“Maybe your guardian angel is reminding you to pray”

image

As one priest said to me the other day: “This kind of thing only happens to you.”

As the retired cop said to me while I was bringing him to the hospital early this morning, starting out about 3:00 am, “I’ve seen you have more close calls in a short amount of time than I have seen in my entire career in law enforcement.”

Here are a couple of recent incidents he witnessed while I carted him to hospitals, the first the other week and the second about 4:00 AM this morning, halfway on our trip, both within a few miles of each other…

(1) Some guy ran out on the four lane throwing an open gym bag down in one lane while jumping in front of my car in the other lane. There I was, screeching to a stop right in front of him with the traffic behind us also screeching to a halt. My cop friend said it was a car jacking in progress and I was the prey. Carrying my “carry”, well, no worries. But before I could react in any way, what seems to be my perpetual law enforcement escort appeared out of thin air, ably taking care of the situation. We got underway again, and from just that direction counted nine cruisers responding. I called in my willingness to be a witness, which was appreciated.

(2) This morning a truck came out of nowhere it seems, sped up behind us, moved way to the left, sped up so that the front of his car and the back of mine were alongside each other, and then he violently jerked his car behind mine, somehow impossibly not hitting me. The cop in my passenger seat said that he could easily have flipped our vehicle and asked me to call it in, as surely he’s going to kill someone, adding that usually everyone dies in such incidents except the perp, who simply walks away like nothing happened. I did, hating to bother the nice dispatcher lady yet again, but it is what it is.

He surmised that: ” Maybe your Guardian Angel is reminding you to pray.”

This is being written in the surgery waiting room on my phone. The doctor just came out to say it was a very successful operation, but that he would be in excruciating screaming pain when the “block” wears off. A Hail Mary, please.

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Being civilized: Can’t I just, like, you know what I’m sayin’, like, be a priest?

place setting etiquette

A priest in a far away place, a friend, thinks that any priest is terribly odd and ill-equipped for dealing with the real world if he does not always and at every time have a dinner table in a dining room dedicated to the purpose set for, say, ten guests, and in the exquisite fashion pictured above (and more so). He’s actually an excellent priest, very dedicated to everything priestly. And yet, I feel utterly foreign to all this non-barbaricness. Mind you, my mom could dress up a table for Thanksgiving much better than this and I was enthralled as a four year old little boy, feeling very special indeed to be sitting at such a table. The kids sat with the important grown-ups for Thanksgiving. But having this all the time puts me off. I feel foreign to it. It’s almost insulting. I’ve always thought that manners that were all too proper were self-serving and meant to kick others in the face. That’s not always the case, of course, just how I feel (’cause feelings are important!).

In the South American country of Colombia there is an “American Restaurant” which only serves chicken, which is served without utensils. You have to eat with your hands, because, you know, Americans are barbaric and it’s ever so exciting to go slumming every so often; it’s what cultured people do, but, you know, not really. The Colombian cultured elite could never ever eat with their hands, and so, instead of utensils, plastic food prep gloves with which to eat are supplied to the customers. I kid you not. If I ever ate there, I wouldn’t use the gloves. I just couldn’t, being, you know, a North American. My Colombian priest friends joked about going there. Ha ha ha. Even they thought that this was too much in the way of manners.

When I was teaching up in the Pontifical Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, an etiquette course was required of the seminarians. Ugghh. But, I must say, the seminarian who introduced that is now an excellent priest, very dedicated to everything priestly. I rather appreciate the manners, however, of another seminarian who was the cause of all this etiquette, for he would, say – elbows on the table – twirl a whole pork chop on the end of his fork, chomping on it occasionally as he twirled it about. I mentioned this to an old priest in Maggie Valley last night, and he said that he had the same etiquette course when he was in the seminary in the earlier part of the 1900s (he’s really old), and he liked it a lot. That he was a military chaplain his whole life didn’t take that away. I’m amazed. I must be missing something somewhere.

A South American Cardinal friend back in the day took me under his wing, with me being pitiable and uncultured. He would bring me to museums all over the Italian peninsula in an attempt to make me a man of culture. Ha ha ha. He was no match for this North-woods and now back ridge mountain boy. He was a Scripture Scholar there in Buenos Aires and environs, edging ever so slightly in the direction of marxism, surely having a certain Jorge Bergoglio as a protégé. The whole culture thing didn’t work on me at all. It’s not easy to have manners when one speaks of, say, El Che (as we did, a lot, as he knew him really well). At any rate, this Cardinal was very appreciative of – of all things – proper table manners. I think I’m just a failure with all this, never knowing which fork or spoon or knife to use when, or which glass to pour water into.

Note well that, as with martial arts and guns, you can actually never be “the best,” which is a danger. For instance, I can easily put everyone to shame with their pride in etiquette and culture by recalling being invited to a dinner at “The Bishop’s House” in Lourdes. Besides the table setting pictured above, there was a little rack next to the plates to be used to cantilever a knife after it was used, as it is never placed on a plate (which would indicate that one was done eating). At this point I start to think of the police rolling into the little town of Lourdes when the Pilgrimage of the Gypsies would take over the Sanctuaries, the fights they would get into, blood and broken bones… I would think of anything but etiquette and manners and being civilized, thinking that such things are themselves a bit surreal and odd and meant to amaze. It bores me.

Trying a different tack to get me civilized, one of our parishioners just the other day, noting Laudie-dog at the rectory, bought a pooper-scooper so that I might become a civilized dog-poop-slave. I resisted, of course, but there comes a time in life when resistance is futile. I caved. And I notice that this is happening with many aspects of my life. Am I heading in the direction of etiquette and manners and being civilized? Perhaps I am just learning not to be the odd man out so as to become all things to all men, as long as faith and morals are not jeopardized. And that’s perhaps not a bad thing, all things being equal. It’s a slow process, so I beg the indulgence of others. I hope it is not a step in the direction of political correctness.

I hope I would still do the priest thing of being a man who, by the grace of God, at least tries to be a man for all seasons, preaching the truth in charity with no respect for persons, that is, with respect for all persons, whatever office they hold, offering them what is the best of our faith and sharing the greatest love of my life, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, regardless of the consequences.

There is, however, one aspect of this barbaric child that I’m guessing that, with the grace of God, will not ever be ripped out of me, a certain cleverness that some might see as being bad and evil and be perceived as having too close an affinity to Bre’r Rabbit, who was born and bred in a briar patch, which was scorned by others but loved by himself:

Ah yes. Such a trickster. That clip was sent in by a very classy lady, who has the blessing of having all the best of etiquette and manners in the very best of ways, that is, with real class that hesitates not one second to be concerned with the likes of me, who am rather on the darkest peripheries of whatever is defined as culture.

One may indeed take such a scene to make an analogy with the irony which must be lived as a priest, the irony which explodes any pretense of out-of-place self-referentiality, the irony by which one will always be marginalized by others as being the odd man out, you know, as a way to be kept safe, away from having to bother with the irony he presents to all and sundry, both rank and file. We priests must have a sense of this irony, of Him who is Irony Incarnate, made to be sin for us, truly the odd Man out. I haven’t cited this for a while, so now’s the time:

hilaire bellocTo the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul. [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]

Even Jesus was made to be sin, right? ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν (2 Cor 5:21).

Irony is what priests are supposed to do. It’s what Jesus did. It’s the charitable thing to do. Something about justice and mercy being one in God.

Now, what was that about holding one’s pinky out when sipping a cup of tea at 4:00 PM? Perhaps the 3:00 PM experience is more important…

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Taking the Seal of Confession seriously. To go to jail or not; that is the question.

SEAL OF CONFESSION

There are many martyr priests, such as Saint John of Nepomuk, who have been put to death because they would not reveal what was said to them in the confessional. It’s not pretty:

BLUDGEONED SEAL

Sometimes Confessionals are bugged, as certain FBI totally malicious idiots had done with the confessionals in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, continuing the practice even after being reprimanded and being caught again. That is, of course, an offence against the free exercise of religion guaranteed in the Constitution. But what do some Feds care about the Constitution? I’m guessing that the Confessionals at Saint Pat’s are now swept for bugs on a regular basis. Then there is the chief liaison between Italy and the Holy See, a military attorney, who wanted to establish me in a parish in southern Italy and, as he admitted, bug the confessional if he got permission from the even higher-ups to do so. Um… No! Then there are the ecclesiastical idiots who bugged the confessional of the great Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. He was none too happy, indicating the silence that had to prevail:

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

When priests themselves violate the Seal of Confession a special kind of justice takes place, I reckon, whereby all the sins of the penitent are now attributed to the priest himself, who will be responsible for those sins at his last judgment. Besides that, already on this earth, he stands automatically excommunicated from the Church, carrying this curse with him until he repents, but even then there is every chance that he will never be readmitted to sacramental duties, but will likely be dismissed from the clerical state, “laicized” so so speak (although he remains a priest forever).

What if I were to sit on a jury for a capital crime? What if I know about the case by way of the Confessional? What if I know that the father, who is dying of cancer, takes the fall for his son who is the actual murderer? Happens all the time. Do I act on my knowledge I came about by way of the confessional?

Diversely, do I ever opt for the ol’ jury nullification? Or if ever the defendant or plaintiff would insist that they don’t know me and never came to confession to me, that wouldn’t matter, for the Seal of Confession is to be respected by the priest regardless of what the penitent says, and besides, the penitent can be mistaken, for I hear confessions all over the place, also behind a screen, and the penitents don’t even know that they went to confession to me.

