Category Archives: Lay Ministry

A Novel Venue for Developing True Spirituality: Companions of St Silouan Athonite


Some General Information About
The Companions of St Silouan Athonite

First of all and from the outset: This is not a religious group nor a denominational outreach. It is not a cult-in-the-making.


One nagging question that I have frequently posed is this: Why do most people think of spiritual care at the last minute, when someone is at Death’s door or when you are facing the dying process of a loved one? It’s like exercising and eating a healthy diet after the heart attack, isn’t it? Why not get started now.


This is an ecumenical, interfaith, non-denominations, judgement-free community of persons who are solely interested in companioning each other on their spiritual pilgrimages.

The inspiration for forming a wider group of spiritual companions came from my association with a Russian Orthodox Monastery in Northeast New York. The monks decided to resurrect a concept of a group of lay persons who would live some of the monastic values while in the secular world. These so-called companions of the monastery would apply, be considered as aspirants and then admitted to the so-called companions. They would subscribe to a rule of life, establish for themselves a prayer discipline, support the monastery in time and treasure, and make regular pilgrimages, either to the parent monastery or to some other monastery or retreat venue. It was a great idea but poorly organized. It was open to all faiths and, while it had an insignia identifying the companions, a small stylized cross, it still had the flavor of a very distinct Christian denomination. I couldn’t imagine a Buddhist, a Jew or a Moslem wanting to become a companion and having a cross as their insignia.

My patron saint is St Silouan of Mount Athos, St Silouan Athonite for short. I chose Silouan because of his humility and simplicity, his dedication to love and forgiveness, his compassion. Although Silouan was highly advanced in monastic ascetic spirituality and reached the height of monastic hierarchy as a Staretz or elder, a schemamonk, his humility and simplicity were legendary. Silouan, a Russian Orthodox Christian elder monk, who lived on the exclusive Greek peninsula known as Hagios Oros, the “Holy Mountain”, or Mount Athos, he lived values that transcended the Christian model and are the common threads of all the great world spiritual traditions.

As a professional theologian and thanatologist, a scholar of religion and psychospiritual care, I find that the vast majority of persons who call themselves members of a particular faith or belief community don’t have a clue about what their denomination teaches. Most ministers have no clue about what’s going on in interreligious dialogue, much less about their particulars. Most institutionalized religion has been caught with their pants around their ankles when it comes to credibility.

In recent decades we have all too often heard the ambiguous and practically meaningless phrase, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Even the “spiritual” professional literature from the healthcare, deathcare and spiritual care disciplines can’t even agree on an across-the-board commonly held definition of what spirituality is! In fact, one publication did a review of the literature and found more than 90 different “definitions” of  spirituality!

In my professional practice I deal with end-of-life, death, dying, and survivors. I know the value of religion and I know the value of spirituality; I think I know where the one stops and where the other starts. Every time I think I’m sure, a situation arises that sets me back to square one.

One thing is certain: every human being is spiritual. There’s no doubt about it. Once you can admit you recognize that there’s something greater than yourself, that transcends your understanding, you have become spiritual. Now how you use that evolutionary revelation to best advantage and how you ease into it to make meaning of difficult moments, suffering, challenges is another story. To get the most out of your spirituality, you need companioning, guidance, others willing to talk about their spirituality and to share their insights.

That’s what this group, the Companions of St Silouan Athonite, is all about.

It’s an open group meaning that anyone inclined to explore the group can freely do so. What you receive from the group and what you give to the group is purely a matter of what you have at any given time in your journey. The pilgrimmage is self-paced. The requirements are your own.

The only formal hierarchy is me, the self-styled “Principal Companion,” actually the monitor of the group and the main person doing most of the work on this site.

In the near future, once the group shows signs of stability and growth, I will offer two levels of formal membership: Aspirant and Companion. The Aspirant is a candidate who has identified a sincere calling to companion others in developing their spirituality. The Companion is the person who has achieved a certain level of competence in companioning through personal discipline and involvement.

Initially, there is no commitment other than the personal commitment you make to yourself and to those with whom you have a relationship to follow the Simple Rule of the Companions of St Silouan Athonite. As the Companion community matures, we may ask for volunteer support or offer specific products for generating funds. Those products will be subject to the Community’s approval, basically all full Companions will have a say in what is offered and what is done.

At some point in time, again as the Community grows and matures, it would be great if we could have a Companions retreat once a year at locations offering retreat accommodations and meeting facilities.

The organization will be very loosely structured: Most of the site will be public access. That means that announcements, reflections, etc. will be public access.

Anyone interested in more intense involvement will be asked to “Follow” the site by signing up with their real name and their email. This means only that the moderator, I, will see who you are and know our email. You will receive an email automatically notifying you whenever a new item is posted. You can do the same for comments.

At some time in the near future, I will post an application form on this site. If anyone wishes to become an Aspirant they will fill out the form and email it to me.

To become a full Companion, you will fill out the same form but only after 6 months of Aspirancy, include an essay about your spirituality and the importance of being a Companion, and you will document your spiritual activities, retreats, spiritual direction, etc.

A full Companion will receive a letter of good standing and a Certificate of Companionship, both of which will have only sentimental value.

Very soon I will create a suitable “habit” for Companions. The habit will be a small item identifying the wearer as a Companion. It will likely be a lapel pin or similar item. Cost will be kept low, since the value of the habit is to be kept intrinsic and the habit itself is to be kept very humble.

Since most everything will be done digitally and the material for reflections etc. will come directly from my own resources or from material I’m reviewing at the time and find suitable for the Companions, no real overheads will be generated. As for the habit, the Companion will purchase that directly from the manufacturer.

I may from time to time suggest certain devotional items such as prayer ropes and the like or items to enhance sensual aspects of the spiritual practice. If I do so, I will also provide links to suppliers of such items. I do not have any financial interest in any of these suppliers but if one were to come about, I would announce that fact publicly to the Community.

