got a hard job. But stop whining about the success of others. This one’s for you.

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We Need a Little Christmas…Sez Fr. Austin

My dear friend, who I only know through his blog, Fr. Austin wrote an amazing homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Included is his Christmas letter to God (as opposed to Santa). And he gives us several things to think about, so be sure to go and read the whole post over at his blog. But here’s a snip:

Once again this year,
I see that I’m quicker to tell the Lord what I want from him
than to listen to hear what he might want from me this Christmas.
After all: it’s his birthday: he should get the presents!

There’s no Christmas tree here, no stockings are hung,
but there’s a table in our midst
and even today we’ll find here the very same gift we received
on the first Christmas, 2000 years ago.

Here, in the Eucharist, we’ll find, we’ll be given, the Son of God.
He came to us in the flesh, born in a stable in Bethlehem,
and he comes to us this morning in his Body and Blood
in Communion.

Pray that this gift open our eyes to the gifts we really need
and, more importantly,
to the gifts we really need to give to others.

We don’t need to wait until December 25th to find the Lord.
He’s already here with us, “right this very minute”
in our prayer, in our hearts and in our waiting…
Yes, we need a little Christmas,
right this very minute,
we need a little Christmas – now…

Amen! Amen! And indeed I say Amen! We all need just a little Christmas—the birth of a savior–and a little Christmas goes a long way. God gives more than we ever can imagine—and it is more than enough! God gives us all of Himself.

We need a little Christmas…on merely on December 25th…but each and every day. And that means that the world also needs US each and every day.

Because Christmas has indeed changed us. Forever.

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Sacramental Skyping

In my ministry I have used Skype in a variety of settings: I do spiritual direction with one person about once a month using Skype which is a clear experiment merging the use of technology with the practice of spiritual direction. I has it’s glitches occasionally with a break up here and there and the need to ask him to repeat things. We lost video once and relied on merely the audio as well–so it’s less than ideal, but it is better than not meeting at all.

I’ve also used it for lectures with the med students with the acclaimed ethicist Charlie Camosy from Fordham and everyone’s favorite Jesuit, Jim Martin, SJ has done a “Theology on Skype” event with me on Saints.

But today’s post from Fr. Austin over at A Concord Pastor really moved me. He received a sick call from a parishioner and when he arrived to give the Sacrament of The Anointing of the Sick….

I had noticed a laptop at the foot of Maria’s bed but hadn’t paid it much attention. When I invited all present to pray, one of the daughters asked to introduce me to Maria’s sister and brother-in-law who were with us on Skype from South America. Maria’s relatives below the equator don’t speak English but they knew what we were about to do, what sacrament we were celebrating.

The promise to continue to pray was also given to the family via Skype from Fr. Austin. Amazing.

Of course, we’re all connected anyway! That indeed is the point of the Eucharist–that Christ unites with us in the giving of His body and His blood so that we might have life eternal but also, so that we might be reminded that we are all connected to one another through this sacrament. It connects us to the Apostles and to Popes. Grandmothers and Long-lost second cousins are as close to us as we could be if we are in the same room–actually, closer.

But in our modern age, technology reminds us of this deep longing we have for connection. People are so hungry for it that they’ll accept “cheaper” ways of finding that connection with another. Texting, Google chat, Skype, Facebook, Email, mobile phones and even a handwritten card in the mail are all reminders of the longing we have for one another. It’s why these devices can be so addicting and why so many often live in fear of loneliness, or of even being alone or spending time in silence.

We need to continue to use technology to remind one another of our need to stay connected. Our sacraments do that for us in a mystical sense, but how many are able to understand that without catechetical instruction? Seekers and lapsed Catholics and even those of us who are quite faithful to Sunday Mass obligations often need that reminder that we have a weakness to try to go it alone most often without the need for God or even other people. Which is why we come together at least once a week.

And sometimes when connections are broken, we crave those too. We stay in bad relationships, bad jobs, bad situations because it’s just easier or more comforting than being alone.

But the truth is that we’re never alone. And that’s what we really need to bring to light as church. That coming to mass is not some kind of divine to-do list. Instead it’s a reminder that we are all connected to both God and to one another.

Maybe we should put every mass up on Skype? And we can all be reminded more often that we are all connected.

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Facebook Forgivers

So I’ll be honest, some days the factions in the Catholic Church drive me up the wall. For instance my colleague Jim Martin, SJ posted a picture of Sr. Pat Farrell, the head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on Facebook and immediately people talked about her being a “bad Catholic.”

