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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yeah, so...

I had to go to a meeting today. In fact, I've been to a LOT of meetings in the last couple weeks, and am not quite sure I can take it anymore.

I'm just sayin'.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Yesterday, Pentecost, I attended a Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Sacred Heart had a beautiful high altar, but no communion rail and so prie-dieux were set up in rows at the foot of the sanctuary, leaving a space in the center as one would find had a communion rail been present.  The attendance was very low, just a few families and individuals scattered throughout; the kind of crowd certain media bastions love to photograph.But oh, was the Spirit alive there, and bearing fruit with virility... 

Come, Holy Spirit....

This Pentecost Mass was a Low Mass; no music, but the prayers usually inaudible during a Missa Cantata or a Solemn High Mass were audible to us which made it easier to follow along. (Not that I did a good job at doing so.)

Still, it was perfect for Pentecost, for the silences were deeper without the ostentatious professional choir that inhabits a local Baroque parish, a different kind of beauty in full compliment to the raucous noise found in other places. God does not come as a storm or an earthquake, but in that still small voice, if only we could stop shouting into the wind long enough to finally listen.

I relished the simplicity of the silences, the rhythm of the Latin prayers, the genuflections, and the chance to "offer up" the pain in my bad knees from their constant contact with long-petrified kneelers.

When it was time to go forward for Holy Communion, I recalled, as I always do, that we are proceeding to the foot of the Cross so that we may take the flesh of God into ourselves; the very Sacred Heart of our beloved Savior. I remind myself that we are being fed from the Tree of Life; given the fruit of the Cross, the author of eternal Salvation.

The anticipation grows, almost becoming an anxiety that there "won't be enough".  I want that kind of desperation for the Sacrament; the constant draw, the hope, the anticipation that leads to that raw edge; almost a fear of loss.

I know that because I have that intense interior longing at times, that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar indeed has value, more than anything else on earth. (I have not yet become too jaded to recognize Whom I am receiving.) When I have those moments of intensity, I hold on to them as tightly as I can, retaining them in my memory for it seems that daily, the dryness of the spiritual life encroaches even further.

This time, instead of kneeling at the rail, I knelt at the prie-dieu and waited, listening to the priest offer, "Corpus Christi" as he blessed each Communicant with the Sign of the Cross, holding Christ between his finger and thumb. I listened as he came closer, the anticipation building.

As I always do, I gazed from the alter to the Crucifix, visually taking in Love Incarnate, nailed to the Cross...for me. 

Kneeling there wasn't the same as the Communion rail, and I could not stop the lament that rose from within; the opportunity to kneel at the same marble as the altar so as to receive from the same altar of Sacrifice itself. I was all too aware of the spiritual poverty of our age, and yet, joyful,  for here was a priest who could read the signs of the times and provide the spiritual sense of the rail, if not the reality. And in the Mass, the most important symbols transcend their reality to lead us into the deeper reality of the Paschal Mystery; eternal union with God Himself.

I knew, therefore, that it didn't matter that this makeshift "rail" wasn't actually of the identical material of the altar; the spiritual meaning far transcended what was under my knees.

Father and the altar server were nearing; now I could see peripherally the Sign of the Cross being made with the host at the intonation of "Corpus Christi".

As I continued to fix my gaze upon my Crucified Lord, I suddenly realized I could not recall whether or not to say "Amen" in response. I thought back to the different forms of the Mass at which I've assisted; the Ordinary Form in the vernacular (Amen!), the Ordinary Form in Latin (Amen!), the Ruthenian Rite of the Byzantine Church (non), and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy (?????). I couldn't remember.

I tried to listen but I was so absorbed in Christ for the moment that the responses (or lack thereof) were lost to me.

My white lace head-covering  caught my peripheral attention as, subconsciously I sought to see how soon I'd be receiving Our Lord.  The veil itself (usually I wear black) was reminiscent especially on Pentecost, of a Bride's veil, of her purity. I recalled my First Communion veil, not really understanding that even then, I was a Bride of Christ and that all First Communicants are representative of the entire Church, past, present and future. First Communion Masses often feel like weddings because they ARE...and so is every Mass!

I was lost in time, but not a bit anxious about that fact. I wanted to kneel there forever, even if it meant waiting, even if Father eternally came close, but never brought Our Lord to me. It was sufficient to me to know that He was there; Holy Communion begins long before the actual moment of reception.

The voices and movements were closer and my heart pounded, thirsting for what was being offered to me. It is always this way at the communion rail; there is always this elongated moment of anticipation, this time to gaze upon the Cross, to absorb the Sacrifice made on our behalf, the Sacrifice calling or our own conscious and willing union, our own specific consent to the self-sacrifice required of every Catholic. Even in a few seconds, we experience this extended lifetime of intimacy, drawing us deeply into the fiery intensity sweetly burning Jesus into our souls, one heartbeat at a time.

As always, I was nearly trembling.

Finally Father and the altar server stood before me. I heard him intone, "Corpus Christi", and he made the Sign of the Cross over me, holding Christ in his hand as he spoke, the movement in perfect synchronicity with the Latin words announcing that finally, Jesus had come to me in all of His hidden Glory.

I opened to receive Him, giving of myself so that we might become one in this eternal moment of consummation, praying that this union would bear fruit not just in this world, but through eternity.

Father and the server left us in privacy as the next of the Mystical Body took their places at the foot of the Cross.

I crossed myself and stood, regretting having to go so quickly, but taking My Beloved Lord with me to the pew, kneeling there in silence, delighting in my Savior, thanking him with a quiet certainty far from superficial emotionalism. When tears arose, they caressed my eyes as briefly as a lover's kiss, falling upon the interior so as not to spoil the gentle afterglow.

*   *    *

2 O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine,
3 your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is is poured out; therefore the maidens love you.
4 Draw me after you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers.
We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.

~ The Song of Solomon 1:2-4

Come, Holy Spirit...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Come, Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.


St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

The Crucible of Discernment

One of the great frustrations of discerning one's vocation is that there are always those in the peanut gallery who seem to think it's a way to "run away" or "avoid responsibility." (This applies specifically to discernment of the Priesthood and of Religious Life. Somehow Marriage is not seen as an "escape").  I've written before of those people (usually not Catholic, but sadly, sometimes are) who, thinking they are being helpful, will ask, "Why are you trying to escape?"

When I initially wrote of this, I did so in a humorous way, finding it necessary to laugh so that I didn't reach through various modes of communication (including across a table) to strangle the other party.

The risk of writing about discernment via blog is that it puts it "out there" for people to "analyze" according to their own opinions, through their own filter of temperament and personality and maybe even experience....or a total lack.

There are those who have accused me, both to my face, and behind my back, of being disingenuous, of seeking to avoid responsibility, of seeking to escape the "reality of life" simply because I am trying to be obedient to God's will and the course of discernment He wants me to follow. (Which, for the record, doesn't go according to my plan, but His. I don't understand His ways at all. If I was in charge this question would be long settled!)