Or could I ever just go ahead and poison the entire jury pool at the time of jury selection and say that I know the defendant because he came to me in Confession? Talk about a mistrial! Do I decline to be on a jury just for one case but not for another, and what does that say? Another mistrial. And what if I don’t recognize anyone among the defendants or plaintiffs at the time of the selection, but recognize the case as the unrepeatable details start to be revealed in court, and then I know I didn’t recognize this fellow because he’s been coming to confession for years but only behind the screen that we Catholic priests also use during Confession? Do I back out then, forever poisoning any future jury?

And of course, the people who can come to confession to me can be from other parishes, other counties, other states, other nations. More than that, they don’t have to be Catholics to come to Confession, but can do so as catechumens, getting ready for a Confession they will make latter. This applies to all, no matter what, even if they don’t know they may well be utterly impressed by what they experience and then later become catechumens. Also, there need not be an absolution for the seal is always present regardless; it may take many times before the penitent, even Catholic, is willing to be absolved. Non-Catholics of all kinds, including non-Christians may well want to go to a priest who is bound by such a seal, confessing as best they can, seeking a blessing, perhaps preparing in this way for an actual sacramental confession in the future so that this is actually part of that later confession. That is the way I would treat it, as that can be the way it is. Etc. Such matters of conscience are not matters for a court to decide.

Some say that I am NOT a witness, am not testifying, and so can sit on a jury to judge what was just confessed to me even moments before the jury selection, simply putting it in my mind that what I did judge in the confessional is not necessarily what I will judge in the court room. A lawyer actually said that to me, pretty much yelling at me with incredulity at how stupid I was. But, as another priest says: B as in B, S as in S.

Here’s the deal: I can certainly be a witness to the confession of a crime spoken only to me under what is effectively an oath before God in the most intimate and prayerful and reflective and voluntary and sincere of circumstances. THEREFORE: I would absolutely be ripped from the jury so as to be a witness in court by the prosecutor if this were known to be a fact.

The law in North Carolina has the pretense of trumping the Constitution, saying that the State has compelling interest over against the First Amendment to the Constitution so as to demand that a witness testify in court, particularly for a capital crime.

Do you think the defense attorney wants me on the jury? No? However merciful I might be in the Confessional, I will surely take the juror’s oath seriously lest I myself go to hell, won’t I? I’m not going to lie as a priest, am I? In the eyes of the court, should a deciding witness in a case secretly hide himself in the jury box? No? Can I speak up? No? Can I really expect to have a poker face in front of my fellow jurors when they know I may well know much more about the facts, whether I do or not, and ignore me or defer to me? No? Actually, no. My head is going to explode. I can’t ever be on a jury. This isn’t hard.

This isn’t my role in society. The Constitution, which actually trumps State law, backs me up, but this is clearly something that is now being pushed, and hard. Why?

Why would a judge, knowing all this, call me a third time to jury duty on Criminal High Court after giving me a by the first two times? The clerk of court said that this going to a third time has never happened for this reason (he has never seen this reason, ever). I don’t know; maybe the judge is just seeing if I’ll be consistent, which is laudable. If I’m not he may be obliged to judge the other trials I missed to be mistrials.

But since I am consistent in not sitting on any trial, and say hypothetically that the judge doesn’t give me a by, and possibly sends me off to jail for criminal contempt of court for refusing to sit on a jury, and this possibly with a fine, possibly with loss of any number of societal privileges… in that case, what’s actually going on?

Worst case scenario: whatever about the other penalties, if he does hold me to be in felonious criminal contempt of court, but does not take away my right to sit on a jury, and I find another summons to jury duty in my mail box after doing any jail time, and then immediately find myself back in jail, and therefore have to be reassigned as a priest out of this court district, how long do you think it will be before the other judges do the same and actually exile this citizen out of the state of North Carolina? Would this kind of persecution smashing the right to free exercise of religion be fair? No? Let’s see what happens. I should be finding out the judgment of the judge, or be called to a special hearing, within the next couple of weeks.

A good case scenario: no jail time, no loss of privileges, a one dollar fine and an encouragement from the judge to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court so as to have the law refined. As it is the law as it presently stands actually baits judges into forcing an appeal if they think that the viability of the court is being injured. The way the law is written is that it seems the viability of the court would be injured, you know, the part about the State not being able to decide between a minister and a member and so all decisions in such matters would apply to all (which is simply not the case). This would be a hassle, but it is what it is.

The best case scenario for me anyway would be that I were to be permanently excused, the judge hoping that the ruling would not be used as an excuse maliciously to get out of jury duty by anyone and everyone who doesn’t want to bother.

Or, am I missing something with “IN RE WILLIAMS” 1967?

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Going to Confession in China, or not

chinese patriotic association

In China, churches by the thousands are being defaced and destroyed by the communists of the Patriotic Ass. (an abbreviation), which also hunts down, spies on, murders, imprisons, jails and tortures the bishops and priests and laity of the underground church, sending them off to labor and reeducation (torture) camps. It is illegal for any priest to enter into a hospital to provide pastoral care regardless of whether the priest is faithful to Rome or is a freakoid marxist belonging to the Patriotic Ass. Oh, is that impolite? At any rate, there is no chance at all for the sacraments or last rites. The Patriotic Ass. was always a joke, meant as a stepping stone for something even worse.

But hey! I have an idea! Let’s give a Catholic Church to the Patriotic Ass. right here in these USA! Sorry, we already did that back in the 1990s. I spoke with those priests at some length at the time face to face and a number of times by phone. They were trying to fake like they were not the Patriotic Ass., but finally admitted it:

  • “It’s complex,” they said, just as they had been trained.
  • “But how can you enjoy all the benefits of having a church and car and the nice things of life when you know that your fellow bishops and priests and seminarians are being hunted down, spied on, murdered, imprisoned, jailed and tortured, and sent off to labor and reeducation (torture) camps?” I asked.
  • “It’s complex,” they said, just as they had been trained.
  • “Who am I to judge,” said I, “not being in dire circumstances in China, but I do think that God gives the grace to be faithful to Him and His Church especially in dire circumstances.”
  • “It’s complex,” they said, just as they had been trained, insisting that the US bishops were behind them, fully supporting them, though not saying a word about those faithful to Rome.
  • “And when you die and go before the Judge, and those martyr bishops and priests are standing next to Jesus, what complexity is it that you will offer to our Lord, who was Himself tortured to death, betrayed by His fellow priests?”
  • “I have to make a phone call,” they all agreed, running away.

Perhaps I am bad and evil, impolite and discourteous, but I’ve had this exact same conversation with priests and seminarians of the Patriotic Ass. so very many other times throughout the subsequent years, throughout the world (especially frequently at the Casa Santa Maria in Rome where they were guests) always with the statements about complexity and phone calls being made.

The phone call thing, by the way, is actually a threat. They will make a call and report who was giving them trouble, for, you see, I could be a Patriotic Ass. plant, presenting them such trouble to test to see if they will make the call or not. And I don’t say that just to be paranoid about it. This is what happens:

Say there is a priest who wants to be faithful to Rome but has caved under pressure to the Patriotic Ass., has a church and car and servants and a nice life, but is feeling guilty, which is immediately known. So, he is tested in the confessional. A fake penitent from the Chinese communist police goes to confession and confesses, say, to having recklessly endangered the lives of others by organizing a protest against the Patriotic Ass. that will be televised by foreign media. If the priest, who is bound by the seal of confession does not report that confession and that person to the police, he himself will be put into prison as a traitor. So, what does he do?

“It’s complex!” they scream, eating ice cream and smiling a sick smile. But it’s not complex. One can be faithful. No one is ever “forced” to do the wrong thing. One can always suffer. It’s as simple as saying, “Abba, Father! Not my will but thine be done.” Heaven is forever. And so is hell. It’s not about our lack of strength. Jesus lifts us up into His strength.

Oh, and the upshot of all this? Let’s all of us go to Confession regularly while we can. Let’s walk humbly with the Most High God who has walked among us. Let’s pray always.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (terribly unsophisticated edition)

flores white vine

Today in the Roman Rite there are two titles of the Mother of God assumed soul and body into heaven which we celebrate, (1) the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Extraordinary Form Calendar, and in some communities by way of indult also in the Ordinary Form Calendar (e.g., Missionaries of Charity), and (2) the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and earth, angels and men, in the Ordinary Form.

There is hardly disparity here, for she is Queen because she has an Immaculate Heart, for with that purity of heart and agility of soul she assented to be the Virgin Mother of God and also of us, for just as she is the Mother of God because she is Mother of the Divine Person of Jesus, whose human nature she brought to the light of day, so also she is our Mother in that Jesus is Head of the Body of Christ while we are the members of that Body.

shepherd boyAt the risk of being discounted as a terribly unsophisticated and naive little boy, I should like to dare you – double dare you even – on this very day to pick some actual biological flowers wherever you might find them, say, along the roadside, put them in a bitty vase with some water, and put these in front of an image of our Lady in your local church or oratory. And if there are candles which you can light, why not light one. I am indeed reminded of going with my mom to pray before an image of our Lady at our Cathedral crypt side chapel of a hand carved Pietà at two and three and four years of age. Perhaps I should just grow up, but I don’t want to do that, not ever.

