A Dog Never Leaves His Master

A Terrier Mix did the unbelievable this week. After being caught in the Twister and missing for weeks, the dog dragged his two broken front paws all the way home. Telegraph has details:

Dogs have ways of teaching us things. How far do we go to reconnect with our master? I know that there have been times that I’ve avoided confession or prayer. There are times I avoid the homeless or those that need me. When I’ve gotten hurt I’ve focused on myself and not about how I might find those who love and support me.

But true joy lies with the master. It’s why my dog wags not merely his tail but his whole body when I come home. He knows the value of reconnecting and his joy comes from seeing the one who he knows will always love him. Marion and I saved him from a shelter and I think his gratitude runs deep. And as I write this he sits with me on my sofa with his nose inches away from my typing fingers, hoping for a scratch now and again.

Dogs realize that we are more than enough for them. But do we have the same feeling about our master? God is really more than enough for us, but can we really trust and rest in that fact. Or do our restless hearts seek more than God? It is in that restless separation that we are caught in the twister. We toss and turn with the wind and we get hurt. Even with all of that we don’t think about dragging our broken selves back to the one who can heal us, forgive us and make us whole again.

Haze, my dog, has just started licking my face now. He truly can’t get enough of me. Today, just for a moment, remember that God can’t get enough of us either. So if it’s been awhile, why not drag your brokenness to church for a Saturday confession or an anticipated mass? It is there that you will be at peace once again and come into the presence of the master, the one who can’t ever get enough of us.

I’m heading out now, to play with my dog.

What Ties You Down To Your Mat?

Reflection during the reconciliation service for the UB Charis Retreat this weekend:

Sometimes our friends think more of us than we think of ourselves.

Don’t they?

Take the friends of the paralyzed man. By being friends with someone who couldn’t walk, they are actually making a huge theological statement.

For you see, at the time of Jesus, people who were paralyzed were thought to be sinners. And their disfunction was God’s response to their sin. God’s punishment for being an evil person.

We still think like this sometimes today, don’t we?

Take my friends John and Kelly. For 8 months Kelly carried their first child in her womb only for her heart to stop beating just a few weeks before her due date. She delivered a dead baby. The pain of childbirth followed by the pain of mourning. John came to me afterwards and said: “I only have one question for God. What did I ever do to anyone to deserve going through this kind of pain?”

God’s gonna get you. Don’t we all say that sometimes?

So when the friends of the paralyzed man bring him to Jesus the mere fact that they are friends with him says that they don’t look on him the same way that others do. He’s not some dastardly sinner that we should just leave to die because God is punishing him. No. This is our friend. We know he has some redeeming values. They believe in him so much that they hoist him up to the roof and punch a hole into it and lower him down to Jesus. Imagine what an effort that must have been to do. Certainly they wouldn’t just do that for anybody.

When Jesus sees their faith, he understands what they are trying to say. “Hey Jesus, surely, this man isn’t a victim of some kind of God-induced karma. He may be paralyzed, but God didn’t do that, right?

The first thing that Jesus does in fact is her tenderly tells him “Child, your sins are forgiven.” And THAT sets the scribes off!

“Who is this that he forgives sins? And of someone who is obviously a HUGE sinner.”

So imagine the shock when Jesus says to them in essence, “Not only has God already forgiven this man. He didn’t give him this paralysis either. Just watch. Rise, pick up your mat and go home.”

Sometimes aren’t we paralyzed by our own sins? Don’t we have things that tie us down to our mats? Don’t we think that God couldn’t possibly forgive us for all the things that we do that are sinful?

I know I sometimes really get down on myself sometimes. And that’s why we have the sacrament of reconciliation. We come before God as sinful and instead of smiting us, God tenderly says “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Confession celebrates God’s mercy. We need our Catholic community to remind us that God is just like the friends of the paralyzed man. God thinks more of us, than we do of ourselves. There is always room for our redemption.

And more importantly, God doesn’t hold grudges. God completely forgives us our sins and there is no trace of our sins. God lets go of all that keeps us mired in guilt and yet we sometimes hold onto that, don’t we? Sin continues to paralyze our thinking into believing that we aren’t altogether healed by God’s mercy.

Do you want to really understand how God forgives us? Well you all were given a piece of paper tonight. I’ve already written my own sins down on this paper–notice I used both sides. And when I touch this piece of paper to our Candle’s flame–the light that represents Christ’s presence to us.

