The Gift of Father Gordon J MacRae and Pornchai Maximilian Moontri

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These spiral notebooks of blank, lined pages were envisioned and created and sent to me by Father Gordon and Max and dearest Charlene Duline (my all time favorite State Department diplomat who also totally spoils Laudie-dog and Shadow-dog).

I’m wondering what they have in mind with these notebooks, as they have at other times said in all humor and in all truth that “Father Byers doesn’t have an unpublished thought.” Ha ha ha.

When I was doing my doctoral thesis, and when I was writing my first[!] novel, I used to carry around paper and pen everywhere, no matter what. After all, you never know when ideas, when solutions to impossible conundrums are going to pounce on heart and mind. I many times had to control myself from stopping mid-step while crossing busy Roman streets so as to jot down some notes. Many times I could be seen writing notes while driving a scooter on the way to some Missionaries of Charity house outside of Rome to say Mass early in the morning. But with the pictures and titles of these note-pads, what could the message possibly be?

Anyway, it is they, Father Gordon and Max who are themselves gifts to me. Both are the most extraordinary people, so balanced, so humorous, so insightful, having not only the wisdom of suffering while at the same time always coming to know Jesus’ friendship all the more. I do not know where I would have been without them. Jesus is good and kind in granting that we help each other get along to heaven.

Anyway, anyone have any ideas about what is intended to fill the pages of these note-books?

The subtitles to the books: TheseStoneWalls.com /// MercytotheMax.com

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Do Polices Lives Matter in Andrews?

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I went up to our tiny “police station” (more like a couple of rooms in “city hall”) last week to invite our new police force to the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry which raises funds for some really good charities. This picture was taken through the exterior door which may as well have been welded shut months ago for all the times it has ever been opened, like never. That’s not really a complaint. We’re just going though some tough times. People can only do the possible.

As I found out, it’s useless to invite anyone to anything on a Friday as no one is even in-state on Fridays, and none of the police work on weekends, ever. Talk about an invitation to make Andrews a weekend playground for criminals, either locals or out-of-state knuckleheads. Friday through Sunday are the most busy days for our drug factories / distribution centers. But, I hope, that is about to change quite radically.

As seems to happen a lot, everything has changed once again:

  • The chief was given an ultimatum the other day (I’m not saying that was a bad idea given some difficult logistics but conditions should have been laid out before he was hired) and so he up and quit, along with another full time officer (who was subject to the same logistics; and it’s all and only about logistics). The ex-chief will stay on as a part-timer (keeping his cred that way, rightly) but the other guy is gone altogether (though he also keeps his cred by way of the now ex-chief, rightly).
  • There are plans to do some other hiring and we’ll start seeing some new faces this week. A local guy with lots of experience and lots of enthusiasm for lots of reasons will be hired as an officer. That’ll be great for us.
  • Another guy from Georgia will be getting his NC qualifications from Raleigh in these next days. I think he’s moving in-state, half-way between Andrews and his other job in Georgia. I gotta wonder, though, with a fellow Georgia-ite quitting and the Chief from Georgia being reduced to part time, if that will make this other guy think twice about bothering with Andrews.
  • Also, a volunteer will sit at the desk in the office so that the doors might actually be open for the first time in a long time.

This will all help us to settle down a bit. It’s been crazy, and, because of that, unnecessarily dangerous for the police doing a stop or a call. It was basically useless to call in: “Officer requires assistance” or “Officer needs backup.” That situation is untenable. Even an “officer down” alert could take 15 to 45 minutes for a response. But now we might be doing a little better, perhaps. Police lives do matter. We need to act in accord with that fact. We’re getting better. We’re moving forward. That’s good. But it really shouldn’t be on a continuum scale. Either we do things with at least a minimum of safety or we don’t do them at all. Police lives do matter, don’t they? It shouldn’t be a question, just a statement.

police lives matter

I don’t want to put on another seven county tri-state Officer Down Memorial Dinner that includes tolling out the names and end-of-duty dates for Andrews Police…

Anyway, and I could be wrong on this, but I’m wondering whether this means that applications are once again being taken for another Police Chief… Anyone want a real challenge?

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Fire! On fire! It’s a fire! edition)

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The Fireman / EMT neighbor across the street gave these to a parishioner to plant next to the statue of the Immaculate Conception in the front of the rectory. How very appropriate: a fire flower from a fireman. Being a donkey myself (ancient symbol of Israel, and donkeys are always with the Holy Family), I have to wonder if there is such a thing as a donkey flower. There is such a thing as a fiery Holy Spirit flower, so there must be a donkey flower, right?

flores holy spirit

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Fathers Day: “Give us money or your daughter is dead” (or NOT). Anecdote.