Had I been more sophisticated (politically correct) in my life, I would never have been able to write about our Lady in Genesis 3:15 as being free from the sin of Adam and therefore the Immaculate Conception. I would not have been willing to be the odd man out, being the only one in the world to demonstrate how it is from the Hebrew text and against every one else that the transmission of original sin is by propagation and not imitation. During my decades in Rome I must say that I never met even one active professor who believed in the doctrine of original sin. Instead, even the most orthodox “hammer of heretics” caved on this and said it was an invention of Saint Augustine (though Augustine actually opted for sin by imitation, just at a very early age just after conception). Anyway:

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CONFERENCE (pdf)

  • The above is a very short summary of the thesis with added points about the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mother of the Redeemer
  • The following audio is the recorded conference itself:

GENESIS THESIS GEORGE DAVID BYERS (pdf)

  • The above is the thesis in which all this was demonstrated from the Hebrew text.
  • This took the interest of Benedict XVI, who, while in Lourdes at the Angelus address on  14 September 2008, reversed a lifetime of thought about original sin and the immaculate conception.

Update: So, following my own advice:

flores mary

Hard to see, but there are two Palestinian donkey’s drinking water in the background.

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Angels, the weight of the glory of God, final perseverance, death and donkeys

saint michael police officer down

I’ve been posting only rarely. I’ve been screamingly busy these past number of weeks and it’s only picking up steam. I entirely blame guardian angels for this. And thank them. In my experience, the angels like arranging things and doing stuff when they know this will do good both for others and even for me. Let me give you an example.

The other day I got a call from a wonderful 191 million year old lady who is on my weekly Communion Call list. She’s way up in the backsides of the beyonds in Northwest Graham County. It’s hard to get more remote than that. Her nephew, the exact same age as me, was dying of cancer, with only hours to live at the hospice on the far side of Asheville. “Could you say a prayer for him?” she asked. “Yes. And I will go see him,” said I.

Meanwhile, right away, like clock work, as soon as one emergency was over, another one came up, things which could not be delayed with others that I had to take care of. I’m thinking the whole time about the nephew. Finally, about 8:00 PM I was able to get on my way to the hospice, stopping halfway, an hour into the journey, for the Breviary, but starting up again immediately.

I got to the main medical campus at about 10:30 PM but couldn’t find the hospice for the life of me. The campus takes up an entire mountain top and has, it seems, dozens of clinics for every ailment under the sun. No hospice. I’m now despairing, as it is now 11:00 PM. Finally, I headed down a tiny alley that seemed to go off campus straight down the mountain. There were still more clinics. Finally, the last building in the most unusual place with a most unusual name seemed like it might possibly be the hospice and it was. It’s open 24/7, of course.

No one was on duty out front. “Go to the nurses station down the hall” was the sign up on the desk. So, off I went. My friend was in the room adjacent to the nurses desk and they were happy to send me in. I’ll just relate to you a few of the events that went on in the next 20 minutes or so with this man who was filled to the brim with cancer.

His eyes were closed and he was in the death rattle which I’ve witnessed it seems a thousand times, head way back, throat way out in bulbous fashion, having difficulty breathing. I took his hand in mine and rocked it back and forth, arm wrestling fashion, but ever so gentle and reassuring. He gave plenty of squeezes, happy someone was there. Finally, I said, “This is Father George.” He opened his eyes with some effort and confirmed that that was the case and gave a little smile, closing his eyes once again, squeezing my hand in appreciation. After a few minutes, I said a long prayer for him, a prayer which is sure to set the soul on a straight path to Jesus, and looking forward to a heavenly meeting. To this prayer he added the most peaceful, all encompassing, affirmational, assenting to everything that is the will of God “Amen” I think I ever did hear. And that was through the death rattle breathing.

Saint Thomas Aquinas says that such agreement with the faith is consonant with the gift of sanctifying grace, but that the grace of final perseverance is a special gift that kicks in right at the time of death for the person either to accept or reject.

After more minutes of rocking his hand in mine I offered him something else, a joke, of sorts. If you tell a joke when someone is actively and immediately dying, it had better be pretty good. I think I had told him about this bit of humor previously, but now was the time to repeat it. I told him that I had a request of him, that I wanted to give him a message to deliver to Jesus, saying that if he was too embarrassed to say it, the whole heavenly court would say it for him, or even Jesus Himself, so he may as well go ahead and repeat my request. I told him that I had made this request, by now, to I think some dozens if not hundreds of dying people in my priesthood. By this time, he was all ears.

I said that I wanted him to tell Jesus that there’s a donkey-priest still down on earth who especially needs His watchful protection and guidance. That, of course, made him laugh, death rattle or not, as it has for everyone else. This is something that sets those who are dying totally at ease with what they are about to do, with where they are about to go, with whom they are going to meet. They are happy and peaceful, in a good place, aimed at the heavens, able to rest with no fear in the prayers that had been said, like little kids about to jump into the arms of Jesus. It is then that he died.

But there is more. A couple of things. The first is that this was all impossible without the direct intervention of the angels since early that morning and more. I had been delayed and delayed and delayed and, I must say, almost gave up and turned around fifty miles into the trip already, thinking I would never be let in at that hour of the night, and who would blame me for avoiding a further one hundred and fifty miles in the middle of the night when maybe I could see him the next day? None of these delays or my perseverance were coincidences. As soon as one thing would finish, the phone would ring. And on it went until I arrived at that precise time of his dying with those exact of amount of minutes before he actually expired. This had to be the angels, right? Well… there’s also this:

The second thing is that the angels made themselves evident, not by appearing, but – how to say it? – almost appearing. I think they were so very happy and let this be known. You have to know that the angels are part of the family and are always with us. Jesus says they behold the very face of God in heaven, and yet are with us, and that they rejoice over us being with Jesus and that we not to offend them. We must not ignore them! After this gentleman’s “Amen!” to the prayer and until he died there was a – what? – I don’t know what to call it… perhaps a visitation of sorts.

While I had his hand in mine, with me looking up to heaven (only seeing the ceiling, mind you), I received a very strong impression, very personal, very immediate, that the heavens had opened up right then and there and that the heavenly court was looking down at this spectacle of a Catholic priest and a Presbyterian layman in a hospice room in the middle of the night more than a hundred miles away from the priest’s parish. Very peaceful, though with much rejoicing, as if to say that my petition for his soul was granted by the Most High and the angels were now eager to bring him on his way. They didn’t have to wait long at all. The weight of the glory of God was upon us. His final perseverance, it seemed to me, was assured. I felt very self-conscious, thinking I was just a bit of a donkey-priest, doing only what I absolutely had to do. And not that this had anything to do with my weak prayers. The prayers of his 191 million year old aunt were always before the throne of God.

I experienced what Lewis and Short secondarily define for admīrātĭo , ōnis, f. admiror, that is, II. Wonder, surprise, astonishment. I must say that I rejoice in all this as a tiny little child.

There is a danger in writing about such things. Some might think I’m special. I’m not. Some might think the nephew who died is special. No, not really, though he did make it a campaign to let it be known that “God belongs in Graham County.” Some might think it is improper for me to write that showing love to a fellow Christian is good since they think that this offends against ecumenism because they say you can only be kind to someone who is Catholic because otherwise non-Catholics won’t become Catholic, or some other absurdity like that. Some might think that writing such things is offensive to those who are not Christian. Why? Some might think it’s simply improper to write about such things because it causes them to think about the end of their own lives and they don’t like it one bit. Ahhh…. Yes, the ol’ takin’ offense at the proclamation of the Gospel tantrum. O.K. Whatever. I just think that Jesus and His mom and the angels are all pretty cool and that we can love them and share the greatest love of our lives with others. I think that that’s not a bad thing, is it?

Having said all that, let’s all of us go to Confession and be at the ready!

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Filed under Angels, Death, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Vocations

Donkeys that don’t float downstream. Blast from the past: Fish that swim.

donkey floating

This floating donkey, seemingly with no hooves whatsoever, was seen in the pasture next to The Barn in Hanceville, Alabama. He’s not floating downstream, as it were, but purposely lets himself be drawn to the donkey whisperer (that would be me). A distantly analogous post on another long locked down blog comes to mind. Don’t be afraid. ///

fish dead floating downstream

Floating downstream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You end up in sedentary pools on the sides of the stream, clogged with other fish as effectively dead as yourself.

Mind you, it’s not that masses of people float downstream because there are no benefits. Political correctness brings it’s own perks. First off, don’t think that one doesn’t get used to floating downstream, or even to getting caught stuck in fetid eddies with fellow fish. For selfish motives, such as job advancement and popularity, the feeling of power one has with being “successful”, a “consensus builder”, one can get used to anything, and then, in fact, fool oneself into thinking that one is actually enjoying oneself. The power of it all!

I mean, just think, one only has to look at the few dead fish within one’s self-imposed, extremely limited horizon, those who are with you, floating, unmoving, pretending not to be the floatsum these have made of themselves, insisting that, if anything, in a victim mentality, they are simply jetsam, getting along like everyone else, cleverly doing what one has to do to get along as a victim in this fallen society of ours, pretending all the while not to be depressed and falling into despair, because, in all actuality, one might no longer be reclaimable again by way of confession, by way of bearing the fruits of repentance, but lost forever as derelict, beyond the mercy of God and God-inspired compassion of real men (all of which is never the case as long as we have breath: Dum spiro spero!).