That’s how God forgives us. There is nothing left of our sin. Believe it. You are completely forgiven. Let us celebrate God’s mercy tonight. Rise, pick up your mat and dance for joy.

Bless Me Father…Now Please Don’t Blab

From today’s Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel:

A priest may face excommunication for breaking the seal of confession. A snip:

Archbishop Jerome Listecki relieved Father David Verhasselt of his duties as pastor at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in the Town of Oconomowoc on Monday, based on a preliminary investigation by the archdiocese’s tribunal, according to the archdiocese.

Verhasselt could face a local or Vatican trial and excommunication if he is found to have intentionally violated the canon law provision that prohibits priests from divulging what takes place in the sacrament of confession. But Father Paul Hartmann, judicial vicar for the archdiocese, called that a worst-case scenario.

“The recommendation is always that the penalty be commensurate with the gravity and the damage done,” Hartmann said Tuesday.

Deacon David Zimprich, who is filling in at St. Catherine’s until an interim priest can be appointed, said Tuesday that parishioners were devastated by the news.

“He’s their shepherd, they love him,” said Zimprich, who serves as the archdiocese’s coordinator of deacon services. “All we can tell people to do is to keep him in their prayers, and that maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding.”

Archdiocese officials declined to comment on the content or circumstances surrounding the alleged breach, but Hartmann said the church had no choice but to act “when there’s the possibility of connecting a penitent with a particular sin.”

Verhasselt, 62, was ordained in 1989 and spent six years as administrator at St. Catherine’s before being named pastor in 2000. He could not be reached for comment.

The last time a local priest faced an allegation of breaking the confessional seal was 1983. In that case, Father Arthur J. Baertlein of St. Catherine Alexandria Catholic Church, 8661 N. 76th Place, recounted information divulged during a confession in a sermon about absolution. Although he did not identify the penitent, he told parishioners that he had withheld absolution from her because she was living with a man to whom she was not married, according to news accounts at the time.

Unbelievable. And we wonder why nobody trusts priests these days.

It only takes one bad apple to make the whole tree seem rotten. Coupled with the sex abuse stuff it must be really hard to be a priest these days.

Today, let’s pray for priests who serve their people well and who face a stigma that they don’t deserve.

Confession Compilations

Dr. Christine Whelan offers some thoughts on a priest who compiled the sins that people confessed and noticed a difference between what men and women confess. Turns out that women confess pride most often and men confess lust (no surprise there!).

But Dr. Whelan smartly points out a good point:

Are women actually more “proud” than men? So women confess pride more often. Might it just be that women are more likely to think that their feelings of pride are sinful, whereas men think their feelings of pride are well-deserved and normal? My previous research has shown that women often downplay their accomplishments, because they feel culturally compelled to present themselves as demure and “sweet” — not strong and successful. This kind of socialization effect will carry over from the classroom to the bar to the confessional; it’s the way we are taught to operate. So a woman who gets an “A” on a test and thinks she’s da bomb for doing so might feel a twinge of guilt about her excitement, whereas a man would not.

Are men confessing to lust because they are conditioned to do so? I give talks to college students about dating and marriage, and you might be surprised that in the Q&A sessions, it’s the guys who do most of the talking. The men are quick to talk about their desire for a late night booty call to be answered in the affirmative, and what a “hook-up” really means in their circle of friends. After one such talk, it occurred to me that many think they are cool, attractive and more masculine for “confessing” those thoughts. I’m not saying that men are more lustful than women; I wonder how much our social conditioning impacts what we think to confess.

An excellent point by the good doctor. But we should add another piece to this.

Were the specific instances mentioned in these confessions actually sins? The correct answer here is that we don’t know.

We should notice that the data indictates that men and women confess these sins but it does not say whether these admissions are actually sins. Some women may in fact confess pride but may simply be downplaying their accomplishments. A good confessor would be able to point out that her behavior in this instance may indeed not be sinful at all.

So while women may confess pride–they indeed may not be committing that sin at all. The same with male confessions of lust which may just be natural feelings of attraction at time that someone interprets too scrupulously. Hopefully, the priests doing the compiling (which is dangerously close to breaking the seal of confession in my opinion) were able to tell the difference.

For more on how to go to confession–especially if it’s been awhile…check out our confession videos:



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