Saturday, July 15, 2006
What's wrong with this picture?
Pictured: The Rev. Michael Jude Fay, right, and Cliff Fantini.
I listen to KQ in the morning, to the dismay of fellow employees and religious. I listen for the 'sound-bites' and tune out the gross stuff - sometimes I turn it off when it gets too bad. Like Milton in "Office Space" I protest that I can listen to the radio at a moderate level so as not to intrude upon other's space. (Actually, a couple of other employees listen on their own - oh my gosh! Did I out them?)
Anyway, this entire self-revelation is for the purpose of using one sound bite I absolutely love. It's from the "Brainerd Cash Call" bit when a DJ is calling rural residents around Brainerd to guess how much cash has accumulated as the prize. One older women he calls replies, "Gay!" The DJ responds , "Pardon me, what did you say?" She says, "Are you gay?" Out of the blue, totally out of context - it's hilarious! It was the first thing I thought of when I read the following story,
"Priest's extravagant lifestyle leads to downfall.
Connecticut diocese demands resignation.
July 9, 2006
New York Times News Service
DARIEN, Conn. — The Rev. Michael Jude Fay had his hair highlighted each spring at a local salon at prices of $85 or more, his hairdresser said. His vacation getaway was an ocean-view condominium in Florida that he owned with a close friend from Philadelphia. And he repeatedly spent thousands of dollars on luggage, jewelry, and designer clothes, even though his salary was a modest $28,000 a year.
To many of his parishioners at St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien, Fay's lavish ways came as a shock nearly two months ago when the Diocese of Bridgeport demanded his resignation because of questions about his suitability for the priesthood, his lifestyle, and his financial stewardship of the church.
To those parishioners, he was the dutiful son of a New Jersey police officer and an advocate for the poor in wealthy Fairfield County. At times aloof, he was also sensitive in dealing with grief-stricken parishioners and showed flair in producing Broadway-style plays with local talent.
“People loved him,” said Richard Manegio, a Darien businessman whose ex-wife relied on Fay when she was battling cancer.
But a handful of parishioners, current and former employees and local merchants had nursed suspicions for years about the longtime pastor. In interviews, they — and investigators, lawyers and church officials who came into the case more recently — said Fay's taste for the gilded life seemed to have spun out of control in recent years.
“He was the most high-class priest I've ever seen,” said Frank Colandro, the owner of a deli across the street from the church, mentioning Fay's expensive-looking shoes and watches. And the more Fay spent, his critics say, the more autocratic and secretive he became about the church's finances." [snip] Read on, it's not that hard to figure out, the Cash Call lady ends the conversation with, "You're gay!"
The above story is not really that unusual. I know some high living priests. I do not suspect them in the least of using Church finances for personal expenses. The guys I know have their own money and are not extravagant when they spend money for the Church, they have excellent taste and provide beautiful appointments and/or renovations for their parishes. They are good stewards of other people's money. Of course I have heard of irresponsible priests as well, they are usually removed after the hot tub is installed at the rectory. I also know guys who have a 'preferential option' for the rich. Yet there is nothing untoward in that either. The fellow in the above article is either being 'kept' or using parish funds irresponsibly. He sounds like a charmer.
"Eat Fresh!" As Jon Lovitz would say.
Friday, July 14, 2006
And it is Bastille Day.
Hey! The French Revolution wasn't a good thing you know. Marie Antoinette was a very devout Catholic and nothing at all what proponets of the revolution said about her. But that is not my point here. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondolet had a few sisters guillotined in the revolution, along with many other nuns and priests. Martyrs all.
My last post consisted in a bit of "nun bashing" - it did a disservice to the faithful Sisters who still exist. (I'm not talking about the radical feminists among them in this post, who had aroused my anger. Nor am I talking tonight about the 'mean' ones I experienced.)
Today a lovely Sister came into the Store with her sister. I know these two well, they are parishoners at St. Louis Church in downtown St. Paul. I knew the one is a Sister, I assumed she was a Daughter of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who, from their original foundation in France, always wore secular clothing to hide from the revolutionaries, and they continue in secular garb today, not living in community, but among the laity. I was astonished to find out she was from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondolet, an order to whom all Catholics in the mid-west owe an enormous debt of gratitude. If it had not been for these early 'pioneer' Sisters, we would never have had the schools and hospitals, or one local college in particular, that we grew up with and in some cases still have today. Nor would I have been properly instructed in the faith!
