Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Decaf - Handmotions in Heaven (Sacred? Movement)

I can't help but think of our so-called Sacred Movement group (i.e. Liturgical Dancers by any other name!) at my parish.

Pax et bonum

So wonderfully wrong (Chesterton humor)

(With a nod to Mark Shea.)

Pax et bonum

Santa and Faith

I picked on an otherwise nice book about Santa Claus because it hinted at but failed to deliver on the true meaning of Christmas - which is the coming of Jesus into the world to bring salvation for us all.

To be fair, when wearing the red suit is it not appropriate in the vast majority of circumstances to display openly that faith dimension. But that doesn't mean it can't be there present within the wearer of the suit.

When I work at the mall, I always say a prayer before I go out. I pray that I might have patience and wisdom, and even endurance (try sitting for six hours in a hard chair while wearing padding, a suit, and hat even when the temperature around the throne is quite warm!) Sometimes I recite a poem I wrote a few years back:

A Mall Santa's Prayer

As I hold each precious child
let me treat each one
with the love and care I'd show
Your most holy Son.

When visiting with the children - and some adults - I will sometimes mentally pray for them. I rarely mention faith in any way out loud. But there are times when someone will ask for deeply personal things - that someone will be cured, or will come back safely home from a war situation, that dad and mom will reunite, and so on. I usually say something along that lines of "I feel sad. That's something beyond the power of Santa. But I will pray for you." So far, no complaints.

There are circumstances when I can be more open, such as at church events or parties run by groups like the Knights of Columbus. There I openly bring up the birth of Jesus. I'll often lead the kids in singing "Happy Birthday" for baby Jesus.

Again, it depends on the circumstances how open I am about faith. But the true spiritual meaning of Christmas is always present in my heart and mind. And if I ever wrote a book about being Santa, you can be sure there'd be mention of Jesus and that first Christmas.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Santa book misses true meaning of Christmas

One of my Christmas gifts was copy of the new book Being Santa Claus: What I Learned About the True Meaning of Christmas by Sal Lizard (with Jonathan Lane).

I enjoyed the book. Many of the stories about the children, the questions and interactions with a variety of people, the joy of being one of Santa's helpers, all rang true as I thought back over my own eight seasons in the red suit. I got a few chuckles, and I liked some of his ways of addressing various problems and issues that arise as one portrays the big guy.

I appreciated Lizard's honesty as he talked about mistakes he made and lessons he learned. And I was touched by his poignant stories of dealing with families in distress, and especially sick children. I could easily see myself crying at times as he did. I know I've been moved almost to tears even in just the mall setting at some of the visitors' stories and by requests made by children and their families.

But I do have some major quibbles about the book.

It starts with the title. The book is supposedly about discovering the true meaning of Christmas, but the true meaning is not in the book. Jesus, His Birth that we celebrate Christmas Day, the fact that Santa is based on a Catholic saint, are all missing. He talks about Christmas the feel-good holiday and Santa the mythical iconic figure who helps people feel warm and fuzzy. Maybe he should have called it What I Learned about the True Meaning of a Secular Christmas.

The only mention of Jesus in the book is in a chapter called "The Reason for the Season." In that chapter he deals with the shift toward a more politically correct celebration  - "Happy Holiday's" rather than "Merry Christmas." He talks about the war on Christmas - but he fails to address the underlying attack on Christianity. He is distressed by what is happening to Christmas, and rightly so. He does find an answer to his distress when a woman asks him to bring in a gift at the beginning of the Christmas Eve service at her church and leave it on the altar. As he walked up to the altar, he said, he "looked up to see the statue of a blessed man on a cross above me." "Blessed man"????! He couldn't say "Jesus," the Son of God whose birth is what the day marks, whose birth and sacrifice on that cross are the real reasons for the season?

At the end of the chapter he says, "Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or anything else, the essential element is faith. Faith in families, faith that we can create peace on earth, faith in love. To me, whatever we believe in and cherish is what we want to make Christmas about. The true meaning of the holiday can ever get lost if we keep that spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts." Sounds nice. But it fails to mention the true meaning of Christmas - which is not Santa Claus, or just smiling and being nice to each other. Christmas is a Christian celebration, not an interreligious one. If you don't believe Jesus is the Son of God born into this world to save us, then how can you celebrate the true meaning of the Christmas? That is the "faith" that really underlies Christmas. Maybe he believes that, but he failed to include it in the book.

Amusing book. Good read, especially for all those who are involved in being Santa's helpers. It does celebrate the joy and concern for others that fills the season. If they had just left the title at Being Santa Claus it would have been fine. But the subtitle promises more than it delivers. It misses the mark if you're looking for the deeper spiritual meaning of Christmas.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Clerihew

At Nicaea, St. Nicholas
slapped a naughty Arius.
Since then he's found a list does fine
to help keep those who stray in line.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Liturgical Nice and Naughty Lists

My parish has engaged is some questionable liturgical practices over the years. (But then, so has my diocese.) Some have been corrected, some linger. And the pastor tends to get testy if you bring them up.

One of the practices involves penance services. The parish schedules just limited individual confession times most of the year, and has held mass general absolution services several times a year. I remember talking to one woman who gleefully admitted she had not been to individual confession in years - just the services - even though she had some serious sins. Something's been getting lost.

Our Apostolic Administrator declared not long ago that general absolution services are no longer allowed.


My parish scheduled a pre-Christmas penance service. I wondered if the pastor would try to find some way to fudge the rules. I wasn't able to go (mall duty), but my wife did.

And ... for the first time in all the years we've been at the parish, they had priests available - five of them! - for individual confessions.

Wonderful. Liturgical Nice list.

The other event of note was announced last week. Our retired bishop - as in the Pope suddenly accepted his retirement months earlier than is the norm apparently sending a message about some of the bishop's questionable actions - would be coming to the parish today for a Mass. The choir director asked us all if we could switch from the 9 a.m. Mass to the 11 a.m. Mass to sing when he would be there. I couldn't - my mall schedule is set up based on the normal schedule, and I'm to be on the throne today at noon.

I was sad that I wouldn't get a chance to sing and play at Mass today. Plus, I would have liked to see the bishop. I always liked him as a person.

So we went to Mass last night. I noticed in the bulletin that the parish was going to have its liturgical dancers at the bishop's Mass. I have refused to play and sing at Masses with the dancers, so it turns out I wouldn't have been at his Mass anyway. The bulletin also noted the dancers would at the Christmas Family Mass - an other Mass I was going to miss because of mall duty (I always work Christmas Eve as the last "helper").

Liturgical dancing is one of those questionable practices that has pranced into the diocese (and our parish) under the retired bishop. Liturgical naughty list.

At least we don't have the gay activist dancer "performing" the way the retired bishop always had at the cathedral!

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 21, 2012

Santa's Helper Vignettes

Two women got in line. I recognized one from previous years - a woman with developmental disabilities who had visited me before. The other looked like she was either a fellow resident, or a counselor who had spent too much time as a "hippie."