I've seen those accusations, for years, lobbied at anyone in discernment, even those who DON'T blog about it!  "You're just finding real life to be hard and you're trying to get away.  You're trying to avoid responsibility for what you've done, so suck it up and quit using God as an excuse. You're just trying to escape real life. Go out and get laid. That's all you need. Once you meet the right guy/girl you'll come to your senses. You're too outgoing/quiet/studious/dumb/goody-goody/bad/choose your own objection to be a priest/religious.)  *yawn*  There are others, but I tire of the litany of humanity's objections to God's call.

On one hand, I want to fall over laughing at the absurdity and arrogance of such comments. But what strikes me now is really how intellectually and spiritually dangerous, not just to the hapless "targets" of such spiteful commentary, but to others who are pondering discernment, or pondering writing about it, does to them.  Such uncharitable commentary from allegedly "good Catholics" can actually be sufficient to drive a delicate soul away from revealing to someone  the deepest longings of their heart, for fear of perhaps experiencing in person the same kind of outright ridicule they read on "Catholic" blogs. Blogs that seem holy one moment but then rashly condemn a host of people in the next, as if they are set in place with the right to judge souls and the discernment belonging only to those souls and to God.

And that thought brings me to tears.

How many souls are lost just because of rash commentary, made in the heat of the moment, but regretted when the flash of self-righteous indignation fades away, becoming sheepish embarrassment at a transient moment of reaction to a mirror held to oneself?

I am not picking on anyone: I speak from my own unfortunate experience.  No, wait. Not "unfortunate". That is a word that seeks to avoid responsibility. Rather, I speak from a past of willful experience, of moments of Pride, of even current temperamental moments.

I often wonder how many souls I have driven from the Faith on my snarkiest of days, but, with even more horror, of the effect I've had through simple thoughtless comments??? I often wonder why I continue to write about discernment at all when I know that every word I write is being subjected  to people with all sorts of intentions, reading it through their own biased filter. People who don't know me, but pretend, in their own hearts, that they do. Pretending they can judge my soul, simply because they read some of my words.

It makes me squirm to be under such a glass, and still I squirm more when I ponder that I have placed myself in this position.

So why do I continue?

I think  I keep doing it because every so often, usually when I'm about to delete the whole thing, someone I've never heard of sends me an email maybe with regard to a current post, maybe with regard to something "ancient".  They remind me through what they reveal of their own history that it's not about me, but really, I'm doing it for THEM.

I may think I'm telling my story, but no; I'm telling the story of a lot of people who have had the same types of experiences, who struggle in the same ways, who are seeking God with all their hearts (or as much as our sinful habits/lives will allow), hoping one day to finally break through and truly take hold of the Cross that has given us a journey to holiness that includes a particular crucible of lengthy discernment.

Some days I want to just give up and say, "Great I work in a parish and this is what I'll do the rest of my life whether I like it or not. Because I can't do anything else."  (Which makes me pull the covers over my head and consider calling in dead.)

And then I remember that life isn't about "doing", but about BEING. Holiness is about finding our happiness in God alone, and for many people, it means burning off a whole lotta junk before we can even be OPEN to accepting the kind of love He has to offer, and in that process, learning how to love others as He does, especially when those others are bent on our destruction.

Have you ever had someone actually wish failure upon you? And know they're praying for it?

It's really hard to love someone who does such a dirty deed...and yet...we must. Even if by reading that line alone you are wounded to the core of your soul, know that your own wounding is a sign of how deeply you must pray, not for those who are likewise wounded, but for those who throw the spears.

I wouldn't say I'm good at that. When I'm offended for others, or for myself, I admit I hold a grudge. I admit that I want nothing more than to rip that spear out and throw it back as hard as I can.

I have a sense of justice that is not holy; I often want divine retribution so I say, but truly what I really desire is to carry out that divine retribution through my own hands.

Then I have to stop and think. What do I really want? Who am I fighting? What am I fighting against?

Do the opinions of others really matter?

Isn't vocational discernment between the soul and God? Doesn't He know the path that must be followed for the good of that soul?

Who cares about the paltry snarkiness of blogger A or commentator B?  Isn't their own lack of prudence  part of their own personal battle? Their own sense of regret, especially if they identify so much with another soul that they find the need to vilify it?

Often vilification comes from one's own self-loathing; a core of anger from unresolved pain. It usually has nothing to do with the "target".

As impatient as I am with my own "progress" or alleged "lack thereof" in my own discernment process, I am at a rare point of comfort with it. Thanks to my spiritual director who knows the details, my past, my present, and my greatest desires, I have been reminded that God has His timing, and no one forces His hand. It is a comfort to have that reminder.

There is no way around it; for many of us, the process of discernment is a crucible designed for our purification. It is designed by God to help us to grow in foundational virtues, to identify our habits, our passions, our lack of control. It gives us the chance to grow in virtue. In my case, I am seeking to grow in patience, prudence, and charity.

Most of all, charity. Divine charity; the virtue that bonds all other virtues. The virtue that was nailed to the tree to restore us to God and make us adopted sons and daughters. That virtue.

Discernment is a way to enter into the very Passion of Our Lord, to truly live in the harshest part of the  shadow of the Cross, witness to Crucified Love while living a life of pleading desperation.

As hard as this experience has been, I am thankful for it. As hard as it is to suffer the "slings and arrows" of fellow bloggers, friends, family, and random strangers, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I still can't see an end to this pilgrimage, but perhaps over time I am growing in trust. Or perhaps I am just becoming numb to the pain.

Time will tell. God will reveal His plan in His time, and in the meantime I'll be putting one foot in front of the other, plodding onward, grateful to still be standing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

If Confessions of St. Augustine Had Been Blogged

This is a repost from August 14, 2009. Because humor is important!

"Chapter 6 -The Anatomy of Evil

What was it that I, a wretch, loved in you, my act of theft, my deed of crime done by night, done in the sixteenth year of my age? You were not beautiful, for you were but an act of thievery. In truth, are you anything at all, that I may speak to you? The fruit we stole was beautiful, for it was your creation, O most beautiful of all beings, creator of all things, God the good, God the supreme good and my true good. Beautiful was the fruit, but it was not what my unhappy soul desired. I had an abundance of better pears, but those pears I gathered solely that I might steal. The fruit I gathered I threw away, devouring in it only iniquity, and that I rejoiced to enjoy. For if I put any of that fruit into my mouth, my sin was its seasoning. But now, O Lord my God, I seek out what was in that theft to give me delight, and lo, there is no lovliness in it. I do not say suh loveliness as there is in justice and prudence, or in man's mind, and memory, and senses, and virorous life, no that with which the stars are beautiful and glorious in their courses, or the land and the sea filled with their living kinds, which by new birhts replace those that die, nor even that flawed and shadowy beauty found in the vices that deceive us."

August, 397    Discourse and Rhetoric:

FancyMama: Oh, I think you're being way too hard on yourself. It was only a pear! God has already forgiven you! It's not like there weren't enough pears for that guy to share with you. I'm sure if you'd asked him for one he would have given it to you.

Elizabeth III: You have several missepelled words. 5th line from the bottom should be "loveliness", next line down, not sure. Do you mean "such"? Next line down I think you mean "vigorous". Then, in that same long sentence you need to correct "births". Actually, grammatically you've got a lot going on here. You should edit to make your sentences shorter and more understandable.

