Thursday, October 30, 2008


The other day I received an email entitled "Redistribution" and made fun of the socialistic views of Barack Obama. I immediately fired off a reaction that read something like, "Imagine that, the fighter pilot who got shot down doesn't realize that he is running his campaign on redistributed money." My friend wrote back and said that he respects John McCain for what he did for his country. I have no intention of jeopardizing my friendship with this individual, so I will tell you all why I did not vote for John McCain.

1. Getting shot down and surviving a concentration camp does not train you to be president.
2. Running a disorganized campaign proves that it doesn't train you to manage, period.
3. Being a maverick does not qualify you to be president. It might qualify you to be "complainer in charge."
4. Was that Gordon Liddy I saw you with the other day?
5. Did I hear that you voted for aid to the Contras?
6. I thought that I saw you one time with Ollie North.
7. Why doesn't Cindy ever let you out of her sight?
8. Maybe you are the one who needs her around all the time for moral support?
9. You are too wimpy to even want to talk with the Castro Boys?
10. You are not polite and respectful.
11. So you said that Obama is not an Arab, he is a "decent man." So Arabs aren't decent?
12. You proved to me that you easily go off half-cocked.
13. Over a year ago at a college campus, while you were on "Hardball" you answered a question about abortion just before the break. Then after the break you changed your answer.
14. The list of half-cocked reactions is too long to suffer through.
15. Your choice of Sarah Palin was bad, for a lot of reasons.
16. She too hangs around with bad people. the Alaskan Independence Group ring a bell?
17. She is cleaning your clock. It is hard to believe that you are in charge over there.
18. Will you show us a picture of you handing over a check for nearly $500 mil to Khalidi?
19. How about a picture of you speaking at a posh affair put on by ACORN?

I could not bring myself to vote for John McCain for president of the United States.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Non Omne Quod Sintillat aurum est

This painting is entitled "Transition". The reason why it is here is because it communicates the confusion that some transitions force on the people who have to go through them. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. Our community is presently in the throes of a magnificently mismanaged transition as these words are drummed unto the page. The process is now nearly four months along and we are wondering how much longer it is going to last.

The community that is suffering this is a Roman Catholic parish. Roman Catholics have a special kind of life. They belong to communities which are called "parishes". These communities are geographically defined to be accessible to a centralized church. The church of course has a pastor. Unlike their Protestant counterparts, Catholics do not get to hire the pastor following a serious recruitment and vetting process. What happens is that the incumbent pastor leaves and a replacement is chosen by the bishop and sent to the vacated position. Sometimes these transitions are smooth, sometimes they are not. The clash of personalities and management styles from the one to the next are sometimes rather tectonic. One of the good aspects of the system is that the members of the community can always say, "Don't look at me, I didn't vote for him." One of the nasty sides of the system is that everyone knows that the next six years (yes, six) are going to be VERY interesting.

The situation that we are observing these days is of the second kind. Pastor comes in and right off the top complains about the lack of income. Then of course, he proceeds to lay off his brightest and best because, of course, they are being paid the most. Then, of course begins the recruitment of volunteers to replace the professionals who have accepted the invitation to move on because the parish "can no longer afford your services."
This takes place rapidly and in a dictatorial way. The new man looks around, sees who comes to church, who speaks his language most fluently, asks a question or two and then invites the person to take charge of programs about which the new volunteer knows nothing. This goes on for a while before the participants in the programs start to realize that they are so confused that they can't see where they are going.
It's interesting to watch. Meetings get called with miniscule advance notice. Those who can come to the meeting have no idea about what the agenda is, or even if there is one. In one case a long time class group was confronted by the replacement of the teacher that they were accustomed to and the person in charge of the change did not appear to introduce the new person to the group. Great transition management! There are more stories about the shock treatment of bad transition management, but that would be too boring and repititious.

Money. Of course, money. New paint, new chairs, new decor and a remodel of sorts, not yet finished, in my opinion.

