Category Archives: Prayer

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.


Tedious if Not Platitudinous…On Public Prayer and Poetry


The Local, Regional and National News Is Fast Becoming Tedious If Not Platitudinous. A Sure Sign that Media is Spiritually Exhausted and Intellect-Starved.

boys on fenceJudging from the front page of the some of the local and regional rags as well as the digital table-talk, and from the subject-matter dominating the blather–it’s not news, actually, nor is it journalism, by the way–the tabloid-wannabe-news is fast becoming undisguised infomercials promoting ideological, political, or commercial, that is, they’re local propaganda rags. We’ll look at the latest edition of a local weekly newspaper (the Ravena News Herald of Ravena, New York) to see what we mean at the grassroots level of misinformation.

In a front-page piece commemorating the local Boy and Girl Scouts of America reaffirmatin of faith in God at a meeting in the Roman Catholic Church of St Patrick in Ravena, NY, we read that

“…dozens of community members gathered at St. Patrick’s Church in Ravena to witness the Cub and Boy Scouts of Troop 1067 reaffirm their commitment to reverence, “to be reverent toward God, faithful in his [Ed. note: God’s?] religious duties and to respect the beliefs of others” in accordance with the law of the Scout put forth by the Boy Scouts of America.”

That bit of scurrilous reporting which, if you read the news outside of Ravena-Coeymans, is the epitome of misinformation and hypocrisy, given the BSA’s refusal to stop being a pillar of discrimination, exclusion and hate, where even the federal government has long ago legislated against such practices. I think it’s the part about to “respect the beliefs of others,” that got my attention. But more on that some other time.

But the most glaring first-page gaffe is the caption under the large photo on the first page. More on that below.

Weeblos of Pack 1067 illustrate the deadline sin of gluttony in a skit at the Scouts Own Service on Sunday.(Source:

Weeblos of Pack 1067 illustrate the deadline sin of gluttony in a skit at the Scouts Own Service on Sunday.
(Source: The Ravena News Herald, Vol. 132 No. 52 (February 14, 2013). Photo by Marlene McTigue)

This was followed by a rather lengthy “prayer” read by Brian Searles, BSA troop master, which runs more than 144 words and takes up 2/3 of the first page text. That “prayer” runs along the lines of the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi that starts, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”

“Dear Lord, bless all those everywhere who contribute to shape the hearts, minds and bodies of young people. Let us remember what they have taught and apply it daily.”

I have some serious questions as to the “what they have been taught,” and if the scout leader is referring to the explicit policy of discrimination and hate espoused, defended, and ipso factotaught” by the Boy Scouts of America espouse with regard to certain groups. The venerable scout master Searles continues:

“When facing deceit and dishonesty, let us be trustworthy. If we see hypocrisy and faithlessness, let us be loyal. Where disregard for others and where materialism prevails, let us be helpful. In an atmosphere of ill manner, let us be courteous. Where some measure manliness in brutality and crudeness, let us be kind. Though law-breaking and rule-scoffing are common, let us be obedient. While others grumble and grouch, let us be cheerful. In an environment blighted by waste and extravagance, let us be thrifty. When confronted with danger and temptation, let us be brave. As we see filth and pollution everywhere, let us be clean. While witnessing impiety and irreligion, let us remember to be reverent. In short, in a world that has for generation after generation lamented the lack of good examples, let us Scouts stand out, grow up and be real adults.”

Clumsy as Mr Searles plagiarized prayer might be, his complaints are quite clear–we all know what he’s talking about, don’t we?

