Pope Francis: Wearing His Heart on His Sleeve

SleeveThis is the sleeve of Pope Francis.  Tattered, like much of the poor are throughout their lives each day.  Again, Pope Francis reminds us of the priorities we need to have in a simple and yet profound way.

I’m sure the lack of attention to tailoring is intentional on his part and not forgetful.   My guess is that at some point someone may have pointed it out to him and he replied, “What are you talking about?  It’s fine!  Lots of wear in this left.”

Photo Credit: People for Others.

So Punish Me, Don’t Do It

I-Must-Confess-button-520x245A young man once challenged me about the Sacrament of Confession in a semi-public forum.

“Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest, when I can just go directly to God?”

“A good question!” I replied back.  He smiled waiting for a cop-out answer of some sort.

But I honored his question by saying, “Technically speaking, God doesn’t need confession to forgive your sins.”   A bigger smile came over him.

“You see,” I continued, “Sacraments are outward signs of God’s grace in the world.  They are OF THIS WORLD.  Sacraments are not FOR God.  Sacraments are for US!”

Now it was my turn to question him.  “Let me ask you something.  If I said that you never had to go to confession again…”

Again a big hopeful smile.

And then the kicker, “How often would you ask God for forgiveness?”

A hush came over the room and no eyes would meet mine.   Save one.  The young man who asked the original question looked up and replied, “Honestly, probably not often. Probably only if I were really desperate or really upset about something I did wrong.”

“And how often, would you examine your conscience?”

“Well, maybe a bit more…but again, not that much,”

“Let’s take God and Hell and all those things out of the equation for a moment.  How often, would you say someone should look at all the wonderful things that they do and then also look at the ways that they don’t measure up?  And how often should they make a plan to improve themselves or to rectify something really awful?”

Someone else piped up, “As often as it is helpful!”  Which I thought was a great answer.

How often might the owner of a business look at their profits and losses?

A Wall Street banker in the room replied, “We’re bound to do this by law each quarter really.”

“Shouldn’t we…at least try to do the same thing with our own profits and losses?”

Everyone nodded and smiled a bit.  But it still made them uncomfortable.

I pressed further, “Let’s get beyond confession.  How often should we think about God, give God thanks, ask God for forgiveness.”

I looked to the former smart answerer and she said, “Yep, as often as it is helpful.”

“Right–we can over-do the forgiveness part especially and beat ourselves up way too much.”

But if we were left undeterred…how often would we take the time to do that?

One person said it perfectly, “Well, it’s not like I don’t want to do this.  I just forget or run out of time or it just doesn’t cross my mind because I’m pretty busy and caught up in a lot of my stuff.”

Again silence.  We all agreed that this was a huge problem.

“St. Ignatius was smart and he knew of the demands of the world.  He also knew how easy it was for us to get distracted.  So he told us we should practice this exercise TWICE a day.  The daily examen is a way to keep reminding ourselves to search for God and to notice our feelings and the rhythms of our lives.  The church asks us to go to mass once a week at minimum–we probably should go more often, because it’s really easy to lose one’s course isn’t it?”

“But we try to hide from the fact that we need God.  We try to push that away and become more autonomous beings in the world.  It’s a value that far too many people hold much too dearly.  So many people value a solitary achievement, as opposed to teamwork.  We value solitary prayer over communal ritual as well.”

One person nodded and said, “How many people say ‘I can pray alone, I don’t need to go to church to do that.'”  I agreed and even admit that I too fall into that trap from time to time.

But God finds His way to work at pulling the strings of our hearts, calling us back to center.  Calling us home to be with us, bringing us out of hiding.  Offering us tender forgiveness for the sins that are so obvious in the light of day.  Helping us to get to the heart of what is going on inside of us. ”

Friends, we can hide but at the end of the day, we are not going to fool God.  We are in need of deep reflection and we often can’t do that alone.  We need others feeding things back to us and helping us to become better people.

Perhaps we need that help about once a week?  And perhaps we need to spend some time really thinking about the occupations of our day every day? And maybe about once a month, we can look into our hearts and ask ourselves how we can most improve our efforts?

