Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

List five things for which you are grateful

September 16, 2011

It is not often that I head to the prison in a really piss-poor mood. Just what the guys need, a cranky presider at the third Friday communion service. I had even entertained putting them on alert at the start of the service, especially those who are always yakking away  along the side wall.

But as I stopped by my local parish to pick up consecrated hosts, the massive silence of the empty church began to take hold of me. Counting out the 12 hosts has always been a solemn exercise and was no less so today.

Stopping by the post office with the 15th of the month bills followed by getting the car partially filled up … used up the stub-end of a couple of gift cards … and then driving the hour and a half to the prison was all very therapeutic.

We had a wonderful communion service followed by a 45-minute discussion in response to the statement: List five things for which you are grateful. Each of the 16 offenders had a small piece of paper to list his items of gratitude, and each one shared his list with the whole group. Really quite moving.

My final visit at the prison today was to a man in the infirmary who is “gratitude personified.” He is a terminal case, can’t see well, but always has a smile and welcomes the Eucharist. He also shared with me five things for which he is grateful.

In any event, I left my mood somewhere along the highway on the way to the prison.

But I’m a Christian first!

September 12, 2011

Note: If you are really pleased with the Catholic Church as it is today, you may not want to  read any further.


There was an unexpected comment from inside a prison cell during my visit on Wednesday of last week:

“The one religion I have no use for is Catholic.” He’s Muslim.

“Really?” I said

“Catholics are creepy! All that sexual abuse of kids.”

“You know, I’m Catholic.”

“You are?”

“But I’m a Christian first!”

Ever since that exchange (and we did continue talking), I have wondered what prompted me to say that. My not identifying with the institutional church is certainly part of it. Wondering what bishops, cardinals, and the pope bring to the party is another part.

The thing that keeps me in the Catholic faith is that there is nowhere else to go. Also, I need to remember the influence of the Sacraments and of our tradition upon who I have become … along with God’s grace.

I’m simply not big on the hierarchy and all the pomp and trappings that go with it. I still imagine Jesus roaming around the Vatican or any diocesan office wondering how all this came out of his demonstrating and talking about leading a humble and loving life.

Our local bishop provides ceremonial, administrative, and managerial support to the faith communities in the archdiocese. That is good and necessary. But I don’t look to him for guidance in matters of faith and morals. I look to the members of our faith community under the guidance of our pastors.

To me, the bishops in this country have nothing to say. Perhaps they will someday, but for now their voice lacks credibility and is usually out of step with those in the pews. The corporate  insensitivity and cover-ups displayed toward the sexual abuse of our children can never be excused. Forgiven by some, but never excused.

I believe to be a good Catholic is to be a good Christian, to follow Jesus in his words and actions, to hear and keep the gospel message. Is that what we see and hear from the hierarchy? No.  What we see and hear is exclusion, intolerance, arrogance, a group that is tone-deaf, a group that fails to listen to the faithful (at least those of us without money).

We see and hear from the hierarchy an asymmetrical view of the human experience, an undue focus on sexual issues rather than on loving relationships. Other things in their portfolio of issues include abortion, gays, maintaining 7 Sacraments for men and only 6 Sacraments for women. Gee, that last issue said that way smacks of theological ignorance, except we know it’s all about power anyway and theology has nothing to do with it.

The U.S. bishops’ bi-annual inserting of themselves into the political process is nonsense and, as we have seen, can cause much damage through encouraging voting for those who are insufficiently pro-live, voting for those care more for the unborn than for breathing citizens in need. I should say that they claim to care for the unborn.

Our bishops also encouraged voting for and electing an administration filled with fear and vengeance rather than hope and forgiveness. But unthinking conservatism doe spawn more unthinking conservatism, and election time is just around the corner once more. The archbishop before this one thought the war in Iraq was a “just” war. And so it goes.

I could go on, but a conversation at a cell door does bring up many, many things to reflect upon.

Ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag

May 4, 2011

One can’t get much more progressive in the Catholic church than I am without getting the heave-ho,  excommunicated. So I was somewhat surprised at myself for how annoyed I became when the liturgy of the Mass was messed with to the point of being distracting, to the point of nearly being a farce.

When one goes home without seeing either the Liturgy of the Word or the Liturgy of the Eucharist as being a high point or central to the gathering of the community, then something has gone wrong.

If one isn’t careful with the Easter Vigil, the evening can become the proverbial ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag. The evening should be solemn yet joyful, and the four parts of the liturgy should be kept in balance at a minimum. Once either the Service of the Light or the Baptism becomes a scene stealer, or a performance, the Mass becomes liturgically ineffective.

I think I more fully understand why the Committee on Divine Worship tries to keep the lid on things. It wouldn’t take long for an “anything goes” worship approach to take over.

I wonder …

February 19, 2011

I wonder if most of those who pay the top marginal income tax rate, 35%, were to have it raised back to 39.6%, would  even notice … if their tax accountant didn’t tell them. The folks don’t need the money, and the shortfall will be picked up by those who do.