When they finally got to me - a long line - I greeted the woman I knew asking how she was this year. The other then sat and made an unusual request: For Christmas she wanted to be be assured that she would be reincarnated.

I joked that that was not up to me. She persisted, then asked if I believed in reincarnation. I said that theological matters were not what I was about. She persisted. I said I leave such things to the "Boss," pointing up to the sky. But I added I would keep her in my prayers. She nodded and seemed satisfied.

Still not sure if she was a resident or staff.


At the end of my shift a security guard was escorting me to the changing room (security has the key to the room). We passed by people waiting in a line.

"Victoria's Secret is having a special opening tonight," the guard said with a smile. "Will you be sticking around?"

"No," I replied. "Remember, I'm a bishop."

He chuckled.


A boy with a smirk and a naughty look in his eye sat down.

"Are you the real Santa Claus?" he asked with a knowing smile.

I gave him my standard response.

"Are you the real you?"

Hesitantly, he answered, "Ye-e-s."

"Well, I'm the real me."

He looked at my beard closely.

"You have a real beard."

"Yes. You can pull it if you like."

"Your glasses look real."

I took them off and held them so he could look through them. "They're real."

He looked at them for a moment. Then he looked a me. And then he warily told me what he wanted for Christmas.


Two brothers sat down, one on each knee. I asked what they wanted for Christmas. One started to tell me something when the other blurted, "That's what I want," and made a fist in his brother's face. Brother did no look pleased.

"Oh, that could get you on the naughty list."

They settled down and finished telling me what they wanted. Then, on a hunch, I said,"Now I'd like you to do something. Between now and Christmas, I'd like you two to work at being really nice to each other. No fighting. Is that a deal?"

They do looked at each other uneasily, then at me and one mumbled, "yes," and the other mumbled, "I'll try."

I help up my hand for a high five.

"Then it's a deal," I said firmly.

They gave me high fives.

I looked at their mother.

She mouthed, "Thank you."

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 14, 2012

Steve Martin - Atheists Don't Have No Songs

A thought for Atheists at this holy time of the year. Merry, um, well, whatever.

Pax et bonum

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Light one (real) candle

Yesterday as part of a staff retreat a group of us said a Scriptural version of the Luminous Mysteries. We were in one of the Middle School classrooms where there is a statue of Mary in front of a screen full of those battery-powered flickering votive candles. We turned off the classroom lights, closed the shades, and turned on the votive candles.

It was lovely, and wonderful to pray with some fellow teachers.

But as lovely as it was, I was thinking of real candles.

So many places have gone to these battery-powered candles. They probably save money and are safer, but they lack the beauty of real candles.

The scent. The flickering light. The flame. The smoke. There's an earthy and primitive and sacred feel to all that - a link to centuries of prayer and devotion.

Technology is wonderful. And the prayers were said were real and heart-felt.

But sometimes I feel as if we are losing a part of that devotional link.

I think later I'll light a candle.

A real one.

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pope addresses abuse of "sensus fidelium"

From Catholic World News:

Regarding the sensus fidelium, which is frequently invoked to justify calls for change in controversial Church teachings, the Pope reminded his audience that the term refers to “a kind of supernatural instinct” among the faithful. He underlined the importance of this sense, quoting the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.” 
However, the Pope said, the sensus fidelium presumes a deep attachment to the faith, and cannot be reduced to a matter of prevailing public opinion. He continued:

And it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her magisterium.
I've seen too many people misuse the idea of sensus fidelium to justify their actions - I have been guilty myself. I'm glad to see the Pope Benedict address this issue.

Pax et bonum

Saint Nicholas humor

(A nod to Mark Shea for making me aware of this.)

Pax et bonum

Holy Child of light

Holy Child of light
illuminating with hope hearts
in these darkest days

Pax et bonum

Ho Ho Hmmmm

I arrived for my Thursday evening shift as Santa's helper. The helper with the shift before mine came in to the changing room for the changeover, and we chatted briefly.

He's a recent retiree with a longer beard than mine, and long hair to boot. He mentioned he had 31 paying gigs as a helper lined up!


In addition to my shifts at the mall, I have only two other appearances this year - at a Veterans center, and at a Knights of Columbus party - both voluntary.

Maybe in another decade when I can retire I'll be able to let my hair and beard grow and line up a comparable number of paying appearances.

I'll do freebies, too. Not the best businessman, but in line with the season!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Take Five" from Dave Brubeck, who went home today

I loved his jazz. When I was on radio doing jazz programming I regularly included Brubeck pieces. And he was a convert. Rest in peace.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Twinkies, good... '''

"Twinkies, good. Two and a Half Men, bad."

(In light of recent headlines.)

Pax et bonum

Friday, November 30, 2012

St. Nicholas Institute - Ho Ho Holy

I got the most recent issue of Our Sunday Visitor and read with interest an article about Father Joseph Marquis and the St. Nicholas Institute he created.

Father Marquis founded the Institute in response to Pope Benedict XVI's Year of Faith - though he has been active as a Santa for more than 40 years. Indeed, he's been inducted into the Santa Claus Hall of Fame.

From the site:

Open to the same Spirit who animated the life of the original "Santa Claus", the St. Nicholas Institute offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the integrated formation of professionals who will bring the person of St. Nicholas of Myra to life in our day.


The St. Nicholas Institute is a multi-day seminar designed to empower faith-filled candidates with the tools needed to convincingly portray both St. Nicholas and the "elfin" Santa Claus in a wide variety of venues; whether religious or secular.

Nicholas as Our Model

Inspired by the selfless life of St. Nicholas of Myra, and the noble traditions associated with him, we seek to affirm the dignity of all persons as unique, unrepeatable gifts from God as we embody the joy and peace that flows from the Babe born in Bethlehem.
Openness to the "Christmas Spirit"

Since the "Christmas Spirit" and the Holy Spirit are one in the same, we continually pray that we may be open to the very Selfsame Source that animated the life of the original "Santa Claus"; St. Nicholas.
Exercising Compassion

As spiritual successors of St. Nicholas, we exercise a special compassion for: the poor (material or spiritual poverty), the orphaned, the sick, the marginalized and the forgotten.
Love for Children

Whether dressed in the guise of the benevolent bishop from Myra or a fur clad "elf", we will treat each and every child (and "the young at heart") with the same integrity, sensitivity and unconditional love that characterize "jolly old St. Nicholas".

Living our Core Values says:

There's plenty to explore at the site for lovers of Santa/St. Nicholas (including this Santa's helper).

Pax et bonum

St. Andrew Advent Prayer

A friend sent me the following prayer.

Advent Prayer:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment when the Son of God was born of the most pure virgin in Bethlehem at midnight, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our savior Jesus Christ and of his virgin mother. Amen.

I've seen the prayer called the St. Andrew Christmas Prayer, the St. Andrew Advent Prayer, and the St. Andrew Novena . According to the devotion, one is supposed to recite the prayer fifteen times a day from the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) until Christmas, and if one does, one will obtain what one has been praying for.

