If you’re not with us…

Kolbe Altar…You’re against us. Which is why I hate the election season so much.

Today is a very hectic day around the parish, actually it will be a hectic weekend as we have the relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe on display. The Kolbe Relic is “touring” the Province of Our Lady of the Angels as part of the 75th anniversary of Kobe’s martyrdom at the hands of the Germans during the Second World War. St. Maximilian has a very special place in our province, we were founded over 100 years ago to minister to the Polish immigrants on the east coast; once war broke out, many Polish friars came to the US and ended up in our province, assisting with Polish speaking Catholics. And, many of those men personally knew St. Maximilian, as they lived together in the large friaries of their time. Plus for full disclosure, St. Maximilian is my personal patron saint; he is someone whose intercession I ask for on a regular basis. So as you can see, Kolbe has a very special place in our province and among the men who serve it.

KolbeToday at mass I explained to the parishioners that how Kolbe was martyred by the Germans in the Second World War. To be exact, he was killed in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp during one of the darkest periods of civilization, the Holocaust. After mass a Knight of Columbus approached me and asked if I had been to Auschwitz. I answered that I had not, and he said, “My wife and I have and we’ve seen the bunker. It is a 10×10 ‘room’ that had to fit 10 grown men. So you can guess it was pretty crowded in there.” That was when we agreed that something like that, the torture, the complete savaging of another human being could only take place because the one torturing did not consider the tortured to be human. It was “easy” for the guards to do what they did because for the most part, they did not see the Jews as human; they saw the Jews as objects to be disposed of, nothing more.

The dehumanization of the Jews took time; it was a slow process that happened over time using the “us against them” philosophy. Unfortunately, our political process has not learned from the past and continues to use the idea of “us against them.” In other words, if you are not a Republican or conservative, then you are the enemy; if you are not a Democrat and a liberal, you are the enemy. There is no middle ground, you’re either with us or against us.

I follow several political blogs and the comments section is something out of Mad Max; a post apocalyptic dystopia. The name calling, the mentality of, if you are for the other guy (or girl) then there is something wrong with you, you hate America; you are the enemy. The 24 hour cable news networks are no different, many commentators saying that if Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, Or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is elected president, it will be the end of the Republic. Many of you reading are thinking the same thing, if you candidate does not get elected we are doomed. Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon with a link where you can search your friends list to see who supports Donald Trump. And then drop them as a friend. Because anyone who supports The Donald should be ostracized, shamed, and friendless. Because that’s what should happen to anyone who has a different opinion or political ideology than you.

Maybe the person who should be ostracized and shamed is you. Because, picking and choosing who you drop as friends solely on the basis of their politics says infinitely more about you than it does about the person with a different political view point.

So guess what? No, we are not doomed; if we survived an Obama Presidency, two Bushes, the Big Dog Bill C. Nanc, I mean Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and his lust filled dreams, and 18 Minutes Nixon, the Republic will be okay.

Finally, for those who just can’t bear to live in a country where Trump, Clinton, Sanders or Cruz is the president…Well, Morpheus has the answer:

If Gets Elected POTUS

Apple vs. The DOJ

There are days when turning on the news becomes a race to see how depressed one can get. December 2, 2015 will go down in history as one of those days because it was the day that Islamic terrorists killed 14 people and severely wounded 22 others. The terrorists, Sayed Rizwan Farook, and his wife Tashfeen Malik plotted and planned this attack for maximum savagery, during an office Christmas party where Farook worked. They were homegrown terrorists who were radicalized over several years through the online content of ISIS, and possibly Al Qaeda. Thankfully they were not sent by any of the mentioned organizations but were inspired by the information gathered on the different terrorists blogs and “news” sites. Since both terrorists were killed in a police shoot out, there is no one left to give solid, factual answers as to questions ranging from, why did they become radicalized? How did they plan this without tripping any alerts? Besides a friend who purchased the weapons, was there anyone else involved? Questions that the FBI had to answer through their investigation of both terrorists.

fbi_logo_twitterThe FBI and other offices within the Department of Justice have over the months been gathering evidence to try and answer those very questions, as well as to find out how this couple stayed so far off the radar that they were able to pull this off without anyone knowing it was about to happen. To do this, the FBI served a search warrant on the home of the terrorists and seized every electronic gadget in the place. Evidently their cyber unit was able to break in to the computers and download everything from the hard drives. They have not been as lucky with their cell phones. Each had a current model smart phone and as of me typing this, the FBI has not been able to crack the encryption on the phones. So like anyone good federal law enforcement agency, they went to the builders of the phones. As it happened, both terrorists had Apple iPhones and so the FBI asked Apple for the encryption key. Apple refused to provide one saying they had not written any software for such a key; it was too dangerous to build such a backdoor key. So what does the DOJ do after hearing that an encryption key does not exist? They took Apple to court. And won. Apple as of now is still refusing to help the DOJ crack the encryption on the iPhone and (hopefully) will appeal this all the way to the Supreme Court.

