Category Archives: Preaching

Of Chickens and Ducks: A Taxonomy.


Republished with permission from the Companions of St Silouan Athonite


Those of us in the vocation of teaching or preaching sometimes find that no matter how we attempt to describe something, we fall short of the mark, that is, we just don’t have the wherewithal to communicate complex situations in terms our audience can fully embrace.


As I lay in bed one early morning unable to sleep, and immersed in reflection, I began musing and imagined the various Christian faith communities as chicken farms, and I created a taxonomy of about 4 categories of chickens. I reached for my journal and jotted down some key thoughts in order not to lose them. Once I found peace having jotted down the necessary mnemonics, I was able to doze off. I rose early that morning to reconstruct my dozy thoughts. Here they are:

There are Ducks among the Chickens

On the one hand we have the factory farms where the chickens are confined in large coops and fed a prescribed diet doped with various enhancers. These are the Roman or Western Rite Christians. They are kept in parochial coops, fed a diet of dogma, doctrine, catechesis, and Canon rules and regulations; they are under the chief keeper, the bishop, whose minions, the priests are the farm hands. The corporation headquarters calls all of the important shots for these chickens. It’s “systematic.” The lights in the coop go on timer-controlled, stay on for a set period of time, and then go off. Feeding is done automatically, mechanically by the hopper method — homiletics or liturgical preaching —, in the process of delivering  a premixed formula — a so-called liturgy —, which the clucks devour at set times, and then go on with their lackluster, routine lives until it’s time to make the trip to the processing plant. That’s category 1.

Factory farmed, raised systematically, kept in line by protocol.

Category 2, took shape when I turned my thoughts then turned to the chicken-metaphorical Eastern Orthodox Rites. Here I have free-range, cageless chickens, who roam about within a perimeter of dogma and doctrine. These chickens have relative freedom and autonomy, although the head farmer makes all of the major decisions affecting their lives and his farmhands live among the chickens, ensuring that they stay healthy, and keep the foxes and weasels at their distance. These chickens rise with the sun and roost when the sun sets. They have relative variety and color in their diets and it’s natural, no artificial additives; organic. These clucks are out there digging around and experience the mystery that is their life and the beauty that is their world. They live their live with relatively few rules and regulations, and finish their lives plump and clean.

Wandering and feeding in the beauty and mystery of creation.

There’s a third category of chicken in the chicken world I’ve conjured up. It’s the chicken kept by the guy down the road who wants his eggs fresh and his Sunday dinner just outside his door. Nice and convenient. This chicken is kept in a rather pedestrian, vulgar way, allowed to roam about, kept in a makeshift hutch or in a coop. Their keeper is not particularly well educated in chicken-care nor in what chickens need out of life so their diet and care is a bit haphazard and generally subject to their keeper’s idiosyncrasies and whims. Their keeper gets his chicken knowledge out of a popular magazine or off the Internet. No real plan, no real structure, each chicken has a personal relationship with its owner. Neighbors see these chickens and refer to them by the owner’s name: “There’s Joe’s chickens in the road again. “ “Or Amy’s chickens are in our backyard again.” With little or no supervision or protection, these chickens sometimes become road-kill or are taken by a fox or a dog. But they can also be happy chickens because they don’t know anything else, and they can be healthy chickens, but they’re good only for soup because they’re very lean and underfed; a bit tough at times. These are the non-mainstreamerspopular religious movements, sects, cults and storefront “churches.”

Backyard chickens.

Getting near completion of our taxonomy of religious chickens, of course, we have some chickens who fall somewhere in between these three groups, or chickens who get “rescued” by one or the other categories. They’re still chickens but a bit confused.

Finally, we have the un-chickens. These are creatures that think they’re chickens, look like chickens, act like chickens but are definitely not chickens. Fortunately, these bizarre items are rare and they do make the tabloids or National Geographic. They even manage to attract vulnerable followers, who think that these un-chickens are the real thing. Most of these un-chickens are charlatans, some may actually believe they are chickens, but they are easy to identify and can’t easily hide their deception from the discerning observer.

The Un-chicken. They look like chickens, act like chickens, but don’t know they’re un-chickens.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the un-chicken category. These are not chickens at all but ducks who want to be chickens. These ducks leave their aquatic environment for dry land among the chickens. These ducks have lost track of their special gift: mythologically they inhabited and belonged to three worlds: the world of water, the world of dry land, and the world of the ether. Some would say that these ducks, if they were aware and awake, would realize that they mediated between the sky, the earth and the water. They are special. They think they’re chickens but they still sound like ducks and walk like ducks. Some of the chickens don’t even know there are ducks among them; some of the ducks don’t know they’re ducks. But in reality, you can’t mistake the ducks among the chickens but no one seems to mention the fact and no one makes a peep…or a cluck.