Manichean: I can't believe you did that! Don't you know that pears weep when they are plucked? And mother tree, what milky tears she must have shed! You should have given the pear to me so that I could have eaten it and breathed particles of God into the world from your sinful hand. You ought to know better, serves you right to feel so awful, but I don't understand your reasoning. And I thought we were buddies. Guess not.

Alypius: Aw, I did that when I was a kid, too, and felt really bad about it after I was baptized and realized that theft is a sin. Baptism changed my whole world. Prayers for you, my friend, and thanksgiving for your conversion.

Rotgut: This is so totally bogus! What the hell is wrong with you? There's no such thing as sin! Life is what you make it! CRAPE DIEUM DUDE!!!!!!!!! And what kind of a doofus are you to write about "loveliness"? What are you, gay?

Augustine: Thank you for your comments, everyone. I will respond to each in turn when I am able.

Elizabeth III, thank you, I'll make the corrections. Typing is a fairly new experience for me and I haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet!

Manichean, I'm starting a new blog to answer you and Pelagius.

Alypius, ironic name and story - you'll see. Thank you for your prayers. Praise the Lord our God for His wisdom, mercy and the grace of Baptism! Would that I had not caused my mother so many tears before I came to conversion!

I'd also like to remind you all not to feed the vermine for they tend to carry diseases.

WiseGuy: You should totally get a life coach to help you get over these issues. I think you're depressed. There's "Depression" written all OVER your blog. Please seek help. There are medications to help you.

Plotinus2: I agree with what everyone here has a certain degree, anyway. Thanks for this post. I really enjoy your blog and have been a faithful reader for awhile now. Keep up the good work!

RomanForum: Nice blog. You and your readers might be interested to know that we have hot chicks in togas and pears! Check us out at rrr.romanforum.rom

Wannabe: Rotgut, that is totally rude. Get a life, what do you live for, to just rip on everyone else? Hey, Manichaean, you tell him. picking that pear had awful consequences for mother tree, just like the fig tree. HEY! I just realized it's the same principle for both, right? All trees feel it when they're assaulted like that. Just the other day some guy I didn't know asked me for some food, but I actually had it for the saints as I was serving them, but I had to give the guy something. It was like...uh..condemned to hell for giving him the food meant for the saints and prophets. Sorry. Don't tell, ok?

Manichean: @Wannabe, I don't know which of you is worse...Augustine or you!

Illuminated: I don't get it. Augustine, what did you mean that "vices deceive us"?

JudasI: You shouldn't have thrown the fruit away. What a waste. It could have been given to the poor. Illuminated - Augustine doesn't know what he's talking about, don't worry about it.

Soulful: Oh, Augustine, this has to be my favorite post yet! I just LOVE how you address so much of this to God, and how you describe him! That's how I think of him, too!

Converted and Loved: I don't think you can call yourself a "wretch". After all, you've been redeemed, and baptized and all. God loves you! Don't ever forget that!

Manichean: @Augustine, I can't find the blog you cited. Can you email me the url? Or haven't you actually started it yet?

Watermuse: I see you got spammed. Nice. Guess they don't edit their victims. I'd love to see you take on the spammers. LOL

SFreud: I'd love to hear more about your mother, heard she was quite an influence in your life. Do you have any plans to discuss her here? If not, send me an email as I'd love to talk with you about her.


*** The quoted passage above is taken from John K. Ryan's translation, of Augustine's Confessions, Chapter 6, paragraph 12. *****

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kibbles and Bits and Bits and Bits

There's a lot going on in my life in spite of the fact I'm done with school.

Work has been insanely busy; I haven't had an actual weekend in maybe 6 weeks or more now, and I won't have a normal weekend this time around, either.  I can't seem to catch a break!  All I want is 2 days off, together. But no; not an option. Not even feasible! And in the meantime I have a couple volunteers directing a program at work and while they're doing incredible work with their talents, one of them seems to think I am her personal assistant and doesn't seem to grasp I'm juggling 10 different programs and hundreds of people and their own "demands."

Yup. God is helping me to grow in patience. I'm failing miserably, by the way and it's only His grace that has kept me from unleashing all the things I want to say but don't.

I'm looking forward to Memorial Day weekend like you wouldn't believe!

More Bits:

I'm planning a weekend of fun in June, after graduation.

On the discernment-and-supremely-cool front, in early July I'm heading out to visit a monastery where I will be studying iconography for a week and, bonus, living the monastic life while doing so! Given my ongoing discernment, I will be doing a lot of it there, too, even while writing icons in my paint clothes (which for me is my everyday stuff!)

Seriously, if someone is discerning one's vocation, is it even POSSIBLE to turn off the "discern-dar" when in a monastic setting and keeping to the schedule, especially when the community itself is supremely cool?

I'm thinkin' not so much.

No, I won't state where I am going. But I do ask that you keep this community, and me, in your prayers, and God bless their generosity for being willing to put up with me for a week!

Those were the Bits. Here's the Kibbles:

It looks like I'm going to be fostering again.

I received a desperate email from the dog rescue coordinator last night. One of the other coordinators has left the rescue, so she's doing double-duty and has 6 dogs coming in, terrified she won't be able to find foster homes for them in time.  I responded with my situation:  can't afford to do this right now, life is insane and several out-of-town trips coming up. (It's hard enough to find someone to take my dog! My dogsitters have lives, too!)

She guaranteed it would be a short-term emergency-only foster situation to buy her time to find a more permanent foster home, she will provide all food and other necessary expenses (normally foster homes would get the 1st bag with the dog, but all subsequent food is the responsibility of the foster.)

So I gave my conditional "yes" to the terms, and IF she doesn't find a place for the dog, he'll be spending Saturday night and a few days or weeks with my dog and I.

He's a German Shepherd mix, smaller than my dog (mine is pretty small for a Shepherd), he's only 2 and doesn't appear to have the fear/abuse issues my previous foster had. But, being young, I'll have to see which things he has a taste for. Books? Rugs? Furniture? Shoes?  Is he housetrained, kennel-trained, or obedience-trained at all?

Another Bit

For three years, there is a project I have wanted to take on. I asked a few of my professors whether they could explain in further depth a connection I was seeing in scripture, but they couldn't answer. Perhaps they couldn't answer because I couldn't properly formulate my question. As time as progressed, this "question' hasn't left my mind and so I have been waiting until I would finally have the time to pick up the thread and follow where it leads.

I'd rather not reveal the "question" as I have decided I am going to turn it into my first formal work. I am going to delve into scripture in a synthetic study, looking for how the topics are woven through the Bible, how they interrelate, and perhaps bring different disciplines within Theology into play in the final analysis.

Our professors have given us incredible tools for study, especially our scripture professors. I learned how to do synthesis, analysis, and exegesis. In considering this in light of Ecclesiology, of Sacramental theology, moral theology, fundamental theology...everything and more..I look forward to delving into this project.

I have already begun, in fact, to recognize the tools I will need, both practical and theological.

Perhaps this study has already been done. Even so, I think I will do this for perhaps I will still find another connection, another contribution to the study of theology. And if not, if nothing else it will draw me closer to Christ through a study of His Word.

That is always a good thing. Especially if it leads to a deeper conversion and therefore, a growth in holiness.