Aspirants and Companions are accountable to themselves. If you misrepresent something you do your conscience is your judge, no one else.

Finally, all I ask is if you are seriously interested in becoming a participating member of the group that you contribute to the reflections or to the feedback about reflections. The only requirements are that you remain on topic, leave egos outside, and don’t bring any personal baggage on board. No proselytizing and not judgmentalism.

In closing, I do sincerely welcome your comments, recommendations, suggestions, even criticisms of me and only me. Comments should be made using the comments form on each post; they will be moderated and then published. If you don’t want what you write to be public please email me your thoughts to st.silouan.companions@gmail.com. Your email communications will be confidential and I now notify anyone concerned that I invoke clergy privilege should any law enforcement agency request insight into the emails. When I say confidential, I mean confidential.

As always, I am available at st.silouan.companions@gmail.com should you have any questions or concerns.

To view the Simple Rule of the Companions of St Silouan click here.

Looking forward to exploring the beauty and mystery of spirituality with you,

Peace and joy!
Rev. Ch. Harold Vadney BA, [MA], MDiv.
Principal Companion

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Thanatology Café: Where the conversation is about death.


Church and clergy have fallen flat on their faces when it comes to supporting the bereaved in their difficult moments of loss. Scripted, cookie-cutter rituals and services, bland remarks, formulaic prayers all serve to leave the bereaved high-and-dry at a time when they need empathy and presence. A new opportunity for bereavement ministry is being offered in a unique program called Thanatology Café.

Thanatology Café: Where the conversation is about death, is being launched in Ravena, at the RCS Community library, 95 Main Street, Ravena, New York.

Be sure to mark the date: Saturday, April 9, 2016, 2-4 p.m. The program starts promptly at 2:00 p.m. so don’t be late. There will be light refreshments.

The organizers do ask that you sign up at the RCS Community Library using the sign-up sheets available there. You can also sign up at thanatology.cafe@gmail.com. When you sign up via email, you’ll receive an initial registration form that you should fill out and bring with you to the program on April 9.

What is Thanatology Café?

We thought you’d never ask!

joke's over


Thanatology: [than-uh-tol-uh-jee] the study of death and dying, and bereavement, especially the study of ways to understand the coping mechanisms, meaning-making, transcendence and transformation to support the bereaved and mourners, and to lessen suffering and address the needs of the dying and their survivors.


It’s a  totally unique program and it’s called

Thanatology Café.

It’s a place where anyone can come in and talk about their thoughts, concerns, and interests centering on death and dying, bereavement, grief, society and death, spirituality and death, the death industry, our responsibilities as human beings who will die some day.

Thanatology Café is a safe place to talk about the ultimate mystery and to share thoughts and concerns about death and dying. It’s a place where you won’t be judged, no agenda will try to convert you or attempt to sell you something. It’s neutral ground, a sacred space where you can open your heart and mind to benefit everyone.

Thanatology Café will also be a source of valuable information from professionals who work in the field of death and dying. The program will include speakers, presenters, or even a film for discussion. But most of the time it will simply be a place to freely express ideas and thoughts, to share with the entire group or in smaller groups working off their own energies, monitored by a facilitator.

Thanatology Café is going to be offered in at least four counties: Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Greene to start. Since community libraries are centers for education and information and are central to most communities, the organizers will be holding the regular monthly sessions in community libraries throughout the area. There will also be other sessions for special interests or to organize special events like tours etc. to historic sites. One such site is Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, where Uncle Sam is buried along with a slew of other historic figures. But the crematorium chapel is a must see and TC is working on a tour for sometime in May or June 2016.

Thanatology Café is an important resource for first responders, church bereavement groups, bereavement ministries, and even funeral directors (TC will host several presentations by funeral directors with Q&A sessions).

Thanatology Café is for everyone and the invitation is open to anyone who needs or wants to talk about death, dying, grief, mourning, spirituality, traditions and superstitions, the funeral business. The field and conversation is wide open. Only the participants will decide.

Click the link to visit the Thanatology Café blog.

Don't be one. Join us at Thanatology Café on April 9th, RCS Community Library. The Editor

Don’t be one. Join us at Thanatology Café on April 9th, RCS Community Library.

The Editor


Why was a Pakistani Franciscan Moved from Pakistan to Troy, New York?


We’ve already written an exposé report about the St Anthony of Padua parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, under the pastoral authority of bishop Edward Scharfenberger, but the questions keep coming; no answers, just questions.

Why did Franciscan brother Phillip Hira desert his Pakistani brothers and sisters?

Why did Franciscan brother Phillip Hira desert his Pakistani brothers and sisters?

Our first reportage on that parish was to report the scandal of its pastor, Mario Julian, who in lieu of a homily played a popular Christmas song, “So this is Christmas.” That was a gross violation of Roman Catholic doctrine and teaching with regard the homily. Yes, it was a scandal but we’ve already reported on that scandal so we won’t waste anymore time beating a dead hippo.

Mario Julian allegedly recently had bariatric surgery, stomach reduction surgery, and we hope he has had a good recovery; his parish is likely to have a much slower, less favorable recovery from Julian’s incompetence.

We did read with some interest the biography of Julian’s parish assistant, Franciscan lay brother Philip Hira. Hira was born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1952. Hira received all of his education and religious formation in Pakistan, and spent most of his entire adult life in Pakistan.

Hira came to the United States in 2006.

Julian & Hira

Julian & Hira

According to his biography on the St Anthony of Padua parish website, Hira has completed 4 units (years) of clinical pastoral education (internship of 1 day a week for a year  =  1 CPE unit). This means that Hira has spent at least 4 years at Albany Medical Center as a chaplaincy intern. Clinical pastoral education interns pay about $700 a year to work at the hospital as pastoral care providers to patients while learning the ropes of pastoral care (Yes! The patients are exposed to amateurs). That means that someone is paying $700 a year for Hira’s education at Albany Medical Center, and AMC is receiving those services for nothing!