Moving freely between worlds.

And then there are the ducks. Wild and free. Diving into the depths or flying invisible paths. No words or texts are needed to guide them. They find their food along their journey’s course. They quench their thirst in fresh, living water. They live in all three spheres but belong to none in particular. Unlike the chickens who are earthbound and know only a circumscribed tract, the ducks share three worlds; they know the world under the reflective surface of the pond in which they dive, they know the dry land where they walk, and they know the heights, which they share with eagles. We might call the ducks among us the mystics or the contemplatives, those among us whose keeper is the Spirit.

The Spirit is in our midst!

Br Silouan …
A chicken in discernment to be a duck!

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Conversion 101: A Reflection on Repentance vs. Metánoia


On reflection, one of our most distinctive traits as human beings, although created in likeness of the Creator God, is our freedom to choose to approximate the Divine or to take an alternate route, distancing ourselves from a forgiving God, a detour we call sin. The Greek is for missing our waypoints is hamartia (αμαρτία, from αμαρτάνειν hamartánein), which in the classical language, means to “miss the mark.”

Conversion 101 – A Reflection

In a recent reflection posted for the Companions of New Skete, we read the word repentance, a word that has plagued theologizing linguists for centuries because it is an extraordinary mistranslation, a linguistic glitch that distorts the intended meaning of the Greek word metánoia – and conflates it with the Greek word metámelomai (see Mark 1 vs. Matt 27:3, sources which employ the words metanoeo/metánoia or metamélomai (μεταμέλομαι)) that occurs in the Second Testament (and in the LXX), which renders the Hebrew word “nacham” (change of mind, finding comfort). That word metánoia (μετάνοια, change in mind, conversion) continues as evidence of the extraordinary insult in translating dating back to the Latin Fathers’ translation of metánoia, rendering it poenatentia, and thus associating it with penance and punishment, and which reflects the later Medieval Scholastics’ teaching of a God, who is vindictive and vengeance seeking, angered by our choice to sin, and the teaching that for our sinfulness God demands propitiation, payment to avoid Divine wrath. The sinner must purge themselves of their guilt engendering guilt and condemnation. That teaching reached its pinnacle of silliness with the teaching of “tollhouses”, stages of purification through which the soul must pass to attain salvation.  This is a notion of a distorted God and flies in the face of the teaching of a forgiving and merciful God, and our freedom to change.

Metánoia is not the only casualty of the Latin translators, we can also note the confusion of messiah and savior in the translations from the Hebrew; that confusion continues to this day and continues to mislead the ignorant faithful and far too many of the clergy. No less a figure than Tertullian took offence to the translation of metánoia with poenitentiam, arguing that metánoia is not a confession of sins but a change of heart. (Having made that statement, I do not argue that the “change of heart” does not result from reflection of one’s past behavior or regret for having sinned. St Augustine himself is clearly a witness to that.)

The word repentance, which has persisted in myriad translations and in pastoral and theological usage, does not convey the very important and authentic meaning of metánoia: a change of heart.

In the ordo salutis, at one pole of which we have the steps leading to healing and return to the source and final end in the Western Catholic (faith, contrition, regeneration, penance (epitimion, pokúta; following confession), sanctification, purgation, theosis) or in the Eastern Catholic (Orthodox) (catharsis, theoria, theosis by way of virtuous life, prayer, and participation in the Mysteries), or in the Reformed tradition, election/predestination. Repentance, at least in the Western tradition, has to do more with penance, less with metánoia.

This is metánoia, not repentance. The Great Error of teaching is based on erroneous translation!

So, what is my point, you may ask by this time? I find myself reflecting on the Orthodox tradition, in which sin is conceived of as a disorder, an illness, and confession as a ‘medicine’, with metánoia being the healing therapy, leading to – another insult to conscientious linguistics and competent translation — “salvation”, where salvation may be in its broadest connotation a sort of being saved or deliverance, in truth is not being saved but being “healed” (it derives from the Latin salvus, and like the English word “salve,” is healing).

There are a number of reasons for these confusions but whatever the reasons, we have to deal with them now, in our lives, in our teaching.

No matter what the reasons for the misuse of the term repentance or why it has persisted, the fact remains that our healing, our salvation if you prefer, depends not on revisiting old sin, or on guilt, or on propitiation (save for the salubrious effects of epitímion, if employed by the priest) but on metánoia, a change of mind, heart and conduct.

