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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.

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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.

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servusdomini@catholic.org

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