Category Archives: Koinonia

Church, Companions on a Slippery Slope


Church Victim of Slippery Slope Logic

Passing through some of our local communities, I frequently notice churches, that is, the physical building, the places of worship, and what characterizes them. The structure, the upkeep, the appearances, the messages posted outside; these say a lot about the people these brick and mortar structure, symbolic representatives of the beliefs and communities they claim they serve. I often see the trite clichés like “God is home, come on in!” or “Be yourself; everyone else is taken” and similar trite slogans. Apparently the Roman Catholic Churches in this area, Ravena and Coxsackie, NY, have given up on being taken seriously so now these parish leaders, the pastors have to play cool cutsie, mimicking their Protestant and Reformist cohorts. Such silliness simply degrades the sacred space and makes idiots of those who still frequent them.

Contrary to what you have been led to believe, dear readers, churches are not where God lives [Thank God!], that is, churches are not God’s personal primary residence, they are sacred spaces where we can find safe, quiet space to reflect, meditate, be still, or engage in a conversation with the Divine, a practice we call prayer, but have forgotten – or never knew how to do it. Nowadays most conversations with God turn out to be like conversations with those twits exercising their thumbs on an electronic device; God’s trying to reveal himself to the twit who’s functioning with half a hemisphere.

Repurposing Our Churches

 Materialist-consumerists worship their new idols: mega-flat screens, surround sound, a nymph, and a bottle. Happy worshipping!

When I hear of closure of churches, merging of congregations, sale of church property, conversions of churches to art galleries, restaurants, even private residences, I feel a cold shudder. These churches have become like dinosaurs; they were once living, awesome organisms, and they thrived and nurtured similar life but at some time long ago they became sick, languished and died. Now all we have left of them are lumps of rock we gawk at in museums or use as paperweights in our studies. So, too, many of our former sacred spaces are now secular spaces where the inhabiting materialist-consumerists worship their new idols: mega-flat screens, surround sound, a nymph, and a bottle. Happy worshipping!

So where has God gone once evicted? God’s where he’s always been: in the dark silent depths of our hearts, unless we’ve replaced God there too with some idol like money, sex, a car, a political figure. Yes, O’Idolaters of Ubiquitous White Noise and Distractions, the Ultimate Truth still lies hidden in that wet, fertile, darkness deep within a human being (No, not a vagina!) but who nowadays with their stymied white-cane spirituality would dare explore the silence within when there’s so much to do in the world? Why would anyone want to become acquainted with their true self when they can invent another, more pleasant, acceptable self and transform it at any time. Who will know? You will. But you don’t care because you’ve been diving down that slippery slope for so long you wouldn’t know your true self if you tripped over it!

In my meanderings I spend time in churches, at meetings and conferences, on Internet forums, at monasteries, interacting with others in a variety of settings. I note the anxiety and the vulnerability of so many people; I note their white-cane spirituality, blindly pursuing some sort of agenda-seeking-to-become-a-religion, a tool for a virtual life; I listen to and become offended by the ignorance and narcissism of those claiming to be called to a vocation, as clergy, as lay religious, as lay ministers in churches, congregations, parishes; I frequently observe the infantile fascination of the unwashed when, in a strange ecstasy of voyeurism, they rub shoulders with monks, priests, nuns, or spiritual leaders, and they grin idiotically as if caught in an act of masturbation. “Hee, hee! Look at me!” Narcissism, too, is a form of idolatry. I have to wonder whether the gawkers or the gawkees actually realize the pitiable dynamic going on. It’s rather like the voyeurism of social media but worse. Worse because the so-called spiritual leaders are actually enjoying the worship, and the egos soar – and the wound deepens and festers, poisoning the entire mystical body.

If churches and faith communities are hemorrhaging members, the religious vocations are dwindling into membership cachexia. And like starving rats will go for anything that smacks of survival. For several decades now, the materialist consumerism and the dumbing down of society has left the message of higher truths and spirituality to languish in the shadow of anti-human propaganda, corporate greed, political narcissism, social confusion, despair and anxiety. Fear of loss is the underlying message everywhere we look. That fear is nourished by the messages we receive of time running out for something, anything, everything; fear the terror threat, fear the coming rain or snow showers, fear the threat represented by the guy next door, fear the North Koreans, fear the Russians, fear the illegals. What we need to fear is the false teaching in the poor preaching, we need to fear the pulpit politics, we need to fear the bigoted perp patrols.

Stuck somewhere in a learning curve…

We are stuck somewhere in a learning curve. But where? We need to learn to fear our own demise and ignorance thanks to the conflicting and contradicting messages we receive from the media, the poor performance of our education institutions, and the dishonesty and corruption of our political system. Add to that the failure of our Judeo-Christian religious institutions to teach correct doctrine and dogma, and to provide effective preaching in support of implementing doctrine and dogma into our day-to-day lives in furtherance of “happiness” and a “good end.” And it’s no wonder people are despairing and anxious. The only religion that’s growing these days is Islam and our response is to demonize it as a bunch of whacko terrorists. Doesn’t anyone see where this is leading? But then, when I was a kid it was the Roman Catholics and Protestants killing each other. Only the bigotry and creeds have remained the same; only the faces have changed.

Failing religious institutions and religious organizations and institutions are desperately prostituting themselves in a vain attempt simply to survive. But like our cultural and political institutions our religious and faith institutions are appealing to the lowest common denominator in the attempt to get what they can and run with it. It’s not working, people, that’s why you see so many storefront and strip mall micro-churches flooding into the vacuum left by mainstream institutions. Problem is this: the storefront and strip mall micros are just as bad as the movie-theatre or stadium megachurches, because they create their own ideologies, agendas, idolatries and there are plenty of sheeple to participate because they don’t know anything better. Thanks Vatican II and interfaith dialogue, ecumenism. Lights, cameras, action! Worship!

I can speak from personal experience made in a relationship with a monastic community in Northwest New York state, near the Vermont border. The monastic community there is comprised of monks and nuns, both referred to as monastics, mostly lay religious (as opposed to ordained clergy), living in community according to a formal rule of life. Work, prayer, rest. Sounds like the good life, doesn’t it?

The monastery is nestled between mountains on several hundreds of acres of forest and meadow. The buildings are far from the noise of the picturesque local village and the hustle and bustle of the “world.” The work life of the monks and nuns is what supports the monastery and keeps the lights on and food on the table. Support from benefactors, publishing, music, and retreats are icing on the cupcake. Spiritual life is divided into private prayer and liturgy in the beautiful basilica and the small temple church. You’d think they have it all and then some. Their outward appearance is idyllic; what’s going on inside is traumatic.

