Five pieces of advice for pastors (and a thank-you)

Last week, a priest responded to the article “Five Rules for a Royal Bride” with a humble request: “I wish Catholics in the pews would write us new pastors and new ordained priests advices like these! Y’all help us to be men of God, men for others, and men that have joy in their lives! Send me your five advices before I become pastor . . .”

Can do.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image by photographer Matthew Lomanno, part of his visual essay North Country Priest. Used with permission.

A day without that one woman

would have looked like this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

 

and this:

and this:

And so on.

Because without her, we wouldn’t have Him.

No jokes, no anti-feminist message here. Just gratitude that that one particular women showed up on that one particular day. Mary, give me the strength to show up today. Jesus, do with my presence what you will.

I so imperfect

resentful

You can start over even if you’re not sure God loves you. You can start oven even if you’re not sure He should.

And you don’t have to run. You can shamble over resentfully. You can sidle in doubtfully. You can skulk in with fear, doubt, despair, or even rage. As long as you go because you’re acknowledging that things are not good as they are, then that is good enough. It may not feel like it is enough, but that is what Christ has promised.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: photo credit: trepelu toes (detail) via photopin (license)

Your friendly last-minute Advent reminder!

Somehow, even though Advent is as long as it can possibly be this year, I didn’t make it to confession. I don’t absolutely have to go, having (thanks be to God) no mortal sins on my soul. But it’s such a basic way to prepare for Christmas. I’ve said it myself several times: If I manage to have an advent wreath in the house and get to confession, I’ll call it a good advent. Well, we do have a wreath, anyway.

When I realized that I was missing my last reasonable chance (and no, it doesn’t seem reasonable to call up our unbelievably overworked priests and make a special appointment, when it’s not a spiritual emergency), I started casting around in my mind for something else I could do, something that would be almost as good as going to confession.

I had a chat with God about my sins, of course, and that was pretty good. I thought about some penitential things I could do. I even briefly considered cleaning the kitchen without complaining. And I remembered one more time: There is no substitute for the sacraments.

Of course there isn’t. I mean, we can make do in an emergency. If I were in an airplane that was spiraling toward the ground, I could make an act of perfect contrition, and I would be all set. If I were someone who had never heard of Jesus, I could regret the things that even a pagan knows are wrong, and I would be welcomed into my unknown father’s kingdom, right alongside the elderly priest who had the seven precepts of the Church memorized before he was weaned.

But those aren’t substitutions, so much as accommodations. There’s nothing better than the real thing, which is why Jesus gave the sacraments to the Church to give to us. I felt so stupid for missing my shot, but feeling stupid made me feel so grateful that there will be a next time. No need to invent anything, or figure out on my own how to wallow my way back to God.

So, don’t be stupid, be a smarty! If you still have a chance to get to confession, why not take a load off and be really ready for Christmas? And if you’re in a state of grace right now, don’t squander it! You’ve got an open line set up right to the Father, so talk talk talk. And put in a good word for me while you’re at it.

 

Thanks, Mom.

twopenny starvers

Does she cook and clean for us and do our laundry? Oh, yes, she does. She feeds us with grace, with the Word of God, and with Eucharist, and she invites us to throw our smelly old sins down the chute and — okay, here the analogy breaks down. I guess she washes, dries, and folds our consciences for us, and leaves them in a tidy stack on our bed? She bustles around, caring for our needs, even anticipating our needs, telling us what we need and making sure we have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of what she has to offer us, from birth to maturity to death.

She knows us intimately, cares for us personally, never stops thinking about us, never stops loving us, never stops desiring everything good for us. But the Church is about more than us — and she’s about more than giving us stuff, too. Mother Church isn’t just a sacrament dispenser, who fades into existence for an hour here and there, whenever we need something; and we should be careful not to treat her that way.

Read the rest at the Register.

***

image by Paul Townsend

(And I realize it’s some obscure Anglican tradition in the photo, but I found this image so charming, I couldn’t bring myself to find something else.)

Why does the Church make things so complicated?

sheep-690198_640

If a dumb sheep starts nibbling on the medicine spoon, rather than drinking the medicine, that doesn’t mean that vets aren’t necessary. It means the sheep needs to be redirected to the goal, which is being healed.

Read the rest at the Register.

***

This and that, baby pics, and a baptism!

Today, I hope to get caught up on emails. I’m sorry to say I pretty much gave up responding to anyone sometime in the third trimester, and Corrie is now 9 weeks old, so that’s . . . a lot of emails.  So if you wrote to me, thanks for being patient!

corrie and dora 1

Who’s a patient email correspondent?

Who's a patient email correspondent? You are! Oh yes, you are!

You are! Oh yes, you are!

We’re right in the middle of “something every weekend” season — confirmation, baptism, birthday parties galore, graduations, concerts, and a bunch of things I’m forgetting.

corrie tmnt

and other important pursuits

Thank goodness we have no athletic ability in this family. We did a few months of T-ball one year, and now we’re all fine, thanks.