I have to say, as an iPhone user lo these past 8 years, I’m kind of glad that the government Apple-logo1can’t randomly get past the encryption. It makes me want to stay with the iPhone and Apple because of the level of difficulty there is to break into it. Plus they are really good phones; well, everything from Apple is good. When it comes to gadgets, Apple is the bombdiggity. Initially, I was not too sure about Apple not helping the FBI. Because the FBI does not want to break into a run of the mill criminal, they want help cracking the code for a cell phone owned by a terrorist who killed multiple people in the name of Islam. To their credit, Apple just released a letter to their customers (that would be me) detailing why they will not assist the FBI in cracking the encryption on the terrorist’s iPhone. If the letter is as honest and truthful as it seems, Tim Cook has put forth a very good defense of not helping the FBI. In part Mr. Cook states that,

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe…The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

The full letter can be found here: Customer Letter–Apple

And that is the bottom line, the government is asking Apple to hack their users and undermine the security that Apple prides itself on installing. This could be very bad for business, and for the security of people’s phone. Further, once the encryption key is developed, there is always a chance it can fall into the hands of hackers who will break into locked iPhones. And, for people who do a lot of their banking, business and purchasing through banking apps and Apple Pay, this could be disastrous.

I agree with Mr. Cook and Apple’s reasons behind not helping the FBI. In my opinion, this sets a very bad precedence because the next time the FBI or other federal law enforcement agencies need to get into an iPhone, they will have this precedence as support. Because this is the government and there will always be good reasons why they need to invade someone’s privacy by gaining access to an iPhone. And, there will be the people who will come up with enough “what if” scenarios to fill pages rationalizing why Apple is wrong, bad, a bunch of liberal hippy commies, contributing to the fall of mankind. All well thought out scenarios using reason and logic.  Really.

In the end, I’m glad Mr. Cook is fighting the FBI on this one, it is a righteous, and noble fight.

Ash Wednesday, Lent, and a Meximelt

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when all Catholics have a mysterious urge to return to woman-ash-wednesday-fli-5church to get a smudge of burned palms on their forehead. These days there are options as to what is said when a person is getting their ashes. Many priests say, “Repent and believe in the gospels.” Others are more traditionalists and recite “Remember you are dust, and dust you shall return.” Some of the more cheeky priests will say this line in Latin to make it sound more ominous. The only Latin I know is the Salve Regina so there is no chance of me making people’s entry into Lent any worse than they themselves are making it. What? People make their entry into Lent bad? Good Lord yes!

This year it doesn’t help things that the second week of February is also the week that according to US News Health about 80% of the people who made new year’s resolutions have given up on them. So that 30 pounds your best friend thought they would lose going to the gym 7 days a week? yeah, it’s still there. Tried to quit smoking? By the second week of February you’re at the drive-thru of the taco bell ordering a couple of Meximelts with sour cream, a Mexican pizza, and an unsweetened iced tea; the drive-thru because all restaurants are now smoke free. but your car isn’t and neither are you.

So there you are waiting in the drive-thru smoking a Marlboro Gold (because we know they’re really “lights” which are better for you than reds) wondering how you failed whenLent01 it hits you, today is also Ash Wednesday! Which means that for those 80% of people who failed at their new years resolutions, The Catholics among them have another 40 days of giving something up staring them down. For many, another 40 days of torture is upon them, another time to make resolutions and try not to break them. What’s even worse is, some actually believe that they are committing a mortal sin if they fail at their Lenten Penances and Practices. Further, they need to run (not walk) to confession if they eat meat on Friday.

Well let let me be the first to tell you, it is not a sin if you stumble in your Lenten Penances and Practices. Should you try your best not to eat meat on Friday? yes; should you try to either give something up or add something to your daily routine? Absolutely. But if you forget, or are put in a situation where you have to eat meat because of health, for the love of God, don’t beat yourself up for it! Just remember to abstain on the next Friday. The same thing goes for your own personal penances and practices. Start over the next day. God loves us enough to understand, forgive and help us to try harder.

Believe me, they are not tools of torture, a reason to punish yourself because you stumbled. They are ways that Catholics are able to grow closer to God through prayer and abstaining from things they may enjoy. This also helps people to remember Jesus’ 40 days in the desert and how he fasted and prayed to God. So please, whatever you do, don’t have a nervous breakdown if you stumble along the next 40 or so days. Pick yourself up, figure out why you stumbled and work on avoiding that which led you into temptation.

