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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spritual advisor quest continues

The priest who said he could not be my spiritual advisor did recommend someone who is a skilled spirtual advisor.

I called her today. We chatted for about 15 minutes, then agreed to meet in a couple of weeks to discuss the idea further.

In related news, I have added a new daily practice on top of my morning prayers: Scriture reading every night.

And this Saturday is the deacon ordination. One transitional deacon and six permanent deacons will be ordained. I plan to attend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Deacon Day of Reflection

I attended the “Day of Reflection about the Diaconal Discernment” May 26.

The day is the first step in the application process (beyond, of course, contacting the Diocese in the first place and maybe talking with the director of deacon personnel or with parish staff.)

We heard about the challenges of being a deacon, the rewards, and the application process.

Deacon David Palma, who runs the diaconate program for the Diocese of Rochester, noted that all too often we equate the deacons with what they do. He said being a deacon is more than what one does – indeed, many of the things a deacon does a non-ordained person could do. Non-ordained people can even, under the right circumstances and under certain conditions, perform baptisms and officiate at weddings.

The diaconate is a vocation that involves all aspect of a deacon’s life, he said, and that “what a deacon does can only flow out of who a deacon is.”

I also liked a response Richard Rohr gave to folks who said they are not worthy of being deacons: “You’re not worthy, so get over it.”

None of us is worthy of a call. We have to be humble enough to respond and to let God mold us and use us.

Indeed, one of the things cited repeatedly was that once we enter the program, we change for the better, if we allow God to work in us.

I could use that!

The process has been intensified since I first considered it two years ago (I had to stop when my mother got ill.)

All the application materials are due by September 1. Bishop Cark will decide who to invite in November, and the program starts for that group in January 2008.

If all goes well for this group, they would be ordained deacons in 2012. Interestingly, that is also the year Bishop Clark turns 75 and is required to submit his resignation – so if the Pope accepts that resignation (some bishops do continue to serve even after submitting), this class could be the last one Bishop Clark ordains.

If I am among those deacons, I would be honored.

Of course, there is the canonical issue that’s still being resolved.

I spoke with Deacon Palma briefly after the day, and he said if I had not heard a decision by July 1 to contact him immediately so he could see if something could be done about it.

By the way, those who like to slam the diocese for lack of vocations might be interested to know that next Saturday six deacons will be ordained, and that there are 29 men in formation. Deacons are not priests, true, but they are ordained members of the hierarchy.

To be honest, I find the whole process exciting – and frightening. Part of me just wants to crawl away and sit in pew and let others take the risks. What if the canonical issue does not clear up? What if it does, but I still get turned down? What if I start the process, and find out it’s not right and face the decision of quitting after talking about this for years? What if life jumps in again as it did two years ago with my mother?

But as one deacon candidate told us, if you even think you have a call, go for it. Even if you don’t get ordained, you will be enriched by the process.

Boy, do I need some prayers!

I went home and talked with my wife, who was too sick to attend the day (wives were encouraged to attend).

I told her what had been discussed. I then told her that my first vocation was to her, and so if she had any misgivings, now was the time to voice them. I assured her there would be no resentment or anger, or no tossing it in her face somewhere down the road.

She comes first.

She seems inclined toward saying yes, but there’s time yet.

Pray for her, too!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kid verse (clerihew)

Lisa Parr
while driving her car
missed the tree
but not me.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sean Hannity's tin ear: Independence Day

I was flipping the radio dial the other day and came across Sean Hannity's show. It was beginning as usual with Martina McBride's "Independence Day."

Then it hit me.

That's a song about an abused woman burning down her house, with the implication that her abusive drunken husband was in it. Then their daughter gets sent off to the county home - either because mom is in jail or dead in the home too.

Oh, the chorus is nice. Real stirring. Let freedom ring.

Like a fire alarm.

Is this the values message that Hannity wants to share? Abuse. Arson. Possible murder. A child bereft of parents and so living on public charity.

It reminded me of the 1984 Presidential campaign when President Reagan's people wanted to use "Born in the USA." Great chorus. But it's as if they didn't listen to the bitter lyrics. The irony of that chorus got lost along the way.

Sprinsteen balked at that one.

So maybe Hannity has a tin ear.

Or maybe he doesn't care.
It's all about appearances, really. Not reality.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just wondering

I live in the Diocese of Rochester.

The diocese - and our bishop, Matthew Clark - are frequent targets of folks of the traditionalist/conservative ilk.

Some of those folks don't even live in the diocese, yet they still assiduously follow the doings here. (At least in the case of former Rochestarians it makes some sense.)

Now I can understand when they raise questions about some things that they think go too far - as long as the comments are made in the spirit of fraternal correction.

But sometimes they take even positive things and try to find some way to make snide or negative - and often unwarranted - comments. At times, they twist facts, or imagine attitudes or thoughts in the minds of folks in the diocese in specific instances with little or no evidence to support their imagining.

And heaven help you if you ask for documentation or facts!

I don't understand the obsession, or why they seem to have so much anger. I wonder if something happened to them that has yet to heal.

I keep them in my prayers - as I suspect Bishop Clark does as well.

Search continues

I received a letter from the priest I spoke with about spiritual direction.

He said he didn't feel that he could provide me with what I needed.


He did recommend someone who might be able to help. I'll follow up on that.