Reading a bit further, we learn that Hira is serving as a “volunteer”, that is, unpaid, chaplain at Albany Medical Center Hospital and at St Mary’s Hospital in Troy. We find that this unpaid activity at local hospitals is a bit suspicious, considering the fact that Hira is supposed to be serving the St Anthony of Padua parish in Troy, under the questionable supervision of Mario Julian.

Hira expects to be “certified”as a Catholic chaplain, but we don’t see how that’s going to happen in the near future, since that will require continuing education and certification procedures, which, for a chaplain, are totally unnecessary. That sort of activity takes Hira away from his parish duties, if in fact he actually has any.

In a previous article we mentioned that American religious orders have prostituted themselves. This is most clear in the Franciscan order, where Franciscan lay brothers and priests have been farmed out to ailing and understaffed diocesan parishes for years. This has had a very harmful effect on the Franciscan religious communities because when a Franciscan leaves the religious community life, he generally experiences injury to his spirituality. Furthermore, the Franciscans are a religious community with the communal life is an essential part of being Franciscan. Ask yourself what happens to a Franciscan when he lives outside of the community of his Franciscan brothers? Do I have to answer that for you?

 

franciscan missionary union logoFranciscans have traditionally been great missionaries. From the start of the Franciscan order, Franciscans have evangelized the world from Italy to the American West, and from Assisi to, yes, Pakistan.

Pakistan is 96.28 % Muslim, with Christians accounting for 1.59 % of the population, and Hindus 1.60 %. According to the Pew Forum, in the USA Christians represent some 70 % with Catholics representing some 20.8 %. Non-Christian traditions represent a total of a mere 5.9  %, which includes Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews! It would appear that Hira’s best work would be done in Pakistan, not in Troy, New York! So, with such a considerable non-Christian population in Pakistan and giving the evangelization and catechization ministry of the Franciscans, we would have to ask both brother Hira and his superiors Why? on earth was he taken from Pakistan and relocated to the United States?

There’s a lot going on in Pakistan involving Christians if we can believe much of the press coming out of the country like “How Christians Survive in Pakistan’s ‘Land of the Pure‘”, where we read:

“The Catholic minority currently lives in fear because of the recent attacks on churches. Sister Pilar admits, “Our apostolate is that of example … We cannot try to convert people directly.”

“Catholics in Pakistan run schools open to everyone, not just Catholics. There, “they receive a good education.” For Christians, having these schools in Pakistan is “a stimulus for us to know our religion better.”

“In fact, years ago there were many illiterate young people; thanks to these schools, the majority of them now receive an education, so Sister Pilar is hopeful.”

If that article is anything to judge by, Hira’s call would be in Pakistan, not Troy, New York! Wouldn’t you agree? Unless Troy’s Pakistani population has skyrocketed in the last 10 years! We’d  have to check the census data…

Moreover, as a parish assistant and chaplain, Hira is by nature Pakistani! He lived his entire life, or at least 54 years of it in Pakistan (born in 1952 and coming to the USA in 2006  =  54 years). So our question is this: How on Earth can you expect someone so steeped in a culture so alien to that of the United States to minister effectively to such a mixed population. Revisiting the statistics for Pakistan we see that Muslims make up 96.28 % of the population versus 0.9 % in the United States; in Pakistan Christians are 1.59 % versus 70 % in the United States. Now where do you think Christian, Catholic missionary, evangelization, catechization work would be needed more? In Pakistan or India, Pakistan’s nextdoor neighbor, or in the United States? Again, we have to ask Hira’s superiors what they had in mind when removing Hira from Pakistan to the United States. Or is there something more sinister in this history other than just plain bad judgment?

Seems that St Anthony of Padua parish is home to a considerable number of nagging questions that beg for answers. It also seems that St Anthony of Padua parish is just one of a considerable number of parishes with some really weird goings on.

Maybe that’s why we think Pope Francis should pay less attention to American politics and more attention to his ailing church, his maverick American bishops, and the organizational and administrative disorder in the church at large.

Perhaps bishop Scharfenberger can answer these questions, since he would be responsible for what is going on at St Anthony of Padua on his (Scharfenberger’s) watch. What do you think?

Abba Silas, Heresiarch

Abba Silas, Heresiarch, Editor


Ring Out the Old, Wring Out the Old, Renew Radically! Albany Roman Catholic Diocese


Step 1: Cast out the demons!

Step 1: Cast out the demons!

 For some time now we have been silently observing, waiting for the housecleaning to happen.

In the past decade or so there has been catastrophic change in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, which has been characterized by many as being one of the most liberal, if not ultra – liberal dioceses in the United States. This liberalism has its roots in what can be described only as a general misunderstanding of the renovamento of VII, an ignorance of the key teachings, burnt – out, exhausted pastoral leadership in the former bishop of the Albany diocese, Howard Hubbard, who in his final years as bishop had all but lost control of the diocese, had delegated most of the leadership of the diocese to a handful of self – serving sociopaths, was showing signs of physical decline and conspicuous suffering. As is to be expected in such cases, there were those who were waiting in the wings to grab any power— albeit with no real authority, only the color of authority—that was left unguarded by the chief pastor and spiritual father of the diocese. The results were disastrous, going far beyond heterodoxy and heteropraxis, verging on the heretical. The Albany diocese started to look more Presbyterian than Roman Catholic.