Finally, I would keep your Lenten Penances between you and God. It’s never good to broadcast you are abstaining from something. It makes you look like an attention seeker, and if you do stumble everyone will know. Because there might come a time when you happen to find yourself in the drive-thru of Taco Bell after a very stressful day. And if you do happen to find yourself at the TB at the corner of Fayetteville Rd. and Highway 54 no one but you and God will know you’re, “taking a break from Lent.” Well, you God, and Mary. Who will weep in agony. No guilt from me but, just know that Mary will be weeping while you enjoy that Meximelt with sour cream. Or so I’m told.

The Circus Rolls On…

The people of Iowa, who are recognized and remembered every four years have spoken; it’s Cruz and Clinton. Or is it Cruz and Sanders? Either way, the Unidentified Man from Maryland has suspended his campaign. I know, I have to remind myself that he was actually running for president. But the big news is, the inevitable presidential nominee isn’t so inevitable after all; destiny robbed Sec. Clinton of a clear, decisive victory. It looks like the Socialist from Vermont is going to give the lady in the pants suit a run for her money. But Iowans being mavericks made sure the Democrats were not the only ones surprised by last nights results. The man of the people, the man who claims to be loved by immigrants, people of color, Hispanics, and the “silent majority,” lost. It seems as if destiny truly is fickle; destiny decided that the guy from Canada would make a better president than the walking, talking mop of hair.

Donald Trump, who if you ask him is the presumptive Republican nominee for president was handed his hair by the people of Iowa in favor of Ted Cruz. I really can’t imagine why. The Donald went into this donald-trumpcaucus polling neck and neck with Cruz; I’m shocked that the people of Iowa could not see the greatness that exists as The Donald. Just ask him, he’ll tell you how great he is. I mean his policies are top notch: building a wall across the Mexican-US border and making Mexico pay for it. Pure genius. Rounding up all of the undocumented workers and then shipping them back to their country of origin; creating a registry of Muslims so that honest to by-God Muricans know where possible terrorists reside. Hmm, wait a minute; wasn’t that done before? I seem to recall an American president and a German “Chancellor” creating similar lists for people that needed to be “monitored.” Yes, it seemed Franklin D. Roosevelt felt that Japanese Americans needed to be put on a list and “monitored;” which then led to them being rounded up and put in internment camps. And of course the German “Chancellor” created lists of European Jews for “monitoring” and we all know how that turned out.

So yeah, I can’t imagine why the people of Iowa threw their hats into the Ted Cruz ring.

Speaking of, Sen. Cruz, who is NOT in line to play Grandpa in any Munsters remake is the former Solicitor General of Texas. You know Sen. Cruz, the same guy who ted-cruzaccording to Politifact either lies or makes false statements 39% of the time and speaks the truth about 4% of the time; that Sen. Cruz won the caucus with 28% of the delegates, making him more liked than The Donald. Some of the gems he thinks are a-ok are internet companies charging different rates to access things like Netflix, and Amazon Prime. In other words, charging customers extra for the bandwidth they would use to stream online video content. Obama Care? Gone. Like the poor need health care, they do have the emergency room if they are sick. Immigration? Border locked down and round ups to commence just after inauguration.

On the bright side he is does not think that US troops should be deployed to fight ISIS; although since he lies almost half the time he could have a plan to deploy 100,000 troops just after his inauguration. This is the Ted Cruz the people of Iowa thought was better than The Donald.

Marco RubioThere there’s this guy, Marco “Waterboy” Rubio, Senator from Florida who is pretty much Ted Cruz light. Everything Cruz believes? Rubio is on the same page. The one thing that Rubio does better is lie. Politifact puts the Senator from Florida making false statements or outright lying at 49% of the time. Basically, if the truth were to kick Sen. Rubio in the pants, he would have a hard time figuring out who it was and what it meant, being so unfamiliar with truth and honesty. But then career politicians always are good at spinning the truth. Maybe it’s better then that the people of Iowa gave this guy third place. Now maybe he will go away.

And finally, there was a bunch of undercard candidates who usually sat at the children’s table during debates. It was easier to keep watch over them while the adults talked about issues. God willing, now that the Iowa Caucuses are over they will fade back into private life. Rick Santorum can return to being a private hypocrite instead of a public one; Lindsay Graham can go back to being the quintessential southern belle of the Senate (I do declare!); Mike Huckabee can go back to doing whatever he does in between being the perennial losing candidate; and Carly Fiorina? She can just go on being cool. Because she is.

Okay, so now that I got all of that off of my chest, onward and upward to other topics.

