But let no one protest, let no one complain; with you is my grievance, O priests! You shall stumble in the day, and the prophets shall stumble with you at night; I will destroy your mother. My people perish for want of knowledge! Since you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from my priesthood; Since you have ignored the law of your God, I will also ignore your sons. One and all they sin against me, exchanging their glory for shame. They feed on the sin of my people, and are greedy for their guilt. The priests shall fare no better than the people: I will punish them for their ways, and repay them for their deeds. They shall eat but not be satisfied, they shall play the harlot but not increase, Because they have abandoned the LORD to practice harlotry. Old wine and new deprive my people of understanding. Hosea 4:4-11

How these words ring true today! As I read the news which is surfacing I find myself growing more and more angry and more and more saddened. I struggle to focus my anger in the right directions, but it is hard. I love the Church and I am watching is being destroyed from the inside and the outside. Satan is having a field day, he found his way in and waited for it to all come to pass. Where have the good men been? Wasn’t there anyone with the nerve to put a stop to all this?

I am angry that these atrocities could be committed by men who professed faith and obedience. They were counted among the very men who should be our shepherds but they turned out to be wolves. There is no excuse for these crimes and they are particularly heinous when they were committed in the name of Christ and His Church. How can a priest dare to use his hands, which have been anointed and set apart for the Eucharist, to then go an abuse a child?

I am angry that the bishops and others who were responsible for protecting the flock from these wolves failed. They had a responsibility to defend the weakest members of society, but like the priests in the quote from Hosea, they were more concerned with themselves. Their priorities were all wrong!

I am angry that so often the law enforcement authorities gave abusers a free pass. The police are paid to uphold the law no matter a person’s social status.

I am angry that the media is making it look as though this is a Catholic problem. It isn’t! It isn’t even mostly a Catholic problem. Protestant churches have just as many or even more abuses cases against their clergy.

I am angry that good priests are suffering and are looked at with suspicion. Most priests are good and holy men who have been greviously harmed by being associated with evil men who used the gift of the priesthood as a means to commit and get away with abusing children.

I am angry that priests who have been falsely accused have virtually no recourse. Once accused they are finished. The Church pretty much abandons them and leaves them to fend for themselves. They become double victims.

I am angry that the Church is doing such a poor job at responding to these reports. They need to be upfront and give messages that actually say something.

I am angry that I need to devote so much of precious time that the children come for religious education classes teaching them how to identify abusive situations. That shouldn’t be my job!

I am angry that seeing certain members of the hierarchy makes me feel physically ill.

I am angry that the Church is being battered. I love Christ and I love His Church. I have devoted more than half my life to service in the Church.

As we look forward to Holy Week, I am reminded of the traditional Good Friday reproaches. I imagine Christ speaking these words to us today. My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you answer me!

I led you out of Egypt from slavery to freedom, but you have led your Savior, and nailed Him to a cross.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One , have mercy on us.

For forty years in safety, I led you through the desert, I fed you with my manna, I gave you your own land, but you have led your Savior, and nailed Him to a Cross.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One , have mercy on us.

O what more would you ask from me? I planted you, my vineyard, but sour grapes you gave me, and vinegar to drink, and you have pierced your Savior and pierced Him with a spear.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One , have mercy on us.

For you scourged your captors, their first born sons were taken, but you have taken scourges and brought them down on Me.

My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me!

From slavery to freedom I led you, drowned your captors. But I am taken captive and handed to your priests.

My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me !

Your path lay through the waters, I opened them before you, my side you have laid open and bared it with a spear.

My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me !

I led you, held securely, My fire and cloud before you, but you have led your Savior, hands bound to Pilate’s court.

My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me!

I bore you up with manna, you bore me down and scourged me. I gave you saving water, but you gave me soured wine.

My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me !

The kings who reigned in Canaan, I struck way before you. But you have struck my crowned head, and struck it with a reed.

My people, My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me !

I gave you a royal scepter but you gave me a thorn crown. I raised you up in power, but you raised me on the Cross.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One , have mercy on us.

This Holy Week will be a difficult one as the Church undergoes her own Passion. Let us offer our Holy Week for the victims to receive healing, for the good and holy priests to be strengthened, and for God to have mercy on those who have committed these crimes.

This is a time of purification. I pray it ends soon but I also pray that it is complete. We need to get back to worship, faithfulness, and love of God and others.

I am deeply saddened to see Pope Benedict being dragged into this mess. I don’t understand how he could have allowed himself to be so much “out of the loop”. If I was the bishop of a diocese where there was a priest who was a known abuser I can’t imagine not being on top of it at every moment. Still, I also know that despite anything he may have done in the past, Pope Benedict gets it now. I am sure that he is very remorseful for letting these things slip by him and he has shown himself to be part of the solution.

My confusion continues and wounds that had healed have been reopened. My diocese is where it all began 20 years ago. At the time I don’t think anyone could imagine the extent of the problem. My wounds burn and my heart is broken.


St. Patrick’s Day is a really misunderstood day. Our culture tells us that the day is about green beer, leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold, luck, 4 leaf clovers, corned beef, and gross excess in regards to food, drink, and entertainment. This HolyDay has come so far from where it began. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good party too, it’s just that the tone which is often attached to the day has become rather crude.

Yesterday, I saw a woman wearing was apparently intended to be a St. Patrick’s Day t-shirt which said, “Kiss me I’m sh*tfaced”. Hmmm, I wonder what St. Patrick would have to say about that. If you don’t think he would beat some sense into her with a shillelagh, make sure you keep reading. Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a time to go to Mass, spend time with family and spend time at the parish festival. American influences have taken root; however, and to the lament of the Irish bishops the day has become more secular.