The institution of the permanent diaconate, too, reflected the signs of perversion of a noble institution, and under the exclusivist domination of a few narcissists, took on the nature of a country club clique with only the hallucinogenic adumbration of the holy diaconate. All too many—though in all fairness we cannot say all—of the Albany diocese deacons paraded around as if they were members of an exclusive club, holiness was continues to be more the exception than the rule and we are still suffering under totalitarianism of the old – boys’ college of Albany diocese deacons, some of whom continue to tyrannize parishes, alienate parishioners, and open hemorrhaging wounds. The smoke of satan entered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany through many such small cracks that eroded into huge fissures hemorrhaging faithful.

An example of the exclusivism, agism and general corruption of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany diaconate program is illustrated by the sad story of one aspirant who was encouraged to apply to the program, was accepted, but was called into then director Frank Berning‘s office for a “meeting” only to be told that Berning “had missed the aspirant’s age.” The aspirant was told flatly that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany rules set age limits and that the aspirant would be “too old” for ordination by the time he completed the pre-ordination program. The applicant was 58 years old, well-educated, completed a Master in Divinity degree (far superior to the majority of deacons!), and was in excellent health (in contrast to the majority of ordained deacons).  (See below for a contrasting story of a company-man who, at 58, is a seminarian and ordination candidate; he will be 59-60 years old if/when ordained!) That’s just one example of the nonsense that went on and probably is continuing in the RCDA. So much for the Holy Spirit!

One of the most recent debacles that has come to a head is the problem at St Francis of Assisi parish under the unpopular parish life director, deacon Ray Sullivan, who is doing more to alienate parishioners than to build a community of the faithful. That’s just one of many such examples that cry out for the current bishop’s attention. It is situations like those at St Francis and St Patrick’s, among many others, that beg the question of where the principal pastor’s mind and heart is when the faithful are suffering under misguided figures like Ray Sullivan (St Francis) and Jim Kane (St Patrick’s) and the St John-St Ann group!

Truly, as Pope Paul VI spoke the words, “The smoke of satan has entered [the Church] through a small crack.” In Albany there were many such small cracks.

St Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry: One of those cracks is represented by the liberal quasi – feminist institution housed under the Albany bishop’s very nose and promulgating and proliferating some of the worst perversions of Roman Catholic doctrine and teaching we have ever witnessed, openly criticizing the Church and its leadership in the presence of non – Catholic and non – Christian “students,” some of its instructors expressing blatant disrespect for Church hierarchy, sometimes referring to the Vatican derogatorily as “those men in Rome,” and casting the Roman Church in a very unfavorable light. This was most egregiously done in the presence of students and clergy of non – Catholic denominations, who already had an anti – Catholic bias. Moreover, as a so – called school of theology and ministry, this group welcomed individuals who had incomplete formation and were and are ill – equipped to adequately understand the concepts and principles essential to the coursework. Some glaring examples include a Southern Baptist who had been “pagan” until two years prior to “finding Christ” [?!?] and entering St. Bernard’s (through a small crack) to undertake studies in divinity before returning to his Baptist seminary to be “ordained” under an apparently accelerated ( =  rushed) program even before completing his studies. He had no knowledge of the major part of the “Catholic” subject matter [and sorely little of what there was of his own impoverished tradition] presented in the coursework but none–the–less was graduated from St Bernard’s. Another woman student, an Episcopalian, was rejected by her Episcopalian diocese approximately 3 times in her quest of ordination; in one course she was asked how many sacraments her denomination celebrated; she was unable to answer the question! She did not know how many sacraments her denomination recognized! She was graduated from St Bernard’s with a Master of Divinity degree!!! While we fully support the doctrinal concepts of interfaith dialogue and ecumenism but not to the extent of irresponsibly and wantonly opening a so-called Roman Catholic institute indiscriminately to the unwashed; there is a place for such dialogue and the forum arbiters  should not be the doctrinally ignorant or those seeking radical change in the Church!

Worse still is the situation wherein some who cuddled up to diocesan hierarchy could do whatever they pleased. One such individual, who in a pastoral formation course was advised by the supervisor to forget about ordination to the priesthood and to engage in his current ministry. This individual was active in a local parish in a local village just outside of Albany, Ravena, that enjoys the dubious reputation of being a nest of hypocrites, and is headed by a less than competent “pastor”, who also held office in the Hubbard, and still holds that same office in the Scharfenberger episcopate as head of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. We mention this individual, Mr Richard Lesser, only because St Bernard’s had the audacity to publish in a recent newsletter under “Sharing Our Faith – Graduate Testimonials” (http://www.stbernards.edu/news/sharing-our-faith-graduate-testimonials/) a testimonial by Lesser.  Without exception, those “Testimonials” are selected from those very loyal to the heterodox leadership of St Bernards, the notorious sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet (a community of feminist female lay “religious”, which includes the disobedient heretic Elizabeth Johnson and others of similar disrepute!).

Smollin

Smollin

Lesser is a product of the spiritually impoverished Hubbard era, a finesser who cuddled up close to the former bishop and somehow finagled his way into seminary. Lesser was sent to the Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Weston MA by the diocese of Albany. To exemplify how he established himself in the Howard Hubbard club, Lesser was crossbearer in the procession at the installation of current Albany bishop Scharfenberger. Lesser certainly knew how to play the game. But he did not escape the scrutiny of more astute, less agenda – driven members of the diocese and the St Bernard’s community. One telling example was when, in of all places in a St Bernard’s course in conflict management, he verbally attacked a fellow student with the words, “Why are you such a prick.” The instructor, another profligate, Sr Anne Bryan Smollin, one of the controlling Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet, and one of the key offenders, sat impassively by—the situation was so acute she may have exposed herself to discipline by the state licensing board had the matter been escalated. The offended student chose to forgive rather than to prosecute.