The Circus Begins…

Today begins the Iowa Caucuses, a time when the presidential candidates find out who likes them and who should really just go away. People have been asking me, “who are you voting for Fr. Andy?” I never tell people who I vote for, or what party I am affiliated with; hint, I’m not a Democrat, a Republican, Libertarian, or a member of the Green Party. Be that as it may, I try and keep my opinions to my self. But since I haven’t blogged in over a month, I might as well end the dry period with an opinion or two regarding the current presidential elections.

Every four years like clock work we as a country gear up for what will be the race for the White House. There are the usual cast of characters who do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being elected president. I mean really, Lindsay Graham? I do declare! That man is a caricature of an antebellum period Southern lady. And then we have Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic who loves the Pope as long as the Holy Father isn’t embracing gays, muslims, divorced Catholics, or talking about the environment, migrants, and undocumented workers. But these two are the outliers, the candidates of election year 2016 are serious, and only want what’s best the country. Oh wait, this isn’t a normal election cycle, this is the Three Ring Circus Cycle. The stars of this circus include a reality star whose hair literally has a mind of its own (because he is out of his); a secretary of state who doesn’t know the difference between secret, top secret, or how to work a government e-mail server; a crazy socialist from the 60s who once wrote a book about rape fantasies; some Irish guy from Maryland**; a Canadian; a belle of the Tea Party ball; and Carly Fiorina, who I’m sure won’t miss the 30,000 votes she lost with all of those lay-offs from Hewlett Packard and Compaq. Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party, RINO, Socialist, that guy from Maryland** who can’t even poll over 1/2 percent. Yes, these are the people vying to become the most powerful person in the world.

Hillary ClintonOn the Democratic side of the political isle Hillary Clinton, if she is a praying woman is currently praying that what happened in 2008 does not repeat itself in 2016. Because as we began the race for president, almost one year ago, Hillary was considered to be the preordained nominee; destiny brought Deep Purple back together in 1984, so to would destiny be the driving force of Secretary Clinton being the first female president. Then all of a sudden, another vast right-wing conspiracy was upon here: someone let it slip that she was using a private, non-secure e-mail server to communicate with her staff, diplomats, and even the executive branch. It seems some of the e-mails were classified as top secret. Poor Sec. Clinton! Now she has to once again defend herself against attacks from the vast, right-wing conspiracy. Back in the 90’s the vast, right-wing conspiracy attacked the Clintons through women that Bill may or may not have sexually harassed. So she needed to defend herself against the bimbo eruptions from her husband’s inability to keep his zipper zipped. Now those conspirators are at it again, telling the world that she used and insecure server to send classified material to other members of the State Department. Can she not get a break? Then if things couldn’t get any worse, things started getting hot; not in the kitchen of course. Sec. Clinton wasn’t into staying home, baking cookies and having teas. No this heat comes in the form of a crazy socialist from Vermont who is currently caucusing about 4% behind Ms. Clinton. So much for destiny; at least it brought Deep Purple back together for the Perfect Strangers album.

Yes, sadly on top of everything else, Sec. Clinton has had to Feel the Bern; evidently this little old man from Vermont, who is promising the millennial generation and the 99 Percenters the world on someone else’s dime has been gaining momentum. A few days ago Senator Bernie Sanders was polling within the statistical margin of error in both socialist-bernie-sandersIowa and New Hampshire. Secretary Clinton immediate e-mailed her campaign manager (she does her best and most secretive work via e-mail) wondering what the hell was going on? How could an avowed Democratic socialist be gaining in the polls? To be honest with you, I’m a bit shocked about this turn of events. I mean who would have thought that if you offered the American people free, well, everything, and tell them the rich and the soul sucking fund managers of Wall Street would pay for it, they would actually vote for the guy giving way all of the freebies? And those fickle millennials! Tell them you have a plan to pay off their student loans ( using someone else’s money) and they stop being Ready for Hillary and start Feeling the Bern. That’s pretty much it with Sen. Sanders, “I’ll make the rich pay for everything so you don’t have to!” A one trick pony that seems to be seducing a nation. Again, who would have thought?

And then there’s this guy, the Irish guy from Maryland** who is currently caucusing at 0%. I heard as the governor of Maryland he taxed rain water. I’m sure there is a Martin O'Malleyrational explanation, an explanation that makes perfect sense. But the guy is caucusing at 0% so really, who cares? Maybe he’s just trying to become the Secretary of the Interior.

Tomorrow I’ll comment on the Republicans. Something tells me that someone is going to have a tough night and will take to Twitter to chastise Iowa.


**I actually do know his name, it’s Governor Martin O’Malley. Its just that there was this picture of Sec. Clinton, Sen. Sanders, and Gov. O’Malley in the Wall Street Journal. All three were standing next to each other but while Clinton and Sanders were identified, O’Malley was labeled as “the unidentified man standing next to Ms. Clinton and Sen. Sanders.”