I like devotions that help us focus on God, and prayers like this can help one's soul. I think the actual praying is far more important than the "favor" one is seeking to obtain. It's too easy to get caught up in focusing on the getting, and prayers then become more like superstitious actions.

But I will say the prayer between now and Christmas as it is something my Fraternity is doing. And I will say it while praying for something that is close to my heart. But I'm not looking forward to it suddenly happening December 26 the way I want it to happen. If and when and how it comes about is up to God.

I'm also interested in their prayer because St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. I have a fondness for things Scottish - except haggis!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lincoln comes alive

The Good Looking One and I, with brother-in-law, saw Stephen Spielberg's Lincoln last weekend.

Incredible acting, costumes, sets, and so on. I can see multiple Academy Award nominations - Picture, director, actor, supporting actor and actress, screenplay, and more. I suspect the movie will win a few.

Daniel Day-Lewis certainly has to be the front runner for best actor. His speaking voice and world-weary walk for Lincoln were brilliant. But he also brought Lincon's sense of humor and political savvy to life.

Go see it. It's one of the best movies I've seen in years.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving - that Planned Parenthood was closed

A dozen of us gathered across the street from Planned Parenthood this morning for the weekly prayers. Rosary. Divine Mercy Chaplet. A few other assorted prayers.

Snow. Wind.

I had to wear gloves as I fingered my beads.

And across the street: The office was closed.

I offered thanksgiving that no baby would die there today. No women would be harmed.

But cars continued to drive by. People continued to look - sometimes first at us, then at the office.

It occurred to me that even though the office was closed, we were still witnessing. Not to the women - but to the people driving by, some of whom may have used the blood-tainted services of that office - or who might be tempted to some day. Some of whom may have suffered the pain of abortion, or who may have been deluded by the contraceptive and over-sexualized mentality that afflicts our society.

And then I realized that we were witnessing to the culture, showing that there is a counter view to that poison which filters into minds and hearts and souls from so many other sources in our society.

We are called to witness in all we do and say.

I pray that I might be a worthy witness.

Pax et bonum

Friday, November 23, 2012

Satan sez ... I'm Dreaming of a Black Friday

It gets better every year.

Black Friday. Love the sound of that.


Black as death. Black as sin. Black as hell.

It's all just part of the plan ever since Adam and Eve. Tempt the weak links. Cull the herd. Draw them in with goodies.


Except now ipods, laptops, plasma televisions, clothes.


Take a bite.

I can't beat that Christmas story - kid, angels, shepherds, stable, Wise Guys. Damn, that's good writing.

So go back door (my specialty). Bury it in conspicuous consumption. Stretch it out until it loses meaning. Cheapen it until it loses sacredness. Start the ads in September. Get Santa in the mall ever earlier. Drive Nativity scenes out of public places.

Like a good con, get their eyes off Jesus. Merry Christmas becomes Happy Holidays. Replace St. Nicholas with a fat, jolly fake Santa Claus.

And then there's Black Friday. Celebrate greed and self-centerdness. Get them out of the house and away from their families. It was great when I got them to open the stores before dawn on Friday. Long lines waiting to worship. Ah, but now, opening on Thanksgiving Day. Draw them away from family even earlier. Divide and conquer. Maybe even get them irritated and agitated and violent.


Oh, and get them to say it's a family tradition. We stand in line in the cold with family members, or at least the ones who have been seduced. And thousands of others.

A family tradition. Right, just like Baal and all those babies.

Next year, maybe I can convince them to open the stores even earlier on Thanksgiving.

Or on Christmas.

Black Friday. Genius.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The beard of Jack Passion

The beard of Jack Passion
transcends conventional fashion.
But I doubt his hirsute ways
includes hair shirts these days.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A taste of mysticism?

I'm currently reading Father Robert Wild's book on Chesterton, The Tumbler of God: Chesterton as Mystic.

Father Wild, who's part of the Madonna House community up in Canada, contends that Chesterton was a mystic, though of a different sort. (No surprise there!)

I'll get into his book in another post. What it did for me today was remind me of a moment I experienced many years ago.

It was back in the 1970s. I was in college. I was also part of Charismatic prayer groups.

The Charismatic Renewal was an unusual thing for me to be involved with. I'm so thought and control oriented; the emotionalism and the willingness to let oneself go that were part of the Renewal would seem not to be my style. But the Renewal was something that helped me at the time, and I did have some experiences, including once even speaking in tongues!

One night I had an even more profound experience.

I was in the college seminary. There was a small group of charismatics in the seminary, but because the movement was viewed with suspicion by some of the seminary administrators, we were not allowed to have regular prayer meetings in the seminary building. So we'd wander over to the campus, and pray on the lawn or on the athletic fields.

After one prayer session with the group, I felt energized. Instead of going back to the seminary, I walked around the campus, continuing to pray. I was walking across a lawn on a part of the campus where there was a row of trees along a roadway. I suddenly had a strange feeling, and when I looked at the trees I saw not only the trees, but also a light. It wasn't bright; it was more misty, like a luminous fog. It seemed to flow between the trees. Then it seemed to flow across the lawn, and finally into me. I realized that it wasn't a matter of it moving toward me, though. The light was already there, present in me and the trees and everything around me. What changed was that I was finally aware of it.

In that moment, it seemed as if I was linked to the trees, the air, the grass. The light was what linked us. I had the feeling that what I was experiencing was God  - His creative force, His love, His Spirit, something that flowed through all creation and made us one not with each other, but with Him.

I know my words are not quite right. I've never found the way to clearly explain what I experienced. But it was real, and it filled me with a sense of love, of joy, of belonging, of being cared for. For a moment, I lost my sense of separateness and of self. I was not in control.

It passed quickly. I have never experienced anything even remotely like it since.

A mystical experience? Or a taste of what a mystical experience might be like? I don't know. I don't know if I ever will experience anything like it again. I don't know if I will ever be that open again.

Part of me would welcome such a moment again. Another part of me fears it - and that might be what is preventing me from even having a chance of experiencing such a moment again. Unless maybe God decides to break through my defences.

I leave that to the Lord.

But I hope I do taste that sense of being part of something more than myself again.

Pax et bonum

Gregorian Rap? - The Gregor Mendel Rap.

Faith and science in harmony!

Peas. Out.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roy Bourgeois Dismissed from Priesthood

You kind of knew this was coming. I remembered when he attended that invalid ordination, and thought this was going to happen eventually.

Catholic News | Maryknoller Dismissed from Priesthood | American Catholic

Pax et bonum

Sunday, November 18, 2012

St. Elizabeth of Hungary - Patroness of the SFO

Today is a special day for Secular Franciscans. It's the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a woman who so loved the poor and suffering that she became the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. 

She was the daughter of the King of Hungary. At 14, Elizabeth she married Louis of Thuringia. It was apparently a loving marriage, and they had three children. But at the same time, she had a Franciscan friar as her spiritual director, and in addition to her duties as wife and mother she was devoted to prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick.

Her husband died in the Crusades. Because she spent so much to help the poor, the young widow was thrown out of the palace by her late husband's family, but she was later allowed to return.