Finally, not a single clerical priest in the entire parish is fluent in the language that dominates the lives of 85% of the parish. So, the spiritual life of the community is being burnished by the material changes in the environment.

Meanwhile, education processes clippity-clop along. The management of documents required is foggy. Who knows, this whole enterprise is living on the promise that "the powers of hell shall not prevail against it." All we can hope for is that the holy remnant of Ezequiel will be around when the six year term comes to an end.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


There are those of us who know that there are certain sins among those that we call "mortal" or "grievous" because we find their description as such in Sacred Scripture. The past Sunday (October 26, 2008), the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading described one of these grievous, mortal sins. The Church presented this description to us as being in direct opposition to the lesson that Jesus was about to give to the sarcastic scholar who asked what the greatest law of all was.

"34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matt. 22; 34-40)

The scholar of the law should have known the answer. In fact, Jesus knew the answer because it appears in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 5 "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Jesus added the fulfillment sentence that He came to earth to deliver, about loving your neighbor. We have the same trouble with this saying of Jesus that the scholar of the law did. It is really a hard-nosed law. There are not too many teachers of scripture and homilists who have the courage to
confront the true meaning of this expectation that God has of us. It just happens that the first reading of this Sunday showed us just how high God has set the bar in this area of love of neighbor.
Thus says the LORD:"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.
"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."(Ex 22:20-26)

How's that for crying out to God for vengeance? These are sins that today occur every day our world. They are right up there with the others that are found in the Scripture: Murder, sodomy and the withholding of wages. How often do we offer prayers of intercession for these grievous sins? How often to we even think about them? How often have they been spelled out from the pulpit? How often have they been uttered in the same breath as abortion? Even abortion has a special niche in our lives...September and October of every election year. Along with sexual
misbehavior, homosexuality (sodomy) included, we have our moral map handed to us when it comes time to vote. It's almost as though voting against pro-abortion politicians is the one sacrificial act that can bring us justification. What do we do the rest of the year? We hope and pray that the killing will stop and that a miracle will happen that will cause the change of the law. We already know that this is a sin that cries out to God for vengeance. We pray that we will see the day when His wrath will be manifest. In the meantime we shake our heads and wonder how to attack this monster. And what if the anti-abortionist is pro-sodomy and negligent of the blue collar, or "no collar" worker? What if the anti-abortionist has an international policy that has war as the answer to most problems?

It is unfortunate that our narrow minded, one issue attitude envelops us so tightly that we cannot be creative enough to apply other tactics to the problem than to vote against the pro-abortion candidate. This attitude sends us down the path of voting for some well accomplished dunces. We are encouraged to vote for those who would listen to our holier-than-thou preaching about one sin while forgetting the terrible destruction that can be wreaked by an accumulation of other criminal behaviors that bring us to our knees and cause more abortions to take place because of the despair that the anti-abortionist causes. We have a hard time making the pious ones see that the pro-abortion whiz could construct a community that would be more at peace with itself, therefore making abortion less desirable in times of moral difficulty. We are made to believe that abortion is the gravest sin committed by our society. I think that there is room for discussion there. I happen to have a corner of my conscience that says that the sin of electing an anti-abortionist who presents a strong probability of destroying the fabric of the entire country is just as grave, if not worse. Running the country into despair would only cause a lot more sin to be committed, including more abortion. While it is true that running a country to the brink of despair is not classified as a sin that cries out to God for vengeance, it nevertheless would be close enough to satisfy me.

