Sunday, November 26, 2023

Christ the King (Sunday homily)

 We might wonder, why do we have this feast of Christ the King? 


This solemnity was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. 

And it helps to understand the times.

For some time, the trends in society 

had been to denigrate the Church and the Catholic Faith. 

A few years before, the most powerful nations 

had all been drawn into the slaughter of the First World War. 

And in the wake of that war, extreme movements were taking hold: 

communism, fascism and militarism.

And so the pope sought to remind the world who its true king is. 

Not a Fuhrer, not a dictator, not an ideology.

As the pope said, “all men, whether collectively or individually, 

are under the dominion of Christ. 

In him is the salvation of the individual, 

in him is the salvation of society.”

A century later, our world still needs the same reminder.

On the one hand, we have supposedly free societies – 

including our own – where more and more people 

are being shamed and harassed and punished 

because they believe what Jesus teaches about marriage and family. 

People are losing their jobs. 

Business owners are being fined by government, 

forced to shut up or shut down. 

It is likely to get worse before it gets better.

On the other hand, in west Africa and elsewhere, we are witnessing 

a ruthless effort to exterminate Christians in the name of Islam. 

Thankfully there are some efforts to stop it, but not much.

The need to accept Jesus Christ as king is as great as ever!

So what does that look like?

The starting point is our own lives. 

Is he king over how I use my time? My money? 

Over my eyes, my hands, my words? 

Do I use my body and talents according to his laws—or my own desires?

The truth, of course, is that I’m still fighting the battle in my own life; 

and most likely, so are you. 

The great tool we have in this is the sacrament of confession. 

When you and I bow our egos and bend our knees in the confessional, 

We renew our loyalty to Jesus, not vaguely, but very concretely – 

in my life, today, right now.

Second is what happens in our homes. 

There’s no rule that says 

you and I have to have a crucifix or an image of Jesus in our home; 

but why wouldn’t we all wouldn’t want that?

Personally, I like having an image of Jesus or Mary in every room.

It’s not magic, but  crucifix over the computer and the TV 

can help us pause before we click. 

But what best shows Jesus as king in our homes 

is how you and I treat one another. 

When our homes are places of prayer, forgiveness and peace, 

Christ reigns – and people will want what they experience in us!

Finally, we lift up King Jesus with the difference we make in the world. 

The Gospel gives us a powerful measure: 

how we treat those who are least and easily forgotten. 

If Jesus were accepted as king of this world, 

there would be no one hungry or naked or forgotten; 

but as it is…our world is rather different.

This is something encouraging about our family of parishes:

Whether it is blessings in a bag, the casseroles people prepare, 

the tags on the Christmas trees in the foyer of church – 

and there’s more that happens quietly – 

these small acts please our Lord. 

Helping out with a clothing drive or a soup kitchen 

is a powerful antidote when we get discouraged or sad.

If you ever feel overwhelmed, take heart!

The Gospel doesn’t show the Lord saying to anyone, 

“well done, you solved the whole problem.” 

Instead, we see Jesus commending those who did what they could; 

and condemning those who passed by.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Prepping the turkey for Thanksgiving

My family and I are gathering tomorrow, that's why I'm preparing the turkey tonight. Here are some of the vegetables that will be in the pan, under the turkey. I also added some onions. A lovely broth will result.

Here is the bird, after having been brined for 24 hours, sat in the fridge so that the skin could dry out.
I prepared this by carefully separating the skin over the breast, and then stuffing some fresh thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leave up underneath, along with butter. I haven't figured out how to get it way to the front, without tearing the skin; plus, I suspect it will all drip out anyway (see next picture), but it won't hurt any.

Here is the turkey after I've rubbed butter and olive oil all over the top and bottom, and sprinkled salt and pepper. I decided to interpose a rack between the bird and the vegetables; was that a mistake?

Also, note the position: it is breast down. That will protect the breast and enable the saddle of fat that sits along the backbone of the turkey to melt and drip down while the bird cooks. In the last stages, I'll flip the bird up and use the broiler to give the breast skin a good color.