The Day Discussion Died…

It has been a while since my last blog post, mostly because I have been busy, but also because of a lack of inspiration. That ended yesterday when I read this article from Boston.com entitled “Yale Faculty member at center of protests will leave teaching role.” Dr. Erika Christakis who taught child development and psychology at Yale left her position as both a professor and as an assistant master of Silliman college. Along with her husband who is also a professor at Yale will be taking a “sabbatical” away from campus to focus on their individual academic disciplines. The Washington Post has a very good article about this debacle, yes debacle that shows a complete lack of respect, tolerance, and mutual acceptance by the student lynch mob.

Offended03What was Dr. Christakis’ horrific mistake? One that cost her a job, and the safety of her family? In an e-mail regarding “offensive Halloween costumes” she wrote this: “American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience…Increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.” I know, horrific. How dare she call out intolerance, and bullying. Justice Clarence Thomas called the hearings for his confirmation to the Supreme Court a “high-tech lynching.” A term he coined due to his perception that because he was a person of color who was not left leaning, he needed to be punished. The savaging of Dr. Christakis and her family was a high-tech lynching done through social media, intimidation, and subtle and not so subtle threats. All for the audacity of Dr. Christakis demanding students use reason and logic, and have an open dialogue to discuss that which “offended” them. The students, as both articles have stated, wanted none of that. They wanted Christakis silenced, and off campus. And they got their wish.

So who created these students? The young person with very little coping skills for different opinions? According to Psychology Today, the parents. Many parents have spent to much time micromanaging their child’s life, making sure that no one hurts, insults, or belittle’s/disagrees with a given opinion their child may hold. This led to them raising someone with no skills to cope with people who actually do disagree, who do have a different opinion on something the student holds near, and dear.

What was interesting about the studies sited in the article was, the helicopter parents had a tendency to raise overly entitled, and even narcissistic children who believed they were entitled to favors, having their opinions and beliefs always be right, and feeling it was okay not to hear a different opinion if they felt said opinion “hurt their sensibilities.” The result of this parenting style is that some of today’s young people, especially college students have a fear of different opinions.

Many students arriving on college campuses do so with very few if any coping skills. Because of this, more and more students are demanding “Safe Spaces” to get away from opinions that are different from their own.  Last fall Brown University held a debate regarding campus sexual assault. Being OffendedA member of Brown’s Sexual Assault Task Force was appalled that this would even be a topic of discussion. Her fear was, someone with a different opinion regarding sexual assault, even if it was a woman would be damaging to students who have been assaulted; they may feel their experience was being invalidated. So securing a meeting with the University president the Task Force was able to have matching discussions and “Safe Spaces” established for students who felt overwhelmed by the actual debate. Another student from Brown though not meaning to do it, proved Psychology Today’s article. This student was in charge of the “Safe Space” but wanted to hear some of the debate. She ended up going but had to leave and return to the “Safe Space” because as she stated, “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.”

Because of an inability to even consider a different opinion, more and more students are demanding that those with different opinions be silenced; be censured; guest speakers uninvited; and as noted above, faculty removed from their position.

Unfortunately for some, school ends and they enter the real, adult world. They do so with very few skills to cope with a very real and scary inevitability: they will run into someone with different beliefs and opinions. Their will be no “Safe Spaces,” no recourse for a perceived “Microagression,” and very little possibility of silencing the person. In the end they will have to deal with it.

Talk about scary.


I Just Don’t Know…

Pray For Paris

It seems like it is happening more and more, Islamic terrorism rears its ugly head and innocent people die. France, no stranger to terrorism has once again fallen victim to radical Muslim Jihadists who are hell bent on destroying western culture. Friday November 13, 2105 will go down in France as a day of infamy. A day when 129 innocent men and women died for a radicalized, and poorly interpreted version of Islam. As we are a few days out from the devastation, one begins to see a clearer picture of what happened that night. One will also have a front row seat to the politicization of this tragedy, the finger pointing, and the blame game. Here in the United States, the politicization of the tragedy is moving right along.

Right now many governors, both Democrat and Republican are refusing to accept Syrian Refugees into their states. They are afraid that terrorists will blend in with the real refugees and bring to the US what happened in Paris. It does not help the situation that one of the terrorists in France was also a refugee from Syria. And as per the US social and political landscape, sides have been taken pitting those who want to accept as many refugees as possible with those who do not want to accept any at all.