Rick Lesser, Liberal Seminarian

Lesser

That notwithstanding, it must be mentioned that Mr Lesser, before weaseling his way into seminary, had served in the notorious St Patrick’s of Ravena parish as a catechist and lay minister. But the most damning criticism we have of Mr Lesser is the fact that for more than 24 years he practiced as a veterinarian in direct violation of the Roman Catholic Catechism paragraph 2418: “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.” There is much hypocrisy to be found in Mr Lesser and we will continue to oppose his ordination. To ordain Mr Lesser is to plant another potential cancer in the Albany diocese. If Mr Lesser at 58 years of age wishes to dedicate his life to contemplation, true spirituality and prayer he would be best advised to give all of his property to the poor and seek admission to a monastery or to a lay order of some sort. It is our suspicion that Mr Lesser sees in the priesthood and ordination simply another stage from which to perform. That is a travesty of Orders.

Moreover Mr Lesser and his ilk are products of their particular friendship with the ultra-liberal Hubbard episcopate and would simply be an instance of infecting the current episcopate with the agendas and behaviors of the Hubbard episcopate. The current bishop’s modus operandi should be to purge the diocese of every remnant of the secular sisters and the liberal priests and deacons’ clubhouse. Humility — or more likely burnout and exhaustion — may have characterized former bishop Hubbard but it was and is pitifully absent in his minions.

We mention Mr Lesser not because he is alone in this dubious class of Albany diocesan denizens, but because we have particular and personal knowledge of Mr Lesser’s past. There are other similar situations but let the Lesser example suffice for these purposes.

Lesser, moreover, became a pet of St Bernard’s. St Bernard’s has become a hotbed of ultraliberal studies and, on the basis personal experience, perpetuates an agenda of feminist church politics and heterodox theologies, conspicuously supporting many of the renegade nuns who have advocated such travesties as abortion, and feminist theologies.  We have written copiously about these types and would recommend perusing this blog for our expositions of their evils.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger was conspicuously absent from the 2014 St Bernard’s commencement in Rochester, while the Roman Catholic bishop of Rochester, the Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Syracuse, the Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham, were present; Sharfenberger was not there. Was Sharfenberger making a discreet statement about St Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry? And what does that mean for St Bernard’s in the diocese of Albany?

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger was conspicuously absent from the 2014 St Bernard’s commencement in Rochester…

Much of what we have described in this essay is the result of poor pastoring and a failure at the pastoral level but more egregiously at the higher education level (St Bernard’s) to loyally, obediently, and credibly teach the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and to refrain from public dissent on issues of established doctrine and policy.

The poor pastoring is the direct result of the former bishop having lost leadership control of the diocese, and the fact of many deacons and lay ministers taking fullest advantage of an aging, tired, and burnt–out presbyterate, and wresting illicit control of parishes, so inflicting egregious harm in virtue of their incompetence or ulterior motivations.

We call upon Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger to revitalize the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and to re-establish episcopal control of the diocese!

We shall elaborate on this point of poor pasturing and failure in the mandate of faithfully teaching Church doctrine and theology in a subsequent essay.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Laudetur Iesus Christus!


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


Smoke of Satan…Again…Still


The Editor of a Widely-read Blog Recently Forwarded to Us a Comment from A Reader. The Reader’s sentiments are so widely shared by many Christians today, that we felt it would be instructive and informative to publish the question and our response here:

Marcus-Allen-Steele-Satan

What are Pastors and their Minions Thinking…
If They’re Thinking!

Tony S. writes:

Thank you for all of your help and understanding with my recent comment about St. Patrick, Ravena.  We have two children 3 and 4 years old.  My wife wanted to bring them up Catholic, but since our encounters with st. Pat’s, we went elsewhere.  It’s a real shame.  I miss the Catholic Church.  That church was not welcoming at all.  A lot of the people you mention in your blog are parishioners there.  It’s a very hypocritical place, in which we did not want any part of.  The Bethlehem Reformed Church has a great Pastor and welcoming and supportive community.  However, being raised Roman Catholic, I still feel like I’m missing something..I am missing the tradition and rituals that the First Reformed Church doesn;t have.   Tony S.

We Respond:

Hi, Tony!
 
The Smallbany blog kindly forwarded your correspondence to me, since I contribute to a number of blogs as contributing editor for faith, spirituality, religion and church. I hope I can be of some support to you and your family.

Regrettably, as you have already experienced, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has missed the mark in terms of feeding the spiritually hungry and, again regrettably, has turned into a company club with branch lodges, called parishes, throughout its territory. Pastoring is far low on the list of prioritiesl, even though the former bishop Howard Hubbard had the best of intentions, his minions (not soldiers; soldiers follow regulations and orders) had their own agendas. Unfortunately, when the chief pastor gets his information and intelligence from demons, well, the result is demonic.

Church Hierarchy Needs to be Cautious>/big> Satan Lurks Where You Least Expect Him!

Church Hierarchy Needs to be Cautious
Satan Lurks Where You Least Expect Him!

One of the problems was that post-Vatican II priests were a confused lot, having been raised and educated in the Tridentine (pre-Vatican II) tradition and then having to live and work in a radically changed Church. That was compounded by the feminist movement in the cloisters and convents of the women religious institutions; nuns left the schools and hospitals and headed for the board rooms. That’s when all hell broke loose. The rabid nuns took over administration and higher education, filled the corridors of the profit-making arms of the church and left the priests to pound the pavement, some preferred to subject themselves to the bullying of the now secular executive “nuns”. (See our article, “Renegade Nun Lectures in Latham: Nuns Gone Wild!“.)

Nuns Out of Order BIG-TIME!!!

Nuns Out of Order BIG-TIME!!!