Do we need the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) to have God forgive our sins?  No!  But it helps!

Does God need us to go to Sunday mass?  As an old English teacher once told me, when I refused to do an assignment, “So punish me, don’t do it!”

She was wise enough to realize that the assignment benefited me alone.  It only created work for her, for she already knew the material.  In doing the assignment, I would be looking to her to tell me what I didn’t understand, what I understood well and how I could take steps to improve my grasping of the material.

I think God often says that to us, “So punish me, don’t do it!”

The issue at play here is that so many people have stopped going to mass and confession because essentially they have not found them to be helpful to this kind of deep discernment.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with these people, but rather something wrong with those of us that are responsible for the “performance of ritual?”  That is well worth looking at to help us engage and re-engage those who clearly need reminders of God in their lives.

And God says to us too, “So, punish me, don’t do it!”

Today I pray, that I Lord might be just a bit kinder to those who come to seek you at our masses.  That I might take just a bit more time to talk to these that you have given to me.  I pray that I might have the courage to look at my own shortcomings and ask God to help me improve and that I might notice the graces given to me in my life more readily because I am in tune with the rhythms that bring me true joy and help me see God in all things.

Just because God is around all the time, doesn’t mean that we should take that for granted.

So this summer, let us commit ourselves to what we at least need minimally:  daily prayer, weekly mass, monthly confession.  And let us do these with the joy of knowing God’s love and mercy.  Amen.

 

 

The Holy Trinity

new-color-logo31This Sunday is Trinity Sunday and you can find readings for this weekend’s mass here.

But just what the heck is the Holy Trinity anyway?  We can default to the old school definition that many of us learned in religious education growing up that God is “one in three” or “three persons in one God”.  While those are satisfactory textbook definitions, they do little to help many people understand just what God is.  One of my old radio colleagues once asked, “If I invited God over for dinner, how many places would I have to set?” *Chuckle*

The first thing I would like to note about the Holy Trinity is that it is a mystery.  That’s not a cop-out answer on my part either.  Rather, it serves to mean that God is bigger than our concepts. It also means that while we don’t know everything about God, God does reveal Himself to us in at least a few ways and that can indeed serve to help us understand a bit about divinity.

And so when we say God is “Father” we should not focus on the patriarchal word here, per se, but peer in on the wisdom of creation.  God is the creator but also, God is “beyond us.”  None of us can truly create or father (or mother) all that God has done. God is bigger, deeper, more vast than any of us can imagine.  God is beyond the limits of our merely human constructions.  So we start from a position of humbleness and say that we can never really pin God down.  There is always an element of the unknown when it comes to the divine.

But we also believe that God breaks into human history at times too, do we not?  God interacts with us.  God wants to be part of our lives.  Sometimes that is hard for us to believe and I believe that this has always been true.  In fact, it was so true that God directly intervened as “one of us” in the person of Jesus.  That makes this a whole lot clearer and easier for us to understand now, doesn’t it?  So while God is “beyond us,” God is also “with us.”

And we also believe that God is not just “alongside us” but that God is “with-in us.” I hyphenated that to show that God is both with us and in our hearts; closer to us than our own heartbeat.  We fail to understand this as well sometimes thinking that God could never wish to be part of us.  In my mind, I believe this why Jesus gave us the sacrament of the eucharist. For the times when we can’t understand that God exists in the hearts of each one of us–we literally take God and put God inside of us–through the accidents of bread and wine.  Catholics, do the hard things first, I often say.  And so if we can believe that God’s essence can unite with a simple meal, we should be able to remind ourselves that God is with us always.

So “beyond us,” “with us,” and “within us.”  This is Trinity.  This is our meager attempt to try to classify God.  It is still incomplete, because God is far bigger than our definitions, but this satisfies me as a definition.  The word “kinship” also comes to mind here.  God seeks to be in kinship with us and therefore we have many ways to interact and experience God’s love in our lives.

In what ways have you experienced God as one who is “beyond, with or within you?”