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Last night we had a Fathers Day party in the parish hall. Really wonderful. Packed. Lots of great fellowship. After a great meal and a “three milk” cake (that’s the best), I started chatting with one of the guys, a Mexican, you know, without papers. Today he mows lawns for a living. He told me a story about what life was like in his state in Mexico. Calling to mind commentary one sometimes hears, it seems that prejudice might dictate that he’s a criminal low-life who is illiterate, perhaps a member of a cartel, surely a drug dealer. Hah!

img_20180616_200705818~21932983618..jpgHe said he got a phone call one day. It was one of the kidnappers of his daughter. That’s the nightmare phone call no parent ever wants to get. The kidnappers wanted Mex$ 220,000.00 or they would kill his daughter. I asked him if he paid. He laughed, shaking his head in derision of my stupidity, saying “No! Never!” Instead, he himself then made a call to some friends, Mexican State Police. They then explained the matter to the kidnappers in person. ;-) His daughter was set free, safe and sound. You see, our lawn-mower friend is himself Mexican State Police with half a lifetime of experience, highly tactically trained, equivalent to one of our special ops guys, martial arts, weapons, tactics. I asked him if he would like me to have a chat with the Sheriff here. He would be a treasure for us. He jumped at the idea but wonders how the bureaucracy would work. I’m sure something can be done about his lack of papers. He’s been here some 13 years, pays his taxes and his ‘wait in line’ fees, blah blah blah. And he can get plenty of super excellent job refs from both here and the Mexican government. So… nothing is ever as it seems. He’s the guy who, instead, might be giving one of the locals a ticket or handing over a warrant. I love it. ;-)

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“Mandatory Reporting” of Abuse Confessed in Sacramental Confession

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

– Katherine Gregory, a political reporter for ABC News (that’s Australia Broadcasting, btw), headlines this: “Catholic leaders ‘willing to go to jail’ to uphold seal of confession and not report child sex abuse.”

Wow. So, that makes it sound as if priests want to protect child abuse. No. The vast, vast, vast majority of priests are honest, have integrity of life, and are offended by those who have betrayed Jesus Christ our Lord and God and all the rest of us priests and all members of the mystical Body of the Divine Son of God who will come to judge the living and dead and world by fire.

So, this is dishonest and manipulative reporting from the outset. Irresponsible. It represents hatred of God, hatred of neighbor and, as we will see, actually promotes the abuse of those who are vulnerable.

But I’ll tell you this, people are eager – so eager – to tell all priests to go to hell with absolutely zero due process. Like Judas betraying Jesus. It is what it is in this cowardly society of tender snowflakes in which we live. Are we brave? Honest? Do we have some integrity? O.K. Let’s actually take a look at the issues then, shall we? Here’s her article with emphases and [[comments]] by yours truly.


South Australia has joined the ACT [[Australian Capital Territory]] in moving ahead with laws to force Catholic priests to break the seal of confession, to report paedophiles to police. [[No one is ever forced to do the wrong thing like breaking the seal of confession. One can always choose to face the consequences like going to prison.]]

Other states are still deliberating over whether or not they will adopt that recommendation from the royal commission. [[Another has already gone along with this. All the others are expected to follow in short order.]]

But Catholic Church leaders have rejected the idea. Father Michael Whelan, the parish priest in St Patrick’s Church Hill in Sydney, said priests would not break the seal of confession:

“The state will be requiring us as Catholic priests to commit as what we regard as the most serious crime and I’m not willing to do that,” Father Whelan said. [[That’s just a lot of bluster. He is willing to do this, but in a more idiotic manner, as we will see…]]

The New South Wales Government has said it would respond later this month about whether priests would be legally obliged to report confessions of child sex abuse.

“I expect every jurisdiction in Australia now will follow that recommendation and I expect the church throughout will simply not observe it,” Father Whelan said.

Asked if the Catholic Church was above the law, he said:

“Absolutely not, but when state tries to intervene on our religious freedom, undermine the essence of what it means to be a Catholic, we will resist. The only way they [the states] would be able to see whether the law was being observed or not is to try and entrap priests.” [[That would be right. But confessionals have been bugged in New York by the FBI. I was personally asked by the Italian Department of Defense to do this for them. I did not do this! Communist China regularly sends agents to “confess” to, say, subversion, like planning something like the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. If the priest doesn’t immediately intercept the “penitent” and drag him to the police for torture and death the priest himself will be sent off to re-education and labor and prison camps where bad things like torture and death take place.]]