In 1228 she joined the Secular Franciscan Order, and spent the rest of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. In 1231, she died just before her 24th birthday in 1231, and she was canonized just four years later.

St. Elizabeth, pray for us.

Pax et bonum

Friday, November 16, 2012

Meatless Fridays to be restored?

At the recent Bishops' gathering, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said,

"The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent." 

Now my understanding is that while the bishops earlier relaxed the rules about not eating meat on Fridays, it was with the idea that Catholics would substitute some other penitential practice. The last part of that got lost in the shuffle, though, and Catholics for the most part ate meat - and did nothing to replace abstinence.

I'm guilty of not doing anything else, I have to admit. Of course, I've also been a vegetarian for many years.

So if they bring back abstinence, what should vegetarians like me do?

Maybe coffee would be a worthy thing to sacrifice!

Pax et bonum

Franciscan Fraternity to move meeting site

We met with the business manager at the parish and got the paperwork. As of January 4, my fraternity will begin meeting at my parish - St. Theodore's.

The parish is in an easy-to-get-to location (unlike our current meeting site), and is handicap accessible (again, unlike our current site). Plus, being in a parish gives us more recruiting potential, not only in the parish, but among the parishes nearby. The business manager mentioned posting something in the bulletin.

This is good.

I am to be the "keeper of the key." Sounds like something out of a game! All it really means is the parish will entrust me with the key, so I'll have to show up early, unlock the necessary doors, and turn on the lights and heat, and then make sure everything is locked up or turned off after the meeting.

The minister also talked about the need for a spiritual assistant. We don't have one, and we need one. The Council would like to get a priest or deacon, but none are available at this time or on short notice. Lay people can be assistants, though, and I said I'd be interested in finding out more about what it entails in terms of training and study if it comes to that - given my background. The minister seemed excited. But as a newbie - less than two years professed - I don't think I really qualify at this point.

I think I'll just stick to the keys.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

American Solidarity Party - an option for Catholic voters?

There's some political optimists trying to get a new pro-life pro-Catholic values political party going, the American Solidarity Party.

I'm not ready to jump in and get involved, but at least I'll keep an eye on them. They have a facebook page - for those who are into that. (Check us out on our facebook page and facebook group)

Pax et bonum

Monday, November 12, 2012

Catholic Theater Conference in 2013

I'm part of a group starting to plan a Catholic theater conference next year. This is part of the efforts to change the culture - and good theater is one way to do it.


July 3-7, 2013 at Notre Dame Retreat House, Canandaigua, New York

Live theater is a powerful tool for proclaiming the Gospel—stirring mind and heart with the inspiration and energy to overcome spiritual obstacles and acting as a light in the darkness. 

PERFORMING OUR FAITH brings together people from around the country who are involved in and support theatre as ministry. This five-day retreat/conference offers an opportunity for actors, playwrights, producers, and patrons to spend time in prayerful reflection and fellowship, with the aim of networking, celebrating, and building an awareness of how theatre can help us share our faith.  PERFORMING OUR FAITH participants will enjoy a staged reading of a winning one-act play and develop plans for future gatherings and a festival of Catholic theatre. Please join us!

For more information, email

Pax et bonum

First shift at the mall

Six hours. That's how long my first shift was.

As usual, I avoided eating too much or drinking almost anything the morning before. No bathroom breaks.

The number of visitors as not great. Many gaps. A number of people commented that they never expected us to start this early, so they had not dressed the kids up for photos. A few came just to see how the kids would react, planning to return at a later date. Good idea.

One girl asked a number of skepticism-tinged questions - belief wavering or gone? - then called me a liar.

One family did show up with daughters all dressed up, then complained that my beard was too short and neat! (Look at my fraternity photo from Saturday to see how long my beard is.) My supervisor said she'd worked with shorter-bearded fellows, and there was nothing wrong with my beard.
Next shift is next Sunday.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Franciscans pray for life

At Planned Parenthood today at our regular Saturday prayer gathering, I was joined by two people from the other local Franciscan fraternity, then one of the candidates from my own fraternity, and finally by a member of our fraternity who had been sick and hadn't been able to make our fraternity meetings for a couple of months (I gave him a hug).

I kidded that we were turning this prayer vigil into a Franciscan event.

After the prayers, I had a chat with the two people from the other fraternity - a husband a wife who professed along with me in 2010. Their elections are Monday night, and he's up for Formation Director, and she for Councilor. I laughed. The local fraternities are trying to get us "younger folks" involved. All three of us acknowledged that we felt too new for leadership positions - I said I was still a rookie - but if God is calling us, so be it.

We also talked about the fact that our two fraternities are relatively healthy at this point - we had 18 of our 25 professed at our election meeting last night - and that we were lucky considering how many fraternities are suffering from lack of members and even closing. My own fraternity has three people in formation at the moment. And when we move to a new site soon (hopefully January) we will be in a parish setting where we might be able to attract more people. (A parish staff member even said I could write something for the bulletin about the Secular Franciscan Order.)

Their fraternity is starting a new social ministry program, assisting a program that provides food and other items for folks in a low-income section of our city. My fraternity has links to a pregnancy center, donating food and infant clothing. Social ministry is part of our Franciscan vocation. I'd love to see more, but these efforts are a good start.

Pax et bonum

SFO Fraternity Council Elected

At our November 9 meeting, the Glory of the Most High Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order elected a new council.

Minister: Carolyn Barth
Vice Minister: Elizabeth Annechino
Secretary: Marilyn Gawlick
Treasurer: Tom Hoffend
Formation Director: Joe Madonia
Councilor: Donna White
Councilor: Lee Strong (that hairy looking Santa wannabe) 

We'll serve for the next three years.

May God guide us all in all that we do.

Pax et bonum

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ho, Ho ... Oh!

I arrived for our meeting today about being one of Santa's helpers at the mall.

I wasn't sure of the exact site of the meeting, but the collection of white-bearded men sitting on a bench outside a door was a dead giveaway!

We entered the meeting site, and were promptly informed that Santa was arriving at the mall tomorrow! The helper who would be arriving had been informed, but none of the rest of us.

I'd expected a week's notice. I needed to get some supplies and to dig out my kit (check the makeup for my beard, polish my boots, make sure my belt and cap are ready, etc.)

I'll have to get everything ready tomorrow.

My first shift is Sunday at noon!

Pax et bonum

God and St. Francis probably chuckled

Tonight the fraternity elections I mentioned previously took place.

I had been dreading the idea that given the age of the fraternity that I might be asked to serve in some office. I wanted to focus instead on growing spiritually. As some of my political posts suggest, I'm not very Franciscan-like at times.

I had not put my name in for any of the offices - and I was hoping that no one else had submitted my name. At the last meeting, the names of the likely new officers had been mentioned. I was not among them. Phew.

But before tonight's meeting the woman who had been put forward as minister approached me. She asked if I'd be willing to serve as a councilor. I said yes. I got the impression that this had been discussed by the officers.