 What you can't see is that I stuffed the cavities of the bird with onions, rosemary, bay leaves, and an orange and lime I had sitting around. Now I'm waiting till around 10 pm to stick it in a hot oven for the first hour, to kill any germs on the surface; then I'll turn the oven down to a very low setting for it to cook overnight. See you in the morning!

Update, 8:40 am...

Wakey, wakey! Let's check the turkey!

First things first: I started some coffee. Then I pulled the turkey out to see how it was doing:

I'm a little concerned about the wing,'s the wing.  The color looks good, eh? Oh but remember, that's the bottom. I have to flip it. With the help of a clean dish towel and a big spoon (using the handle end), I had no difficulty transferring Big Bird to another pan; then I took out the rack, because it didn't sit properly on it. I also took this moment to drain off some of the broth and fat from the pan -- liquid gold!

Here's the bird back in the oven to continue cooking; the temperature is now 125, and we want it around 160. I left the oven setting unchanged, as we have almost 5 more hours to go.

Update, 11:27 am...

Just a bit ago, I finished some other work. I cooked some sausage (two pounds of Bob Evans, half regular, half Italian style), while the innards and wing tips simmer away in the background:

Then I melted butter, sauteed the onions, then added celery and shallots. I didn't get a photo of it, but after this, I separated these vegetables into two batches (because my skillet wasn't big enough), and then heated some turkey stock (from the store) to a boil, then combined that mixture in baking dishes with the sausage and some cornbread and cubed white bread dressing mix, also from the store. Those two dishes of stuffing dressing are now covered in foil, in the fridge so they can be heated up later. 

I might here mention that I have some travel complications; dinner isn't at the house the other priest and I share, but at the undercroft of one of the churches, so I have to transport the turkey, dressing and gravy there. I have plans, which mainly involve driving very carefully. But I give some consideration to a suitable container for the gravy, and that led me to discover an exotic cooking device which I have never used in my life:

Now I wait for the turkey to finish...

Update 11:51 am...

The thermometer registered 145, my early warning system for the turkey. So I turned down the oven (I wanted not to hit 145 for another 90 minutes), and took out the turkey and basted it. I took it out of the pan, removed the veggies, and poured off the juices. What shall I do with these vegetables?

This broth will be used for one more basting right before I take it out, then added to the stock bubbling on the back burner, to make gravy:

Meanwhile, the thermometer has hit 151, and I'd like it to stay there because I don't trust it; that's close enough. The oven itself is set on 150, so any increase at this point is residual heat. 

Update, 1:39 pm...

OK, getting close, so I put the dressing in the bottom of the oven, with the turkey overhead. The temperature has backed off with basting, so I cranked up the oven to 450 degrees to finish it off. I put the root vegetables back in the pan, in case anyone wants them.

Meanwhile, it's time to make the gravy. I skimmed off the turkey fat from the drippings, and heated it up, adding three tablespoons of flour, to make a roux:

After cooking that for a bit, I added in all the turkey stock I'd prepared -- with chopped up giblets -- as well as the pan drippings. After heating and mixing that, it went into the mysterious device I found, which I set to low:

Around 2:15 pm, I'm going to load all this in my car and take it to an undisclosed location (one of our campuses) where some of the family will be congregating around 3 pm. If things work out, I'll post a pick of the turkey.

Update 2:18 pm...

Here's one of the two pans of dressing; I'm afraid one of them got a little scorched.

And here's the star of our show, just out of the oven:

And here are these items packed up in the car, (the crock-pot of gravy is in the front), and I'll depart shortly:


The turkey turned out very well! The gravy was delicious! Alas, something went wrong with the mashed potatoes -- i.e., no one brought any! But the gravy was still tasty on the turkey and dressing.

The dressing, alas, got a little toasty, but next year, we'll see. Everyone brought different things: my brother and his wife brought a very nice broccoli casserole -- which had difficulties in the oven, at St. Mary, that I didn't know how to make bend to my will, but it eventually emerged -- and my sister brought a traditional green bean casserole; my other brother brought a great variety of drinks, and I think I put a major dent in the wine. My sister also brought pumpkin pie and *real* whipped cream. I made coffee, but it was one of those...machines...and my brother said I made it too strong, was tossed out. Pfff! We also managed to have really nice snacks and all that...