I mean, just think, it’s not so bad, after a while, even if it’s a good while. Not only can we can get used to anything, we can even start to rejoice in the good points of one’s fellow rotting fish:

  • Their scales glint in the sun, a rainbow of colors. Such distraction!
  • Their stench is actually kind of sweet, complacency of lifestyle!
  • The antics of the little parasites crawling in and around them are fascinating to watch, a great passtime. I want some too!
  • There’s no stress, no change, no challenge to grow. I’ve arrived!

And besides, “Everyone floats downstream!” — which is the useless defense before the judgment of God concerning whether we go to heaven or hell, a defense made by someone who is falling into despair and calling out for help.

bear salmon

Swimming upstream is altogether different. One is swimming, sleek and agile, exercised, full of energy, in the middle of the stream, in clear, sky blue, sparkling waters. With deft, lightning movements, one navigates not just around the few dead fish one had been with, but around countless others, always more. Not a pretty sight, but one is instead enjoying enthusiastic freedom, darting in and out, here, then there, always in the clear waters of God’s grace, always in humble thanksgiving. In exhilaration, one leaps out of the water and into the sunshine, high into the air, taking in the view: Wow! Look at those mountains! How tall the trees are! Yikes! A Kodiak Bear! A monster! A demon! An agent of Satan! The bear, of course, eats whatever fish forget humble thanksgiving and trust in their own talents, conglatulating themselves for being good, putting others down as worthless, and so rejecting their own redemption by the Son of Man, the Son of God.

There are even more benefits, mind you, to swimming upstream with humble thanksgiving for God’s grace, not only avoiding the bears and avoiding dead fish (though giving them good example and wishing that they turn around), but also — and this is not selfish — but also rejoicing in the height and depth and breadth, the entire expanse of God’s intimate, joyful love for us. We come to know Him as THE FISH, in Greek, Ichtus, ιχθυς, the letters of which stand for Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior, with the last word being a translation of the first word.

fish ichtus jesus christ gods son savior

Traced out in the forest next to the hermitage. As mentioned in another post, a Baptist who grew up not far from the hermitage and is now Catholic did the same next to the hermitage the other day. He’s wanting to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Charlotte. Outreach to the local Baptists back in the days of the hermitage is bearing fruit. Thank you, Jesus.

In early centuries under Roman persecution of Catholics, the faithful would get to know each other safely by way of code… by way of tracing out a fish on the ground with a stick, ever so casually, and if the other did the same, ever so casually, one would know that one was safely in the company of a fellow Catholic.

Jesus, like Jonas, was in the belly of the whale, the earth, for three days and three nights, but then was spit out, that is resurrected from the dead. He suffered like a dead fish, but death had no grip on Him. Jesus is just that good, just that kind, to us, who have all been dead fish, floating downstream, but whom He has saved, to have us swim upstream, with Him, with agility of soul, rejoicing.

So, what does all that have to do with the seemingly floating donkey at the top of this post, the one willingly drawn to yours truly, the donkey whisperer? Well, it’s like this: Jesus is the soul whisperer, with His quiet voice, speaking into our souls, drawing us to Himself like a Star Trek tractor beam. That’s a matter of salvation and love, not at all of political correctness. We show all of our rottingness to Jesus in Confession, and then He makes all things new. And I’m very happy about that. Very happy indeed.

Also, just to say, and it always happens this way, and I already knew it would be the same this time as well… I knew that being in heaven on earth down in Hanceville at The Barn would be a God given respite, however short, for the times to come in the immediate foreseeable future. I knew I would be extremely busy, literally run off my feet, not getting back home most nights until the wee hours of the morning and having to get up hours before sunrise to start on the run again. I love begin available for my ailing parishioners. I admit I have not been all too available to write some comments about two books I’m supposed to read at the request of some, but I’m getting to that soon!

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Better late than never edition)

flores - holy souls lilies

The above is an example from past years of the fantastical lilies growing on the path up to Holy Souls Hermitage. There were heaps of them exploding into bloom this year, but by the I got there (what with such hectic hectic days being upon me) this bit of withered bloom is all I found, shrunk to 1/10th its normal size:

flores - hermitage old

So, I was a bit late to pick a flower for the Immaculate Conception on her feast of the Assumption. But, better late than never. I’m sure she appreciates that I tried and was devastated to see all that was left was this. What was really cool is that, just a couple of hundred yards from the hermitage, I was finally able to catch up with a possible future seminarian at the request of our great Judicial Vicar. We had a four hour chat which I thoroughly enjoyed. More to come. Just before this I was able to clean up the hermitage a bit more and shoot off some rounds. Some outrageous words on the Assumption are in order:

Some reactionaries think that our Lady could not possibly have actually died since dying is a result of original sin and, as we know from Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28, she was free from the sin of Adam. We could just bring East (she did die) and West (maybe she died) by citing Saint Paul about those who are still alive when our Lord comes again, that they will caught up and changed in the twinkling of an eye. See 1 Cor 15:51-53. That should be enough.

But I’m always willing to absolutely outrageous on behalf of our Lady, and so offer this: our Lady did die, not because she was subject to the effects of original sin, but because she wasn’t. Ha ha!

Here’s the deal and I’m just guessing here, but: When our Lord in the agony in Gethsemane took on the punishment of all of us sinners from Adam until the last man is conceived, He sweat great drops of blood, medically possible if this is pushed by such a massive heart attack that the outside of the heart, the pericardium, breaks, the blood flows and separates so that if, by the next day, a sword should pierce His side, out would flow blood and water.

Our Lady’s heart would be pierced with a sword of sorrow. I think this is quite literal, and that she suffered the same heart attack out of sorrow as did our Lord, a heart attack which can hardly be survived for all too long. She allowed herself to stand under the cross and behold our Lord, her Son, and she understood what she saw, for the precise reason that she had purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of vision such that we could never even hardly begin to have. The most immaculate human could not withstand the weight of the glory of God without being sundered. And she was.

John took her into his care. Not for long. He would soon enough be imprisoned. I think our Lady died pretty quickly, perhaps after speaking with Luke and Paul in what is now western Turkey.

Such a good mother have we, she who shared in our Lord’s Passion and who, like Him, is to be brought soul and body to heaven where their wounds are glorified.

Thank you Jesus. Thank you, Mother Mary.

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Fisking the CDF Instruction on Healing (2000) and Inde ab aliquot annis (1985)

LOURDES-MICHAEL

This is in Saint Michael’s chapel above the grotto in Lourdes, France.

[[ This post was article 39 in a series on exorcism I wrote while a hermit back in the day. It was published on what is now a long locked down blog. I note that while I was extremely busy this past week, someone hacked into this post on that blog. Fine. Whatever. You only have to ask. Today is also insanely busy. I got back just in time from yesterday’s foray into the peripheries as as to send out the BCC for Father Gordon’s article on http://thesestonewalls.com/ at 3:30 AM. Up at 7:00 AM for another day that promises to be just as long as were most all these past days. But I thought I would reprint this post before chasing off. I mean, I guess I should let you know I’m still alive… ]]

On occasion, yours truly receives, well, we’ll call them questions, from those who do illegitimate and dangerous things in regard to exorcism, and are upset with the advice to follow the teaching and discipline of the Church which I provide in the exorcism series found on the sidebar of the [now shut down] blog. As a response to the latest round of inquiries (sparked, I’m surprised to see, by controversies on an apologetic site or two), I respond with another addition to the exorcism series, this very post, which fisks two documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

  1. Instruction on Prayers for Healing (14 December 2000)
  2. Inde ab aliquot annis (29 September 1985)

The Instruction of 14 December 2000 was approved by the ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and shown to and approved by Pope John Paul II. This document cites Inde ab aliquot annis, which was also signed by Cardinal Ratzinger while Prefect of the CDF under John Paul II.

Why you should read this post: Because we’ll be seeing lots more exorcism stuff going on what with all the new exorcists coming on board. This will help you keep your wits about you, knowing what the Church actually says about such things amidst all the self-appointed authorities who are so disobedient to the Church (though claiming obedience all along). Let’s take a look at what the Church actually says:

========================================

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
INSTRUCTION ON PRAYERS FOR HEALING

[Let’s skip right to the disciplinary norms:]

Art. 1 – It is licit for every member of the faithful to pray to God for healing. When this is organized in a church or other sacred place, it is appropriate that such prayers be led by an ordained minister. [Since the distinction is about the place in which this happens, the logic is that it would be inappropriate for those who are not ordained to lead organized prayer for healing in a church or other sacred place.]

Art. 2 – Prayers for healing are considered to be liturgical if they are part of the liturgical books approved by the Church’s competent authority; otherwise, they are non-liturgical.

Art. 3 – § 1. Liturgical prayers for healing are celebrated according to the rite prescribed in the Ordo benedictionis infirmorum of the Rituale Romanum (28) and with the proper sacred vestments indicated therein.

§ 2. In conformity with what is stated in the Praenotanda, V., De aptationibus quae Conferentiae Episcoporum competunt (29) of the same Rituale Romanum, Conferences of Bishops may introduce those adaptations to the Rite of Blessings of the Sick which are held to be pastorally useful or possibly necessary, after prior review by the Apostolic See.

Art. 4 – § 1. The Diocesan Bishop has the right to issue norms for his particular Church regarding liturgical services of healing, following can. 838 § 4.

§ 2. Those who prepare liturgical services of healing must follow these norms in the celebration of such services.