After some prayers, the voting started. The names of the previously-named candidates were put forward. But since there had to be a vote, the regional person asked if there were any other candidates people wanted to name so there would be a choice. When they got to the Secretary position, someone named me. I was uncertain what to do for a moment, but I declined, thinking that I was going to be nominated later for a councilor position anyway.

When we got to the councilor nominations, someone immediately named a very outgoing woman. The former minster and the new minister looked at each other, then said they'd already asked someone, though I'm not sure how many people heard them. The new minister immediately put my name in. And then, someone named a third candidate - a respected long-time member of the fraternity.

I chuckled. Me vs. an outgoing woman and a long-time member. Maybe I'd get my wish!

At that point, the regional minister pointed out that given the number of officers we really needed two people as councilors to provide an odd number for voting. So we were going to select two councilors.

Ulp. But I still had hope.

Voting took place. Then the counting of the ballots.

For a while, the other two were ahead.


And then ... a late surge.

I got the most votes. I was elected as a councilor. So was the long-time member.

Francis and God must have chuckled. Thought you'd escaped, eh?

Pax et bonum

One last rant on the election

When I turned 18 (many decades ago!) and registered to vote, I registered as a Democrat. I was not just a member of the party: I worked on campaigns, I was a member of a city Democratic committee, I was even asked to run for office as a Democrat (I chose not to).

But over the years, my own thinking on a number of issues matured and developed. It wasn't a matter of switching positions on these issues. It was more a matter of coming to a deeper understanding of them and their interconnectedness.

At the same time, I watched the Democratic Party move further and further away from my core beliefs and Catholic teachings on a number of issues. I remained in the party, hoping to be a positive force to bring it back to its senses. I even helped to create a state chapter of Democrats for Life. But the party's drift continued, and I saw practicing Catholics, pro-lifers, and Democrats for Life being exploited and marginalized.

Finally, I gave up on the Democratic Party.

A Republican candidate came along a few years back, and to help with his campaign I registered as a Republican. I had no illusions about that party; our Republican Congressman, a Catholic, was pro-choice. And the party seriously considered the pro-choice, pro-homosexual marriage Rudy Giuliani as a plausible presidential candidate. Moreover, the focus of the party was on economic, not social issues. But at least in that party I saw some folks who shared my values. Not enough to make me a true Republican, however.

The Republican candidate I was supporting lost. After just one year as a Republican, I registered as a member of the tiny Right to Life Party. The party is so small - indeed, is basically defunct - that it doesn't even have a line on the ballot, so I'm considered a "blank" or independent.

This past week's election marks another change. With such clear choices, the American people chose a Presidential candidate who is totally out of line with my beliefs and, I don't mean to sound over-dramatic, is, I think, a threat to Christian/Catholic churches. But it wasn't just at the Presidential level that I saw threats. So many candidates with views out of sync with basic Catholic beliefs were elected, initiatives were passed that conflict with Catholic teachings. Even the Republican Party is now considering shifting its positions to remain politically viable.

I saw the way things are going in this nation. Tuesday, I gave up on the political process.

I recognize that politics is simply a reflection of the culture, of our society as a whole. It is only when our culture is changed that the parties will change.

So I realize that the real work has to focus on the culture, not political parties.

I'll continue to speak out. I'll continue to vote. I may support some candidates down the road.

But I have no faith in the political process any more.

I must live in the world, but not be of the world.

I'm not a Democrat./ I'm not a Republican.

I'm a Catholic.

Now if I could only get my name off all those political party mailing - give-us-money - lists!

Pax et bonum

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Catholic voters who betrayed their faith

I've now seen some of the exit polling from the election.

Despite his extremist position on abortion, despite his support for embryonic stem cell research, despite his dispensing tax dollars to help pay for abortions, despite his support for Planned Parenthood, despite his attack on conscience rights in the form of the HHS Mandate, despite his support for so-called same sex marriage, President Obama received 50 percent of the Catholic vote while Mitt Romney received 48 percent.

Of course, that figure includes people who identified themselves as Catholics, which means it includes those who openly contradict Church teachings (like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Andrew Cuomo), and those who don't go to church or practice the faith in any active way.

On the other hand, one poll of Catholics those who go to church weekly, and thus presumably are more actively involved in the their faith, showed that those practicing Catholics supported Romney over Obama 57-42.

That's nice, but I have to wonder about those 42 percent who voted for Obama. Were they not paying attention? Do they just show up to Church out of habit, and similarly vote Democratic out of habit? Do they pick and chose church rules and still consider themselves "good Catholics?"

I can't judge their souls - that's God's job.

But I do suspect that any Catholic who voted for Obama either does not understand Catholic teachings and how they should apply to our political and daily lives, or else doesn't really care about the Catholic faith.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We all lost on November 6

Back in 1972 I woke with a sick feeling the morning after Richard Nixon got re-elected.

I awoke this morning with a similar feeling.

I can't fathom how, given President Obama's attacks on life and religious liberty he could have won. Catholics and people who claim to be pro-life must have voted for him. Did they not understand? Were they not paying attention?

If even just the Catholics had paid attention he should have gotten millions fewer votes. I haven't seen any exit polls yet about the Catholic vote, but I bet he got a lot of them - even of the regular church goers.

Romney was a less than ideal candidate, but given the choice he was the more tolerable.

Obviously the voters of this nation did not agree.

I also note than millions of few people voted in 2012 than in 2008. Did the overwhelming negativity of this year's campaigns and the poor quality of the candidates keep some people away? I don't know.

This election convinced me that I need to focus lesson being a part of this world and instead on serving God's kingdom. I'll still vote. I'll still speak up. I'll still pay attention. I'll still try to educate people about Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. I'll continue to pray.

But, to be honest, I have less hope for our country and our society than I did just two days ago.

We all lost.

One other note. Back in 1972, I was aware of the rumblings about Watergate. When my father - a Nixon supporter - greeted me the morning after the election, I said, "He won't last the term." I had an inkling that the investigation would bring him down, of at least a strong hope that it would, and it did.

I wish I could say the same thing this time around. It would be some comfort.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Where did those who left Jesus go?

At school - classroom is being used so I can't get to the other journals for a few minutes.

At the Fishers of Men session this morning, we were talking about some of the harder, more provocative things Jesus said. I mentioned the fact that some of his followers left Him - especially when he talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

But then I wondered out loud: What happened to those people?

Did they come back - like Peter?

Did they watch and linger on the fringe of the new movement but never came back?

Did they return to the Jewish - or whatever - faith they had been part of and remain there?

Did some of them become angry and openly oppose Christianity - maybe even helping with the persecution of it?

Did some of them get lost and give up on faith or religion?

There seems to be a potential story in there somewhere! 

Pax et bonum

Looonnng weekend ahead

5:42 a.m. - that's when I start typing this.

I'll be jumping in the shower in a few minutes. At. 7 I have to be at St. Pius Church for Fishers of Men, the men's group to which I belong. We'll be viewing part of Father Baron's Catholicism series (about Jesus today) and talking about the video and Jesus in our lives and how we as men act as followers of Jesus.