But the really important thing was getting together. I'm sorry three of our siblings couldn't be there, and our nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews could not be present, but that's how it works. Maybe next year it will be better.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Steak dinner

So, let's talk about dinner tonight...

The other priest (in case you haven't figured it out, I think it's courteous not to mention his name online; I'm not being rude) and I agree that steak is delicious and Monday is a good time for both of us to enjoy it.

I tend to like tomato salad with steak, so...

This is Campari tomatoes, with olive oil, red vinegar, salt, pepper, basil, garlic and red pepper.

We also like sauteed mushrooms, so...

This is "baby bella" mushrooms (I usually get regular ole white mushrooms, and I like them better) sauteed in olive oil, with salt and pepper, and after the water is cooked out, I add worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper and finally, butter. They go in the oven to wait while the steaks are finished.

Oh, and I had to get the turkey out of the brine, in anticipation of the big day later this week. After rinsing off the brine, this is the turkey:

I placed this big bird (22 lbs) in the fridge, so the skin can dry out, so it ends up crispy as all normal people love.

Speaking of steaks, here's what they looked like when I put them in the fridge yesterday:

I got them out at around 3 pm -- they were darker and drier on the surface -- and popped them in the oven at about 150 degrees: low and slow.

Around 4 pm -- after finishing the mushrooms -- they went on a hot grill to get a good sear, then I rested them with dried thyme and butter, about 7-8 minutes. They were a nice medium rare; I served them with the mushrooms (finished with butter) and the tomato salad, plus a nice cabernet.

Oops, I skipped the antipasto, which consisted of various cheeses in the fridge, plus some salami, plus some olives and marinated artichoke hearts; I enjoyed a martini with that, the other priest waited for dinner to enjoy some wine.

Now all is eaten and all dishes are put away. By the way, the steaks were on sale.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

What am I prepping?

What story do you think these pictures tell? Hint: they may tell more than one...


Beware false humility and false piety (Sunday homily)

 In the first reading, you have a wife and mother 

who is attentive and faithful in small things. 

The result is a great impact on her family and beyond. 

In the gospel, we have two servants 

who are likewise attentive and faithful in small things. 

Notice, by the way, that the second servant could have gotten envious – 

because the other was more celebrated. But that didn’t happen.

Maybe because the second servant, like the first,

wasn’t focused on himself or on his fellow servant, but on the Lord!

Now we come to the final servant, who rejects the Lord’s gift. 

He is fearful and perhaps proud. 

There is a kind of false humility that is actually pride: 

that says, I am not good enough, I don’t dare, 

I should hold back, and is consumed by timidity and fretfulness. 

This is false humility: “oh, poor me, nothing me!” 

But it really is pride, because it’s me looking at, focusing on, ME, 

rather than focusing on God.

This mindset, by the way, is related to scrupulosity, 

which some people wrestle with.

Scrupulosity is hyper-focus on sinfulness that becomes oppressive.

And here is the connection: with scrupulosity, 

The problem again is too much self-focus.

It is not God’s idea that look at self, self, self, self, 

either in pride of our own accomplishments – 

or in detailing with the greatest precision, our failings. 

So let’s apply this to the sacrament of confession.

The point isn’t to focus on our sins;

The main point is to be rid of them; after we admit them.

And then turn away from sin and self, toward God and our neighbor,

which the grace of the sacrament helps us to do.

The word “talent” in the Gospel can be misleading, 

because we think about ability; 

but at the time the Gospel was written, 

the word referred to an amount of silver. It was money. 

So really, the parable is about having readiness 

to use whatever resources we have, 

whether time, money or personal gifts; 

but not to focus on how much or how little we have.

Some can feel as though they have very little to offer. 

Many times I have talked to people in their later years, 

who aren’t mobile and active as they once were,

and they will say, “I don’t know why I’m still here.” 

All I can say is that, however limited you may feel you are,

you still do have something to offer the Lord, even in a small way. 

Remember that Jesus makes great things of meager offerings. 

Beware the temptation to say, like the third servant, 

“I don’t have enough to offer, so I won’t do anything.”

This directly applies to the task of sharing our faith.

It is in small things and small steps 

that we will bring people back to the Faith, 

or bring people for the first time. 