Risking Woundedness

It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself. – Pope Francis

A colleague once reminded me that 75% of the time his parish is in “maintenance mode.”  This means that they’ve established programs like religious ed for kids, marriage prep and the regular Sunday liturgy schedule.  The other 25% at best allows for a “looking outward” to see how we might engage with the world.

This needs to be reversed according to the Pope.  We cannot merely be focused on our parish programs and administration.  We need to look outward 75% of the time and then 25% should focus on maintaining the programs we have.  Easier said than done–and I know I do a pretty bad job of this most days.  I can get caught up with the stuff of routine and not give much thought to evangelization and engagement with the margins.

So what are some ideas about doing this?  What have you done to try to stay out of maintenance mode in ministry?

Discerning the Semester

Greetings from a long lost blogger.  When I’m not writing, you should worry.  Well…maybe not that much, but enough to consider that I’m not taking enough stock of what I’m doing to wish to share it with you, dear readers.

I just finished my second year as Director of Campus Ministry and this 2015 Spring was the best of the four semesters for me.  I’m starting to feel more at home and engaged and ready to begin to really direct the ministry now that I’ve been able to take a good inventory of the plant for the past two years.  Change is difficult for people and even minor changes can upset the apple cart.  But we are beginning to change and to consider what we are doing as a ministry and how we might look at doing things better, or at least, differently.  I’ll share some of our results as we move forward into the light of summer and a new fall semester.

But the end of a semester always brings mixed emotions.  I do an extended examen and find all that I have learned and offered.  Truly Jesus is present here and asks me the tough questions in my colloquy with him.  Have I been present enough to students?  Have I been gentle enough with my staff?  Who are we not reaching out to feed?  What were the major flaws over the course of the year?

Then after I stop beating myself up, Jesus asks me if I’m quite done with the pity-party and points me in the direction of the light.  The students who sought me out on retreats to talk about serious issues, good moments of preaching, understanding moments of sympathy with staff, collaborating well with colleagues, laughing with my Vice-President about a host of subjects, being moved by our President when he tells us that we’re doing well.  Looking to see where the campus ministry staff works most effectively and finding that balance of staff contributions and student engagement has been a good stretch and allows us to see more clearly where God calls us.

But mostly, listening has been the most important thing and learning to listen and then to speak my truth has been a good management style for me.  I think others got to understand my point of view a bit more, but at times, I’m still feeling misunderstood, or simply not understood.  And I find it difficult to strike a balance between being “Campus dad” and “Manager dude.”  But in general, this has gotten better over the year, with the Spring bringing many new waves of consolation.  I settle into a calm now as baccalaureate mass is over and graduation and alumni anniversary masses are now complete as well.

The campus suddenly much more silent allows for deeper introspection and planning.  The students are missed, but the time allotted now, gives us the opportunity to serve their needs far better.

Some highlights from the year included much in retreat work:  Kairos #50 was an amazing retreat, a new men’s hiking retreat and seeing folks in various one-on-one settinSacristansgs.  Managing the staff was often a good opportunity for me to listen to their joys and sorrows and to help direct them into deeper spaces and more efficient ways of working.  My real joy this year was working with our sacristans (pictured right), who I really enjoyed being around and who flawlessly served at our masses and weddings and who make it all look easy.  They were a great team this year and it was always joyful time and an opportunity for all of us to create calmness on campus.

So what has been your highlight of this year?  Your deepest struggle?  A new insight or learning?  Where did God lead you this year?

Men and Women in Ministries Together

warning_former_altar_boy_t_shirt-p235163770846829727trdy_152So the recent uproar over the comments made by Cardinal Burke here and a San Francisco parish’s banning of female altar servers has caused a great disturbance in the force from where I sit.  Over 50 people responded to my question asking them for their opinion on this matter.  It brings up a number of issues regarding gender and the church.  I’d like to restrict this discussion to current eligible roles for women and male laypeople in the church at this time, so as not to get this discussion clouded by the issue of  priestly ordination.

An initial story to begin:

Not long ago, I walked into a sacristy and there was a need for lector at the mass. One of the Deacons saw me walk in and said “Oh, Mike’s here, he can do it.”

Almost immediately, a female pastoral associate replied, “We don’t need any more men up there!”

