Soul Searching

I’ve been thinking a lot about my present life situation these days. Over the past 6 years I’ve become one of the experts in my ministry field, built a national web presence for the Paulists, started and co-hosted a podcast, and led a very successful retreat program (probably what I’m most proud of). I also have been a husband for just under five years and am hopefully going to become a father in the coming year, if adoption plans go through. I’ve travelled to three different countries and two of those countries I’ve now been to three times (Nicaragua and Canada-Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Vancouver and Victoria). Oh yeah, I got a Master’s Degree and I wrote a book.


So what am I longing for in my life these days? Seemingly I have lots of accomplishments–that I am indeed proud of. Yet, I have a burning hunger for more. BustedHalo has grown up and is basically under the more than capable hands of Bill McGarvey. I still contribute to the site and produce the blog and the ask father joe series…but it certainly has been a reduction in the need for me to hover over day to day operations.

Since I’m not a priest, I often get overshadowed by my boss, Fr Dave..who is very gregarious and extroverted. Like me, he likes control, has strong expectations, and loves the limelight. Because he’s a priest, he naturally gets more pastoral opportunities–and people are more naturally drawn to him for counselling and pastoral work. Like me, he’s a great presenter…and I mean lights out. He’s funny, charming, and always on.

Somehow it all feels like a competition for pastoral attention…which is good and bad. Competition by design pushes us to be better. So I think I demand excellence of myself. At the same time, I feel that we sometimes have a less than collaborative relationship…not that we don’t work well together…we do. It’s more of a ownership issue. I often get to play the secondary role, or a visioning role –while someone else gets to finish the project or flesh out an idea I began. While I don’t mind having my ideas twisted and turned and I have the ability to “be in the room” and let others pick away at the brainstorming sessions where we debate ideas–I often don’t feel like I’m owning any of it for myself–where my compadres seem to grasp more tightly to a project that they can own for themselves and are given full credit.

I’m sure I’ll feel differently when my book actually is in print. But that’s a year away. Sigh.

I’ve given some thought to becoming a deacon. My thinking is that maybe I earn more respect with ordination and maybe more doors open for me ministerially. The lay person is often looked upon by the laity as “secondary”. And in some ways rightfully so. And there are many restrictions on what I can and can’t do as a lay person and professional minister in the Catholic Church. Recently, I had to turn down a request by someone to officiate at their wedding. I was touched that they even considered asking me–but obviously that’s something I can’t do. I led a wake service for my wife’s family once and while sad…it was one of the great joys of my life to bring comfort to those in pain. Ironically, the wake was for my wife’s uncle Andy who was a Deacon and a big inspiration to me.

So in the coming year, I’m giving thought to where I feel most called and what I have to contribute. What can I do that’s uniquely me? I’m putting myself in my own life coaching program and asking myself the big question:

If I could do anything tomorrow, what would that be like?

I’ll be blogging about this from time to time. So stay tuned and weigh in with your own thoughts…I’m sure to find that helpful.


Much like the great example that John Paul II gave when he forgave his assassin, today we look to our Amish brothers and sisters who have openly forgiven the man who killed 5 Amish women in a senseless act of revenge over a 20 year grudge.

Thursday’s funerals were scheduled for Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8; and her sister Lena Miller, 7, according to The Associated Press.

Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, is to be buried Friday, AP reported.

Five other girls who were victims of the shooting remained hospitalized — three in critical condition and two in serious condition. They ranged in age from 6 to 13.

Roberts, 32, shot the 10 girls Monday and then committed suicide as police stormed the schoolhouse. The truck driver brought lubricating jelly and plastic restraints with him, and may have been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls, police said.

I wonder what is going through the minds of those families today and yesterday while they prepare the bodies in their home (as is their tradition) for the funeral and burial? Somehow their FIRST thought was one of peace and forgiveness.

Today let us pray that we all may be able to be inspired by their example and be able to overcome the grudges in our own lives and forgive the petty things that we encounter in our lives.

Halo bangin’ to Slayer

What’s next? The mosh pit?

An absolutely awesome column by Dave Nantais about Slayer’s new album on
A lot of my high school friends were metal-heads so I listened to a bit of this stuff growing up…not my thing really but I do think the lyrics of a lot of these songs are brilliant.

Hijackers claimed to be protesting Pope’s comments.