But writing books, hospitality for retreatants, dog breeding and training, and cheesecakes cannot guarantee survival. You see, just 50 years old in 2016, the monks and nuns are aging and more are dying or leaving than are being recruited. One of the problems is the fact that the bishops, though they support the concept of the monastery, do little to encourage monastic vocations. Why? Because they have a difficult time just recruiting priests for their parishes. Also because of the What’s in it for me? attitude of possible recruits, the consecrated life doesn’t offer much that can compete with the idols of the secular world. Schools and churches just haven’t taught higher values so we end up with materialist consumers who have no concept of spirit; they are virtually spiritually deaf, mute and blind. There’s a certain paradox, contradiction in so much that Christians today claim.

Get the *&%$# of my way. I’ll be late for church!

So where does an organization in decline turn in the desperate attempt to survive a couple of more years? Like the consumer society they live in, they are compelled to sacrifice quality for quantity. Like the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany reports in a recent issue of Sheaf, the official gazette of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese reports “200 deacons and growing.” When you can’t attract young men to the priesthood you have to attract old men to the diaconate. Numbers not quality count; that’s why the permanent diaconate was revived by the Roman Catholic Church in the 60s to stem the decline in seminary admissions; in many dioceses the diaconate has become a boy’s club, a church country club, an organization of narcisistic logrollers. “My dad the deacon.” “My son the deacon.” “My wife, Mrs Deacon!”

Deacon Chic Coming Soon to Your Parish!

The Episcopal church has been ordaining “women” for decades; many (mostly gender ambiguous specimens) in the RC church are advocating ordaining women deacons and the reasonable expected consequence of this slippery slope is women priests! When does this comedy of errors, this farce stop? [Editor’s note: For those of our readers with limited vocabularies, a comedy of errors is a related series of amusing or farcical events involving a series of awkward missteps or other mistakes.]

Clergy or Special Ed Class?

In the 13th century, in about 1221, St Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, decided that there were many lay persons unable to join a monastery or live in a religious community, who were being left out of the Franciscan experience. He founded the so-called Third Order in addition to the First Order (the Franciscan Friars) and the Second Order (the Poor Claires). The Third Order has been around for almost 800 years now, and was thriving until recently, and it too is dwindling. The Third Order, like the First and Second Orders, is geriatric and dependent on an institutional walker. Even with the approval of the New Rule for the Third Order by Pope Paul VI in his Seraphicus Patriarcha, the Third Order is turning senile. Like so many once bustling religious orders, the Renewal of the Roman Catholic Church backfired, and now the main activity of the Franciscans is competing with the Evangelicals in the Third World or selling off Franciscan properties in the First and Second World, or burying dead Franciscans in this world. The Third Order is generally made up of old women, a few middle aged men, and some hyperpious (sociopathic) young adults. We can see where that’s going. You guessed it! They’re the one’s swinging the rosary beads in front of the abortion clinics and in front of state capitols, providing rich entertainment for the studs and trollops on their way to the hourly rate hotel around the corner.

OK. But can someone tell me how this works? How about you, Father?

More recently, the monastery I was discussing above, having had a previous community of married persons called “Companions” for some thirty years (1983-2014), until they either died or went off to nursing homes, decided that the monastic community had to generate some sort of alternative resource to support the monastery. Once the last Companion was shipped off either to the nursing home or to the cemetery, the building formerly occupied by the Companions was renovated and turned into a rather nice “guest house” where, for a “donation” of $80.00 a night, visitors to the monastery can stay. What the monastery did was to re-invent the “Companions,” who were originally married couples who lived together in an almost monastic community on the monastery grounds, and observed a life rule, and opened the new “Companions” to all faiths, all people who wanted to be “formally connected with the [redacted] monastery” and “deepen their spiritual lives.” The officially adopted and published rule of the new “Companions” calls them a “fellowship of lay people.” One of the purposes of the “Companions” is to “grow in wisdom” and to “understand the mystery of God.” If you haven’t caught some of the contradictions and inconsistencies in this, we’ll point them out to you below.

The Franciscan Third Order Cross.
(We did not have access to the Companions “distinctive cross” at this writing.)

Why become a member of this new “Companions” group? Well, according to the promo put out by the monastery, “They follow a realistic rule of life, wear a distinctive cross, have access to web resources dedicated specifically to the Companions, and help support the spiritual mission of “[redacted]. If all that sounds impressive, it’s not. Any adherent to any faith or belief tradition follows a “realistic rule of life”; “good”, that is, authentic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. all incorporate some sort of prayerful piety in their daily lives. Oh! You get to wear a “distinctive cross” by purchasing it for about $69.00. That’s nice but a name tag engraved on an attractive plastic plate would serve just as well as an announcement that: “Hey, look at me! I’m a member of a distinctive group and you’re not!” Didn’t we just note that narcissism is a form of idolatry? Isn’t this a form of pride, a lack of humility? Does the Cross have to be “distinctive”? Sounds like a Pharisee to me. Having access “web resources dedicated specifically to the Companions” is touted as another of the membership perks. We’d rather not comment on that one but if falls short of expectations, we hear.

Let’s face the facts: The monastery may be facing annihilation over the longer term if it doesn’t (1) come up with some sort of recruitment scheme for the long-term future of the community, and (2) come up with some sort of outside “support for its mission,” which translates into people who are able and willing to give in support of the community before it has to start selling off acreage. The old “Companions” committed their lives and fortunes to the monastic community; they’re gone now and so, too, probably are their fortunes. We expect that the monastery is looking to the new “Companions” to pick up some of the slack.

And this is how it’s gonna be!

Our study of the new “Companions” and its format would indicate that as an institution it doesn’t promise much. It’s too loosely organized, there are no real commitments, everything is pretty lackadaisical in terms of governance – or dictatorial, since one of the monks is the sole director and calls all of the shots. The members are scattered all over the place, so it will be difficult to convene them for any sort of gathering. There are no financial commitments such as dues and the monastery doesn’t offer discounts or financial incentives specifically for Companions so there’s no actual money coming in apart from the odd donation, and no reason for Companions to support monastery funds generation through purchases or participation in for-fee (Oops! I mean to say, “donation.” That’s church jargon for you pay a fee but they don’t pay a tax for the “gift.”)

We have heard that the director of the companions wants to organize a retreat this year for “Companions” at the monastery but that is getting lukewarm reception from “Companions.” Wonder Why?

If the new Companions were organized as a more local group, they would be similar to a parish confraternity, and their numbers would be strictly limited to locals who participate in the parish or church community. To get numbers you have to appeal to a wider geographical coverage, like the entire state or country. But the monastery’s denomination is not even mainstream. Yes, it’s Christian, and that poses a problem right from the get go, but it’s also a very minority Christian denomination. But realistically, of all the obstacles, challenges and problems facing the Companions is the reality that being a Companion doesn’t offer anything particularly special that can’t be gotten by anyone walking through the monastery doors. Excuse me, for I have erred! There is one thing that is reserved for Companions only: the “distinctive cross.” A special design only for Companions, and only one per Companion, please. Available only through the monastery online store for $69.00. Now doesn’t that make you feel special?