Then came the conspiratorial sex-scandals. Statistically the problem was minuscule. Politically and media-wise it was catastrophic. Why the anti-Catholic trend in the scandals? Well, the US has historically been anti-Catholic because the US hates rules (that’s one of the problems with the American Catholic Church). But within the RC Church in America, one way to get a stab at “those men in Rome” by the non-Catholics, the secular nuns (especially), and the scandal-hungry press was to attack the all-male RC priesthood, and demonise a very disciplined, highly-educated (compare with most of the poorly trained Protestant sects), committed, but selective and hence highly vulnerable group. If the nuns and wannabe women in the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t wait and wanted to get a Roman Catholic clerical collar, so the conspiracy goes, the best way to do that is to discredit and disgrace the exclusively male clergy. After all, women, even lesbian women, would never sexually abuse a minor! (But what about the abuse of children by poor parenting, divorce, bullying, gratuitous violence on TV, in the cinema, and let’s not forget the obscene games they now can play, and the electronic toys.)

The Smart Phone: The Ruin of Communication A Tool of Destruction of Youth

The Smart Phone: The Ruin of Communication
A Tool of Destruction of Youth

Many millions of Roman Catholics are very poorly educated and catechised because they, the parents and guardians of the children, have too many other distractions that have priority over religious and spiritual; in other words, moral and ethical education. The decline of the family, profaning of the traditional marriage union, and poor parenting (the rise in individualism and materialism (the woman who must experience motherhood, dropping the infant into the arms of daycare after 3 months so she can get back to her career!), and the commitment only to self (I have a life and I owe it to myself to live it my way.), and the feel-good culture has inflicted deep and serious wounds not only on the Roman Catholic Church as a community, but on our entire culture, as well.

satan inside

These effects are not lost on the so-called pastors of most churches, but most noticeably on traditional churches like the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Once the bedrock and foundation of ethics and morals that provided a refuge to the suffering and to the marginalised and a safe haven for recuperation for those in the world, the fragmentation and distractions of the culture of pathological ego and individualism that have destroyed the notion of community overall, have corroded faith communities, too.

Is anyon familiar with Genesis 1:27 or Genesis 2:21-23?

Is anyone familiar with Genesis 1:27 or Genesis 2:21-23?

Pastors in politics, pastors preaching politics, online ordinations, the 51% making a mockery of the 49% (in the past two or three decades the number of sitcoms, films, commercials that elevate the American woman at the cost of degrading the American male have come to dominate all aspects of commercials and entertainment!).

Agenda-Vaginas in the Pulpit. In my experience with so-called disgruntled Catholics (as many so-called Catholic women, usually post-menopausal or feminist by persuasion) and women clergy has been unfortunately negative. They have agendas and spirituality takes a minor role. Their vaginas, not the Divine, moves their hearts and minds. They demand roles in society, culture, church, and life that are not provided for in the very Holy Scripture they have professed to preach and to teach! And because of the trust (The word “faith”comes from the Latin word “fides” and means “trust”!) the ignorant members of their congregations put in their church elders and hierarchies, these women must be preaching orthodoxy. Bad choice, people. They are actually preaching heresy or at least heterodoxy!

A Freak with his Minions Why do women priests look so retarded?

A Freak with his Minions
Why do women priests look so retarded?

 So why do you think older priests now have lost resolve, confidence, interest? Why do you think that pastoral and spiritual care has gone to hell in the proverbial hand basket? Why do you think that way back in the 60’s Pope Paul VI made the remark, “The smoke of satan has entered the Church through a small crack.” We smelled the smoke back then, now we have a satanic wildfire consuming the Church, and it seems no one is interested in dialling 911, or if you do, you get put on hold. Ask me, I know!

clay figure child

Just a Clay Figure

It’s up to spiritually thirsting people like you, your wife and your friends to take charge of the situation and ensure that your children and your children’s children have the wherewithal to cope with the world that will inevitably confront them. Think of it this way: Man is created as a hollow clay figure and stays a hollow, clay figure until the day that clay returns to the clay from whence it was formed, UNLESS the potter fills that clay figure with something of value, something to believe in. Whether you think of the Divine as the potter, the parent as the potter, or the Church as the potter, that clay figure needs to be (ful)filled. It needs not only the physical necessities, not only the human necessities that parenting and community provide, but in order to become a contributing, benefacient (benevolent, charitable, altruistic, humanitarian, neighbourly, public-spirited) PERSON (as opposed to a clay figure), it needs to be formed with spirit, beliefs and values that for thousands of years we have called religion. The clay figure needs to have a sense of awe, needs to appreciate a sense of mystery, needs to move away from thinking of itself as the centre of the entire universe and the sole occupant of that universe. The clay figure needs to be filled with faith (trust) and love (charity, humility), in order to have HOPE in the future.
 
Thinking of it in these terms, Tony, you may have a better appreciation of what is going on and how to confront it without becoming apathetic, confused, despairing.
 
As for you search for truly Catholic liturgy, I’m afraid you won’t find it anywhere in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany that I am aware of. You’ll probably have to go to a male religious community (friary or monastery) to find the spirituality that you are seeking in the Liturgy, a Divine Liturgy that still offers mystery and awe without the bells and whistles. A Divine Liturgy that hasn’t yet raised the smoke screen so many of our churches have raised to hide the hypocrisy, the corruption, and the worldliness that has entered through that ever-widening crack along with the smoke of satan.

My recommendation, Tony, would be to visit one of the local Eastern Orthodox churches some Sunday (Greek, Russian, Ukrainian Orthodox) to experience a truly beautiful liturgy (they tend to be longish but if you can sit for 3 hours for a ball game, can’t you do 2 hours for God?). Or, the closest male religious community that I know of in the area is the Saint Anthony of Padua Franciscan Friary in Catskill, New York. A great many Roman Catholics and quite a few Protestants considering conversion to RC attend the Sunday Masses there and the friars have particularly beautiful traditions around the Easter and Christmas seasons.