Let's get back to the answer that Jesus gave to the scholar of the law. Jesus did not tell him to avoid any of the 630 precepts of Jewish Law. He quoted Scripture. He quoted the law of love as found in chapter 6, verse 5 of Deuteronomy, "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Then, to fulfill the will of His Father and to complete the dictate of His Mission he added, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22; 39)
How many of us look for the candidate who most closely lives the tenet of love in his life? How many of us prepare ourselves to go to the polls with an inclusive, positive attitude rather than an exclusionary, negative mind set? How many of us prepare to go to the polls liking one candidate and disliking another? How many of us can ask ourselves 15 questions about what it would take to be a good president and apply the yes/no Ben Franklin test to each candidate? I get the impression that most of us prefer to listen to bishop so and so who writes an 800 word essay against the pro-abortionist and go to the polls with that. Is that adult Catholicism? I don't think so.
A while ago I wrote an essay entitled "God is pro-Choice". (March, 2006) I received a very scholarly response from a serious theologian who cautioned me that such statements can and will be interpreted according to the political terminology of the times. It is not therefore proper to try to change the meaning of the words because they will not be understood in the absolute sense that the writer (in this case, yours truly) intends. I do stick to my opinion. Even the person who opts for an abortion, makes a choice. Nothing gets done without someone making a choice. Adult Catholics make choices according to their conscience. Normally a good solid conscience is formed with the framework of Church teaching. I believe that a good solid conscience of a well-informed lay person is as good a guide as the well informed conscience of bishop so and so. The bishop can say all he wants but the conscience of the listener can be based on valid truths that dictate another line of action. The proof of the validity of this is the example of the community of bishops around the world making differing and even contradictory statements about the same behavior. That is why I listen, I pray, I make up my own mind according to the dictates of my conscience and I act.

Now that you know that I am at peace with myself about these things, when you go to my funeral I want to hear you saying something like, "He was weird, but look at that s___t
eating grin he has on him!" That's the sign that you should never, ever think of crying at my funeral.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain - Palin

"Senator Obama does not understand." Repeat this several times and you get a grumpy old man raining disdain down upon a younger one. The further ahead John McCain went into the exercise of disparagement that was the presidential debate of September 26, 2008, I could only shake my head and play some interesting scenarios in my mind.
McCain to Putin: "Y'know, Vlad, I don't think you understand just how much the United States cares about Georgia."
McCain to Ahmadinejad: "You really don't understand what could happen to your country if you continue to be so hard-headed."
McCain to Pelosi: You don't understand what it means when I say that single-payer health care in the United States is not an option."
McCain to Reid: "You don't understand that the minimum wage will not be increased by one thin dime."
Palin to Governor Richardson: "You don't understand how to deal with the Mexican Government because there is no maritime border of any consequence between New Mexico and Mexico."
Palin to Katie Curic: "Ma'am, I got those papers you were asking about."
McCain to Gordon Brown: "You don't understand the negative economic impact that it would have if the United States imported all those French Fries fom your neighbor across the Channel."
McCain to the Pope: "You don't understand the good will that you could cause between the United States and Italy if you bought your car from General Motors rather than FIAT."
McCain to "Our Dear Leader": "You don't understand how fast your 2 million man army could be vaporized by China."
McCain to Stephen Harper: "What part of '54 / 40 or fight!' don't you understand?"
McCain to Calderon: "You don't understand that the 'Great Texan River' belongs to the United States, south bank, water and all the fish and people that it contains and north bank. Take it or leave it."