A major theme was discussed by the monastics in various meetings before the Companion program was formally started…

We’ve obtained information from one of the Companions, an email from the Director, forwarded to us for information. Apparently there was some back-and-forth among the Companions about the proposed undecided retreat date, and the Director, apparently a bit pissed, but his response is interesting. He states in his email that, “[t]he Companion Rule talks about a fellowship with [redacted monastery], this fellowship is with the individual Companion and the monastics of [redacted].” This means that the fellowship is not between the individual Companion and the other Companions and the monastics of the monastery; rather it is between the individual Companion and the monastics! The director says further that this was a “major theme discussed by the monastics in various meetings before the Companion program was formally started.” Too bad the people aspiring to be Companions are not clairvoyant or mind-readers because the Rule is not clear on this point! He points out rather clearly that the Companions are not obligated to “share…with other Companions,” “that if Companions want to reach out to other Companions” they can do so of their own “free will” (But why would it be otherwise, we ask?), and emphasizes that “participation with other companions is voluntary.” That’s all very nice but where’s the bloody companionship in the Companions?

Tell me! What will the monastics decide?

We are informed that in an introductory letter to Companions, the Director states that the principal and only form of communication used by Companions central will be online. Sound a bit exclusionist? But in the more recent communication he goes on to say that although they might have computers and be connected to the [i]nternet [sic; recte Internet] “Companions do not need to be ‘shamed’ if they do not post comments on the Companion forum.” It seems to us that by definition, communication is a key word in companionship. If the Internet is the primary mode of communication and the Companion Forum is the designated place for Companions, why don’t they communicate? The do, but behind the scenes, sometimes in confidential ambush. But this is not uncommon practice in religious institutions. Much is done in secret and much done in secret is evil.

As for the “retreat date,” the Director writes: “[I]t will be up to the monks and nuns of [redacted] to set the date…the same would apply if held off campus because the mosastics must have the free time to offer a retreat.” So much for a Companions’ retreat. Question: Who’s the retreat supposed to be for?

Still in the learning curve. But where?

What’s really disturbing is that the Director writes, “[t]he monastics are still within the “learning curve” of the Companion program.” We have learned that there have already been a number of casualties among the Companions due to the “learning curve.” If this so-called Companions group purports to offer so many significant benefits, how can they achieve these under the current conditions and in the midst of a learning crisis? Please don’t call us, we’ll call you. By the way, let us know when you’ve gotten past milestone (3) of the “learning curve.”

Fellowship

Just a final word on fellowship and companionship

Just a final word on fellowship and companionship for those who are interested. We do hope that members of religious communities of any tradition, and especially the Companions get to read and reflect on this: [Editor’s note: While we do use as our authorities excerpts from Christian Scripture, parallel concepts with substantial identical meaning can be found in any of the great belief traditions. Anyone familiar with the sacred texts of those traditions will have no difficulty identifying those similarities.]

The Greek word  “fellowship” κοινωνία (koinónia) as it occurs in the Christian Second [New] Testament means essentially a partnership, joint participation, communion to the mutual benefit of those involved. Christian fellowship, then, is the mutually beneficial relationship between persons of common interest or belief. We believe that Christians can have the identical fellowhip relationship with those outside the Christian tradition. So we’re OK with the use of fellowship in the Companions Rule, if that’s what is meant. We don’t think it is clear in the Rule, though. First DING.

The mystery and privilege that is human fellowship is that it exists because it has been enabled it by Divine grace. Those who believe the Christian Gospel are united in the Spirit through Christ to the Father, and that participation is the basis of what we generally tend to call fellowship, a first step to companionship. This special relationship confirmed by Jesus in his high-priestly prayer:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

The phrase translated by “complete unity” in this prayer is the oneness that believers seek to experience in true communion —companionship — with another, and by extension, with the triune God.

If the ground is fertile for fellowship, it will grow naturally, because it’s natural for human beings to want to be around people similar to themselves and, in time, one finds one’s self desiring, seeking out, and cultivating the companionship of people who subscribe to similar beliefs and values. As a member of a faith or belief community one’s beliefs, traditions and values may be countercultural, that is, they be in stark contrast to the world around you. That’s one of the reasons why for fellowship in relationship with persons with whom we can share, relate, converse is a very important gift.

Whether one is of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, the lessons we can learn about fellowship are condensed in the Christian pastoral letters to the Philippians. Here are some of the lessons we can learn about true fellowship and that it means:

  • praying for one another (1:3, 4)
  • serving God together (1:5, 7)
  • partaking together of God’s grace (1:7)
  • trusting in God’s sovereign working in one another (1:6)
  • heartfelt affection for one another (1:8)

Our prayers should not, in our opinion, be constantly begging for something other than what we face. We should pray that we have the strength to accept what is happening to us as God’s love for us; we should not pray that the situation change but that we be changed by the situation. This is the basis of hope: accepting the moment in anticipation of a positive outcome. We should reflect on Paul’s prayer at Philippians 1:9-11 (paraphrased):

‘And I pray this, that our love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that we can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of reckoning, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through virtue to the glory and praise of God.’

So where does companionship fit in this scheme of relationship living? Companionship in the Second Testament has a very specific meaning as opposed to the concept of fellowship.

The original concept of companion, as we read it, has to do with journeying together (Gk  συνοδία (sunodia) — a journey together), or to receive or give access to one’s self (Gk. προσδέχομαι (prosdechomai), both involving the prefix σύν (syn), indicating the notion of being with, together with, in union, in communion. Companions are further described as σύντροφος (syntrophos) used to mean “nourished by” or in the sense of a foster-brother, brought up with; one’s companion. Other words translated as companion express the notion of accompaniment such as περιάγω (periagó) — to lead around or take around as a companion) or παραλαμβάνω (paralambanó) meaning to take along with oneself, to join to oneself to, to companion.

It seems that companionship is a relationship in which the participants emphasize achieving an almost profound intimacy with each other through individual growth and self-actualization and excellent communication sharing so that their best spiritual and temporal fruits can be harvested. Companionship implies a relationship characterized by its closeness, and is more intimate than fellowship. Shared culture, tradition and values can be the basis of sincere fellowship but companionship requires the willingness and capability of going even deeper, and requires a higher degree of development of self-awareness, self-reflection, authenticity, commitment.

Companionship involves trust, vulnerability; not sameness.

To be companions, we don’t have to be clones of one another. Likewise, the responsibilities and vulnerabilities increase with companionship, and the companion must anticipate some of the challenges. Companionship goes beyond fellowship in its requisite attention to forgiveness, reconciliation and genuine presence. Companionship adds to the definition of love the aspect of sacrifice of one’s own interests to nurture the spiritual growth of others.