And boy-howdy, do I have a LOT of growing to do!

Seriously, people if you think you're holy and possess any virtue at all, go to work full-time in a parish. You'll be humbled before you even get a chance to blink and even in your humility you will understand that you aren't humble at all. Not even then.  And never ends

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You Just Might Be a Theologian...

Last night shortly after we arrived at class, we learned from one of our classmates that, in fact, we have already graduated.  He had seen an article so called down to the University to inquire about our apparently having been granted our degrees in absentia. They told him that as the University has only one graduation, they expect at this point that we would actually complete the program and so award the degrees in our absence at the graduation ceremony held on University grounds, even though we have our own graduation ceremonies at the various locations of our cohorts.

This caused our professor to say, tongue-in-cheek, "Well, you could have blown off this whole weekend! You're full-fledged theologians now!"

So last night, just as I dropped off to sleep last night lamenting the fact that I didn't even get an invitation to my own graduation, I heard in a perfect redneck drawl... "You just might be a theologian..."

So! I have decided to create a list as to what, exactly, makes one a "Theologian!"


If you have ever dreamed about living in a van down by the river when you fall asleep in the just might be a theologian.

If you have ever been awarded your graduate theology degree before you actually completed your final just might be a theologian.

If you can name at least two Rabbis cited by Pope Benedict XVI in his just might be a theologian.

If you know why a priori assumptions are a bad thing in Biblical just might be a theologian.

If you're so excited about the revision and implementation of the recent revision of the Missale Romanum that you can barely contain just might be a theologian!

If you know who Schillebeeckx was, what order he was from, and why we should be praying for him just might be a theologian.

Not only that, but if you know who Skilla  Schelli  Schilla. Schillebeeckx was AND can spell and, bonus, pronounce his name just might be a theologian!

If Garrigou Lagrange, OP is one of your favorite authors and you read his works during your "free time" just might be a theologian. 

If you have ever referred to yourself or someone else in conversation as "a substance subsisting apart from all other substances" just might be a theologian.

If you know what "operatio sequitor esse" is and have ever given a both deep and precise definition of it in a random casual conversation without actually using the Latin just might be a theologian.

If you are kept awake at night wondering what would have happened if Adam and Eve had actually 'fessed up to God instead of making clothing out of just might be a theologian.

If your Christmas list includes the Summa because you already wore your volumes just might be a theologian!

If you have ever fallen asleep in the chapel only to wake up and write the most brilliant explanation of a point of doctrine you didn't previously understand, and later learn that what you wrote was completely faithful to Church just might be a theologian.

If you know the importance of the 1966 New Jerusalem Bible and what the modern versions just might be a theologian.

If you have ever installed a coffee pot on your DESK! just might be a theologian!

If you have more theological books than you have just might be a theologian!

If you are reading blogs and you see demands for this or that person to be excommunicated or suffer some other punishment, you think to yourself, "Canon 18!" just might be a theologian!

If you have ever felt like someone was attacking your Mother when they were attacking the just might be a theologian.

If your mother keeps a rosary on her rear-view mirror and several other sets in the just might be a theologian.

If you know what a chokti is and what it's for and why some people would never sell one to you if you are Roman just might be a theologian.

If you know the ONLY only canonical context of the word "Vocation" just might be a theologian.

If you can look at any topic of theology and see that it points to just might be a theologian.

If you know the history of the priesthood and how it developed in the different suri iuris's of the just might be a theologian. 

If you know what "suri iuris" means and the canonical import as it applies to an unbaptized child at the age of reason if he or she has parents of differing just might be a theologian.

If your car has BOOKS in place of just might be a redneck....ahem...ah.... theologian without a proper jack.  

If you can type and pray the rosary at the same just might be a theologian.

If you have a question NONE of your theology professors have been able to just might be a theologian.  

If someone comes into your office with a question on contraception and you print out a copy of Humanae Vitae from a shortcut on your favorites just might be a theologian.

If you think that God made coffee to prove to us that He loves us and wants to be might just be a theologian (even if Benjamin Franklin applied it to beer) 

If you have ever been present when a priest in good standing gave a blessing in LATIN to the beer you were about to just might be a theologian.

If you know what the "Q" document is and why it's a load of just might be a theologian.

If you can pontificate on the theological truths revealed in "The Gods Must be Crazy" just might be a theologian.  

If your BOOKS have wheels and your computer desk doesn' just might be a theologian!

If your parents met on a pilgrimage to the Vatican or the Holy just might be a theologian.

If your teenagers are going hungry tonight because it's just might be a theologian.

If you decorate your house in accordance with the liturgical just might be a theologian.

If your job requires you to wear a dog dish and platter once per year in the just might be a theologian.  

If you name your sons Matthew, Mark, Luke and just might be a Rad Trad.

If you name your sons Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and just might be a theologian.

If you name your girls Mary Agnes, Mary Francis, Mary Elizabeth and Mary just might be a fan of Flannery O'Connor.

If you name your girls Sarah, Esther, Judith, and just might be a theologian.

If you are in possession of several relics and house them in a proper shrine in your just might be a theologian.

If you know the difference between a Papal Bull, Encyclical, Apostolic Exhortation and General just might be a theologian.

If you have EVER gotten into a discussion on the authorship of John's Gospel and Revelation in a random location with someone you have never just might be a theologian.

If you have a Holy Card Hunt instead of an "Easter Egg Hunt" on the day the Church celebrates the Resurrection of just might be a theologian.

If you have your last classroom session on the Feast of the Ascension and your graduation ceremony on a First Friday in June and know why these days are significant to the just might be a theologian.

*   *   *

"Theologians"....add your own! 

Friday, May 14, 2010


I left work a little early today to take care of a few errands before we go into our last long class weekend of our 3 years together.

As we quite literally sit in a classroom for 18 hours between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, I won't have time to run necessary errands so took that time today.  One of those errands took me to the vet clinic to pick up my dog's annual pack of heartworm preventative. When the tech pulled up the screen to verify my info, I saw displayed there both dogs.

My eyes were immediately drawn to Fire's name, and the big, capitalized, starred letters spelling out "***EUTHANIZED****"

I had to swallow hard for a moment, remembering that day all too clearly. This afternoon, as I arrived during the office lunch hour, I was taken back to that terrible Tuesday afternoon, the raw grief coming back to the surface as I recalled  my sorrowful exit from the empty office during that same quiet hour.

It was a beautiful July day, much like today, it was sunny, and when I returned home, my car was empty. The agonized presence of my greyhound was no longer there; instead I was left in a different kind of agony, one that slowly ebbed away over the following days, weeks, and months.

Fire was the first pet I ever had to have "put to sleep" as the euphemism goes. It was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, and to this day I have no idea how I was able to drive to the vet clinic and then back home.

I didn't expect to run into that particular ghost today, but there it is. It will make my weekend even more bittersweet, for a few days after Fire died, I began my graduate school career. It is a reminder that even in our most joyful occasions, we carry our suffering and together, they form and perfect us in ways only God can see.

Dang, sometimes I miss that big goofy greyhound so much!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It is Finished

Professors, into thy hands I commit my final papers. 

What I have written, I have written. 

