Friday, September 10, 2021

Remembering the Fallen

 One of the difficulties with heroes is they often do not fit the mold.  They are not always Captain America or Wonder Woman.  Sometimes they seem less than in our eyes once you get to know them.  It is difficult to put true heroes into a niche and it is even more difficult to make them something particular to our own ideology.  

Fr. Mychal Judge is one such hero.  A very sweet, loving and orthodox Catholic priest who recognized his own homosexuality without breaking his vows, he is listed as Victim #1 with the FDNY on 9/11.  Fr. Mychal was a tireless worker among workers, a man of God who fought for the dignity and redemption of others within the Catholic Community who are homosexual and struggling with their relationship with God and His Church.  He gave of himself to those diagnosed with AIDS and in need of care  I imagine he would be, today, giving aid and comfort to those struggling with all the ugliness of COVID-19.  Father Mychal loved God, The Church, Truth and people and understood that what actions one takes in their daily life determines their worthiness to receive The Eucharist.  

But he was also a man with his own demons.  The toughest fight he waged was not about his sexuality.

Fr. Mychal was an alcoholic.

I got to meet him as 'one of us' and came to love his sturdy approach to our shared Faith Tradition.  He professed and proclaimed to be True all that Holy Mother Church professes and proclaims to be True without regret, yet he never lost sight of how important it is for the world to see the Love and Mercy of Jesus.  He was unafraid (maybe) about the state of the world or the government or any of the stuff so many of us get all ruffled about and because his trust in Our Lord was so profound.  Like Benedict the 16th, he made observations about The Church becoming both smaller AND stronger and so he would simply go about his day doing the best he could 24 hours at a time.  

After his death the battle between the Trads and the Mods went off at full force - he was gay, no he wasn't gay, he was liberal, no he wasn't, he wanted Church Teaching to change, no he didn't - and the number of articles written about this dear man mounted in number. 

For those of us who saw his body being taken from the rubble of the Towers by his firefighters, none of that has ever mattered.  All I could think of was, "oh God no....please not him" because I knew he was one of the good guys. 

And there seem to be so few of them today.

This is not a blog post about Father Mychal Judge to prove anything about him.  He died performing his duties as a duly ordained Catholic priest and he did it without regard for his own safety.  He was loved by people who were marginalized and loved by cis white males and loved by the LGBTQX community and loved by alkies like me.  He was loved.

If I die today, I am hoping that this could be said of me:  It doesn't matter.  She was loved.


FR. MYCHAL JUDGE
MAY 11, 1933 - SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Lord,
Take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet who you want me to meet,
Tell me what you want me to say and
Keep me out of your way.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Yes, Someone is Listening

 The past few weeks has been an emotional fun house trip.  The emotions have been high.  The sins of the world - especially mine - have been right smack in my face.  Frankly, I haven't felt so good.

In the Catholic tradition of giving meaning to suffering I have viewed this as a time of penance and a chance to help others out of Purgatory.  With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek I have said out loud that someone somewhere better be benefiting from all this or top management was gonna hear from me.  

Sunday was the day I took my complaints to the top.

I attended Mass in Healdsburg, California at a beautiful parish off the main street.  The pews weren't full but they weren't empty.  The Gospel readings were about people leaving Jesus when His Teachings got a little too much for them to handle.  I was prepped and ready, my Dominican scapular in place, and on my knees in prayer before Mass when the need to call on someone more powerful than myself for assistance crossed my mind.

So I did...I went to my patron, St. Margaret of Costello, and told her what was going on with me.  And then I asked, very clearly, for help and a sign that someone, anyone at all, was listening to me.

After Mass I knelt to pray the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel and I could sense someone standing next to me, patiently waiting.  When I finished, I heard them say, "amen" and I looked up into the lively blue eyes of an elderly gentleman who smiled behind his mask.  He pointed at my scapular and said, "Are you a Dominican?"

"I am", I answered, rising to my feet.  He smiled broadly (so broad that even with a face mask you could not miss it) and he said, "SO AM I!".

We stood quietly sharing for at least 15 minutes.  His wife joined us and he introduced me.  I caught him up on what was happening at the priory in Oakland and the passing of Fr. Tony.  He shared stories of him and his brother Kevin who, he said, probably met Fr. Tony at the Gates with a "What took you so long, little brother?" and a big hug.  I felt peace settling over my heart and I was quietly thanking the little said for this obvious sign.  I then gave the gentleman my card, telling him about our chapter and our zoom meetings and urging him to email me so we could include him when I saw him staring intently at my card.

There is a tiny line on my card: Sober since 5-4-1992 and loving it.

