Tag Archives: Father Byers Autobiography

Ignace de la Potterie, S.J., my friend, defender of those beyond peripheries

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Father Ignace de la Potterie, S.J.

As I put up some chapters of Jackass for the Hour, difficult but good memories of Ignace de la Potterie, S.J. flood into my heart and soul. Father Ignace was by far one of the most astute biblical scholars of this past century. As with all Jesuits, he struggled a bit with the Catholic faith, but then, with the friendship and encouragement of others, he converted to be a believing Catholic. I got to know him at the end of his life, when he was in reminiscence mode, when he was looking for a priest and biblical scholar who was also actually Catholic, and with whom he could share his frustrations and his desires for the good of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. There were many he met daily who instead spent their time attempting to destroy the Church in whatever way they could. He was trying to distract himself by writing frequently for the Catholic journal Famiglia Cristiana.

Although someone – I think an American – had already tried to assist him with one project, translating at least some of his work on Luke 1:28, he turned to me to do this again with a revision. As this comes to mind again, I have renewed purpose. That little opus has had a profound, very far reaching effect on my academic life, on my spiritual life.

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Father Dolindo Ruotolo

Other than this, it was only after many discussions that he shared with me his real passion at the end of his life, namely, to bring some justice to the memory of don Dolindo Ruotolo aka “Dain Cohenel”. He knew and accepted the fact that Father Dolindo was an amateur in all things biblical, as we Pontifical Biblical Institute zombies like to say about everyone who does not sport a degree from this institution as we do. And yet, the bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit for more people than just a few snooty academics like us. There is room also room in the Church for those who want to pay attention to the faith and morality of the Church, who expect reverence and devotion from their pastors, who desire to lead others to Jesus and to heaven. Right? And if those souls are backed into a corner by those bullies who would shirk their duties of pastoral leadership in favor of being popular, well, there is also room in the field hospital of the Church for those who are hurting from bullies, from those who arrogantly flaunt their faithlessness, even if, mind you, even if those who have been bullied lash out a bit in their anguish. Those who are their pastors in whatever way are to have patience with them, and show them a bit of goodness and kindness and encouragement, changing their own ways to be more faithful if need be.

Father Dolindo’s treatment by the Holy Office is a source of wonder for those who know the story. It was the extreme nature of the bullying which grabbed the attention of Father Ignace. There must be more to the story, thought he. And, indeed, there is. Almost no one alive in the world today knows the story, though they think they do. But they do not. They cite all sorts of documents with furrowed brow so as to beat down anyone who would go near this diminutive priest. Father Ignace, at the time of his conversion, decided to do up a little investigation. He shared with me the results of his travels to Naples and his research on this diminutive priest. This sparked my own interest. This was yet another priest thrown out beyond the peripheries by the untouchable powers that be.

When I raised some questions about Father Dolindo to those untouchable powers, I was told about the filing cabinets in the Congregation for Bishops (of all places) dedicated to him, and that there were plenty of people still upset with him for a comment he had made about the fidelity of the Holy Office way back in the day. Although his cause has begun at the Congregation for Saints, it demonstrates the kind of politics involved that the Congregation of Bishops are surveiling just who it is among the episcopacy that support Father Dolindo (who died not quite 50 years ago). In fact, there were many who pulled me aside to tell me just how entrenched the emotions are still today. Those who were warning me to keep my distance included a range of simple priest-officials of various dicasteries to cardinals, from long time friends of Father Dolindo and Father Ignace to the most ferocious enemy of Father Dolindo. That latter fellow is still alive.

But more than this, Father Ignace provided me with a copy of the controversial document that Father Dolindo had written. Outside of now just a copy or two remaining in the world locked away in some archive in the Congregation for Bishops and the Holy Office and a few others, I’m guessing that I’m about the only other person in the world with Un gravissimo pericolo. Comparing that to what the Holy Office said, I am quite appalled by the treatment of this cast off priest by the powerful ecclesiastics of the day. I tend to go with the underdog. I should like to publish this document with that of the Holy Office with a running commentary.

I think I should do this both as a biblical scholar and as a Missionary of Mercy.

I can hear the objections pouring in already:

  • “He was an obscurantist! An idiot! He didn’t understand!”
  • “Have you seen how he unapologetically cites the Fathers of the Church?!”
  • “He criticized the Holy Office!”
  • “He’s a simpleton, a priest in a remote parish! Poor! Nobody!”
  • “Who does he think he is?! He’s not like us! The nerve!”
  • “He didn’t like us!”

No, really. I’ve heard all of these even from princes of the Church.

Other similar tantrums follow about me if it was suspected that I might try to do something with Father Dolindo, such as:

  • “Just leave us alone!”
  • “We’ll destroy you!”
  • “We’ll make sure you won’t be able to publish!”
  • “No promotions for you!”