Very soon you will get a mailing 

about our Advent plans as a family of parishes. 

Along with lots of confessions and our Christmas schedule, 

you’ll see some events like Lessons and Carols 

and a Live Nativity Scene, 

that are perfect opportunities for you to invite others.

Let me give you a personal example.

When I was in my 20s, I had left the Catholic Faith 

and joined another church. 

My dad was devastated but he didn’t give up, even though – 

I am embarrassed to admit – my “no” was a very emphatic “no.”

So my dad just dropped little invitations to things,

and one time, I came with him to Stations of the Cross.

And you know what? It did soften my attitude.

That was one, small step along the path 

that brought me back to confession, 

back to the Eucharist, and eventually, to the priesthood.

So, maybe you have only one little insignificant coin.

And if we refuse to give it to the Lord, it will prove useless.

But when we place our little bit in his hands, anything can happen.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

How do we fill our reservoirs? (Sunday homily)

 This parable is one that I have found difficult to unravel 

over the years. Maybe you have too. 

As I dug into it, I drew a lot of insights from an article 

by a Protestant professor named Jack Crabtree. 

He points out that the two groups of virgins 

are alike in almost every respect. 

They are all invited to the wedding; 

they are all carrying lamps; they all bring some oil. 

They all fall asleep; and they all wake up at the same time.

And – here is the key detail – if the Bridegroom had come right away, 

all these young women would have entered together into the wedding.

What stands out is that five of them 

were equipped for the unexpected; 

they were prepared to wait and wait and wait. 

A surprise turn of events did not throw them off.

So, what made the difference for those who made it into the wedding – 

that is, into the Kingdom, into salvation?

What enabled those five virgins to stay calm and collected, 

despite being thrown a curve-ball?

They had that extra reservoir of oil – 

that is, they were well rooted in the Lord.

Where does that reserve of “oil” come from?

The hard truth is that you and I are the sum of our habits, 

either good or bad.

If you face a crisis, what is your first instinct? Is it:

(a) To cry and hope someone else fixes it?

(b) To figure out your excuse, and who to blame?

(c) To go back to bed and pretend it’s not happening?

Or, how about:

(d) To pray?

(e) To look around for who needs help first? To run to the fire?

(f) Or, to seek counsel from the wisest people available?

(g) To draw from what you learned from the saints, or the Bible?

See? That crisis is when we draw from whatever reservoir we have, either good or bad.

Each of us learn by imitating others’ habits, either good or bad;

In time, we cultivate our own set of habits, again, either good or bad.

We end up producing in our lives either 

a well-tended garden of useful things, or an untamed patch of weeds. 

So, for example, if you don’t develop a habit of prayer in times of calm, 

what makes you think you’ll have that extra oil when trouble hits?

What we want, of course, are good habits, or virtues:

the three supreme virtues are: Faith, Hope and Love.

There are many vices opposed to these, among them:

Self-pride, cynicism, doubt and despair, and selfishness.

We also refer to the “cardinal,” or hinge, virtues of

Courage, Temperance, Justice and Prudence.

And again, there are many contrary vices,

such as faint-heartedness, self-indulgence, wrath, greed and laziness.

This is a good time to talk about the deeply disappointing results 

of last week’s referendum.

I was discouraged and upset.

Many of us were probably deeply shaken.

It’s essential to remember that there’s both the big picture,

And our own little part of the picture.

Each of us has our duty to pray, to vote, to bear witness.

The whole picture, the whole battlefield? That belongs to God.

Some people – and you know who you are – 

carry the weight of it all, as if the outcome were all on you.

But God never made you responsible 

for the decisions of all the voters in Ohio. 

Each of the ten virgins was responsible for herself.

I just want to ask gently, if the election, or social trends, 

or something else, is really bothering you,

are you forgetting in whose hands this all rests? Not yours!

If we never faced any opposition or twists and turns,

We’re the first five virgins whose plan was instant success;

no need for reserves of faith and fortitude.

But not only is that not our 21st century world, 

It was never the landscape for any generation of Christians!

This is our invitation to dig deep 

and cultivate the virtue of faith and of hope.

And last Tuesday’s outcome doesn’t change our duty 

to be a source of hope and healing for as many women and families 

as we can who will, sadly, face tremendous pressure to seek abortions.