I don’t think St. Patrick would be pleased with the connotation his feast day has with intemperance, gluttony and debauchery. Read this and see what you think.

The Lorica of St. Patrick, also known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

Download a printable and frameable version of this prayer here: Lorica of St Patrick

In this prayer, we affirm our faith in the Triune God who has always been and who created all things. We surrender to Christ, affirm our fidelity to the Church, call upon God to strengthen us, and protect us from sin (including debauchery). We then ask God to be with us and we pray that we will be a good example of Christ to others and that we may be able to share our faith with those around us. Think about the example shown by the drunken parties!

St. Patrick wouldn’t have had a problem with people having fun and enjoying the day, but I think he would have been very disappointed to see his feast day turned into a giant keg party.

Although he wasn’t Irish, St. Patrick was the bishop of Ireland. He brought the Catholic faith to Ireland and because of that we, no matter our ethnic background, have a lot for which to be thankful. Ireland was the only place in Europe left unscathed by the barbarian invasions in the Middle Ages, so we should be thankful that most of what we know and have from that time period and before was preserved there.

So yes, celebrate St. Patrick, celebrate Ireland, but celebrate Christ too! It’s what St. Patrick did. St. Patrick wants us to see Christ when we think of him and in return have Christ in our hearts as a result. Now, get ready for your corned beef and cabbage and green beer, but keep it clean, keep it sober, keep it Christian.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig, have a blessed St. Patrick’s Day!

Today I experienced a remarkable thing in an unremarkable place during an otherwise unremarkable but holy miraculous occasion. Before any of this makes sense, I must give you some background first.

I remember my First Communion. While most of the other children were talking about and fussing with their fancy new clothes, I only wanted Jesus. I remember being so focused on Him that I felt as though I floated back to my pew. For months I counted the number of times I had received the Blessed Sacrament. I longed for a way to give back to Jesus in some way for what He had given me. I wanted to be close to Him, to serve Him, and to bring others to Him. I tried to join the choir, but it was only for kids who went to the parish school. I tried to become a reader at Mass, but I was told I was too young.  When I was older I joined the youth group, but quit after the 1st meeting because it was a clique and all they did was arts and crafts.

The desire to do something special for God never went away. Eventually, my parochial vicar noticed my desire and gave me some responsibilities. I helped decorate the church, I became a reader, etc. Eventually, it grew into an actual job as a parish organist and soloist. I was in complete awe that I was able to participate in such a holy and miraculous event as the Mass in such a way. Through music I was able to give a part of myself to God in the most holy way possible and at the same time, help the congregation give themselves to God as well. It was everything to me.

I began work in a new parish and it was lovely, until the Christmas eve that changed everything. As the organist I was stuck in the choir loft for every Mass, but I made a habit of asking the priest for Communion after Mass. There was never a problem, until this night. After the Vigil Mass, I asked and the priest responded rather harshly and refused. “What do you need that for”, he said. I was crushed and I begged and pleaded with him and he gave similar faithless responses. Finally, he begrudgingly agreed and I was able to receive. Within a week, the priest was gone. He had abandoned his ministry and apparently his faith as well.

What he didn’t know is that the event changed everything for me. I suddenly found myself questioning things I had never questioned. The Mass that had brought me such joy now echoed with the former pastor’s horrible words. Even though we had a new pastor, I was still too afraid to ask for Communion. “Why bother”, I thought. “I have been so foolish, even the priest doesn’t believe”. My teenage mind tried to make sense of it all, but I couldn’t. All I knew was that I didn’t feel it anymore. I didn’t feel anything anymore. I kept going through the motions and I wondered why. My music was no longer for God, but it became for me. I played because I got paid and because it was an opportunity to perform.

The whole time, I mourned what I had lost. The emptiness was so great that I don’t think there are words to describe how I felt. It was as though a very large part of me was suddenly taken away. I had always felt God’s guiding presence, but not I felt alone. I searched for Him. I spoke with several priests and they all told me the same thing, “Forgive”. That wasn’t what I needed! I had forgiven the priest. I knew he was a troubled man who was fighting his own demons, but that didn’t change that his words had scarred me.

Finally, after 10 years I called a wonderful, wise priest who agreed to work with me as a spiritual director. He explained that faith wasn’t a feeling, it was a reality. There was nothing wrong with just going through the motions as long as I asked God to help me. With the help of this priest, I discovered  that I hadn’t lost my faith after all, I just needed to learn to live with a different type of faith. In a way, I had to will to believe. He helped me accept that the feeling of God’s presence was gone and that it may or may not return, but that at least I had been blessed to have experienced it. I offered the spiritual Communion prayers he taught me and I was able to return to a faith life that wasn’t filled with pain.  

Since then, there have been slight glimmers of the sense of faith I once had, but they faded quickly and I returned to the feeling of isolation, but they were enough to sustain me. The priest explained that I only felt isolated because God had revealed himself to me so intimately. Had that not been the case, I wouldn’t have thought there was anything wrong with my faith.

So why am I telling you all this? Fast forward to today. Four years after finding some sort of healing and accepting my new intellectually based faith I had an amazing experience in the most unlikely of places. A a religious education convention, in a college gymnasium, kneeling on a wooden basketball court floor, at a Mass with hokey music with questionable lyrics, celebrated on what appeared to be a banquet table covered with a white tablecloth to which fabric had been added, I experienced God.

