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.

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…

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.


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

to remind us …

You call them Firefighters

There are men and women who fight for us every day; who face uncertainty, leaving their families to rescue yours, knowing that the chance for them never coming home is higher than most; whose uniform not only identifies their commitment and belief in honor, valor, brotherhood, and tradition, but is their only line of defense against the forces they face.

They are the only one left in the evacuation zone, staying until the last possible moment. They wake up at any time of the night, ready to respond to the call to duty. They are the face we see breaking through the flames, and the face of the one who carries you to safety.

They are the some of the bravest men and women the world will ever know, risking their lives in an a attempt to save the lives of others. They run into burning buildings, at raging forest fires, and stare death and fear in the eyes with no hesitation or second thoughts.

They are on the front lines in the war against Mother Nature’s fury, providing the last stand to protect that which we love and cherish most.

They have families, loved ones, interests and hobbies.

They are the warriors of the people, the fighters, our saviors, and the bravest among us.

We call each other Brother and Sister, and cherish each as if they were our very own flesh and blood.

You call them Firefighters.

September 11

These days in September are always an emotional roller coaster for me.

On the morning of 9/11 I went to work early. I had a pretty large meeting scheduled with the Superiors of the Jesuit Provinces in the US, as well as a few bishops.

I was at work for about 30 minutes preparing, and my phone rang. It was my then partner and still best friend Fredo Alvarez, and he was inconsolable. He was finally able to tell me that there was a plane crash at the World Trade Center. His mother worked on that block and he couldn’t reach her.

I turned on the TV in the conference room and watched the second plane hit on live TV.

We immediately cancelled the meeting, and I said Mass with the fellow priests and bishops. We prayed. We prayed harder than I think I have ever prayed. At the moment of the consecration of the Body and Blood of Our Savior, the plane hit the Pentagon.

We finished Mass and sent everyone home. I took a cab to my other assignment- The Basilica in DC, where the Cardinal was going to say a televised Mass for the nation.

Again we prayed. We prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.

I prayed for Fredo’s mom, and for the men and women I have come across in FDNY- the greatest fire department man has ever dreamt up.

I Prayed for a former co-worker and now FDNY Lt. on Rescue 1. He would have been on the initial alarm that day. I wrote him a long letter of recommendation so he could get on his the job- his dream of all dreams.

I finally made it home hours later- Metro was closed, taxis were overwhelmed. I shared a cab at one point with a woman who was a reporter for the Washington Post- her girlfriend was a reporter at the NY Times, and she couldn’t reach her.

I prayed again.. prayed harder than I had ever prayed before. We cried. Crying was the default action of the day. Our Nation was bleeding- taking as close to a mortal wound as freedom can bear.

Fredo’s mom was alive- she was late to work that day, exited the subway and saw the plane hit. She then walked from lower Manhattan to the Bronx- it took her 12 hours.

I spent weeks looking through the published list of FDNY’s losses looking for Matt’s name. Six days later I found out he was ok.

I prayed.. prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.

And I cried.

Today, 18 years later- I still cry. I cry for what our country lost; for the pain those left behind still feel every single day; for those lost in the battle against those forces who hate us just because we, like those lost, chose to get on a plane, to go to work, to don an SCBA, climb in a patrol car, to hold the hand of a dying elderly woman.

We lost a sense of our innocence that day. Something that no war, no memorial, no prayer will restore to us.

And today, 18 years later. I cry.. and I pray… I pray harder than ever before for those still in harms way here locally, in the military, and for those brothers of mine who are about to join the military.

We all have more praying to do.

God Bless you all.