With or without the help of good laws, we can still be a light to them.

Another reason we need our oil reservoir full to the brim.

So how do we fill them?

Embrace each day as a gift from our Savior; 

Give your day, each day, to him, whatever may come.

Invite him along your day’s journey.

Get to confession regularly; you’ll find your reservoirs getting deeper.

Stay close to Jesus, the true Light.

When day is done, do a look back, ask pardon and give thanks;

and then sleep the sleep of the well-prepared waiting for the Kingdom,

tomorrow, next week, next year, or whenever the Lord chooses.

Friday, November 10, 2023

What went wrong with Ohio's abortion referendum

 Like many I was shocked by the outcome of the referendum in Ohio on November 7. It is so sad that Ohio's constitution now gives almost blanket protection to abortion.

Worse, this amendment likely creates a "right" for minor children to be groomed into a transgender identity, with their parents barred from intervening to protect them from life-altering decisions in their teen years, whether abortion or transgender quackery involving massive doses of drugs that distort their bodies, or even surgery that mutilates their bodies.

The really dismaying thing is, I believe this outcome could have been different. 

Referenda and ballot initiatives are, in my judgment, a poor way to make laws. I wish our country never went down this road; they date to the late 1800s and early 1900s, when first so-called "populist" movements, and then self-described "progressives" of the time, promoted them.

They're bad because some, probably most, decisions about law and policy are pretty involved and maybe trying to reduce them to a few paragraphs on the ballot, and to a few seconds of vivid commentary on TV and radio, are a poor way to go. If you disagree, then I ask: why don't we do all our legislating by ballot, and not have an elected legislature altogether? Who thinks that would work?

Of course, many will say, we don't like or trust the legislature, so we'll go around them. OK, but then you make it less likely you get a better legislature, and more likely they'll be worse, because the legislators are more than happy to let tough decisions go to the ballot. "Not my fault, the people chose!" One way you get better legislators is by putting them on the spot: "where do you stand on this controversial issue?" Make them vote and then hold them accountable for that vote. It's hard work, but it's a better way forward than trying to enact public policy via referenda.

But let's talk about the specific case of the 2023 referendum on abortion in Ohio and why it need not have been a defeat for the pro-life cause.

There were several major mistakes by those who led the pro-life fight. Really astonishing errors.

1.    The pro-life side wasted everyone's time with a special referendum in August, which would have raised the vote threshold for enacting constitutional amendments.

This was a waste of money and more precious still, time. Why? It was transparently about blocking the expected pro-abortion November referendum. Which means, everyone who was going to vote yes in November was primed to vote no in August. So if you have the votes to win in August, then you have the votes to win in November. So no need for the August vote. 

On the other hand, if you think you lack the votes to win in November, then you almost certainly lack the votes to win in August. What? Do you think there was a sizable number of people who would vote pro-abortion in November, but somehow, were going to vote in August to make their desired outcome in November not happen? Who would those people be? They say, "oh yes, I want the state constitution to protect abortion on demand, so now I'll vote in August to block that from happening?" That's crazy!

While there were a few other groups supportive of the August measure -- gun-rights groups and some business groups -- by far the major backing came from pro-life groups. And I'd bet real money that vast majority of funds raised, and volunteers mobilized, for the August measure, came from pro-life ranks.

That means all that money and energy was not available to build opposition to the November abortion proposal. The pro-life side was out-spent as it was; some millions of dollars that might have been raised for the November fight was, instead, spent on the August trick play.

2. The pro-life messaging was absolutely incompetent.

The group that led the pro-life opposition to the abortion measure called itself, "Protect Women." And most of the messaging was the same: this is about protecting women.

And you might say, oh isn't that clever? And you might say, yes, that's what we want is to help women, and it's absolutely true.

However, when you are attempting to communicate with millions of voters in a referendum fight, the messaging, alas, must have a crystalline clarity; it must be capable of being boiled down to very concise ideas and images. You may hate that oversimplication, but then, maybe you, like me, hate the law of gravity or the law of entropy (which together, mean I get older and I get added chins); but I will do better working with those realities than I will trying to pretend they didn't exist.