Actually, had Mr Searles simply read the Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, maybe someone in the group would have more completely appreciated the intended prayerfulness of the moment and would have actually attempted to live the admonitions promoted by the holy example of the saint, and centuries later distilled shortly before the First World War into the now popular and familiar verses. (To read and download a copy of the Franciscan Peace Prayer I’ve prepared, click this link: The Story Behind the Peace Prayer of St Francis )

It’s rather ironic, too, that these lofty confessions of what our society and community have come to represent: “deceit and dishonesty,” hypocrisy and faithlessness,” “disregard for others,” “materialism,” “ill manner” ( must admit, I’m at a loss to really understand what that is supposed to mean), “manliness in brutality and crudeness,” “law-breaking and rule-scoffing,” where our neighbors “grumble and grouch,” and in a culture that confronts us daily with “danger and temptation,” where we find “filth and pollution everywhere,” and in our very churches we witness “impiety and irreligion” (irreligion is an interesting word meaning hostility towards religion. I don’t think that’s the problem though.), “lack of good examples.” In a word, doesn’t this sound like the routine in this community, in the local schools, in the  entire country–with few exceptions? And let’s ask ourselves how long the Scouts have been the model of American youth? And where do they go and what do they once they graduate from our schools, move on from the scouts, and enter the mainstream?

The same issue, reports also on the front page, an interview with a local official,  a building inspector, who allegedly advocates, misconstruing a Robert Frost line, that  “Good fences make good neighbors?”  While it’s not really out of character to read that a building inspector might advocate good fences, he also advocates more laws to smooth out relations between citizens and local officials but good relations involves building community not fences, and seeking collaboration and consensus, not compliance with laws.

R. Frost (1874-1963)Probably Turning in his Grave!

R. Frost (1874-1963)
Probably Turning in his Grave!

In a misinformative and pitifully distorted version of both American literature and reality, the idiot reporter, one Bryan Rowzee (reporter with the Ravena News Herald of the Hudson Catskill Newspapers group), in the front-page item, kicks off his item with a quote from Robert Frost’s memorable poem, Mending Wall. But in the true spirit of American journalism, Rowzee prooftexts, misinterprets and so falsifies to his readers the message of the poem, and does so by taking one familiar line out of the context of the whole poem, similar to what’s done business as usual in the American propagandist media.

For starters, the poem is a lament of fences, how walls and fences are something that are unnatural:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

And throughout the poem Frost questions the necessity for fences and even characterizes the neighbor who builds the fence (in the poem a stone wall) as being

…like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness

In fact, Mr Rowzee, Frost’s poem has nothing good to say about walls or fences; in fact, the entire poem is a statement against walls and fences! Mr, Frost, describes his neighbor likening him to a menacing caveman as he puts a rock into the wall, and repeats, “Good fences makes good neighbors.” So, either Mr Rowzee is trying to be cute and is using the Frost quote in total ignorance of what the poem actually preaches or, Mr Rowzee is being sneaky and using the quote to ridicule the interviewee in the article. Difficult to say unless you read the item in the News Herald, and until you reach the paragraph

“Conrad said the town loves growth and wants growth but needs growth that follows the laws created to help the whole community. He said he hopes that this business and others will benefit from clearer zoning maps and believes this may lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.”

The building inspector interviewed in reality has a motley history of contradictions and obstruction; he’s not much different from any other small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty official. Of course, Mr Conrad, the building inspector,  loves walls and fences, they’re unnatural and intended to isolate and obstruct. He’s been building unethical walls in his community for years, and has gotten very good at it.

Moreover, there’s nothing small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty official’s like more than passing laws that make them appear more powerful and make their jobs more secure, while at the same time make everyone else’s lives more complicated, and unpleasant, increase the already insufferable red tape and corruption in the area, and offer more opportunities for the small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty official to do “favors” for special people.

Like so many in our élite, exclusionist community, political, religious groups, our Conrad talks out of both sides of his face

two-facedLike so many in the Ravena-Coeymans élite, the judge, who violates the Code of Judicial Ethics and interprets the law according his own or his party’s (im)morality; the mayor or board member who plays loosey-goosey with public money, the community wife, who runs a close second to her double-talking husband and has a teflon surface with her supporters;  the attorney who places avarice and winning above ethics and justice; the bishop or prelate, who juggles doctrine with politics, and politics comes out on top, to the detriment of credibility, and the list could go on and on, those who cooperate in the sin of others  must by necessity talk out of both sides of their faces, but as a made members of the élite inner circle, they are loyal to the their own corrupt interests and to their godfathers and protectors.