Father Whelan said he was “willing to go to jail” rather than abide by a law. [[But not really. Watch what he does:]] An alternative, if a priest hears a paedophile confess sins of child sexual abuse, would be to “stop them immediately”, says Father Whelan:

“I would say, ‘Come with me now, we will go down to the police station in order for you to show that you are remorseful’,” he said. [[Well, sugar. That’s the same as breaking the Seal of Confession. Even worse. This makes priests into Law Enforcement Officers because they are priests. I can see it now. The priest and therefore police officer with divine mandate causes a huge scene, tackling, fighting, hand-cuffing, pepper-spraying, tasering, and, if there’s resistence that turns into a life endangering fight (which it might at the first suggestion of a police station), shooting the guy until the threat stops. Yep. I can just see it now, all those priests so highly trained in interrogation and take down techniques, verifying IDs (impossible), arresting the worst criminals in society and singlehandedly bringing them down for a public interrogation, confession and absolution. That’s realistic. Not. Can you imagine? Does that also refer to anything else that would be against the law? Murder, theft, illegal parking? Where do we draw the line? Is any confession to be private?]]

NSW Labor senator Kristina Keneally, who is a scholar of theology[[!]] and a Catholic[[!]], said church [[definite article?!]] could not put itself above the law, but mandatory reporting was not the most effective way to prevent abuse. [[She sounds reasonable so far, but watch this, she’s going to capitalize on the suffering of real victims to get her ideology accepted:]]

“I would look to ordination itself, I would look to who we ordain,” she said. “I have no doubt that if more women and more parents were involved in the leadership of their Catholic Church, that the problem of child sexual abuse would not have been as big as it was and would have been dealt with far differently when it came to light within the institution.”

========= The rest of what follows are my comments:

Did you see the clever switcheroo in this last bit? What we’re talking about statistically is, say, a layman going to confession for committing abuse (pretty much 100% of that being incest) and whether the priest should bring that fact from the confessional to the police. But this politician all of a sudden takes the confessional out of the picture and implies that the whole problem rests with priests and that women and parents are always innocent. That sounds like guilt speaking, the ol’ projection of one’s own guilt trick. As it is, incest stats are staggering. The Atlantic has this:]]

“Here are some statistics that should be familiar to us all, but aren’t, either because they’re too mind-boggling to be absorbed easily, or because they’re not publicized enough. One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18 [[I think those gender-stats are in reverse…]], an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. [[“Overwhelming” – “Within the family”]] These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, ‘and this is a notoriously underreported crime.’”

============ Some other points:

  • The priest has no right to what is said in Confession. This belongs to Jesus who shed His blood to forgive sin. If the priest betrays this it seems to me that he takes on the guilt of those sins himself. You won’t want to see the punishments he will receive in hell. If the State tries to get this information, recording this or whatever, it seems to me that the same dynamic holds. Whoever it is in the State doing this will take on those sins before God. Yep.
  • The Seal of Confession is absolute, between the penitent and God. What’s said in confession stays there.
  • The priest is not a law enforcement officer (and even if he was, he still wouldn’t have a right to this information).
  • There is often a screen between priest and penitent, and so the priest doesn’t know who it is anyway.
  • The mention of the crime may not be by the perpetrator, but by the victim, who is asking for advice on how to bring this to police and how to find some peace with God and neighbor.
  • If there is mandatory reporting for some sin, the result will be that either there is public confession of all and any sin or no confession at all. It is what it is.

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Filed under Abuse, Confession, Missionaries of Mercy

Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (purity of heart agility of soul edition)

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These were outside one of the hospitals to which I bring my parishioners hours away from these back ridges of Appalachia. That’s pretty much my life, bringing others to hospitals, or visiting them there.

We suffer because of the effects of original sin. I tell my suffering parishioners that I’m catching up to them, and hope there will be someone to bring me or visit me when I do catch up.

In the midst of all this weakness, we can still have the purity of heart and agility of soul which the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception had the right in His own justice to grant to us in His abundant mercies, the Innocent standing in the place of the guilty. I just never tire from repeating those words. If we only knew, if we only had a tiny inkling of the meaning of His wounds, how much God loves us, how very much. For God to be merciful, He has to be just. We see justice wrecked upon us in the effects of original sin. We also see the justice of the mercy in the justice of Him standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. He takes upon Himself the punishment we deserve in justice. He thus can and does have mercy: “Father, forgive them,” He said as He died.

This is an “incarnational truth.” Is God an abstract notion of our own imagination somewhere out in outer space so that, in that way, we are “connected”, “spiritual,” when we just go off into nirvana, nothingness, individuality so radically cut off that we are also just nothing, a nice experience of pure escapism? That makes anti-Incarnation theologies seem rather idiotic, right? Yes. Better to be realists, with reverence before the Incarnation of the Son of God who bears our wounds on His body.

