Blog

April 3, 2022

Lenten Greetings from Texas: Have A Joyous Lent

Lenten Greetings from Texas Right, after twenty years in the west: eighteen in Nevada and a year and a half in California, we’ve moved to Texas. Precisely like every other major event in my life, this was not in the plan but an astonishing surprise, because, for me, it feels like returning home to Texas. A couple of essays ago, I alluded to “huge aliquots of chaos” in my life, meaning that selling the California place and buying this lovely oasis in the Texas Hill Country was, as you may imagine, not without it’s trials-some of which felt overwhelming. And […]
March 27, 2022

Most of Us Are Settling for Bette Midler’s God.

Most of us are settling for Bette Midler’s God. “I think most of us are settling for Bette Midler’s God.” It was a terrific headline. Hardly what anyone expects a priest to say when starting his homily on a Bible passage. Fr. Chris Kanowitz, smiled at the cognitive dissonance apparent in the expressions of each of us seated in front of him at that Thursday’s daily Mass. A newly ordained priest, he’d gotten the reaction he wanted: we woke up. Although it’s been close to five years since Fr. Chris grabbed and held the attention of everyone of us, I’ve […]
March 20, 2022

Our Citizenship is in Heaven

Our Citizenship is in Heaven Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,Nor have entered into the heart of manThe things which God has prepared for those who love Him. “Think on these things folks as we slog through Lent. Our citizenship is in heaven, ” said Bishop Barron in last week’s splendid homily on the Transfiguration of Christ, “Awaiting Resurrection.” It’s curious, isn’t it that the Church places the Transfiguration of Christ immediately after the temptations of Christ? But this year, I’m extraordinarily grateful because it really does feel as if I am “slogging through Lent.” And need reminders of […]
March 13, 2022

Best Way to Disempower Evil: Look at it, See It

Best way to disempower evil: Look at it Bishop Robert Barron’s sermon for the first Sunday of Lent- Three Levels of Temptation– is on St. Luke’s account of the temptations of Christ in the desert. Within the first few minutes of his homily, he says, “The best way to disempower evil: to look at it, to see it.” The declaration is a simple one. We could even say it’s self-evident. And yet, the baldness of those six words sears, pierces, plunges. Hence impelling this piece because the corollary is also evident: we empower evil by refusing to look at it. […]
March 6, 2022

Sacrifice: Brought to the Citizens of the World in Real Time

Sacrifice: Brought to the Citizens of the World in Real Time For the ten days, President Vlodomyr Zalensky has acted as David to the Goliath Russian President Putin. But this is not theatre. No, this is sacrifice: brought to the citizens of the world in real time. I must confess that prior to this week, I considered the seemingly endless conflict in the Ukraine just another of the tribal skirmishes we see all over the world: Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, Chinese Christians, and here as well, if we bother to reduce the arguments to the fundamentals. And President Zalensky? I […]
February 27, 2022

No Man Can Tame the Tongue

No man can tame the tongue I should probably title this one “Part Two” because it’s inadvertently a continuation of the article that posted last Sunday on the epistle of James. The daily reading for Saturday February 19th’s Christian liturgy was again, St. James. The phrase, “No man can tame the tongue” shouted at me. And impelled this second article on the gospel book Fr. Alphonse calls the most readable and practical of all the books in the New Testament. …In the same way the tongue is a small memberand yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can […]
February 20, 2022

The Business of Sin

The business of sin Until I listened to Fr. Alphonse’s homily at daily mass, I’d never thought of sin as a business. But the moment I heard his phrase, “the business of sin,” I knew the truth of the statement. As did the three others I commented to following the mass. His remarks followed the reading from St. James for the Christian liturgy of Tuesday, February 15th: Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.No one experiencing temptation should say,“I am being […]
February 13, 2022

Sin Doesn’t Come First-We Get it Backwards!

