German Theologians Strike Call for Reform, Dialogue

Today’s National Catholic Reporter breaks an amazing story:

“In our roles as theology professors we can no longer remain silent,” began 144 leading Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a bluntly frank open letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The letter was made public Feb. 3 and has since been published on the internet and quoted in major media.

Among other demands, the statement calls for ending celibacy requirements for priests, opening the priesthood to women, and in general introducing significantly more democracy into the church’s structures in the German-speaking world and beyond. “We feel that we have the responsibility to contribute to an authentic new beginning,” the theologians continue, referring to the “unparalleled crisis year of 2010.”

With the sex scandal rocking the German church, the major theologians of the country saw Catholics leaving the church in large numbers. As Europe grows more and more secular they clearly are looking to stem the wound.

What else do they call for? A large number of progressive reforms:

The religious scholars list a number of specific demands: more synodal structures at all levels of the church; the participation of laypeople in the choosing of priests and bishops; the inclusion of married males and females in the priesthood; the protection of individual rights and nurturing of a culture of rights within the church; and tolerance toward single, divorced, unmarried and gay people.

It will be interesting to see the response from the church’s hierarchy but already the German Bishop’s conference has signaled that they are open to dialogue but also note that several of the items listed are “in tension with the church’s core teaching.” But they haven’t closed the door to dialogue yet.

Wir sind Kirche (“We Are Church”), a grassroots reform organization is calling for a worldwide petition to support it. Let’s see where that leads us.

Crisis is always a moment of where things can turn around, or even simply turn anew. Perhaps the Germans may be shooting at clay pigeons here, but I think dialogue never ends up being fruitless even when one party doesn’t reach a conclusion or compromise that is hoped for.

So let us pray for both the theologians and bishops of Germany. Let us pray that they can listen to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and may they come together to do what is best for the people of God and lead not only their country but other countries in their attempt at unity.

Read the entire story here.

The Feast of Hayes

1970 didn’t seem like that long ago in 1990. But 41 years have passed since my mom and dad decided (against the doctor’s wishes) to have me at the age of 41 themselves. The gratitude I feel today for them now into their 80s is immense. At 41, they started a whole new life with a new son and I’m sure I didn’t make it easy on them.

A college degree, a career in radio, a second career in ministry with the Paulists along with a second degree with their help, a loving and committed wife and now a new life and ministry in Buffalo…life indeed had taken twists and turns.

From meager beginnings in Yonkers, life unfolded wonderfully. As middle age approaches I find myself trying to get in shape once again. I said to someone the other day, “I used to be an athlete.” I’m hoping to run a 5K this summer–something I did everyday in my senior year of high school. So with creeky knees and heel spurs, I’m in training once again and determined to not merely crawl across the finish line but to at least be competitive in my age group. My wife found me a softball team to play with this summer as well. So all in all, I’m hoping that I begin to feel a bit younger.

I have my students to thank for keeping me young at heart and now encouraging me to get in shape. My wife also has enabled me to feel love unconditionally and forgiveness without deserving it. She is a wonderful partner and I am a better man because of her. She even gave me that wonderful dog of ours who is clearly our best friend.

Being sick on one’s birthday makes you appreciate health that much more. And while I’ve seen healthier days, I’ve been in pretty good health for some time. Others have not been as fortunate as I. A college roommate, Dave Connors died far too young, along with 3 other classmates. Friends died in towers and planes on that day that marked all Americans, 9/11. I remember eating at Wild Blue in those towers and waiting for path trains to visit friends in New Jersey in the basement.

Birthdays are a way to not only mark another year gone by but a year of blessings. My life has been blessed by each one of you that I am proud to call friends.

But most of all, I have been blessed to simply serve God in the church and for that I continue to be grateful. I will continue to be quite happy if God gives me 41 more years of being a minister. And with God’s help, I know there is much work for me to do. I look forward to many more years of being a servant of God. Pray for my ministry and that I discover where I continue to be led as a lay minister, or possibly a deacon.

But for now, Happy Feast of Hayes. I’m off to eat some lemon filled cake.

I’m a Weenie When I’m Sick

It never fails. I always get sick right around my birthday. And with two days from the feast of Hayes, I have one of the worst sore throats I have ever had. I suspect strep throat, but the doctor will confirm today.

I’ve done all the home remedies. Gargling with salt water, chloraseptic, sweating it out under the covers and they’ve provided some relief but it’s far from over. I can’t swallow and eating is limited to liquids or soft foods (cereal, soup, pudding and the like). Tea has become a good friend as well. On the upside, I’ve lost 4 pounds! I remember the last time I had strep I lost about 15 pounds! Not the best weight loss plan but I’ll take it.

Ironically, I started working out again on Friday, so between back and leg soreness and my throat, I have been completely wiped. I had all I could do to watch the big game last night.

Sickness gives one some time to reflect on health. St. Paul reminds us to glorify God with our body. My pal, Fr. Tom Ryan, who is in the best shape of anyone I know is someone who I admire greatly. The guy is so active. Yoga, skiing, biking. The first sign of sunshine and he’s out there. I’ve noticed that this is a trait of anyone who lives in cold weather cities. They really appreciate the sunshine and the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the good weather and I am quickly becoming like that myself, now that I live in Buffalo. I have a long term goal to run a 5K this summer. Ben, my trainer is determined to get me there. So pray for us, for health and for me so that Ben doesn’t kill me. =)

Being with the med students and knowing how cranky and depressed I get when I get sick, I can’t imagine treating one cranky patient after another. So let us pray today for the sick and remind ourselves of them when we are well and not just when we fall ill. Let us pray for those who treat illness and who study and find cures through research. And let us pray for those for whom there is no cure. May God comfort them in their final days and their families as they help them prepare for their journey home to our creator. Amen.

I Like the Idea of Being Contemplative

Whenever I go to a monastery, I attend mass with the monks at minimum. Their slow and steady chants often bring me some calm when I listen to them on CD or my ipod. But the monastery itself is another matter. If find myself unable to focus, to center, at least when the place is filled. Once alone in the place, time ceases and I am able to be alone with God.

One of the volunteers put it best. He exited from the 2AM chanted night prayer service and said in perfect monkish chant:

“That was ve-ry in-ter-es-tinggggg.”

I about wet my pants laughing so hard.

But the truth is that I like the idea of contemplative practice but am not particularly called to it, at least not in community. I like my community prayer to be a bit less contemplative, more lively. I can be contemplative without being “A” contemplative.

But that doesn’t mean that I throw all contemplative practice away. Hardly. I seek contemplation and sacred space, but that need not be in a monastery. A mountain top may be just as good. My bedroom is often better. My living room couch with a warm sleepy dog on my lap while watching the sun set? The best of all.

We need both community and contemplation, of course. For me, strict silent contemplation is often better when I am alone. Communal prayer is better when it’s a bit more participative and silence is mixed with song, scripture and the spoken word.

After all, prayer is simply opening our hearts and minds to God. We need both of those things. For me, if my heart is not in it, there’s no way my mind will be. And if my mind is not in it my heart being moved could tend towards the superficial. Staying open requires me to find the space that is a good sacred place, but also requires me to keep trying other practices and being unafraid of going to new places in prayer. I’ve found taize prayer in small groups to really be a wonderful experience sometimes but praying the rosary on a bus trip often leaves me flat. They’re not bad practices in and of themselves, I just prefer other ones.

How are you contemplative? Do you think you are or you could be “A” contemplative? Let me know how you pray and what the experience is like for you.

And most of all, know of my prayers for you, dear readers, each day.