Russian Orthodox Icon: The Divine Liturgy

Russian Orthodox Icon: The Divine Liturgy

This was supposed to have been a short note but has become an entire article. It’s come so naturally and rings so true that I am going to post it on one of my Church blogs. I hope you don’t mind.
 
Of course, if you have any questions at all, or need any help or recommendations, please contact me directly via a comment to this blog.
 
In the meantime, let’s ask for God’s blessings to give you and your family peace and health in mind, body and spirit.
 
Laudetur Iesus Christus!

We look forward to receiving comments and opinions from our readers. Thank you in advance!

Read our related, topical article Where Have All the Mothers Gone?

Are we spiritually dead?

Are we spiritually dead?


Pastor or Chaplain, or Both?


Is There a Distinction that Needs to be Drawn Between a Practicioner’s Playing the Role of Pastor or that of Chaplain?

I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion

I recently engaged several colleagues on the question of chaplaincy or pastoring. I was a bit bemused by the persistence of the tendency to Bible-thump one’s way through any such discussion, while advocating an interfaith approach as advanced by the adherents of the CPE agenda. I thought I’d share my contribution to the discussion.

listen-with-heartIt is my contention that we should not advance the notion of a “versus” or “as opposed to” when discussing chaplaincy or pastoring. While it is true that some traditions, the Hebrew and Islamic, for example, eschew the notion of “pastor” or “shepherd” for cultural or traditional, even ethical reasons, in the broader sense all chaplains are in fact “pastors,” while all pastors (in the conventional sense) are not necessarily “chaplains” (or critically speaking, even pastors!). In fact, I object in principal to the biased terminology we so frequently use in our vocations, “pastoral care” department, because it tends to be exclusive. I personally prefer spriritual care provider (although in my professional materials I do use pastoral care). Moreover, most people, even those in the vocation, tend to associate pastoral with pastors and thus with some sort of clergy or ordained service provider (usually with no questions asked and we all know about the profanation of ordination); that in itself is a misfortune for all concerned. But the much-touted CPE doesn’t do much to clarify the issues for interns or residents, and we still see chaplains “certified” by the self-proclaimed arbitors of chaplaincy who are just as ignorant after several years of “education” as they were before.

A case in point is taken from the scenario presented by the initiator of the discussion who describes walking into a Jewish patient’s room with a Christian clerical collar, which I characterized as benign “ignorance” but in reality was outright insensitive and would indicate that the “chaplain” in question did not do any initial preparation before launching out on rounds or visitations.clerical collar pc I might fraternally suggest that in future, whether you are a chaplain or a pastoral care associate, to check the chart briefly or dialogue with the nurse assigned to that patient before you visit. The offending chaplain actually says that he was aware that the patient was dying and had no family, so it seems rather odd that the chaplain did not appreciate the patient’s faith tradition and, if it wasn’t in the chart, that he didn’t consult with the immediate caregiver (nurse or LPN).

I also questioned the fact that the visiting chaplain was aware that the man was “Jewish”. Being Jewish immediately identifies one as being associated with a certain cultural, socio-religious tradition, after all, one does not call one’s self “Jewish” except to identify one’s self as a Jew. So this also raises the question of whether the chaplain in question was indifferent to the possibility that this dying man might have welcomed a visit by a rabbi, or that the chaplain did not make or offer to make a referral. Such sensitivity may have been a great comfort to the man, who might have found great refuge in his tradition and prayers. So I identify a boundary issue in this behavior, too; an issue of knowing one’s limits.

This situation also sends up red flags in that it clearly indicates that the institution did not do a spiritual assessment of this patient, much less a spiritual evaluation or history, which also reveals a glaring ignorance of the now widely inaugurated JCAHO and HIPA scoring categories relating to patient spiritual care.

The scenario I describe above should be instructive to us all and I thank the so-called chaplain for the inadvertent teaching/learning moment he has provided.

Finally, in the dying process I don’t feel there’s a heck of a lot of “pastoring” left to be done, unless it’s for the survivors. In my experience, in end-of-life situations I am more of a presence and spiritual guide/companion. While that may arguably be part of pastoring in a general sense, I feel that the actual mission of pastoring contrasts in praxis with the mission of spiritual accompaniment at end-of-life or in an existential crisis.

plant in handIt’s rather like the difference between evangelization and catechesis, if you have that in your tradition. One takes care of the basics and gets the seed started (evangelization), the other (catechesis) ends in the care and nurturing to harvest time.

Listening to hearAnother colleague mentioned in a rather cliché fashion with which we are all familiar when listening to the CPE crowd, that CPE trains one to listen. I disagree with such responses such as “CPE “teaches” one to listen.” I’m not quite sure how that works but in my divinity training and three years of supervised pastoral formation, and my participation in and disappointment with a rather popular CPE program in a large trauma center in Albany, New York, which fell far short of even my minimum aspirations, I don’t think that people can be “taught to listen” they may listen, but they don’t listen deeply. I know that from experience the deep listening skill comes from deep within one’s self, once one is comfortable with one’s self, and can leave one’s self for the time it takes to absorb and process the patient’s narrative. It’s that kind of listening that might be part of qualifying an aspirant to be spiritual care provider but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.

The serene face of the large Buddha his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

The serene face of the Buddha, his long wise curvaceous ears at once loving and open to the woes of the world: Compassionate.

Deep listening is the act of sinking into a serene quiet place, and awakening a receptive awareness of the other. By entering quiet and becoming aware of the other, we move out of and beyond our ego-driven chaos to become open to the divine messages within us and shared with us by the other. Imagine the irony here is that we so often complain of the pain of not having been heard, but we are so guilty ourselves of being deaf to, not hearing the innate wisdom from within ourselves and shared with us by others. When we learn to accept emptiness, when quiet, we instinctively trust in the guidance of sacred voices far more profoundly than what our bullying brains and the busy buzz of life would have us hear. And we listen, respond with silence.