As the Cardinal held the bread and wine that would become the sacred Body and Blood of Christ, the bishop of the diocese and a retired archbishop stood on either side. The Cardinal recited the words of institution and I felt my entire body begin to tremble. I couldn’t do or say anything except to whisper over and over “I believe! It’s You, my Lord and my God!” I went up for Communion and as the Cardinal placed the Sacred Species on my tongue I felt such warmth. I returned to my place and knelt again on the wooden floor. It was as though the other 999 people in the auditorium had disappeared and it was only Jesus and I there. Far off in the distance, I could hear the people seated beside me asking each other “Why is she kneeling”. I wanted to say, “Because Jesus is here!” but I couldn’t move. I just allowed Him to overtake me. Finally I opened my eyes and I was surprised when tears began streaming down my face.

Now, I looked up at the Cardinal giving Communion to all the people the thoughts flooded my mind again. “There is Jesus and His Apostle”. Suddenly, the eternal continuity of the Mass all made sense. This Mass wasn’t just the Mass in this gymnasium with the hokey music and the shabby altarcloth. It was eternal! These were all things I knew, but never understood except in my mind. Now my understanding was real and coming from elsewhere.

I trembled before the majesty of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, I felt the union with God in His loving embrace, and, for the first time, I truly recognized the holy man I had spent so many years working with as the Apostle of Christ and now as a representative of Christ. I looked at the three bishops who concelebrated the Mass and saw the Church. As St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in this letter to the Smyrnaeans, “Where the bishop is, there let the people be: as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church”.

I don’t know if this wonderful feeling of faith will remain, but I do know that I am blessed to have had the opportunity to experience it. I feel healed from my previous scars and I must attribute this entire experience to the Holy Spirit. I pray that by reading this you may be edified in your faith.

I have recently discovered a lost article from St. Thomas Aquinas’ and I have posted it below.

ST II: Q.179 a.3

Is it fitting for Christians to engage in skiing?

   It would seem that it is fitting for Christians to engage in skiing.

1. It is written in the Gospels that Christ himself often took to the mountains. Moses also ascended the mountains at time and by doing so grew closer to God.

2. It is fitting for Christians to engage in pleasurable activities especially if they provide an opportunity to experience God and contemplate the majesty of his creation.

3. Skiing provides opportunities for prayer as the individual hurtles down the mountain narrowly avoiding collisions with trees and other skiiers. In addition, the skiier is provided with the opportunity to realize the value of  human life as he offers prayers of thanksgiving upon reaching the base.

On the contrary. The book of Exodus says: Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.

I answer. You will never get me down a mountain on flimsy skis carrying narrow poles.

Human life is a sacred gift from God and should be used for acts which lead to our ultimate end which is perfect happiness.  Skiing is contrary to that end because of the pain and injury which results. If you want to contemplate the beauty of creation you do not have to take your life in your hands or skis.

It is fitting to enjoy bodily delights if they will not cause a injury to the body or the soul. Skiing seems to fail in both respects as it often results in injury and as a result the injury takes the soul away from focusing prayer.

Reply to 1. While it is true that Jesus and Moses ascended mountains nowhere in Scripture does it state that they went barreling down the side of said mountain on flimsy wooden pieces of wood for the sheer joy of it.

Reply to 2. While pleasurable activities are fitting, consider the pain which results afterward. While the proximate end may seem at first to be fulfilled, it in fact leads one away from the remote end.  In addition, how much beauty and majesty can one take in while hurtling oneself down a mountain. It would seem that the beauty of creation would be nothing but a mere blur in passing,

Reply to 3. It is the precise value of human life which makes skiing a unfitting activity. You should not place your life at risk in order to offer thanks for God for saving it. Rather, you should value your body and your life as a gift from God and try to keep it in one piece.

I spent the majority of the day preparing, waiting, and celebrating the ordination of a new bishop. This gave me a lot of time to think about what the episcopate means.

The bishop of the diocese for which I work has become well known for his outspoken and fearless criticims of Catholics who publicly flaunt their disobediance and opposition to Church teaching. This has caused some of love him and others to hate him. In a way, the attention he is recieving makes me happy because it promotes the message of truth, but in another respect it saddens me because it means he stands alone. If bishops spoke out regularly it wouldn’t be news.

I am hesitant to criticize our bishops because I do not know their motivation or the particular pastoral situation they are dealing with, but some recommendations can and should be made as you will see below.

In 379 A.D., St. Ambrose of Milan wrote a letter to the newly appointed bishop Constantius which could have easily been written for the ordination of Bishop Evans. My comments will be written in red.

1. You have undertaken the office of a Bishop, and now, seated in the stern of the Church, you are steering it in the teeth of the waves. (Waves! What an image for the chaos and culture of death we face today) Hold fast the rudder of faith, that you may not be shaken by the heavy storms of this world. The sea indeed is vast and deep, but fear not, for He hath founded it upon the seas, and prepared it upon the floods.6 Rightly then the Church of the Lord, amid all the seas of the world, stands immoveable, built as it were, upon the Apostolic rock; and her foundation remains unshaken by all the force of the raging surge. The waves lash but do not shake it; and although this world’s elements often break against it with a mighty sound, still it offers a secure harbour of safety to receive the distressed. ( We are not to despair, but are to stand firm with the bishop at the helm. Even if it feels there is nothing that can be done, the bishop must trust in God)

2. Yet although it is tossed on the sea, it rides upon the floods; and perhaps chiefly on those floods of which it is said, The floods have lift up their voice. For there are rivers, which shall flow out of his belly, who has received to drink from Christ, and partaken of the Spirit of God. These rivers then, when they overflow with spiritual grace, lift up their voice. There is a river too, which runs down upon His saints like a torrent.7 And there are the rivers of the  flood, which make glad the peaceful and tranquil soul. He that receives, as did John the Evangelist, as did Peter and Paul, the fulness of this stream, lifts up his voice; and like as the Apostles loudly heralded forth to the farthest limits of the globe the Evangelic message, so he also begins to preach the Lord Jesus. Receive to drink therefore of Christ, that your sound may also go forth. (All is not lost because despite the violence of the world, there is a peace found in God. This is where the strength to endure and fight is found.)

