Death by Drones

While I understand that in theory drone strikes keep troops off the ground, I also think they cause great harm. First of all, people are killed by a faceless attacker. But are they really faceless? No…someone exists behind the computer where the strike is executed. That is beginning to cause great psychological harm to those who are sitting at a computer and launching these strikes again, against a faceless “enemy.” Indeed there may be more deaths than the physical ones that are obvious to see…what of those who die just a bit more with each key stroke?

Gary Hart, who I probably would have voted for for President had I been old enough to vote when he ran, had some good points about this in the Huffington Post today:

Expediency is never a justification for unconstitutional and immoral actions. This is so even where self-defense and national security are concerned. It has proved incredibly easy to assassinate someone (and his family) half a world away. And that is what makes this new style of warfare so attractive… and so dangerous. The Obama administration is creating precedents it will live to regret and inviting retaliation, using both drones and computers, as they become available to most nations in the world.

So even if we believe in the long term this is better for our country because we are keeping more troops on the ground, the idea of a drone or a computer based attack on one of our large cities should be enough to deter us from widespread use of this.

So we should call on the President and those in congress to tread lightly here and to cease the use of drones. Let us pray that cooler heads will prevail and that we can all live in peace.

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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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On Why You Got Un-friended

So I have been reading a lot about social networking these days and the latest research shows that it’s more important to have friends who are active with you on social networking rather than just a sheer number of friends.

So last night while listening to radio reports on Hurricane Sandy, I began to look more deeply at my 1800 or so Facebook friends. A student in my UB 101 class glanced at my computer and said “How do you have so many notifications?” When I told her that I had over 1800 friends she suggested being more selective.

I replied, “No, I have a bunch of circles (to use a Google plus term) from different times in my life.”

But then I decided to get critical and really look at the number of facebook friends I have. I came up with some criteria to determine whether I would un-friend someone. And so here it is: Why you got Un-friended.

1) Who the Hell Are You? – If I couldn’t look at your name and say “Oh I know her! She’s from X and we spent time together at Y,” then I sent you to the “dump list” for further review. After looking deeply at your profile, if I couldn’t place you then you definitely got un-friended. If we hadn’t had a conversation together that I could recall, then you also got un-friended.

2) We Went to High School Together: Now this wasn’t an automatic dismissal. I have plenty of high school friends who I adore. But there were some who I didn’t even talk to at the reunion. And come to think of it, we didn’t talk much in high school either. So if you were a high school “face” to me, then you got un-friended.

3) You’re a Fan of Busted Halo, but we’ve never met: I can appreciate Busted Halo fans reaching out to me. But if you do that, than a comment here or there on something I have written might give you a fighting chance of staying on my list. There were a few people who have become good friends who I simply met online, but we have a relationship now, albeit a virtual one. Some folks were just anonymous to me other than their fandom from th’ halo. So they had to be purged.

4) Your a Friend of a Friend: Maybe we met at a party once, or maybe we’ve hung out a time or two, but in general you’re not my friend your so and sos friend. So I had to let you go.

5) You Never Comment: So I’m pretty active on Facebook and really believe in online community as being a great free exchange of ideas. I often say that people comment when they care enough about what you think to bother. If you never comment on something I write, there’s not a need for me to keep you around because you’re voting to not be part of the community.

6) You comment, but you’re snotty: This is a rare deletion and I think I only used it for one person. As stated above, I welcome a free exchange of ideas. David Dawson and I agree sometimes and we disagree often on any variety of issues. But when I hit the ground in Louisiana, I’m going to visit his scotch-swilling, LSU-loving, cajun-eating ass. James Hamilton and I are old friends as is Paul Daly and we’re about as opposite as we can be some days. But we always look for middle ground to agree on and always try not to take a cheap shot at each other. If you attacked a person instead of an issue, I chucked you.

7) You don’t even bother to pray for others: This was huge. If I or other friends post something and ask for prayers, one of the great things about Facebook is the way people respond to that kind of call. I know some serious-minded atheists who have “kept a good thought” or at least bothered to let me and others know that they care. And again, there may be people who are just not active on Facebook and it’s nothing personal when they don’t respond–but in those instances, I let you go because you’re just choosing to intentionally be part of the community. You can email me or send me a message.