At 8:30, morning Mass after the meeting.

A stop home, then off to Planned Parenthood for our weekly Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and assorted other prayers. Some of us will have signs from the recent HHS rally - Vote Life!

Then off to school where 60 student journals await grading (first quarter grades are due Thursday- ulp!).

A stop home at 3:30, then off to the local high school where my school is playing for the Section V girls' volleyball title at 4. The team made it all the way to the state finals last year, so hopes are high.

After the game (and the win?) home for dinner, then to the stack of papers waiting for grading. I'll hack away at them well into the evening.

Sunday - Mass - then back to school to finish the journals. After that, more papers to grade. And several classes to prep for. (Sorry Bills - I may have the radio on in the background, but I can't watch you this weekend.)

Lots of work. Lord, give me energy! Or at least keep my eyes open (I nodded off at school Friday while grading a paper in the English office!)

5:55. Hit publish, then into the shower with thee lad!

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy 2 - photos

I mentioned that the remnants of Hurricane Sandy got us last night, bringing down a  tree across our back fence (breaking part of it) and into our yard. I took a couple of photos this morning.

The tree even got the bird feeders!

We were lucky, though; some people's homes were damaged. And the folks down in New Jersey and in New York City have been really devastated. Keep them in your prayers.

 Pax et bonum

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy got us

The remnants of Hurricane Sandy are only beginning to reach Western New York - the worst isn't supposed to get here to some time between 10 p.m. and midnight - but we've already suffered some effects at our homestead.

Just as I took the dog out for a quick walk before the heavy rains hit, I heard a loud sound from the back yard. A tree behind our fence had come down - taking out part of our stockade fence and two bird feeders, and filling the back part of the yard with trunk and limbs.

The tree was on CSX land. Parts of it had come down before, and each time I suggested the railroad pay for taking down the whole tree to avoid future problems. They were only interested in paying for what came down. Well, it's all down now, and they'll have to pay again for tree removal and repairing our fence once more - for the third time. Penny wise, pound foolish.

Tomorrow, I'll call the insurance company. Then we have to get a tree company in here to cut and remove the tree, and the fence company to replace the sections of fence damaged.


Given all the damage that's expected when the worst part of the storm hit later tonight, it might be days before we can get anyone in. Ours is just a fence and yard; some folks will have to deal with damaged homes.

I hope school is closed tomorrow so I can make those calls.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Scary Halloween Party

One of my wife's co-workers loves Halloween. She and her husband regularly have a big party. This year, my wife cajoled me into going.

Now, understand that I am not a party person. I'm not a crowd person. I don't like a lot of noise. I like small gatherings with people whom I know well. Otherwise, I'd rather simply go for a long walk in the woods. By myself. Or with just my wife. Or my dog.

At this party there were going to be a few people I knew - but not well.

Dressed in costumes (I was a redneck with a gun - out hunting zombies), we were among the first guests to arrive.

The house was all decked out. Lots of spiders, skulls, body parts. All sorts of sound effects. We chatted with the hosts, then a couple I knew a little arrived, so I talked with them. A few more peopled arrived. Funny costumes, chatting. Some good snack foods. All fine.

Then more people came. And more. And more. The volume increased. Wine and beer flowed freely (I stuck with cider; designated driver). More people arrived. More volume.

A couple of professional clowns arrived (they are professionals, but they were there as guests, not to work).

One woman began to tell several listeners about her failed marriage - he was a drunk - and her experiences in a singles group and with on-line dating. Lots of creeps. Lots of people using images that look nothing like what they really look like. There's one nice guy she's chatted on line with a couple of times. But they haven't met face to face yet. There was an air of sadness about her, a vulnerability. Even when she smiled I had the sense it was an effort. I felt bad for her. But I also felt uncomfortable: She was sharing some things that were personal, more suited to close friends and confidants, and not the strangers surrounding her at this party.

More people.

By two hours into the party, my head was hurting. All attempts at conversation were disrupted repeatedly by the volume. Loud, cackling laughter. One fellow with a booming voice constantly making joking comments. People talking even louder to be heard over the noise.

More people arrived. Including some kids (at an adult party?), who screeched and got into balloon fights (with balloon animals and swords produced by the clowns), and knocked over food and a table as they raced from room to room. Mom was busy chatting.

Wife had wandered off to chat.

At some point the mom and children left. Another party to go to.

A woman sat next to me and told me she was afraid of clowns. She sipped her wine, ate some food. Asked about my gun (a BB gun). I made some jokes about keeping the zombies at bay. She mentioned again she was afraid of clowns. She finished her wine, and left to get more. A man sat next to me. He just kept looking around, said nothing. The clown-fearing woman came back, saw the man , and wandered off, sipping her wine.

More beer and wine.

A couple of the younger people at the party (20s) went outside in the rain. One of the young men dropped his pants and mooned us through the window. One of the young women took a long balloon that had a heart balloon attached to its end, turned it around and used it as a phallus, holding it at her crotch with the heart dangling down, thrusting, and, while feigning a masculine voice, said several times "I'm a big man. A big man." Lots of laughter. The man who had sat next to me moved over closer to the 20-somethings.

Three hours in. My ears were ringing.

One of the clowns sat down next to me. He began to tell me about his years in the military - which was interesting, though hard to hear over the noise. Then he started telling me about how he collects items from businesses for fundraising auctions. He told me about what he got from one business. Then another. Then another. Then another. Then another. They all began to run together. I couldn't follow them all because of the noise. I smiled politely and nodded occasionally. He told me about another. And another. Then his drink ran out and he went to get more. I stood up and moved to another part of the room.

The 20-somethings were laughing raucously. No phalluses or buttocks visible, though.

Finally, I caught my wife's eye. She came over and suggested maybe we should be going soon.

Another 20 minutes or so. Goodbyes. Hugs, Finally, we got into the car.

I normally listen to music or the radio. I wanted silence, so I left them off. But all the way home wife, who had enjoyed herself, kept chatting away.

 Got home. Walked the dog. Went right to bed.

This morning, Stomach sour. Ears ringing.

I went to the early Mass. No music. The quiet Mass.

I may go for a walk. In the rain (and the hurricane hasn't even hit yet). I'll take the dog. She's usually quiet. I'll say a rosary.

And hope my ears stop ringing so loudly.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 27, 2012

SFO Elections - and the uncertain future

Last night's fraternity meeting left me with mixed feelings.

It was good to see everyone and to pray together again. A member who had not been attending also came - I gave him a hug.

The meeting got off to an mildly awkward moment, however, when I arrived with my guitar, music, and song sheets prepared because our minister had asked me to do so as our regular music provider would not be there - and the music provider WAS there and had already distributed song sheets she had prepared. I quickly stowed the guitar behind some chairs and said nothing.

That was okay; it was just a minor mishap. And then we got into reading St. Clare's writings and evening prayers. All good.

However, I felt a bit concerned when the minister talked about the upcoming chapter elections. He is stepping down due to health issues. He's the only minister I've known at the fraternity, so I was a little sad at that news. But I also understand his health is more important.