He paused, leaned closer and whispered, "Are you a friend of Bill W.'s?"

You bet I am....and he then said, "If I mind my manners until December, I will have 50 years".

Listening?  Listening?

Oh I know I have a God who loves me but this was one of those over-the-top moments that I rarely have.  I am not a saint.  I am usually looking for the breadcrumbs of experiences that reinforce my beliefs and I can find them...I can, if I look hard enough.

THIS?

I almost burst into tears.  

Thank you, God, for my life today.  I don't need to do anything other than what You ask....I don't have to put anyone down, demand you all think like me or else....All I have to do is Love God, clean house and help others....


All I have to do is ask.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Sad when a Priest goes Off the Rails

 It is seldom I publicly criticize members of the clergy.  I never know what is coming across their desk, or what is really going on in their personal lives which might make them come across as arrogant, unmerciful or downright dopey.  Besides, priests are people.  Like all of us, they suffer from concupiscence.  The day of a poor interaction with them could be the day they have succumbed to the temptation of impatient anger.  I try not to hold it against them and, unless the person (any person) is behaving in a way that is an outright threat to others (or illegal), I usually just shake my head and walk on.

I read a blog post today by a very popular Catholic priest that I used to consider a friend.  He has helped members of my family and my friends when they have needed an anointing or  prayer.  He has always been nice to me.  However, after reading his published post today I am not sure he would consider me his friend.  I don't think I am good enough anymore.

The blogpost today made his opinion of people like me very clear.  It was obvious he looks down with disdain upon those of us who have chosen to be vaccinated, who followed the directions of our Bishop and who dare to interpret the data being released by the experts in a way differs from his and his followers' interpretation.  His blog post was not charitable.  I read it and got tears in my eyes.  

Maybe I am overly sensitive.  Well, so was Catherine of Siena.  If I am, so be it.  In the words of my mentor, if I feel this way I can be sure others do as well but most of them won't speak up.

And I am not going to link it - I really do not want him to get any more traffic than he normally does and, besides, they turned the comments off because God forbid anyone say they disagree with him...that wouldn't work at all.

Why?

Because he made it very clear he has no love for people like me.  I am not the kind of Catholic he wants in "his" church.  I do not belong.

Because of his blogpost, I question whether or not he would even minister to me. I do not fit his personal criteria for what constitutes a good Catholic.  My conclusions about how to behave during the pandemic do not match his; therefore, it is doubtful he would fulfill his priestly duties if I needed him to administer the Last Rites, came in to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or attended Mass in his parish and presented myself at the altar rail in order to receive Our Lord from his priestly hands.

I don't think I would be welcome at his parish all all.   I follow rules he does not like.  I am less than.  He made that bitingly clear.

I guess it is a good lesson for me.  I must remember that what I do and say matters. I must defend his right to express that he thinks he is better than me because I chose to get a vaccine he chose not to get. As an American he has the right to think that - but as a Catholic priest?

This priest believes I cannot think for myself - and actually goes on to say that not thinking for myself is okay as long as I am surrounded by loving people.  I am guessing he means himself and others who think like he does - he really doesn't make that very clear.  What he does believe is that the experts do not act out of the common good - they do not 'love' - and so following their advice is wrong.

Yet, when using his logic, how can I trust that he loves me? His arrogant rhetoric certainly does not encourage a feeling of love or mercy.  He doesn't think it's possible for an intelligent Catholic in good standing to interpret the data differently than he does and come to a different conclusion; rather, he has made it quite clear that someone like me is blindly following my animal instincts to be a part of a herd.  Of course, if I was a part of HIS herd, that would be okay - right, Father?

I think, and I may be wrong, that the reason for his blogpost is his anger that people are choosing to follow someone other than himself.  He sees himself as 'blazing a trail', going against the flow, finding the open lane of traffic.  If we all chose to follow him, he would not have any problem with us being followers.  

His analogies are childish, his rhetoric is mean and it just makes me sad.  I am sad for him.  I am sad for people like me who genuinely love priests and want what is best for them.  I am just .... sad.

Now, all I can do is pray...and I pray that the Holy Spirit guides him home to love and mercy.  

Then? I better go to confession because, well.....he also made me mad.



Thursday, August 12, 2021

I am Angry

 I'm angry.

I am angry at what is happening in Afghanistan and I cannot seem to shake the anger.  

Praying, venting, writing, all the tools that usually help me rid myself of the anger that can make me less than useful to God seem to be powerless in the face of this overwhelming desire to punish someone. 

I am angry because I sent my nephew there and he watched people die and came back forever changed.