8) You clutter my newsfeed with nonsense: Actually, this doesn’t get you un-friended, but it got you deleted from my newsfeed. A feature I now use often. So if you only play farmville, or post memes and I don’t really know you or interact with you on Facebook, then I de-friended. If I knew who you were then you were cut off of the newsfeed.

9) You’ve abused the privilege: So I had a situation where I posted something once and someone called another person that they thought the post was about and asked them what was going on between us. It ruined the relationship with that other person and the post wasn’t even referring to them. I un-friended the person who called immediately. It’s one of those “be who you are in light as you are in the darkness” kind of things.

10) I’ve Never Been to Your House or Shared a Meal with You: If you passed the above criteria, this was a final check. If you couldn’t say either, you got bounced.

11) You made fun of my dog: Immediate explosion under rule # 604.08 subsection 3. “Thou shalt not be mean to the Haze Dog.”

Most of the folks fell under the first category and the fifth category. I’ve never met you, but you like BustedHalo.com or we’ve met but we never converse.

Now here’s something further. While I was able to delete 350 or so folks from my feed, I still have 1442 facebook friends! There’s nobody there now that I couldn’t place immediately or without a minimum of reflection. These people come from the following places in my life: Family (mine and Marion’s), Close Friends, Ministry Colleagues, High School friends, College friends, former radio colleagues and students or young adults to whom I have been a minister. Over 1400 people were still unable to be deleted. Tonight I’m going to play a game with Marion—name a person that she doesn’t know and I have to tell her how I know them.

So for those who have been unfriended…if you simply lurk on this blog, I would suggest liking my Googling God page on Facebook. This blog auto-posts there. Or you can subscribe to my personal feed which will give you a bit more.

And despite the fact that you may have gotten un-friended, know that I still pray for you. This was not something I took lightly and I waited for a long time to do this. Each time we gather around the table of the Lord we are closer than any social network or even an in-person meeting! So know that you remain in my prayers.

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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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Buzz Aldrin Received the Eucharist on the Moon?

Editor’s note: Buzz Aldrin was Presbyterian…a snip from an old post in Guideposts from 1989:

Before the lift-off, Aldrin was looking for a way to honor God’s presence in the Apollo 11 space mission. He talked with his minister, Dean Woodruff of Webster Presbyterian Church in Houston. When in their discussions the Christian sacrament of communion was mentioned, a plan emerged.

Two Sundays before the moon shot, Aldrin participated in a small, private communion service at his congregation, after which his minister broke off a corner of the communion bread and gave it to Aldrin along with a tiny chalice with some wine. Aldrin sealed these in plastic packets and safely stowed them in his personal preference kit (each astronaut was allowed to take a few personal items with him).

The rest follows:

From the Atlantic, an interesting article on the experience of religion in space. How does a Jewish astronaut celebrate the sabbath? NASA was sued for the Apollo 11 Astronauts reading from Genesis. And Buzz Aldrin apparently in his memoirs reported that he brought a small vial of wine and a communion wafer. It was interesting when he chose to do this:

This is in part the sentiment Buzz Aldrin relays in his 2009 memoir as he recounts how he took communion in the minutes between when he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans on the moon’s surface, and when Armstrong set his foot down on the dust. Aldrin says he had planned the ceremony as “an expression of gratitude and hope.” The ceremony was kept quiet (un-aired) because NASA was proceeding cautiously following a lawsuit over the Apollo 8 Genesis reading, but it proceeded with a tiny vial of wine and a wafer Aldrin had transported to the moon in anticipation of the moment (personal items were strictly restricted by weight, so everything had to be small). He writes:

During those first hours on the moon, before the planned eating and rest periods, I reached into my personal preference kit and pulled out the communion elements along with a three-by-five card on which I had written the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” I poured a thimblefull of wine from a sealed plastic container into a small chalice, and waited for the wine to settle down as it swirled in the one-sixth Earth gravity of the moon. My comments to the world were inclusive: “I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.” I silently read the Bible passages as I partook of the wafer and the wine, and offered a private prayer for the task at hand and the opportunity I had been given.