From Reuters Today:

“A Turkish airliner flying from Tirana to Istanbul has been hijacked and flown to Brindisi in southern Italy in an apparent protest against the Pope.”

Soon after….

“The two hijackers of the Turkish Airlines flight that was forced to land in Italy on Tuesday have surrendered and will ask for political asylum, an Italian police official said.”

“They have surrendered and are about to get off the airplane,” Brindisi Police Chief Salvatore De Paolis told Reuters. “They will request political asylum.”

Off to the playoffs!

The baseball playoffs start today…

Lucky me…my (now)main man, Kenneth Wright, spiritual director extrodinaire, has invited me to Game 1 of the Yanks/Tigers. I’ll be having a hot dog for dinner.

Some background on my baseball past:

I used to cover the home games for the Mets and the Yankees for both WFAN and then later WOR. I was the backup reporter for Suzyn Waldman, the famous sports beat reporter and one of the first women to really break down barriers for women in sports. She is also just a wonderful woman to be around…and she taught me a lot. I would basically fill in for her when she returned from the West Coast swing and needed some time off to recharge or when she just needed a day off. Since I had a season pass, I would go to the games when she was working and I’d cover the visitor’s locker room and if I got anything good, she’d use it and give me credit. It was great experience for me–no money–but great, great experience. Later at WOR, I was their main reporter–again no money–but I got to go to a full season of home games for both squads. (it was 1996 and the Yanks won the whole thing!)

Now…I grew up a Mets fan in the late 70s. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who hated the Yankees and Reggie Jackson. I thought Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Lee Mazzilli were awesome.

So now I get into the business and I get to cover the Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Brett Saberhagen Mets…who were God-awful and I got to see Fred Wilpon’s operation up close. Yeesh did they treat us media guys poorly. I would say that both Bobby Valentine and Steve Phillips were pretty good to me…and always pretty polite. But the experience pretty much soured me on the Mets.

The Yanks conversely were wonderful to be around. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Wade Boggs, David Cone, Dwight Gooden, Paul O’Neill, heck, even David Wells were all pretty good guys to be around. Joe Torre was just a class act. And while Steinbrenner was and still is CRAZY, I never saw him be rude or condescending to anyone in the media while I worked there. I can’t say the same about Fred Wilpon.

But I could never bring myself to be a Yankee fan. I’d rather chew my right arm off. But let me tell you these guys were hard to root against.

So I took some time off from “rooting” and became what I call an “observer” of the game. I admit feeling good about the 2000 Mets team. I later adopted the Cubs as a team I could root for…while visiting Wrigley Field in Chicago (which I claim as the greatest ballpark in the majors). The Cubs are annoying. They are so up and’s no wonder that Wrigley is basically the world’s biggest outdoor tavern. This year there was no reason to do anything there but drink. They stunk up the place.

I leave you with some predictions for the post season:

Tigers over Yanks in 5.
Twins over A’s in 4.

Dodgers over Mets in 5.
Padres over St Louis in 3.

Twins over tigers
Padres over Dodgers

Twins over Padres.

Pastoral vs Theoretical

Fr. Eugene Lauer had a curious comment during his after dinner comments at Fordham’s Garduate School of Religion and Religious Education dinner.

He mentioned that the National Pastoral Life Center is not really interested in high fallutin theological theories…but rather, they are focused on how to serve people at a basic pastoral level. How do we translate our message to those who simply come to church.

It seems to me, that this is also the work that does. We’re translators. We link the riches of theological and spiritual wisdom with everyday life.

If only this could be everyone’s mission.

Fordham’s GSRRE Dinner

This was a lovely affair with over 225 people attending. Fr. Eugene Lauer of the National Pastoral Life Center provided after-dinner comments and accepted the Gaudium Et Spes Award on behalf of the deceased Msgr. Phil Murnion and the center.

Jesuits Joe and Vin Novak were glowng and Dr. Jack Nelson, his wife Kathy and the rest of his family looked genuinely touched and honored. Nelson and the Novak’s received the founder’s award…and the award henceforth will be given in their name.

The mass beforehand was first rate liturgy, thanks in part to the liturgical planning of Dr. Marilyn Kravitz, a recent grad of the school. Possibly the most beautiful offertory procession I’ve ever seen. As the choir played “One Bread, One Body” those in procession lifted high the gifts that came forth from the community.