Realizing this elegant woman of tremendous intelligence and piety was a member of this order, living with her sister in an asisted living facility, moved my heart to repentance for what I had posted earlier. I remembered the good Sisters I did know and who were so kind to me. Why is it the 'mean' ones had stood out so much? I apologize.
I remember when the habits were discarded, some Sisters who insisted on keeping them had their veils literally torn off their heads and were told that they must conform to lay clothing under obedience. They did. That's an extreme however. Some Sisters simply obeyed and went with the lay clothing rule, even undergoing fashion consultations and make-overs. Nevertheless, when these orders were founded, they had adopted the fashions of the times, albeit widow's weeds. The modern Sisters felt it imperative to return to dressing in accord with the times - hence lay clothing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, they were returning to their original foundations in that respect. More deeply, I understood the habit doesn't make a Sister, and a Sister isn't a museum artifact. St. Catherine of Genoa once told a friar, "If I thought that habit would make me holy, I'd rip it off your back and wear it myself!" Granted, the 'neo-reformers' of some orders went to extremes by their misplaced zeal in returning to their roots, but there remained many good Sisters, while complying obediently, never lost their fervor or dedication to their vocation, and remain very faithful to the original charism of their particular orders.
Here is a brief history of the origins of the Sisters of St. Joseph:
The roots of our Congregation are found in the town of Le Puy, France. Around 1650, the Jesuit priest, Father Jean-Pierre Medaille gathered together women who wanted to grow in prayer and service. Father Medaille provided wonderful writings to shape the Sisters’ spirituality.
As the Community flourished in its early stages so did the political unrest in France. During the height of the French Revolution the Sisters were disbanded, many seeking refuge among relatives. Five of our Sisters were guillotined because they remained faithful to the Church giving shelter to the priests who refused to make the oath of allegiance to the revolution. With the end of the revolution, the remaining Sisters who had been imprisoned were released, and one of them, Mother St. John Fontbonne reorganized the Community members in Lyon in 1807.
In 1836 the Sisters established their first North American house in Carondolet, just outside of the present day St. Louis, Missouri.
Since that time the Sisters of St. Joseph have spread out in numerous directions throughout North America and the world. Our particular branch of the family tree moves from Carondolet, to Philadelphia (1847), to Toronto (1851), to London (1868)."
The St. Paul, Minnesota federation trace their foundation (look at them now!) to the same origins. May God bless them, especially the sisters who had no choice but to adapt, while remaining faithful to the Magisterium.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
A 'religious sister' - "Still crazy after all of these years"
Raise your hand if you know Catholics that have left the Church and blame it on the 'mean' nuns they had in school as a kid. These were the habit-clad versions that whipped you into shape with a pointer across the face, or a twist-you-down-to-the-ground with a turn of your ear. The ones who told kids they would end up in jail or amount to nothing, while doting on the prospective priests and nuns in the class. The same ones who wouldn't let girls like Mary Jo Copeland participate in the "May Crowning" because she had greasy hair and a dirty uniform and came from a bad home. Some of us stayed in the Church despite them, many others couldn't wait to get out.
So now they are old and liberal and a 'kinder gentler' lot. They dress in awful secular clothes and get their hair done, unless they are dykes, then they are pretty butch. Nevertheless, they still do not have an authentic spirituality. And now they espouse all the right trends of the culture of death. Their 'convents' are centers of new age thought, wiccan ritual, and they still dominate colleges and spirituality centers. Some even function as 'priests' - although, if they go for ordination, they 'risk' excommunication. Risk? They are already excommunicated in conscience! Stay away!
I've often said, the old breed drove people away by their puritanical, dogmatic rigidity, as well as an enormous lack of charity. The new ones drive them away by their free-wheeling, liberal anti-Catholic, materialist lifestyle, as well as a lack of charity. Sure they 'do' charity - that is, secular work that helps the poor; yet understand this, the greatest lack of charity is sending souls to hell. Hence, pro-choice 'sisters' are doing a better job than their predecessors. But whose keeping score?
[Praise God we have authentic nuns like the Nashville Dominicans as well as others who teach and serve in the Church today, and provide an authentic witness to the laity!]
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
George Cardinal Pell of Sidney, Australia.
His Eminence has an article in his dioceasan newspaper concerning the problem of sexual addiction. One of the few Cardinals or Archbishops in the Church to really address this problem - to my knowledge at least. SA or sexual addiction groups have been around for well over a decade. In fact much of the research for this type of recovery has been developed in the Twin Cities at the Courage Center in Golden Valley. The support groups are based on AA groups and normally work from the 12 step program of recovery. Some celebrities have been in treatment here. As in any addiction, there are usually many other dynamics at work causing the behavior. Addictions and obsessive compulsive behaviors are often symptoms of a deeper problem.