Blah blah blah. What I like about Father Dolindo is that he wanted to bring people to Jesus. That’s a lot. That’s not to be discounted. Jesus is the One. The only One. Father Dolindo knew that. Not everyone knows that, especially those who should know better.

Just to say, there are two difficulties militating against Father Dolindo:

  1. He understood the kind of textual criticism of the bible that was sanctioned by the Council of Trent in its decrees of April 8, 1546, one of the few, the others being (finally) Saint Robert Bellarmine, Leo XIII, Saint Pius X. This is the one thing that would undo completely the false ecumenism of ignorance of truth that is so pervasive today. This is the real reason for the attacks on his person.
  2. Envy. Here’s the deal: Father Dolindo’s massive commentaries on Scripture utilizing the Fathers of the Church and which ran for many thousands of pages were being snatched up all around Italy and internationally. Bishops were buying entire sets of his works to give as gifts to all their priests as examples of how to preach. Father Dolindo touched the hearts of true pastors by touching the Sacred Heart of our Lord.

It’s all about Jesus. He’s the One. The only One.

It is not the persecutors of Father Dolindo, but rather Jesus, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.

P.s. If you have any doubts about the purity of heart and agility of soul of Father Ignace, just read this fantastic work on priestly celibacy, which I used in teaching in seminaries on various continents:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_bfoun_en.html

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Internet Stalker upset: I’m not humble

bishop ordination

My Internet Stalker is also upset that I lack all humility. Well, that is true. I do lack all humility. Of myself, I am full of stinking, filthy pride. On my own, without God’s grace, I’ve crucified the Son of the Living God, as have we all. Of ourselves, we all lack humility. But my Internet Stalker narrows this down to a particular. Let’s take a look. He says:

“You also said you could have been a bishop or even an archbishop. Is this humility?”

Well. The truth is humility is it not? There were two occasions.

academia ecclesiastica

  • One was being invited to transfer from the seminary I was attending so to attend the Accademia ecclesiastica, you know, for clerical diplomats for the Secretariat of State for the Holy See (a different authority structure back in the day). The successful candidate would end up eventually being a Nuncio (in a derived sense, a diplomat) of some kind, which at the time also meant ordination to the episcopacy. There was an attempt in South America some decades ago to appoint a non-Archbishop as Nuncio. The local episcopal conference complained that they were being slighted by having such a terrible situation arise amongst themselves. Oh my! So, the guy was made an Archbishop. Hah! My response through the years to the Church diplomat thing was always that I would never compromise the doctrine and morality of the Church; I would never smash someone down for the sake of mere politics, or play politics with listing candidates for episcopal appointments in whatever country. This attitude of mine was rather offensive, to say the least, to those in such diplomatic circles. I was able to successfully avoid being a bishop.

San Callisto-

  • Another occasion was being best friends, quite literally, at least from his point of view, with the Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops (now deceased). He was very much interested in having me become a bishop and pointed this out to me. Me being me, however, I made sure this wouldn’t happen by having him do something much more important, that is, having him be the second reader for a doctoral thesis on textual criticism of biblical manuscripts, something which, along the way, called into question some various dumbed-down ecumenical initiatives of the Holy See. He was a biblical scholar as well, and was furious with what I had done. I wanted only to do something much more comprehensive for the sake of a profound, true ecumenism. This was politically incorrect at the time. I knew that. But he did something for me which I thought was much more valuable for the Church than me becoming a bishop. He took a chapter of the thesis (250 pages) to the secret archives for six weeks. He was furious. But he had done what I wanted, something I could not do because I had no access. He did. He was able to confirm everything I wrote. Perhaps he put a block on my ever becoming a bishop in my file. I don’t know. I must say, however, that he was constantly training me in about concern for both the Church and the world. Anyway…

I guess that lack of humility, that pride of mine, goes along with what I wrote in this other post about my unstoppable arrogance, or is it enthusiasm[?]: Fr George David “Peter Abelard” Byers I just reread that. What a fright.  ;-)

Of course, what I was doing in avoiding the episcopacy was avoiding something which had scared me to death because I was full of fear at the time. No longer. But what was ringing in my ears was the admonition of Archbishop Fulton J Sheen that becoming a bishop means getting crucified, crucified, crucified. Perhaps Jesus will reprimand me for avoiding the suffering that episcopacy entails. I’m quite happy being a priest way out on the back ridges of the backsides of the beyonds in the unique Appalachia of Western North Carolina. But if the Holy Father asked me, I would do it, you know, be crucified. Perhaps that is said with all arrogance, but, hey! I’m only me. And of my own self, I am, of course, full of stinking pride. Thank God for Jesus Christ who saves me from all of this.

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King of the Mountain: Dogs & Jesus

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Shadow-dog atop Laudie-dog’s house, showing everyone who’s King of the Mountain.

