View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, December 31, 2006


One of the painful aspects of even considering the diaconate is that it forces you to look at yourself. You have to examine all of your relationships, your spiritual life, decisions and mistakes you’ve made, your emotional and mental health.

That is not a comfortable thing to do.

What overwhelms me is my unworthiness. Oh, I know that is almost a cliche, but it is true.

And that sense of unworthiness could be part of the emotional/mental health issues I must address.

At morning Mass the other day, I even began to cry when thinking of my spiritual state.

So even if I never get a chance to officially apply, this process itself will help me.

If I let it.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Nativity Story

We went to see The Nativity Story last night.

It was good - well worth seeing - but not great.

My wife commented that the depiction of the Nativity in Jesus of Nazareth is still her favorite.

I did like the characters of Mary and Joseph. Mary, as played by Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), was believable as a 14 year old girl - even with a bit of pouting - and she looked the right age. (Olivia Hussey, the most beautiful Mary, in my opinion, looked too old and composed when she played the part).

But the best of all was Oscar Isaac as Joseph. He gave some life to a too-often overlooked saint - and even provided a quick quip as they left Nazareth for the census that got the audience laughing.

I also liked the music, and the setting. You got a sense of the landscape - and how challenging it would have been for a young couple with the woman on the verge of giving birth.

And the three wise men were a hoot.

Overall, a B.

Parish connections rediscovered

When checking into various document in preparation for applying to the diaconate program, I discovered that I was baptized at St. Margaret's Church in Brockton, Massachusetts.

I hadn't known that. But it's not surprising. My mother had only moved over to the U.S. from Scotland a year or so before to marry my father (he was in the Navy, and they met when his ship anchored near Greenock Scotland, where she lived).

St. Margaret is the patron saint of Scotland. I imagine she picked the church because of the name. A Scottish connection.

We later moved from Brockton to Geneva, N.Y., where we joined St. Stephen's Church. I attended the parish school, was an altar boy at the church, and was confirmed there.

St. Stephen - one of the first deacons, and the first Christian martyr (unless you count the Holy Innocents). I'd forgotten the connection between my hometown parish and my diaconal dreams.

It may not mean much in the scheme of things, but I enjoy discovering or realizing such connections.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A call - or ego?

Since I've said I was considering beginning the diaconate process again, several people told me they thought I'd make a good deacon and that they were glad I was going to try again.

Indeed, even before I said it, two different people said I should reconsider it.

That could be taken as a confirmation of the call.

Or it could be just that they don't know all the facts about me.

What it did remind me of was Luke 6:26: "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way."

How many of these comments are based on just superficial perceptions of me and the image I project – and mind you, I come from a family of successful sales people who were good at pouring on the charm?

Moreover, my many failings include pride. A lot of it. I have been quite correctly called arrogant.

So part of the discerning process - if I am admitted to the program - is how much of this is a real call, and how much of it is ego.

We have too many false prophets already.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mass reflection

Without you, Lord, I am
- a song without melody
- a candle without flame
- a well without water

Let me be filled with your love that I may
- make music
- give light
- quench thirst


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

St. Stephen: Diaconal thoughts

The Feast of St. Stephen. Deacon.

How appropriate.

Now that the Christmas season is nearly over – and the hectic days of "helping" Santa at the mall are done – I can step back and take a breath.

And think.

Last year, I had begun the process of discerning if I was called to the permanent diaconate. I hit a roadblock thanks to some foolish actions earlier in my life, but before I could even discover (with the help of some local canon lawyers) whether this roadblock could be cleared, my mother got sick, was hospitalized, and died after struggling for more than a month.

Her final illness, the funeral, and taking on the care of my father and grandmother, pretty much ended the diaconate effort.

But now Nana is dead, God rest her soul.

My mother's estate is pretty much settled.

The girls are all off at college (or married).

Dad is happily residing at a nearby adult home, and we have a buyer for the family home.

There was enough money left over from Nana's estate to pay a few bills, and I can finally afford to quit the part-time job that had eaten up my weekends (and thus time for training, classes, and retreats).

So, I called the diocese. We go back to square one. If I can overcome the roadblock, then I will consider entering the program. The entry process alone takes a year - so if I did get accepted, I would actually start in 2008, and then be ordained in 2012.

Thus St. Stephen's Feast is a good day to begin.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Grosswirth of observations

The recent "ordination" of Ray Grosswirth, a married resident of my home diocese and someone who has been active in parishes, as a married priest has led to a spate of discussion on some sites.

I'm not going to get into the issue of his ordination - he excommunicated himself without any overt action needed by the diocese - but rather the fact that some folks have used the incident as a vehicle to attack the diocese.

One of those attackers referred to a Father William Callahan and his break-away church, Spiritus Christi, saying that that church was fading into oblivion.

It was Father James Callan, not William Callahan (to the poster's credit, this was corrected later when the error was pointed out)

But as for fading into oblivion, a recent bulletin of the church I secured (from Dec. 2/3) reports attendance of 1,187 and a collection of more than $19,000. I know a lot of Catholic Churches that would love those figures.

My own parish had an attendance of around 1,200, and a collection of just over $9,000.

Spiritus Christi offers a full range of ministries. It is doing better than a lot of Catholic parishes - orthodox or otherwise. (By the way, the most orthodox parish in my suburb is in upheaval because the traditionalist pastor had to be removed after allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced earlier this year. Sigh)

As for the diocese, why the continued attacks? Bishop Clark does not read all the blogs out there and does not know all the people who are involved in the particualr parishes. Can we blame the bishop because Grosswirth slipped through?

If Grosswirth were allowed to continue in any church position after this act, that would be a different matter.

But on a broader level, just because you don't like a style of music or architecture, does that make the bishop Satan's servant?

When we worship, our minds and hearts should be on prayer, not on critiquing others.

So, other than old rumors and past alleged abuses, what specific liturgical violations is the diocese guilty of? What heretical statements is Bishop Clark making these days?

Are these claims by folks who don't even live in the diocese based in fact, or are they based on flawed information or memories, as happened with Father Callan's name?

And if such a simple fact can be incorrect, how can we be certain of the correctness of other statements?