Mr. McCain: You don't understand the basic rules of civility. That's why you're going to lose. As a true son of the South, you spent 90 minutes disparaging a Black Man. That Black Man will come back to haunt you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in the Catholic Church is a source of great happiness and consolation as well as of deep frustration.  At its base, the rite is meant to emulate the journey that Jesus took with His disciples for three years,  He teaching them the true meaning of discipleship in the light of the Scriptures and they absorbing the way of life that He was showing to them.  The moral conversion of their lives was not an easy one to make.  They were not really spiritual people, they were simple Jews.  They did not come from the Temple, they came from the secular working class.  Surely they knew their basic Scriptural lessons from the Old Testament, but Jesus was there to show them how He meant for these same lessons to be lived.  
Slowly, daily contact and daily exchange of ideas began to have an effect on them.  Slowly, he came to understand what He meant and where He wanted them to go.  Slowly, they came to appreciate the difference between Jesus, themselves, the Temple people and the people on the street.  That is the goal of the Church: to teach those who would be Catholic the meaning of true discipleship with Jesus.  The goal of the Church is not to prepare people to received the sacrament of Baptism.  Although Baptism is essential to Christian life, the living of the grace infused into the soul through this essential sacrament is, after all a lifetime calling.  To live this calling dynamically on a daily basis is where our eternal salvation is crafted in the company of Jesus, in and through the Church.  This life is not fulfilled by the mechanical reception of sacrament after sacrament; it is not fulfilled by getting to accumulate more and more intellectual information about God and His Church;  it is fulfilled by living the Mission given to us all, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, etc.  
It brings me to other points:  The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is not a catechism program to prepare candidates for Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.  
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is not a seasonal program that lasts from the second week of September to the third week of May, gloriously cranking out newly baptized Catholics after 8 months of text book preparation.  Ever stop to think if that's the way the Baptists do it? I'd bet that a caller who would be told in July to get back to us in September would resolve the problem by finding someone who would solve the problem NOW.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a hard row to hoe.  It requires a deep commitment by deeply spiritual people.  These people do exist.  Note to pastors:  These people do exist.  The pastor is not in a position to "pity" the volunteers  who dedicate themselves to the Rite by giving them the Summer off.  It is not up to him to create a revolving group of "teachers" or "presenters" so that no one will have to be up and ready for 52 weeks per years.  This does not create the community that Christ created with His disciples because of His constant presence among them.  The Rite is based on creating Community so that people can convert to the Community of the Church, the Communion of Saints.  

That's the bottom line.  It all leads to walking with Jesus and learning to work at doing what He told us to do.  That's what true Catholics do.  The pastors should facilitate this process through the priesthood of all faithful by humbly accepting that their are lay people in this world who are more zealous that those who are sent to lead them.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I am going to let it all hang out here for a moment. I go to church every single Sunday. Most Sundays I go to the same church and I hear the priests assigned to that church expound their spiritual views from the pulpit of that church almost every Sunday. The problem that I have is that these guys think that they are fooling me into thinking that the reflections that they put forth come from the depths of their own souls. Most times, they do a fair job of assimilating the material. There are times when they really give themselves away. Last Sunday was one of those times.
It was a Sunday when the celebration was really special. It was in honor of the saint who was the patron of the Missionary Congregation to which the preacher is attached. It was a well organized celebration. This individual came to the pulpit and started off by looking for the right words to open his oration. He finally almost got his mind around it, but then had to drop his gaze down to the crib notes that he had prepared for the occasion. This went on for 15 minutes. This missionary who has been dedicating his life for nearly 25 years to the same community didn't have enough personal conviction to communicate the core of his vocation to the parishioners in the pews without crib notes. He came to the pulpit unprepared and staggered through a miserable 15 minute display of searching for his place on his crib-note sheet.
You may think that this was a one-time occurrence. Wrong. About a year ago one of the missionaries from this parish came to the pulpit and intoned that the gospel for the day made him think of his relationship wih his father. He then proceeded to struggle his way through his notes trying to impress us that he was sharing a deeply moving episode in his life and that of his father. For all that I cared, this story could have been written by Ernest Hemingway. If there was a connection between it and the gospel story of the day, it got lost in the feeling of insult that was conveyed by the fact that this individual could not testify honestly to a meaningful event between him and his father in relation to the Gospel.

If this type of ignorance doesn't impress you, let me ask you to consider the bozos who come to the pulpit and dig out a story that they have found on the Internet that they think is going to illustrate the point of the Gospel. You know the type...the cute little dog who is blind or the poor little cross-eyed boy who is bullied at school... They do this despite the wonderful stories that come from the Old Testament readings of the very same day. They ignore these because they are too ignorant to understand what the Church wants to teach through the structure of the Sunday readings.

