Examine and Examen

It has been a busy start to the year with lots of parish activities, lots of ministries, and… well… just lots of life. It is hard to believe that Ash Wednesday is this week marking the beginning of a penitential season for the faithful. I find that most of us have lost the core idea of “penance.”  Most will answer that “penance” is the prayers and actions that the priest gives you at the end of the Sacrament of Confession. And indeed, that is true. But that is really just the “period at the end of a sentence.” The older, deeper meaning of penance might be better described as the period “at the end of chapter” in the story of one’s life. Continue reading

Safe Haven

Last week I wrote about the role of technology in the complex of temptation. Research is showing that online behavior is changing. A few years ago, someone’s ranting, raving and other poor behaviors might seem just the exception. Now we are increasingly part of a world in which poor behavior online and in the public square is more the norm. And slowing becoming acceptable. Just think about the way politicians use texting and social media, not to engage a different viewpoint, but to name call, denigrate, and dismiss others. This is just part of a larger complex in which the moral compass of the nation, a community, a family and an individual are reordered. Continue reading

Temptation and Technology

The playwright Oscar Wilde once wrote, “I can resist anything except temptation.” The humor of the remark is mixed with a sad recognition that we fail so often to resist the temptations that come our way each day and from every direction. Of course, there are temptations and then there are temptations writ large. What are people’s greatest temptations? Why? What are their “favorite” sins – indicated by frequency and repetition? Why do we so often find ourselves in the same position as St. Paul? “What I do, I do
not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”
(Romans 7:15) Each of us is called to name our temptations as part of a moral and ethical struggle in trying to live a holy and righteous life. Then once we name that temptation, to begin to unfold and inspect, to then start to answer what it is about this temptation that becomes especially alluring. Such are the first steps to healing. Continue reading


“Bless me Father, for I have sinned….” Among the most frequently confessed sins are anger, being judgmental, and impatience. “Patience is a virtue.” We’re all familiar with that expression. Patience is listed by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 as among the fruit of the Spirit. So, there’s no disputing that the Christian ought to be patient. But is impatience a sin? W. H. Auden, the English-American poet, wrote “Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.” Insightful about the human condition to be sure, but not sure that has standing in the world of moral theology. Continue reading

Inviting Others

A couple of years ago, one of the parish staff members, Jennifer Williams, wrote a wonderful piece for this column. Here are some excerpts: “Catholics, in general, are reluctant to talk about their faith in the presence of others. Why? It is easy to talk about church issues and controversies or moral values but not about our relationship with Christ or about how we recognize God’s action in our lives. It seems socially ungracious to ‘talk religion’ around the water cooler or on the golf course or at the swimming pool.” Continue reading

First words, next words

I like trivia games. Nothing too esoteric or arcane, but still a bit challenging. A friend of mine knows music. Not my specialty. Because of life on a submarine, time in Kenya, and formation time as a friar and priest, I have large gaps in my musical knowledge and exposure. I do alright in history, swimming, and (likely no surprise here) the Bible. Continue reading

What Kind of People Worship Here?

MLKjrOn Monday, we as a nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I thought it would be good that we, again, listen to the words of Dr. King from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” This excerpt, found in the later part of that marvelous and challenging letter, asks a simple but profound question: “What kind of people worship here?”  Are we a people of the Gospel that comforts the afflicted? Are we a Gospel people who stand with those on the margins? Are we a full Gospel people? Continue reading

2019 Annual Pastoral Appeal

Very soon you will receive a mailing from the Diocese regarding the 2019 Annual Pastoral Appeal (APA). It contains a letter from our Bishop, some materials describing the ways in which your annual contribution is needed to support diocesan programs, and of course, the contribution card with a return envelope. It is one means by which the diocese and parish raises funds to support the parish’s payment of general administrative costs and programs operated by the diocese in our name and on our behalf. It is a needed and worthwhile endeavor. Continue reading

The limit of words

“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son” (Hebrew 1)

There is a passage from St. John of the Cross in The Ascent of Mount Carmel that has stuck with me all these years. It always comes to mind when I hear this opening line from the Letter to the Hebrews. I should probably re-read the passage to see how much jetsam and floatsam I have added over the years. I imagine the conversation between the faithful believer and God the Father. The believer is doing what we all do: asking questions of God. Continue reading

Kids say the darndest things…

This past Saturday morning our children’s sacramental preparation program held a morning retreat for our kids making their first Reconciliation. A part of the morning is called “Friar Time” in which the kids and their parents have a 20-25 minute space of time with the pastor (that’s me…).  We use the time to have a final chat about the sacrament and to put them at ease about the upcoming celebration.

During one of the sessions I was asking the kids, “What if, during confession, one of you tells me something that is just ‘eye-opening’ and really unusual… can I tell your parents?” Of course, the point of the question is to assure the kids about the sanctity of the sacrament and the confessional seal. After a short back-and-forth, I mentioned that as a practical matter, priests are really good about not remembering what was said in the confessional. We hear a lot and it all just gets mixed in and lost.

At that point, a beautiful young girl offered, “Well then we need younger priests who can remember things!”

Mom and dad dropped their chins to their chest in the classic “she did not just say that did she” move. Meanwhile, the rest of us broke out laughing.

Where’s Art Linkletter when you need him?