§ 3. Permission to hold such services must be explicitly given, even if they are organized by Bishops or Cardinals, or include such as participants. Given a just and proportionate reason, the Diocesan Bishop has the right to forbid even the participation of an individual Bishop. [This, of course, has historical reference to the one time Archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, who was forbidden to participate in such things in the Archdiocese of Milan. He’s no longer Catholic.]

Art. 5 – § 1. Non-liturgical prayers for healing are distinct from liturgical celebrations, as gatherings for prayer or for reading of the word of God; these also fall under the vigilance of the local Ordinary in accordance with can. 839 § 2. [In other words, there has been so very much abuse that this had to be reiterated. Indeed, the cry is, “We can do whatever we want!” is very frequently to be heard, just as Satan’s cry of “Non serviam!” (I will not serve!) is likewise frequently heard.]

§ 2. Confusion between such free non-liturgical prayer meetings and liturgical celebrations properly so-called is to be carefully avoided. [In fact, I’ve never even once seen anything that was not confused. Have you? I mean, I’m sure it happens somewhere. Many people through the decades have tried to get me into contact with this or that healing priest. I forget their names. If they do things in a legitimate way, great! But let’s keep reading the present instruction…]

§ 3. Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism, above all on the part of those who are in charge of such gatherings, must not take place. [Jesus doesn’t like hysteria. Really, He doesn’t.]

Art. 6 – The use of means of communication (in particular, television) in connection with prayers for healing, falls under the vigilance of the Diocesan Bishop in conformity with can. 823 and the norms established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Instruction of March 30, 1992.(30)

Art. 7 – § 1. Without prejudice to what is established above in art. 3 or to the celebrations for the sick provided in the Church’s liturgical books, prayers for healing – whether liturgical or non-liturgical – must not be introduced into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours. [Wow. There. They said it. Totally cool. This happened All. The. Time.]

§ 2. In the celebrations referred to § 1, one may include special prayer intentions for the healing of the sick in the general intercessions or prayers of the faithful, when this is permitted.

Art. 8 – § 1. The ministry of exorcism must be exercised in strict dependence on the Diocesan Bishop, and in keeping with [1.]the norm of can. 1172 [which I’ll try to present in another post with a document I presented to some 150 exorcists many years ago], [2.], the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of September 29, 1985,(31) [which we will fisk below], and [3.] the Rituale Romanum (32) [which will need its own series to fisk!].

§ 2. The prayers of exorcism contained in the Rituale Romanum must remain separate from healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical. [Get it? It’s not to be done.]

§ 3. It is absolutely forbidden to insert such prayers of exorcism into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours. [And no matter how clear this is said, there will be people who will try to find loopholes. Read it: “Absolutely forbidden.” It is absolutely wrong. Nefas est!].

Art. 9 – Those who direct healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical, are to strive to maintain a climate of peaceful devotion in the assembly and to exercise the necessary prudence if healings should take place among those present; when the celebration is over, any testimony can be collected with honesty and accuracy, and submitted to the proper ecclesiastical authority. [One might find examples of the correct way of doing this in Lourdes.]

Art. 10 – Authoritative intervention by the Diocesan Bishop is proper and necessary when abuses are verified in liturgical or non-liturgical healing services, or when there is obvious scandal among the community of the faithful, or when there is a serious lack of observance of liturgical or disciplinary norms. [Great!],

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Instruction, adopted in Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 14, 2000, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

+ Joseph Card. RATZINGER
Prefect

+ Tarcisio BERTONE, S.D.B. Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary

============================================================

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

Letter to Ordinaries regarding norms on Exorcism

INDE AB ALIQUOT ANNIS — 29 September 1985

Your most Reverend Excellency,

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of prayer groups in the Church aimed at seeking deliverance from the influence of demons, while not actually engaging in real exorcisms. These meetings are led by lay people, even when a priest is present.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been asked how one should view these facts, this Dicastery considers it necessary to inform Bishops of the following response:

1. Canon 1172 of the Code of Canon Law states that no one can legitimately perform exorcisms over the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local Ordinary (§ 1), and states that this permission should be granted by the local Ordinary only to priests who are endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life (§ 2). Bishops are therefore strongly advised to stipulate that these norms be observed.

2. From these prescriptions it follows that it is not even licit that the faithful use the formula of exorcism against Satan and the fallen angels, extracted from the one published by order of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII, and even less that they use the integral text of this exorcism. Bishops should take care to warn the faithful, if necessary, of this. [“the faithful” — this speaks to individuals. The next paragraph speaks to groups. But in this paragraph 2 one sees that individuals even privately are totally forbidden to use the exorcism prayer from Leo XIII or anything extracted from it. That’s clear and strong. Disobey and you will get yourself in trouble. Disobedience is a sign of Satan’s presence.]

3. Finally, for the same reasons, Bishops are asked to be vigilant so that – even in cases that do not concern true demonic possession – those who are without the due faculty may not conduct meetings during which invocations, to obtain release, are uttered in which demons are questioned directly and their identity sought to be known. [In other words, one isn’t to go anywhere near anything dealing with the demonic, even if one is a priest, but without the required express mandate for exorcism from the bishop.]

Drawing attention to these norms, however, should in no way distance the faithful from praying that, as Jesus taught us, they may be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:13). [Exactly right. One may ask our Heavenly Father to rebuke Satan, as did Saint Michael himself. And this is how Jesus, the very Son of the Living God, told us all how to pray. Why is it that people think Jesus’ advice should be despised as worthless, or think themselves better than Saint Michael? I think that many have been misled, and that many think that they have to have power by way of doing exoricms, even to the point of disobeying the Church to do this. But disobedience is the territory of Satan.] Finally, Pastors may take this opportunity to recall what the Tradition of the Church teaches concerning the role proper to the sacraments and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Angels and Saints in the Christian’s spiritual battle against evil spirits. [Indeed, Confession is so very important.]

I take the opportunity to express my deepest respects,

Your most esteemed in Christ,

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect

Alberto Bovone
Secretary

=========================================================

At this point, some quote Father Amorth (an old friend), citing some very wrong advice, wrong in that he flies directly against the instructions of Holy Mother Church. Some are intent on making him a hero to the effect that they can dishonor him by using him to disobey the Church. That would be just so wrong. He says, wrongly, in An Exorcist: More Stories, 189-90, that…

official exorcisms are not allowed; they are reserved exclusively for the exorcist. The same holds true for the exorcism of Leo XIII, even though it is now part of the public domain. The private use of such exorcisms is another matter; at least, this is how I understand the above-cited document.

“At least, this is how I understand…” he says tentatively. Uh-huh.

The document, instead, is extremely clear and strong. There is no ambiguity. No loopholes. If you disobey, you get what you deserve for your disobedience. Why disobey? So that you can feel empowered because you yourself command Satan? Is that what Jesus told you to do in the “Our Father”? No? Is that what the Church constantly warns you not to do? Yes?

Nevertheless, some find an author from way back in the day, that is, before the legislation in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and before the Instruction and Note fisked above. Whatever. Are you going to hold one individual priest over against the present legislation and direction of Holy Mother Church. You get what you deserve for your disobedience. Disobedience is so sad, so arrogant, so — how to say it — lonely, for one is no longer listening to Holy Mother Church, nor to Jesus, the Head of that Church. Sad indeed.

And some still insist on doing exorcisms during the Sacrament of Confession, which is not only unreasonable, risking the breaking of the seal of confession, but demeans the sacrament, utilizing it for something much less important than the very forgiveness of sins. The first Instruction presented above absolutely forbids this. But some, with a true mania, insist throughout the years, that Saint Alphonsus thought that this was O.K., but they never provide a citation, or show how that was merely a suggestion to do a deprecatory exorcism, that is, one by way of request to Jesus, such as at the end of the Our Father: Deliver us from the Evil one. Moreover, even if Saint Alphonsus meant a direct command to Satan, that great saint would be the very first to desire to be corrected by Holy Mother Church.

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WAY TOO MUCH FUN with interreligious dialogue, Pope Francis, guns, guns and more guns

arrow robin hood

A bunch of the parishioners and myself went to eat at “The Hub” after Holy Mass. Pictured is the Robin Hood of the parish after the meal. As you can see, he’s pretty good with a long bow. I went over to his cabin today in my continued effort to know where and how my parishioners live in the back sides of the mountains. He lives in the most impossibly remote place on the planet, accessible only by helicopter unless one loves extreme sports. I’m certain that dirt-bike jump competitions got their start on his miles and miles long driveway/logging road whose water diversion gullies can be six feet deep or high depending on where you are (if not very high in the air) with a cliff face on the one side and a ravine on the other. This dirt bike video pretty much captures the ride:

The cabin is a spectacular gem impossibly where it is, much better than the hermitage ever could be. We talked about Pope Francis and interreligious dialogue. He knows his faith very well as does his dear wife. Meanwhile, he introduced me a bit more to the art of shooting guns, showing me some rather interesting items. As you might imagine, he can place a tight pattern with a pistol just 2-3 inches in diameter at +100 yards… (These guns are not for sale…)

gun 1

And…

gun 2

And then there is the following AMT, which is no longer manufactured. It’s used for competition. It’s a 45…

gun 3

This AMT is smoooooooth. I emptied a clip dead bulls eye, one bullet on top of the other, except for one bullet. For that one, I changed targets to a “dot” target patch we had put on another part of the cardboard backdrop, and with the last bullet took out that “dot”, hitting it dead center as well. In my lifetime and only very recently, I’ve emptied out just a small handful of clips from any kind of pistol.

