Saturday, February 09, 2008


After what was (arguably) the worst week I've had as a priest, I looked down at the dead body of my friend in a casket and found peace. I've never lost a friend as close as Fr. Bob and it really turned my life upside down for a week or more. I was angry, not at God or the church or doctors, more at circumstances. I was angry that I didn't get to visit him when he was in the hospital. I was angry that Bob died in the first place.

But I had to set that aside when I got to say goodbye. Fr. Bob's classmate, Fr. Dave Schatz, did one of the best priest funeral homilies I've heard. And it helped a lot to have a visit with my spiritual director right after the funeral.

Fr. Bob never looked at me or treated me like I was some know nothing plebe barely able to know how to use the big boy potty. He treated me like a brother, a friend. We'd joke about the difference in ages but, ultimately, there was no arrogance, no snobbishness. There was nothing but respect and I will always respect him for that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Reactions to Protestants and Orthodox

I'm from Iowa and I like to think of myself as a prototypical Iowan. I love my state. And, to quote the music man, "...We're so by (gosh) stubborn we could stand touchin' noses for a week at a time and never see eye to eye...but we'll give you our shirt and our back to go with it if your crops should happen to die." Yep. That's me. I'm definitely at least partially the a product of the environment in which I have been raised.

I think that's why I have a tremendously different reaction to Protestants than I do the Orthodox. Most of the time, when Protestants criticize the church, it raises my hackles. I immediately want to defend the church from attack. I immediately think that there can be no truth to their accusations. I'm sure it comes down to personal bias since I've been attacked by Protestants ever since I left Catholic grade school. The crusades were taught to me in Middle School as the corrupt Roman Catholic Church trying to take over the lands of some peaceful Arab shepherds who rose up against the evil Roman Church despite overwhelming odds against them. Of course, none of that is really true but my EXTREMELY biased teacher never took the time to get into the complexities of history because that would be a violation of church/state separation. From there, I was told by evangelical protestants that I'm not a real Christian, that the church eats babies, that priests and nuns have sex and eat those babies at the eucharist, that catholic priests are either all gay or all pedophiles, that catholics blindly follow whatever the pope says...and on and on. Lies, all of them. Thankfully, I've also met some very friendly Lutherans and Methodists along the way that have helped repair some of the damage but my instinct, sadly, is always and likely will always be DEFEND THE POPE! Fight the Protestant!

The other day, however, I heard an Orthodox priest criticizing the Roman Catholic decision from two years ago to move the Annunciation because it fell on Good Friday. I listened patiently and thought, "You know, maybe he's right. Maybe we shouldn't have done that." A reaction which tends to be pretty typical when I hear a member of one of the Orthodox Churches criticizing Roman Catholicism. Why would I have such a different reaction to them? As I said at the beginning, I wonder if it's because I'm from Iowa where a member of the orthodox is about as rare of a species as you can get. Or if it's because I tend to view the Orthodox as actually caring about continuity. History is important. They are in this world but not of it. Orthodox priests still wear these beautiful garments and seek to stand out from a crowd by what they wear. Most Catholic priests have spent the last twenty years trying to figure out if they can look more like their protestant counterparts and get away with it. We wear suits all the time and mock priests that make the decision to wear cassocks, the clerical shirt is something you wear for more formal events otherwise you should wear "business casual", and the key is to get people to call you by your first name no longer "Father". Orthodox lay people even have a sense of distinction. They love their liturgy and their traditions...both of which go back hundreds of years if not longer.

Ultimately I think what plagues me is that I know that Christ wants us to be united, to be one as he is one with the Father and Holy Spirit. But I see us continually growing farther and farther away from the Protestants in such things as married clergy, women clergy, gay and lesbian clergy, true presence, etc. The Orthodox, despite being separated from them for 1200 years, are not going to give in to culture like many protestant groups have done. I just hope that my vision isn't clouded simply because I don't live in Greece or the Ukraine.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Entering into Lent

As you can probably tell by my last post, these last couple of weeks have been really tough for me. I don't want to go into specifics about everything but one important piece is that my friend passed away. Fr. Bob Davies, a good and faithful priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque and my friend passed away on the day of the Lord's resurrection, last Sunday. Bob helped me in my frist year of seminary by forcing me out of my room, away from my books, and toward books stores. He was one of three guys that I drew on when studies became wearisome and I started to feel overwhelmed, I could always count on Bob Davies to talk it out.

And, we both had a subscription to the Guthrie Theater in the Twin Cities and would travel up to see plays four or five times a year. At first, our brother Fr. Andrew Lawrence, would with us. But then he went full-time active duty as a military chaplain so that meant that Fr. Bob and I would go together. The good thing was that Fr. Bob always kept the conversation going.

I miss him a lot already and know that his funeral on Friday will be quite difficult. Please pray for the repose of his soul and pray for me too.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

a few late night reflections

I've been praying a lot about this parable recently. It's not one of Jesus' parables but, I believe, it's a preparation for it. In case you don't know about the story of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11, David basically stole another man's wife, got her pregnant, and then killed him by sending him to war. It's a little more involved than that but that will get you by. When Nathan, the prophet, is appointed to tell David that he knows what he did, Nathan uses this parable to trap David into convicting himself....

12:1 The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him, he said: "Judge this case for me! In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor. 2 The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers. 3 But the poor man had nothing at all except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children. She shared the little food he had and drank from his cup and slept in his bosom. She was like a daughter to him. 4 Now, the rich man received a visitor, but he would not take from his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the wayfarer who had come to him. Instead he took the poor man's ewe lamb and made a meal of it for his visitor." 5 David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan: "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death! 6 He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold because he has done this and has had no pity." 7 Then Nathan said to David: "You are the man!"

I've been thinking about it for several reasons, but especially how often the (so called) liberals in the church proclaim that they want to get rid of the "power of the priesthood". They seek "collaboration". They want to have a "conversation" and encourage "dialogue" And then, when they get that collaboration, they are the biggest tyrants of all. They not only get to rule their own houses but they want to rule of the house of God, turning theology and ministry into something that everyone but the priest can do. They seek to take the service that the priest offers and turn it into power they can wield over people. And it's most frustrating that they claim they demand conversation and dialogue while they themselves often make unilateral decisions.