3. The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings, and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many rivers. There are Sweet and transparent streams, cool 8 fountains too there are, springing up into life eternal, and pleasant words as an honey-comb.9 Agreeable sentences too there are, refreshing the minds of the hearers, if I may say so, with spiritual drink, and soothing them with, the sweetness of their moral precepts. Various then are the streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for you, a second, and a last. (Scripture as a sea? Interesting image given paragraph 1. Yes, Scripture is supposed to shake us. One who ready Sacred Scripture and is not shaken either hasn’t read it well, or hasn’t looked inwardly lately. Thankfully, Scripture is also meant to give us peace. The varied streams refresh, restore and shake us.)

4. Gather the water of Christ, that which praises the Lord.10 Gather from many sources that water which the prophetic clouds pour forth.11 He that gathers water from the hills and draws it to himself from the fountains, he also drops down dew like the clouds. Fill then the bosom of your mind, that your ground may be moistened and watered by domestic springs. He who needs and apprehends much is filled, he who hath been filled waters others, and therefore Scripture saith, If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth.12  (Could this suggest that the Bishop is to listen to those around him? Write to your bishops! Let them know, in charity, what you would like them to do and what problems you see. The Bishop is not an all-knowing, all-seeing individual, but he needs the encouragement of the faithful.)

5. Let your discourses then be flowing, let them be clear and lucid; pour the sweetness of your moral arguments into the ears of the people, and sooth them with the charm of your words, that so they may willingly follow your guidance. But if there be any contumacy or transgression in the people or individuals, let your sermons be of such a character as shall move your audience, and prick the evil conscience, for the words of the wise are as goads.13 The Lord Jesus too pricked Saul, when he was a persecutor. And think how salutary the goad was which from a persecutor made him an Apostle, by simply saying, It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.14 (There is to be dialogue ! Just as the bishop is to listen to the concerns of those around him, he has a responsibility to correct and instruct his flock.)

6. There are discourses too like milk, such as Paul fed the Corinthians with; for they who cannot digest stronger food, must have their infant minds nourished with the juice of milk.15 (The bishop is to meet people where they are, but is not to leave them there. Instead, he is to give the appropriate instruction.)

7. Let your addresses be full of understanding. As Solomon says, The 16 lips of the wise are the weapons of the understanding, and in another place, Let your lips be bound up with sense,17 that is, let your discourses be clear and bright, let them flash with intelligence like lightning: let not your address or arguments stand in need of enforcement from without, but let your discourse defend itself, so to speak, with its own weapons, and let no vain or unmeaning word issue out of your mouth. For there is a bandage to bind up the wounds of the soul, and if any one cast it aside, he shews that his recovery is desperate. Wherefore to those who are afflicted with a grievous ulcer administer the oil of your discourse to soften the hardness of their heart, apply an emollient, bind on the ligature of salutary precepts; beware lest by any means you suffer men who are unstable and vacillating in faith or in the observance of discipline, to perish with minds unbraced and vigour relaxed. (No fluffy homilies! Be clear, be direct, be authoritative.)

There is much more to this letter, which I won’t post here, but this letter contains themes touched on in Bishop Tobin’s homily.

Homily of Bishop Thomas J. Tobin
on the occasion of the
Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Robert C. Evans

December 15, 2009

          It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome you to the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul for this happy and historic occasion – the Ordination of our brother Robert C. Evans to the Office of Bishop.

          Welcome first of all to his Eminence, William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore; to our Metropolitan, Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford; and to all the archbishops and bishops who are with us today.

          Welcome to the family of Bishop Evans, especially his dear mom, Lola, and to his many friends, some of whom have traveled a great distance to be here.

          Welcome to the priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and laity of the Diocese of Providence; a special welcome to members of St. Philip Parish and School, where Bishop Evans has served so faithfully; welcome to the leaders of the ecumenical and interfaith community of Rhode Island, as well as the public officials who are here today.

          Thank you all so much for joining us; your presence – each and every one of you – adds to the joy of this occasion.

          Bishop Evans, in my own name and on behalf of all those present today, we extend to you our congratulations, prayers and blessings on this wonderful day in your life. It is, without a doubt, a day of great joy and grace – for you and for the Church. We are proud of you, happy for you and grateful that God has called you to this new ministry, and that you have responded so graciously and generously to His rather persistent invitation.

          My brother, the Scripture readings we have listened to today help to answer the question that is foremost in your mind right now, namely – “What in heaven’s name am I doing here?”

          Well, in fact, you are here because God wants you to be here. Our Heavenly Father has led you to this holy place and to this sacred moment to fulfill the plan for which He created you. Or, as Jesus said to His Apostles at the Last Supper and with words He now repeats to you, “You did not choose me; I chose you.” That, my friend, is why you are here today!

