Monday, June 30, 2008

Program note

I am back from my very intensive two week graduate school residency. I have a lot to do. Honestly, I am excited about the work. It would be impossible to express in a post what a wonderful experience I had in such a beautiful spot, with such dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate professors. At the Institute in Pastoral Ministries, we students we learn a lot from each other.

Again, I do not plan to return to vigorous, daily posting in the foreseeable future. I have plenty of academic writing to get done, including my IPR, which is basically a master's degree thesis. So, look for something perhaps two or three times per week. Look for a lot of posts on deacons due to the fact that my working thesis is: "Articulating a clearer ecclesial diaconal identity will help deacons to be bridge-builders within the church by allowing them to foster collaboration between priests and lay ecclesial ministers."

St. Stephen- pray for us.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hierarchy Update

Today it was announced that Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, Missouri was named by the Holy Father as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which is the major canonical court for the universal church.

With this resignation, the sede vacante dioceses in the United States, counting St. Louis, now number nine, the others being Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Green Bay, Wisconsin; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Juneau, Alaska; New Ulm, Minnesota; Biloxi, Mississippi; Gallup, New Mexico.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bishop N.T. Wright on The Report

In this video Bishop Wright speaks with Colbert about his latest book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Notice how His Grace is an excellent guest. When being interviewed on The Report, you have to assert yourself without coming off as a jerk. Bishop Wright pulls it off well. This makes up for no traditio last Friday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Being my child is not easy

(Photo courtesy of The Intermountain Catholic)

This is a very kind article, written by a very good reporter for our diocesen newspaper, The Intermountain Catholic. I have to admit that I felt a bad when Priscilla asked me what I was I doing for Father's Day and I answered "Leaving town". It just shows, however, what a wonderful, supportive wife and children I have. Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow I am off for two weeks to lovely Winona, Minnesota, home of St. Mary's University and the Institute in Pastoral Ministry. The day before a trip is always pretty hectic and today is no different. I never relax until I arrive at the airport and get a cafe soy latte. So, posting will be practically non-existent for the next few weeks.

When I arrive home I have to make a quick trip to Montana. Once I am back I have vowed to simplify my life quite a bit. I plan to spend much more time at home, have fun with my family, work in my yard, finish projects around the house, pray more, go for more walks, watch some movies, get back in shape, and just breathe. I am not sure how this will affect blogging, except that I plan to blog less, maybe a post or two a week.

So, I would appreciate your prayers for all the IPM students. Institutes, like that in Pastoral Ministry, are increasingly more important to the life of the church. It is truly a response to the Spirit that so many women and men heed in seeking education and formation, often at their own expense, in order to be of service to others.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"There is nothing in the world that I ever wanted more than to feel you deep in my heart"

"Remembering you standing quiet in the rain as
I ran to your heart to be near and we kissed as
the sky fell in"

A happy belated anniversary to my wife. I know it it is a cliché, but I wouldn't want to be married to me! I was thinking about buying her some Buddhist Punk shoes that I saw advertised on mySpace, but she wouldn't wear them. So, I got some for myself.

Also, I had to go the eye-doctor on Wednesday. I only needed reading glasses, but for me that is still huge. Please see Fun with scripture.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The reality of marriage

The very best response I have read to the unfortunate ruling by the California Supreme Court comes from His Excellency, Allen Vigneron, bishop of the Diocese of Oakland:

"I begin with the most fundamental point: Marriage is a reality authored by God in his very act of creating the human race. According to his irrevocable plan, the marriage relationship is only possible between one man and one woman. The purposes of this relationship are (1) the mutual loving support of husband and wife and (2) their loving service of life by bringing children into the world and raising them to be virtuous and productive. The experience of history – both ancient and in our own time – has taught us that no government has the power to change the order which God has inscribed in our nature."

It is well worth your while to read the rest of the Pastoral Message from Bishop Vigneron to the Faithful of the Oakland Diocese.

Fred has sage words for slackers, like myself.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Taking a break

Okay, this time it is true, I will be on blogging hiatus until after the fourth of July. I may post something here or there, but not much. I will be in Winona beginning this Sunday, 15 June, for our annual Institute in Pastoral Ministry residency. Needless to say, I have a lot to do before leaving.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"You've just gotta give yourself to the people and to trust them." RFK

(clip from the film Bobby)

Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel by Sirhan Sirhan. This terrible event took place forty years ago today.

"Bobby Kennedy, who, after the assassination of his brother, took a risk and, moving outside the bubble of his own privileged life, had his eyes opened and his conscience convicted by what he saw and experienced and concluded that as a country we not only could, but had to be a better, more just society, which is the only way to realize a more perfect union" (Homily, 30 January 2007).

Throughout his public life, which began working for the rightly infamous House Un-American Activities Committee, he changed. From that alarming start, in time, he became a wise and trusted counselor to his brother as Attorney General, a senator from New York, and almost president. He allowed himself to be shaped by his experiences. The quote I used for the title of this post is from RFK, who said it to a reporter, in answer to a question about his safety, especially in light of JFK's assassination, while campaigning in California. This speech, The Mindless Menace of Violence, was given 5 April 1968, one day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and just two months to the day before his own violent death, to the City Club of Cleveland, Ohio. This clip from the film is an edited version of his speech. You can read the whole thing on the blog Scylla & Charybdis. Here is a portion of what is not in the clip, with a bit of overlap:

"For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

"This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

"I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered."

Speaking of those who loved and needed him, Robert and Ethel Kennedy had eleven children. The youngest child, their daughter Rory, with whom Ethel was pregnant when Bobby was killed, was born six months after her Dad's murder. Without a doubt Bobby was the most devout Kennedy son. While JFK was aloof about his faith, Bobby's convictions were very much formed and informed by his Catholic faith.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why does McCain not have preacher problems?