Let the MTS be granted to me according to thy word.

NOW what?

Academic Panic

I am ending my academic career in the same way I began it:   in complete panic.

The first class I took as a part of this program meant the first academic papers I'd written in....well, too many years.  Although I'd had education in between my undergrad years and then, that education consisted of more hands-on or multiple-choice types of tests, versus writing papers, and so, I found I had to stretch my brain a bit and it was quite painful!

Quite literally, there were times that first semester that had me in tears of panic, thinking, "I can't do this anymore!"

The panic calmed, more or less, over the last few years, and now I am staring down my very last deadline, terrified I'll be unable to meet it.

I confess that I'm not even sure I've done my final paper for Pastoral Theology correctly. Given the topic and the short length of the paper, it's an exercise in being concise and utilizing key words and phrases to convey my point. I have a "system" in place, but is it what the professor is looking for? Am I making my point? Am I doing this correctly or have I overly-generalized and at risk of turning in a final paper that will be a greater embarrassment to my grad program than it even is to me?

I'm taking this afternoon off work so that I can come home, plop down at my desk, stare at my paper and probably regress to year one. I need to get this paper turned in TONIGHT.

The final fork awaits....can someone please deliver several boxes of kleenexes to my door so that I may utilize them this afternoon?


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Troll Roast

I just received this comment on this old post from 2005:

Dirk has left a new comment on your post "Those who fight monsters":

Die in a car fire!!! I love it!

This so retarded! Christians are so retarded! Religion is "ubber" retarded!

Trolls, please take note:

If you have any shred of dignity left in you whatsoever and choose to flame me, please make sure that you don't step in burning turds as you flee in cowardice.

The individal above who apparently mistook my comment field for a litterbox and dropped the above specimen may still be at large and in need of a burn unit as I doubt he lacked the intellectual and probably, spinal, ability to avoid going up in his own flames.

Further, if you ARE going to drop a flaming specimen of your own refuse, I would also recommend having a vocabulary consisting of at least a few more words than the number of fingers on both hands.

Please, Troll, for the love of God, if you're going to insult my intelligence and that of all Christians, make certain you have first removed your cranium from your anal orifice so that you do not end up even more greatly insulting yourself.

P.S. Dirk, you should be advised that the word "Uber" has only 1 "b" in it. I don't expect you get get the umlaut, but four letter words are generally fairly easy to spell, and the improper and unnecessary use of "scare quotes" in your specimen indicate you need to return to grammar school in order to learn the proper use of punctuation and spelling. 

Ah, I love the smell of roasting Trolls on a Wednesday afternoon!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Answered Prayer?

This morning I opened up the Office of Readings and immediately my eyes fell upon my favorite antiphon:  "Surrender to God and he will do everything for you."

Recalling my decision from yesterday to do just that I chucked a little. As much as I love that prayer and want desperately to live up to it, I have to admit that, deep down, I don't really trust in that prayer...and therefore I don't really trust God.  I walk up to him with the weight of the world on my shoulders, hand it all over to Him, and as He takes it from me I keep my hands on it. I won't let go. "Just in case".  Because if I let go of it, and it gets dropped and shatters....what will happen to me?

And so I continue to hold on.

I've been, and continue to be, very very concerned about what's going to happen in the next few months. I have time I don't want to waste, but in all honesty, although I am still discerning, I am a bit more focused about what exactly I want to discern, even if only to rule it out definitively. I don't have any intention to "community shop", but I still have to guard against the temptation to do so in the name of "not wasting time."

I have been praying a great deal about what I am being called to do, not just with my life in general, but with my upcoming summer.

Today, I may have received an answer.

In a meeting with my supervisor, she closed the door and told me she had a proposal for me to think about. During the summer I am down to 10 hours per week; that's the contract, and it's brutal.  However, she had gone to our Business Administrator, recognizing that there is a need in the summer for SOMEONE to have more hours, because the youth minister is running ragged with everything she is doing with very little support.

So, the proposal is this:  instead of only 10 hours per week for 6 weeks, they can offer me 25 hours per week, in the interest of assisting the youth minister with her summer events and all the prep that goes into them, and also to further developing the programs we have going on during the school year.

My supervisor knows I'm discerning, and said that they could perhaps structure the hours in a particular way that will allow me the time off I need while still meeting their summer goals.

25 hours won't be enough to save me from bankruptcy, but it might stave it off a little, and, who knows?  Perhaps I'll find a way to make a little money through freelance writing or some other thing.

I told her I would pray about it, but I have only until Friday to make a decision.  I am seriously considering this offer and will probably answer in the affirmative. Often God's will is right in front of us, and perhaps there's more but we have to take Him up on one part before He reveals the rest of His plan.  This may be one of those cases.

Other Plans....

In looking ahead at life without school, I am considering many possibilities in ways to spend my time. I can work on my book, finally, and maybe finish it, then get it to publication.  A friend of mine started to take up writing icons, something I've wanted to do for a few years now, and if I can amass the money for the lessons, I may seek to study under the same person my friend went to.  Or maybe just take an art class, finally, and begin to develop the few skills I have to see if they go any further than a few cheap charcoal drawings.

I have a stack of books I've been wanting to read, and finally, I'll have time to do so! I'll have more time to spend with my dog, and maybe I'll foster another one. God knows the need!

So, although I admit I am facing the near future with a great deal of trepidation, I am looking forward in the light of hope, of knowing there IS  future, and that alone is a gift.

Although vocational discernment is at  the forefront, never far from my thoughts, never apart from my prayers, I am still called to live the life I have been given, and within that, recognize the incredible glory of God in even the simplest of desires.

I really hope, though, that in all of this, both the simple and the profound, I might finally find real trust in God, and finally, when it's time, take whatever leap He is asking me to take, knowing He will never let me fall.

Dear God, give me the grace to trust you.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I've made a decision....of sorts.

Today I received a response back to my most recent letter to the Passionists in St. Louis, which I sent under obedience to my spiritual director's orders. Sister is inviting me to visit them, in spite of what I revealed as a very peppered history and a hopeless amount of debt and obstacles.  My age, apparently, is not an issue; she reads in my letters sincerity, and in fact has not told the community about me as I am, in her words, "so far in the future".  By that she means that I won't be entering by May or August or October.  Yes, I'm an "if" but I am far in the future.

I gather from what she says that they are experiencing an unusually high number of inquiries and visits this year, and this is wonderful to "hear".  Please keep the St. Louis Passionists in your most heartfelt prayers!  I don't know if I will visit, or whether if I do, their particular community is for me, but this increase for them is a sign of the workings of the Holy Spirit, the life of the Church, and may He call MANY to this charism to offer their lives in union with the Passion of Our Lord! may be wondering, what is the "decision" I have made?

I may be speaking prematurely, but the one thing I know is that in order to progress in any way, I need to make a decision.  In looking at my life and circumstances through the lens of reason, I know when I can and can't visit religious communities. The great irony in working for the Church is that it is not easy to take more than a day or so away, for quite literally, my presence is required in nearly everything we do. There are times where it can be filled with volunteers or taken over briefly by a co-worker (at least in this parish),. but the reality is that I am not free to enter into discernment during the academic year. Of course, my own graduate studies has had something to do with this over the last three years, too.  Next school year will be a little different, but what is not being given to my own education is, really, going to translate into even MORE work and activities and crazy hours at the parish. That is the nature of working for the Church:  you give EVERYTHING whether you have it or not. 