Now, I wasn’t all that offended by her remark and normally I would generally agree but, on this particular Sunday the second lector was a younger woman and all 7 eucharistic ministers were not only all women, but were all white middle-aged women!

And this was the case for the next 5 Sundays as well.

So, who really was the minority?  People of color (In fairness, that usually is not the case at this parish), lay men and younger people of both sexes.

But I also wondered if I were a young man in my 20s and had walked in and had been (or wanted to be trained as) a lector, what would that response have been?  Would he have felt as welcomed?  Would he have been invited into something more?  Would I have been so turned off by her remark that I would have dismissed the parish as being un-welcoming?

Unknown-1So while we certainly do want to invite women into our ministries and while we also want to invite young girls into the ministry of being altar servers, we also don’t want to do this to the exclusion of lay men and young boys and we should continue to look at just how diverse we really are.

It sometimes amazes me that quite a number of people who claim to speak for diversity and gender equality are quick to exclude others who are not part of their group.  I call this militantism and it has no place in Catholic circles.  Militant people are different from passionate people.  There are advocates for all kinds of groups that need someone to stand up for their needs or otherwise they will be excluded.   Most often, those people are indeed passionate.  However, too often, there are some who are so militant about their special interest group that they become exclusionary of others.  They become the very thing they hope to fight against.

Cardinal Burke, in his griping about female altar servers, is dangerously close to someone who aims to exclude here. Burke astutely sees his male priesthood shrinking and this is certainly cause for alarm.  He sees male altar servers as a link to seminarian candidates.  In short, he is trying to keep his species alive and sees male altar servers as a way to do procreate the priesthood. At heart, his intention is a good one and he is passionate about his cause.  But the end result, is exclusionary, because he sees girls as a barrier to young boys seeking a vocation. In fact, he has said that the girls are so good at being altar servers that the boys often quit!  Frankly, that means that the girls are not the problem! Perhaps the boys might need to try harder?  Perhaps more training is needed for both groups? Perhaps there are exclusionary scheduling issues going on (where only the girls serve at one mass and the boys at another and they never serve together!)? Or might this even be pure nostalgia?  Often you hear older priests talk about the “good old days” when only boys were serving at the altar.  Our nostalgia is often not what we remember, but rather is simply an experience of the past that we liked, but didn’t result in anything deeper.

The larger question is that if some see a link between male altar servers and entry into the priesthood, what link might they see between female altar servers and their religious practices?

There’s probably not a case to be made of a link between female altar servers and entry into women’s religious communities (even more dwindling numbers exist there), but there may be a case to be made for women entering into lay ministry fields (youth ministry, campus ministers, directors of religious education, pastoral associates, etc).  What about active parishioners, who run a good deal of programming in parishes and are often willing volunteers?  We need these people too!

The goal here should be to integrate people of both genders into the life of the church!  Jesus did not exclude anyone from his company and so we should follow in turn.  So here are four points that I’d like us to consider when we are looking to be more inclusive in ministries in general.

1)  Direct, personal invitation:  Do we invite people to serve as lectors or extraordinary ministers of holy communion?  Do we seek people out who we have come to know to try to engage them into the ministries of the altar more intentionally?  Almost all of our lectors were female here at the Campus, so I’ve tried hard to get more men involved.  I’ve invited two men in the last two weeks and both readily accepted and even came to the training on time.

2)  Balance in all things:   We only have male priests, so we should minimally start with inviting a woman to serve in some role at the altar.  Perhaps as a lector, cantor or eucharistic minister.  Then, the next person we should invite is another male.  Can we be mindful of diversity here?  Is there a younger woman or man who we could tap to balance the generational divides that too frequently separate us from one another?  Can those who have been doing things for ages, move into an administrative role, doing less and training and advising more, while still modeling what to do now and again?  Can everyone look beyond themselves and invite new and interested people into ministries for more participation each week?  Do we only invite the educated few, leaving out those who often feel unworthy or alienated?

3)  Altar Serving:  Are they well-trained?  Do they all have particular roles each week?  I can remember four roles I was taught as an altar server:

Acolyte (Book):  This server holds the book and assists at the offertory.  They place the chalice on the altar and when there is no deacon, they “set the table” for the priest.

