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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Priestly vocations: Bringing up the rear again

The latest Catholic World Report study of priestly vocations is out.

Rochester ranks near the bottom again.

"The 20 dioceses with the lowest ratio of diocesan seminarians to Catholics in 2006—starting with the bottom-ranked diocese—were San Diego, Honolulu, Metuchen, Las Vegas, Laredo, Los Angeles, New York, Hartford, El Paso, Rochester, Santa Rosa, San Antonio, Galveston-Houston, Rockville Centre, Boston, Syracuse, Detroit, San Bernardino, Reno, and Monterey."

Sigh. I can take comfort in the fact that Rochester is one of 4 New York dioceses at the bottom - and Rochester is not the worst in the state.

We've been struggling for vocations here for years. Much as I like and admire Bishop Clark, I have to wonder if he is not part of the problem.

I don't know the full reason why - and I am not about to say he is directly causing it. I know him to be a good man, and he does sincerely care about vocations.

Unfortunately, he has also been a lighting rod for criticism.

Indeed, I sometimes wonder if some of the misrepresentations and venom directed at him by some of my "orthodox" brothers and sisters may be making the problem worse. They paint a dark and often unfair picture of him and the diocese.

But, Bishop Clark, while a good man, is, to be honest, not an inspiring leader. He is a mild man, and his preaching is intellectually fine, but, frankly, dull. We need someone to fire up the people here - much as Pope John Paul II fired up the wider Church.

I also think Bishop Clark has allowed the diocese to be infected by some folks who distort Catholic teachings. When I was at the diocesan newspaper, I was disturbed by some of the things I saw being allowed to happen and grew increasingly frustrated at his inaction. In the Corpus Christi situation, for example, I think he waited way too long to act. Father Callan should have been suspended several years earlier. In addition, various liturgical abuses were allowed to continue around the diocese too long.

Even though I have been a Bishop Clark defender, I suspect we may not see a turn around until he retires.

For now, we must struggle with decreasing numbers of priests. It will be years before this situation can be reversed.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The essentials

It is so easy to get caught up in issues like closing schools, altar girls, and so on. To criticize and tear down. To become so full of anger and hate and judgement.

But sometimes I think we forget the essentials of our Catholic faith.

We have a radical agenda laid out for us through the Beatitudes. How many of us measure up to them? I know I fail.

In Matthew's version (5:3-10):

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for the sake of righteousness (justice): for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These are the main ones listed, but Matthew goes on:

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Offensive comment about priests, abuse

"First the priests screwed the little boys, now the bishop is screwing their parents."

That's how Rochester's WHAM radio personality Bob Lonsberry began his February 13 column on his popular website (

Lonsberry was criticizing Bishop Matthew Clark of the Rochester Catholic Diocese for rejecting some efforts to keep open Catholic schools slated for closing. The diocese had announced the closing of some 13 schools as recommended by a commission. Some parents/parishes had tried to organize efforts to keep their schools open - with folks pledging financial support. The Bishop said their efforts would not be enough.

Anyway, Lonsberry is certainly within his rights to criticize that decision. Lots of folks were upset by it. If he had stuck to that, it would have been fine.

But for him to begin his column with such an offensive remark is indefensible.

It is offensive to Catholics, and to the victims of sexual abuse.

Lonsberry has a history of offending people. He was put off the air by WHAM radio once before for comments that were interpreted as racial slurs against former Rochester Mayor William Johnson, an African Americian.

I think he needs to apologize for this latest remark.

And maybe it's time for WHAM officials to have a serious chat with him, as he is a public face of that station.

I complained on Lonsberry's site. I also called and e-mailed WHAM to register a complaint as well.

Maybe if more people did so there will be some action taken - if there hasn't been already.

(I published a version of the above on a blog hosted by our local newspaper.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Baseball haiku

Came across a great book combining two of my passions - Baseball Haiku, edited by Cor Van Den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura.

A wonderful collection of American and Japanese haiku.

A few from two great haiku poets - and fellow members of the Rochester Area Haiku Group.

Frist, Michael Ketchek:

dog days of summer
twenty-three games
out of first

struck out
the long walk home
in the dusk

summer night radio
thru the dark static
a Pedro fastball

- and then Tom Painting:

bases loaded
a full moon clears
the right field fence

the foul ball lands
in an empty seat
summer's end

And here's two from one of Japan's acknowledged haiku masters (along with Basho, Busan and Issa), Masaoka Shiki:

the trick
to ball catching
the willow in a breeze

like young cats
still ignorat of love
we play with a ball

I recommend the book to both baseball and haiku fans.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A cable confession

After being so proud for so long about our independence from cable -we now have it.

Me culpa.

It was a combination of reasons. One was that the good-looking-one and I have been avidly interested in the Presidential races (she likes Hillary - !!!!! - I've been campaigning for Huckabee). But so many of the debates and interviews have been on cable. It got frustrating.

Also, we have an older television, and would have had to get a box or cable when the switch comes next year. In addition, we were paying for two phone lines because we had dial up, and were paying for an internet provider.

When I called to find out about cable, I learned about phone and broadband service, and that the total package would be about the same as we were already paying!

So I switched.

Now I have cable.

Forgive me.

We did get to see a couple of debates.

And I finally got to see a movie I'd always wanted to see (Shaun of the Dead).

Plus, it was nice to have EWTN again.

Otherwise, I found out that the same bores are still pontificating on Fox.

And that there are still multiple showings of the Godfather movies.

The other night, the good-looking-one was flipping through the 200 channels and lamented as she did so many times in years past: "There's nothing on."

Ah, memories.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


I have been blogging for my local newspaper. Fun, but time consuming.

That has meant neglecting this blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave notice at the paper. My last official blog entry there is Friday.

That will mean more time for here and the Chesterton blog.

And my personal writing.

Currently, I am working on a play for school about a sick king.

I've also rejoined my haiku group.

In addition, I've joined a second church music group.

I hope to use this blog for more creativity, and less debate.

Frankly, I'm tired of debate.

What I need more is prayer.