Companionship may be thought of as a form of fellowship but companionship is built upon interchange or communication, and communion, that is, a closeness that exists among companions, those closely associated with one another in virtue of a life rule or standards to which they are committed and hold in common. The key in companionship is communication and the focus concepts that describe companionship are interchange, communion, sharing, dialogue. Communication means sharing reflections, perceptions, ideas, information, needs, support, resources, gifts, using words or other symbols, dedication of time and treasure, being accessible and present, or even body language and actions so that all members of the relationship understand these to be expressions of one’s commitment to the community of companions.

Unless we have chosen to forsake all that is society and isolate ourselves from any contact with human beings, and choose to escape human community by living in isolation in some remote wasteland, we live in a society. Living in a society means that we live in close interaction with other human beings, and that the interaction will necessarily fluctuate between pleasure and pain. We have to navigate the testy waters of human relationships each moment of each day; we have to tread water or drown. Again, Holy Scripture teaches us something about what to do when we feel that our space has been violated.

In companionship there is also vulnerability, and vulnerability can often lead to suffering, even if only unintentionally inflicted. Ancient wisdom teaches that “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov. 19:11) To overlook an offense means to be able to understand what might have caused a person to offend you and to let it go. Christians generally believe that they are adopted members of the family of God and fellow members of the body of Christ. (e.g., 1 Co. 12:27; Rom 12:5; Eph 4:25)

Companions are Soul-Friends

Communication, accompaniment, forgiveness and reconciliation are the hallmarks of true companionship. If you are companions on a journey why would you vex your companion, and if you are aware you have offended your companion, you would likely go to great lengths ask forgiveness and obtain reconciliation. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 18:23-24). We think that is a profound statement on companionship and the intimacy and communication that is seminal to the concept of being a companion.

And, of course, we do recite a familiar passage in our daily prayers, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Regrettably, in our materialist-consumerism, in the political and social climate of today, we are really poor losers. Rather than practice the principles of our faith and belief traditions, the precepts of our institutions, and our true nature, we’d rather ambush, deceive, misinform, simply flick the bird to those who should be our companions on the journey of life. This is equally true for individuals as it is for our organizations and our institutions. We are on a slippery slope, a situation in which a relatively small and well-intentioned first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant, usually unintended or negative effect.

Companions Together.
See beyond the monkey.


How Sick is the Church? An Opportunity to Share Your Inputs


Francis: Rebuild My Church

Rebuild my Church

[But not into an art gallery, disco, or brothel!]

By way of introduction, here are a couple of examples from real life, that you may have experienced:


  • PS, a Roman Catholic priest and RCDA tribunal judge, made the revealing and statement in a moment of resenting sarcasm, “They’ll ordain anything these days!” That raises the questions of “Who?” will ordain and Who are the “anything?” But that’s just one example of the many careless and imprudent public statements that are being made by persons in visible and influential positions in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
  • A Roman Catholic Sister of Saint Joseph (you know, the nuns who seem to have usurped the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center and most administrative and higher teaching  positions) has a favorite innuendo – filled phrase, “Those men in Rome!” The impression made by such insensitive and indifferent statements on auditors of any persuasion can be devastating.
  • A Roman Catholic priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany claiming to be of Ukrainian origin and liaison to the Orthodox churches, refers publicly to the soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II as the “Polack on see of St Peter.”
  • Women chaplain interns under the tutelage of a Calvinist supervisor at a major Albany, New York, hospital, in a Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy) announce that they are disgruntled Catholics, publicly announce their support for women in the priesthood and criticize the Roman Catholic Church openly and publicly; they are then invited to present talks at the so-called Spring Enrichment.
  • Roman Catholic clergy and male religious cow to that same Calvinist supervisor and are degraded by the non-Catholic, mostly women, chaplaincy staff.
  • Women gatekeepers decide who speaks with the bishop, the pastor, etc., and create an environment of exclusionism.
  • Hungry faithful feel unwelcome in God’s house; unwelcome at His table.
  • A well-educated, highly competent,  man in excellent health applies to the diaconate program of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. He is initially welcomed but is later called in by the director of deacon formation and told, “I did not notice your age. The deacon program is 6 years and you must be ordained by age 62. That’s the diocesan policy. You will be 64 in six years so we cannot enroll you in the program. Thank you for your interest.” In the meantime, poorly educated, ailing men are welcomed into the program, some drop out because of health or program leadership.
  • A graduate of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology continues a ministry of pastoral and spiritual care to the faithful who are not affiliated with a Roman Catholic parish; the minister practices a Roman Catholic spiritual discipline with a local male religious community. The minister attempts to place an ad in the official Roman Catholic newspaper offering his services in pastoral care, provides the text of the ad, the ad is accepted by the Evangelist, he pays for the ad. Several days later the female editor of the Evangelist contacts he minister and informs him that the ad will not be printed because he is not associated with a parish.
  • A feminist theologian and member of a women’s lay religious community, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, comes under fire for her heterodox writings on the theology of the Trinity; she lectures to the public at the local Sisters of Saint Joseph Provincial House

Rebuild My Church!

Rebuild My Church!

We have over the past several years received a number of communications complaining of problems perceived in at least the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany but which may be reasonably inferred to be endemic in most of the American Catholic Church. We have listed some below, but instead of a bulleted list, we’ve made it into a survey list that our readers can check off and which can be tallied to get some idea of the range and nature of ecclesiological, pastoral, and magisterial problems the Catholic faithful are experiencing in their dioceses.

We’d like to invite our readers to review the following list and to click on the circle preceding a “problem” if you find that you have experienced such a problem.

At the end of the list, you can tell us whether you are Roman Catholic, Protest and, Jewish, or Other, and after that list you can tell us where you live.

This is all anonymous and for information purposes only. You can see the results up to the current date by simply clicking “view results” at the bottom of each poll box.

Thanks very much for your participation in this interesting undertaking.

American-Idolatry

Ecclesial and Pastoral Pathology List

In the list below, simply check off the list items that most correspond to how you feel. If something is not included in the list, you can enter it in the space at the end of the list or leave a comment to express your thoughts.


 

Religious or Faith Affiliation

This is where you can let us know about your faith tradition. It serves two purposes: (1) it informs us of the percentage of RC readers responding, and (2) it informs us of the percentage of non-RC respondents who have some perception of the problem.


 

Ministry Activity

We’d also like to know about your ministry activity. Are you involved as clergy or as a lay minister? What are your perceptions about these problems.


 

Where Are You Located?

We are discussing the situation in the United States but this doesn’t mean that these problems are unique to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. But it is important for us to know where our respondents are located, and whether the majority of our readers are experiencing these problems in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.