When I was a kid in third grade at Wilson Elementary School, we were out in the playground for morning recess. The snow had been plowed into mountains and had since been coated with a crusty ice, making climbing or staying on top of the mountain while playing King of the Mountain an extreme sport. Being game for all things extreme, I climbed right up when no one was looking and was surveying my kingdom but without any situational awareness. Stupid me. I should have learned by now with my previous experience of being shot.

Bam! I was hit from behind by what must have been a locomotive. That hit, right on my spine, gave me a bit of whiplash that lasted for some weeks and put me out like a light for a moment even while I went flying through the air crashing down below. The kid that hit me was standing triumphant atop the mountain ready to take on all comers. I obliged, of course, but without running from a distance, which meant the fight was on. It was a tie. Competition is hilarious. A great learning experience. Situational awareness is good anytime, anywhere, with anyone. It’s not paranoia. It’s a method of deescalating situations. Although roughhousing doesn’t call for deescalation.

Meanwhile, Shadow-dog has a size advantage over Laudie-dog. While Shadow-dog is really smart, he’s still too over-confident and unaware of just how tricky Laudie-dog is. She can manipulate him, taunt him, and not let him get away with anything with ease. She has the wisdom of years. Just when you think you’re King of the Mountain, someone comes along and knocks you off your perch.

But sometimes it’s no longer a game or a mere competition. Sometimes it’s life and death. An all out war. May as well make that perch unassailable, where you are unremovable, where you reign alongside the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Wonder-Counselor, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace, in solidarity on Mount Calvary with Him who is in solidarity with us, Christ Jesus, who, lifted up and nailed to the Cross draws us to Himself, He being born to die to bring us to life, to give us a chance at participating in the greatest love possible in laying down our lives for our fellow man, being nailed to the Cross of witness to love and truth unto death. Unassailable. Never tricked. Never manipulated. Taunts becoming a blessing. Surveiling all with perfect situational awareness. And unremovable from that cross on that mountain. Because it’s His love, it’s His truth that are important, He always being the same, ever ancient, ever new, always King of the Mountain.

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“Fr Byers, who are you, anyway?” Apologia pro vita mea

With the videos above I poke fun at myself. Sorry for some of the language in them. I apologize to those who actually want an answer to the question about my identity, to those who don’t accept the answer that I am a simple back-mountain priest on the outside of the peripheries. That’s all I am. And I’m happy with that. Truly.

The problem is that there are those who are ferociously asking about my real identity even now as if that question has never been asked before, not knowing that I have been one of the most researched people on the planet by whatever wing of Catholicism, or Protestantism, or atheism, or of whatever religion, Judaism, Islam, or whatever political entity overseas, but most especially by our own intelligence services, the latter being interested because of my “Shadow”, and because and all the hyper-sensitive places I’ve been, all the terrorists with whom I have been “friends,” all the terrorist incidents in which I have in one way or another been involved, all the friends I have on the very highest levels in the military, in intelligence services, in the Church. But, hey! You newcomers! Go for it!

The question is, of course, why the interest in me? By all accounts, I am just another boring priest among the million or so priests on the face of the earth. I am just one more boring person among the billions of people who are presently alive. So, why me?

Inside the Church, the ultra-liberal swamp rats think that I am their hero because of some of the rather extraordinary people I know and the type of degrees I have behind my name, thinking that anyone with those qualifications (those people and those institutions) has to be one of the more dangerous-to-the-status-quo people on the face of the earth, and so I am welcomed, until they get to know me, but even then, their suspicions that I am way to the right in their estimation remains merely suspicion, for I simply can’t be of Tradition if I know their darlings and have the degrees I do. They think I am just being very, very clever, more political than they could imagine could be possible. Their question remains: “Who are you, anyway?”

Inside the Church again, the ultra-traditional-ism-ists treat me the same way, suspicious that I am a filthy liberal because of the people I know and the degrees that I have, and yet are confused by the things I have done in my life, doing more for the reinstatement of the Traditional liturgy (more than the Mass, also the sacraments and exorcism, etc), than most all of them put together. They think all that is subterfuge, a cover. “Who are you, anyway?” they scream, condemning me as one of those “priests” who loves “mercy,” but then wondering what is going on because they never see me embrace any heresy, any leftist position, so that they simply hate that I won’t hate who they hate as much as they hate, or even hate at all. They think I am a careerist, but then watch in amazement how I throw away “career” after “career.” I could certainly have had a multitude of careers in the Church, could have long been a bishop, actually archbishop at this stage, the problem being that I just won’t compromise, not to protect my record of not compromising, but because I believe in serving Jesus. But that is what they will not accept. “Who are you, anyway?” they scream again.

