Wednesday, November 28, 2012


This past Sunday our General Intercessions (aka, “Prayers of the Faithful”) included a petition for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew—why?  There was a hint (obscure enough) at the end of those prayers, when we asked the intercession of “Mary, Mother of Christ our King, St Andrew and all the saints in light.”  Yes, it has to do with Friday’s Feast.

In recent decades, thanks be to God, there have been exchanges of delegations between Rome and Constantinople (Istanbul) to recognize each other’s major patrons.  So the Eastern Orthodox journey to Rome for Saints Peter and Paul (29 June), and the Vatican sends its representatives to the East for:  the Feast of St Andrew (30 November).   It is a good-will gesture that has its roots in the fraternal embrace of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, back in 1967—at which they agreed to drop the mutual bans of excommunication that were formally in place since 1054.  We still do not share the Eucharist together; we do not always like or trust each other; but we are able to celebrate with and pray for each other.  It’s a start.

As it turns out, it would take a VERY high authority to insert Pope Benedict’s name (or even Patriarch Bartholomew’s name) into the “Eucharistic Prayer” of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox; and I as a priest don’t have the authority to return the favor, either.  But I can (and did) insert that name into our overall “Bidding Prayers,” and I gladly did so.

This is all the more important after the delightful evening at Our Savior on 18 November, when there was a celebration of the Vatican II Declaration on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, at which Greek Orthodox Fr Elias Stevens and I shared the rostrum for public conversation and questions/answers from the audience.  From meal beforehand to last comments, it was a wonderful evening.

My last year (I think it was) at St Bede, Orthodox and Western Easter dates coincided, and at the suggestion of Fr Demetrios, then pastor of the Greek Church in Montgomery, we celebrated the Vespers of Pentecost together, followed by a wonderful meal.  What is wrong with this picture?

What is RIGHT with this picture?  What ISN’T right about this picture??  Let me look into your eyes; let me say to you that I see a brother/sister; let me eat/drink with you and engage in communion (which will indeed be holy) with you.  Jesus Christ died and rose for you—why would I not love you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


In his opening address of the current meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, President-Cardinal Timothy Dolan quoted the words of the Synod of Bishops on "New Evangelization."  They are an appeal for metanoia.  These words are worth hearing:
"We, however, should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us as Bishops personally. In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion."
"We Bishops firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus' disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware – we bishops first of all – that we can never really be equal to the Lord's calling and mandate to proclaim His Gospel to the nations. We… do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced that the Lord's Spirit is capable of renewing His Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let Him mold us." (Final Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God, October 28, 2012)

If bishops need conversion, so do we all--the group most celebrated (if anonymously) in the New Testament is the poor, and specifically the "Anawim" for and by whom (scholars believe) the NT canticles were written-- praising the bringing of Good News to the poor, light to those in darkenss... 

We should all study the text of Isaiah 61 again, which Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth, and of which He procaimed Himself to be the fulfillment.  If this is who He is and is intended to be, and if we are to be His disciples and members of His Body, then what are the implications for bishops--and all of us?

How 'converted' am I, really?  What would Jesus do; what would Jesus want me to do--really?  Where does my (so-called?) life of discipleship require more of me:  in detachment, in discipline, in dedication? 

It is fashionable (and easy) to point a finger at bishops, or the pope, or tne overall institutional Church; what happens when the finger is pointed back at me?  "Bishops," or "papacy," or "the Church":  a nice, convenient, abstract collective noun; is "me" all too personal a pronoun to think about??


Saturday, November 10, 2012


A local church marquee has the following message on its board:  "Live a life that matters."

A question jumped into my mind immediately when I read this:  what actually is a "life that matters"?

First of all, bad lives can truly "matter" in the sense of having great influence.  We don't need to think too far back to think of lives that "mattered" greatly, all for the worst.

But beyond that, what about a life makes it one that "matters"?  I think in part one has to ask, "Matters--to whom?"  And for too many of us, we think the answer to this question involves the quanity of those to whom we might "matter," rather than the quality of our "mattering."

My baby brother died at the age of six months; did he live a life that "mattered"?  If and when you get to heaven, you can ask my Mom and Dad...

When families endure the pain of a misacarriage or a stillbirth, or the death of a child in the first days after his birth, did the life of that unborn (perhaps pre-born) child "matter"?  Ask them, when they've returned from the cemetery after a graveside service...

Does "mattering" mean what one accomplishes on the big stage of the world?  Ask the parents of a child with mental disabilities...

Does it "matter" if you cannot fully function any more?  Perhaps the grandchildren of a man suffering from Parkinson's or Alzheimer's would beg to differ.

The tragedy is that when we see someone whom we think (God help us for our judgments!) cannot make a "contribution to society," we are willing to write off his/her life as not "meaningful." Really?

Catholic social teaching is clear that a person's fundamental dignity (aka, "mattering") has nothing to do with what one can "do," and everything to do with who one "is."  Who are you?

For myself, I don't want to be equated with what I can or cannot do; I want to be loved for who I am.  The Good News of the Gospel is that we are in fact loved by the One to whom we ALL "matter," and matter deeply.  He died for us, after all--out of love.  And if we are in fact truly loved, then we do matter:  in the most important sense of all.

Friday, November 2, 2012


On Facebook these last few days I've seen a wide variety of "scary" costumed children and adults, especially vampires, but there have also been some dressed up as nuns and priests (and even as bishops!).  These are also scary--very scary...

But a consideration leads me to think that perhaps ALL of us priests should "masquerade" as bishops by signing our names as bishops do:  with a little + in front of the signature.

These days one sees this exclusively in front of the names of prelates, but the history of this custom is interesting.  What looks like an honorific cross is actually an abbreviation of a Greek word, [t]apeinos.  The Greek tau (letter "t") can easily look like a cross...

What does the word mean?  It is properly translated as "lowly, humble."  And wouldn't that be a good reminder for all of us clergy? 

Once upon a time, as well, clergy signed their names and added the word peccator after.  Yes, this means "sinner."  And aren't we all?

Again, these are good reminders of what we really are and reminders, as well, of what we are called to be:  we are sinners in need of a Savior (no surprise there!), and we are to be lowly, humble servants after the model of the great Servant who came to serve, not be served, and give His life as a ransom... (Mark 10:45).

If every time we intentionally added such a "tau-cross" before our names, and included the word "sinner" (no need to hide it in Latin) after our names, perhaps the message would sink in.  Lord knows it needs to...


In honor of All Souls' Day, enjoy this movement from Gabriel Faure's Requiem, and let it be our prayer for all our beloved family and friends.  In the words of St Augustine:

"Blessed is the one who loves you, O Lord, and his friends in You, and his enemies for you.  For he is the one who loses no one who is dear, to whom all are dear, in the One who can never be lost."  [Confessions IV, ix, 14]