Acolyte (bell):  In parishes where bells are rung, this server does this and also serves at the offertory.

Crosier:  This server carries the processional cross and at high masses, assists with the incense boat. (also assists with holy water when there is a sprinkling rite).

Thurifer:  This server is at high masses only and processes in with the Thurible.

And again, balance…can we schedule a boy and a girl to be the acolytes?  And then rotate the third role with with a boy or a girl weekly?  Maybe a more Senior member serves as the Crosier to oversee the younger servers who learn by doing?  And maybe trainees start by being the crosier so they can observe more and then jump in once they know what the heck they are doing?

4)   Create Called Community:  And in community, we hang out together!  If there’s one lesson to be learned here it is that people long to be together, to engage in conversation, to recreate together and to love one another.  If there’s one thing my students have taught me is that they have the desire to be together.

Do we do more than just serve at the altar? Can we move people from the altar into other ministries–where we go beyond the parochial bounds into a place where others are in need.

Someone on my Facebook page posted the following note:

Meanwhile as the Church debates keeping girls out of altar serving, 4 million kids went hungry, 500,000 people froze with out a home, cancer has taken millions of lives, prisoners did not have the opportunity to see the way truth and the light, 8,000 parishioners died, and we missed helping 20,000 pregnancies NOT end in abortion.

So we certainly have a need to awaken this community into a “called community” that seeks diversity and inclusion for itself.  And we do this not merely so things look “fair and balanced.”  No we do it so that we might also be called to see others that too often we think of as different.  We fail to see others sometimes as having our human dignity and we fail to claim responsibility for them. We too often continue to become exclusionary people and push those who we see as different to the margins.

And that is why we come to church, to remind ourselves not to do this.

And so we need to start modeling what this looks like this around our altars, to let all in our community see that God has not made us for division, but rather, for communion.

Can we constantly be seeking communion?  And that means Males and Females TOGETHER, not one at the exclusion of another.

So altar servers, past and present, know that we have been blessed by your service.  You mean more than you know.  Today, invite someone who does not look like you into joining your ministry and if they tell you that you can’t, tell them that they must and be a reminder of all that is good about our church–a church that calls everyone to not exclude the other.

Most especially, from Jesus.

Joe Franklin and Catholicism

UnknownSo radio and TV icon Joe Franklin died this week at the reported age of 88 (I don’t believe that for a second).  Joe was a real character and I met him a few times while working alongside him at the legendary WOR Radio in New York.

Fr. Paul Keenan’s show often preceded Joe’s and I remember that Fr. Paul, who brokered time on the station, was having a hard time coming up with the funds to keep his show on the air. (Editor’s note: Time brokering is when someone pays the station to host a show and they in turn, sell to their own advertisers, much like late night TV infomercials).  He considered cutting back and only brokering a half hour, but Joe Franklin told him, “Oh Father!  Don’t do that!  This is a time to expand, not contract!”   The advise was well-heeded and Fr. Paul ended up adding a few more sponsors and buying more time on the station.

Sr. Mary Beata Gerrity was a frequent guest on the television show, an Irish folk singer who often made the rounds at various Irish events and was known as the “Singing Nun.”

Joe Franklin was a true character.  If you did something for him, you might find a “Classic” TV Guide in your mailbox the next day as a thank you.  Or something else twice as bizarre.

And speaking of bizarre, you’d never know who you would find up in the studio. Rarely, would I have to be in the studio on the overnight (when Joe’s show aired on the weekend).  But I was up there once and it was crazy.  You never knew who would show up.  One night Billy Crystal came up and not far behind him was a random drag queen with a shopping cart full of his (her?) stuff who proceeded to offer me some chinese food.

I politely declined.

One of the biggest surprises that I found during my time at WOR was that Joe actually did that overnight show live.  He almost never recorded it when it would have been very easy for him to do so.  I once asked him why?  His reply was quick: “I dunno.  Keeps me outta trouble.  My other big problem is that I’m making too much money.”

Bizarre.