And he did direct me to a book I'm enjoying.

On a personal note.

Daughter # 3 comes home this weekend. Daughter # 1 will be here Memorial Day. I pick up Daughter # 2 on June 2.

It will be good to see them. I don't like being an empty-nester - at least not yet!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmother's, stepmothers, mothers-in law, and all the women who act as mothers.

My own mother (to the right) passed away in October of 2005, and her mother (to the left) passed away in November of 2006, while my father's mother passed away in July of 1998, so this is the first Mother's Day with no blood relative to honor.

Thank goodness I have a fine mother-in-law, whom we will be taking out to dinner later, and, of course, the good-looking one.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spiritual direction chat

I met with the priest I’d contacted to discuss the possibility of his being my spiritual advisor.

I filled him in on some of the details about my spiritual life – warts and all.

Mostly warts, really.

I pointed out that I tend to be lazy, and undisciplined; have a hard time persevering; I’m too proud.

I told him what I needed is someone to give me deadlines of the sort I had as a journalist. That’s how I got articles done – unlike the novel I’ve been “working” on for 25 years. I often need to have the force of a meeting date to spur me to action.

He asked about my spiritual practices (a few, like morning prayers with the breviary), whether I’d been on retreats (rarely due to work, family obligations, and not making it a priority), if I read the Bible (in the past I’ve read the entire New Testament, and a chunk of the Old, but not in a regular way), and if I was familiar with the great spiritual traditions (I have some knowledge, but not in any depth).

He asked what I saw as the goal of spiritual direction. I said what I hoped for was some direction to keep me on track, some guidance on reading and practice, some answers when questions and confusion arise.

What I said I really need from spiritual direction is to help me to be truly open to God’s guidance and not just be swayed by my own pride and pseudo intellectualism. I need to let God run things, and not let my own will hold sway – that’s what often gets me into trouble of the kind the canon lawyer is currently considering before I can apply to the deacon program.

The priest said he wanted to pray about it. Fair enough.

But he did recommend a book he was reading as something I might fight helpful: My Life with the Saints by Father James Martin, SJ.

I had to stop at the library on the way home to drop off something anyway. There was a copy there.

I will start reading it tonight.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Prayers for Priests

More than a decade ago, I met a dear lady, Mary Reilich. She and another women, Mary Sanders, operated the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests.

The idea is to focus each day on a particular priest or group of priests (i.e those on sabbatical, missionaries, military chaplains, etc.)

They even put out a calendar listing who to pray for.

It's not exclusive to this diocese: There are similar calendars in other dioceses.

It's a great idea. Priests need prayers - and praying won't do the pray-ers any harm!

Saturday (May 5) was for our Bishop, Matthew Clark. Sunday was for Pope Benedict XVI. Today, it's Father Mark Miller, and tomorrow it will be Father Gerard Hafner.

I will add their names to my daily prayers.

Spiritual advisor 2

The priest called back, and agreed to meet with me to talk about the possibility of being my spiritual advisor.

It still might not work out, but I feel good about at least taking the step.

I know one of the things I want to talk about is my lack of discipline and my laziness. I need goals, deadines, and maybe a bit of pressure ("We are meeting next week and I have to read that book before we do!").

It would be good to get a spritual reading plan, and to get advice on prayer/retreats.

So we'll see.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Scotland the Brave

The good looking one rented a couple of DVDs we hadn't seen.
One was The Queen.
Watching it made me think of ... Scotland. (Part of the movie was set in Balmoral Castle in Scotland).
It helped that the other movie was The Last King of Scotland!

My mother was a Scottish immigrant. (My dad was a dashing American sailor who stopped in Greenock - near Glasgow - and charmed a certain lass.)

My two red-headed daughters betray my roots. And my non red-headed daughter is currently studying in Scotland.
My mother may have been partly Irish, but she was definitely Scottish. Dad was Irish and Dutch/German.

I've been watching with interest the election in Scotland. Although results are muddled (counting problems, computer glitches - is Florida now part of Scotland?), the Scottish National Party has one more seat now than the Labour Party - a first. The SNP has been pushing for a vote on an independent Scotland perhaps as early as 2010. I might live to see that.

Go Scotland!

So those are my roots. I even like bagpipes. I would love to visit Scotland. And my wife wants to see me in kilts.

As for the movies: Good acting. (Last King might not be to every taste, though.)

Too bad Sean Connery wasn't in either of them!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Seeking a spiritual advisor

I've always said that the exploration of the diaconate, no matter what the outcome, was part of my own thirst for spiritual growth.

I am a weak man, and I need "requirements" to spur me on. As a writer, I need deadlines. As a storyteller and musician, I need upcoming gigs. As one who has felt some sort of a call, I need the goal of the diaconate to help focus my spiritual life.

Today I began seeking a spiritual "requirement" to go along with the diaconate: I asked a priest to be my spiritual advisor.

I have long felt the need for someone to help guide me and to keep me on track. I actually asked one priest a number of years ago, but it did not pan out.

The priest I called today is one I have known and admired for years.

Alas, he was not in. I left a message, asking if we could talk about the possibility.

He could say no. That is his right. He may not have the time, or feel that he is the right person. I'll respect that.

And we could meet and it might not be a good fit.

So be it.

But as with so much going on surrounding the diaconate and my spiritual life, I feel the need to act, and not just dream about it.