Neil watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time.

He continued, reflecting:

Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists. But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God. It was my hope that people would keep the whole event in their minds and see, beyond minor details and technical achievements, a deeper meaning — a challenge, and the human need to explore whatever is above us, below us, or out there.

Read the whole thing. Quite interesting. A h/t to my buddy Shannon Shark over at the Mets police for finding this.

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Higgs Boson Does Not Disprove God

There’s a few items on my mind with regards to the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, an amazing event in the world of physics, which has been referred to as the “God particle.”

First of all, scientists hate the term “God particle” and it’s called that not for any anti-theological reason, but rather because the higher ups at CERN (the center that has made today’s historic discovery) wouldn’t let the scientists working on the experiment call it “the Goddamned particle” because it was so difficult to find.

Ok, that’s kind of funny. Who knew scientists could have such a sense of humor. I need to watch more of the Big Bang Theory.

What is the Higgs-Boson particle anyway?

From National Geographic:

The Higgs boson is one of the final puzzle pieces required for a complete understanding of the standard model of physics—the so-far successful theory that explains how fundamental particles interact with the elementary forces of nature.

The so-called God particle was proposed in the 1960s by Peter Higgs to explain why some particles, such as quarks—building blocks of protons, among other things—and electrons have mass, while others, such as the light-carrying photon particle, do not.

Higgs’s idea was that the universe is bathed in an invisible field similar to a magnetic field. Every particle feels this field—now known as the Higgs field—but to varying degrees.

If a particle can move through this field with little or no interaction, there will be no drag, and that particle will have little or no mass. Alternatively, if a particle interacts significantly with the Higgs field, it will have a higher mass.

The idea of the Higgs field requires the acceptance of a related particle: the Higgs boson.

According to the standard model, if the Higgs field didn’t exist, the universe would be a very different place, said SLAC’s Peskin, who isn’t involved in the LHC experiments.

“It would be very difficult to form atoms,” Peskin said. “So our orderly world, where matter is made of atoms, and electrons form chemical bonds—we wouldn’t have that if we did not have the Higgs field.”

In other words: no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no life on Earth.

So some are saying that the Higgs-Boson disproves that a God has any role in the making or maintaining of the universe. That we are simply a random bunch of particles bouncing off each other with little or no meaning. This assumes something about religion that simple isn’t true.

Religion does not try to say anything about the origins of the world. Religion and science have two completely different purposes, but can work complimentarily to give meaning to human existence and have done so for years. It should be noted that a priest proposed the big bang theory, using science as opposed to the Book of Genesis to explain the order of the universe.

Check out this video that I did some time ago on science and religion with the head of the Vatican Observatory, Fr George Coyne, S.J.. It’s focused on evolution, but Fr. Coyne takes us into defining the difference between religion and science in general.

Science and scripture are not compatible, or I should say that the purpose of the Bible is NOT, precisely not, aimed at scientific discovery. These are revelation stories designed to teach us about “meaning” not “scientific origins.”

Now some are going to say that there are nutburgers who’ll say different. And they would be right to say so. These are fundamentalists, people who believe in a LITERAL interpretation of the bible. Catholics are not fundamentalists. We believe that the bible is divinely inspired, meaning that the biblical writers are not God, but rather people who wrote something down to try to tell us a bit about what God is like; mainly that God is loving and allows us to participate in God’s own creation through our humanity.

There are also fundamentalist scientists in my opinion. People who believe that their empirical discoveries are all that there is. That there cannot be anything beyond these discoveries. I find that haughty and arrogant.

Catholics believe in transcendence, that there are things that go beyond our very selves and our experience of the world. This is where we experience God.

And God is ALWAYS mystery, the inexhaustible one that we never truly can grasp with our limited human intellects. God is beyond us, so far beyond that full knowledge of God is impossible. In fact, that would make us God if we had that.