I suppose I should give a few examples. Early on I was invited to go to the Academia Ecclesiastica, but I turned that down with the excuse that I just would not make a career of compromising my priesthood. That was very offensive to some career diplomats, believe me. I’m sure many are devout believers. Some are anything but that. I knew quite a bit about those who were beholden more to the State than to Jesus. I have a lot of friends. But I felt I was too weak to last as a believer in such settings. Either I would cave in or be removed as useless to the ways of compromise. So, why bother? That’s just the way it was. That’s a confession about how bad and evil I was. Then there was a now long-deceased ecclesiastical superior who wanted to pull some strings and have me appointed as one of the Inquisitors at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but I dissuaded him as well. At the time, among some in the CDF, it was all about how to please bishops. I just couldn’t do it, fearful that I wouldn’t be able to remain faithful to Jesus, fearful that I would simply be removed as someone useless to the world of compromise. Mind you, the CDF did do some great things at the time under then Cardinal Ratzinger, especially the ghost-writing of the official interpretation of Canon 915 (upon which I had some incisive influence from afar). Anyway, there was also a push to get me into the Congregation for the Clergy, and the Congregation for Saints, heck, after my time at Vatican Radio, even Communications at their new offices was put before me. The biggest career I turned down, however, was to go to teach at a certain University in Buenos Aires, where I’m quite sure I would have in no time (if not from the very beginning) been put in administrative positions as a jumping board to other things. I turned that down because the whole thing seemed geared to smashing down my faithfulness to Jesus. I was afraid of my weakness, afraid of being removed as someone useless to political correctness of compromise. I have to wonder what would have happened between Father and then Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio and myself, what with our common friends. I have to wonder what would have been the future of the ghost writing of Amoris laetitia, if, instead, I would have written that in a manner manifestly reflecting the teaching of the Church. I am a failure, I suppose, for not having taken up those careers in the Church. I am certainly a failure for having been fearful of anything at the time. I have only since then learned by the grace of God not to fear anything, ever. Why? Because Jesus is the One. He’s the only One.

Anyway, outside the Church, because of my life-time relationship of sorts with my “Shadow” (which has nothing to do with me, by the way), the State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and various and sundry operators of any and all military or intelligence backgrounds have long wondered and frequently asked, always after long investigations and always with frustration, “Who are you, anyway?” This has become, over many decades and with countless examples, both humorous and predictable. Some, if they are good guys, just do what they are told in my regard (because of the “Shadow” thing) or they are afraid to bring it further to Pompeo or Tillerson because their own treasonous behaviors would be brought to light, especially now, but that’s another story, that is, as to how I’ve been trying to bring those treasonous behaviors to light. At this point, it seems that my “Shadow” has successfully turned the tables so that it must be me who is the Gray Man, in which case the question, “Who are you, anyway?” becomes both a protection and liability. It has, in fact, always been this way. It is what it is. There are benefits. There are drawbacks.

As it is, throughout my life my identity has been a standing “inside joke” for me and Jesus, for He has given me the grace which He willingly gives to all, the grace not to be novel, that is, no novelties, with the point being that only One who is important, the only One who has anything to say, is Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only One. We are to our utmost to be instruments of His, letting His love and truth and goodness and truth and kindness and truth and mercy and truth be manifested through us. We are to have nothing of our own, no identity apart from Him. It’s all about Him. He is ever ancient, ever new. I am far from it, but it would be my hope to say that if there is anything that is ecclesial and of God in my life, that people will say: “Look at that. That’s not Fr George. That’s Jesus. Thank God for his great mercy.”

At the rare time that circumstances are such that it is important not to be novel, not to compromise, not to betray Jesus as regards Church or State, I have not compromised, ever. This is in itself so very novel, you know, not to embrace the novelty of being a “man of consensus”, not to embrace being a coward, that I have also been condemned as someone who promotes “admiratio” for this very reason. Ironic how that works. The very attempt to respect faith and morals, the attempt not to be Promethean, not to be neo-Pelagian, not to be self-absorbed, or self-referential, not to be corrupt, is the very thing which makes people condemn me as being all those things, for, they say, only someone full of himself, arrogant and Pharisaical, would want to be different from them, and instead want to be in solidarity with some sort of Sign of Contradiction. “Who are you, anyway?” they scream, wanting to know how it is that I could possibly not cave into their bullying ways. I could give a thousand examples regarding faith or morals or national security. But why bother? I have learned that people are not interested in arguments. They are only interested in pushing and pushing and pushing to see if, for real, there is faithfulness. In all their cynicism, they want to know if faithfulness is possible in this world. In the end, it’s all about being smashed down and, even while being smashed down, saying with Jesus’ love and truth and goodness and kindness and mercy: “I forgive you. I want to see you in heaven.” And in that way, there is no compromise, no novelty, nothing of me, only Jesus. I’m sure I’m not there yet. I am totally weak. But He gives me the grace to want to be nothing, that is, for Jesus, that is, to have no identity apart from Him, so that He can use me for what He wants, that is, His love, His truth, His goodness, His kindness, His mercy.