This kind of scares me: way too good way too fast, like I had known this in a different life, not a déjà vu thing, not a reincarnation thing, but rather something like this is who I would have been professionally had I not been a priest. I look back at how our Lord kept me from this. Amazing. When I was a kid, my family was pretty close with the FBI. I’m not interested in how things would have been as I’m so very happy being a priest. It’s just weird, that’s all. At any rate…

After this, we gave up on targets and just shot at the quarter sized “dot” patches that we put up. That was good, until I added a scenario. I said that most terrorist perps these days use body armor, and so I wanted to be good enough to shoot a perp in the head with confidence even if he should have a hostage drawn in right next to him in one hand as a human shield even while he continued shooting at other victims with the other hand.

So, my Robin Hood parishioner put up a target with a six inch circle, saying that that was the head of the hostage, and then he placed a sticky “dot” immediately to the side of the hostages head, calling that dot the head of the perp. O.K. Just to say, such was the pressure NOT to have any bullets fly into the hostage that neither of us strayed a bit from the “dot” perp. The psychological pressure changed our shooting. This was a discovery. For me, it’s all about necessity and confidence. More shooting in a more relaxed manner with more accuracy means more confidence which means being more relaxed with more accuracy… which means learning to be unflappable even in tough uncontrolled circumstances. My Glock 19 9mm is a lot harder to shoot than the AMT 45, that is, unless I just allow myself to let myself go, so to speak, with the Glock, aiming only once and pumping out the bullets quickly, calmly letting gravity do its work. Then I’m just as accurate with the Glock as I am with the AMT 45. Only the Glock, mind you, can be concealed with ease.

I fully realize I’m NOT a good shot in that I was taking my time in circumstances I controlled. Real life scenarios are messy and need different kinds of training. I’ll see if I can’t turn to my CIA/Army friend and my CIA/Air Force friend for some pointers. There are in this area a seemingly endless line up of very helpful individuals with ineffable military / intelligence careers.

I’m sure any gun fanatics reading this post will know what this is…

gun 4

O.K. I admit it. I’m just having WAY TOO MUCH FUN. Now, here’s the question: Is it bad and evil for a priest to just be having WAY TOO MUCH FUN?

Yesterday, guns were a catalyst for a conversation involving encouragement about interreligious dialogue in the face of airplane statements from Pope Francis. Is that bad and evil?

Today a hospital run of some hundreds of miles was a catalyst for a conversation involving encouragement about all and sundry everything. Is that bad and evil?

People find themselves in different circumstances but always before the living God. I think that priests can be there for them wherever they are at, not only to bring them closer to our Lord (even if they are already much closer than I, which is the case with both of these parishioners in my opinion), but to be brought closer to the Lord myself by them.

Just to say, I am about to read up a bit more on Saint Francis and the conversion of the Muslims with a book I picked up at the most incredible gift shop in the world at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville Alabama. But just remember, Saint Francis had an entire army with him!

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Here’s the difference edition)

flores butterfly

 

Behold: Beauty. The necessary maintenance is being done for flowers for the Immaculate Conception by what seems to be yet another flower. Amazing.

While I’m surely going to make a thousand philosophical mistakes in speaking about beauty, please forgive my exuberance.

Created beauty is beauty not because I, in my relativistic emotionalizing fallen human feelings hold it to be such, but because it actually reflects the goodness and truth of the Creator. We can appreciate beauty if we are the little children of God. We cannot if we are not His little children.

I snapped this picture after such a scene was pointed out to me by one of my firearms instructors the other day up in the backsides of the beyonds of my parish. We watched this little fellow with simple childlike amazement while we rested from killing paper targets and little sticky “dots” with some of the most, um… efficient tools one could ever use this side of angelic intervention. That we were lost in wonder with smoking guns in our hands is not ludicrous, incongruous, or even somehow odd. Why should it be?

Being trained up for self-defense of self and others is simply an act of charity in which the children of God can and sometimes must participate for the sake of the children of God. The children of God rejoice with enthusiasm in the creation of our Heavenly Father.

Since we had been speaking of interreligious dialogue, I now spoke of ISIS and their burning and decapitating and crucifying and dismembering of little children. Leave it to me to bring that up! ;-) I said that they could not possibly appreciate the fragile beauty before us now. It’s a little thing, I said, but one which throws a light on where people are at before God and neighbor, and so it is not so little of a thing at all. To deny beauty is to deny the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is to be an iconoclast on a most basic level. It is to deny an analogy of reason between us and our Creator. It is to deny the existence of love and therefore of God Himself.

To see flowers and to think of Jesus’ good mom is, instead, that in which even this enfant terrible with one of his firearms instructors can and does rejoice.

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Where can hot and bothered donkey priests go on retreat for free? :-)

donkey 1

When it’s scorchingly hot and yet drenchingly humid, even Palestinian donkeys can be hot and bothered, sweating by the bucket. Priests, much like donkeys (see The return of this Jackass for the Hour), can suffer from hot situations in their parishes and dioceses and religious orders. Unlike donkeys, priests can take advantage of a retreat center in the gentle hills of the lower Appalachian range in central Alabama. This donkey is on the grounds of the retreat center, aka, “The Barn.”

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Hanceville host priests for free in “The Barn.” The retreat center for priests is actually converted from a barn at which, I’m sure, this donkey had stayed as a young colt. His name is surely “Brother Ass” in honor of Saint Francis. Everything is there. You need merely call to see if there is a room available. Sometimes you’ll be the only one. Sometimes there are large groups. Don’t hesitate, my priest friends, to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s truly a pilgrimage spot.

Of course, you need not be in a hot situation to take a day of recollection or to make your canonical retreat here. My Vicar Forane and I came down for a day just to do it. The “just to do it” reason is always a good idea for us priests. Always. There’s never a time when it’s not a good idea. There are no retreat masters, but all your meals are provided. You needn’t worry about a thing. There’s an exquisite chapel in “The Barn,” and there’s the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Both awesome, both conducive to prayer. Confessions are, of course, available from the Friars who are chaplains to the Poor Clares.

Oh, and did I mention that one of those chaplains is a Missionary of Mercy? I mention that because many of the faculties granted for absolutions concern priests. Just do it.

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The return of this Jackass for the Hour

crucifix

This “Donkey”[!] is found crucified above the tabernacle (see: “Brother Ass” in “The Barn” Mon-Wed) of the absolutely gorgeous Turris Davidica chapel found inside “The Barn” where yours truly went for a day of recollection with “The Very”, the Vicar Forane of the Smokey Mountain Vicariate of the Diocese of Charlotte. Note the cross inside each of the golden stars of David.

There are, perhaps, nearly 100% of readers who will think that it is rude to refer to anyone as a donkey, and should this appellative be used for the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception that this would certainly be counted as blasphemy. But this is a badge of honor for Jesus, for He did that which is much more “blasphemous” for us, becoming “sin” for us, as Saint Paul says. Jesus was a Jew, and the Jews were always referred to by this symbol of humble hard work by the surrounding nations. Don’t forget that donkeys can sing and are intelligent, only doing what they understand (really smart, that), not at all stubborn like mules. Also recall that donkeys are everywhere with the Holy Family. Here are some pics from the massive bronze doors of the larger chapel (some hundreds of yards from “The Barn”):

donkey 4

donkey 2

Of course, a donkey also brought our Lord into the city of Jerusalem for His crucifixion…

Thanks to all those who said a prayer for yours truly these past few days. The day of recollection went very well. Priests can stay at “The Barn” for free. Only priests can stay at “The Barn.” Many priests from the Diocese of Charlotte take refuge in “The Barn” on a regular basis. It’s equidistant for me to Charlotte one way and “The Barn” the other way. Another priest, from Saint Anne’s, is there today for the feast of the translation of the relics of Saint Clare. O.K. Those are enough hints. Do you know where this is?

Anyway, the “return” mentioned in the title of this post doesn’t refer to me being back in the parish so much as an advance in the Chestertonian sense of the return of the fallen creature back to its Creator by way of the redemption. I mentioned to one of the wonderfully Catholic priests to be found in the environs of “The Barn” about Jackass for the Hour, saying that everything has changed so very much in the last few years that I doubt if I could even revise such an ecclesiastical thriller novel that goes to the black heart of and offers solutions for the Rebellion so ubiquitously and wrongly called the Reformation, and that the Scriptural commentary on the “Dog-Woman” that I wrote would hardly be able to be received by anyone anymore. I was, of course, gently but firmly reprimanded, being told not to be despondent. Donkeys are quite miserable if they are despondent, and that just won’t do at all. So, joy with the singing of a donkey, a braying which is also praying, on the march, as donkeys do.

And if there are still readers who don’t like it when priests are called guard-donkeys:

DONKEY FOX

And if there are still those who think that it is inappropriate for priests or anyone for that matter to be called any kind of donkey at all, I simply cite Saint Augustine in response:

“Asinus es sed Christum portas” (You are a jackass, but you carry Christ).

