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!

Day 29: Lenten 50 Day Giveaway: A Deacon’s Daughter

So Cousin Carolyn came to visit us this week in Buffalo. Carolyn is one of my favorite people in our family and we’ve been blessed by her presence and her hospitality often.

Carolyn’s dad was Marion’s Uncle Andy and Andy and I would sometimes call him for advice about ministry and just to talk shop with him. He would call me and chide me when I’d send him an announcement about one of our upcoming BustedHalo® retreats.

Andy: “I hear there’s some heretic from the city invading Oak Ridge, NJ to give some kind of crazy retreat. I ain’t publicizing that retreat that’s for sure.”

Me: “Yep. It can’t be more heretical than some of your homilies though!”

Andy: “That’s for sure. It’s in the bulletin. Thanks for letting us know you were coming our way.”

Andy died much too young and he inspired so many people. Carolyn and I were both really moved by a young man who was openly weeping uncontrollably at Andy’s wake. Both of us, at separate times went over to him to comfort him and we learned that Andy had served as his spiritual director, a ministry that I got much more involved in as a result of this meeting. Drawing on Andy’s inspiration and fine work with this young man, I realized that we all meet God at some point in our lives, but we might not understand what to do when we find God working in our lives. How do we pray? What does this relationship mean? How might we be changed by this relationship?

Andy helped this young man do that. And Carolyn has done the same with her children and others that she meets in her work with her parish and even in our own relationship.

The word Deacon really means “servant” or even better, “one who provides hospitality” or even a looser translation might be “one who brings relief to others.” It’s a kind of spirit of diakonia that Carolyn has been gifted with from her father, a Roman Catholic Deacon.

And that’s what I think it means to be a Deacon. To inspire others in the world with our own lives so that they might also be changed. The spirit of diakonia is not only possessed by Deacons themselves but they are gifts for the entire church, gifts that we are called to model and share ourselves.

So I’m giving Carolyn a book called “The Emerging Diaconate” by Deacon Bill Ditewig. He’s the authority on Deacons today in my opinion, but more importantly his own graceful presence on his blog has invited all of us to think about what it means to embody that spirit of diakonia in our lives.

So enjoy the book and I know we will enjoy each other’s company while you are with us in Buffalo, Carolyn. And thanks for always being such a joy to be with as our family continues to grow in love together.

Am I Enough?

As many know, I’ve been discerning whether I should become a deacon or not this year. The “19th Annotation Retreat” I participated in was very central in helping me think more deeply about this and allowed me to be centered on where God is leading me at this time.

But the biggest factor in helping me decide was the experiences I had with several of the UB students this year.

Some students on the alternative spring break were helpful on both ends of the decision. Two of the students, Amanda and Matt were very excited at the prospect of me being a Deacon.

“Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh My God! Mike you’d be so great. You’ve got to do it.” Amanda shrieked. “I want you to do it just so I can call you Deek!”

Matt followed up with, “Well, maybe we need some kind of word that combines Deacon and Mike together. I’ve got it…

Dyke!”

If ever there was a deterrent …

Zach, along with Ryan and Lauren (who recently got engaged), were more sedate about their feelings. “No matter what you choose, Mike, you don’t make a bad choice here.” Ryan astutely pointed out. “The fact that you’re a married man who even GOES to church is a big help to a lot of us already.”

Zach, who sees me for spiritual direction (Or do I see him?) also pointed out that being free to be who I am is what is most important. He asked me pointedly if I thought “being a Deacon might change (me),” make me less open or more open to others? Would being a Deacon make me perceived by others as different? Am I already perceived as being different simply because I am a campus minister and so, would being a Deacon matter? Does it change my ministry for better or worse?

These students sure give me a lot to think about.

But one of the sticking points for me came from one of the medical students, CJ, who is really bright and always enthusiastic. I had thrown a small “after finals party” in the med school lounge for the first year’s who just finished their gross anatomy final. We began talking about his classmates and the test they just took. Most admitted to me that they thought they did OK. Nobody thought they rocked it or had miserably failed. Most were simply happy it was over and they were happy to share a few fleeting moments over pizza and wings with their classmates and even with me. A side note: Most of the medical students aren’t regular church-goers. Yet, I have found all of them (and I do mean all of them) to be profoundly aware of their own spiritual experience. How they express that or choose to express that is vastly unique, it’s different for every student.