He then announced the lone "official" candidate for minister (there will have to be another candidate, but that other person would be just a name - the official candidate will be elected). The woman he named is a dear lady, who is intelligent and deeply spiritual. But she is elderly, has multiple health issues, has a hard time even walking, and is extremely hard of hearing - we often have to repeat what we say for her.

She will likely be a fine minister - but I look at`our fraternity, and at 57 I'm one of the youngest members. We are not attracting young people, or even middle aged people. We are thinking of moving our meeting site to one that's more handicapped accessible because of the number of senior members who have a hard time walking.

Meanwhile, our officers will all basically be the same people who've held leadership positions before, with a little reshuffling of titles.

When I got home, I updated our fraternity blog. In preparation, I read the National Minister's message and some national SFO news. The National Minister in his annual report noted that the number of professed SFOs and people in formation were both down - a trend he observed that has been going on for several years. In addition, some fraternities had ceased to exist. In the news, I learned that at the October national meeting, basically the same leadership team that has been directing the order during the decline was reelected.

This is not to criticize any of those people. I don't question their commitment to the Secular Franciscan Order or their spirituality. But if we are not growing now, if we are not attracting people already, how can we expect to do so in the future with the same people in charge? Perhaps they have something in the works? I hope they do.

The same questions popped into my head about my local fraternity.

What about our future?

I don't have any answers. I know: If I'm so concerned maybe I should put my name in for a leadership position, but, to be honest, I don't know what I'd do differently.

What worries me is that given the age of our fraternity members and how few new member we are attracting, is there a chance in a few years we will become one of those fraternities that ceases to exist?

I pray that is not the case.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rochester Rallies Against Obama's HHS Mandate

Some 200 people gathered at Washington Square Park in Rochester (NY) to rally against President Obama's HHS Mandate that will, among other problems, force religious organizations to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortion in spite of their belief that these things are wrong.

Speaker after speaker described the mandate as a violation of our First Amendment rights.

One speaker asked us whose word we're going to heed: God's word or Obama's word. Lots of "God's word" in response to the that one!

I don't know yet how large the rallies were elsewhere. There was another one in our diocese that may be larger, and there may have been thousands of people across the nation taking part in others.

It's heartening to know that the Catholic support for President Obama has decreased, perhaps in part to the Bishop's fighting back against his attack on religious liberty. Maybe press coverage of the rallies across the nation will sway enough that he'll lose.

If he does lose, we won't have the luxury of relaxing. We'll have to make sure that he doesn't try to sneak things through before the inauguration, and that we keep Romney on the right track when it comes to life issues.

And if Obama wins: God help us!

Pax et bonum

Friday, October 19, 2012

HHS Mandate Rally in Rochester

Tomorrow and noon we will rally in front of St. Mary's Church (downtown Rochester) against the HHS Mandate.

Earlier rallies attracted hundreds in this area on weekdays. Will we get more on a Saturday when people are out of work. That would be nice - but I haven't seen any local promotion for the rally. I hope I'm wrong and we get a couple of hundred people.

Pax et bomnum

Saturday, October 13, 2012

40 Days for Life prayer march

Today we held our midpoint prayer march as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign.

After noon Mass at a downtown church (Our Lady of Victory for those of you who know Rochester, N.Y.),   we prayerfully processed through downtown Rochester to Planned Parenthood's headquarters (and abortion clinic).

Along the way we recited five decades of the Rosary, then completed another five decades while standing outside Planned Parenthood.

As we prayed, a number of people driving by gave us a thumbs up or honked their horns.

This year we had a number of young people with us. Alleluia - the future of the pro-life movement!

Next Saturday, the HHS Mandate rally.

Be with us, Lord. We place our nation - and pregnant women and their babies - in Your loving hands.

Pax et bonum

Monday, October 8, 2012

Network television shows its moral blindness

I'm home today - Columbus Day is a day off. I was doing some school work, and turned on the television for the morning news magazine shows as background noise.

On one, the anchors were all gushing over the upcoming gay wedding of one of their own.

I quickly switched channels.

One of the other shows had a touching (and horrible) story about a woman who had been abducted and raped as child some 20 years ago. Thanks to DNA evidence, police were years later able to capture the man who did it - and he will spend a long time in jail. But as a result of the attack, the young lady apparently suffered some physical damage that prevents her from conceiving a child. That's awful. I felt for her.

However, she is now pregnant. An invitro doctor offered her free treatments, and was able to implant a child. No telling how many died before they achieved this pregnancy. And the doctor happily announced that they still had seven frozen babies so they can do it again.

Oh, and they also announced that she's not married - she has a "fiance."

I'm happy she will have her dream of having a child - but not with how she has achieved it.

And it occurred to me that these two shows are helping to normalize morally objectionable things like homosexual marriage, invitro fertilization, and having a child when you're not even married.

This is how the media can harm us spiritually.

Pax et bonum


We had a joyful Transitus Mass and celebration October 3 - complete with a cake modeled on a holy card!

The celebration included a small display featuring relics of St. Francis and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 6, 2012

'Pro-choice terrorist' sentenced for death threats against pro-lifers

Interestingly - or chillingly - I was one of the pro-lifers (albeit, a lesser one!) threatened by him. It made my wife nervous!

Pax et bonum

Catholic group flunks Obama on religious liberty

It's not just his views on abortion that make President Obama an unacceptable choice for Catholic voters.

Catholic group flunks Obama on religious liberty :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Pax et bonum

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Aaron" - a pro-life video

A touching video.

There are so many women hurting in this way who need healing - and our love and support.

Pax et bonum.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bishop Paprocki: Voting Democratic puts Soul at Risk, Party backs "Intri...

Pax et bonum

Obama's Beards

There have been a couple of articles lately about how a supposed majority of Catholics are now supporting Obama (despite the fact that there's no valid moral basis for Catholics to support him, given his positions and actions on a variety of issues, including abortion, homosexual marriage, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, attacks on religious liberty, etc.).

Of course, those surveys are of people who identify themselves as Catholics, which means they include not only faithful Catholics, but also "Catholics" who haven't graced the inside of a church in years. Fallen away Catholics constitute a substantial number of people; if they formed a church they'd be the second largest denomination in the United States. Including these fallen away Catholics in surveys skew the survey results.

When we look closer, the surveys show that those who attend Mass weekly, and hence are more likely to practice their faith, actually prefer Romney. The surveys also show those who attend Mass less frequently, hence are less likely to follow Church teachings and guidance, tend to support Obama, and, indeed, the less they attend Mass the more likely they are to support Obama.

I am saddened by this. But there's another group that troubles me.

There are some priests, women religious, and lay leaders who openly support Obama. In many cases they either choose to overlook how much his positions and actions are in conflict with Catholic teachings, or, even worse, they support him because they agree with his positions and actions in these areas. These Obama supporters speak out publicly and influence other Catholics who are wavering, or who are looking for guidance. There are fewer such influential Catholics who are supporting him this time around - many learned their lesson from 2008 - but there are still a number of them. These people provide a cover for Obama with Catholics, and do help to account for some of the survey results.