My go-to source for most things social is my Facebook newsfeed. If I want to get a feel for where people stand, all I need to do is read the posts and I’ll get an eye full. On one side are the young, social justice warriors who are certain beyond a reasonable doubt that none of the refugees are terrorists. They claim this because they are under the impression that immigration has a full proof way to identify who is and who is not a terrorist. On the other side is of course those who believe that all of the refugees have the possibility of being a terrorist and so we should not let anyone in the country. If even one sneaks through the possibilities they claim could be catastrophic.

I see valid points on each side. There is for instance, a major refugee crisis coming out of Syria. Innocent men, women, and children are literally running for their lives from a civil war. As people who profess to be disciples of Christ we have an obligation to help them as much as possible. I also know that there is no way to truly know who is, and who is not a terrorist. Immigration could have some of the very best vetting tools, but in the end no one really knows what is in the heart of a refugee. He or she can be trained liars who will do and say anything to gain admittance to  our country in order to carry out an attack. Both sides have valid points, but neither are willing to hear the other out; neither are willing to even entertain the idea that the other could actually have a point.

Where does this leave me? I don’t know. I just don’t know. As a Catholic priest I know very well what Jesus teaches; as an American citizen who does not want another 9/11 I also hear those who do not want refugees in this country. Is that a copout? Maybe. As I looked at the different Facebook posts, I wish I had the certainty of both sides; I wish I knew for a fact that either side was correct; either none of the refugees were terrorists or, we knew exactly who was one and let the others settle in the US. But the reality is, I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Je Suis Paris

What Shall I be Offended Over Today?

These days it seems that every morning I should leave the friary and have one thought on my mind: what should I be JackieGleasonOffendedoffended about today? A day does not go by where I am not told that a halloween costume, cartoon, or comedian is now offensive. If you read the many different online blogs and political sites you will find daily rants of what is offensive and what needs to be done about it. Hint: it usually involves a boycott or social media shaming. Oddly enough, I don’t think about what is and is not the offense de jour; I think about getting to mass on time and then will I have enough time to make it for coffee before the first appointment arrives. And then what I am going to have for lunch, the really important things in life. Because of this attitude, I seem to be behind the power curve when it comes to social justice issues, like which restaurant or coffee shop to boycott.

To be honest with you, I like to think of myself as on the cutting edge. I have a Facebook page, I get most of my news from online sources like the Onion, CNN and Fox, and I even blog my opinion for the world to see. And critique. But it seems like the one area where I am oblivious to is being perpetually offended. I seem to always be the last to know what Social Justice Warriors are NoChick02currently offend by and thus who I should be boycotting. Previously it was Chick-fil-A; I found out I should be boycotting them because the president and son of the founder, on his own time, with his own money supported organizations that were against gay marriage. Unfortunately, I found out I was not supposed to be eating their awesome chicken sandwich, when I was actually eating a deep fried breast of yard bird deliciousness at the Silver Spring Chick-fil-A.

Funny story, instead of talking to the people around me, I was hiding behind my phone going through my Facebook newsfeed and found out that the very day I chose to raise my cholesterol, I was supposed to be boycotting Chick-fil-A. I imagine I should have been embarrassed; I should have felt bad; I should have apologized profusely to every Social Justice Warrior in Downtown Silver Spring, got involved in a group hug and donated half my salary to a truly caring organization. But I did not. I shrugged my shoulders, ordered another sandwich, refilled my soda and continued scrolling through my newsfeed and ignoring the people around me.

Why did I not immediately run out of the restaurant screaming in embarrassment and shame? Well, it was not because I support the discrimination of gay people (I absolutely do not support such a thing); it was not because I wanted to offend the fragile sensibilities of a Social Justice Warrior  (although that thought did make me smile afterwords);  I did not run out of there as fast as my chubby little legs could carry me because it was lunch time and I was hungry, and I was craving Chick-fil-A all morning (note: it’s this attitude that has contributed to the current state of my health).

Jump ahead some years to this morning at 5:30am. my feet hit the ground, I yell my usual, “hello world! I’m awake, I’m alive, where’s the coffee?” and start my day. As I’m standing in line at Starbucks waiting for my venti coffee of the day Boycott Starbucks(no foo foo for me), I’m once again ignoring the people around me looking through my Facebook newsfeed and what do I find? The Social Justice Warriors are in a lather because Starbucks changed their Christmas themed cups. Evidently they removed the Christmas themed art work in favor of just red cups. The inhumanity of it all. Worse, I find that I’m in the wrong place once again. It seems that the “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas” crowd are boycotting Starbucks. Personally, I keep Christ in my life just about every day; I do give the guy new year’s eve off. Once again I have a choice to make, discretely leave Starbucks, and report myself to the Bishop for supporting a liberal, pinko, commie organization. Or, patiently wait in line, smile at the barista, and get my coffee so thatI can get to the office to answer the bajillion e-mails waiting for my pearls of wisdom. I know some wish I would have done the former, but since I know the Bishop goes to the Starbucks right across the street of the Pastoral Center, I did the latter. And because I did such a great job this weekend, I also got myself a blueberry muffin.  Because heck yeah I deserved it!