But God is also with us and within us. And we do have some experience of what God is like for us. Scripture tries to give us a glimpse of this, and the experience of Jesus and the Holy Spirit links the ineffable with us. We are connected to God, who always is trying to unite with his creation. We need to pay attention to that in order to discover meaning in our lives that is beyond science, but also that doesn’t disprove and still honors scientific discovery.

Much like our political landscape these days, the interaction of scientific communities and religious ones are fraught with division. And it’s unnecessary. Let’s call out the extremes on both sides today and show that Catholics are not part of some radical anti-scientific mentality and also honor science, that continues to discover the wonders of God’s world for all of us.

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Millennials to Boomers: We KNOW We’re Not Special

Some time ago, David McCullough, Jr wrote a commencement speech for Wellesley High School which, in my opinion, was a dirge and quite frankly inappropriate. Essentially, he told them that they were not special. There was an overlying assumption that millennials feel entitled and special. I didn’t blog it because I thought it was overdone and not at all an accurate depiction of how millennials see themselves. It was actually more of a depiction at how millennial parents see millennials.

Millennials don’t see themselves as special. They see themselves as people that everyone else THINKS sees themselves as entitled.

The truth is that millennials live very fearful lives. In a angry rant against the McCullough rant, Sierra over at the Phoenix and the Olive Branch has a lot to say about what millennials face:

We grew up accruing praise, but not self-esteem. We learned that praise was a parenting strategy, not a sincere reward for merit. We stopped listening when you told us we were smart, brave, beautiful and unique. “You have to say that because you’re our parents,” we told you. You agreed.

So we looked to our teachers to learn where we stood. They couldn’t tell us the truth, either. “Did I get an A because I really wrote an exceptional essay, or because my teacher was afraid to deal with my parents?” We learned to suspect the latter.

When our teachers couldn’t tell us, we looked to our bosses. They despised us: the pampered, electronic generation who doesn’t know the meaning of hard work. When we worked hard, they were surprised. But they cynically assumed we were only working hard to build our resumes. That 16-year-old who went on a humanitarian relief trip to Haiti? Just another yuppie trying to pad her Harvard application. What would it take to convince you that we really care? Even the things we do for fun – playing sports, joining a band, riding a horse, writing a story – you have made into a competition. You’ve taken our creativity and told us that it matters not because it fulfills us, but because we can sell it to a college and reap the returns on our “investment” decades from now. Every little thing we do must be harnessed for profit. And you wonder why we seem to have no spontaneity left.

You have done our work for us, then called us lazy.
You have threatened our teachers, then told us “just an A” isn’t good enough.
You have gotten our jobs for us, and called us underachievers.
You have recorded everything we do, like researchers breeding a better mouse.
You have made us trophy-seekers, then mocked us for our walls of worthless awards.
You have pitted us against each other in a fight for success, which has become survival.
You have given us a world in which even our college degrees are meaningless because there are just too many of us.
You have made us depend on you. When we followed your instructions – went to the best schools, got the best grades, took the most internships and did the most independent study projects, met the right people and got into the right grad schools and chosen the right majors – we’ve ended up stuck in your basement because nobody in your generation is willing to pay us a living wage.
Then you called us the “boomerang” generation that refuses to grow up. When did we have the chance?

Accurate! And I love a great rant, especially a justified one. Many millennials see me for spiritual direction. The thing I think they fear the most is screwing it all up. Many have trouble settling on a decision because they think they have to figure it all out tomorrow. Others fear a mistake they made in their younger years and think there’s no way they can ever be forgiven for that mistake. Others don’t realize the inability they had to be free to make a decision and hold themselves hostage to a life they need not live, knowing no way to change course. Others simply beat themselves up for mistakes or what they see as failure when they don’t meet exalted expectations.

When I hear of what some young people are going through, I’m frankly surprised that they are walking and talking, much less, doing well academically or finding a job.

Listen to more of Sierra here:

We learned something else along the way to becoming “special.” We learned that you depended on us. For validation. For certainty that you did everything right. If we did not succeed, it reflected badly on you. When you told us that you loved us and that we were smart, beautiful, creative, independent, and destined for greatness, what you implied was that we must be all of those things or that you would cease to love us. That our lives would cease to be worth anything. That we might as well die if we’re not the best.

