Saturday, March 31, 2012


All those tabs don't mean a thing
I had an experience today that lasted one hour.  It featured a young man and his Bible and an empty-handed old man.
I had never met the man and I had made a promise to meet him at the church at a given hour.  We were both on time.  We began by a short prayer moment before retiring to a more private corner and some softer chairs.  This young person was ever so polite and so respectful that it was a pleasure to be in his presence.  He told me his story and I listened.  I introduced myself to him and he listened.  Then he said that he had some things that he wanted to talk about and proceeded to open his Bible at the tab that he evidently wanted to serve as the opening of the discussion.  I told him to put his Bible away.  He said that he had to have it otherwise he couldn't make his point.  I said that reading one verse of two from a random corner of the Bible is not making a point.  He was shocked as I repeated my requirement that he put his Bibe aside.  I asked him point blank how much of the Bible he had read.  He said that he had not really read that much of it because he was still fairly new at this.  So he needed it to make his point.  I then asked him if he had spent time reading the first pages of the Bible.  He said that he had not yet done that.  
"So," says I, "when are you going to get around to reading the Bible from the first page?"  
He replied that what he wanted to know was not on the first page.  
"Ah, so you wanted to know what YOU wanted to know.  Did it ever cross your mind that the Bible is the book that we consult to ascertain what God wants us to know about Him?"
Uh?  Hmmm.  
"Did it ever cross your mind that God might have a system about how to teach us about Himself through the  pages of this Book?"
Uh?  Hmmm.
"When you open your text book in college do you generally hunt and peck for what you want to know or do you try to follow the author's system for developing the truths contained in the text book?"
Uh?  Hmmm.

I let him off the hook when I said, "Leave your Bible on the seat.  If you get stuck, I'll tell you the story and then you'll know what God wants you to know."

I won't bore you too much, but I will give you an example of what happened to this young man about 10 minutes before the end of the conversation.  He complained that the older people in his life did not give him any credit for having some wisdom that they themselves might not have.  He then took up his Bible and quoted from Job, [Eliphaz speaks to Job] thus: "Were you born the first Adam, brought forth before the hills?  Did you listen in God's council: is wisdom limited to you?  What do you know that we don't know; what do you understand that is not with us?" 
[Job, 15; 7 - 9]
He looked at me smugly.  I smiled and asked him, "Do you know how the book ends?"  Uh?  Hmmm.  "No."
"I do.  It does not go well for Eliphaz.  I will spare you the quote since I do not have my Bible with me, but you can look it up, if you want."  I paraphrased the story for him.  He wasn't smiling.

For you, dear reader I quote what God says to Eliphaz:
7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”  [Job, 42; 7 - 8]

There was a lot more to the conversation.  My young interlocutor was at a loss to express the lessons that God would no doubt want to teach him.  He will learn just as soon as he accepts the Bible as God's Word.  So far all it is to him is a reference of self-gratifying quotes.