So you can really understand, given the example of our building inspector’s associations, history, cronies, and the mob he hangs out with, we must carefully scrutinize statements like “the town … wants growth but needs growth that follows the laws created to help the whole community. He said he hopes that this business and others will benefit from clearer zoning maps and believes this may lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.”

Conrad, the official with a modicum of power and authority,  apparently believes that more laws controlling what residents and neighbors do and “help the community,” and that more laws “will lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.” Which side of his mouth is this coming from, I ask?

To all those who share such a perverse world view, the only way that misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and village/town officials can be lessened is not by creating more laws but by streamlining the administration. This may very well entail eliminating some laws, some positions of authority, and rehabilitating what’s left, an administration that will first of all put an end to the corruption and coercion that has hallmarked communities, government, church for decades through ineffectual governance, poor teaching, and pandering to the vociferous ignorant! It will involve elimination of the money pits and dens of cronies we popularly call our administrative and governing bodies and purging the hypocrites and ignorant from our leadership and who call themselves licit leaders! A thorough re-examination of ourselves and our systems would be the wisest move ever for our communities.

Before you create new laws or bring in new systems, Leaders, there’s a hell of a lot of healing that has to be done to “lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.”

Most communities, whether secular or religious, have been hemorrhaging members and resources while being poisoned by the corporations and oppressed by the special-interests, while popular denial and complaisance are feeding and fostering the small-minded, small-town, power-drunk petty officials, who all believe they have their positions for life and can hand them over to their designated heirs. And theyhave all but silenced the democratic process in our communities, both secular and sacred. Clean out and town hall and the pastoral centers completely and maybe the fresher air in the town and diocese, parish, congregation will attract more health conscious entrepreneurs, ministers, leaders, thinkers. To date all that our communities appear to have attracted are corpse flies feeding on the dead and dying communities, businesses, churches. What community organizations and institutions that are left standing after the special-interests and sociopaths have finished are disillutioned, angry, and suspicious of anything that comes out of the town halls or from the chancel!

Officials like our example, Mr Conrad,  haven’t a clue what they’re talking about! Before you create new laws or bring in new systems, Leaders, there’s a hell of a lot of healing that has to be done to “lessen misunderstandings and strained relationships between community members and town officials.” The TRUST and CONFIDENCE in local government and in our Church leadership has to be re-established after decades of a local corrupt machine of indiffernece, impotence, self-interests and special interests have made our entire communities  into a communities of paranoid recluses!

Rather than Building Fences or Proselytizing that “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” or that Laws Lessen Misunderstanding and Heal Strained Relationships, Government, Church  and the Boy Scouts of America–at all levels–Should be Proactively Tearing Down Fences and Building Community in spite of the Hypocrites, Whether Religious, Social, or Political Hypocrites!

The Moment of Truth is NOW!Make Positive Changes Now. Tweak Later.

The Moment of Truth is NOW!
Make Positive Changes Now. Tweak Later.

So back to page 1 of the Ravena News Herald. We can start by not asking God to do what we ourselves are very capable of doing ourselves, if we simply follow the ethical principles taught by the Gospels and especially the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount). If you’ve forgotten what they are, find a Bible and read them again, if you ever have read them. The entire law condenses down to, “Love God totally and love your neighbor as you love yourself!”

Careful How You "Pray"!

Careful How You “Pray”!

Misusing prayer to make a political appeal to empty hearts is a sacrilege and involving God in that conspiracy is blasphemy! In the precincts of a Roman Catholic sacred space used for secular purposes, the prayer should either not have been done or the real experts in screwing up prayer should have been invited to invoke the petition to the divine: either the pastor of the Roman Catholic Church of St Patrick in Ravena or the bishop’s minion, the deacon at St Patrick’s. At least the screwed up prayer would have been screwed up professionally. But to have such a “prayer” come from the lips of a representative of an organization that conspicuously and publicly discriminates and offends the dignity of persons, and whose hypocrisy flies in the face of such dignity and of  the community of the Faithful is an affront to fair play and justice.