The “inside joke” is all about what happens. Here’s the deal: when you don’t compromise, you will get smashed down, hard. There are damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations, but you don’t compromise. There are horrific circumstances, but you don’t compromise. All is hopeless, completely hopeless, but you don’t compromise. And then you are smacked down, hard. O.K. But then, in remaining faithful in all things, Jesus picks you up. He makes life so very, very interesting in this way. How boring non-faithfulness must be. In contrast, the vistas of faith upon panoramas of hard reality are exhilarating. No amount of darkness can quench the bond of love with God that God Himself puts into our hearts. And this is one thing that is novel. This is something new. It is God’s love among us, Emmanuel. But Jesus brings that newness, not us. We can only receive that newness when we have nothing new of our own, nothing novel, no identity of our own.

Who am I, anyway? I hope for a love which casts out all fear. I hope one day to say that I am nobody, nothing, that Jesus is my All. I hope to say that Jesus is the One, that He’s the only One, that I find my identity in Him, that He finds me and brings me into the reality of love and truth.

P.S. At the moment, someone is condemning me as someone who is enjoying the all too easy life of a pastor on the peripheries. If only they knew! Well, I must say that I love being a priest, a pastor, and on the peripheries. I love being a priest. I love watching Jesus, the Priest, at work. I love everything about any possible way and manner of being a priest. It is true that an intellectual / academic “career” would be tough, as the Common Doctor says when commenting on the brightness of a halo in the Summa, as there is a 1000 times more anguish for the flock in such circumstances. In this regard I would absolutely love being the or one of the Papal Theologians (though I’m not a Dominican). My goodness, the things I could write on Genesis, on ecumenical cooperation with biblical manuscripts (going to the heart of ecumenism), on the women of the Gospels, on papal infallibility, on reaching out to the Orthodox, on being a missionary, on mercy, on the formation of seminarians… But, I am here, and I am also happy where I am, in the tiniest parish in North America, in the most remote place possible. I love it. That’s who I am, one who is in love with everything about The Priest, Jesus.

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Fr George David “One-Percenter” Byers

DONKEY FOX

99% of those who like donkeys are law-abiding citizens. And then there’s Father Byers. O.K., so, that’s to misquote a 1947 backfired American Motorcyclist Association statement that was supposed to defend motorcyclists, but was used by all others to say that one in a hundred motorcyclists are criminals.

The other day, besides being compared by way of hubris to Peter Abelard (and I’m proud of that, of course) it was also said about yours truly that if I were to wear a bandanna and wear a leather jacket, I would surely be mistaken to be a one-percenter motorcycle gang member to be most feared. It was insisted that those attending my Mass are likely to say, and have said, that I provide quite a specter-esque appearance (I’m kind of a big guy), but that, ha ha, that perception disappears the second I open my mouth for the homily and begin to speak of the goodness and kindness and truth of Jesus who loves us so very much.

The two just don’t seem to go together, this being a kind of grotesque and monstrous creature. But I contend that this is exactly the way it is supposed to be and is most instructive to all and sundry and quite a consolation that such uncouth and otherwise uncustomary appearance might at the same time bear the death of Jesus within.

It is an honor to be considered among the one-percenters. After all, Jesus Himself was accounted as a criminal, and put to death as the worst of all possible criminals. Oh, and, by the way, we’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God by way of original sin and whatever else. But knowing that, admitting that, being convinced of that opens us up to being beckoned for forgiveness by the Mother of Him who makes all things new:

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More than one percent of us criminals can be on our way to heaven if we but go to Confession. Just in time for Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year.

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Fr George David “Peter Abelard” Byers

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Our new Vicar Forane in the Smoky Mountain Vicariate the other evening described me as being like Peter Abelard, the most brilliant if somewhat heretical philosopher who firmly established the foundations for all that which would be scholasticism after his death with Saint Thomas Aquinas (Abelard being born about a millennium ago).

The comparison, mind you, wasn’t about Heloise, or even smarts, but rather a marked hubris that antagonized whatever powers of hubris in whomsoever they might be incarnated at any given time or place, no matter how powerful, no matter how famous they might be. He made a career of challenging and humiliating all adversaries.

He did have some mighty adversaries, mind you, such as, according to a General Wednesday Audience of the great Pope Benedict XVI, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard pursued Abelard trying to convert him from his unstoppable hubris. Abelard finally calmed down a bit on his death bed with his famous, “Je ne sais pas.”

What provoked this was my story of what I did with Father, now Cardinal Prosper Grech, an Augustinian and Maltese Patristic Scholar, indeed, co-founder of the Augustinianum across the street from Saint Peter’s Square, who was teaching the course on the historical critical method at the Pontifical Biblical Institute when I as a student there.