But the two stories (both similar) that takes the cake for me were the following:

You see, Joe thought that he was a little bit of a bigger star than he actually was.  So one day, my colleague, who I’ll call, Steve, was working with Joe on an interview he needed to record.  At the end of the taping:

Joe: “Ah! Stevie, you’re the best!  The best! (Everyone was the best to Joe)  Stevie, what’re you doing tomorrow?

Steve:  “Nothing.  Why?”

Joe: “You wanna take your wife to a Broadway Show?”

Steve: “Well, I’m not married, but sure, I’ll go with my girlfriend.”

Joe:  “OK! Two tickets.  Phantom of the Opera.  The tickets will be waiting for you at the Box office.”

So Steve went down there….WITH A DATE….and….there…were…no tickets…waiting…for…him.

A second colleague that I’ll call Forest, was asked by Joe what his weekend plans were:

Forest: “Eh, I gotta paint my house.”

Joe:  “You need paint!  You go right down to Martin Paints and mention my name and they’ll give you all the paint you need!

So Forest did.  And the guys at Martin Paint had never heard of Joe.  (Martin Paint, in fairness sponsored Joe’s TV show for a long time–but that was about 10 years ago at this juncture).    They laughed Forest out of the store.  So Forest went back to Joe who was enraged!

Joe:  “WHAT!?  YOU GO BACK DOWN THERE TOMORROW!  I’LL MAKE A CALL!”

Nope.  No paint then either.  Forest was crazy enough to go back the third time before Martin Paint threatened to put him on some kind of “we don’t do business with this guy” list.

Bizarre.

But despite all of his craziness, Joe Franklin was a great guy and a very nice man to all who he encountered.  I don’t think I ever heard a mean word said about him.  I thought this video from the past with Gilbert Godfried summed up Joe’s character well.  Rest in peace, my friend.

 

 

What is a Godparent?

Jonathan and Marianne
Jonathan and Marianne

I joke with my friends Jonathan and Marianne who are expecting their second child often about the fact that they “owe” me because they met on one of my BustedHalo Retreats many years ago. In fact, the first time I met their son, Aiden, he looked deeply at me and this little wry smile came across his face.

I looked to his parents and said, “He knows!  And you’re welcome. I’m glad I could be a small part of you being here, Aiden!”

So, Marion and I were recently asked to be the Godparents of their soon-to-be-born child (any day now).  And we’re over-the-moon excited. Neither of us have ever been asked to be Godparents in a situation where it would be appropriate for us to do so.  We’re a bit on the young side for our cousins to have asked and our nieces and nephew are not Catholic, so we wouldn’t have had the opportunity there.  But Jonathan and Marianne are good friends and we’ve really enjoyed their company.

But it occurred to me, that none of this would be happening if it were not for Christ.

A retreat brought Jonathan and Mare together.  A retreat that Christ inspired us to start so many years ago.  A retreat where God’s love and grace allowed others to share openly, at deeper levels and brought them into a greater awareness of that love through each other.

And that love now gives new life, literally, to all of us and in many other ways as well.  It gives a new child to a loving couple, it gives a new experience to my wife and me and it gives new life to a community who witnesses it all.

Sometimes I am sad over the prospect of not having children of our own.  But I also know that God had and has other plans for me to be life giving.  He gives that opportunity to so many of us, including our priests and women religious.  Spiritual directees, students, retreatents, caring for parents and siblings, loving my nieces and nephew…all different experiences of giving life to another.

And it is more than enough.

It seems to me, that this is what a Godparent does best.  A Godparent points to the presence of God and takes responsibility for making sure that this actually happens in partnership with their parents who always have a lead role. The parents, you see, need to also have the maturity, do be the primary givers of faith.  It is the parents who choose to Baptize their child.  The Godparents, merely say “Amen” to what the parents wish FOR the child and promise to keep that kid true to try to honor the promises made on their behalf.  These parents are already good at this and treasure their faith.  Grandpa is also a Deacon, so this is an easy job for all of us.

As I pray today for the coming of Jonathan and Marianne’s new baby, may that child be filled with the love of Christ and may God continue to show me that indeed I am a giver of life in so many ways.