 

Yes, it does come down on the heads of the American bishops; as the saying goes, “The fish rots from the head down.” If the bishops do not recruit to the ranks, the ranks deplete. If the bishops lose the reins of their diocese, the horses run amuck. If the bishops do not take command of the front line troops, they have mutiny on their hands. If the bishops abandon the rudder, the ship of Church runs aground. In the present state of affairs the faithful are angry, confused, depressed, and lost. It’s just such an ecclesiology and pastoral theology at work when Protestant authors note the hemorrhage of the Roman Church and the recourse of the faithful to evangelical, fundamentalist, and Orthodox traditions. The breakdown of Roman ecclesial hierarchical authority has created a festering wound that refuses to heal because it’s not receiving the appropriate attention.

But it’s not only the bishops who are failing us and the Church, its we, too, who as members of that mystical body we call Church, turn our backs on Mater et Magistra, Mother and Teacher, and then point the finger as if we were pure as lilies. Now, during Lent, instead of giving up something, let’s do something. We can start by identifying where the pathology is and then proposing a course of therapy. That’s the whole sense of this survey.

Otherwise, and generally speaking, the Roman Church must return to its origins and principles or it is doomed to mutate into an institution that bears no resemblance to its former self; much is the fault of bishops who have lost control over their dioceses, and much the fault of those who want to be Church but want Church to change according to their parameters. This is a similar situation where some agendas want God to have specific genitalia or be a particular something; in otherwords, anthropomorphizing God, downward theism, if you will. Poor teaching has brought this about; God is pure spirit and doesn’t need a created body! God is perfect and doesn’t need to be made according to creature parameters. God is unmade and cannot be made.

Our culture is overwhelmed by idolatries! Idoltatry is worshipping something created as if it were God. Look around you, what would you give up to be closer to God? If you don’t say everything and anything, then you are an idolater! You are putting something before God or between you and God. In the simplest of terms, that’s idolatry!

But much, too, can be attributed to the ambitions and scandal of those with heterodox agendas acting under the aegis or cover of the Church; these are the most insidious and dangerous pathogens that must be eradicated if the Church and the Tradition is to survive.

 Please leave a comment about this article.

Where are you on this scale?

Where are you on this scale?
Idolatry————————Humility


The Wooden Bowl: A Parable


I Guarantee You will Remember the Parable of the Wooden Bowl Tomorrow, a Week from Now, a Month from Now, a Year from Now.

Parables have since time immemorial taught us thru the commonplace, and have sometimes changed us in surprising ways. And as we move towards a new year, what better time to reflect on who and what we are. Perhaps this gift of the parable of the Wooden Bowl may give us some pause, and provide a scintilla of the gift of Wisdom.


The Wooden Bowl

old wooden bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson.

The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. ‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

wooden bowl + spoon

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.old man

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’ Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. ‘ The four-year-old smiled and went back to work…

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

[I am humbly grateful to my friend and colleague, Jean Francois, who shared this beautiful parable with me.]


turles and wisdom
We all need to reflect. I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and there is always the hope that it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles just four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that having a good ‘living’ is not the same thing as having a good ‘life..’

I’ve learned that every mistake gives you a second chance to learn.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you But, if you focus on the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. When you practice generosity, compassion, humility you’ve already given up the toxins that poison happiness.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart and mind, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back, or simply the touch of another’s appreciation and kind glance.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn; I’ve learned that for all I’ve learned I still know so very little.

I’ve learned that you should reflect on this parable of the wooden bowl, and practice compassion, non-judgmental presence, and unconditional love.

I’ve learned that Wisdom does not come from all the books I’ve read or the degrees I’ve received; it comes from sharing with a frail old person from a wooden bowl.

Pass this on to everyone you care about … I just did.

animated candle_small


You Are Not One Of US…


“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mark 9: 38-41)

Pointing-finger

It would seem that Ms Kate Blain, editor of the Evangelist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and her mentors are shooting themselves in the foot! Not ony is Ms Blain and her mentors exemplifying and incarnating all the worst street wisdom about Roman Catholics, and playing into the hands of their worst detractors, but they are also turning their backs to the best of the Christian Tradition in terms of encouraging good works and works of mercy and charity. Judging from Ms Kate Blain’s response, if it is truly the position of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, no one but those associated with a Roman Catholic parish or receiving the support (just what the nature of the support should be is unclear) are licitly or legitimately practicing a ministry in pastoral or spiritual care to the suffering. What a pile of crapola!

So, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s Evangelist refuses to publish an advertisement because the advertiser is “not working through any parish or with the support of the Albany Diocese,” according to Ms Kate Blain, editor of the Evangelist.
Always the curious one, I thought something was very fishy with this whole affair and so I picked up an Evangelist to check out some of the ads that are being run in the rag. Here’s just a sample:

Fidelis Care, selling health insurance plans
McDonough’s Farms, selling trees and wreaths
Silver Parrot, selling jewelry items
Ross and Visconti, a law firm specializing in family law, general law and wills
Celtic Treasures, selling Irish gifts
Joe Mazzone Antique Services, buys and sells antiques
Eddy Senior Living, a secular assisted living facility
Marra’s, sells home healthcare items
Falcon Trace, a secular “active adult community”
The Spinney at Pond View, cottage rental community
Romanation Jewelers, buys and sells gold
Eastwyck Village, retirement living
Ohav Shalom Apartments, independent senior living
Adirondack Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Delmar Place, assisted living residence
Bob Tahlam, Inc., basement and cellar work
Advanced Hearing Aid Centers
Shaker Pointe at Carondolet, independent senior living
Mr Fix It, plumbing, electrical, carpentry
Wesley Woodlawn Commons, assisted living
Accent, healthcare services
Visiting Nurses Healthcare
A&B Stairlifts
Albany Housing Authority, Senior Housing
The Lira Ensemble, polish music
W.J. Lyons Funeral Home Inc.
Stefanazzi & Spargo, monuments
Wm. J. Burke & Sons Funeral Home

Yes, we thought you’d be a bit surprised., and we’re none the wiser for the effort. There’s no rhyme or reason behind these advertisements, they cover a wide range of services unrelated to a parish and certainly don’t need diocesan support. In fact, the ads are supporting the diocese to some extent.

So we have to look elsewhere for an explanation why an advertisement for genuine and much-needed services would be canned by the Evangelist.

A big question looms large in this consideration: Is someone at our sacred and holy Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center playing a career assassination game? Are there personal or political motives behind the refusal. Does someone or several of our loving, charitable, good Christians at the Pastoral Center have an axe to grind with regard to the advertiser. It wouldn’t be the first time that some Church functionary saboutaged the work of ministry for personal reasons.Is this a form of cowardly punishment or retribution? But just the thought of the bad press, the damage to an already suffering image, the civil consequences that such stupid misconduct will entail is chilling.