Sin doesn’t come first- we get it backwards! This past Sunday’s Gospel was St. Luke’s account of Simon’s-he who would become Peter- first encounter with Christ. St. Luke provides many details. So many in fact, that it’s easy to place ourselves there. And because of that, to write about witnessing Peter’s catch. But there’s even more here! With his customary precision and clarity, Bishop Baron makes plain what I’d missed before: sin doesn’t come first-we get it backwards. Axiomatic to the spiritual life- to each of our spiritual lives- is “Invasion of Grace.” A wholly splendid phrase to decsribe that […]
February 6, 2022

Leave Room for the Wrath: Hold Fast to Patience

Leave room for the wrath Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do notcurse them. If possible, on your part, live at peace withall. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room forthe wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I willrepay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry,feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon hishead.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evilwith good. The words are St. Paul’s from his Letter to the Roman Christian church. One that he […]
January 30, 2022

Depression and The New Science of Spirituality

Depression and the new science of sprituality “I don’t believe depression exists- instead, it’s a loss of energy. If you’re depressed but hear a fire alarm, just like anyone else, your sympathetic system will kick in. You’ll find plenty of energy to run.” After twenty-five years of counseling ex-combat vets John had plenty of experience with PTSD and its oft associated partner, depression. Because of both personal and professional experiences, his observation rang radically true for me. Not long afterward, John introduced me to his clinical supervisor, Dr. Weiner, a staff psychologist at Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts. John had […]
January 23, 2022

Do We See What is There or What We expect to See?

Do we see what is there or what we expect to see? All too frequently, our ‘vision’ is clouded-even blinded by our biases, predudices and preconceptions of what is before us. In other words, we see what we expect to see. That fact is one of the primary causes of human error- whether medical error and negligence, pilot error or wrongful conviction. True because we unconsciously form causal connections based upon single events. And our senses dull as we view the familiar and ordinary. At times, so completely that we are blinded to the extraordinary. Our perception of the world […]
January 16, 2022

You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy

You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy Her name was Jane Marczewski (Nightbirde.) And she became known when she appeared on America’s Got Talent to sing her song, “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok”. After performing a song which left the judges weepy and speechless, Cowell finally asked the thirty-year-old Jane how she could do this: make a song out of a disease which was killing her? Her reply? “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy.” Cowell, understandably, was dumbstruck. And then reacted by giving Jane the “Golden […]
January 9, 2022

Thinking, yet again, about the Rule of Benedict

Thinking, yet again, about the Rule of Benedict. The Prologue of the Rule of Benedict is some of the most lryical, lush and arresting prose ever written. These words from the 5th century summon, urge and admonish with utmost delicacy. L I S T E N carefully, my child,to your master’s precepts,and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).Receive willingly and carry out effectivelyyour loving father’s advice,that by the labor of obedienceyou may return to Himfrom whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience. To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,whoever you may be,who are renouncing your […]
January 2, 2022

Football as Metaphor: American Underdog

Football as metaphor: American Underdog Before I get to my subject of football as metaphor: American Underdog, some background about football and me may be useful- especially if football isn’t comprehensible to you. So, if you’ll permit a rollback in time, the following is excerpted from an article called 9 Lessons Tom Brady has taught me: “It was late September 30, 2001, and my new husband insisted I watch the Playoffs between his beloved Patriots and Oakland. We were living in Connecticut, cold, snowy Connecticut. I’d decided to leave my career in academic medicine where I’d built a national reputation […]
December 26, 2021

The Manger: Lessons from King Ahaz

The manger: Lessons from King Ahaz If the name of Ahaz rings a bell, it’s because we hear it twice at this time of year: In the daily liturgy of Friday, December 17th in the genealogy of Jesus Christ: “…Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah…” That so unbelievably colorful and earthy lineage of Abraham and King David: the Lord’s family tree. And then a more detailed reading about the Israeli King Ahaz this past Monday: The LORD spoke to Ahaz:Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God;    let it be deep as the nether world, […]
December 19, 2021

What Should We Do?

“What should we do?” At last Sunday’s mass, we heard the cries of the people inflamed by the words of the Baptizer. On fire with the truth he had incited in their hearts, they cried, “What should we do?” John the Baptist said to them in reply,“Whoever has two cloaksshould share with the person who has none.And whoever has food should do likewise…. Now the people were filled with expectation,and all were asking in their heartswhether John might be the Christ.John answered them all, saying,“I am baptizing you with water,but one mightier than I is coming…” Discriminating among all the […]
December 12, 2021

Reflections on George Bailey and It’s A Wonderful Life

Once Again: Reflections On George Bailey and It’s A Wonderful Life. This past Wednesday evening, John and I tuned into It’s A Wonderful Life . Although I wrote a piece on this film back in August, seeing it again impels another. Most of the film is composed of Clarence, George Bailey’s guardian angel, being schooled in George’s life. The film opens with a heavenly conversation among angels deliberatng about who shall be chosen to go to earth to save George Bailey: Senior Angel: [voice-over] Hello Joseph, trouble? Joseph – Angel: [voice-over] Looks like we’ll have to send someone down. There […]
December 5, 2021