And a huge amount of gratitude to Jonathan and Marianne for honoring us so.

The Catholic Church Crazies Have Been Out All Week

A full moon was seen this week and there’s no doubt about it.  This week alone these stories emerged:

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League said that the Parisian Terrorists were provoked by Charlie Hebdo. And that the Muslims have a right to be angry.

Fr. George Rutler, long a champion of the Catholic right, said that Deacons shouldn’t preach.

And finally, the biggest cranky pants of all of them, Cardinal Raymond Burke, blamed the vocation shortage on altar girls–which is an old note, but he’s gotten the most attention for it.

Some thoughts on all three:

Bill Donahue’s comment is one of the most anti-Catholic comments I’ve ever witnessed. Our religion never allows violence to be an appropriate response to violence. He did point out that violence can never be appropriate, he at least leaned towards saying that retribution here was somewhat justified.  I can understand what he meant, in saying that cartoonists shouldn’t make fun of an entire religion based on a select few that do horrendous things and maybe even that profaning the Prophet Muhammad is disrespectful, at minimum . But saying that Charlie provoked people is just not compassionate in any way, as if anyone deserves death.

Fr. Rutler’s comments about diaconal preaching are some of the most clerical comments I have ever heard.

“While Church law permits deacons to preach by exception during the Liturgy, diaconal preaching is essentially non-liturgical and catechetical.  As a deacon, St. Francis would never preach in the presence of a priest.”

Glad to know that he knows the mind of Francis.  And Deacon Greg has pointed out many flaws in his misnomer of canon law.

And lastly, Cardinal Burke, blames the presence of altar girls, for the shortage of vocations, or at minimum the shortage of priests.

Here’s the pull quote to end all pull quotes:

“Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time.”

Um, as a former young boy, I had plenty of female friends and we played together often and it didn’t seem unnatural at all. Then there is the incredibly stupid comment where he blames the girls for being TOO GOOD at serving at the altar. I want to say, “Maybe if the boys upped there game at serving, the girls wouldn’t show them up.”

Now look, I was an altar boy and it was in fact, a formative experience for me.  It was more like a youth ministry for boys; a society where we didn’t just serve at the altar, but we had a Saturday recreational program, an annual trip to Six Flags’ Great Adventure, full days of reflection and retreat and a bunch of other activities.  Girls would not have damaged that experience. I could see where there might be times when we would want to separate the two sexes for a variety of activities outside of the altar serving and maybe offering something that the girls might have been interested in, that perhaps the boys were not.

Kerry Weber had some good thoughts on her own experience as an Altar server in America Magazine this week as well.

I did at times feel “important” while serving on the altar. But most days I simply felt grateful to be part of something more important than myself. I was humbled every time I held the book aloft to be read, carried the unconsecrated hosts to the altar so they could be transformed, poured out the water that washed the priest’s hands, rang the bells at the consecration. I grew in my faith as I learned about and participated in the many small, sacred actions that surrounded and celebrated this banquet.

Amen, Kerry.  Altar serving needs not be restricted because of gender.  We have four acolytes at Canisius, two men and two women and they equally are wonderful and prayerful students who provide a needed service at the altar. They make me proud and are amongst my favorite students and have taught me a thing to two as well.

So, here’s my word of advice to all three of these men.  Keep talking, folks.  It’s the best thing you can do for progressive Catholics because now they’ll know that you’re nuts!

Pope to Visit New York as well as Philly and D.C.

As rumored, Pope Francis will likely make a trip to New York as well as Washington, D.C.

Newsday has the scoop, quoting Joe Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese.of New York.

Zwilling said a visit to New York makes sense for a number of reasons. This year is the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s address to the United Nations in 1965, when he was the first pope to visit the United States.

One of the more exciting things in this story is that Pope Francis may be making a trip to Fordham, my alma mater.  Some have said that the Pope wants to visit some areas where people struggle with poverty.  The Bronx is certainly an area where poverty is evident and I spent a good deal of time at POTS, the Fordham soup kitchen called Part of the Solution which serves many of the hungry in the borough.

So pack your bags.  I’m planning to try to be there.