We learn to have some purity of heart and agility of soul when we have some bit of reverence and humble thanksgiving before Him for the justice, then the mercy. With that purity of heart and agility of soul we might then also get a glimpse of what the Immaculate Conception must have understood of what those wounds of her Son mean for her own redemption (that she might be the Immaculate Conception), and what those wounds mean for us. Such a strong woman!

She takes in all of that reality from which we all run away. Remember that short verse (Mark 14:50)? “And they all abandoned Him and ran away” (just five words in Greek). “Abandoned Him.” “Ran away.” So, some flowers for her, who stayed, who was in solidarity with Him as He was in solidarity with us, not afraid of His Incarnation, she being His mother. Once a mom, always a mom:

Mary foot of the cross

Staying there, below the cross… That’s purity of heart and agility of soul.

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I grew up with guns. Am I bad and evil if that is my experience in life?

george byers jr vmb 611

I notice in this WWII Pacific Theater bombing squadron picture that dad was carrying his service revolver just above the USMC 1219C2 combat knife (later branded as KA-BAR). The revolver is where we differ. I like my first and only handgun (still less than two years old as of this writing), in this case, a pistol, a Glock 19 Gen-4. Perhaps I’m wrong about that choice, but I would like to get proficient with that first before even trying to shoot something else. Proficient for me means 100% tight group cold barrel for both the FBI and the pre-2001 FAM-TPC, every time, way under time, even in adverse conditions. I’m nowhere near that, though I am now getting consistent passes, from 90 to 100%.

Anyway, at home, besides his service revolver, dad had a .22 long rifle for varmints (what we called pocket gophers), a 12-gauge shotgun for clay pigeons (which he only did with friends who liked to do that), a “deer rifle (.30-06) for, well, deer (he liked to do that). Outside of the revolver, these others were used quite a bit right into my teenage years. I never shot the revolver. In fact, they all disappeared (nefariously, I think), except for the .22 long rifle.

corsair bataan

The Vaught F4U Corsair (fighter-attack) dad flew for so very many years was basically a flying machine gun. Besides up to six .50 caliber wing mounted machine guns, some models could have 4-20mm cannons and rockets, bombs and extra fuel tanks. In the picture above on the USS-Bataan aircraft carrier, you can clearly see the six .50 caliber machine guns (three each wing) with a couple of guys getting ready to load up ammo in the bays. Dad’s the guy looking on nearest the prop. Dad’s “Checkerboard” Corsairs were the A-10 “Warthogs” of his day.

So, is all this bad and evil? Let me ask that another way: Did not John the Baptist give spiritual advice on saintliness of conduct to soldiers even of occupying forces? Yes. Therefore…

Moreover, defense of the innocent is a positive contribution to the virtue of justice for the common good. Defending life and limb of innocent individuals against unjust and catastrophic aggression is always in favor of the common good. That doesn’t mean anyone likes to participate in such conflict and bloodshed. That doesn’t mean you intend to kill anyone. You bring the threat to a stop because the threat is extremely gravely unjust.

We live in a fallen world. Some people, while admitting that, think it will all be magically better if we simply lay down our arms and let occupying forces rape and pillage and slaughter us. Some people want to disarm the police. I would listen to them if they were to sign up as LEOs and get assigned to the most violent hoods in Chicago and Baltimore and they were to go in without any weapons. They would last – what? – ten minutes? Probably not even that. Truth be told, these anti-gun people are cowards and/or want to see good people die continuously. Tender snowflakes want as much unjust death as possible. Yep.

But, back to my question: “I grew up with guns. Am I bad and evil if that is my experience in life?” Answer: I think this experience has introduced me, gently, slowly, to the realities of this fallen human world, and I think that is a good thing. You can’t do anything about injustice unless you have been introduced to it. Being in denial is not solving the problem. Being in denial is making certain that the problem grows.

 

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Trump: “Strzok in HR is even worse!”

spy vs spy

This morning Trump told Steve Ducey for FoxNews that Strzok’s continued employment in the FBI, and now in Human Resources, is even worse than the previous situation. I feel vindicated for the following comment I made already some four months ago on Strzok being moved into HR, a manipulation which seems so malicious that those hired, promoted or moved about by Strzok should have a cloud over them until they are re-vetted after Strzok is entirely removed from government service:

How Peter Strzok is set to destroy FBI working in human resources division

  • Back in the day, regional centers of the FBI vetted and chose and assigned their own personnel. This has changed. Now everything is done from on high. This means that if you have a guy who is corrupt dealing with human resources, he might well be able to maneuver his own style of agent into various positions throughout the Bureau. Since this plays the long game, although it’s not very glamorous, it is arguably one of the most influential positions in the entire agency.
  • Peter Strzok, accused of stacking the deck politically regarding personnel in significant recent investigations, was “demoted” from Chief of Counterespionage and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence down to human resources, but that’s not really a demotion is it? No. In the long game, it’s much more influential.

