We are built for this

Funerals have a “season.” There are times in the year where there is an uptick is funerals, burials, and viewings. Even during the COVID pandemic we as a species are currently navigating, the funeral busy season has remained, and we are in the midst of the summer season now.

I mention this because I do a fair amount of funerals throughout the year. Here in the Washington DC many people come for careers in Government or related activities, and never establish a church relationship, so several funeral homes call me to perform the rites for the “un-churched.”

On occasion, this busy season can appear taxing to an outsider. As a “self-sustaining” priest, meaning I work a secular job (in actuality, 4 in total) balancing the needs of the faithful and my ability to self-care is a bit of a juggling act.

I am in the midst of such a time, which led me to a series of conversation, 1 with my husband, and 1 with my oldest son, Sam.

In the end they were good conversations. I cherish them both for being concerned about my well-being, and they were also good for my self-examen. They conversations reminded me that I was built for this!

It’s often said that the priesthood is a calling, not a choice. That God, who “formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5) chose me to carry out the work of His Son Jesus Christ, giving those called to priestly ministry little choice.. we were conscripted by God to do this work. We are obligated, and thus God built us this way and supports us in the manner to the that prophet of all nations the Jeremiah speaks of.

Priests are responsible for the souls entrusted to their care, and are obligated to teach, serve, and above all save them with the love of God that we are obligated to express. There simply is no mechanism in the Melchizedek priesthood for us to ignore, shirk, push aside, delay, or disregard that obligation.

So there are tied days ahead for me… and for us all. But Christ will hold us up, walk with us, and even carry us when we are too tired to continue. That’s because His love for His children is absolute just as the priestly obligation entrusted to his shepherds and prophets is.

Frankly, it’s none of our Business

I awoke today to the news in catholic circles of a resignation. Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, who until today was the General Secretary of the US Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops. Generally considered the highest ranking Roman Catholic cleric (who isn’t a Bishop) in the country. The position he vacated coordinated the Roman Catholic message and mission of all the bishops serving in the US.

He was forced to resign today due to a blog post on an ultra-conservative catholic website that, somehow, obtained access to data from a gay dating / “hook up” application called Grindr.

They purport that they were able to track him via this data to frequenting a gay bar in DC; that he was on the app daily; and even tracked him to a gay “bath-house” in Las Vegas, NV.

The website, and accompanying webpage (which I will not link here) seems to be on the fringe of what most would consider “responsible journalism,” so many in Catholic circles find it to be dubious at best.

If these accusations are true, that is sad. However, it is far from what many consider “scandalous.”

He allegedly frequented a gay bar: Does that mean he engaged in activity that was against the Roman Church’s teaching? No, it does not. It’s no different than going to a sports bar to watch the game or just to socialize.

He allegedly used Grindr: Not everyone on Grindr is there for sex. Many are there to find friends and dates- there is no evidence that he had sexual relations with someone from the app.

He allegedly “frequented a bath-house” in Las Vegas: While those establishments are primarily for sexual encounters, there is no evidence he engaged in it. Maybe he didn’t know what it was. Bath Houses are common in many parts of the world and have nothing to do with sex.

In at statement from the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Steven Miles said “I am a sinner. So are you. So is Msgr. Burrill. Not one of us has a personal life that would withstand the sort of scrutiny the Pillar has applied to Burrill.”

The owners of Grindr stated that their data “… is not for sale and infeasible from a technology standpoint.”

In the end, and here is what is important, this priests life is over. Regardless of his true sexual orientation, and whether this is all true or not, he most likely will never be a pastor again. He may end up tucked in some office in the diocese that has little to do with and minimal contact with the faithful. They may also ask him to retire, resign, or laicize him, leaving him without any identity at all.

All of this information is not a matter for the court of public opinion. If Monsignor Burrill broke his vow of celibacy, its a matter between him, his confessor, and God.

Frankly, it’s none of our business.

Blessed Michael McGivney

Happy 139th Birthday to the Knight’s of Columbus, founded by Blessed Father Michael Joseph McGivney in my home town of New Haven CT.

He founded the KofC to assist the immigrant poor and their families, especially at the time of the loss of the family wage earner.

Blessed McGivney- pray for us that we may open our hearts to compassion for the immigrants that are at our Nation’s door.

May we greet them with the same love and care that you demonstrated as Christ commanded us in Matthew, 25:35 “For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” Lest we also forget, the Book of Hebrews 13:2 “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained Angels unawares.”

Amen

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone…

To my friends who are single- remember God loves you and so do I;

To those who are in long time relationships- remember today why your heart sings when you look across the table at the person chosen for you;

To those who are in new relationships- capture that passion today and never let it go. That funny feeling in your chest is your heart leaping at the sound of the one you are matched with.. enjoy it!