The truth is that millennials are tired of being lied to. They want someone who will tell them the truth, not spin or fluff. They want to be challenged, not coddled. They want to live a life of meaning but also want to be able to make mistakes without fear of retribution. They want people who don’t have a vested interest in their success to actually care about THEIR goals and dreams and not make it some sort of prize for their own mantlepiece. They want the freedom to be able to discover who they are—so simply put they can become all they are called to become.

Considering I do a good deal of writing about millennials and am not one, I can see the backlash coming at me too–and perhaps deservedly so. These folks are not who we have molded into being. They are simply themselves.

One millennial who I direct, taught me much about direction with millennials in particular. They were frankly stuck in believing that their worth was dependent on how another might see them. I tried, with limited success, to get them to realize that this isn’t true. That God has already made them valuable simply by the gift of life itself. I mostly journeyed with them in their struggle, not trying to get them to see MY point of view but rather asking questions more about their image of God and their image of themselves.

It wasn’t until they were able to sit with much of these images in mind in silence at adoration that they realized how forgiven they already are and how loved they are by God, despite failure, despite the past, despite confusion. Once realized, self-worth came flooding the psyche and true healing and more importantly, true living could begin.

My lesson is that Christ is the one who awakens people to themselves, not me. I have the honor of walking people towards seeing Christ more clearly so that Christ can do the healing needed for people to become all that they are. My greatest gifts are often patience and listening for the gentle voice of God within these people, that I can point them to more directly–so that they hear that voice of God in their hearts.

In my new book Loving Work, I recommend trying to find out what you are passionate about and try to harness that passion into a drive for the lives, not necessarily their careers. Some are able to do this well. Others have no clue what they are even passionate about because they’ve never had the freedom to think about what life would be like outside the rat race. Most simply can’t yet hear or feel God’s stirring inside them because their lives are too cluttered with what everyone else thinks they should be doing. It blocks most of what can occur in developing a passion and also drives people into a desperation, where they take what they can get because often they have no other choice. We haven’t given them the luxury of a world where they can find their passion, instead we give them a world where they must find work, any work.

Even McCullough, in the midst of stabbing our supposedly inflated egos, urged us not to do anything that we didn’t love or feel passionate about. You know what? We don’t have that luxury. That idea is a relic of days gone by. We are not the generation that finds itself in creative abandon. We are not the generation that goes off in search of personal fulfillment and the satisfaction of a job well done, only to come back millionaires. We are the generation that takes whatever work we can get, that knows no matter how hard we try we might not succeed. We know our lot, and it’s not nearly as bright as yours. Woodstock? Ha. Like any of us could afford to take time off to lie around smoking and writing songs. Don’t accuse us of your ennui: we’re too busy trying to find a job.

A bit much here, one doesn’t need a Woodstock to discern where God is calling them. What one needs is silence in a world of noise. And that silence is often absent and frightening when they engage with it. Others have filled their lives thus far with the clutter of fake praise, empty promises and one more bad Taylor Swift song. They don’t know whose voice to trust and don’t have enough confidence to trust their own.

Millennials post-college now, more than ever, need mentors who will be patient, who will help them REFORM meaning in their lives, because they have often missed that step thanks to those wisdom figures (well, not really) who simply pushed them to believe not in their own specialness, but in the people that their generation hopes they will become.

It’s time for millennials to shirk off the promises that their parents and teachers offered to them and move into the challenge of becoming free. To engage in solitude with who they most wish to become and where mentors will wait with them, in their freedom to be mentors and to not make it all about the mentor-guru. Tony Robbins wannabes beware. It’s not about you. It’s about THEM.

Read the rest Sierra’s whole note. It’s quite something. And then, listen to some millennials in your life. And gently let them know that you’re there for them.

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Got Media Problems…Turn to Fox News to Fix ‘em

Yeah…that’s the ticket!

From Deacon Greg’s Blog

The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, The Associated Press learned Saturday.Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told the AP.