Why am I making fun of being perpetually offended? Because we have become so thinned skinned, so intolerant of other people’s opinion that if someone disagrees with us, has a different idea on how things should go, we find it offensive. So much so that we do our best to silence them through vicious social media shaming, boycotts, and labeling them racist, bigots, and haters. Boycotting was righteous during the Civil Rights movement, calling for the boycotting of public transportation, or sporting events and theaters was righteous because of the way black people were treated. Because lets be real, it is truly offensive when a black person is forced to the back of the bus for no other reason than the color of their skin; or to the balcony of a movie theater or sporting venue because the rest of seats are for whites only. But boycotting a fast food restaurant whose the founder does something one may find questionable with his own money? Or a coffee shop that decided to change the design of the Christmas season paper cup? Seriously?

If we were to boycott everything that SJWs say is bad, evil and offensive, life would come to a screeching halt. Because there is always someone, somewhere who is offended by and demanding a boycott of something. This means that we should be boycotting, well, everything.

You will be blessed and loved by Jesus! (But you have to share this first, or you won’t be blessed)

love-jesusMaybe because I am a priest, or maybe because almost half of my Facebook friends list include people from Catholic University, or maybe because I unfollow and/or unfriend anyone who posts aggravating political messages they think are “cute.” I have no idea why, but my Facebook newsfeed seems to be filled with “Like this and be blessed!” or, “If you don’t like this you don’t like God (or Jesus, or are ashamed of being Catholic, or Christian, etc., etc.). Obviously if you do not share, if you laugh or just ignore it you will burn in the everlasting flames of hell. Seriously. At least that is what the memes on Facebook and on all of the uber-Christian and Catholic sites have to say. While I do not ever take something like that seriously, there are thousands who do, at least by the amount of “shares,” “likes,” and “amens” in the comments section. Which kind of worries me because there are probably some people who actually believe that our loving and merciful God is as fickle as he is presented to be on Facebook. “Love me or else!”

I can just picture Jesus in the Kingdom, after once again reminding Peter that he did in fact deny Jesus three times, and then as James and John laughed at Peter Jesus reminding *them* they failed to take the initiative when Moses and Elijah visited Jesus. After all of that, Jesus checking out Facebook, looking through it to see who exactly did and did not share hisWho to bless01 blessings. He looks at the list of people who shared the post and automatically blesses them with everything they had prayed for because they are the good people, the wheat. The people like me who laughed at it or just rolled their eyes and moved on to the latest Buzzfeed quiz (I am 94.7% Italian, 95.223% New Englander with a midwestern accent, and should live in Minneapolis-St. Paul) are the chaff and will have no blessings from Jesus and, if the meme is correct burn for all of eternity.

I make light of this because it is Facebook’s version of a chain e-mail, “Share this and you will inherit a large sum of money!” But then I realized that there may be people who actually believe this, and truly want as many people as possible to be blessed. Which while being a very good and noble quest, is all very sad because these devout followers of Christ (something I have no doubt about) actually see God as fickle, blessing some while ignoring others for the most random, and varied reasons. Like not liking a meme that promises blessing and grace.

I recall many years ago when I was in the Air Force I ran into a very devout Evangelical. He really wanted me to join him for Wednesday night bible study and then for Sunday services. Even though I was not a practicing Catholic, I was still uncomfortable because I still considered myself Catholic. When he asked why I could not join him for bible study I told him that I was going to the Monsters of Rock festival in Mannheim. He was taken aback and was sure my soul was damned because I was so excited to attend this concert of devil worshippers who sang the joys of Satan (I’m still trying to figure out how Bon Jovi does that). Well, a group of us went anyways and had a great time seeing such bands as the Scorpions, Def Leppard and Ozzy Osbourne. After the concert though I began to think about his words and they rattled me. Truthfully, they scared me. I did not regularly attend mass and so when I made an appointment with the base priest, I was scared he was going to damn me to hell for going to the concert and for not going to mass.

On the day of the appointment I went to the Chaplain’s Office and was greeted by a very nice Staff Sergeant who offered me some coffee and let Father know I was there. I was pleasantly surprised with his attitude and his kindness; a kindness that helped me get back to mass on a more regular basis. He said to me, “Do you think that God, who blessed those song writers with the ability to write and string together musical notes would then turn around and condemn anyone who actually enjoyed what was created from that gift?” For a 21 year old Airman First Class who was thousands of miles away from home, his words were comforting and reassuring. We talked more about music, the gifts God blessed us with, and even his own taste in music (the Doors). His words though, helped me to realize that God does not judge us on random and odd things such as the music we listen to or the authors we read. Not because I chose to go to the Monsters of Rock instead of Wednesday night bible study, or because I refuse to share, like or amen a meme demanding I do this or else.  He judges us on how we better the world he left us. He judges us on how we follow the Gospel message his Son taught us.