///// That comment above, btw, was picked up by the FBI’s CJIS, namely, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services [“Fairmont”] (that’s interesting), and then by what seems to be a most influential conservative think tank, that is, for policy within the present administration. ;-)

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Double Rainbow on Flag Day

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I’ve been needing to replace my American Flag outside the Rectory for a long time now – too long – and Flag Day was my excuse to make the 30 mile round trip to Lowes to get a new flag and flag pole. I mention Lowes because, unlike Walmart, Lowes always has patriotic stuff for a decent price (waaaaaaay lower than Walmart) and allow collections by the military for great causes, USMC’s Toys for Tots for example.

Anyway the ray of sunshine in the picture above (taken yesterday evening on Flag Day) crosses the thin rainbow, and then a second one, much wider but much less visible (both crossing the front of Jenny the Jeep).

Again I think to Joyce Kilmer’s Fighting 69th Rainbow Division and the book Father Gordon wants me to read, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six.

Note on Flag etiquette: The American Flag always takes its own right in position, or a higher posting. The flag of the Holy See on the far side signals a controversy, or does it? To whom do I owe primary allegiance? I do recite the American Pledge. Notice that it includes the phrase “under God”. I cite Sir Thomas More: “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” That’s not inconsistent with patriotism and loyalty.

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Why are you in *that* parish, thus removed from the life of the diocese?

Holy Redeemer church

You have heard that it was said that bishops should politicize appointments of priests by capitalizing talk of “plum parishes” and “difficult parishes,” blah blah blah. And some bishops do that, moving priests to punish or reward them. Sometimes people our ask our great bishop why a certain priest is in a certain parish, city or mountain, proximate or remote, with a strained history or not, and his invariable answer is that he puts his best priests into such parishes, all of them.

Before I was assigned to any parish in the diocese I had quite an extended discussion with the bishop about the state of affairs in this most remote vicariate being that I had some years of experience here before I belonged to the diocese. I was, then, of course, assigned to this most remote of parishes in this vicariate. Before it was something made popular by Pope Francis, who said that the best priests should be assigned to the most remote parishes, I said that the best priests should be assigned to the most remote parishes. I’m not the best priest, but the bishop appreciates irony. And, as I say, his forever-response to such things is to say that he puts his best priests in all his parishes, never distinguishing a parish as being this or that. Indeed, the *life* of the diocese is fully to be found in every corner of the diocese. I fully agree.

It’s true that the personnel committee that assists the bishop in placement of priests sends out a questionnaire to all the priests every year asking them if they like parishes with no other priests or with many priests, parishes in a city or away from a city, with hospitals, schools, nursing homes or not, etc. My one time answer was that I love all aspects of priestly ministry and have done pretty much every ministry imaginable as a priest in pretty much all conditions. The members of the Body of Christ are everywhere in all conditions and I’m available for that. Here, I spend really a lot of time bringing parishioners to the hospitals round about. Most hospitals in the area are not certified to do pretty much of anything. These parishioners are old with no family and no finances. All the real hospitals are two hours away, some out of state in Georgia and Tennessee. Though some in Asheville or between Asheville and Hendersonville. This was especially fun in the 1987 Toyota pickup:

toyota pickup

So, here I am and I’m loving it all. This is not a typical parish but, then again, there is no typical parish. When some people ask the question – “Why are you in that parish?” – they mean it as a kind of back-handed compliment, you know, the old you have so many talents BUT you’re way (the hell) out there and therefore you must have done something to get some people disgruntled with you! Well, that is absolutely certainly true. I never hesitate to participate in the old speak truth to power thing, enough to make priest friends really, really, really upset with me, telling me what the results will be and telling me what a fool I am. Whatever. I can’t be hurt no matter what retaliation is brought to bear wherever I happen to be in world at any given time, in Oceania, in the Middle East, in western Europe, in eastern Europe, in Central or South or, for that matter, North America. I love everyone and everything everywhere. So, is it a punishment to be put somewhere, anywhere? Gosh! I just never noticed, ever. And, anyway, I’m a priest forever, and that can’t be taken away, not ever. So, what do I care about anything in this life except that I myself try to do the will of God wherever and however I happen to be?