But certainly, the admonition that can be taken from the scout master’s so-called prayer is the enumeration of the darkness that the speaker finds in the community, society, and the world. But just publicly displaying awareness of those evils, evils that are right outside our doors, is not enough. Solutions are needed but no solutions are offered. That doesn’t work for me at all.

The newspapers at one time played an important educational role–they now churn out chum, crap!

The public media have lost all sense of dignity and continue to fail in their obligations to the people of our communities. Where the public media, the newspapers, played an important role of sharing good information while playing fair, and demanding quality in the information they send out to the public–yes, the newspapers at one time played an important educational role–they now churn out chum, crap! The conspicuous cover photo accompanying the article, “Scouts reaffirm their faith in God in annual service,” regrettably demonstrates this point. In the caption we read: “Weblos of Pack 1067 illustrate the deadline sin of gluttony in a skit at the Scouts Own Service on Sunday.” What is a “deadline sin”? Doesn’t the editor know gluttony (actually intemperance in moral theological terms) is a “deadly sin“? Shame on you!

Poor editing, poor attention to detail, poor reporting substandard education of the still-reading public. But giving reporter Rowzee the benefit of doubt, maybe he was actually writing his article tongue-in-cheek.

And again, the glaring ignorance of Mr Bryan Rowzee and his pitiful misrepresentation of a renowned American poet laureate’s poem, Mending Wall, reveals the deplorable level of teaching the humanities, even important American literature. Rowzee’s gaffe reveals two things at least: the carelessness and indifference of the print media in terms of accuracy and reliability of facts, even well-established facts, and the failure of our education system in teaching our American literary heritage to such an abominable degree that an allegedly “qualified” journalist (a term used very loosely, indeed, in this discussion), one whose prose is made public as if it were credible, doesn’t have an inkling of understanding of what he’s writing about. If Mr Rowzee knew anything of what he was writing about he would have used the line from the Robert Frost poem correctly, and Rowzee would certainly have known better than to have printed the Conrad quote. But giving Rowzee the benefit of doubt, maybe he was doing both tongue-in-cheek. We can only guess!

seek truth

Don’t Believe Everything You’re Fed!
The Editor

If you’d like to read Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, I’m pleased to attache a copy. Just click this link: Mending Wall by Robert Frost.

Special Notice: We make every effort to be truthful, complete, fair, and balanced on this blog; therefore, if you see anything that you know to be false or incorrect, or if you have additional information to clarify any issue, please let us know by e-mailing your information or by leaving a comment. It’s very important to us that we don’t fall into the same category as those whom this blog is intended to expose. Thank you very much in advance for your cooperation and assistance!

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


A Moment to Consider Suffering


“There is a time for everything…under the heavens a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecc 3:1a,7b)

The Suffering in the World and the Heaviness of Grief Drag the Soul Down and Weight it With Despair…But It Is Better to Light A Single Candle than to Curse the Darkness Around Us.

animated candle small

All religious and spiritual traditions teach that man lives in horizontal time or chronos; the Divine time is vertical, kairos. In Divine time there is no past or future, it is all here and now. Unlike humankind, the Divine does not look to the past nor to the future, they are simply unnecessary because the Divine is perfect and that perfection embraces unchangingness and allknowingness. Perfection does not have to learn from the past nor hope for the future.

Rachel Weeps for All Her Children!

Rachel Weeps for All Her Children!

But we exist in a different dimension, if you will. We can either despair of the past or hope for the future; resent the past and despise the future; or as Ecclesiastes teaches, we can accept that the Divine plan provides for “a time for everything…a time to be born and a time to die..a time for scattering stones and a time to gather them…a time to embrace…a time to search…a time to mend…a time to be silent and a time to speak…a time to love…and a time for peace.”