Friday, March 30, 2012


The daily topic of "serious" seminarians as they walked home from their classes.  It was also a hot topic discussed by bishops reporting for duty to the opening of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.  The bishops were walking into the well fortified backyard of one, His Eminence Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, Secretary of the Holy Office, now officially known as the  Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
When I opened my online copy of the NCR this morning I saw the headline of the lead story by John Allen, renowned American Vaticanologist, as follows:  Benedict's gentle debunk of clericalism.
As it turns out Benedict XVI was one of those who, it was said, was a champion of the anti-clericalism faction of bishops and cardinals.  In the parlance of the day, there were the clerical-fascists, the clerical imperialists and maybe even more epithets than that to describe the various political positions of the incoming Council Fathers.  It was great sport for the seminarians to discuss the possibilities of what the downfall of clericalism could bring about.  Every day we looked for quotes from the likes of Ratzinger (he was still only 35 years old), Suenens, Bea, Alfrink, Schillebeeckx and Lustiger.  We were rarely disappointed.  We didn't really know where all this was going, but we were storming heaven with prayers to the Holy Spirit that there would come an end to the "pray, pay and obey" Church.  Well, it didn't work as well as we all hoped.  It takes a long time to change a culture.  
One of main reasons for the slow change, I think, is that a priest spends anywhere from eight to twelve years in formative preparation for the life of ministry.  During those twelve years, a man develops an attitude about his worth to the mission of Jesus.  He knows that no one else in the pews has its equivalent.  Most are people of good faith, but not of faith and  development in a method of formation practiced for centuries.  Not very many lay people have twelve years of intense spiritual and intellectual formation in the discipleship of Jesus.  So naturally, the clergy know that they have a decided advantage over the laity in the area of theology, spirituality, Church life, etc.  Lay people are also aware that they have not achieved the level of personal formation, spirituality and theology that the priests have.  So they are not too uncomfortable in holding their position as good followers.   This basic disconnect between the two has led to the separation that exists between clergy and laity.  There's more, of course, but this is the start, I think. 
Therefore, Benedict XVI can chide gently about clericalism because he knows where he is coming from.  There are many who do not have the experience of the early Vatican II attitudes that were brought there by the bishops and cardinals.  It is because the seed of the thought fell into the ground fifty years ago, before many of today's faithful were a) born, and b) old enough to appreciate what was happening. Don't think that clericalism is going away any day soon.  
I do invite you, in conclusion, to stand your ground and make your contribution to the cause of its diminution.  Make your positions known, intellectual, spiritual, educational, material and fiscal.  Make things happen.  Remember, "It's easier to beg pardon than to ask permission."

Sunday, March 25, 2012


There are those who claim that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. They are, for the most part, customers of a competing whore, but of course, they obey the rule of never speaking badly of your own mother. 

The last time I heard this accusation hurled at the Catholic Church was about 2 weeks ago. [Now, slightly more than one month]  At the time,  First Baptist church of Houston Pastor,  Dr. Robert Jeffress was a guest on the Lawrence O’Donnell show, “The Last Word” which airs on MSNBC.  His appearance there [February 21, 2012] was one during which he proclaimed that Mormonism is not a Christian religion and that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon.
This poem is dedicated to him.  

One of the Whore’s assiduous and dedicated customers.

Use the "comment" utility to add on what you think is appropriate.

She is old, but still turning tricks, age after age,
Era after era, forever present on center stage.
To some she should have long ago been dead,
To others her survival and her zeal bring real dread.

I, proud child of this misnamed, renowned mother
Present before you, friend, enemy and even brother,
The munificent generosity with which this universal woman
Has blessed, and blesses the world, material and human.

It is thanks to the Great Whore that the world is blessed indeed
With the integrity of the unbreakable, unshakable creed
Built on the Faith that the crown of King David is Her crown alone
Bequeathed by Her original, foundational lover 

Her gifts to the nations include Alighieri and Buonarrotti,
Chrysostom, Francis, Jerome, Da Vinci, Verdi and Gregory.
She helps our worship along with simple, sweet plainchant sound
Which raises our soul to the heights where God is found. 

From her was born the book that we all treasure
And read every day with devotion and pleasure.
For centuries she has welcomed and housed the poor,
The orphans, the infirm, the sick, anyone who’se at the door.

She has lived in the hottest of the world’s deserts.
She has protected life that was saved in the Ark’s berths.
She has warmly embraced the children of this world,
Keeping them warm in her arms, tight to her bosom curled.

She has been the refuge of soldier and widow alike
Infirm, weak of body and mind she’d never dislike,
She has always bent low and stretched a way up high
in search of the rich, the poor, the brash and the shy.

Imagine the energy that it takes to keep going this long
And still be frowned upon with disdain ever so strong
By those who, rather than enjoy her charms ever divine,
From their cold margins the warmth of her love do malign.

No doubt that the ability to attract this tsunami of vitriol
While remaining attractive, loving, kind and above it all,
Is without a doubt a sign that she is indeed the faithful bride  
Of the God-Son whose Spirit in her great soul doth abide.

It is this accomplishment ever so miraculous
That in their proximity ever so perilous
The gates of Dante’s great inferno quite sulfurous
Will never, ever take Her away from any of us.