And then there are the priests who call me up to tell me of all the dramas they have in their parishes and I tell them that I’m so happy to be in my little parish! But, of course, as I say, I would be most happy to be in those parishes as well. It is what it is in this world, wherever we are in whatever circumstances with whatever people wherever they are in their lives. Because that’s what Jesus does when He’s up on the cross: “When I am lifted up on the cross I will draw all to myself.”

UPDATE: A comment came in that I was bidden not to publish (that’s the case with lots of comments and emails etc). But I can’t resist saying that the person said that I was, in fact, perfect for this parish in every way. Meanwhile, just to say, when I covered the Cathedral alone for nine days some years ago now, it was told to our great Bishop right in front of me that the Cathedral parish would be perfect for me. Meanwhile, I think pretty much any priest is perfect for any parish if he simply tries to let the priesthood of Jesus shine through, so that like John the Baptist, the priests recedes so that all can see Jesus alone. I wish I were more like that: All Jesus! All Jesus! All Jesus!

 

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Lourdes has lots of water…

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Dad died June 11 1993

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I was threatened with a possible law suit a while back should I put up pictures of my dad, threatened by someone who, it seems, wants to erase his memory, his very existence. I wonder if other WWII / Korean War veterans families are getting this kind of smack-down. Anyway, should I get the actual descriptive citations for his two Distinguished Flying Crosses, I may be posting even more pictures. One of our “full-bird” Colonels in the parish is making some good progress on this for me. I have a lot of respect for my dad. I don’t think that that’s a bad thing in a time when dads are dissed by all and sundry.

What’s my best memory of dad? you ask. It has to do with the Most Blessed Sacrament and Altar Rails and the Cathedral of my home town. R.I.P. Dad: Best memory…

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Update: pickled pigs feet? edition)

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So, there it is. A number of readers, whether by phone call, in a comment, or otherwise, have let me know that this is Chimaphilia maculata.

“Maculata”, you know, as opposed to “Immaculata.”

“Maculata” (“spotted”), you know, as opposed to “immaculata” (“unspotted”).

Here’s the deal, the leaves are variegated, not spotted. The flowers are so entirely pure white that it seems that they lack all color.

The reference to “spotted” or “impure” seems to refer to the fact that each anther of each stemen looks like a cloven hoof of a pig.

In the Scriptures, pigs are symbols for demons. Unfortunately, bacon is the ultimate forbidden food, well, until Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles. But anyway, if anything has the symbol of “impure” or “spotted”, it’s a pig, even though they themselves try to be fairly clean as they wallow in the mud.

I’ve seen these variegated leaves everywhere around the hermitage, with these pair of plants within eyeshot of the hermitage, amidst the hundreds of Showy Lady Slippers. But I’ve never seen these in bloom. They are quite amazing.

So, why give these seemingly compromised flowers to the Immaculate Conception? Well, because she interceded for us under the cross when all of us pigs needed redemption and salvation. There she stood under the cross, marked by the blood of the Lamb. There she sat under the cross, marked by the blood of the Lamb. We should recognize what she did for us, and thank her.

pieta

Hail Mary…

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DC DMV & Fr Byers CIA vs Main State

Back at the end of 2016 I had written a post thanking whoever it was had paid for my parking ticket in DC when I was visiting Main State. In the comments section of that post I mentioned that it seems The Company paid for that ticket (as only they could), seeing that they visited the blog at the same time I had tried to pay that ticket and at the same time as I was putting up that post. Were they trying ever so nicely to send me a hint that The Company was claiming the credit of paying the ticket to show how nice they are? I like that. Very cool. But was that an accurate interpretation of their “visit”?

Not long after that, while researching Main State a bit, I came across a video of seminar given by a guy who doesn’t belong to Main State, but has an office at Main State, who does stuff in all sorts of countries right around the world and is often in the middle of policy mixed up with some pretty aggressive action, with that CV usually belonging as a cover to a CIA guy (as I found out just the other day from […]. It is what it is. That video seminar guy (a recruiting video for his office at Main State) is the one I had seen when I first saw the parking ticket. He was in the car behind me. He’s obviously the guy I was originally supposed to see at Main State. So, then I gave that guy credit for paying my ticket, but later I had marked that latter post “private” for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, yesterday, going some hundreds of miles to bring a parishioner to a hospital near Asheville, we were having a conversation about spooky stuff, you know, CIA, FBI, et alii. I mentioned this parking ticket story, giving credit to whoever for paying the ticket for me. Right after that, as I was to find out perusing my phone in the waiting room of that hospital, that first post got a direct hit with a provenance just outside the doors of the George Bush Intelligence Center, HQ of the CIA. Hahaha. ;-) I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence. As always. Just my ever so fertile imagination.