I shudder to think what press releases this guy will come up with.

A bit more on his Catholic background:

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II’s longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei.

Good luck, Burke. You’re gonna need it. Here’s hoping that the Vatican will be a bit more “fair and balanced” than his last employer claims that they are.

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Rest in Peace, Mrs. Landingham

72 year old actress Kathryn Joosten, who played the role of Presidential secretary, Mrs. Landingham, died this week. On the West Wing, her character was killed by a drunk driver after being persuaded by the President to go get a new car. It led to one of the greatest monologues in the history of television

For those wondering what the Latin means, a you tube user shared a translation:

Gratias tibi ago, domine
Thank you, Lord.

Haec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito?
Am I to believe these things from a righteous God, a just God, a wise God?

Cruciatus in crucem
To Hell with your punishments

uus in terra servus, nuntius fui; officium perfeci
I was your servant, your messenger on the earth, I did my duty.

Cruciatus in crucem (with a dismissive wave of the hand) eas in crucem
The Hell with your punishments! And to Hell with you! (literally, “may you go to a cross”

Joosten began her acting career later in life in her 40s after a career in nursing. The Telegraph also has this interesting note about her dedication to lung cancer:

In 2001, however, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. After treatment she was declared free of the disease, only for it to recur, in her other lung, in 2009. Again she prevailed, but she recognised that “cancer will be with me for the rest of my life, be it as a nodule, tumor or cell someplace, or in my fears and anxieties”.

She became a fierce advocate for lung cancer awareness, speaking at events and raising funds. A long-time smoker herself, she said that lung cancer had “a stigma because of the relationship to smoking – ‘you did it to yourself’ – and therefore the belief that somehow it is something to be ashamed of”. But she argued that the cancer “is far more lethal, and a bigger killer of women than all the other cancers combined” and that she was “irritated and disappointed” by the “oceans of pink” that successfully raised awareness and money for “sexier” breast cancer.

To bid adieu to Ms. Joosten here is her final shining moment on the West Wing. As means of background, she was a mentor figure for the President when he was growing up in prep school and that led her to become his personal assistant at the White House. Ergo, she’s possibly his most trusted advisor and this scene is presumably a hallucination…or is it?

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Networked: Why We Should Use Social Media in Ministry

I’ve been saying this for years now. Maybe now that pew research is backing me up, the detractors will pay attention.

I still get push back from church officials about the need to share information on social networks. Many are afraid of getting sued or of revealing too much. Clerics, most especially, live in a world where they try to reveal little–and yet it ends up pushing them towards irrelevancy at times.

I can remember one significant speaking engagement with a group of Philly Archdiocesan priests. Many of them were great! They were using social media in a myriad of ways and it contributed to their ministry in new and exciting ways.

But others were not wiling to do so. Their refusal sounded angry, defensive and completely unrealistic. Granted at times social media can be ridiculous. One pastor gave a good example of a church that had been robbed. He told his employees that he had to give their names to the police because they all had keys but that he didn’t suspect any of them. One employee wrote about that on Facebook offering his alibi as a joke.

Then his friends chimed in…and they did so uncharitably.

The pastor in question wondered what he should do next? And he replied that he thought Facebook should not be used in ministry because it gave people the opportunity to say bad things about the church.

My response: “With all due respect, Msgr., they’re saying bad things about the church ANYWAY.”

It’s amazing how some people want to bury their heads in the sand and vilify all social media.

To be fair, my own mother, who is 83 and knows little about the internet, (except what I show her when I’m in town–and which she’s always impressed by) thinks that the internet is evil.

“I don’t care what you say, you shouldn’t be on that internet! It’s nothing but trouble.”

I usually reply with “Mom, the internet is only a way of sharing information.”

Her reply is simple, “I don’t care what it is. It’s trouble! I don’t want to be on it.”

How far removed from this attitude are some of our older priests in their 70s? Probably not far.

We have an opportunity to share who we are and what we do best. But are we willing to do that?

Or do we just want to remain in the ghetto with people who don’t use the internet much?

Indeed it is up to us.

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