Here's the central argument of the pro-abortion side, for decades: The woman (or the girl) is in trouble. She deserves a "choice" that solves her crisis. Why do you hate women so much that you won't help her out? Note well: the focus is on a concrete reality, not an abstraction. A woman. A girl.

And here's the central argument that pro-lifers have made, that has been successful: another concrete reality, a baby. Of course there is far more complexity, and yet: the only practical way to win, when the other side is pointing to a deeply sympathetic reality, a woman in trouble, is to respond, yes, but there's also a baby in trouble. Worse: that baby is going to die.

When one side has a powerful, concrete image, and you come back with an abstraction, guess who wins?

The messaging in this campaign from the pro-life side barely mentioned unborn children. There were vague -- abstract -- references to family and children, which were true, but weak. There were tepid, abstract claims of the other side being extreme. How extreme? That was never explained.

Here's one way to explain it. A prominent-in-Ohio abortionist, who specializes in just-before-birth abortions, contributed very sizably to this referendum. Why would he do that, if (as the pro-abortion side claimed), the proposed amendment would still keep his grisly trade illegal? An ad highlighting his butchery and his support of this referendum -- obviously to keep him in business -- would have been far more effective than what we got.

The pro-abortion side was allowed to frame the debate almost unchallenged: it was about women in trouble (which everyone agrees is bad), but barely a reminder of the babies who die -- so, perhaps the proposed solution (abortion on demand) is the wrong way to help women in trouble.

Here's a law of rhetoric which flows over into politics: he who frames the debate, wins the debate.

Just about every message ought to have been: babies. Here's a baby who will die through abortion on demand; here's a baby that was saved by pro-life laws. Here's 10,000 babies who will die. Imagine an ad showing six happy babies on the screen, then the screen pans out, and pans out, and pans out, to illustrate 10,000 (or whatever the number would be) babies on the chopping block.

Oh, too gruesome, let's be gentle and mild! That must have been the planning made months ago for this fight, because the messaging was consistent in this regard.

Look, it's not improper to paint the facts -- if they are, indeed, facts -- in vivid terms. What are icons? Icons, as a form of religious art, are deliberately not realistic. When the Lord is shown on the cross, or rising from the dead, the imagery is focused on key details and images. The cross, or the crags of the mountain of Transfiguration, or the grave from which Jesus emerged, are not presented with realism. Why not? So as to focus on the essential reality. Who says icons are immoral because they simplifie a complex reality?

But tell me, what happens when one side shows up to play touch football, the other side says, no we're going to play full contact, and the first side says, oh no, that's beneath us! We insist on sticking to touch football! That's more dignified!

You know what happens. It's what happened in Ohio on Tuesday.

Yes we could have won. How do I know? Because there is a history of ideas that poll well going down to defeat as ballot measures; the reason being that the opposition is able to demonstrate convincingly that there are bad things that will arise from passage of the measure. That's the great benefit of having the "no" position; even if you support the "yes" position generally, if you begin to have serious doubts about the consequences, you pull the "no" lever, just out of caution.

That's all for now, back to my day job.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Day of Rest Dinner

(Sorry no pictures -- it's a day of rest!)

Today is my holy day of inobligation (although I am in touch via text if needed); there is something so valuable about being able to sleep late, even if one ends up not doing so (I rose around 9 am; I'd have loved another hour, but...alas).

I will skip over most of the day, because it was blissfully free of anything controversial or stressful. The other priest -- whose day of rest is tomorrow -- got home around 3 pm; by which point I had already done some prep for dinner (and some was completed over the past few days). The plan for dinner was pork chops; I'd be happy with steak every week, but that's a bit extravagant. Despite all, pork chops are still a good bargain.

The big decision (several days ago) was wet vs. dry brine; the difference literally is water. I brine my chops with salt, pepper, dried rosemary and onion powder. If wet, I start it about 3-4 days ahead, so I can then dry them out; this time, I did a dry brine, which meant coating the chops with the aforementioned seasoning, but no need to dry them out. The reason for going for wet: I think it helps the flavors penetrate the meat better. The reason for going dry: you get a better sear. After this round, I confirmed my belief that wet is, on balance, better.