Father Grech was also a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. He was to be most feared by students in that, for instance, pretty much every candidate for the doctorate at the Biblical Commission who was praised by all members as the most brilliant in the world would nevertheless be forthwith failed by the supposedly merciless priest-academician, Father Grech, he destroying life-times of study with a stroke of his pen.

Father Grech told us at the end of the course that we had two options for the final exam, but only because he was forced to offer both by the Biblicum itself. He said that he would quite certainly fail all those who chose to write an essay, and this within the first paragraph, not even bothering to read the rest. “DON’T write an essay!” he commanded us, saying that he warned us, again forbidding us. The other option was to do an oral exam in which he promised that, as a consolation prize, he would look at the floor indicating our condemnation to hell, but thus giving us a chance to change our minds mid-sentence and provide, instead, the correct answer.

I, of course, waltzed right up to him after class and asked if I could nevertheless go ahead and write an essay. Astounded and speechless for some five seconds, grasping for words (hard to do that for five seconds mind you), he finally blurted out, visibly upset and yet enthralled at the same time, that, yes, he had to permit me to make this foolhardy move. I think that he secretly loved the fact that someone had the hubris to do the right thing, learning something while researching and thinking and writing. He would spy on me in the library researching my chosen topic, and even approached me a couple of times as I flew through the pages of massive tomes to discover what I just knew could be discovered in whatever language, living or dead, of whatever century or location, and discussed what I was doing, leaving quite flabbergasted. I finally handed in the essay at the last possible moment and waited in anticipation of hell. He gave me, according to the Roman system, 10 out of 10. Ha ha. Cardinal Grech is the best. I love him to pieces.

I could fill volumes with such stories, academic, ecclesiastical, political, interpersonal.

  • One diocesan priest at the Urbaniana University (right next to the Augustinianum) said that he would totally destroy me in print should I publish on “Yahweh Elohim” as a sentence name given what he thought he knew (but didn’t) about historical perceptions of Northwest Semitic by Semites to the South. Whatever.
  • One Dominican priest at the Angelicum said that if I published a defense of Saint Catherine of Sienna’s portrayal of Jesus commenting on Saint Paul, gutting the possibility of his mocking the great saint, he would pursue me right around the world by way of his iron grip on Catholic and Christian and Biblical publishing companies, easily convincing them to steer clear of anything written by yours truly. Whatever.
  • One Cardinal, papabile at the time but now deceased, said that if… [I had better stop…] But these stories are endless…
  • One Rabbi, head of relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See, said that if I were to continue spearheading a certain project, that would mean that… [again, I had better quit…]

I guess it’s that I’ve discovered early on that doing one’s best to do the right thing no matter what with no compromise always leads one way or another to the most interesting and varied of lives one couldn’t otherwise even imagine. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I just hope that on my death bed I will repeat those words of Peter Abelard with the attitude of hoping that perhaps I might thereafter be instructed by the Most Holy Trinity in the beatific vision, for after all, it is what Christ Jesus would have us say, we who know nothing at all, about our present understanding: “Je ne sais pas.”

 

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The 33 year homily

PCI

Today’s the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles. It was I who preached the homily as a new transitional deacon in the seminary in Rome that I attended. It was a Monday evening Mass, 1985, and it was customary for all the people of the nationality of that national seminary who were in Rome, whether lay or clerical or religious, to show up for this Mass every week. The pressure was on. There were many important visitors from that country there.

The visitors loved my homily, saying it was the best they ever heard, congratulating me for going after such a difficult topic with such soft-spoken, good natured humor and obvious good faith. What I had tried to do is be ever so novel in not presenting any novelty, just the fascinating brilliance of the faith as it is.

But that was not the opinion of the powers that be at the seminary. They didn’t like it one bit. Their reaction could well be written in historical novel form and published as part of the national history for the national archives of that county. The homily was very much like a nuclear explosion that hasn’t yet finished its course, now 32 years on and going into it’s 33rd year of far reaching repercussions. It won’t be over until I’m finally installed as pastor of the parish. As it is, I got the letter of appointment, but I haven’t yet been installed. Getting to this point has a direct line of causation all the way back to that 6:30 PM Mass. Mind you, I don’t regret anything whatsoever. God is good.

That homily was not recorded. I wish it was. It was written out, and I had to use that time and again as a kind of proof of what I had actually said. I don’t know where it is. Basically it was this:

  • There will be a unity in which we can rejoice with great joy if we are obedient to the faith and morals provided by Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church, obedience (ob+audire) being an intense and eager listening filled with love and enthusiasm to the will of the greatest love of one’s life, Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church. After all, it was the feast of the Apostles.
  • There will be a disunity such that the Church and society will fall apart in cynicism and bitterness and failed individuality if we are disobedient, each of us doing our own thing, not being able to care less about Jesus who is ever ancient, ever new.

Ever since then all I’ve heard from all and sundry is that we cannot possibly know what the Church teaches, much less Scripture and Tradition, but we have to depend solely on theologians to tell us what we are supposed to think. Um… no.