I know a few people who have gone through these programs and also have participated in the SA groups. There are mixed reviews about it. The counselling is helpful to a point in discovering the root problems of the addiction, the meaning behind the act, so to say. The support group thing is helpful as well, although people say it keeps them focused upon the problem. The effort and accompanying anxiety to avoid acting out sometimes keeps their attention upon the attraction or habit. There are often relapses. But there are relapses for those in treatment for substance abuse as well.
I know a theologion and psychologist who disagree with the idea of sexual addiction and cite St. Augustine and his conversion, as well as St. Paul who said, "God does not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength." This priest I know questions the theory by saying that it takes the fact of man's free will out of the equation - man is free to choose or reject every temptation. Granted, one may experience an overwhelming compulsion, either forged through habitual sin or some other condition. Naturally the person's culpability is lessened if that is the case.
What is missing in secular treatments is an authentic spiritual component. There ought to be a substantial spiritual plan with an emphasis on life style changes, especially avoiding near occassions of sin, the practice of mortification, and authentic mental prayer, as well as sacramental confession. The person must realize that they have forged a chain of sins or inappropriate behaviors that having become habitual and psychologically gratifying seem to also be stronger than their will. Recovery is a process of effort, falling and rising, yet trusting in the Lord to lead them to victory. There is no miraculous cure normally, the Lord expects us to work with His grace and to ask for His mercy. Therapy, groups, medication - all of these things are good and often necessary at times - but prayer and mortification and the sacraments are the ultimate remedies. A nun once said to me, "A saint is a sinner who keeps trying." Sometimes Our Lord does deliver a person suddenly and seemingly spontaneously from an addiction.
I have another friend who, at adoration during the Holy Year of 2000, told me he heard a voice he felt was the Lord's say to him, "You are free!" He told me recently that his sexual difficulties never afflicted him again, he felt he had finally been given the gift of chastity. We can have faith that God does indeed hear our prayers, for this man I speak of wrestled with his affliction for almost 20 years!
Remember what Pope John Paul I said regarding serious sins, even habitual sins:
"I will limit myself to recommending one virtue so dear to the Lord: He said, 'Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart." I risk saying an error, but I am saying it: the Lord loves humility so much that, sometimes, he permits grave sins. Why? So that those who have committed these sins, afterwards, having repented, may remain humble. One is not tempted to believe oneself half–saint or half–angel, when one knows that one has committed grave faults. The Lord so much recommended: be humble."
Anyone struggling with habitual sins need to have humility, along with confidence and love, trusting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I hope Cardinal Pell does not rely only upon the psychological establishment and realizes the Church has a treasury of resources to help people now recognized as suffering from sexual addiction. We have the Eucharist and the sacrament of penance.
Finally, at the root of it all, the addict is just really saying, "Say you love me!" (That's a song too. Segues nicely with Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love.")
(Sorry for the quality of this post - I was rushing to be beat the shut-down time eblogger posted that is supposed to occur this afternoon.)
Monday, July 10, 2006
Could it be? The Church of England is imploding?
News is that they have said it is theologically correct to ordain women as bishops. Catholic News Agency has the full story. Actually they said it was "theologically justified".
Truth be told, it seems most mainline Churches who have embraced apostacy are disintegrating, while traditional Catholicism is entering a 'new flowering' a 'new spring time' as foretold by John Paul II.
In an op-ed for yesterday's Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen wrote a wonderful piece on the collapse of liberal Christianity in the post-modern era. Citing everything from the acceptance of gay marriage to women bishops. It is an insightful read. She refers to what is happening as the "melt-down of liberal Christianity". She's dead on! Read it here, "Liberal Christianity is paying for it's sins."
Pope Benedict's recent pilgrimage to Spain was to attend the World Meeting of Families in Valencia. As everyone knows, the traditional family is being undermined by secular culture. The list of what is infecting and attacking the family is a long one; contraception, abortion, children out of wedlock, single parent homes, gay marriage, etc. Contemporary culture is trying to destroy the family - we all know that. So is materialism.