The side dishes were sauteed apples and onions, and a tomato salad. Here's a hint: when you have something fatty and rich (like steak or chops), it helps to have something a little acidic to balance it. In this case, I did the tomato salad because I had tomatoes, and they needed to be used up. The sauteed apples and onions are just such a nice combo with pork.

What wine? I think dry rose or Zinfandel is so good -- what do you think? I had a part-bottle of dry rose, and we used that up; but no Zinfandel (alas!); so we opened a bottle of Chardonnay and had part of that. 

Now we're fixing to watch a little TV, with maybe some ice cream later. Yes, I know, it's not even six! But my compadre prefers to eat early and well, and that's fine. 

If you want to know how I make any of these things...ask in the comments and I'll tell you.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Help our priests be better priests (Sunday homily)

Moses with His Arms Supported by Aaron and Hur
Thomas Brigstocke (1809–1881)
Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries

When I was in the seminary, our instructor in church law 

was Father Chris Armstrong – someone here may know him. 

On the first day of class he said this – and he repeated it often:

“Gentlemen: the bane of the Church is stupid, lazy priests!

So do not be a stupid, lazy priest!”

That’s a more colorful way of stating 

what the Prophet Malachi said in the first reading.

He’s talking about self-interested priests 

who neglect the spiritual needs of the people 

they are supposed to be helping draw closer to God.

In the Gospel, Jesus makes a similar point:

Too many in leadership get seduced by the perks, 

by the strokes of the ego, 

and forget what their leadership role is supposed to be about.

Now, as a priest and as pastor, I will admit:

I have certainly missed the mark many times.

Thankfully, I’ve always had someone – more than one – 

who would…let me know!

And I want to make a very serious, very somber point here.

No priest today – unless he is, indeed, very stupid – 

is not painfully aware of the damage done in so many ways 

by other priests and bishops by unspeakable crimes, or by cover-ups.

I don’t like bringing that up. 

On the other hand, I don’t want to pretend that isn’t out there.

What I will tell you is that whether it is providing a safe environment, or it is assuring your 

contributions are handled with utmost care,

Or whether it is in providing open communication,

Our priests and deacons, our lay leadership are all-in.

We take these duties of care and integrity very seriously.

If you want more information, you are always welcome to ask.

And anyone who thinks any corners are being cut: speak up!

If not to me, then to the archdiocese, or to public authorities.

Now, let me make a different point, also serious.

What may not be obvious is that the lazy priest, 

the self-regarding priest who neglects his duties, 

can easily be a very popular priest!

No one complained when the prophets said, “you’re fine!”

It was when they cried out, “Repent! Change!” that people got mad.

The easiest thing to do is to say yes all the time.

My parents –thank God and thank them! – did not do that.

I think our nation would be so much better off 

if we had a few more politicians with that ability!

And just as a leader may not be so popular because he takes a stand, 

it is exactly the same for us as Christians in the world.

Remember, my job as a priest is to help you become holy.

You as a layperson are sent to help sanctify the world at large.

Each of us received the Spirit of prophecy at baptism, and we go out.

Everyone faces the same choice.

Will I remain silent if someone around me 

promotes bigotry or lust, or will I speak up? 

Am I willing to pay a price?

One more time I remind you: 

Tuesday’s ballot measure, Issue 1, is clothed in the language of “choice” 

but it is really about the destruction of unborn children.

That’s why our Catholic position on this is vote no.

But after the election, you and I will continue to say yes to families, especially mothers, 

who face a crisis pregnancy situation.

Protecting the vulnerable, of all ages and situations, is non-negotiable.

There’s an episode in the Old Testament, 

where Moses is standing on a hill, 

while God’s People are in the thick of battle.

His arms are raised in prayer; and after a while, he gets tired.

Two of his associates stand on either side, 

holding up his arms, and the battle is won.

I’m not Moses! But in our small way, that’s what we priests should do.

And we get tired and cranky and cynical.

Each of us priests needs others – you – to help us.

Thank you for your prayers; they hold me up.

My desire, in turn, is to help you. 

You’re in the thick of the struggle. We priests want to strengthen you.

Let us strengthen each other: not just for the trials of this life, 

but above all, for victory for eternal life.