We told everyone the baptism was after the 11:15 Mass, so our families left early and rushed around to get there in time (some are several hours away). So 12:15 comes and goes, the church empties out, and I’m sitting there with the baby in her gown, thinking, “If I got the day wrong, I’m going to sink into the ground.” My sister-in-law already took an extra day off a few weeks ago because we told her the wrong date, and the week after that, we told my mother-in-law the wrong location for our daughter’s confirmation!

So I grab the pastor, and he doesn’t know, but he says he thinks there’s first communion practice, but baptisms are usually at 1:00. He texts the deacon, then leaves on an emergency call. The kids go out to the the playground, the first communion class wanders in, I get even more nervous, not least because there is about forty pounds of lasagna slowly drying out at home, and who will eat it if there’s no baptism?  Then the deacon rushes up and I grab him, and he says yes, there is are four baptisms, today, but who are all these other people? I tell him about the first communion class. He works out an arrangement with the DRE, and I marvel that they are able to coordinate everything.

He says darkly, “Sometimes, it doesn’t get coordinated.” So the upshot is, pray for our deacons and priests and catechists! Even if they had an easy job spiritually, which they don’t, the sheer logistics of getting everybody sacramented up is going to kill them.

Here are a few pics of the baptism and one of Uncle Joey and the cousin jubilee on the trampoline afterward. Sorry they’re stuck together! I’m gonna leave them like this, rather than fight with the computer for another forty minutes.  Happy rebirth day, dear baby!

corrie baptism 1corrie baptism 2corrie baptism 3corrie baptism 4

Grace is free, but not all fees are simony

Abbé_pratiquant_la_simonie

The expense of obtaining a decree of nullity makes it difficult for some people to come into full communion with the Church. When annulments are expensive, there is also the risk that outsiders (or even Catholics) perceive that annulment is just “Catholic divorce,” for sale to parishioners with enough ready cash. But here’s the problem: it really does cost money to do it right.

Read the rest at the Register.

Nobody told me!

ABEL_-_Figure_Kneeling_in_Prayer

 

This isn’t about Communion in the hand vs. Communion on the tongue. This is about the casual abuses we allow ourselves to commit — we faithful ones, we educated ones, we who have been told. We who should know better. Somebody told us. The one up there, hanging over the altar with His arms spread out, open to be abused, open to be misunderstood, open to be ignored — what has He done but tell us, over and over again, that He is here, giving Himself to us, because we don’t care?

Read the rest at the Register.

Supreme Court will not hear confession confidentiality petition

confessional

By Ib Rasmussen (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Not good: U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Baton Rouge Catholic confession case.

Backstory: A young woman is going to testify in a civil suit against the Diocese of Baton Rouge. She says that, when she was a girl, she revealed during confession that a member of the parish (who has since died) was molesting her, and that the priest told her she should hush it up.

Every priest who hears something during confession is morally obligated not to reveal what he heard during that confession. So if this woman testifies that he told her not to speak about her abuse, he may neither confirm nor deny that she said what she claims she said, or that he responded the way she says he did; and he may go to jail for refusing to testify.

So the diocese asked the federal Supreme Court to consider their petition to prevent her from testifying about what was said during the confession, and to prevent the priest from being compelled to respond to her testimony. Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the diocese’s petition.

I previously didn’t understand why it was dangerous for the woman to be allowed to testify about her confession, because I erroneously believed that a penitent may release a confessor from the seal of confession. I thought that she would simply have to give her permission for him to testify, and that he would then be free to confirm or deny what she said in the confession; but this is not so:

Can.  983 §1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.

If a penitent wishes to discuss something he or she revealed during confession, he or she must have the conversation again, restating the issue outside of the sacrament. That is the only way that a confessor may morally discuss the topic that was confessed: if he hears the information outside of the seal of confession.

The young woman is, of course, still free to have a second conversation with the priest, and the priest would then be free to testify about that second conversation; but what is at issue is what happened in the original conversation, years ago.

Please note that there is no reason to believe that the young woman is lying about what she told the priest or about what he told her. The diocese is not trying to impugn her reputation, and we should not assume that its goal is to protect a guilty priest. The point is that the seal of confession is there to protect both the priest and the penitent. If the seal of confession may be legally violated, it would prove disastrous both for priests and for penitents, who have both always understood that what they say in the confessional is known only to themselves and to God. Jen Fitz explains, with her usual clarity and concision, why the seal of confession is vital for the safety of both the priest and the penitent.

If the woman’s testimony is allowed, then priests will constantly be in danger of having to remain silent in the face of accusations against them. I could make up any dreadful story about what happened inside a confessional, and a priest would not be able to defend himself. They would have to choose between going to jail and endangering their own souls by betraying their vows.

A well-trained confessor can find a way to get help for someone who has been victimized. It is not necessary for anyone’s safety to destroy the long-standing legal respect for the seal of confession.