My friend Don Marco, in a homily yesterday was speaking about what went wrong after Vatican II. He said:
" What happened? The reality was one sided: Church listening to world without world listening to Church. Church adapting to world without world adapting to Church. Church open to world without world open to Church. Instead of the Church evangelizing the world, the world began secularizing the Church. Confusion ensued. In many cases, the General Chapters of Renewal mandated by the Second Vatican Council were, in effect, Chapters of Demolition, breaking with the past and intoxicated with change for the sake of change. Seminaries and novitiates closed. People stopped going to Mass. Children stopped learning their catechism and their prayers. In a single generation, families that had been strong in the Catholic faith for centuries fell away from the Church, some into agnosticism, some into neo-paganism, some into materialism and indifference."
This wonderful monk from Rome hit it pretty dead on. After Humanae Vitae was promulgated by Paul VI and it's subsequent rejection by many, if not most, the contraceptive mentality was in full swing. Sexual morality fell by the wayside while economic affluence excellerated, and materialism and luxury became the staple of many people's lives. Through it all developed a relatively good mantra, 'focus on the children' ostensibly regarding impoverished children of the underclass who lacked basic education and the means to acquire it - naturally, it is more comprehensive than that, but I won't develop that for this post.
It seems to me that oftentimes the 'focus on the children' thing is taken to extremes by the upper middle class family. How do I mean that? I'm talking about parents who spoil their kids. Parents who oftentimes both have jobs outside the home and who become their kids servants. They car pool their kids to this game and that activity to the point of exhaustion. They 'wine and dine' them and take them on exotic vacations. They buy them everything they want and all of the latest software, cell phones, and ipods - anything they want. If they want designer clothes, they got it. If they want tatoos and body piercings and multi-colored hair - they got it.
Yes these parents also pay for a great education and provide a wonderful home, sometimes a lake cabin to boot, for the family. Many provide a Catholic atmosphere in their homes and encourage prayer and catechisis. Most attend Mass on Saturday night, or Sunday morning, or even Sunday night, if they are late getting back from the cabin. Whatever, they squeeze it in. Sometimes they even luck out by attending a wedding on Saturday afternoon, which they reckon kills two birds with one stone - it takes care of the Sunday obligation as well.
Cardinal Re spoke about what is important for the family at Valencia this past weekend, here is a report on that:
" Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, said during the International Theological Pastoral Congress at the World Meeting of Families that faith and not material possessions is the greatest inheritance parents can leave their children.
At the closing Mass of the Congress, which was concelebrated by some two thousand bishops, Cardinal Re explained that, “some parents cannot leave many things as an inheritance, but if they pass on the faith to their children they will be giving them the most precious good that exists.”According to the AVAN news agency, Cardinal Re maintained that, “what is sown in the heart of a child will bear fruit in the future,” and that there are many parents, “whose faith is deepened thanks to their children, in whom they see the values of the Gospel.”The cardinal said many people do not value the importance of the family out of selfishness, over-dedication to work, or the desire to follow the latest fads. He also reiterated that teaching children to pray is, “to teach them the greatest strength,” for their lives." - Catholic News Agency
I was thinking on similar lines this past week when considering family life and parental responsibilities. I wondered how many parents realize how importatnt it is to raise children to be saints? How many raise them in such a way as to avoid mortal sin, at all costs, even to the point of death, as in the case of St. Maria Goretti? Material goods, scholastic and athletic achievements, grace and natural beauty, riches and wealth, things many parents and their children think are almighty important - they are just not. What is of prime importance is their soul and their eternal salvation, and sadly, a lot of kids - their parents as well - do not know what that means.
St. John of the Cross writes; "Christ says of these people, that they circle the earth and the sea in order to enrich their children, and they make them children of perdition twofold more than they themselves are." [Mt. 23:15] It is just such a sobering awesome responsibilty to be a parent and raise children. Let's pray for families - parents and children.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes"
"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate..."
-Shakespeare, Sonnet 29
Yesterday's post brought me a great grace, it is called compunction. Compunction is not a word used very much anymore these days. My understanding of it is that it is like contrition, but it remains after the confession of one's sins. It's not depression nor is it "the sadness that leads to death" as St. Paul writes. It's a spiritually healthy condition, so desirable and consoling I wish I could be steeped in it every waking hour. It's very much linked to humility. One may imagine a saint, such as Bernard, pictured here, overtaken with compunction - "stung to his heart" by the sight of Jesus crucified and what Love has suffered in atonement for men's sins, and Bernard takes up Christ's cross and follows him. Still, feeling the sting in his heart, he understands his own sins have been the cause of so much grief, of so many wounds inflicted upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus. "Deep calls unto deep."