And if there are still those who hesitate, I offer this Orthodox kind-of-an-icon (slightly damaged through the years with window-sealer… sorry!) for their contemplation. Remember, that we carry Christ within us. We also carry each other. We belong to the Body of Christ, with Christ as the Head and we as the members, with His Most Sacred Heart inflaming ours with the fiery ardent love of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Saint Augustine donkey icon

And if there are still those who hesitate about the appropriateness of all this hopefully childlike joy and not childish idiocy, please feel free to call me the donkey-priest. I will simply laugh with appreciative enthusiasm. I still think I have too much fun.

Oh, and did I mention that Saint Francis called himself Brother Ass?

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Body in the back yard of the rectory…

For the record: The always eager to talk neighbors (good friends) are being super evasive about the body found in what is basically the back yard of the rectory this Wednesday evening, just saying they’re not sure and running away. So, I don’t know if this was a druggie-overdose, a murder, a jihadi victim, or what. The evasiveness is really, really strange. I’m just back after some time away. That’s my alibi anyway. Of course, misplaced guilt settles in: maybe if I had not gone away this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe I could have brought about a different result… This is such a vale of tears.

For whatever reason the deceased left off this mortal coil, we say a prayer for the repose of the soul flying away: Hail Mary…

Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, as it tolls for me, and thee…

UPDATE:  This was reported by dispatch to which chatter a parishioner was listening and reported to me an hour later, that is, just minutes after I had returned from Alabama. This kind of info can be called into dispatch by a civilian who doesn’t actually see a body, but rather a large plastic bag that is thought to look like a body. But it was just “a body” which was reported at the risk of filing a false report. If there was a body, if could have been picked up pretty quickly by the feds who don’t ever want to bother with disputes over jurisdiction when they think they evidence for a case, or… you know… for other reasons.

I went over to speak to best Chief of Police in the world this morning and we had a nice chat for a couple of hours on the more intense aspects of surveying, about possible future upgrades for the local police department facilities and a lead I had on that, about overhauling the court system and department of corrections across the country, about my upcoming call to jury duty in criminal high court, about police/civilian relations across the country, about the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel coming up on September 29, about the Officer Down! Memorial Dinner, and many other things. At the end, he asked me about the body in back yard of the rectory. It could be that there never was one as far as he is concerned. But then we’re back to the filing the false report or the feds cleaning up one of their situations…

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“Brother Ass” in “The Barn” Mon-Wed

alexamenos

Since I am not yet today a crucified donkey (Jesus mocked in an early Roman graffito above), I may as well be like little martyr Alexamenos (thank you, little one), just another Brother Ass (thank you, Saint Francis) in “The Barn” (thank you, Saint Clare). I do not yet know that of which I speak, as I have never been to “The Barn,” though many of my fellow priests, including “The Very” know well such a heaven on earth in the midst of the ferocity of the Franciscan seraphic fire. These next three days will mark, I think, a major turning point in my life. And if that be not uncryptic enough, I recall for you another time when I was rather on edge with the concerns of Holy Mother Church while writing my thesis:

jackass for the hour

While I wrote those 750 pages of an ecclesiastical thriller novel under a pen name, I soon enough divulged my real identity, thinking this better for me and the message. And yes, that is the image of a donkey painted by an autistic boy specifically for this opus.

Anyway… I would be much obliged if you were to say a Hail Mary for me each day for the next three days, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, that some bit of clarity regarding the one thing necessary might come my way.

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Morality of voting for Bully over Beast. Immorality of voting for Zero-Chance. Let’s look at the Double-Effect theory.

double effect

  • One candidate is a bully and could be hurtful to some human rights.
  • One candidate spells the end of America and has always been, is now, and will certainly be catastrophic for human rights in every way imaginable.

Can one vote for a lesser of two evils?

No. That’s a diabolical invention, consequentialism, the ol’ doing evil that good may come of it rubbish, whereby, says Saint Paul and the Holy Spirit, those who do this are justly condemned to hell (see Romans 3:8). What if you only have two viable options?

The Double Effect Theory championed by Saint Thomas Aquinas

(1) The kinetic action actually taken must not be intrinsically evil (e.g.: taking abortifacients), but must be good or at least indifferent. In this case, the action is as mundane as pulling a lever or pushing a button in a voting booth. That’s an action which is simply indifferent.

(2) The bad result cannot be intended, though you know it will be there. Thus, if you vote for the Bully over against the Beast, you know that there will some bullying going on that you don’t like, but you don’t want that. You intend the good that will come of your action, and that good can simply be that the Beast is blocked from taking office.

(3) The good result must be at least proportionally as good as the bad result is bad. That’s a definite go. No matter what happens with the Bully, that will be incomparatively better than that which will happen with the Beast. Note that this step is not to be equated with the condemned system of proportionalism since other steps counter the tendency toward relativism that this step could have with a malicious user of the theory.

(4) The good result cannot be directly caused by the bad result. That which happens by default when blocking the Beast from taking office, so that the Bully swears into office, is not a direct result, but a falling back to a default. You could say that the Beast was not elected (good) because the Bully was elected, but only inasmuch as you can also say that the Bully took the office by default when the Beast was not elected. Here it is the intention which is important: you are not so much electing the Bully as blocking the Beast. This isn’t just semantics.

  • Voting for the Bully over the Beast is commendable.
  • Voting for a candidate who has zero chance of winning is a vote for the Beast. Being falsely self-righteous about your self-righteous feelings about the Bully helps no one in the world, including you.

I know some people have very strong feelings about voting for the Zero-Chance guy. “I voted for Jesus!” they say. Jesus doesn’t want the job. Really. He’s already the Lord of History. And the Zero-Chance guy who unavoidably also has faults and who gladly accepts your votes, does he really want the good of the country before God and man? Just sayin’…

Note to DOS, DOJ, IRS et alii. I didn’t use any names did I? Also the ol’ beauty and the beast possible reference is all confused here, or is it? A question mark, you say? Yes. But it’s clear to everyone what I mean, you say? That’s in your imagination. And that’s what will keep me from being harassed. Well, I take that back. Some of you guys do whatever you please. Whatever. I’m just trying to discuss moral principles… Free speech…

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (my mistaken identity crisis edition)

flores trumpet 1

The above trumpetyesque flowers are not the trumpet vine flowers below:

flores trumpet 2There was recently a comment on a blog I do not own which identified Father Gordon J MacRae and yours truly, Father George David Byers, as being one and the same person, I suppose because our names both begin with “Father G.” My first thought is, poor Father Gordon! I mean, that’s a compliment for me but should he have to wear that part about being me? That’s just not right. People have also done this for years with Father Z and myself, even though “Z” and “G” appear in different places in any alphabet. As it is, I’ve never personally met either Father G (you know, the other one) or Father Z, though we have lots of contact with each other.

I stand in solidarity with and have defended (ad nauseam for some) both Fathers Z and G (you know, the other one), not that Father Z nor Father G (you know, the other one) need any defense whatsoever, especially from the likes of this North-woods and now back-ridge mountain boy some call Father G (you know, yours truly). Anyway, this is a problem should yet another Father G (my spiritual director, Father George) make his way to the parish on Highway 64, which is named after yet another Father G altogether (ol’ retired Father George). What to do? Hey! I know! Just call me Pope George, but, oh, wait, that’s taken already: Pope Jorge (George) Bergoglio of Saint Francis fame. Sigh. I have no identity of my own whatsoever. I’m just another Father G lost in a sea of those called Father G.

Or maybe I could just give up finding my identity through the unfixable confusion of others and discover that I find my identity in Jesus Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, who willingly stood in my place taking on my identity as the worst sinner ever, knowing that I’ve tortured Him to death on the cross with my sin, and He then having the right in His own justice to command His/Our Heavenly Father: “Father, forgive them!” I’m happy that in Italian, Jesus is just another Father G = Gesù = Jesus. ;-)

And should I really need to carry this on to the extreme, the name of our Heavenly Father is also Father G, that is Father George: ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν (John 15:1) — “My Father is George,” that is, the Farmer, the Tiller of the Ground, you know, the Adam of the Adamah. ;-)

I think I just have too much fun. Probably because the Immaculate Conception, standing under the cross, has a big enough heart to take in all those called Father G, and I’m very, very happy about that, and that’s where I find my identity, one loved by Jesus and His good mom even while I’m yet a sinner. I could dance I’m so happy. And I won’t be shamed into stopping dancing by those of sour face fame:

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Bitter frustrated liberal ex-seminarian throwing a tantrum attacks yours truly

Some bitter, terribly un-well-researched comments have been coming in from a certain – I don’t know what – perhaps student teacher at a certain not-very-famous-for-anything Catholic institution situated in the chemical waste dump of the eastern USA, trying to bait yours truly into some sort of sword fighting in the comments box so as to give himself some claim to fame (not that I have any stature for that whatsoever anyway, but we go back to his lack of research), but I digress before we even begin.

What started him off was the usual self-hero worship of being tough with abuse when everyone agrees that we must all be tough on abusers. He cuts and pastes an old diatribe against Father Gordon MacRae which cherry picks bits and pieces out of context and arranges them in such a way that some anti-Catholics would applaud. All such rebuffs are answered by the record from which context they were ripped. Text without context is pretext. Journalists too numerous to name here have shown the malice and hypocrisy of such self-promotion. Those who try to ensure that no due process is granted to priests are, in my opinion, eager to see more abuse. People will get tired of innocent priests being killed off as scapegoats, and then will not listen even to real victims. In his fail to get street-cred in this way, he moves on to aim his cannon at yours truly (my emphases and [comments]), using my recent post as a foil for his diatribe: Bacon sniper priests: tools of the trade. It’s a matter of charity. Warning: anti-gun person here…

======== According to the Code of Canon Law:

Can. 285 §1. Clerics are to refrain completely from all those things which are unbecoming to their state, according to the prescripts of particular law. [So, if I were a bishop[!], I would have a particular law forbidding clerics from dancing on table tops at wedding receptions singing pop songs that are unbecoming for them to sing. It’s happened.]
§2. Clerics are to avoid those things which, although not unbecoming, are nevertheless foreign to the clerical state. [e.g., trading on “the floor” at Wall Street exchange.]