          Those words of the Lord Jesus – “you did not choose me, but I chose you” – bestow great credibility as well as enormous responsibility upon the Apostles and their successors. Nonetheless, as you begin this new and awesome ministry, you can do so with confidence, for Jesus also said to His Apostles, “I no longer call you slaves, but I have called you friends.”

          Strengthening that friendship with Christ is the goal of the entire Christian life, is it not? But it is also a source of consolation and hope for you. If you are a true friend of the Lord, you have nothing to fear as you gaze into the future and respond to the Lord’s promptings in your life.

          In announcing the Year for Priests, Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict explained that as priests, (and surely as bishops) everything we do is oriented to proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ.  This echoes the words of our Holy Father when he said, “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is . . . There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.”

          It is that life-changing, life-giving, hope-inspiring encounter with Christ, dear friend, that has led you to this moment.

          But if the Gospel explains why you are here, the words of the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah explain what your Ordination as a Bishop will mean for you in the days to come: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.”

          Today as you receive the fullness of Holy Orders, you are anointed with the Holy Spirit and with sacred chrism; you can readily appropriate the words of the prophet unto yourself: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because He has anointed me.”

          Of course this is not the first time you’ve been anointed with the sacred chrism and the Holy Spirit. You were anointed at your Baptism, when you were first joined to Christ and incorporated into His Church; and then again at your Confirmation, when the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit were strengthened; and then again when you were ordained to the priesthood, when you were set apart to serve the Church “in the person of Christ, the head of the Church.”

          But this anointing today signifies and effects another step in your relationship with Christ and His Church: it challenges you to grow in holiness and deepen your friendship with Christ; and it calls you to renew the enthusiasm and zeal of your service to God’s People. The teaching of the Church emphasizes that, “the title of Bishop is one of service, not of honor” – words not to be taken lightly.

          This anointing with the sacred chrism and the Holy Spirit renews your call to be a priest, prophet and king. While these mandates belong to all of the Christian faithful, and in a specific way to ordained priests, they are particularly heavy burdens placed squarely upon the shoulders of a bishop, burdens as real and tangible as the Book of the Gospels that will soon be held over your head during the Prayer of  Consecration.

          A bishop is called to the fullness of the priesthood. As a priest he is to be a holy man, a man of prayer, a living icon of Christ among His people. As the Ordination Rite explains, a bishop is to “offer sacrifice for the people committed to his care, and to devote himself wholeheartedly to seeking every kind of grace for them from the fullness of Christ’s holiness.”

          Secondly, a bishop is anointed to be a prophet, a man imbued with the Word of God and commissioned to preach that word to the Church and the world – sometimes comforting, sometimes directing, and sometimes challenging – preaching fearlessly and boldly nonetheless, “in season and out of season.”

          Finally a bishop is called to share in the kingship of Christ, that is to form and lead the Church, the holy people of God. Again, the Ordination Rite explains, “As one chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.”

          To be united to Christ – to be a priest, prophet and king – all this is intended by the anointing with the sacred chrism and the Holy Spirit that you receive here this day.

          The Episcopal Ordination that we celebrate today with such festivity takes place in the context of the beautiful and peaceful Season of Advent, when “we wait with joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” And one of the principal Biblical figures of the Advent
Season, and of course the Christmas Season, is our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary.        

          Devotion to Mary is a hallmark of our Catholic Faith and properly so, for authentic devotion to Mary always leads us to Christ, her son. It was Mary’s obedience that enabled God’s eternal plan of salvation to be fulfilled. It was Mary’s faith and trust that allowed “the Word to become flesh and dwell among us.” How Mary rejoiced at receiving the Eternal Word into her life, and how faithfully she shared her son with the world.

          My brother, at this challenging moment in your life, I encourage you to take to heart and to prayer the example of our Blessed Mother. This holy day marks a new beginning for you, but the future is hidden from your eyes, and the path you will walk is known to God alone. Therefore, like Mary, you must have faith and trust; you must be at peace in accepting God’s plan for you.

          Welcome the Word of God into your heart and soul, and joyfully share Jesus with others.
In your daily ministry to God’s people, point to Jesus and say to them: “Do whatever He tells you.”
If you follow the example of Mary, you will always be able to echo the words of her hymn, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior; the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

          My dear brothers and sisters, in this blessed season of Advent let us recognize the presence of, and renew our faith in “Emmanuel,” the God who is with us. And let us pray that the same God will bless our brother Robert, and bring to completion the good and holy work we do here today.

To the faithful: Hold your bishop to a high standard, but please always remember that in the end the bishop has the final say. It is likely that he has information which you do not have and has a greater understanding of the implications of certain actions. He does need your advice, but any advice and correspondence to him must be done in humility and in charity. Berating a bishop who does not handle a situation in the way you would like is not only rude, but it is disrespectful to the episcopal office. We must also remember that the bishop is a human with feelings! Treat him as you would like to be treated.

Listen to your bishop. Remain faithful to the Church even if you do not understand particular teachings. I know that if I disagree a teaching, then either I don’t understand it well enough or I am wrong. The bishop is the successor to the apostles, so when he speaks it is as though the apostles speak.

We must also be aware that the bishop cannot solve problems which he doesn’t know about. If you see something going on that shouldn’t be, let him know! Don’t talk about how horrible it is that Such-and-Such is happening or that So-and-So is doing something wrong. If you sit back and think that someone else will tell him, you are probably wrong.