This raises a number of troubling contradictions in this diocese, including but not limited to:

  • The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany sends its deacon candidates to a local secular hospital that epouses explicitly interfaith pastoral care to patients, and whose manager is of the Calvinist tradition, apparently loathes his own denomination (RCA, according to the AMC pastoral care manager, the “deformed” Church of America), and has no great love for Catholics, unless they’re female, “disgruntled””, outspoken and dissenting. Two Roman Catholic priests are on the hospital’s pastoral care team and paid by the RC diocese of Albany, and I have personally witnessed some very anti-Catholic and abusive treatment of those two clerics at the hands of some non-Catholics. Knowing the situation at the hospital and in the Pastoral Care department there, one wonders what the rationale is behind the diocesesan practice of sending deacon candidates to train there if interfait pastoral care is not supported by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
  • While I was completeing my master of divinity degree at the Roman Catholic school of theology and divinity supported by the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Albany (Bsp Howard Hubbard) and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester (Bsp Matthew Clark) and most recently in Syracuse, under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, my pastoral formation supervisor encouraged me to participate in the clinical pastoral education (CPE) program at Albany Medical Center, which I did. In terms of experience it was incredibly edifying, that is, in terms of the direct clinical experience on the floors. The personal experience with the supevisor and the peer experience was frustrating to say the very least. It was not the place for a traditional or conservative Roman Catholic or one with weak faith or one with no guts. I was surrounded by feminazis, Calvinists, and sociopathic “disgruntled” female Roman Catholics/Episcopalians; a male Catholic was chum in shark-infested waters = I didn’t have the chance of a snowball in hell unless I put up a very strong front, and I stood by my faith, my Tradition, and my ethics. So, if the Roman Catholic school of theology and ministry sends its students to participate in the interfaith program at Albany Medical Center, knowing the the program is promoting the interfaith model of pastoral care, how is it reasonable that the editor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s newspaper, Kate Blain, refuses to run an advertisement on interfaith pastoral care?

 

The Ultimate Perversion!<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Female Gay Bishop!<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
How Close are We?
The Ultimate Perversion!
Female Gay Bishop!
How Close are We?
  • The very school of theology and ministry I attended and which awarded me the master of divinity degree is a former Roman Catholic seminary college that went Guess what! Interfaith in order to survive. Right in the middle of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center we now find Roman Catholics sitting next to Baptists, Calvinists, Episcopalians reciprocally revealing their ignorance. Now the Protestants, Jews and Calvinists can experience first-hand the renowned infighting that goes on among Roman Catholics. They can, along with the now appalled traditional and conservative Catholics, experience the liberal priests and female religious dissenting, criticizing their Church, and hear the eunichs in the group pander to the instructors and to the wannabe women priests [and bishops]. Typical ambiguous and ambivalent American attitude, typical American “be politically correct or be shunned”, “How dare you have such an opinion!?!” type of Me First! exchange. But it’s all in the interest of unity, of ecumenism, of interfaith dialogue, of …or is it revenues?

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany appears to support the interfaith pastoral care effort…or does it?

(There are a number of discrepancies in the pastoral formation programs both in the diocese but most particularly at St Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry that require review and correction. Those discrepancies have nothing whatsoever to do with the supervisor/director of the program itself but the way the students’ projects are selected and executed leaves a great deal to be desired. But this is something that we shall take up with the accrediting body itself.)

The Roman Catholic Church has spent a great deal of ink writing about the importance of care of the suffering, the sick, and the dying but it seems that much of what is written and prmulgated is contradictory in one respect or another. Or, in its slavish dedication to the principle of subsidiarity, the Church has delegated much of its authority to self-serving, poorly catechized managers and underlings. The Pastoral Center of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany lacks overall leadership, although it is figuratively headed by a brilliant saint of a man, somewhere along the line the minions and the satans have usurped power over their domains and the Center has turned into a collection of feifdoms, the Evangelist obviously being one of them.

samaritan

Our beloved bishop Howard Hubbard (RC Diocese of Albany) and his brother bishop Matthew Clark (RC Diocese of Rochester) are both nearing retirement and their personal pastoral ministries have been phenomenal in terms of goodness, charity, brilliance, but their legacies will be remembered for their excess liberalism. The buzz is that at the Albany Diocese the greatest fear is that a conservative bishop will succeed Hubbard. If this happens, say Bye! to the fiefdoms, the self-serving monopolies and nepotism, and to the women religious who have pretty much taken over running the place.

It’s not the Holy Spirit that moves the Roman Catholic Diocese at Albany, it’s the cliques. And it’s high time the Diocese and the departments and parishes were returned to the Church, to be run in accordance not with liberal agendas but with the Roman Catholic Tradition and the Magisterium. It’s time Christian kerygma becomes the modus operandi and not personal agendas or the like. The idiotic grins are a poor cover-up for the envy, the paranoia, the anxiety, the ambition beneath. How has it reached such a point, I have to ask?

(It’s not just in Albany, either. I spent years nurturing relationships in a local Eastern rite parish, St Ann Maronite Catholic parish in Troy. scary-clownsFor more than a decade I was part of the parish life, grew to become very close to its former pastor and its parishoners. The pastor was transferred and I asked to do a year of my pastoral formation with the new priest who was very young, from Lebanon, and not long in the USA. The young priest had a poor command of English, very little parish experience (about 6 months unter the supervision of a senior priest down south), couldn’t preach to save his own soul, and was culturally inept (the Church in the Middle East is incredibly different in Traditions, organization, and in its participation in politics). The wet-behind-the-ears monk thought he knew everything, though, except integrity, honesty, humility, and inclusiveness. He openly spoke hatefully of Muslims with parishoners and was inauthentic. I confronted him, he ran to his bishop, his bishop ran to my bishop, this bishop supported him, my bishop asked me to cool it. That’s the way it goes: the bishops support their priests regardless of the damage. I disappeared and was demonized. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre. But it shouldn’t have to be that way and wouldn’t be that way if the bishops would be bishops and stop pussyfooting around.)

According to the Chinese, “The fish rots from the head down.” Oh! How true! Look around you.

So, back to the Evangelist and editor Ms Kate Blain, now making policy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. What say ye, bishops?!?

Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mark 9: 38-41) Is that really so? Are we still preaching this (I know I am).

animated candle small

What’s important here? The fact that one operates out of a parish or the fact that one has the “support of the diocese” ( read that as “has not invoked the perfidy of someone with some power at the diocesan offices”). Who is this Kate Blain to make the determination that one does not have the support of the diocese. And if that is true, why does the Roman Catholic Diocese not support qualified spiritual care regardless of company or special-interest connections.

I’d be happy to discuss this dilemma with anyone from the Pastoral Center. Just give me a time and a date. According to Saint Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry which awarded me the “gold standard” professional degree in pastoral and theological studies, the Magister Divinitatis, which I received from the hand of bishop Matthew Clark and the co-authentication of bishop Howard Hubbard, I should be qualified to engage in such a debate…and to provide qualified pastoral and spiritual care regardless of the faith or Tradition of the recipient.