That is the nature of God, deep calling into deep.

So, now, again,  I am facing another summer, a great gift of TIME, but also again, without the benefit of income.

Last year, about "now" when I met with my spiritual director and expressed my panic of oncoming financial disaster, he told me, "God is asking you to trust Him."  

He was right then, and I think, even more so now.  This year, though, the situation even more precarious:  It's not just the mortgage and credit for car repairs/maintenance & other random necessities I'm trying to pay, but now, both my undergrad loans (which have been subsidized in deferment while in school), and my UNsubsidized graduate loans, are all coming due. In fact, my grad loans have been due for the last few years, but have been in deferment in their unsubsidized state. Ergo: I owe more than my education actually costs.  

All I can see in front of me is disaster. And, having been in the job market even when it was good, even back when I was making decent money, well, I've NEVER had a job that will pay what I owe right now on a monthly basis.

And I have NEVER intended to be in a position to not pay my bills. I have always intended to pay them and have always worked hard to make sure I'm holding up my end. Thus far, I have excellent credit and I even keep an interior rolodex of money owed to people who helped me along the way, whether intended or not. I want to pay even that undocumented debt...and I WILL. Come hell and high water both at the same time, I was raised right, and I. Will. Pay. My. Debts. ESPECIALLY the personal ones.


It doesn't make any logical sense, therefore, to state right now that I am giving this summer, again, to God.  

But I declare it so; this summer belongs to God. My Vocation is more important than anything else, because my salvation is dependent upon my Fiat to God in every circumstance. It is not that I effect my eternity, but a matter of operatio sequitor essse:  grace builds upon nature. 

A year ago I noted that we all work so hard for money, when really, all we really desire, all we really need, is actual TIME.  How many professionals have TIME to spend? Vacations are limited, overtime is premium pay, and in America, we tend to be obsessed with our jobs and what we put into them. 

I don't care anymore about Corporate America. I care to pay what I owe, but more than anything, I want to give to God what I owe HIM, and that is...time.  It is nearly impossible to find TIME for anything, but here it is, in my lap. I don't want to waste it. Live is not about making money, but about who we are in relation to God.

The other night, I was reminded that my life is not my own; I am called to lay it down, as are we all. 

Life to the Author of Life

Saturday evening, the vigil of  Mother's Day, after Mass I purchased three roses. One for one of my volunteers (who left before I could give it to her), one for my Mother whom I am not going to see for several weeks, and one to give the Blessed Mother.

I was almost in tears when I realized I'd purchased the rose too late for my volunteer, who has been so helpful to me this year, and really, ever since I began in my position.  Such a small token of respect, and I couldn't even give it to her! I considered leaving it for her, but realized by morning it would be wilted. I considered asking the people selling the roses (parishioners) to perhaps give it to her the next day, but realized in their busy-ness, it might be forgotten.

I wanted to give a rose to my mother, but as I wouldn't see her as usual for Mother's Day, I suddenly understood I had an option, one Mom would appreciate, one I would as well. After all....she raised me!

When I left work with the three roses, I drove to my home parish and went to the statues of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sacred Heart of Jesus. They aren't in the Adoration chapel, but in the main sanctuary of my parish, and I KNEW this was where I should make my offering. I laid the roses at the feet of the Immaculate Heart:  one in the name of my volunteer, one in my Mother's name, one...from me. Each was a different color, each, a different purpose. 

Two of those roses were in thanksgiving for lives lived according to God's plan.  One was in hope of a life yet to be fulfilled, but thanksgiving for the chance.

As I looked at those roses, I thought to myself, "I have just given God something HE created. How lame."

Then I understood a deeper lesson.  A lesson that brought home again the fact that we are not our own. We do not even possess ourselves. We "do what we do not want to do" in a constant battle against our passions, and therein is our own Passion; the Passion only revealed in light of the Cross.

I knew that it was one thing to hand a rose to Our Lord through His Mother, but it was merely symbolic of what I need to do: to lay down my own life. 

Roses die and enter the dumpster.

Souls grow and are united with the eternal life of God Himself. 

When I gave my rose this year, I did it as a symbol of my intention, my lived hope to not just lay down my life, but to enter into eternal holiness.  Not just in a symbol, but in reality.

I don't care if I have to live in a van down by the river:  my heart and soul belong to Jesus, and if that is true, so does my debt. Whatever be it.Jesus, I trust in thee. No matter what comes..I trust in Thee. Even if I have to live in a van down by the river.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Few, the Ragged, the Humble: The Remnants

You can still find them there.

The remnants of times gone by.

They kneel in their pews, their heads covered, their gnarled fingers imperceptibly crawling along their beads as they stare either downward towards those archaic prayers, or, rather, focus on a particular point before them.  You can walk in front of them, you can drop kneelers or even hit a pew with a sledgehammer, and they will not move, will not acknowledge your ministrations of random noisemaking, even if you carry it out directly in front of them.  They don't move. They are more stalwart than the most steady Marine at guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the British Guards at Buckingham Palace, or the Swiss Guards protecting the Vatican.

Hollywood loves to portray the Catholic Church in this way; sometimes they do so just to pull in the stereotypes, complete with a priest hanging out in a box; a priest who clearly has nothing better to do and spends his life pathetically awaiting the penitents who never come, unless, of course, those who do bring with them a ragtag bunch of cameramen hoping to imitate the success of  Hitchcock's "I Confess".

If clinging to the old artful stereotypes doesn't work, Hollywood has their own version of aggiornamiento, involving the same setting, but casting a sense of perpetual evil in the place of holiness, in vilifying the saint instead of canonizing the human, whether he be clergy or the little old Italian babushka hiding a deep secret of her true identity.

Still, "Hollywood" fails with radical dismality, for they lack both the faith and the art to understand the reality of the Catholic Church and even more directly, the prayers of the living "relics" who make up the powerhouse that defies popular categorization.

What happens most often in our age, through the media, is an ancient portrayal of Catholicism, a portrayal involving all that was beautiful, all that involves our patrimony. In reality, if one were to view such an image and walk into an average Catholic Church of our time, most likely they would be not just disappointed, but outright scandalized.

There is nothing in the vast majority of Catholic church buildings that transcends. Most Protestants visit Catholic parishes and think to themselves, never verbalizing their criticism for fear of offense towards their Catholic bretheren, "Why the HELL did you do THAT to your church?"

They come expecting beauty, and they get Podunk City Hall in BF Egypt.

People are so underwhelmed by the lack of transcendence that they fail to notice the humble figures at prayer in spite of spartan, or in some cases, outright offensive surroundings.

The Praying Babushka

Admit it.  We all love the idea, if only that, of entering a Catholic church, noting the symbols of our faith, and really, don't we take comfort from the woman or man praying at the shrines, or, maybe, just kneeling in a random pew having private recourse to God in His own House?

Isn't that comforting?  Doesn't that image draw you in, and invite you to lay your own burdens at the foot of the Cross?  Doesn't that  very presence of a praying person make us wonder, deeply, if maybe they might pray for us, too?

