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Albany’s new bishop sets a warm, welcoming tone

Just a few words on yesterday’s ordination and installation of Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany. It was a spectacular Mass, even from the distant and somewhat obstructed view of the spiritual equivalent of the cheap seats. We were in the farthest reaches of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, but that didn’t dampen the joyful spirit. The folks around us were a fun and chatty bunch, and we got to know them a bit seeing as we arrived 90 minutes early with our coveted tickets in order to get even one of those cheap seats. This was the place to be in Albany yesterday afternoon, and for good reason. The beautiful two and a half hour Mass was so filled with ancient ritual and uplifting words, song, and ceremony that it was impossible even for this sometimes-jaded 30-year veteran of the Catholic press not to be moved to tears.  Read more

Pregnant Montana teacher deserves to keep her job

Either we’re pro-life or we’re not pro-life, and firing an unwed pregnant Catholic school teacher is not pro-life no matter how you slice it. I don’t care what her contract said. I don’t buy the notion that children will be scandalized. None of it washes. Let’s face facts. We are all sinners. Some of us, unfortunately, sin in ways that are much more public than others, and so we are called out while everyone else slides by with their private sins rolling merrily along. Read more

Oceans of grace: keeping my eyes above the waves

This is one of those songs that stopped me in my tracks. I happened to have on K-LOVE, when I heard these words sung so sweetly:

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand Read more

Do-it-yourself throat blessings

In these parts, throat blessings are hard to come by. No, make that near impossible. It’s just not done. At least not at our parish. So years ago I took it upon myself to do the blessings. And, yes, that’s allowed. The first time I blessed throats for my class of fourth-grade faith formation students, they looked at me in fear and asked if I was going to light those candles before holding them up to their throats. Ah, how sad that these kids don’t know some of the more interesting traditions of our faith. But once I told them about St. Blaise, a bishop and martyr who is said to have healed a boy who was choking on a fish bone, they were all in, and eagerly so. Read more

Why am I still here? In this Church, that is.

I’m just going to come right out and say it because I know some of you are probably feeling the same way and maybe even feeling guilty about it: Why am I still here? In this Church. Why? I am struggling, I mean STRUGGLING with the latest sex abuse cover-up news coming out of the Archdiocese of Chicago. As I read the news story today, I could feel my heart sinking and then hardening and then breaking. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or scream or walk away, or possibly all three at once. Read more

The lighter side of darkness

So yesterday’s post was pretty heavy, I guess, and I was reflecting on it as I went about my day and thinking about the depths of the darkness. And I realized something, I noticed markers, I guess you could call them, that to me are signals that I have not yet reached a level of depression that is beyond hope. What markers? Read more

Honesty…is such a lonely word

You will often hear me talk about being in “darkness,” and almost always those posts happily wrap up with a light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope, a shimmer of the Spirit. Something. Anything. But lately, to be perfectly honest, it’s just been darkness. I know that from the outside — and even from the inside — I clearly have nothing in the world to feel dark about. But there it is. Enveloping. Suffocating. Punishing. Frightening. Read more

A little liturgical dance on the Feast of Christ the King

This has always been one of my all-time favorite Stephen Colbert clips. So here it is again in honor of the Feast of Christ the King. “The King of Glory,” performed Colbert-style.

The hope that’s found in the promise of purgatory

Some people have a problem with the idea of purgatory, which is something I honestly just don’t get. Of all our teachings, this is one that is not only incredibly beautiful but also especially logical (as logical as things of the spirit can ever be) and especially compassionate, at least in my book. When I look at my life here on earth so far, I can’t imagine — despite all my good intentions — that I’ll be ready to meet God face to face when I die. And so I’m banking on purgatory and the possibility that I might be able to do in the next life what I haven’t been able to achieve on this side of heaven, namely, get right with God. Read more

THIS is what a vibrant parish looks like

I knew from the get-go that St. John the Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama, was an active and vibrant parish. After all, the people there scooped up 550 copies of my Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism in order to use it as a text during the Year of Faith. That’s some serious Catholic mojo happening there. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I received an email a while back asking if I’d be willing to come down and do a series of talks for the parish. That’s typically something that would happen on a diocesan level, at least where I come from, so the fact that a single parish would have the resources and motivation to do this intrigued me. Clearly they get it: If you don’t feed people, they just might walk away. And at St. John the Baptist Church, the people are being fed, and not just tiny scraps but endless buffets of spiritual goodness from what I saw on my recent visit. Read more