But there’s still the question of why the editor of the Evangelist refuses to run my ad that is in full accord with express Church doctrine and policy, with the explicit teachings, and with the promulgations of the USCCB? Do we have female bishops in the RC Church already? Yes. But not officially, it seems.

Please share your thoughts on this subject matter. And stay tuned for the next installment: a discussion of Church teachings on the care of the suffering, sick, and dying (and how it’s falling on it’s egg-stained face).

Shut up! And do your homework!The Editor

Shut up! And do your homework!
The Editor


Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany: Hypocritical on PC


The Editor of the Evangelist, a Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and a Publication that Advertises a Wide Variety of Goods and Services, Recently Refused to Publish An Ad for An Interfaith Chaplain.

 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
— Matthew 25:35-36

A New Scandal Brewing?

Scottish_Church_Ruins

With Attitudes Like Albany’s,
The Church Will Soon Look Like This!
Where are the Leaders?!?

The Evangelist, having received the display ad and having made changes to the ad several times, accepted the ad and accepted payment for the ad. The next day, the advertiser received an e-mail from the editor stating:

We have become aware that you are not working through any parish or with the support of the Albany Diocese. Therefore, we are unable to accept your Compassionate Care Associates advertisement. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Not only is this action by a minor employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany clearly discriminating, it flies in the face of pretty much everything the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has been allegedly supporting (at least on the surface) in terms of interfaith, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, ministry, etc. etc. Do we smell rotten hypocrisy at work.

Or can it be that the Diocese is playing dirty pool? It can’t provide adequate ministers to the sick and dying so no one is going to do so.

And what about the negative PR? What does this action broadcast about the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and its love of all creation, its welcoming of all people, its embrace of all things serving the common good?

The Response is Deplorably Ignorant

Since we are here considering the response of an organ of the Roman Catholic Church as represented in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, it is appropriate to cite some of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the magisterium, which expressly embraces with a sense of anticipation and hope the commitment to ecumenism and interfaith dialogue as a duty of human conscience, but especially the Christian conscience, in relationship enlightened by faith and guided by love,  the  man Jesus the divine Christ himself, in his Passion, prayed “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). This unity, which the Divine has bestowed on his people and on creation overall, and in which I believe the Divine will is intended to embrace all people and all creation, is not just a Divine afterthought or a creaturely wishful thinking, but stands at the very heart of the Christ’s mission. It is heterodoxy to teach that this commitment, this duty, this vision of unity is some secondary attribute of a select community of disciples. Rather, I would assert, it belongs to the very essence of creation. (cf Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, May 25, 1995).

While it is not my intention to proselytize or to be disrespectful of non-Christian traditions when I figuratively or metaphorically use the name “the Christ”, I sincerely believe that our response to persons in crisis, suffering, dying must be such that we are willing and able to see the “Christ” in them and they in turn are able to encounter the “Christ” in us. Although many of us undoubtedly discover this ideally reciprocal response in the context of a religious or spiritual or faith tradition, even those without “faith” can be guided, supported to look beyond their own suffering to see the human dignity and goodness of those who suffer, and of those who minister to the suffering.

The “Christ” should be read here as the imago Dei (the image of the Divine Creator) not just the socio-political affiliation with a company club, a parish. Good works are good works, discipleship is discipleship, charity is charity, koinonia is koinonia regardless of your ‘company’ affiliation. We are all called to compassion and responsibility, unity, and those of us called to a ministry of pastoral, spiritual, emotional care of the suffering cannot and will not be deterred by the ignorant.

Hence, Compassionate Interfaith Pastoral Care, then the Evangelization or Catechesis, if Appropriate and Desired. The Church as Historically and Typically Approached this Ass-end Backwards!

Pope Paul VI famously quipped, «Da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio». (“Satan’s smoke has made its way into the temple of God through some crack.”) —Pope Paul VI, 1972. How true! But the traditionalists and conservatives feeling that the mainstream Church was falling into decline had no idea of how far afield the Roman Church had actually strayed. These fundamentalists believed they knew what that smoke might be and how they planned to halt its spread. From conservatives and their steadfast moral militancy, to separatists and their belief in the need for alternative communities, to Marianists and their tenets of mystical prophecy, the the obstreperous female religious and their disobedience and promotion of an almost heretical theofeminism—but the actual Satan was a special insidious liberalism and it’s that liberal laxity that is costing the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese dearly in terms of credibility and faithful. The Diocese lacks good leaders but has an abundance of negative defensive placeholders. But more on that later. The place is getting too smokey now.

smoke church

Stay tuned for a continuation of this investigation on what the Roman Catholic Church says and what he Roman Catholic Church does, especially through its lay minions, affects all of us at large in our ministries.

We have given the editor until Monday, December 2, 2012, to organize her defense. On December 3, we’ll bring out the big guns. Let the games begin!

The Editor

The Editor

The Rejected Advertisement

Hospital & Institutional Chaplain * Spiritual Guidance * End-of-Life & Grief Support * Funeral Officiation * Memorial Services
Ethics Consultation

Compassionate Care Associates
Interfaith Pastoral Care

By Arrangement Through Your Healthcare / Nursing Care Provider or Your Funeral Services Provider

Telephone: (518) 479-0525 / 466-4482 (Urgent)

E-mail: compassionate.care.associates@gmail.com


Is Fr James Kane Really Fit to Be Pastor?


The homily: “The homily is part of the liturgical action and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful. […] For this reason preachers need to be in close and constant contact with the sacred text; they should prepare for the homily by meditation and prayer, so as to preach with conviction and passion” (Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, No. 59).

After two straight weeks of joyously positive experiences at a graduate’s coloquium marking the successful conclusion to years of study, and a beautiful convocation and liturgy presided over by his excellency Howard Hubbard, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, I felt my faith in our Roman Catholic tradition was in a phase of regeneration and revitalization; then I just happened, as if nudged to the television room to watch the celebration of the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy at St Patrick’s RC church in Ravena, New York, presided over by none other than Fr James Kane, the so-called “pastor” of that starving flock, and who is also director of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. It was then and there that I felt that sinking, bitter feeling rising again!

No sooner had Kane concluded the reading of the Gospel than he set off on a mercenary, pharisaical, pecuniary, worldly diatribe on the Bishop’s Appeal, and continued his disgraceful performance with a detailed, almost scrupulous step-by-step instruction on how to complete the Bishop’s Appeal envelope, and proceeding to instruct the greeters and ushers on how to collect the envelopes. The entire pitch was made from the ambo, with the Gospel (Lectionary) open in front of him and serving as a convenient support while he filled out a [mock] envelope during his “teaching.” All of this immediately following the Gospel proclamation and in lieu of the homily!

Isn’t Kane aware that this sort of worldly administrative junk is to be done at the end of the liturgy, during the time set aside for idiotic announcements?!?