That homily was given in the chapel all the way down the “cortile” in the picture above. In that same picture, just on the immediate left, is the “salone” in which the plotting of some manipulation of the conclave of 2005 took place. At least that’s what I gather. I had been invited. The full story of the vote of the conclave was later told to me. What a fright. But God gave us Pope Benedict, not who the plotters wanted, to say the least. I digress.

Lots of drama. Sure. Life is super interesting and one can see Jesus at work ever so clearly with all the irony, all the truth, all the love, when we try even in the smallest way to be faithful to Him. He loves us, and uses this. I absolutely love being His priest.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Memories from my Fatima century ed.)

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Superabundant Guadalupe roses are still blooming into mid-October with more buds on the way on this day of 13th October in honor of Our Lady of Fatima.

I first found out about Fatima in the mid-1960s when the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima (as directly opposed to the Red Army specifically in Russia) was still called the Blue Army. I loved that as a little kid, going up against the Red Army with prayer, counting on heaven, being a prayer warrior here upon earth. I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world at my five years of age or however old I was at the time.

About ten years later I found myself writing a belated essay on Fatima for Father Robert J Fox of Alexandria, South Dakota. I would end up reading quite a lot of his books. My half-sister was having me go on a two week pilgrimage to Fatima with Father Fox as a Fatima Cadet (there’s that military language again!) along with all the other Fatima Cadets that year (1976 – sixteen years old).

I had gathered my birth certificate, my driver’s licence, the original certificate for my social security number, acquired my first passport, and, finally, my ticket on TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses). This, of course, made it easier for my “Shadow” to then steal my identity, using my clean record to allow him to move even internationally with impunity.

fatima procession-

In Fatima we were brought to all the special places near and far. But then came one of the greatest honors of my life, on the night of July 12, with some 2.2 million pilgrims present (almost twice as many as were foreseen, the most ever). I was invited to be one of the litter bearers. So heavy! I was afraid I couldn’t do it if anyone else carrying with me were to take a misstep. The others kept being replaced pretty quickly to give as many as possible a chance to carry our Lady. Somehow they let me continue to carry. Perhaps they saw how radiant was my face even in the dark of night, happy as can be.

We later would go to visit Sister Lucia in Coimbra. I would return there again as well as to Fatima in 2008 with the other permanent chaplains of Lourdes, France. The chaplains would take a vacation together every year to one of the Marian shrines around the world, comparing notes with the other chaplains of the other shrines. I was happy to return to Fatima once again.

Time to put up the Holy Souls Hermitage series on the Rosary Mysteries once again.

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Homily 2017 10 01 Prostitutes & Porn & me & St John Paul II (Yikes!)

I guess I should apologize. Perhaps I get a bit carried away. Super repetitive. It’s a little longer than the weekday homilies. The Sunday homilies are always a little longer.

I failed to mention that there was a story in the paper here about an epidemic of the local kids sexting and, with that, bullies right away doing the extortion and blackmail thing. So sad. So many hurt. So many drawn in and smashed down.

I also failed to mention that in another homily on porn way back in the 1980s and I was still a deacon. I was pretty ferocious then too. After Mass, I went outside the church and down the steps and down the walkway to the sidewalk down at the street. There were about five more steps down just before the street. I was there greeting people, who, instead, were pretty much ignoring me, looking a bit miffed.

Meanwhile, a girl, say, ten years old, came flying off the steps and threw her arms around my neck. She slid down to the sidewalk and everyone had turned and was glaring at me like I was a monster, until, that is, that the little girl started exclaiming loudly and exuberantly that I had given the best homily ever in the world ever, and that all other priests were cowards and never talked about this and it had to be done because it’s just everywhere and no one says anything and thank you so very much for being so brave as to say something and that was best homily ever in the world… and on she went.

Meanwhile, this out of the mouths of babes extravaganza was not missed by the Mass goers, who were now shamefacedly running away as fast as they could. Ha! Guardian angels set up this kind of thing. I hope it got a few people to heaven.

Also today there were many who thanked me wholeheartedly for saying some strong words. That’s encouraging, as I’m always thinking I’m too strong and too offensive. Perhaps today I was. I don’t know. Tell me what you think. I’m willing to learn.

 

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The Feast Day news for Pastor Byers – “God made you special”

God made you special rock

This was to be seen in the flower bed at the entrance of Prince of Peace Catholic Mission this past weekend. One recalls the saying of Jesus about even the likes of me crying out (Luke 19:37-40):

“Now as He was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He said in reply, ‘I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!’

On the one hand, just another stone, but, on the other hand, one that can cry out.