In fact, a more appropriate reading of John the Baptist’s call to “repent” is actually a call to change of heart, a change of mind and conduct, not to revisit past sinfulness. Moreover, the reported teachings of Jesus point also to the notion of change of heart and conduct, less than a recollection of past sinfulness. While I am not purporting that we should not maintain an awareness of our freedom to make wrong choices or that we should not examine ourselves regularly, nor that regular confession and consultation with a spiritual guide are nice but not necessary, I do feel that we must look forward, while employing all of the preceding, to changing our way of thinking and behaving. And Yes! this process of metánoia or conversion is a lifetime process, and we would be ill advised not to revisit our hearts and minds and conducts regularly, in order to tweak and fine tune ourselves, ensuring we are on the correct spiritual heading towards the destination, which is God.

Far from the negative connotations and denotations of the term “repentance,” metánoia compels a positive, proactive, life-affirming response to God’s offer of union through His grace.

Reading St John Climacus’ “Ladder of Divine Ascent“, the saint teaches that “[R]epentence is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.” We could easily replace “repentence” with “metánoia” or “change of heart” without substantially distorting the saint’s teaching (assuming the rest of the translation is correct).

Having said all of that, I do not wish to avoid reflecting on the concept of repenting on behalf of others (so important for Greek monastic theology from the 4th century on), at least in nascent form, can be found in the LXX, but that’s another diatribe for another time.

Our reflection was on repentance as compared with metánoia, and our Lenten retreat centers on forgiveness. So what’s the connection I’m trying to make? Well, having reflected on the importance of metánoia, it would seem that claiming a Christian lifestyle would be a mockery if not abject hypocrisy, if we were not to engage metánoia as our radical, i.e., fundamental attitude towards forgiveness. We have the freedom to choose Divine Light or a fragmented, autonomous existence choosing darkness. Self-awareness, authenticity, that is, the admission that we are capable of sinning — sin is not just the province of evil people — our purification and forgiveness comes from getting to the root of the reality of potential and real sinfulness, and this involves metánoia: a change of mind, heart and conduct. Some have referred to this as “soul surgery”, something we can’t do ourselves, but for which we need God’s grace and the wisdom of wise and patient spiritual guidance from another pilgrim capable of nudging us towards opening ourselves to the truth about ourselves, acknowledging that truth, doing something about it, and navigating us towards true forgiveness, reconciliation, and ultimately healing.

This is a radical revolution, an about face in our attitudes rooted in a change of heart and an orientation to God. If we commit ourselves to metánoia, we approach true self-awareness, a prerequisite for the essential authenticity, and self-control through the action of the Holy Spirit and Divine Grace.

Whoever acts as his own spiritual guide has a fool for a client.

As I reread and reflect on my thoughts, it becomes obvious how frequently I, and you, have been deceived by detouring from the true path to the Divine; in other words, we have frequently been deceived by sin of one sort or another. We all have heard the saying: “Whoever acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.” This can apply very aptly to our spiritual life as well. As we cannot do our own soul surgery, we cannot act as our own spiritual guide, and we really should have a wise spiritual father or mother who can provide good counsel to us, based on their mature spirituality and their deep listening skills. We are fortunate, as Companions of New Skete, to have a treasure of rich resources at our disposal, and we would be pitiable spiritual sons and daughters if we were not to avail ourselves of these resources.

In conclusion, our focus should be less on repentance as such and more on metánoia. Through a change of heart, a reorientation, a radical transformation of outlook, a change in our view of the world and ourselves, a renewal of how we love, and how we see beauty.  Metánoia should be at the heart of our teaching, our liturgical preaching, and our participation in the liturgy, which is a great source of healing and inspiration. The liturgy is faith in action, and Orthodoxy is a liturgical culture; we are liturgical creatures. We must appreciate the gift of liturgy and spiritual guidance. I speak from experience: Those of us practicing vocations of compassion often come away from encounters with the faithful-in-crisis, whether spiritual or existential, with a deep sadness, a sadness that has its roots in a realization that our faithful have acquired and live with an image of the Christian life and the Christian God that are distorted. One of those distortions is that God is punishing one because of one’s past, present, even future sins. This is not the message of the Gospels. Let us recall the scripturally based prayer of absolution teaching that “God desires not the death of a sinner, but that the sinner turn from his evil ways and live.” That prayer teaches metánoia, not medieval notions of repentance and wrath, guilt and shame. It also teaches forgiveness.

I think, during this liturgical season of reflection, that we should seriously make metánoia and forgiveness our goals as compassionate companions.

Please share your thoughts with me about my thoughts.


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


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!

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!


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