Saturday, July 15, 2023




Sleep late, have family members take turns hosting special in-home dinners, invite your neighbors or friends to visit you for a cocktail hour, take turns planning family "movie nights," visit a local museum or art gallery together, have someone sponsor a family sports activity, hike together in a local park, forest or even a beautiful cemetery - you name it! All it takes is a little creative advanced day-by-day planning together! Encourage each member of the family to use his/her imagination and be responsible for hosting at least one or two of the events.  Don't try to do it all in one staycation! Just pick and choose what works for you or your family! 

Thursday, July 13, 2023



"Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others;
if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service
to others that they do so."

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Ever since Jesus shared his parable about "judgement day" in Gospel of Matthew (35: 35-36), where we are in the end measured by our track record of service to others - as in "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" - there have been those in the church who have looked for a way around such a social emphasis and have retreated into an emphasis on personal piety. In such a change of direction, social demands tend to be replaced with the demands of personal piety. 

Because "service to others" is often so messy to accomplish, some Catholics these days have tended to look for a path to holiness around its social dimensions. So as to escape its harsh demands, they are predictably retreating into a culture of "personal piety." As the old song and pumper sticker from the 1960's said, "Me and Jesus Got Our Own Thing Goin'" and "I'm Saved! Sorry About You!" This retreat into "personal piety" can be seen in their distancing themselves from the "social teachings of the church" in favor of such things as "Eucharistic adoration" and other individual devotional practices. Here I am reminded of those words from our Common Preface IV. For, although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord.”

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1534 puts it, "if Holy Orders and Matrimony contribute to personal holiness, it is through service of others that they do so." It firmly rejects the idea that priesthood and marriage are are merely directed to one's own personal salvation. In other words, there is no such thing as "my priesthood" or "my marriage" in the  Catholic Church. That is to say, because both are directed toward the salvation of others, both can contribute to personal holiness. 

This "other-centered path to holiness," rather than a "personal-centered path to holiness" was something with which even the Protestant reformer John Wesley might have agreed! John Wesley was an English cleric, theologian, and evangelist who was a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism. When John Wesley used the phrase “social holiness,” he was talking about the importance of other people for growing in holiness. In this context, Wesley explicitly rejected “holy solitaries” or the attempt to become holy in isolation from other Christians. He insisted on the importance of community for becoming Christ-like. 

"Personal piety" can sometimes merely feed a narcissistic personality disorder, but the value of "personal piety" is obviously healthy and appropriate if it leads to "other-centered service." Meditation and contemplation, for instance, are effective tools for helping one more effectively engage in social activism. This is because:

- A clear, calm mind free of anxiety, anger, and fear help one discern more clearly the needs of the world and God’s priorities.
- If one is feeling anger or resentment their thinking is almost certainly distorted to one extent or another.
- It will help one stay mentally healthy and balanced while engaging in emotionally costly activism.
- It enables one to discover their authentic self, free from fear, so as to most effectively understand how and where one can engage in the world.
- It helps one keep the perspective that it’s not about them and to keep a humble view of their own abilities and limitations.
- It helps one more effectively remain calm, non-defensive, and discern the truth in the criticism of their own motives and actions that will invariably come. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


July 10, 2023

The woman with the hemorrhage said to herself, "If I can only touch his tassel, I will be cured." Jesus turned around, saw her and said, ""Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you."" And from that hour the woman was cured.
Matthew 9:18-26

When you get old like I am, you realize that you have a few books on your shelf that were the source of breakthroughs in understanding. Such is the case with a book by Father Louis Evely. With it, I had a great breakthrough in my understanding of “faith healing.”

Father Evely makes the case that the phenomenon known as a “faith healing” is simply the manifestation of the natural world not yet understood. A “miracle,” he says, does not happen from the outside in but from the inside out. We see that in today’s reading. Jesus did not tell the woman with the hemorrhage who was cured, “My power has cured you.” Instead, he said, “Your faith has cured you.”

In fact, Mark (6:5) reports that “Jesus could work no miracle there because of people’s lack of faith.” It was not touching the holy tassel outside of her that cured the woman in the Gospel that day; it was the faith inside of the woman who touched his tassel that triggered her cure!

What about the miracles that have been recorded at places like Lourdes and Fatima? Well, there have been miracles there and at every shrine of every religion and most of these have been miracles of healing.

Father Evely notes that the sole characteristic of a miraculous cure is the “abnormal acceleration of the natural healing process.” That which cannot be healed by a natural process is not susceptible to a miraculous cure. There are no reported cases of an amputated leg or arm, for example, being regrown miraculously — not even a finger. However, it seems that an “abnormal acceleration of the natural processes of healing” can be triggered by faith.

It’s not the sacred stone, the saint’s relic, the water from a mysterious water source or even the tassel of Jesus’ cloak that causes the healing, but the intensity of faith that is released within those who believe that triggers their extraordinarily rapid healing processes. That’s why Jesus said to the tassel-touching woman with a hemorrhage, “It is your faith that saved you.”

I believe in the power of faith to work miracles. In almost every assignment I have ever had, I have had to override the negative advice I was given by my predecessors. I was advised not to get my hopes up because “nothing could be done because this or that situation was hopeless.” By choosing to believe in the amazing possibilities of faith, not fairy godmothers, I have been able to witness amazing results in all those assignments.