In fact, having examined quite a number of CPE curricula and having developed continuing quality improvement curricula for the healthcare chaplaincy department, I find that the current CPE programs and their associated certification elements serve only to promote a burocratic and very branded form of “pastoral” care, and that branded product falls short of most suffering persons’ real needs. helpingIt’s the proprietary nature and standardization (viz. uniformization, homogenization) of the learning that deals the death blow to an appreciation (1) of the universal truths and values shared by all human beings, (2) the beauty in the diversity of traditions and how to appreciate and be enriched by a certain mutuality, (3) the possible pitfalls of an interfaith approach to faith traditions that may adhere very loyally to their dogmas. There are other reasons I could enumerate but regrettably (or fortunately for the readers) space is limited.

I think that an overwhelming majority, too, of CPE students come with excess baggage and too little self-death–I’ve observed interns, residents, even certified chaplains who have a great potential to do considerable damage…and do. The situation is not unlike seminary, you can do much to scrutinize, to form, to standardize but Whoa! when you turn them loose on the world, watch out! (A Roman Catholic diocesan priest, who also serves in the chancery tribunal, remarked ironically to me one day, “They’ll ordain anybody these days.” Which is probably true given the shortage of priests today.)

The so-called supervisors of the CPE programs almost invariable have their own biases and agendas, and these tend to impair good formation.
In some, not all instances, too, CPE programs have become “pay-to-work” programs in which minimally screened individuals, wet behind the ears and green, are turned loose on the floors to deal with sophisticated staff and human beings in existential crisis. I don’t feel that’s right. And I have also observed that interns are exposed to the same curriculum content for three or four years, and unless they have the academic predisposition to independently advance their armamentarium of experience through narrative and study, many don’t build their foundations. Some interns do not have theology or pastoral studies to help them through the necessary processing, and almost all have a depraved Western bias to their spirituality that tends to act as a speed bump when offering care to Non-western recipients. These programs tend to be “chaplain mills.” CPE does not fit the bill on its own to form professional, well-rounded spiritual care providers, but does excel in churning out multitudes of volunteers for greedy institutions. That may be one of the reasons it has survived this long.

On another level, some practitioners involved in the discussion advocated that the “Gospel” or, by extension, holy scriptures, has no firm place in chaplaincy. I do differ in that the fundamental ethics of the “Gospel” (not as understood principally by the evangelicals or fundamentalist among us) is a major part of chaplaincy. servant leadershipI cite particularly the beatitudes and the teaching of discipleship and servant leadership (chaplaincy is certainly not limited to the sick and dying but to the suffering generally). While I abhor the notion, and even more so the practice of proselytizing to captive audiences, and would hasten to emphasize that evangelization and catechization is not a fundamental role of the chaplain, ethics, discipleship, and servant leadership all play a special role in the myriad activities of the professional chaplain. (Note also that I do distinguish between the “professional chaplain”, the pastoral/spiritual care associate, and the visitor providing spiritual support.) To advocate that the truths and values espoused by the “Gospel”, the holy scriptures of any faith or spiritual tradition might have no place in chaplaincy is to advocate a position, I believe, of a chaplaincy practice devoid of ethics (and religion) (I do realize that this is a particularly “Christian” approach and my Judaic, Islamic and Buddhist colleagues may not necessarily agree with the religion-ethics statement, but I make the statement here somewhat loosely for convenience sake).

I’m not judging colleagues in chaplaincy or Clinical Pastoral Education too severely at all. In fact, I’m simply sharing my own observations and opinions based on personal experience. I am not a bit surprised when some readers tend to take these observations personally, as if they were meant to make an ad hominem stab at the straw[wo]men of CPE; I usually anticipate that persons in our line of work have a bit more self-awareness not to take every facially severe remark as a lancet thrust to the heart, however.

Rather than play an offended person’s role, perhaps we all would benefit by admitting that we may have learnt something about one’s self as through another’s eyes.

We Respond, We don't React.

We Respond, We don’t React.

Our role is to humbly respond, not to knee-jerk react. After all, to paraphrase the prophet Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘We are all wrapped in the same cloth…when we directly hurt another we indirectly hurt ourselves.” (I do hope I did that statement justice!). So, when one party to the conversation called such a response arrogant, and a failure to simply accept some responsibility in relationship to colleagues’ responses, I merely responded, “My point indeed. The mouth loves the feel of words.” Instead we minimize, rationalize and justify our behavior, making certain to protect one’s self. This particular correspondent insists that “our patients have thick enough skins to handle a collar.”panda overload My response was tantamount to the fact that I don’t think that we have any right to expect patients to have “thick skins.” Some practitioners in pastoral care seem to admit patients’ strengths but underestimate their sensitivity and vulnerability. Many of the patients I see have lost their thick skins and in fact are pretty bruised in terms of dignity, autonomy, fortitude, patience, etc. I see no reason to add another straw to the pile. And Yes! It’s not about us, it’s about patient-centered, family-focused, inter- and multi-disciplinary care.

bedside prayerWhen we adopt such an approach we appreciate that, whereas many of our colleagues practice their spiritual care ministry in acute care settings or in crisis settings, many colleagues may find themselves–particularly in the scenario of the long-term care setting–in the position of playing both the role of chaplain and pastor to some residents in those longer-term care facilities. Regrettably, many of these residents lived their lives unchurched or churched with infrequent interaction with their faith community; more regrettably, some faith communities have disappeared or simply no longer continue a ministry of visitation of the sick and homebound who were once part of their faith community. It’s in such situations that the chaplain may very well become the pastor, and have to function in both roles. I don’t feel that this should be a major stumbling block nor even a concern to the well-formed spiritual care provider, who is responding to a true call to spiritual care ministry.

We're all wrapped in the same cloth...

We’re all wrapped in the same cloth…


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