And Obama's campaign happily uses them to create a wedge among Catholics.

These influential folks are beards for Obama.

The term "beard" is used to describe people who provide cover for other people who want to conceal something. It comes from the days when homosexuality was correctly recognized by society as a disordered condition. Some homosexual men dated or even married women to provide a cover for their homosexual tendencies and acts. These women, who sometimes were unaware how they were being used, were known as "beards."

How many of Obama's beards recognize they are being used and willing permit it is unclear. I suspect some are aware.

And if they are, then their fault is even greater, for they are helping to lead others astray.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where have all the children gone?

I was watching one of those Sunday morning talking head shows. The issue of immigration came up. One man argued that with so many Baby Boomers entering retirement we need immigrants to provide workers to replace the Boomers and fill their jobs, and to pay the taxes needed to help support those Boomers on Social Security and Medicare.

I understood his point, and I don't object to welcoming immigrants, but it occurred to me that one reason we need immigrants to do those things is that we Boomers and post Boomers did not produce enough children.

My generation was one in which married couples - those who bothered to marry - had fewer children, or none at all. I thought of all the couples I know who had one child or none - not enough to replace themselves, and certainly not to take our generation's places in the work force.

Some folks were not able to have children - that's not their fault and that's not who I'm talking about.

But some waited so long to have children - so that children did not interfere with buying or building that dream house, enjoying expensive vacations and toys, getting careers off the ground, etc. - that when they finally got around to thinking about having children it was too late: They were too old to do so. Others did not want children at all - for the same selfish reasons - and still others did have children but limited them to one or two at most. I also know many couples who in their first marriages chose not to have children right away, and then their marriages broke up. By the time they found a second spouse, they were too old or too set in their ways to produce children.

And how did we limit our children? Birth control and abortion - the "sacred" soloutions put forward by Progressives and codified in the platform of the Democratic Party. Imagine if we'd had those 50 million babies who were slaughtered in the name of choice: The talking head's call for immigrants to fill jobs and pay taxes would have been unnecessary. But of course he could not cite our anti-baby policies. That would have called into question the progressive agenda he and others promote and our own selfishness.

Ironically, some of those people who did not have children are now seeking out technical assistance to help them do what they chose not to do naturally when they could have - through surrogates, invitro fertilization, and other unnatural and Church prohibited means. Even, sadly, Catholics. (I was in a room with several Catholic women who talked glowingly of two instances of surrogates - in both cases women choosing to bear the children of siblings.)

Right now, our economy is facing an uncertain future because of this lack of children.

And we have only ourselves to blame for our demographic woes.

Pax et bonum

Post Homily lay speaker (liturgical abuse)

Today at Mass we got a sample of the kind of practices that have crept into the Diocese of Rochester and led to complaints about our now retired bishop, Matthew Clark, and indeed may have helped to lead to the apparent reprimand he received when Pope Benedict accepted his retirement.

Our priest gave his homily, then called up the new head of the parish council to speak to the people about the parish council. It was still during the time of the homily - a clear violation of liturgical norms. There are places during the Mass when a lay person can speak, such as the time after Communion. That would have been an appropriate time in this instance, as what the parish council head had to say was informational in nature.

Fortunately, he did not preach about the readings, as this would have been even less appropriate.

In  our diocese, lay people were allowed to preach for many years, until the diocese started enforcing the rules - though one has to wonder if it did so only after multiple complaints to the Vatican may have drawn a response. But the way some parishes in the diocese have gotten around the rules is by having the priest/deacon preach a short homily, and then call up a lay person to deliver a message.

Trying to fudge the rules.

Bishop Clark did nothing obvious to curtail such questionable actions. Pope Benedict accepted his retirement this past week in an unusually speedy time - just two months - and appointed an administrator ( a nearby bishop) rather than naming a new bishop. Unless there's some added circumstances to which we are not privy - illness, for example - the move came across as a clear reprimand for what's been happening here.

And here we are, just two days later, with yet another liturgical abuse.

I wonder how long it will be before we get a new bishop, and the norms are (hopefully) enforced?

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fishers of Men - first meeting

I went to the first meeting of a new men's group at a nearby parish - Fishers of Men. The group meets twice a month on Saturday mornings - at 7 a.m. (coffee and some breakfast provided!). The organizers had decided that that time was one that might fit in men's schedules - given work, evening activities, family, etc. The time works fine for me: The group meets until 8:25, and we get out in time for the 8:30 Saturday morning Mass at the parish (St. Pius Tenth).

The plan for the year is to eat, pray, and watch portions of Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series, and then have small group discussions. This morning we viewed the segment on St. Peter.

About 30 men showed up. It was a wonderful experience. I'd been looking for more ways to grow in my faith and spirituality, and this is a perfect fit.

Thank you, Lord.

Pax et bonum

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bishop Clark's resignation accepted

In an unsually speedy way, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Matthew Clark of the Diocese of Rochester, effective immediately. (Interestingly, today is the Feast of St. Matthew.)

Bishop Clark had submitted his resignation in July when he reached age 75 - as is required. But those resignations are often not accepted by the Pope for a long time - often about a year - and sometimes longer.  Bishop Clark himself had been saying he expected it to take around that long.

To have it happen in just two months, and in this way, leads to speculation.

Is Bishop Clark dealing with health problems? He's had some issues in recent years, but there's nothing to indicate that he's facing a serious problem right now. I hope that is not the case.

But if not illness, then the other possibility is that he and his actions are being repudiated.

Bishop Clark has been been a controversial figure for many years because of some of his decisions and actions - and he's a been a favorite whipping boy of some more conservative orthodox types. His handling of the schismatic Corpus Christi situation, the diocesan outreach to homosexuals, the diocesan takeover of Catholics schools and the subsequent closing of many of them, his support for some outspoken liberals and critics of the Vatican, and a number of other issues have drawn criticism, national attention, and sometimes unfair, nasty, and even personal attacks.

On the other hand, in 33 years, the Vatican never judged his actions worthy of immediate removal.

I have many warm memories of Bishop Clark from my years of involvement with the diocese. To me, he has always been a good, decent, caring, prayerful man. I hope this action was not intended as a slight. I certainly hope he is not hurt by it.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poems sent

I just sent several Christmas poems to St. Anthony Messenger, and clerihews to Gilbert Magazine.

Maybe one of them will get through?

Meanwhile, I'm mulling thoughts of a Catholic play. Hmm.

(Yes, I've been inspired by last night's performance of Maximilian. Use your ability to write, oh Follower of Francis. Don't waste God's gift.)

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maximilian - great play!

I went to see Leonardo Defilippis's updated Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz (about St. Maximilian Kolbe) performed in a church about 30 minutes away.

Wow. Incredible performance. Defilippis plays all the male parts (with some help from recorded voices), quickly switching on stage from one to another. Great acting!

It's not the same version that's been on EWTN, or on the DVD, by the way.

See it if you get the chance. It's powerful. And timely.

Pax et bonum