So I have a suggestion for everyone who thinks it is a good idea to continually post these memes:

God isnt fairy godmother

God is a lot of things, but he is not a fairy godmother with a magic wand spreading pixie dust for the good and randomly cursing the bad.

A New Word to Detest…Change.

changes04Several Bishops of the Catholic Church are currently having a meeting in Rome known as a Synod. The topic is focused on reconciliation and ministry to those who are on the fringe. I know, it is the 21st century, who could possibly be on the fringe? Unfortunately in our Church the LGBT community, divorced, civilly married and remarried couples feel that they are not welcome at our Lord’s Table. Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago stated as much in an interview with the Catholic News Service. He stated that the Synod Bishops were talking about all of these issues, many of the bishops having very different opinions and ideas as in how to welcome/invite back to the Church many of the above mentioned people. These topics have sparked a torrent of emotions, opinions, and charges that if there is significant change, the Church will be in error. Just because once again, the Church guided by the Holy Spirit realizes that we need to make changes if we are going to make it through the 21st century. I know that sounds dire but, if we are going to be a relevant, important part of society, then we need to understand society. We need to understand that, and I know I am going to upset some people who read this but, change is inevitable; even in the Catholic Church.

Change03Now, I know from reading through my Facebook newsfeed and reading articles from both traditionalist and progressive Catholics, change is a very difficult thing. Further, regarding the more traditional Catholics, many believe that the Church should not change with the, “fickle winds of society.” Certainly the Church must hold fast to foundational doctrines that make us Catholic; but with many of the moral teachings, as in the past, change or to, “Open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and people can see in.” is warranted given the changing nature of society. In other words, we should not be a Church that is reactive to the change; that usually entails harsh statements and chastisements. No we as a Church should be proactive and listen to society and with prudence embrace some of the evolving social mores of society.

While it has been almost 12 years since I graduated from the Theological Union, I recall that the first few years after the Resurrection saw change in who was allowed to be a part of the Community and the requirements for entry. Initially only Jews were allowed as Disciples, and then when Gentiles were evangelized this changed so that non-Jews did not have to convert to Judaism. Also in that time frame the Christian community would gather and have an hours long, celebration of prayer, scripture lessons, a meal, and then a collection (Yes I know, some things will NEVER change). Everyone was welcome, those who had and those who had nothing. As the Christian community began to grown, the larger groups broke off into smaller groups; these groups began to be led by a presbyter and because the presbyter was needed in several small communities, the celebrations were shortened. I believe that would be called, “change;” (I know, I know, that word again). As the Christian community grew and spread to different lands, the way the Eucharist was celebrated changed with each community. The words used, the language, and the prayers were all adapted for each area where the Church grew. I will not drone on and on with a history lesson but, after a thousand years the Council of Trent came along and pretty much codified how to celebrate mass, and gave us one language, Latin, one set of prayers, and, just as important, the Council also changed and tweaked our Moral Code. After that a few hundred years later the Second Vatican Council once again made substantial changes to the Church and to the doctrine. See? There actually was change in the Church, big change.

Even though there is proof that the Church has changed over the years, many people are terrified that it will once again change in a way that they seem to believe is wrong. I personally don’t see what is wrong with inviting back to the Table divorced and remarried Catholics, yes, even the ones who have not gone through the annulment process. I see nothing wrong with inviting to our table the LGBT community and their spouses. And their children. Actually, it is important to invite all Catholics who feel they are prepared to receive communion to actually receive it. I had a very wise senior friar once tell me that, “If you piss off the parents, you not only lose them, but their children. Once the kids aren’t coming, they probably won’t ever return. Which means you also lose their kids. All because you acted like a shit head.” He was old and did not think he needed a filter. A few more years and I’ll have my excuse.

Changes01In the end, it is up to the Holy Spirit to inspire and encourage the bishops at the Synod to make the changes that we need; changes that will include all people at the Table, and invite those on the fringe to return home. I believe that in order for those people who have left because of hurt feelings, or who were told they were going to burn in hell because they either loved someone of the same sex or remarried after a divorce, change needs to occur. As a Church there is no way around that fact; we cannot continue on with “business as usual” if we want to grow and thrive as the Church founded by Christ. And for those who are terrified of change, who think we’re all going to hell in a hand basket, led by our bishops, relax! Everything changes, it has to, it’s just the way it is.