But the phone thing is weird. I had all tracking and whatever turned off a few months ago on my phone. I got a call from the head of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest crowd , wanting me to possibly head up the centennial memorial service coming up on July 30. O.K. We then hung up. At the time, I was no where near that Memorial Forest, nor had I been. Seconds later I got a communication from Google saying that since I was obviously an authority on the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest[!], could I answer a few questions for them. That says a lot about voice to text algorithms.

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“Fr Byers, we think you should read…”

amazon account

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/O5RNK584SFAF/ref=cm_go_nav_hz

In a recent post I mentioned that Father Gordon MacRae said I would do well to read Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, something about the exploits of a counterterrorism unit surely named after the famed Rainbow Division of World War I which would itself inspire the founding of that which was the inspiration for the founding of the CIA.

The polite yet incisive response to that, without exactly dissing that reading recommendation, offered this:

“If you have an amazon account, we can send you whatever we think you should read” (adding a smiley face).

Not being much of a techy, I respond with the link above to a public wish list which for many years has been entirely empty. I’m not sure if people can just put things on that list or not…

Mind you, I’m the most un-well-read priest in the world, in world history. People of all stripes and backgrounds and cultures have been trying to get me to read this and that all my life. Father Gordon is only the most recent. There have been so many priests and bishops, Cardinals, laity… Seminarians at the last place I taught created an extensive “must read” list of pages, categorized into ancient works, poetry of the ages, classics of all kinds, modern, from a century to a handful of centuries ago, all must reads without which I should just curl up and die a most miserable death, utterly useless to all and sundry. This almost broke up a friendship with the most-well-read priest in Australia, who would start every conversation with me with: “Hey! Have you read….?” Grrr.

I am stubborn. But I can try. I can have good intentions. But you’re dealing with a donkey here, with ears laid back, wary, not understanding, eyes glazing over… (add smiley face).

On the other hand, I do have a good example from bygone days. My mom. She was a voracious reader. Read. Read. Read. As a little kid I was dragged along to the library with her, which I dreaded, as I would be tasked by carrying the book bag, in and out, I’m guessing thirty pounds worth each way (that’s a lot for a pipsqueak kid), every week. Of course, if I didn’t tumble down the granite staircase in front of the magnificent library of old, I was also pretty proud of myself. So, I can at least say I’ve been around libraries a lot. Oh, and then there’s this, with me still wearing my crippley boots:

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I can handle whatever in English, Italian, Spanish, French. German (unpracticed since highschool) would slow me down quite a bit. I liked it then, but in Rome it was a pain to brush up on. Germans make up words on the fly. I like that, but, still. At this time I would struggle with anything in modern Hebrew, though I’ve been listening to some videos in Israeli Hebrew with its particularly unique pronunciation. Memories! There are other languages, but, be easy on me. If this is about trying to get me to read, make it super easy. Make it English. U.K. English is fine…

Meanwhile I go back to editing Father Gordon’s article for These Stone Walls this Wednesday…

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Calling people names? WWJD? Hah!

JESUS I AM

You have heard that it was said:

“Name calling ends the conversation. It is rude. It is counterproductive. It’s not what Jesus would do. It’s not what the saints would do. It is not Christian. It’s plain mean. It makes for enemies, not consensus.”

However, name calling can be a good and holy thing, so that, even though it is hurtful to pride and emotions, it just may be an occasion to assist someone in the salvation of their souls. Having hurt pride or hurt emotions is nothing compared to suffering eternal damnation, or being in purgatory for any length of time at all. Take note that this charitable aspect of some name-calling is to be found in the Sacred Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, both in Old and New Testaments. Take note, in particular, of the Gospel of Matthew, where we find the holy name-calling of the greatest of all the prophets, John the Baptist (3:7-12 – rsv), he being a saint, with his name-calling geared to repentance and salvation of souls. Mind you, he does this precisely as the forerunner of Jesus:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Sometimes, this greatest of prophets is called an old meanie, and dismissable with the anti-Semitic statement that he is merely Old Testament, full of justice lacking mercy (which is not justice), so that there is then an insistence that Jesus, instead, was nice. Let’s recall some name-calling wrought by Jesus Himself (Matthew 23:13-38 – rsv):

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, `If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity.

You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

I remember a priest, many, actually, who said:

“We are now beyond John. We are now beyond Jesus. They were then. We’re now. We better because we live today. We are a post-Ascension New Testament people. So, let’s see if post-Ascension Saint Paul was shy about name-calling (Romans 1:18-32):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.

They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.