Mixing Satan with the Cross

To my knowledge, Jesus Christ is not depicted on any currency denomination of any nation; so why does Kane take the time reserved for breaking open the word, probably the only time much of the congregation has for catechesis at all during the week, to talk about Bishop’s Appeal, filling out envelopes, and tithing? True, the local bishop can make exceptions but only in very special circumstances and I doubt that even in the Albany Diocese the time for homily and teaching would be set aside for Kane’s abominable display. In his ecumenical and interfaith activities, has Kane become contaminated with some of the bad habits and obsessions of the Reformists? (Probably not. At least they know how to preach.)

 For Kane’s benefit, here are some notes on the importance of the homily:

Key to Understanding the Word

The “Homily” is treatise given during the Catholic Mass in which the priest or deacon discusses the readings of that day (old testament, epistle, and gospel readings), not the bishop’s appeal! The Priest may discuss how the daily readings from the Bible relate to issues of the day and other moral and religious points he wishes to make. Not  how to fill out the bishop’s appeal envelope! Homilies are the kind of preaching that was used by the Apostles and Fathers in addressing the faithful. The homily is expository of the Word (sermo in latin) of God and therefore is not considered a sermon, the Word of God itself. This time for the Liturgy of the Word is not set aside to instruct greeters and ushers how to hand out envelopes or to inform those in the pew where the pencils are!

A group of theology students receive this lesson from an elderly teacher of homiletics – the art of writing and delivering homilies: “When you preach, remember that the first five minutes are for God, the second five are for the faithful, and the third for the devil.” Alongside the “guidebook” for the “Catholically correct” believer, there is something similar for “updated” homilies for services. The homily doesn’t always capture the attention of the faithful during Mass – quite the contrary. So why don’t we teach our so-called preachers how to preach?!?

The problem is quite clear to the men of the Church. Benedict XVI became concerned with the issue two years ago with his post-synod apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, which gathers the reflections and proposals emerging from the XII General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met at the Vatican from 5 to 26 October 2008 with the theme “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” The Pontiff’s theological recommendation was to “avoid generic and abstract homilies” as well as “useless digressions.” In short, the quality of sermons “must be improved.”

“Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 24)

“By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 52)

“Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation. By scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ, theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word. For the Sacred Scriptures contain the word of God and since they are inspired really are the word of God; and so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology. (3) By the same word of Scripture the ministry of the word also, that is, pastoral preaching, catechetics and all Christian instruction, in which the liturgical homily must hold the foremost place, is nourished in a healthy way and flourishes in a holy way.” (Dei Verbum, No. 24)

“The proclamation of the Gospel and the homily are reserved to the ordained, while a lay person is prohibited from preaching at any time during Mass, even in the cases of a seminarian or pastoral assistant. Instructions or testimonies by a lay person, however, may be given after the Prayer after Communion for a serious reason, but the homily should not be omitted. Such matters are regulated by the Diocesan Bishop.” (USCCB, Thirty Questions on the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum for Diocesan Liturgy and Communications Personnel, No. 18)

On the the importance of the homily, Verbum Domini continues:

“Each member of the People of God “has different duties and responsibilities with respect to the word of God. Accordingly, the faithful listen to God’s word and meditate on it, but those who have the office of teaching by virtue of sacred ordination or have been entrusted with exercising that ministry”, namely, bishops, priests and deacons, “expound the word of God”. Hence we can understand the attention paid to the homily throughout the Synod. In the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, I pointed out that “given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily ‘is part of the liturgical action’ and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful”.  The homily is a means of bringing the scriptural message to life in a way that helps the faithful to realize that God’s word is present and at work in their everyday lives. It should lead to an understanding of the mystery being celebrated, serve as a summons to mission, and prepare the assembly for the profession of faith, the universal prayer and the Eucharistic liturgy. Consequently, those who have been charged with preaching by virtue of a specific ministry ought to take this task to heart. Generic and abstract homilies which obscure the directness of God’s word should be avoided, as well as useless digressions which risk drawing greater attention to the preacher than to the heart of the Gospel message. The faithful should be able to perceive clearly that the preacher has a compelling desire to present Christ, who must stand at the centre of every homily. For this reason preachers need to be in close and constant contact with the sacred text; they should prepare for the homily by meditation and prayer, so as to preach with conviction and passion. The synodal assembly asked that the following questions be kept in mind: “What are the Scriptures being proclaimed saying? What do they say to me personally? What should I say to the community in the light of its concrete situation? The preacher “should be the first to hear the word of God which he proclaims”, since, as Saint Augustine says: “He is undoubtedly barren who preaches outwardly the word of God without hearing it inwardly.”  The homily for Sundays and solemnities should be prepared carefully, without neglecting, whenever possible, to offer at weekday Masses cum populo brief and timely reflections which can help the faithful to welcome the word which was proclaimed and to let it bear fruit in their lives. (Verbum Domini, No. 59)

“As Saint Jerome reminds us, preaching needs to be accompanied by the witness of a good life: “Your actions should not contradict your words, lest when you preach in Church, someone may begin to think: ‘So why don’t you yourself act that way?’ … In the priest of Christ, thought and word must be in agreement”. (Verbum Domini, No. 60)

I had occasion to comment on another recent televised liturgy at St Patrick’s when I observed the deacon, James O’Rourke, in total oblivion of what was going on at the altar while he was conspicuously occupied with what was going on in the pews. (See my post Deacon Watch: The Distracted Deacon. )

This most recent circus performance from the ambo was an absolute disgrace. Kane has been the subject of a great number of adverse observations from members of that parish community and he’s not collecting better marks as he continues his interfaith adaptations of the Roman liturgy. Get on the same page as the rest of us Kane or take a hike! But more than that, I hope that this post has helped Fr Kane to better understand the importance of the homily.

Here are some selected quotes from the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini: Selected Quotes from Verbum Domini (Zenit).

To learn more about the community in which Fr James Kane operates the Church of St Patrick, visit the blog at Smalbany.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.  (John 10:1-30)

Standing Around Watching His Flock Die!


2012 Graduate Degrees


Sancti Berndardi Scola Theologiae et Ministerii

Saint Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry
Rochester & Albany

will be celebrating the award of the degrees of
Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies
Master of Arts in Theological Studies
Graduate Certificates
and
Master of Divinity
(Magister Divinitatis)

in an Evening Prayer Liturgy
at the
The 31st Commencement and Conferral of Degrees
and Graduate Certificates
to be held on
Friday, May 11, 2012
at 4:30 p.m. in

Sacred Heart Cathedral
296 Flower City Park
Rochester, New York

Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany

Most Reverend Matthew H. Clark, Bishop of Rochester

Reverend James P. Lang, V.E., Episcopal Vicar for Parishes
(representing the Bishop of Syracuse)

will be present.

For further information please call (518)-6760 or e-mail stbernards@rcda.org.

Please join us in offering our congratualtions and felicitations to all of the new graduates as they continue their pilgrimages of ministry and discipleship!


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