Fr. Jim then posted the following note:

Earlier I posted a profile about Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, the current president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. David Gibson’s article for Religion News Service focused on her work for the Church, and with the poor, in Central America over the last 30 years, often in situations of great danger. How is it possible that, within a few minutes, I had to delete so many ad hominem comments about Sister Pat, which critiqued her for not being a “good Catholic”? Have people no sense of perspective any longer? If not, I have an idea: If you’d like to criticize Sister Pat for not being a good Catholic, as some did, then I would suggest that you do the following: First, spend some time working with the poor in San Antonio. Then, spend six years working with the poor in Chile during an oppressive and violent political regime. You’ll be working in a Catholic parish in a small town in the desert, by the way. Next, move to El Salvador, where you will be in danger of being killed for working for the Catholic Church. That is, put your life on the line every single day for Jesus Christ and for the Catholic Church. At one point during your almost twenty years there, work in a refugee camp, run by the church, that is the target of military raids. Do all of this, by the way, while living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; living far from your home country; and having nothing to call your own. Then feel free to come back and post a comment on this Facebook page about what a bad Catholic she is.

And suddenly I’m inspired both by Sr. Pat and also by Fr. Jim’s bravery in standing up for Sr. Pat.

Indeed it is stories like that which inspire me to stay Catholic. It’s people like that, who keep me grounded and help me realize that the church is the people of God inspiring one another and not tearing them down.

I’ve often said that if I weren’t Catholic, I would probably be a Quaker. On Beliefnet’s Belief-o-Matic Quiz I often score high in agreement with the Quakers. So I began to investigate once and said “What do Quakers believe and am I in line with their beliefs?”

What I found was a website that said, Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about being a Quaker. BY Phillip Gulley. Here are the first few lines of what he writes:

I’ve been talking with a wide variety of Quakers these past few months, discussing with them what it means to be a Quaker. It’s been an interesting experience. When I tell evangelical Quakers what progressive Quakers believe, they often say, “That’s not Quakerly!” When I tell progressive Quakers what evangelical Quakers believe, they say the same thing. It seems the only things Quakers agree upon is that other Quakers aren’t real Quakers.

Now substitute Catholic for the word Quaker in this paragraph and see if you feel the same way I did.

No religion, a flawed man-made system is perfect. Only God is perfect and our imperfection doesn’t make God angry…

It makes God more forgiving than we could imagine. It goes beyond denomination into a newness of life for all of us. All we have to be is just as forgiving of our own brothers and sisters.

And that friends, is very, very difficult for all of us. Because hatred runs deep and wounds are even deeper.

And while I can forgive others when they offend me, reconciliation is much harder to achieve because reconciliation is the repairing of the relationship. We’re all required to forgive but reconciliation comes at a much greater price.

Because some people don’t accept the forgiveness of others or are too hurt to move towards reconciliation.

And the internet just might be the worst place ever in that regard. Today can we Catholics who really value forgiveness to the point of making it a sacrament, to the point where we can be examples of reconciliation and civility on the internet.

I’ll start. If anything I’ve ever written has offended you or if I took a tone with you on Facebook, or in any way made you feel less than I should have…know that I apologize and hope we can reconcile if we are estranged.

We need to stay in conversation with one another even when we disagree. One of my students is an atheist and one of the highest honors I could ever have is the fact that she stays in conversation with me and calls me a “reasonable theist.” I hope that people on all sides can be as charitable as she is.

And I hope I can be as well.

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Say It Ain’t So…

Mary DeTurris Poust is taking her leave from OSV’s Daily Post. She will be missed there but no worries she’s got two new books coming out (slacker!) and more…

My busy schedule isn’t the only factor in my leaving, however. Over the years, my writing has shifted quite a bit. I started as a Catholic journalist almost 30 years ago, focusing on news and feature stories. I’ve been writing for OSV Newsweekly for almost 20 years, many of them as a senior correspondent or contributing editor. But in recent years my writing has followed the trajectory of my spiritual life, moving away from headline-making hard news and toward introspective spiritual pursuits. I hope to be able to delve more deeply into that writing over at my own blog, Not Strictly Spiritual.

Which you can also find in my blogroll on the right now.

Head on over and pay a visit. And find her books on Amazon here. I’m particularly interested in her upcoming book Cravings.

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Guest Blogging at American Catholic

I have been remiss (since I have been traveling) to mention that because the NY Yankees beat the Reds I was given the opportunity to guest blog over at AmericanCatholic.org courtesy of Barbara Baker (who you know by the twitter handle @BarbaraKB). A snip:

“Click-clack, click-clack, click-click-click. Click-clack, click-clack, click-click-click.”