To the one who makes my step lighter, my smile brighter, and always makes my world warm, safe, passionate, exciting, love filled, Christ centered, sweaty, funny, kooky, serious, focused, driven.. My heart is yours yesterday, today, tomorrow and through to the next life, I love you always…

The last Utterance

Catholic Priests & religious throughout the world pray five times a day. Whether you are a nun or the Pope, five times a day, we pray the same prayers. It is one of the many things that unites us as Servants to the Body of Christ.

The last prayer of the day is:

May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.

Thankfully, God continues to grant me the former, and not the latter!

It’s such a simple, and yet powerful moment, this the last utterance of the day. I have been saying this prayer since Seminary, twenty-five years so far, and it’s meaning and power are never lost on me.

It is an amazing experience! Every day, my sister and brother clerics and I are so willing to bear our souls so completely to God’s will and direction. Whether we wake up here to serve another day or wake up in Heaven, in God’s warm embrace- that we welcome the outcome without reservation.

Sort of brings me to ground. Reminds me that, regardless of where I am or what I am doing, at the end of the day, it’s up to God what happens next.

Sometimes, we need that reminder. Often a hard thing to admit- that we can so easily get ahead of ourselves, forgetting our true nature- our purpose driven life, and focus on ourselves- who we think we are, and all too often- who we want other people to think who we are.

A self-serving life is not a life of sacrifice and service to others.

Grant me a peaceful death takes on new meaning.

Grant me the peaceful death of my self-serving ego; my consumerism, and my self-centered ideal.

Grant me the peaceful death of my self-portrayal of personal importance, my self-aggrandizing, and my poor behavior.

We should all beg for the death of that person within us, so what when we awaken after the restful night we prayed for, we can be renewed, wiped clean, and ready to be Servants of God… and each other.

Grant me a peaceful death.

My Funny Hat

14 years ago today, I laid prostrate in front of the Altar of God. When I rose, I was a successor to the Apostles- a Bishop in Christ’s One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

Have I done a good job? Maybe… I won’t know until I see our Lord face to face.

Have I tried my best? Yes. Have I failed? You better believe it.

Am I done? No. Is God done with me? Doubtful.

The best part of being a Bishop is all of you. Your work is the church! Without each of you, there would be no flock for me to shepherd.

If that were the case, I’d just be another old man sitting in a field, wearing a funny hat.

Thank you all for keep me from looking like an idiot… Although, God does protect the foolish!

God Bless you all.

Oh, Gregorio!

My all time favorite ancient piece of Sacred Music is “Miserere Mei Deus” written by Gregorio Allegri . It was written in the early 1600’s for performance only in the Sistine Chapel, with an imposing threat of excommunication of anyone who attempted to make a copy.

In 1770, Mozart was in the Eternal City. Heard the piece performed twice, and in his brilliance, transcribed it note for note, word for word, all 14 minutes of it. The first unauthorized copy of the piece – he left with his Catholicism in tact.

This work is generally considered a prime example, and one of the most recorded pieces of late Renaissance music. It is based on Psalm 50, and is always sung in the presence of the Holy Father on Maundy Thursday.

This isn’t a song for a community sing along! In fact, it takes 2 choirs to sing it.

Why the music history lesson? Well, I was so pleasantly surprised on Ash Wednesday while attending Noon Mass at the Basilica that their choir, split in two and placed at different places within the Great Upper Church sang this amazing piece for us.

When I saw it in the worship leaflet, I leaned over to my son and said “be prepared for tears.” I cannot hear this song and not cry.

It bring me to a profound sense of the divine. My mind takes flight, brings me to a place where I focus only on prayer and supplication- to a place where, my soul resonates with the music.

Good music should be heard by the ears, processed by the mind, and sung by the soul, thus joining us to the choir of Angels in Heaven. Well written, expertly performed with instruments only finely tuned by the hand of God, music should always move us to a sense and awareness of the Creator, His Son and His Mother.

Music makes us better people- and better Christians.

In the 1700’s, playwright William Congreve, in his play The Mounring Bride, coined the phrase, “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast.” True words from British Neoclassical Period.

Music does sooth us! We meet through music, we fall in love with and through music, we breach divides with music, music engages our soul, mind, and heart. Music provides a background of sorrow and celebration for our lives.

And most of all, we sing prayers of thanksgiving to God through music.

Oh Gregorio! Thanks for helping me sing to God.

Amen

40 days, 40 nights

Ash Wednesday is upon us, signalling the 40 days of Lenten reflection, which leads us to the celebrations around the Resurrection of Our Savoir, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow we are marked with ashes as a reminder of the struggles and denials we experience as children of God.

Ashes also remind us that, even through our striffe, God loves us, gave us His Son, and will watch over us until we go home to the reward promised.

Be prayerful during Lent. Be mindful of our personal and corporate sacrifice’s, our denials, and the reward that awaits us.