This is wrong. The people in the pews deserve to be informed about the revelation of God through the Sacred Scripture. This can only be done through priests who are sincere, honest and impregnated with the spirituality of the Liturgy as it is intended by the Church. The instruction of the faithful cannot be accomplished on a steady diet of "canned" presentations.

Monday, July 21, 2008


The youth of the world have gathered in Australia. An Aussie friend of mine said that he and his daughter and some other friends spent some time there and the atmosphere was thick with the Spirit. I was happy to hear that from him. I have to say that I am glad that I was not and am not there.

It's hard to think of the Pope getting there and replaying the same record that he played so often and so poignantly here in North America. How many times and in how many countries does he have to unwrap the child abuse thing? Now, especially at a rally for the youth of the world? Doesn't he have more inspiring things to bring out of his bag? Why does he even have the conviction that the Pope has to repeat himself in every country that he visits? The message that he laid down here was heard by one and all. The Pope after all is the universal unifying personage in the world. This is his authority. It is spiritual, moral, emotional, economical and political. What he said here has had its impact. What he should have done in Australia is to bring the message from his North American visit forward to a newer, higher and more positively inspiring level. After all, what he says in the first world resonates throughout the planet. What he says outside of Europe is all the more meaningful and rings all the more loudly. Why repeat it?

Finally, why all the hand wringing about the guilty priests? What about some hand wringing for the thousands of innocent priests many of whom have been falsely accused and falsely convicted and punished? They are victims too. They suffer from the denial of due process and the right of defense [Canon 221]; they and their attorneys are denied access to their files so that they can know the allegations against them. These are violations of basic human rights practiced at the highest levels of Church governance. Many of them are in jail and never get a visit from those who are bound to care for them. Don't they deserve to hear their plaint ring out in one of these Papal orations? Why aren't they ever mentioned? Is it because they are a part of the lingering scandal which still worms its way through the fiber of the Church?

Speaking about the lingering scandal, you know, the acrid, lung searing blue atmosphere that hovers over the zealous apostles who have to wonder what nasty looks they are going to accounter on the street and from the pews on any given day? The true celibates who believe in the sacrifice of their procreative power and who have spent years hugging the Bride of Christ for the good of the world are victims too. I implore Pope Benedict XVI to start taking his perorations to a higher level. The good priests of this world have to know that the Bishop of bishops loves them and is convinced that they are the keys to the salvation of the Church. The Sacerdotal Community needs some balm for the burning wound that is so slow to heal. It will be better for the Pope to stop beating the Church's breast and to start singing the praises of the remnant.

Finally, the laity, the Holy Priesthood, as Peter puts it, is fed up with all this breast beating from the Pope. If it makes him feel good, it leaves a lot of us uneasy with a rucksack full of unanswered questions. We can devise our own answers if we don't have to listen to the same doleful refrain over and over again. We are becoming more and more convinced that the focus on this issue is now a convenient distraction to ignore the global problem by the Church and governments. We know who the good priests are and we know what they do. We don't need the hierarchy above them to tell us what we already know about the bad ones. The good priests who are left, and the good ones who were bulldozed out are victims of some bishops who treated the confrères of this remnant with such cold hearted, self-serving disdain. These priests who are left have to continue serving the flock under bosses who have bankrupted not only the coffers, but the hearts and minds of some of their most faithful servants.

Holy Father, the next time you address your people on this subject, please make sure that you mention that we all have the equal right to a high quality of life in safety, security and love.

Friday, April 04, 2008


This is a rather wonderful story, just about perfectly made for a Kurmujjin like me. This is the first time I ever publish a story that I get through email networks. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.
Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England , and English expatriates built the US railroads.
Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England , because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England ) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.
And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.
So the next time you are handed a Specification/ Procedure/ Process and wonder 'What horse's ass came up with it?' you may be exactly right.
Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses' asses.) Now, the twist to the story:
When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.
So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass x 2.
And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important? Ancient horse's asses control almost everything...and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything else !!