The Divine plan is Perfection and Immutable. It keeps us on schedule and on plan always, whether we like it or not, and whether we understand it or not. The world is full of pain and suffering, most of it so far away from us that we almost take it for granted and go on with our own lives without considering that human beings and other creatures are suffering immensely but we don’t see their tears or hear their cries…so they’re easy to pass by and cast our eyes away. Until it strikes close to home. But the Divine plan includes us always and when Perfection sees its creatures becoming callous to the lessons of suffering, Perfection brings it closer to home so that we, too, can face the challenge and become humbled by it. When we see suffering we can appreciate the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: There is a time to be born and the fact of being born brings with it the fact of death.

gathering togetherWe are made of fragile materials and we break, sometimes very badly, and we die. It’s when we are humbled by challenge, moments in the Divine Plan that we are incapable of comprehending, that it becomes time to gather stones to rebuild, a time to embrace our universal humanity as the kin-dom of the Divine, a time to search for meaning in the challenge. But above all and essential to the purpose of the Divine Plan is that a time of challenge is a time for love, a time for God, because as John teaches “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” (1 Jn 4:8). Gathering together in love, we are in a time of mending, of healing; in that time of healing we find a time to be silent, present, and a time to speak. As stones gathered searching for meaning in the challenge, and embraced by the power of perfect love, we heal in silence and sometimes speak silently in prayer…we seek peace.

The events in the world that cause suffering and despair, confusion and anger, anxiety and hate are in our time, not Divine time, we can move into Divine time by staying in the moment, no past no future, for but a breath’s time and find peace in the moment we occupy now.

blue tear

Let’s stop for a moment being stones scattered and be stones gathered, remembering in this moment the suffering around us. Let’s stop for a moment to heal, to love, to be silent. Let’s stop for a moment to be peaceful and to grant peace to all of Creation. It’s in the Divine Plan. Let’s stop for a moment and remember we are created in the image of a God who is Love.

Remembering in this Divine moment of love, healing, and peace, the suffering in the world of all Creation, and remembering the acute pain we now suffer with the events closer to us. In your own, personal way remember the suffering in Newtown, Connecticut.

animated-candleburning3


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!


Liturgy: How to Celebrate in Music and Song



Music and Song (CCC 1156-1158)

Sing and Celebrate

Singing and beautiful music have provided an interface with the heights and depths of human emotion since time immemorial. However, where such are formative of the liturgy, their higher purpose is that of giving glory to God in worship which, inevitably, eclipses the noble but limited destiny fulfilled by a primary desire for polished performance. Since it is oriented towards God, above all, the musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater than that of any other art. The main reason for this is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy  (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1156 and Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC] 112). The Old Covenant lay store, not only by psalms and hymns that remain central in Jewish and Christian liturgy, but by the different musical and symbolic registers of various musical instruments (CCC 1156). From a modern perspective, it is hard to establish what all of the instruments were, though a sense of their symphony can be absorbed by our appreciation of the versatility of a pipe organ which announces, so ably, the distinctive atmospheres of the liturgical year. One should never lose sight of the appeal of SC 120 in support of the particular esteem that should be afforded the pipe organ even when other instruments are permitted in the liturgy on the basis that they are suitable for sacred use.

Read or download the entire article at: How To Celebrate-Music and Song 2

 


Liturgy: Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I


Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I
And More on Receiving Communion

Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university answers questions on the liturgy.

Q: As I have watched Pope Benedict XVI celebrate Mass on television, I have noticed that during the Roman Canon, he appears to perform the epiclesis twice: “Through him we ask you to bless and accept …” and “Bless and approve ….” Every priest I have seen pray the canon has simply blessed the gifts at the beginning of the canon and then performed the epiclesis later in the prayer. Is there a difference between these two gestures made by the Holy Father and by the priests .

A: Actually I think that the Holy Father is simply fulfilling the rubrics for the venerable Roman Canon, or Eucharistic Prayer I.

For your convenience you can read or download the entire article at Liturgy-Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer I.


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