Finally, the bishop is steering the ship through the raging storm. It is easy to get blinded by the waves and so lose sight of Christ. Pray for your bishops and make sure they know it! St. Ambrose wrote about the rivers which flow from Christ. Make sure your bishop experiences the river and not only the waves. So often, the only time people write to their bishop is to complain. Your kind note could be the peaceful river which allows him to focus his eyes on Christ.

Throughout my many years of being educated, one of the most frustrating things I have encountered is teachers who know less about their topic than me.

It happened to me in CCD and it has happened to me several times in college. The way I see it, I pay good money to get educated, I don’t pay to teach or correct the mistakes of an incompetent teacher.

These teachers come in several sorts:
1) those who don’t know and know they don’t know
2) those who don’t know and think they know
3) those who know and still teach errors.

At various times I have had teachers of all three sorts. The first sort I pity. They have most likely been placed in a situation where they don’t want to be or a place they are unprepared for.

The second sort frustrates me. They really think the dreck they say is pearls of wisdom. They can’t figure out why I don’t hang on their every word.

The third sort angers me. They know the truth and intentionally teach the opposite for one reason or another.

While all three are dangerous, the last two are the worst. For the most part, the first type is the most likely to be open to fraternal correction. The second will not, and the third will see anyone giving correction as the opposition.

My 8th grade CCD teacher was of that third sort. He seemed to be on a mission to destroy any faith we had in the Church.

He told us about how the pastor used parish funds to buy brand new cars and expensive clothes. He presented the bishop as a dictator who abused his power and had no faith.

Finally he told us that Jesus didn’t want the Church, He wanted us to come to Him directly.

I saw my classmates getting more and more intrigued by the fanciful stories and I watched as they began to turn against the Church.

He was the first teacher I ever confronted. One day I couldn’t take it any longer and I told the teacher he was wrong and his stories were lies. Then I told he that I was going to go to the pastor.

That was when he threatened to tell the pastor that I was a troublemaker and was telling lies about him because I had gotten in trouble in class. Apparently, he thought he would be believed over me because he was older.

I walked out of the classroom, out of the school, and over to the rectory. I returned a few minutes later with the pastor who told the teacher to leave immediately and never come back. His final words to me were, “You think you won, but I will destroy you”.

Now I am in charge of a religious ed program and people, including my boss, don’t understand why I spot check classrooms. The reality is that I place the kids in the hands of the teachers and will most likely never know if something wrong is being taught otherwise. It would be great if every teacher was qualified and trustworthy but much of the time we take who we can get.

So, I watch and try to correct errors and educate my teachers. To my 8th grade CCD teacher: Thanks for opening my eyes to the importance of good catechesis and for inspiring me to fight those who attempt to denegrate God’s Holy Church. Christ will always be victorious and I am on His team.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a priest who informed me that he has not taken a weekend off in 11 years because he is unable to get coverage for the Sunday Masses at his parish. Now, I know that some may retort, “Well, how many days during the week has he taken off”, but that is not the point of this post nor do I know or care about the answer to that question. 

The reality is that when I was growing up most parishes had two priests and before that many parishes had three and even four priests in a parish. The rectory where I work has five bedrooms! Now our priests are sometimes forced to choose between their well deserved personal time off and the care of their parishioners.

That leads me to this reflection on rest. We live in an age where time is money. We invest in gadgets to increase our productivity, we are constantly connected to the internet. People take work cellphones and notebook computers on vacation with them. It is common to see people working on the beach and on vacation. The fear of losing productivity is constant on the minds of some individuals. Many employers too, seem to expect their employees to be available at all times. Yet, these same people often fail to attend Mass while on vacation.

For many in ecclesial ministry, both clergy and laity, the idea of time off can seem contrary to the idea of vocation, but it is healthy and necessary. I remember feeling guilty for taking time off from work for vacations or family events. Retreats are ok, but leisure time can feel like a waste of time. After all, Jesus never took a day off…or did he.

Jesus modeled for us the way to go on vacation.  In Mark 14:13, Jesus tried to get away, but the crowds followed him. Jesus could have told the crowds to go away, after all, he was tired, on vacation, overwhelmed and mourning, but instead he preached.

We all need time to refresh ourselves and care for our needs, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect our vocation or fail to care for those we encounter who need our help. Although we can go on vacation from our day to day ministry, we can never go on vacation from vocation or the practice of our faith. Still, it is important to take time for physical and spiritual refreshment.

Jesus also made a point to take time out for prayer: a sort of private retreat. We also need time devoted to prayer, especially when we are busy serving. We can’t give give give and do do do all the time. Active ministry is no substitute for a substantial prayer life. A Christian can’t get far on a superficial prayer life. Ministry which is not rooted in prayer is ministry which is also not rooted in Christ and as a result ends up not really being ministry at all.

Please remember in prayer all those priests who, like Jesus, cannot get time off and all those who see vacations as time away from God.

My last post has caused me to think a lot about the lessons I learned from Fr. C. I think there are several which deserve to be explored on a deeper level. First, I will tackle obedience and dedication.

Diocesan priests make a promise of obedience to the bishop of the diocese in which they are incardinated and all his successors. While some dioceses appoint pastors to parishes for specific periods of time, my diocese does not do so. A priest can stay in a parish for decades or months. After sixteen years as pastor of my parish, Fr. C. was “asked” by the bishop to move to another parish. While the term “asked” is used, it is not really an optional move.