Advent: Make It About The Third Coming

Advent: Make It About The third coming. Advent, the season which begins each Sunday following the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe and the shortest of our liturgical seasons, is jam-packed with opportunites. Specifically a coming of the Lord not talked about. One that is personal and must be sought. Although I’ve read St. Bernard’s sermon countless times in the Divine Liturgy, until now, his words did not penetrate. But this week, this excerpt from one of the saint’s sermons called The Word of the Lord will come to us, phrases like “middle coming in spirit,” the “hidden coming” […]
November 28, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving: A Republic If You Can Keep It.

Happy Thanksgiving: A Republic if you can keep it. It was exactly 400 years ago, in November of 1621, that something happened-some type of meal took place- between the English settlers and the Massasoit and others of the Wampanoag settlement of native Americans. The details of that shared meal in what would become Plymouth Massachusetts are fodder for contention and a variety of opinion. That fact has done little to unravel this uniquely American idea of annually giving thanks to our sovereign God-one that has persisted for four centuries. The pivotol role of the Indian Squanto or Tisquantum, in the […]
November 14, 2021

Holiness Can’t Be Taught

Holiness can’t be taught At a daily mass a few weeks ago, the celebrant spoke about a sentinal conversation while in the seminary. Fr. David recalled a conversation with a friend and seminarian who was two years ahead of him. The upperclassman had just returned from several months of pastoral formation with a pastor at a local church. “How was it?” Fr. David Allen asked his friend. “Interesting, I enjoyed it.” “Did anything happen that surprised you?” “Yes, the parishioners at the church kept asking me how I’d gotten to be so holy, so content with silence. “What did I […]
November 7, 2021

Catholics and Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace

Catholics and Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace Because I am outspoken about being Catholic, in the early years following my conversion, I frequently entered into conversation with those who no longer attend Mass. Almost always, the first few reasons were ideologic: “I disagree with the Church on abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and  the church’s refusal to ordain women as priests”  tended to head the list. Anne Rice enthusiastically and publically returned to Catholicism and then  left again because of the same list. But things changed in 2016. And even more in 2020. Suddenly, Anne Rice’s objections to Catholicism were legitimized. Including even […]
June 17, 2014

The Dance Of Love

  I had been to this church in November of 2009 while in Texas to research my recently published novel; I am back to Texas to do early promotions for the book in Austin and Houston. Five years ago the parishioners in Austin were raising money to build their beautiful church and were holding Mass in an auditorium; I enjoyed the Mass but do not recall much about the liturgy or the homily. Perhaps because of the light- filled brand new St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in northeast Austin, I am still reflecting on the homily preached by Fr. […]
June 29, 2014

Language: Subtle Perversions

Language: Subtle Pervisions I was reminded yesterday of the meaning of the word martyr. I needed the reminder on the Solemnity of The Feast Of Peter and Paul because the meaning of martyr, for me, has devolved to mean dying for God. Perhaps for you too, the word martyr has been perverted by teen-aged boys and girls with suicide vests who agree to blow themselves up…along with as many infidels as possible, for God. But the priest reminds us that these two men: Peter and Paul were not out to die; quite the contrary, they were living to give witness […]
November 3, 2014

Communion, Consolation and Church

The church was packed: St. Patrick’s Church in Arroyo Grande had a Mass of Remembrance –Communion and Consolation-at six last evening for All Souls Day. I expected there to be very few people there, after all, it was time for Sunday night football but there was almost no room by the time the priest began the Mass. In the back of the church was a small family with their son; immobile on a hospital type bed, completely paralyzed with a machine rhythmically providing humidified air through his tracheotomy. We worshipers looked like an ethnic soup: Asians, Hispanics, Filipinos, Blacks and […]
November 7, 2014

Thinking About Camino

  Until about five, maybe six years ago, I had never heard of the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James. For over 1200 years, pilgrims have been  walking the Camino Frances or one of its many less populated variations: A 500 mile path from St. Pied du Port in France to Santiago, Spain where the apostle James is buried. There are many paths but the most popular is this 500 mile trek most people make in 30 to 35 days with daily hikes of between eight to ten miles per day. My good friend told me about a […]