"Hey, it's just proof these guys are divinely inspired because no human being would say those things." It bears noting that Rod Parsely was, at one point anyway, McCain's pastor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


the prophet Amos
Prophets are not primarily predictors of the future. In fact, predicting the future is not the essence of the prophetic summons. Prophets are commentators on and critics of the present. Of course, what we do or choose not to do in the present has implications for the future. These implications are not divine rewards and punishments. Rather, they are the natural consequences of our acting, or our refusal to act. After all, there are no effects without causes. Jesus, who is the prophet par excellence, calls this discerning the signs of the time. A good summary of prophets and prophecy is that, at least from a more objective (i.e., outside-the-immediate-milieu) stand-point, prophets quite frequently just point out what should be obvious.

The prophetic message, which calls Christians to fidelity to the new and everlasting covenant, established with us by YHWH through Jesus Christ (and does not supersede YHWH's first covenant with Israel), is not really that different from the prophets of old. The message of those, like Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cesar Chavez, Bobby Kennedy, Hrant Dink, et. al., bears a remarkable resemblance to the so-called pre-literary prophets, such as Amos and Hosea, both of whom were outsiders, non-institutional figures. The fidelity to which we are called is to the two great commandments: loving God with all our hearts, might, minds, and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves, with the understanding that our neighbor is not necessarily every other person, but the person we encounter who is in need, like the man robbed, beaten, and left to die in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan.

To be sure, we must be discerning. There are false prophets, many who call us to fidelity to false values that are at odds with both God and nature. Recognizing the dignity of every human being does not entail supporting an ambiguous and meaningless freedom-as-an-end-in-itself agenda, a so-called progressive agenda. People who falsely claim the prophetic mantle seek to usher in, not the kingdom of God, but a nihilistic utopia, a genuine place of nowhere. In such a place the individual, the dreaded self, with all its distorted wants and desires, not only remains unchecked, but catered to, indulged, an idol sacrilegiously placed on the altar of what is meant to be the temple of the Spirit. A place where freedom of choice, regardless of what the choice is, is the highest value. This is exemplified well in the song, So Lonely, sung by the Police: "in this desert that I call my soul/I always play the starring role/So lonely". Here there can be no communio. Hence, it resembles hell, outer darkness, the pit of the self that yearns, but never turns to what will satisfy it, God alone.

A prophet is not honored her own country because the prophet tells the truth, brings the shadow side into the light. While prophets can be members of the hierarchy, like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, they usually are not. Even when they are members, once they receive the prophetic calling, their speaking the truth casts them as outsiders. I have in mind here two great Latin American archbishops, Hélder Câmara and Óscar Romero. Neither of these two prelates who spoke truth to power are canonized. In the case of Romero, as pertains to the Christian tradition of being a saint, which, until the eighteenth century, was a bottom-up endeavor, he is a saint. He is rightly venerated by his own people and many of us beyond. The bureaucratic process (a classic case of the Weberian institutionalization of charisma) to raise him to the altar is stalled because of the feared political implications almost thirty years later. This fear is ironic given Romero's courage, which cost him his life, thus demonstrating both his witness (martyria) as well as his heroic virtue.

In the words of the late Bob Marley: "how long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Is anxiety (i.e., angst) a spiritual help or is it a hinderance?

A book I mentioned in a previous post, The Future Church of 140 B.C.E.: A Hidden Revolution, by Bernard J. Lee, SM, turned out to be resounding reading, indeed. Too bad that it is out-of-print. Like all treatments of multi-dimensional realities, not to mention divine mysteries, it has some limitations, most of which the author readily acknowledges. There is an appendix to the book that consists of a lecture by Bernard M. Loomer, a U.S. theologian and long-time dean of the University of Chicago School of Divinity, delivered in 1976. The title of this tour de force is Two Kinds of Power. I subsequently found a version of a lecture by Loomer very much like the one I read entitled Two Conceptions of Power.

Cutting to the chase, the two kinds of power Loomer explores are unilateral and relational. In a section of his discussion on unilateral power, entitled Inequality and the Expansive Character of Freedom, he takes up Kierkegaard, as filtered through Niebuhr, on the subject of anxiety. On this view sin and creativity are grounded "in the self's basic anxiety or insecurity" (Lee 176). Seeing things in this way, "no amount of security with respect to the goods of this life can overcome the self's anxiety, and no level of achievement can exhaust its creative passion. Consequently, the human spirit in its unbounded restlessness moves toward the indefinite or the infinite in its effort to subdue its anxiety or to exemplify its freedom" (ibid).

This adds an interesting twist on the prayer, said by the presider/presbyter, in the midst of the Lord's Prayer at Mass: "In your mercy keep us free from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ". In addition to anxiety requiring a reaching out to what is beyond, toward the infinite, decreasing insecurity and anxiety is also a relational endeavor. I remember reading an article while still in diaconate formation that discussed the power of being a non-anxious presence in anxiety-inducing circumstances. Community can probably never be entirely free of anxiety because it will never be completely free of tension, unless nobody cares. Nonetheless, parishes need to look at being non-anxious places to the fullest extent possible. This means relating to each other in a healthier, more Christ-like, manner.

Since I do not have a post tracker-thingy installed, I will simply draw your attention to a post on Monastic Musings- Remembering U. Utah Phillips. It also includes a link to his obituary.

Year B Third Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 3:13-15.17-19; Ps 4:2.4.7-9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:25-48 “You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells his incredulous...