Popular culture would have us believe the Church is dying, but for years and years now, the vanguard of Popular Culture has revealed images of Catholicism recognizable to souls throughout the centuries:  the priest in the box, the praying babushka. The images encompass the darkness of sin and the simple holiness of the humble, unknown saint.

We don't see Hollywood film the "Church" so many of us have attended since birth, though, because no self-respecting film director finds "art" in modern Catholic parishes. There is nothing to set us apart these days from our Protestant counterparts. Most Catholic parishes haven't the art, the architecture, or the faith to draw the attention of Hollywood anymore. We're so lacking in beauty these days that we might as well be a neutral version of Andy Warhol's monochromatic series in  beige.

It wasn't always so, and, in isn't so.

The Church is a visible, living structure. She is the Bride of Christ, a Holy Nation, the Mystical Body of our Savior.  She is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.


One can walk into many parishes in my diocese and find the backbone of the Church, the small, unnoticed, stereotyped and ridiculed souls at prayer. Sometimes their heads are covered with demure scarves. Sometimes with various forms of lace. Sometimes with hats. Usually with no headcovering at all, for such is not a dominant custom in our age. Yet they come, people of faith, they kneel, and they pray. They come at all hours of the day and night, for Mass and to remain or to come back for the silence and prayer afforded by the deep sanctuary of the chapel seeking solace and making intercession in the presence of Christ Himself.

There is comfort in the flickering light of the Sanctuary candles, there is confidence gained through the blaze that lights up the votives to the Saints who are constant in prayer in their state of beatitude.  There is humility to be found in both the brightest and darkest of chapels, and in all places, the faithful are laying down their lives from their very roots.

They are the remnants, they are the seed, and they are the new growth.

Some laugh at the Catholic Church, and say she is dying.

They of little faith will be astonished witnesses to the Resurrection, in our very own age. They will recall the purgation, they will remember their own ridicule, and in the end, they will fall to their knees and find that the perceived remnant was really only the catalyst, the moss that clung to the rock to make life possible for others.

They say that the Church is a remnant of a time gone by, when in reality, the world is only gossamer, but the Church is eternal.


Friday, May 07, 2010

On the Importance of the Distinction Between Apostolate and Ministry

This is a paper I turned in last month for Pastoral theology. Our professor, a very good Thomist, gave us all a certain creative freedom in our response, and as I've written a couple Summa-inspired parodies, I thought perhaps I could use the skill in a more serious academic way as well. I just got the paper back with a very high grade and kudos from the professor (what a relief!). 

So, now, at least certain that for once I have written something without heresy, I present to you food for thought, and encourage you all to help restrict the term "ministry" to the proper venue.  Without further ado:

Question: On the importance of the distinction between the terms “ministry” and “apostolate”

Objection 1: It would seem that the term “apostolate” would apply to the successors of the apostles and the term “ministry” has a more universal application and understanding.
Objection 2: One who engages in ministry should be termed “minister”.
Objection 3: It seems the distinction is unnecessary because many who minister are in an apostolate and vice versa. To wit; it is unnecessary because the terms are not mutually exclusive nor are they necessarily mutually inclusive.

On the Contrary, it is important to draw the distinction in terms, for, as many theologians have noted, a lack of distinction in terms has led to larger consequences as it applies to doctrines taught by the Church with regard to ministry. In 1994 John Paul II stated, “It must be admitted that the language becomes doubtful, confused and hence not helpful for expression the doctrine of the faith whenever the difference ‘of essence and not merely of degree’ between the baptismal priesthood and the ordained priesthood is in any way obscured." (LG, 10) He also stated in the same document, “We cannot increase the communion and unity of the church by ‘clericalizing’ the lay faithful or by ‘laicizing’ priests.” (1)

I answer that although the definitions of the two terms, “Apostolate” and “Ministry” have not been formally defined to complete satisfaction, in a review of several official Church documents it becomes clear that the words do have specific applications. We can note especially that the Vatican II documents (see especially Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity) exclusively used the term “Apostolate” to apply to the work of the laity in carrying out the mission of the Church in the world. The word “minister” and “ministry”, in fact, has both historically and, as emphasized in Vatican II only applied to those who have received Holy Orders.

Reply to Objection 1: It would seem that the term “Apostolate” has a wider application. “Every activity of the Mystical Body with this in view goes by the name of “apostolate”; the Church exercises it through all its members, though in various ways.” (2)   However, throughout history, the term “ministry” has been restricted to apply only to the activities that flow from Holy Orders in the sacred actions of word and sacrament. Vatican II, as well was very specific in its use of “ministry” as applicable to the work of the Ordained Ministers, and the term “Apostolate” to the work of the laity, especially as it applies in the world. Apostilicam Actuositatem emphasized especially the right and duty of the Catholic faithful to carry out apostolic activity in the Church’s work of sanctifying the world. “From the fact of their union with Christ the head flows the laymen’s right and duty to be apostles. Inserted as they are in the Mystical Body of Christ by baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, it is by the Lord himself that they are assigned to the apostolate.” (3) It would seem, therefore, that the term “Ministry” applies properly to the Ministerial Priesthood which is granted specifically through Holy Orders, and the term “Apostolate” applies to the Lay Faithful which is granted and nourished by Baptism and Confirmation.

Reply to Objection 2: The use of the term “minister” has been reserved for the ministerial priesthood; that is, those who have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and have taken on the character of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The work of the priest, that is, his ministry, flows from that sacramental character to minister to the people of God in exercising the offices of Priest, Prophet, and King. The 1983 Code of Canon Law extended the privilege of admitting some of the laity to participate in certain liturgical or catechetical offices. This work of the laity in those offices, however, flows not from Holy Orders itself, but out of their own foundation in Baptism and Confirmation, and granted only through the commission of a Priest or a Bishop. Those of the laity who participate in the work of the Priest in the work that does not absolutely require Clergy, such as in liturgical positions (Cantor, Lector, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) have an extraordinary character; it is a privilege, not a right and it has limited scope.

In Christifideles laici, John Paul II discussed the fact that although the 1983 Code of Canon Law allowed for lay persons to exercise certain ministries normally belonging to clergy, “…the exercise of such tasks does not make the lay faithful pastors: in fact a person is not a minister simply in performing a task, but through sacramental ordination. Only the Sacrament of Orders gives the ordained minister a particular participation in the office of Christ…” (4)

It would be totally inappropriate for one who serves as a Lector, for example to refer to himself as a “Minister”. It is proper in that case, however, for him to understand that he participates in ministry. Likewise, the teaching office of the Church which flows through Holy Orders may be carried out, through commission, by the laity. In this case, it would be proper for the lay people who do the work of catechesis, that is, handing on the Faith, to recognize that their work is a ministry which is a participation in the ministry of the Priesthood. However, a catechist is not a minister; but rather, enjoys a participation in the ministry.