I looked up when I heard the sound and there he was, Yankeee first baseman Don Mattingly, taking two steps in his cleats and then skidding his spikes on the floor to create sparks.

“Cool, huh?” he said to me, a cub reporter in my first game covering the New York Yankees for WFAN radio.

I was immediately transported back to being a 15-year-old and trying to ask a girl out for the first time. That went badly. She laughed at me and then told all her friends. I thank God Facebook didn’t exist in 1985. It was bad enough with just a small group knowing, nevermind the whole school.

Read the rest and enjoy a nice summer post on baseball and discernment.

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Photo Ministry

They say a picture is worth 1000 words and Mary Williams, a wonderful campus and youth minister in Montana who I got to know at the Frank J. Lewis Institute seems to know that better than the rest of us. Her photo blog is AMAZING! She’s newly married and so, I stole this pic of Greg, her hubby, who is obviously jumping for joy because he has the coolest wife ever (well, next to me, of course). There’s one more I love from her blog below, but you really need to check out the whole thing by clicking here.

What I really love about this besides the awesome nature shots (OK if you’re still reading my drivel—stop—go to her blog and you’ll be back to my rant in about an hour because you’ll just not be able to stop looking at these pictures.) is that she also offers some written reflections about herself and her beliefs (and Mrs. Williams you are SO photogenic–ask your husband!) and the students she ministers to.

I’m sure that not only this is reflective time for Ms. Mary but it’s also reflective for her viewers and the folks she ministers to. She’s taken time to capture them in different ways and it may very well lead to their own self-reflection. “Why does Mary think I’m wonderful?” could very well be said by a student who struggles with self-esteem or who wonders about their future. The wonders and the beauty of nature can stop any of us in our tracks and thrust us into reflection. The love Mary and Greg share is something married couples or those entering marriage might stimulate thoughts on moments like that which they recall in their own relationship–that first house or the more mundane moments that are nonetheless shared and wonderful.

Ok…if you haven’t looked yet…this one is bound to grab you. Here’s Mary’s reflection from May 1:

I’m only sharing one photo this week…not because I don’t have others to share but because this one photo made a profound impact on me.

An old, twisted, rotting tree in the middle of Two Moon Park. Defeated. Decrepit. Dead.

I’m reminded of a quote from Paul Claudel in a friend’s office…

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.”

As I witness a friend ever so gracefully care for her dying mother…as I minister to students graduating, and in many ways, grieving the end of their college years…as I read and hear about pain and suffering in the news around the world….I am reminded…

He came to fill it with his presence.

I looked at the death of that tree and saw…the cross.

Click here to see that tree and be amazed.

Thanks, Mary –for your ministry and your creativity and of course your friendship. We’ll have to think of a creative project to share at some point. For now, know that I’ll be mentioning your work at this year’s Frank J. Lewis when I present on technology and ministry.

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Happy Anniversary, Googling God

6 years old! It was 6 years ago that this blog began and the book soon followed.

You’ve been great readers and this has been lots of fun.

To the future of inspiring one another! (clink)

As an anniversary contest the person who can e-mail or tweet me @godggoogler their favorite post first from this blog will get a free copy of Googling God.

Update: Fran Rossi Szpylczyn tweeted in to win the contest. Here was her favorite article about another anniversary.

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Monks Don’t Vow Silence

Carl McColman over at Patheos has a great piece on how the Cistercians respect for silence has been misinterpreted over the years as a vow. Their restraint on speech comes from a different place. He compares their affinity for silence to the commitment that married couples make to one another as the result of their vows to love. And he goes very deep.

The silence of a monastic is like the intimacy and vulnerability of a marriage. It emerges from a place deep within the heart of the nun or monk. True spiritual silence is far more than the mere absence of noise; just as true love is far more than the absence of hatred or fear. Silence, embraced for spiritual reasons, opens us up to the hidden presence of God in our lives. Such hidden presence is subtle, and cannot be well expressed in words—for words, even those printed on a page or computer screen, paradoxically signify the absence of silence. The silence of God can never fully be explained but must simply be experienced—rather like love within a good marriage, which can never be fully captured by words but can only be lived into by those fortunate enough to enjoy a thriving union.

It is only out of humility that I can write these words, for as a layperson, who am I to comment on the experience of monks or nuns? But I’m taking the risk of sharing these thoughts anyway, for I believe that the silence of monastics is a reminder to all people of faith—even those of us who do not live in a cloister—to make room in our lives for at least a modicum of silence, hopefully every day. But just as monks do not reduce restraint of speech to a vowed act, it would be equally futile to try to regulate our quiet in any kind of legalistic way.

I learned something! Nice! Read the entire article to learn even more.

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