But back to CJ, I mentioned to him that just about every member of the class came over and talked with me and spent some time saying how grateful they were for the meal and some even thanked me for my presence throughout the semester.

“It’s just part of my job,” i said to CJ.

“Mike,” CJ sharply said, “This is NOT just part of your job. You’re here because you like being here and because you’ve become concerned about us and who we are becoming as doctors. You got up super early before our first test just to make sure we got a stress guy (pictured right)! Not everyone would go out of their way to do that!”

I blew him off, “I suppose so. You guys have made it easy though! You’re pretty open to having me here. The faculty is also really helpful and I’m glad I can just help them out. It’s kind of helping me decide whether I should go deeper with my ministry and study to be a Deacon.”

“REALLY?” Cj replied.

“Sure, what do you think about that.”

CJ stroked his chin and said, “I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here.”

Mind you when someone says that, they may actually become the Holy Spirit’s advocate!

“Mike, look around. This room is filled with an entire section of medical students. We let them know that ‘Mike Hayes’ from Campus Ministry was going to provide this party and everyone showed up. Why? Because they know you don’t have an ulterior motive. There’s no hidden agenda.”

“Right.” I said.

“But if I had told the class that DEACON Mike, or even FATHER Pat, who they KNOW was throwing the party, I’d bet good money that half the people would show up. It’s just a different vibe.”

“Never thought of that.” I sheepishly remarked.

That moment didn’t make or break my decision. But discerning about that for the next four months surely did. Deacon or not, my ministry doesn’t depend on that.

My ministry depends on me being myself and how I can be an expression of Christ for others. I don’t need to become anything more or anything different unless I think that would actually help me do that.

And becoming a Deacon might actually hinder that for some, but others would argue that my openness wouldn’t bring others to shun me because of my clerical state. I would agree with both statements actually. Some will want no part of me, others wouldn’t care.

But C.J. would later say something that clinched things for me.

“Mike, maybe being a Campus Minister is just enough? You’ve got an important job and you do it well. Just do that and you’ll be fine.”

That doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be a Deacon. Nor is it a slight to anyone else who chooses to be a Deacon. But it does mean that I won’t be one anytime soon. God isn’t calling me there now. But there’s good news…

Sometimes being a Campus Minister is more than enough.

And that’s where God has called me to be for at least another year or two.

So, we have much to decide this year and much work to be done. It is exciting and I am thrilled to really get into the coming semester’s work. Gross Anatomy starts in August and retreats and Alternative Breaks begin not long after that.

It is with gratitude that I remain a layman, a husband, a campus minister and God’s servant. It is all grace and gift and wondrous and I am in the midst of the Holy Spirit with every step I take.

And God’s grace is more than enough for me.

But your Reward in Heaven is Great…


Deacon Greg was asked a question on Lino Rulli’s radio show yesterday which I’ve been asked several times, by people who know that I’m considering the Diaconate.

Do you get paid to be a deacon? Deacon Greg responds in today’s post:

Deacons are not salaried. Unlike priests, we don’t get a stipend for masses, weddings or funerals. At Christmas, the pastor might slip an envelope into my hand and thank me, but that’s about it. As I told the caller yesterday, summoning the only cliche I could think of, “My reward will be great in heaven. But here? Not so much.”

I knew that and find it interesting. The principle at work here is that Deacons are men in the world, who’s first ministry is to their families and their chosen vocation in life. Their ministry is an additional matter. The two Deacons in my parish both have lots of things going on in their lives and yet they still make time for ministry. It’s a tough balance, not unlike what we lay ministers go through, although our full time jobs are our ministry most of the time.

So today pray let’s for our Deacons who do a lot for our parishes and sacrifice much of their time with their families for their parishes.

Marriage for Anglican Priests is OK…But Then Why Not for Catholic Deacons?


I’ve been silent on the Vatican’s recent proclamation about welcoming married Anglican priests into Catholicism who are disenfranchised with their denomination’s ordinations of women and homosexuals.

While I’m not sure that the reason for including these priests into our fold, is the main reason we should be welcoming them into Catholicism, I’m also excited to see what the end result is of having more men in the priesthood who do not have to exercise celibacy.

But a larger question looms, we have welcomed married men who have had differences with us into our priestly ministry, but what about offering permanent deacons the same option?