Even doctors will tell you that some patients have mysteriously gotten well when they are able to believe that getting well was possible, while they have mysteriously lost patients who gave up believing in their treatment programs. Even Henry Ford said, “Those who believe they can and those who think they can’t, are both right.”


Sunday, July 9, 2023



Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give
you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.
Matthew 11:25-30  

Religion! Can’t live with it and can’t live without it! Religion! Wears you out and gives you life! Religion! So complicated and yet so simple! 

Those of us who bother with religion, at some time or another, no doubt feel like the great prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah tried his best to be faithful, tried to do what God had called him to do, but ended up so frustrated with all the trouble it caused him that he screamed out at God in frustration, “You suckered me into this stupid mess and I was dumb enough to fall for it!” If Jeremiah had been a country music writer, he would have surely written the famous song, “Take this job and shove it. I ain’t workin’ here no more!”

Thomas the Apostle doubted. In fact, he refused to believe until he could see Jesus with his own eyes and touch his wounds with his own hands. I have always liked Celie’s lines in the wonderful book The Color Purple, “It ain’t easy trying to do without God. Even if you know he ain’t there, trying to do without him is a strain.”  I also resonate with St. Theresa of Avila, patron saint of liberated women, when she was said to have let God have it with these words, “Listen, God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many!”

Over the years, many believers have worked through their doubts of faith and frustrations with religion, but remained faithful to the Church, in spite of their deep disappointment with its very human side. Many have stayed in to do the dirty work of reforming the Church and have gone on to become great saints in doing so – St Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Theresa of Avila and John XXIII. They all argued with God and criticized the Church. Arguing, fighting and fussing still goes on within the Church today.

Still others made decisions to leave, turning their reforms efforts into new denominations – people like Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox. One internet site lists 5,000 Protestant denominations alone. 

Jesus, himself, was known for his frustration with the organized religion of his day because he loved it. The ancient Jewish religion that he knew and loved had become so tedious, complicated, twisted and burdensome that he actually went on a rampage outside the temple in Jerusalem, kicking over the tables of the money-changers and screaming in frustration.

In today’s gospel, looking at how worn-down the average God-loving person of his day was, Jesus cries out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you. My yoke is easy and my burden light.” The “yoke and burden” he was talking about was the yoke and burden of an overly complicated religion that was crushing the people that it was supposed to be lifting up. “The ease and lightness” that Jesus offered, in contrast, was the ease and lightness of a heart given completely to God and simple service to one’s neighbor. 

The Ten Commandments contained the essence of the Jewish faith. Our spiritual ancestors, the Jewish people of old, struggled to live by them. But, over time, living them in community led to an immensely complicated set of rule books, guidelines and ethical codes.  Let me give you a modern day example of what happened back then. Take the Fourth Commandment, for instance. It says "Keep the Sabbath Day holy!" Catholics have always interpreted that as including "attending Mass on Sundays." Trying to do the minimal and avoid sin, someone asked, "Well, how late can I arrive before it starts counting as a sin?" The church said, "Well, as long as you arrive by the time of the Offertory, you'll be OK!" (Never mind, you would be missing the Scripture readings and the homily!) It was not long after that some asked, "Well how early can I leave before it starts counting as a sin?"  The church said, "As long as you stay for communion, you'll be OK!" After that we started having people arriving late and leaving early regularly, believing they had done God a big fat favor by being there less than half of the Mass!"  Now, many skip altogether with a clear conscience!  

When Jesus was asked which of all those rules and regulations was most important, he cut through all the layers of complication and said, “love your God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself “ then you will fulfill the whole law. People who "love God with their whole hearts and their neighbors as themselves" never try to see what they can get "out of" or "by with." They see how much they can do!  

Those of us who are on the front line of trying to reform the Church today sometimes feel like Jeremiah. We get discouraged. We sometimes feel like giving up and walking away. Like Jeremiah, we cannot walk away because God is like a fire burning in our hearts. We are like Peter, when so many disciples walked away from Jesus after he talked about the Eucharist, telling them to “feed on his body and blood.”  When Peter was asked whether he would walk away too, he said, “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” 

Those of us who choose to stay know that if we were to leave, we would lose our right to criticize. For us, taking cheap shots at the Church from the outside is easy and cowardly. We know that “armchair quarterbacks” and “back seat drivers” are a dime a dozen.  

Jesus did not come to destroy organized religion, but to reform it, one heart at a time. The “church” can never become an enemy for Christians because it is the Body of Christ in the world. Christianity will always be messy because it is a communal religion. Those who choose the “just me and Jesus” brand of religion really do not know much about Jesus. They are like Lucy in the comic strip who professed that she “loved humanity, but it was people she could not stand.” When he left this world, Jesus told his followers, as a group, not individually, “I will be with you always.” His church is still one (with many parts), holy (in spite of its many sins), catholic (universal and inclusive) and apostolic (lives on in an unbroken succession back to the original apostles). Because it is made up of human beings, it will always be in need of reform.  Real reform always calls us back to the basics, the only path to the true reform of its structures. Changed people can change things.  If we would all “love God and our neighbor as ourselves, with our whole hearts, we will have fulfilled the whole law!”   It’s that simple and yet so hard to do!