After 16 years as pastor of the parish and nearly 10 years before that as curate of the same parish, Fr. C. had grown deep roots in the parish. He had been there for so long it was hard to imagine the parish without him. I watched how emotionally crushed the transfer left him. Many parishioners and some of his fellow priests encouraged him to petition the bishop to allow him to stay, and others suggested that he simply refuse the transfer. He steadfastly refused both suggestions. He said that he had made a promise to obey his bishop and he trusted that the bishop knew what he was doing even if he didn’t like it or agree with it. This type of blind obedience to the will of the Church was something which was foreign to me. I had been taught to question and fight and accept nothing which I didn’t understand or approve.

This does not mean that this type of obedience was easy. There were many sorrowful days filled with tears for everyone involved. I will never forget his final Mass as pastor of the parish. He stood in the doorway of the sacristy and couldn’t step into the sanctuary. Mass started 5 minutes late because he knew he was going to have to leave at the end. After Communion, Fr. C. sat in the presiders chair and just wept and we wept along with him. Our spiritual father was leaving us and although a new pastor was coming, we felt like orphans. Still, Fr. C. made it clear to us that he believed the Holy Spirit was guiding the bishop.

I didn’t learn the significance of that until I was much older and was reading Pope Benedict’s memoirs “Milestones”. There he writes about a professor who struggled with the doctrine of the Assumption. Others asked him what he would do when the Pope declared the Assumption as an infallable doctrine and he stated that he would accept that he didn’t know everything and the Pope knew better. So simple!

It was at that time when I realized that was the example I had been shown. We don’t need to always understand or even agree with everything about the Faith. Sometimes simply accepting that “the Church says so” is enough. With time, study, and prayer we may come to understand all these things.

With time, Fr. C. came to love his new parish and my parish came to love their new pastor. However, I did notice that during  the years when I worked with Fr. C. in the new parish he did not serve with the zeal he had once had. Some attributed it to his increasing age, others to his failing health, but I saw a spark which had been snuffed out. The deaths of two of his sisters and the sudden death of his priest brother occured in the months just after the transfer. He endured a  great deal of trauma in one year, but he still placed his new parish family first. If there was ever a time when he needed to place his own needs first this was the time. Thankfully, after much convincing, and an extended hospital stay due to congestive heart failure, he decided he needed to take some time and care for himself. When he returned he was in better health: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In time the spark returned and the joy of service became visible once again.

One danger of dedication to one’s vocation is ignoring personal needs. I know some priests who have not taken a real day off in years. A priest told me the other day that he has never had a weekend away from his parish in 15 years because he cannot get a priest to celebrate the Masses. On the other hand, I know some priests who farm out their duties to retired priests and to the laity. One priest I know celebrates one Mass a week during the week and has retired priest who come to celebrate the rest.

I do not think that either is an acceptable option. No matter your vocation, you are no good to anyone if you are burned out or overworked. One person cannot care for another properly if his own needs are so great they are overwhelming him. In the end the care will be less than it should be and/or the caregiver will collapse.

Remember, Jesus obeyed His Father’s will, but He also took time away to rest and deal with his thoughts and struggles.

Parishioners: Remember that your priests are humans with human needs and frailties. It can be easy to think of them as robots or alien species who are supposed to answer immediately, solve our every need, and always be perfect. Before you rush to judgement or attribute your anger or hurt to the entire Church when your priest isn’t everything you think he should be, remember the great responsibility he bears in his human body.  People make mistakes, they have bad days. How would you like to have your actions taken to represent the character of all Catholics? Your priest will most likely not (and he should not) tell you the personal struggles he is enduring, but he will still help you through yours. Love your priests, support your priests, pray for your priests and let them know you are doing so. Remember, they can’t come to you when they are hurting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help. One kind word or sign of appreciation can go a long way.

I think most people who have seriously considered giving their lives in service to the Church can look back to one or more priests who have been fundamental in the development of their vocation and their spiritual life. In my case, there were at least five priests who served that role to varying degrees and countless others who helped to shape my esteem for the clergy and love for Christ and His Church.

There was, however, was one priest who served that role to an extent for which I will be forever grateful. Fr. C. was my pastor, but he was also my mentor and my teacher. Although it was not a role he held officially he was my first ministry and theology teacher. From him, I learned what service to God and Church meant. I learned to place God first in my life and to trust in His failing goodness. I also learned the practical aspects of the Church such as rubrics and canon law. Sometimes these lessons were learned when we sat and talked, but usually I learned by doing and experiencing.

When I was an infant, he baptized me even though he did not want to. He did not believe my parents would raise me as a Catholic and he was right. I came into the practice of the Faith because of my grandmother and my own desire. His homilies had two central themes: The necessity of coming to Mass and celebrating the Sacraments, and (during the Summer) the importance of dressing modestly and appropriately at Mass. As he would often say, “The church is not a beach”. Although many people grew impatient with these themes they stuck with me and to this day I can recite his lines word for word. He was always affectionate with the parishioners, but in a reserved way. For many years I thought he was rather cold. Unlike the curate, Fr. C. was always Fr. Lastname. He did not tell jokes in his homilies or make spectacles during the Mass. Even his vestments were different. He didn’t wear the stole showing and he didn’t wear the “fun” vestments that the curate would sometimes wear. Instead he wore Roman style (fiddleback) chasubles  and gothic chasubles with beautiful sacred symbols. I didn’t know enough to appreciate them at the time.