Peace

A Rare Evening at Prayer

It was raining- pretty steadily the other night. In spite of the dismal effects a cold winters rain has on many of us, it was the perfect setting for some reflective music, candle light, some reading and meditation.

… oh, and a visit from long past relatives.

My house is rarely quiet. Between my husband, 2 of my 4 sons living with us, a good friend couch surfing and the cat’s ruling over us all, it is indeed rare that I have the whole place to myself (well, the cats… but you know what I mean) so I decide to take advantage of the solitude.

So, I lit some candles, put on Gregorio Allegri (starting with Miserere Mei Deus of course!) and dive into a new book Amazon brought me that day.

The book, “A Book of Uncommon Prayer- 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary” written by Brian Doyle, was not at all what I was expecting.

It’s reflections had titles like “Prayer of Thanks for Good Bishops, as Opposed to Meatheads who think they are important.” & “Prayers in Celebration of Brief Things, for example, Church Services.”

Thank heaven for the Gregorio, or I may have chucked the book into the bin.

I then read a reflection that brought my soul into harmonious refrain with the Gregorio, and the choir singing it – which happened to be my relatives, long gone home to sleep in Christ, waiting for the Eternal Easter.

Prayers for Women named Ethel, and Men named Elmer, for We Will Not See Their Likes Again.

It speaks to these “cool, hoary names like that that reek of American character and dignity and hard work and laced dollies on Sunday before the Roast. For all the brave though quiet generous unassuming souls who came before us and built this country and built our cities and farmed our generous land and raised their children and never asked for much except the chance to breath free and love widely. “

And I wept.

I wept because in that description, I saw all my childhood memories in an instant. Names like Rose, Naomi, Edith, Albina, Eva, Antoinette, Francis, William, Mary, Otlie, Donald, Eleanor, Harold… all so fresh in my mind. They were homemakers, farmers, blue collar factory workers, truck drivers, railroad men and construction workers, living the small town American Dream, and more importantly, contributing to who I am today.

The reflection continued… “… their rough, worn hands and their seamed leathery faces that endured allot of a lot of weather and war and pain and loss but they kept working anyway.”

These passages remind me of my entire life back in small town Connecticut. It reminds me of my family, whose presence I felt with me in this dark, cold winter rain. Despite the conditions, I was warm, I was being embraced, and I was reminded of the deep love that family brings to us.

My thoughts then turned to the reflection in my mind- to the family I have. 4 wonderful, amazing sons. My wonderful relationship of 15 years, and our close, close friends who are also family. In each of them, I see my relatives.

As I reflected on my present day family experience, I see my relatives long gone, but ever present. Their examples passed to me are reflected in those who I pass along their wisdom, stories, and love, and I see the effect that ripple in the ancestral pond. That realization, until that night, was lost on me.

And I weep. I weep with sadness for those faces I can no longer touch and the laps I can no longer sit on. I weep for the loss of the farming lessons I will no longer receive, and how good a tomato plucked from the vine and immediately eaten has a taste that is truly indescribable.

I weep for the long gone family Christmas Eve, the every-pasta-ever-consumed for the first 25 years of my life came from a kitchen and not a box, and attending Mass every Saturday evening, 5th pew on the left, with scowls at the ready if some visitor took our pew. Oh, Saint Barnabas- what you must have thought!

I also weep with joy. Sunday Mass with the kids. Family dinners and trips, and truly the most amazing bond we all share.Watching them each grow into their relationships and the people they choose to bond with. I revel in joy that they are all in public service, working to help others in their hour of need.

This was such a cathartic experience for me truly. Thanks to my passed on family, for in that exact moment, you reminded me how you aren’t gone from my life, but that you define it.

The reflection ends, “For those names, which are mere sounds and handles, but mean so much to so many. And so: Amen.”

Indeed.

May God Bless you all.

Consigned to Ovens of Silence

Today while many of us are focused on our daily lives, I want to remind everyone that 75 years ago today, the Auschwitz death camp was liberated by Allied Forces.

Survivors gather there today to reflect, grieve, and remember.. As their numbers dwindle, so does our ability to be reminded of the true horror that we see the faces those who survived what was both the biggest mass murder in the history of creation, as well as the largest failure of humanity to be human.

We as the members of the modern human family have an obligation to never forget just how horrific we can be to each other. Had you told people in the 1930’s what was to come, the story would have been to terrific for people to believe.

If you think today that this sort of thing could never happen again, then you are as naive as our ancestors.

Pfennig Postcard, Wrong Address
by Michael R. Burch

We saw their pictures:
tortured out of our imaginations
like golems.

We could not believe
in their frail extremities
or their gaunt faces,

pallid as our disbelief.
They are not
with us now . . .

We have:
huddled them
into the backrooms of conscience,

consigned them
to the ovens of silence,

buried them in the mass graves
of circumstances beyond our control.

We have
so little left
of them

now
to remind us …