Papa John Paul I
I have searched my office at home, my art cabinets, and every book, as well as my office at work, for a marvelous quote I had from John Paul I - not JPII - but his predecessor. The Holy Father was speaking at the Wednesday audience, I have no documentation on hand, but it is authentic. The Holy Father said something to this effect, "Excuse me for saying this, others may fault me, but I think the Lord loves humility so much that He sometimes allows very good souls to fall into sin, even mortal sin. In fact He may permit them to fall repeatedly into a very grave sin, in order that the soul may become humble. Yes God so loves humility that He will allow Himself to be offended so that the sinner may come to repentance and become humble." I know I didn't do his statement justice but it is very close to what the Holy Father said.
In 1972 I had a profound conversion experience, my life changed completely. I entered monastic life because I was convinced I could not be saved in the world. It wasn't enough, so with Charles de Foucauld and Benedict Joseph Labre I left the enclosure to live a penitential life as a 'pilgrim'. But that was way too difficult - I believed I had to return to enclosed monastic life.
Returning from Europe I asked to be receivd once again, only to find out that my novice master had left, the Abbott had resigned and all the novices left as well, and they were not accepting anyone at the time. My superficial spiritual edifice suddenly and dramatically collapsed.
Living in Boston at the time, I was in the North End one Saturday, walking amidst the stalls at the market while a car had stopped at the intersection I was at, the stereo was blarring and it was Dianna Ross' song, "Love Hangover". (It was the height of disco and I was still pretty young - obviously.) I thought it was the coolest song ever. I walked back downtown, bought some hip clothes and went out to the bars that night - actually, just about every night for a few months. I returned to my old way of life, out of desperation, loneliness, isolation, (I was supposedly a hermit) and what is called 'acedia' - something many people today think is the 'dark night' - it's not.
Did you ever see "Looking For Mr. Goodbar", the movie with Dianne Keaton about a promiscuous school teacher who had a double life going out to all the clubs at night while teaching at a school by day? That was kind of me - the male version of course! I worked at a Church in Back Bay at the time and everyone thought I was a monk, but I went to all the clubs by night. My fall from grace was sudden, and my recovery was just about as sudden. This sinful period was only a matter of a few months. I left Boston to come home to the Twin Cities, realizing I was ruining my life in Boston. It was the most mortifying experience of my life, I hated it here. Gradaually I adjusted, regained my old job with better pay and a higher position. I returned to the practice of prayer and daily communion, balanced with a 'love of the world' - in this, to a lesser degree, I found some affinity with Teresa of Avila. Nevertheless, it was a knock down drag out fight to cut every tie with my sinful past. A series of fallings and risings at every step.
Through it all, I remained close to our Carmel and my 'spiritual sister' who is still there. Once in a letter she reassured me by writing, "Even if you have to go to confession every day, even twice a day, never fail to do so. Remember, a saint is a sinner who keeps trying." (I got to know a lot of priests in those days.) Only much later did I read the statement of John Paul I, about sin and the acquisition of humility. Only then did I really understand temptation and sin and God's inscrutable mercy.
I find comfort in this quote from St. Teresa Benedicta a'Cruce, "In aridity and emptiness the soul becomes humble. Former pride disappears when a man no longer finds in himself anything that might cause him to look down on others." - Science of the Cross . In my aridity and emptiness I fell back into sin, but never worry, it returns, only this time the soul understands God is with it, that faith and hope support it, that love sustains it. Edith Stein wrote elsewhere, "The soul ought to consider aridity and darkness as fortunate omens; as signs that God is beside it, freeing it from itself, taking the initiative out of its hand." My dreamsicle spiritual life, coddled by God in it's first fervor was too immature, too superficial, too unguided, too idiosynchratic for me to be on my own. It had to collapse, God had to take the initiative out of my hands, I had to become humble - God it is who inspires and perfects our faith. That is how I learned the meaning of these words, "I have more understanding than all who teach me because I do your will." Ps 119. Not that I go it alone now without counsel, but there is a freedom of spirit the Holy Spirit bestows in addition.
In the market, after Mass this morning, I heard the same music I listened to in Boston years ago, and all of these memories came flooding back vividly and poignantly, increasing the compunction I experienced at Mass. I did not have the same sins that Fr. Erickson had, but I have sinned too, all of us have. As I said yesterday, God's mercy is so inscrutable. We must have hope - confidence and love, as little Therese taught. And we must have humility and mercy in our hearts.
May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.