Whew! Saint Paul says such things not because he is hateful, or “homophobic”, but because he loves all and is in anguish that all be saved, if possible. Recall his success in this new evangelization (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – nab):

Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

So, can name-calling be charitable? Indeed. It can be a spiritual work of mercy essential to the new evangelization.

Saint John the Baptist and Jesus Himself turned the world upside down for the greater honor and glory of God. Turning the world upside down is not an evil, but can be a great good, done with all goodness and kindness, even if some are — hopefully only temporarily — infuriated. The entire history of salvation is loaded with glorious saints who turned the world upside down.

But what about CIC 220, you might ask, about the right of others to a good name. Yes, well, sometimes that good name was forfeited by these others by the very public actions and/or statements that they have made, so that corrective measures need to be taken, even and perhaps especially when this is not done but should be done by those who are more appropriate for the task.

O.K., but can’t there be a different, you know, nicer way to go about things, more civilized, more, well, NICE? I’ll answer that question if you can answer me these two questions: Was John sent from God, yes or no? Was Jesus sent from God, yes or no?

Is there a danger about the hypocrisy of a splinter in someone else’s eye while we have a beam in our own eyes? Yes, Jesus warned us about this as well. Some think that since we have all of us, you, me, all of us, put Jesus to death with our sins, that we cannot ever reprimand someone else. But this is just a bit too convenient. With full recognition of our own unworthiness, we can surely do this spiritual work of mercy. We had just better not forget how weak we ourselves are. Recall the frightening and yet hopeful words of Ezekiel 3,18-21 (nab):

If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, on the other hand, you have warned the wicked man, yet he has not turned away from his evil nor from his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin, but you shall save your life. If a virtuous man turns away from virtue and does wrong when I place a stumbling block before him, he shall die. He shall die for his sin, and his virtuous deeds shall not be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death if you did not warn him. When, on the other hand, you have warned a virtuous man not to sin, and he has in fact not sinned, he shall surely live because of the warning, and you shall save your own life.

Having said all that, in the end, we are supposed to call ourselves names, like “sinner”, in confession. Confession is great. It is there that we meet with a potential part of the virtue of justice, that is, mercy, as the Common Doctor says in his commentary on the sentences. Don’t delay. I love going to confession. Because I’m such a sinner. But Jesus is very good, very kind, providing us the grace to be innocent as doves, though as clever as serpents.

“Oh, but, Father George, that’s very nice as a clever study and all, but we must be prudent and actually nice to people. You get more flies with honey than with fly swatters. Calling people names takes you out of the discussion. It proves you have nothing to say, no argumentation.”

Review the name calling above, including the one about hypocrites. This is logical name calling, entirely different from, say, four letter words. We have to take people seriously and point out to them that they are on the wrong path (making sure we are repentant of anything wrong in our own lives, of course).

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Hey! A positive story on a priest friend of mine. Very cool.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/06/09/mike-kerrigan-thought-had-enough-friends-then-stranger-did-this-on-my-flight-home.html

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (a bit of color edition)

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When that bit of “extra”, in this case color, comes along, there can be a temptation to think that that is something special we are offering, when, instead, it is always the gift of Jesus to Mary. But, in seeing that, and we can participate in all that, well, that makes it extra wonderful.

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Double Rainbow

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The above double rainbow was seen after Mass yesterday evening over the rectory (the house with the sunshine shining on it). The sunshine you see on the far side of the street leads up to the Veterans Memorial.

For a long time, Father Gordon MacRae is trying to get me to read Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six apparently on the exploits of a counterterrorism unit. The problem is that I’m the most un-well-read priest in the world. I read one other book by Tom, The Sum of All Fears, perhaps exactly twenty years ago, which is about the only novel I’ve ever read in my life. The problem is to actually order it.

Meanwhile, the time draws near for the centennial memorial of Joyce Kilmer here at his memorial forest at Slick Rock in the western reaches of Graham County in the Smoky Mountains. In my opinion, Joyce should have a star on the memorial wall of the CIA for his own activities which brought him to his death. The CIA and even its forerunner were not yet founded, but there’s a pretty direct line. Another reason why the CIA has been dubbed the Catholic Intelligence Agency. Joyce was a member of the famed Rainbow Division, actually The Fighting 69th.

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SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

This is Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.). I gotta thank him for this story. It makes me recall my own dad, who also had lots of fun flying what was, in his day, back in the day, by far the fastest plane on earth. Hah. Lol. I love it. I bet he did this exact same thing, not on the West coast, but rather on the Eastern Seaboard teaching the guys to fly there. We’re getting closer to getting dad’s citations for his DFCs. Colonel “J” just had me sign some “standing” papers. :-)

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