The dean of the school, Fr. Tony Sciorra gave a very moving homily based on the selected readings, weaving in the fact that “we indeed are standing on the shoulders of giants, not merely from our school, but from our faith. And that all begins with Jesus and the 12 he chose to lead us. When Jesus ascended into heaven, I’m sure all the saints and angels wondered if Jesus had a ‘plan b.” But those 12 simple men truly were the right people for the job…and we are indeed here today in this church because of them. And their gifts were all of different varieties.”

I was proud to have proclaimed the 2nd reading…and really felt the appreciation of many who thanked me to proclaiming the word well.

One of the highlights of my evening was meeting Zeni Fox, of National Catholic Reporter and other publications fame. She was the epitome of grace and class and made my wife (who often knows nobody at these things) feel remarkably comfortable. I hope I have the honor of spending more time with her again soon.

A second highlight was seeing Fr. Joe Constantino, Sj. When I was still a young radio producer, a priest-friend encouraged me to talk to Fr. Constantino about possibly working with his retreat center as a volunteer and working towards changing my career to directing retreats. He gave me about an hour of prime direction and allowed me to see that I had plenty of experience and gifts to be able to venture on my own in retreat ministry. While he had no positions on his staff available, he did invite me to keep in touch and encouraged me to look to other places to find a place to serve in this capacity. The Paulists, not long after this, found a job for me and I confidently came forth to land the position. So I owe Fr Joe big time.

In all…a fine evening. Next year on October 20th at Fordham! Be there!

If it’s Saturday, I’m at Fordham

I’ll be teaching as a guest lecturer at Fordham today (Saturday, 9/30) on Millennial young adults for my mentor Dr. Kieran Scott. Later in the evening, I’ll also be attending the first annual Sapietia et Doctrina Awards Dinner for the Grad School of Religion and Religious Education. I’ve served on the committee for the event and will be lectoring at the mass and also serving as the coordinator of the awards ceremony. Should be fun.

The big awards will go to:

Fr. Vincent Novak, SJ and his Brother Joseph Novak, SJ along with Dr. Jack Nelson. They get the Founders Award for outstanding service to the grad school. They are the founders of the school and the award is named in perpetuity in their names.

Msgr. Phil Murnion also gets the Gaudium et Spes award posthumously for his work with the National Pastoral Life Center.

Other award recipients include:
Msgr Howard Caulkins – for his parish work and his outstanding hospitality to foreign clergy–especially those from Africa.

John Roberto- a name synonymous with youth mnistry and with the Center for Ministry Development.

Emmanuel Neno – who has served courageously in the church in Pakistan.

Patricia O’Neill- the first US woman to serve as vocations director for a religious order.

Kathleen Geelan, Sr. Miriam Cleary & Sr. Karen Doyle- three renowed spiritual directors in the area.

Sr. Deborah Humphries- who has worked for justice amongst inner city familes.

Fr. Frank McNulty- an outstanding pastor and moral theologian.

Sr. Joann Plumpe – who was an outstanding campus minister in Utah (can’t be easy to be Catholic there, never mind working in ministry).

Rev. Doug Ronshiem – the president of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

Lyn and Tom Scheuring- the founders of LAMP ministries, an outstanding service organization.

Kathy Nelson and Dr. Peter Ellis will also be honored for their outstanding contributions to the school.

Should be a fun night. Pics coming tomorrow.

Pell: Young People Know Nothing About the Faith

Hat tip to Amy Welborn here for this piece from Cardinal Pell from Austrailia:

Catholic Youth in Danger

Pell points out that most young people do not know their faith or are, at the very least, confused by it.

The real irony here is that we have the MOST theologically educated laity at this point in time than ever before–young people included.

Some thoughts: While I pretty much agree with Cardinal Pell about the need for people to really know the essentials of the faith well (and I even agree that many do not know this amongst young people), I find that the problem has less to do with catechesis and more to do with parenting.

Most of the people who I know who know their faith well had it instilled by their PARENTS and reinforced by the classroom catechesis. I had good franciscan and pallotine teachers growing up and had a very faithful CCD program…but most of the students couldn’t care less…even with the solid catechesis. Why? Their parents were sending them there out of traditional obligation (and because the grandparents would have had them drawn and quartered if they didn’t).

The result was a theology of fear and mere obligation…that often had nothing to do in applying the faith to everyday life. Instead the rote answers were simply a chore…and that’s no way to convert ANYONE.