I wonder how our Roman Catholic dioceses would be led  if there wasn’t a “red hat” to aim for? Or even an archbishop title? Or if there was no bishop at all? Couldn’t there be a rotational administrator for, say, a six-year term? Elected by fellow priests of the diocese? Or does it even need to be a priest? I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest there would be a more pastoral presence and less abusive, thoughtless, and unchristian displays of power … as in Phoenix, Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis over the past several years.

I wonder why waterboarding (no segue intended) is referred to as “simulated” drowning. The person is actually drowning. A more accurate description would be: a drowning interrupted. Torture? Without a doubt. But regrettably prohibited by “quaint” international conventions, or so we were told Messrs. Chaney and Yoo. Care to try it gentlemen?

I wonder why the snowplow waits to come by until after I’ve cleared the end of the driveway?

I wonder why so many recent memoirs from the world of politics are listed under nonfiction? They do, however, provide good raw material for forensic historians. I saw one of the authors interviewed on television. He still has no idea what the hell happened under his watch!

I wonder why some gas station owners raise the price immediately … with underground tanks full of cheaper gasoline, but lower the price slowly until the storage tanks are pretty much depleted of more expensive gas?

I wonder why one needs to speak up to avoid being seated by the restrooms in a nearly empty restaurant? And with reservations no less?

I wonder why some people are so fearful of theocracies being established in other countries and yet seem to be doing everything they can to establish one here. If you want to see a horror show, live under a Christian theocracy … the history books are full of information if you are curious. “Kill the infidel” has been around for a long, long time under many guises. It all begins with orchestrating what our children read, or don’t read, in their textbooks, and what is taught, or not taught, in the schools. I’ll take a secular state, thank you.

I wonder why bloody, violent, psychopathic crimes will be displayed on TV as early as 8:00, Criminal Minds for example, but any steamy scenes (other than soaps while the kids are in school or playing outside) are on at 9:00 or later. Which can do more damage to our sensibilities?

What a pleasant surprise

December 25, 2010

What a pleasant surprise to find myself in the choir loft following a 32 year absence. Our choir director wanted to expand the usual 9:00 Mass choir to form a Festival Chorus for Christmas Eve Mass. A few practices and a single commitment,  something I can handle, and I signed up.

Back in Muscatine, Iowa, during the late 70s, St. Mathias Catholic Church was where I sang. The weekly practice suited me and gave me something outside the home other than going to the plant every day. The nights were often very cold and bleak as I drove to evening practice.

One of our pieces last evening was In the Bleak Mid Winter. Amen to that. But in this town, the fresh snow for the day was bright, it wasn’t too cold out, the roads were good, the parking lot was plowed, the church was filled.

Even considering we arrived at 8:50 p.m. and left at 11:30, it was a very nice way to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity. And the ad hoc group sang pretty well.

A manifestation of God’s grace

December 7, 2010

What am I to make of a sudden feeling of well-being, contentment? I am most aware that the feeling can’t be summoned … at least I’m not able to do so. But the very palpable sensation comes out of nowhere. Perhaps it is simply a manifestation of God’s grace. In any event, I like it, and it costs little.

Last evening I went out into the country to meet with the consultors (parish council) at a small Catholic parish. Eleven years ago I worked with the same faith community in their development of a strategic long-range plan. They seem to be ready to begin the conversation about what a next phase might look like.

I brought along some excerpts of my notes from those earlier sessions. Attendance and participation at those five sessions during the first quarter of 2000 were terrific and led to the dedication of some new classrooms and a parish community center in late 2007.

My recommendation is to reconvene and cover much of the same ground in the first quarter of 2011. Much has changed with a different group of students in the school, many new parishioners, changing demographics of the county, and the current economy. Expectations of all concerned need to be voiced as well as heard. With a little success under their belt, the future may seem more clear.

We’ll take a “today” look at the mission of the planning group, revisit the values held by the faith community, and re-articulate the “desired state” or vision for the parish, parishioners, church, and school. The group will explore to what extent Phase I moved toward the vision, and determine the logical next steps.

Frankly, I can’t wait to get started with such a wonderful faith-filled group accompanied by their very energetic and committed pastor. A fringe benefit is the peaceful 1-hour drive out to that little church on the hill.

Here at home our new driveway turned out pretty well. In a few weeks we’ll finish updating our windows. When it gets cold at night, we may even be able to leave the drapes open, sudden temperature changes won’t fog up the dining room and living room windows, ice won’t form leaving puddles on the sill.

All the other windows … twenty plus four glass door panels … have been replaced over the past several years. Doing it in phases hasn’t saved any money, but the psychological impact of an all-in-one sticker shock was nice to avoid.

Visiting the men in prison takes on a marked shift in tone as Christmas approaches. The isolation and loneliness are mentioned more often. There is talk about sending cards, making charitable contributions, remembering the holidays as a child. Listening is the best I can do, and emotions flow freely when a chaplain is at the door. It is a time when one lowers facades a little.