The previous (i. e., 1917) Code was even clearer: [when clarity is wanted, go back! Note that pretty much all of this was removed from the new Code for good reason.]

Can 138. Clerici ab iis omnibus quae statum suum dedecent, prorsus abstineant: indecoras artes ne exerceant; aleatoriis ludis, pecunia exposita, ne vacent; !!! arma ne gestent, nisi quando iusta timendi causa subsit; venationi ne indulgeant, !!! clamorosant antem nunquam exerceant; tabernas aliaque similia loca sine necessitate aut alia iusta causa ab Ordinario loci probata ne ingrediantur. [He edited that.]

According to Fr. Woywod’s always-valuable commentary on the old Code: [I haven’t looked any of this up, so we’ll just take his reporting for the sake of argument.]

“114. Clerics must abstain from all things that are unbecoming their state: they must not exercise unbecoming arts [like what, the black arts? O.K.!]; not play games of chance with money [what about parish bingo with the money going to the soup kitchen? That doesn’t count!]; not carry weapons, unless there is justified cause for fear [so, the very thing he wants to attack me for is given an excuse in the very text, whose mention of “justified cause”, given my history overseas, by the way, I have, or does he not know me, and so is judging me with no due process just like he did with Father MacRae? Interesting.]; not indulge in hunting [“indulge” is very different from the “need to go”: language is important, and this distinction is confirmed:] and never in that kind of hunting that is done with much display and publicity [the separation of the general from the particular leaves the general up to the necessity of the situation; obviously, fox hunting U.K. style, with trumpets and pageantry and tea is supremely ridiculous at least to this mountain boy.]; not visit saloons and places of the same nature except in cases of necessity or for any other just cause approved by the Ordinary. (Canon 138.) [For instance, when the Legion of Mary tromped right into a brothel, knelt down and recited the rosary, putting all to shame and helping them to enter into a better life, thus getting their start way back in the day. It’s pastorally imprudent at times to legislate particulars.]
115. Even those affairs that are not unbecoming to the clerical state, but are foreign to it, the clergy must avoid.” [“affairs”… like… I don’t know… with all these undefined terms… say… like… being an executioner for those whose death-row term is up at the local prison, or, in my opinion, being on the jury of a capital case or any case when possibly knowing the fuller story from the confessional…]

========= And then our ex-seminarian (my hypothesis) adds this comment:

Personally [this is his personal attack against me though he doesn’t even know me. I certainly have never heard of him], I find that “conservative” temperament [It’s always about feelings with liberals, always] amongst [“-st”!] the clergy [so, he singles out the clergy to do some hating] just as cafeteria-like [as who? himself? So, he’s doing this to rationalize his own cafeteria Catholicism? There we have it.] when it comes to certain practices [like what? “gender appropriate” practices? In his mind?]: hunting, guns, [a woman cop sent me a beautiful email describing her day on the range with sniper rifles, commending me for a good day out with the boys as she put it] sitting around [I tend to stand for intense but enjoyable discussions which he despises in puritanical fashion] drinking booze [I don’t drink], smoking cigars [I don’t smoke at all], etc. [surely everything] — all apparently [“apparently”] forbidden to clerics in the pre-Conciliar Church. [There’s a strong argument, emotional too, you know, with a mention of pre-Conciliar and all that: “You… you… you hate Vatican II. So predictable. No, I don’t hate Vatican II.] (Remember the old yarn about the poor Seminarian thrown out of Seminary due to the fact that he cherished that one cigarette more than his vocation?) [And there it is, an old yarn from a gossip monger.]

========= My comment: Dear friend: The answer to your flailing about is Jesus Christ, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. Go to Confession. Why? Glad you asked. Here’s your answer. The priesthood is not evil. What are you doing with your life? Join your priests in getting crucified. We need you and we need your prayers and we need your encouragement. We are weak and frail and fragile and are bound to deny our Lord at any time. O.K. But be there for us. Don’t be triumphal against us. Work with us. Our Lord did, from the cross, when we had all run away. Your mother is calling you…

pieta

P.S. Why feed the trolls? There are so very many. Converting them is part of reaching into the darkest of existential peripheries so as to help point people to Jesus and to the Immaculate Conception.

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Adoration and forgiveness in the toughest of circumstances of all

concrete wallThe bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Charlotte, the Most Rev. William George Curlin, just about 90 years old, was telling me some stories of priests he had met back in the day.

One was a Maryknoll priest (a great group way back in the day), who told him of his experience of adoration when he was locked in solitary confinement for four years in a Chinese prison. His cell wasn’t big enough for him to stand up or lie down, a typical torture in Asia.

At the beginning of his sentence, a cleaning lady made her way to his cell while she pretended to be sweeping, and nudged him through the bars, slipping a tiny vial with a tiny amount of wine in it. Occasional bread would also make its way to them. With this, he offered Mass and kept a bit of the Host in a crack in the wall. And then he proceeded to kneel daily in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament for the next four years. He wasn’t alone in his cell at all.

Bishop Curlin told me another story of a priest who had survived the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. He said that when Dachau was liberated, there was still one of the guards on the compound, shaking, scared to death, knowing it was all over, knowing that the Nazis lost the war, knowing it was now the end of his life. The survivor priest said that he went over to this guard and embraced him, then telling him that he forgave him. It is then, said the survivor priest, that his interior Dachau immediately left him, meaning all the bitterness and anger one would expect to have in such a death camp.

I imagine that the priest in China in the story above had to have this forgiveness in his own heart, for otherwise, adoration would simply not be possible.

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Bacon sniper priests: tools of the trade. It’s a matter of charity.

sniper 4

In these back ridges of Western North Carolina, I never know quite what the day will bring. The other day, I had the privilege of meeting some of the best priests one could ever hope to meet this side of heaven, some who have suffered for both you and I, some of whom are high up in their local hierarchies, some hailing from near, some from far, from many dioceses and states.

sniper 1We took an unnecessarily circuitous route to a gun range which I pass by all the time, the group making sure one particular priest would ride with me, a young priest, perhaps one of the best theologians we have in these USA. We discussed my thesis in detail, he having already plowed about 1/3 of the way through it.

Late that evening, at one of the rectories in the area, we discussed some controversial points of points of canon law, with quite a number of these priests being canon lawyers.

Meanwhile, at the gun range, conversation turned to some tools. Our instructor was a USMC sniper for ten years, who then graduated to teaching his fellow leathernecks how to provide overwhelming force to unjust aggressors. He brought the three tools you see in the pictures above, some parts of which are legally personally hand tooled. The others were brought by a couple of the other priests.

The reaction of some of the readers, I know, is that sniper priests give the priesthood a bad name, you know: “All priests are always and everywhere extremists and probably terrorists, and we should let the FBI, CIA, USAIC, NNIC, DHS, DOD, DOJ, BATFE et alii know about them!” Whatever. The ol’ bolt action below is hardly a weapon of mass destruction. I was happy to hit the edge of the .25 cent sized center-of-target at 54 yards out (the scope not being readied for that short distance. Our jarhead friend had to be able to hit a quarter consistently in adverse conditions at a 1000 yards out. The farthest target he put out that evening was 108 yards.

sniper 2

Other readers might know that my parish includes the famous Slick Rock free-for-all hunt wild boar till you drop sports area. If you drop a 1200 pound wild boar, or even  a 700 pounder, you have enough bacon for a year. For the cost of a well-placed bullet, that’s a pretty good deal the way I look at it. And so the reaction of other readers might be: “Hey! Pass the bacon, please!” Indeed, this makes for a new kind of “Bacon priest.” In times to come, I think that this will be a very important part of a priest’s ministry, a new kind of soup kitchen. And it’s not just bacon. There’s also bear, and dear and elk in this neck of the woods, for all of which you’ll want a powerful gun. There’s not only not anything wrong with that. This is prudence. And yet, I’m not at all prudential, what with my mere Glock 19 Gen 4. Heck, I don’t even have any personal defense ammo, just mere full metal jacket, an annoyance. But that’s just me. I’ve no finances for anything else. I have no adverse judgments at all for those who own and get trained up with such tools.

sniper 3

More than this, I have to say that this was an occasion for priestly support. The meal we had after, prepared by some of the better chefs among the priests, was out of this world. I’m used to institutional food, or better, dumpster food! But this was amazing. I think that this was important for me personally as a priest, a good times of the good ol’ days kind of thing, priestly solidarity being a real grace.

P.S. I am reminded of a polish priest I knew in the northern reaches of the Archdiocese of New York. He said he had a meat grinder in the back of this little van he would drive around. He would pick up any road kill he would see, instantly rip the meat from the bones and fur, throw what he could get into the grinder, and then pass the sausages he made out of the window of his van! So, using a bullet is better, right? Fresher, and just better!

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