When I think of Fr. C. the first thing I think of is his hands. They are HUGE! He would use them to ruffle our hair as we entered and left Mass and at any other time he would encounter us. unless had a pen. Then, he would tap us on the head with the pen. “Hey girl!”  he would say. Every child was either “boy” or “girl” even if he knew our names. When he would ruffle our hair, I was always amazed to think that these were the same hands which had just held Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the same hands which were extended over us during confession, and baptized and anointed babies. I didn’t know that priests were anointed on their hands at ordination, but remember thinking that his hands were so huge because of the great responsibility they held. I grew up holding Fr. C. in great esteem and a bit of that respectful fear.

When I was only fourteen years old, Fr. C. suddenly became the only priest in a very large and very active parish. He trusted me to help him run the parish. I don’t know if I would trust a teenage sacristan with the roles and tasks he assigned to me, but I do know that I would not be in the position I am today if he had not done so. Because I was home-schooled my schedule had a great deal of flexibility. Each day, I would help him at morning Mass, return home for school, then return to the church after school for the evening Mass and I would do assorted tasks in the rectory until about 8 pm. In the summer I would stay most days unless I had some other activity planned with a teenage friend, but there was nowhere I wanted to be more than at the church. I taught the 2nd grade religious ed students and helped him run the religious ed program. I trained and scheduled the altar servers, lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. I was also placed in charge of the “clergy division” of the parish procession.

On a human level I learned and experienced true friendship. Yes, we had our disagreements and even hurt each other deeply once or twice, but I still remember the 3 am phone call he made to to apologize to me after we had a major argument where serious emotional wounds where inflicted to both of us. He helped me get my first job (and even picked me up from work once when got stranded there) and I helped care for him when he was ill. I always knew that Fr. C. was there for me as a true shepherd.

Through Fr. C’s example I came to understand the self-giving relationship which Christ has with us and we are called to have with Him. This commitment was not something particular to me, but was how he cared for all his parishioners. I was just the lucky one who was able to be with him on a daily basis and get a quadruple helping. Fr. C. would answer his phone at all hours of the day or night and wouldn’t hesitate to rush out when someone needed him. Many mornings Fr. C. would be completely exhausted because he had been at the bedside of a dying parishioner or comforting a family involved in a tragic accident. I would ask him why he didn’t have office hours like so many of the priests I had previously thought of as being fun. He said that “A priest is called to treat his parishioners as a father would treat his children. No good parent would tell their children that office hours are only between 9-5 Mon-Fri and to call back then”.  While I don’t fault the priest who do keep office hours for doing so if that is what they need to stay healthy and sane, but there is something lost when a priest does not treat his parishioners as his own children.  Being a parent is a 24/7 job and being a priest is the same. That is why priests are called to celibacy.

Following his example I learned to do the same. First I did so for Fr. C and my parish, and now Ido it for my family and the parishes where I work. A he served joyfully, so I try to serve joyfully. My service to the Church is one of the great joys of my life. Fr. C. baptized me, heard my first confession, give me my First Communion, was present at my confirmation and at my marriage.  When Fr. C was transferred to a new parish I was invited to work for him as the assistant music director and that was the beginning of my professional career in ministry. As time went by, I moved on to other parishes and roles and Fr. C retired at the age of 75. Because of my experiences with Fr. C., the people he introduced me to, and the opportunities he gave me, I was able to turn my passion for God into a career. I was blessed get to know Fr. C’s brother who was also a priest and was equally as dedicated to the Church. Sadly, he passed away in 2001. I was also blessed to meet many good and dedicated priests, bishops and cardinals who visited the parish for numerous events.

Now, he is close to 80 years old, and is in failing health. I am saddened to think that he is growing closer to his eternal reward because I know I will be without a dear friend and the Church on earth will be without one of it’s greatest priests. It may not be fair to do so, but I have compared every priest I have worked with to Fr. C. and only a few come close. I was delighted that  JP was able to meet him yesterday. As I expected, Fr. C. starting talking to JP about the priesthood and encouraged him to investigate and consider it. What else would a man who truly loves his vocation do? Fr. C and I had not spoken for some time and I was a little startled to see how frail he had become and how much he had aged. I used to believe they didn’t make priests like that anymore, but after working at this new parish I have come to realize that is no longer a true statement. Unfortunately, given the code of conduct rules, most young people are no longer allowed in sacristies or to be alone with a priest, never mind to have the kind of experience I was blessed to have. That is a great loss. Had I been a young man I would have undoubtedly entered the seminary and attempted to emulate this good and holy priest.

Priests: Be conscious of the example you give to the young people in your parishes. If you serve joyfully and give yourself completely you will inspire service in others, but if you do not do so, you will show them that the priesthood is nothing more than a job. Help your parishioners experience the love of Christ through you! Teach them though your example.


The Church lost a giant yesterday with the passing of Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ. Cardinal Dulles was the only American theologian to become a prince of the Church having bypassed the episcopate. he was a convert to Catholicism from a prominent Presbyterian family.

Born in Auburn, New York, on August 24, 1918, to John Foster Dulles and Janet Pomeroy Avery Dulles. His father later became the United States Secretary of State to whom Dulles International Airport is dedicated.

Avery Dulles became a Catholic in 1940 and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1946. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1956. After many years as an important influential theologian, he was elevated to the college of cardinals in recognition of his enormous contribution to Catholic theology. This elevation ordinarily comes with ordination as a bishop, but Dulles requested and recieved permission to decline this ordination.

Of his many works, Models of the Church, is one of his best known works. It was one of the first theological works I formally studied. However, he wrote prolifically on many issues.

I was fortunate to hear him speak last year on Divine Impassibility. The lecture, which was one of his very last, was simply brilliant.
I plan to travel to New York for the funeral and will report when I return.
Photo by Domini Sumus

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