Reply to Objection 3: Certainly it can be observed that the Clergy participates also in Apostolate, and in some cases, the Lay Faithful are granted the privilege of participating in the Ministry of the Priesthood. However, this does not make the terms mutually exclusive or inclusive, which is why the distinction in terms is clearly necessary. Christifideles laici revealed that in the Synod Assembly, there was a critical judgment voiced regarding a too-indiscriminate use of the word “ministry”. This over-use caused “…the confusion and equating of the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, the lack of observance of ecclesiastical laws and norms…the tendency towards a ‘clericalization’ of the lay faithful and risk of creating…an ecclesial structure of parallel service to that founded on the Sacrament of Holy Orders.” (5)    As stated above, in the replies to the first and second objections, the use of terms in Objection 3 are founded upon a lack of definition of terms and thus a misunderstanding of the character belonging to each term and inherent mission indicated by it. To properly distinguish “ministry” and “apostolate” is truly revelatory of the mission of the Church and the complimentary roles and charisms that belong to both clergy and laity from within their specific areas of responsibility. The Church cannot exist without the Lay Apostolate; nor can the Lay Apostolate exist without the Ministry of the Priesthood.

1. Address of John Paul II, April 22, 1994
2. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 2
3. ibid, 3
4. Christifideles laici, 23
5. ibid.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Once and for Always

Readers local to me are probably all very well aware of Sgt. Joseph Bergeron's death in the line of duty last Saturday, and of his funeral and burial today. I haven't said anything about it here on the blog, but just as everyone else, it has left me horrified. Although I was not able to attend the funeral, KARE11 live streamed it so I was able to catch parts from my desk at work, and many times had to blink back not just tears, but sobs.

No, I didn't know him, but I do know grief, and like his daughters, I, too, lost my father, although not through such violence. I sorrow for and with Sgt. Bergeron's family, if from afar, and as an ex-officer, I sorrow with Police Officers everywhere, especially those in Maplewood.  

I'm going to re-post a tribute I wrote many years ago, but first I need to provide a little explanation.

My cousin George, who died a year ago, was a cop for several years. He taught me how to shoot, he helped me make connections and as his wife told me at his own funeral, I was "always really special to him", but he was clearly always very special to me, too.  I'm sure my leaving Law Enforcement was a bit of a mystery to him, but he never asked, understanding that I really didn't want to talk about it very much.  I had called him after I resigned, and he said something to me I questioned at the time, given that my career was so short. But he understood something I couldn't grasp at the time:  the Job changes you.

When my cousin learned that I had no plans to pursue another law enforcement position, he simply said to me, "Once a cop...always a cop."  Over my protests, he went on to explain what he meant. He told me that I didn't see the world in the same way any more, I wasn't going to react to things like other people do, and I was going to find in many ways that even though I had left the Job, it wasn't going to leave me.

I found that he was right. The first cop to be murdered by a suspect was Tim Bowe, a State Trooper who was ambushed when he responded to a domestic violence call. Even though I hadn't been a cop for months by then, his death really rattled me. So has every cop's death since then.  Although the "once a cop always a cop" syndrome has hit me in many other ways over the years, I wrote the following essay/tribute while trying to grasp the reality of what had happened, out of my own brief experience and "inside" understanding of law enforcement.

Please understand that the following tribute is fictionalized; some of the experiences were mine, but I was writing from the perspective of "Everycop". The first paragraphs are my experience of training and why I got into law enforcement, but the rest is a generalized mix.

Don't Call My Name

I decided a long time ago to become a police officer. My family was shocked and most of them decided that I was insane. They spoke to me as if I were an irrational child, and everyone, EVERYONE, asked me "WHY!?"  I neither defended nor explained my choice. The simple reason was this: there was no rational or logical reason in the world for my desire to become a police officer. I knew the risks I'd be taking and I understood my family's concern.

So I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I went through the training where they made us run miles and hold the push-up position for what seemed like hours while we listened to our instructor give us his life story. They made us take our turns at leading calisthenics and if we didn't give it our all, they made us do extra. They stuck us in the "gas chamber" and gave us tear gas, CS gas, and pepper spray just to be sure we got our "money's worth" of education. They twisted our joints and shot at us, and throughout the training, they impressed upon us that no matter what happened, no matter how serious the injury, how intense the fear, or how close the panic, we were always to be in control of ourselves and the situation. They taught us the mentality necessary for survival on the streets. And they told us story after story of heroes fallen in the line of duty. They taught us to learn from their mistakes as well as our own and how to not make the same mistake twice. We may never get a second chance.

Throughout it all, I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

When I was finally hired, I raised my right hand to give my oath to God, my Country, my State, City and Department, to uphold the Constitution of the United States, enforce the laws, to Serve and to Protect. In a room full of collegues, family, and superiors, I gave my oath and silently prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I wore my brand-new uniform with pride, pinned on my badge, strapped on my vest, and holstered my loaded gun for the first time. As I did so, the full weight of my responsibility settled upon my soul. I experienced for the first time the taste of the knowledge that accompanies fear; sometimes "serving and protecting" means taking a life or risking my I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I rode in a squad car, patrolled the strets, stopped offenders, served warrants, subpoenas, and took reports. I turned in documents upon which I had written, "status/inactive", knowing that someone's home, life, and rights were somehow violated, but I was unable to provide the solution they needed me to offer. I realized that although I was young and inexperienced, I was suddenly "Authority", and I supposedly had "the answer" the people I served were seeking. I comforted the grieving, warned the disorderly, and stopped the assault. I restored safety, referred people to other agencies for problems I couldn't fix, and I tracked down runaways and returned them to their parents, caring or otherwise. I held the hands of children trapped in twisted metal and I helped to save the life of someone's family member. Each and every day I saw both the best and the worst of human nature.

However, I always knew that I was not immune to the tragedies that strike unprovoked, so I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I learned early that because I wore a uniform and a badge, I was no longer my own person. My life was not mine; it belonged to the public and my reputation was relegated to the same. I became the target of hatred, unforgiving glares, and pointing fingers. Likewise I was seen as an expert in the law and the solution to life gone somehow awry. And I felt incredibly inept.

So I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I attended the funeral of a fellow officer who had fallen in the line of duty. I gave my condolences to his family and friends and I shared in their grief. As I paid my respects and said my goodbyes to the officer in the casket, I realized that his death was not personal. He was killed because he wore a uniform and a badge. He died for what he represented, not for who he really was. I knew that it could just as easily be any one of the thousands of officers who do the same job lying in that casket. I also knew that no matter who it was, the death would not be any easier to accept. And as the tears came to my eyes I understood the full impact of the identity I shared with this individual. And I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

When I flipped on the lights, switched on the siren and screamed through crowded intersections en route to a call of a "man with a gun," and as I risked my life to reach an unknown situation, I knew that I couldn't spend my career, and thus my life, fearing that my name would be called. So I put my life into the hands of the Lord and I did the job that no one else would.

I stood by the closed door, drawing my weapon as, from the other side, came the unmistakable sound of a live round striking the empty chamber of an unidentified gun. I didn't need to see the frightened eyes of the victim to know that I was living someone else's desperate prayer. I knew why I was there.

"God, you already called my name."

** (originally written winter of 1997, published to my blog April 16, 2007) **

Thank you, Sgt. Bergeron, for answering the call.
May you rest in peace

Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat (Requiéscant) in pace.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he and all the Holy Souls rest in peace.