I certainly want to uphold the ministry of deacon as a distinct calling and if celibacy was optional tomorrow, I would hope that many deacons continue to be deacons and not just become priests. Their distinctiveness is something that we should honor and be joyful for their ministry. However, might some of these Deacons felt called to the priesthood and simply chose the diaconate because they had no other option when it comes to ordained ministry? I would wonder why those who have been long time Catholics not be extended the same welcome?

Might we think about those who might feel this way and offer them an opportunity to re-examine their ministry because after all a Deacon has been a loyal Catholic and perhaps have struggled with this for some time.

While I would think most Deacons wouldn’t take the option, I do think that those that would at least want to examine what their call has manifested itself into and see if they really feel called to the diaconate or if they are only become deacons because they can’t be priests. While formation is supposed to weed out these types, I’m sure there are plenty of people who discover a call to the priesthood post-ordination to the diaconate as well.

Calling all Deacons…what thinkest thou?

And by the way…nobody’s said this but does this open the door for the famous Fr Alberto Cutie to come back to his diocese?

Men in Black: The Deacon Version


Deacon Greg raises an issue that I’ve heard lots of opinions on: Should Deacons wear a Roman Collar?

As a wanna-be Deacon I have a definite opinion on the issue and it’s pretty simple. Deacons should not WANT to look like a priest. Or perhaps better stated, Deacons should want their own “look.” What that look might be is what should be debated.

In my parent’s parish in the 70s and 80s our Deacon was the DRE (Director of Religious Education) and he wore a collar then. He doesn’t today. But often he was mistaken for a priest, especially by parents who would just drop their kids off at CCD but hadn’t ever been to mass in the parish. The Deacon always said he knew which parents were church-goers because they’d all recognize him as a Deacon and the non-attendees would say “Good Morning, Father.” Even a name tag didn’t help him. People still confused him for the priest.

My thought is simple. Deacons can wear the collar but also should wear something more distinguishable from their priests. Maybe the diaconal stole should be worn over the clerical collar when on official parish business, maybe even one with the word “Deacon” on it? I’ve seen those who don’t wear collars wear a small lapel pin (pictured, right) but I just don’t think that cuts it.

As Deacon Greg notes, wearing a collar definitely changes the perspective of people toward Deacons. You’re not really “one of the lay people” anymore once that gets strapped on your neck. But to add something more distinctive to it might raise the profile of the Deacon as a minister and be useful in helping identify them in hospitals and funeral homes.

Any ideas on a Deacon’s Uniform?

Your Communion Isn’t Good Enough

From Catholic News Agency

Lancashire, England, Jul 30, 2009 / 03:17 am (CNA).- An Anglican cathedral is trying to accommodate those of its faithful who do not accept female clergy by allowing parishioners to decide whether to accept communion bread blessed by its female canon or by a male priest. Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire recently installed Rev. Sue Penfold as a residential canon. Cathedral canon Andrew Hindley explained the decision to This Is Lancashire, saying it was agreed by all the clergy that it was the best way to handle what they called a “mixed economy.”

The congregation can choose whether to receive communion bread blessed by Rev. Penfold or bread blessed by a male priest at the main cathedral service on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

After reading this story I have a feeling that in the Catholic Church there is an equivalent snubbing going on. There are a good deal of people who won’t receive communion from a lay minister or a deacon and will go out of their way to receive communion from the priest.

Um, last time I checked we were all giving out Jesus.

Congrats to the New Brooklyn Deacons


I spent the morning watching the entire ordination mass for the 20 new Brooklyn Deacons on Net TV. Just a note, but when was the last time you heard a diocese or religious order ordaining 20 new priests?!

I’m just sayin….

Deacon Greg, a Brooklyn Diocese Deacon himself, has great pics–one of which I have stolen and therefore offer a h/t to him for with the recommendation that you go and check the rest of them out as well.

Twas a beautiful ceremony. I was particularly impressed with seeing the differences between a priest’s ordination which I have seen several times and a deacon’s ordination which I think I’ve only seen once before. In particular the candidates promise the Bishop their obedience to him as well as his successors. This is followed by the laying on of hands by the Bishop (which differs from a priests ordination where all the priests lay hands on the candidate. And lastly, the book of the Gospels is given to the Deacons. The last part offers one of the more beautiful lines in the church parlance:

“Receive this book.
Believe what you Read,
Teach what you Believe
and Practice what you Teach”

So congratulations to the class of 2009 and may God continue to bless your ministry and may we be blessed by your dedication to God’s people. A special word of thanks to the wives of the Deacons who sacrifice much of their family time so that their husbands can serve the church.