I am angry because we pretend to care about women and children all over the world, and we sit now and know these very people are being brutalized by the Taliban.  

I am angry because people in positions of power here in the United States makes stupid statements to the press about 'bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table' when they have to know that is a joke, that these people lie to get what they want just as much as we do and that they are laughing at us all the way to the bank.

I am angry because I seem to be the only person who remembers that one little article, 20 years ago, about Afghanistan being a treasure trove of minerals needed to manufacture the stuff the World uses to run our computer technology.  Why would anyone think that doesn't matter?  Why wouldn't any of you talk to Tim Cook or Bill Gates about this and why are you so convinced either one of those men care about people?  Oh, yeah...I forgot....the whole gender bathroom thing.  Yeah, that's what is important - not 8 yr old girls being raped under the guise of marriage.  I keep forgetting....

I am really angry because I can bet that people who have read this far think I am a war-mongering, Trump loving, Republican who hates Muslims.  That makes me angry because they are as much a part of this problem as I am - I am too angry to even think straight right now and they are too busy wanting to put me into a pigeon hole of their ideas of what it means to be an American and a Catholic.

I am angry.

I will continue to pray.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Latin Mass Kerfluffle

 I have stayed (mostly) silent on the latest kerfluffle to come out of The Vatican.  I chose to do so because I accurately predicted the reactions and what would be said by the podcasters (one of which participated in the January 6th Insurrection Attempt so has zero credibility with me - I don't care HOW much he loves Aquinas, he is a nut), the so-called 'Real' Catholics (represented quite well on both sides, what I call the Altman/Martin Effect) and the every day, self-proclaimed and usually self-published experts who sit in the pews with the rest of us and (much like the rest of us) can spend their time their judging who needs to go home and change their clothes.  

I have had robust discussions with good friends - mostly younger Thomists - and newly emerging friends (women estranged from The Church, Catholics of color who have endured racism within the Body of Christ and stayed anyway) about the subject.  I loved it.  I love talking with SMART Catholics who are humble and patient and love The Church.  They are people I try to emulate because their humility, their sense of humor and their willingness to say the obvious rather than fly into a fit represents the best of us.  Us Catholics.  Us members of The Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself.  They challenge me.  They allow me to ask questions and make assertions.  They LISTEN.  Most of all?

They are not afraid.

That is the key to me.  I remember Pope St. John Paul II proclaiming to us from the balcony to 'be not afraid'.  These Catholics are living that with such gusto.  They are not afraid of liturgical changes or reforms, they are not afraid that the Freemasons have taken over The Church.  They don't yell about how horrible the Pope is, even when they respectfully disagree with him.  

More importantly, this absence of fear speaks volumes to me about the strength of our religion.  Christians have, since first celebrating the Mass, had to do so under stressful situations.  Sure, you can see our magnificent cathedrals and shrines and churches now but we also have Catholics in basements in China partaking of the Eucharist.  We have Catholics in Afghanistan with a cross tattooed inside their lower lips like they are really from Wakanda or something.  We have priests hiding in jungles and cities and farm lands all over the world, bringing the Truth and Sacramental Life to people at great expense to their own well being.

St. Justin Martyr wrote a letter back in the day (like around 50 years after the Resurrection) that outlined the way people like me worship.  He wrote it for his buddy, the Emperor of Rome, because there were outlandish rumors about cannibalism fueling persecutions and murder. (Interesting, as a kind of historical aside that give insight into the human condition - Christians later accused Jews of this same thing and the same accusation fueled persecution and murder again).  

The description offered by this great saint allows for anyone who wants to know how the First Christians worshiped the information they need to understand a very important aspect of my religion.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is how we have worshiped God since the Last Supper.  It is the way Christ wants us to worship. We did it before there was a Canon of Scripture.  We did it when our priests did not have robes to wear and there were no altar servers. His description is straight forward and simple and direct.

And no where in that description does it outline the liturgical form used by the Traditional Latin Mass.

Look, I get it.  People love their form and way to worship and, like those of us who love our football and baseball teams, they will become tribal about it. 

But it is that very thing - that tendency for us to become holier than thou about what form of the Mass is better and what form is perfect and what form will get us to heaven - that the Pope is trying to change.  If you are using either the TLM or the NO to sew divisions in the Body of Christ, you are the reason the Pope made the decision he made.  

So, what is my opinion?

I am going to listen to my Bishop and my Pastor.  I am going to trust the Holy Spirit to guide this Pontiff and I am going to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.   Most of all, I am going to do my best to follow the words of Jesus Christ. 

Be not afraid.