Mind you, this was just after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. On the feast itself I had been thinking, “What does the Lord have in mind for me this year?” I knew there was something, but what I had no idea. The Feast Days of the birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the beheading of John the Baptist (August 29) and then the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) and of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15) have always been very significant days for me spiritually. Big things. Like receiving my vocation to the priesthood back in June of 1962 (2 and 1/2 years old) or Pontifical teaching appointments, or leaving for and arrival at various assignments.

I don’t think that the Bishop of the Diocese here knew this at all when he just assigned me as Pastor to the parish here on September 14, 2017, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. I told everyone that this was a demotion from my status up to this time as Administrator for the Bishop, as I had joked that such a canonical situation surely had supplied me with plenipotentiary powers of the bishop, and now, as a canonical Pastor, was limited to the ecclesial powers envisioned by the mere law itself. Ha ha. But no, I am very happy to have a more ecclesially sanctioned and stable position from which a proper cura animarum might shine forth forthwith.

Behold, the letter. Be impressed. Our Bishop writes the best letters in the world.

george david byers pastor 1

george david byers pastor 2

“Life is changed, not ended!”

Actually, this did much good for my soul. I think some mental blocks about moving in to the rectory fully have been lifted. Getting organized well will be a boon for writing. Meanwhile, all goes on as before. Communion calls and nursing homes and hospices and far flung trips to hospitals. All in the beautiful beautiful beautiful mountains.

Oh, and, by the way, our Lord is also The Rock of our Salvation.

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7 7 7 – Summorum Pontificum: the 10th anniversary in Lourdes. “Just wear dental guards, Father George!”

LOURDES-GROTTO

Things are never as they seem. After Pope Benedict XVI came out with Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2007, the permanent chaplains in Lourdes, including myself, were called to a special meeting announced by the rector of the time on behalf of the bishop of the time. We were going to be the very first to implement S.P. even before the start date.

The rector asked: “Who knows how to offer Mass in Latin? The bishop wants to know because of the Pope’s letter.” Three of us raised our hands, one who may have known it but didn’t want to offer it but was willing to fake it by saying the Novus Ordo in Latin (he didn’t last long), one who didn’t care one way or the other (and would soon regret raising his hand and quit), and myself. I was put in charge of bringing Summorum Pontificum to fruition, being naive enough to think for a little while that all this was actually sincere. It wasn’t. This was all a way to look cooperative with the Holy See but it was instead a way to control and smack down anything to do with Summorum Pontificum.

lourdes

Generally speaking, only chaplains were allowed to offer this Mass (there were a few exceptions such as when the SSPX would come with all four bishops, etc.) which meant that many other priest-pilgrims were regularly denied or given the run around, creating chaos, frustration and bad feelings on the part of the pilgrims. Priests and even bishops were simply treated like trash. Tempers flared. It was all so very unnecessary. So sad.

Places allowed for this Mass were thrown around all over the sanctuaries so that no schedule at a set place could be established for a long time, which also meant that I had to prepare rolling suitcases filled with the necessary items to drag all over the sanctuaries, up and down staircases, in the rain (sometimes all the way to the front gate at Saint Joseph’s), etc. No advertisements were allowed for this Mass either on the internet or at the info office, though finally, sometimes, it would be put on the roster, though often with the wrong time and place. I would put up notices on doors around the sanctuaries to announce the inevitable change of time and venue, only to find the notices immediately ripped down, etc. Mockery for saying this Mass coming from other chaplains was extremely intense. The last thing they wanted was to actually permit this Mass to be offered. One of the worst ones to mock was the priest who had almost single-handedly throughout the last decades reduced the “Youth Mass” to a McDonald’s picnic and irrelevant theater and total screaming from one end to the other throughout “Mass.” Yep. I say “Mass” in quotes because they did do the consecration, I guess, but everything else was ip for grabs, including whether laity could participate in the consecrations.

LOURDES-MICHAEL

Finally, with clever chess moves, Masses were allowed in a half dozen chapels for pilgrimages of up to dozens of people (offered by myself, rarely by another priest) and finally were allowed in the hidden side chapels in the crypt of the upper Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for priests coming with one or two others. Never in the grotto. A Sunday Mass was allowed, usually in the smallish Immaculate Conception upper Basilica, but, of course, the Mass times were changed wildly and sometimes scheduled at the same time and place as other Masses, or so closely back to back that chaos ensued. Unending, unending, unending.

The mockery coming from the other chaplains (and some others) was vicious, loud, public, and, truly unending. It’s hard to imagine more hateful attitudes, because, after that, people go into uncaring, zero conscience mode, which I suppose is the ultimate hate. I guess our Lord wanted to introduce me to just how bad it can get, and how bad it was throughout Europe as it all was concentrated and put into a package for me at Lourdes. A special gift, really.

But in the midst of all this, the Lord was doing what He wanted, and so there were simply some of the most beautiful moments that Lourdes had seen in dozens of years. One I remember had to do with me taking the oaths of new European Boy Scouts down in front of the Rosary Basilica after a Traditional Mass in the Immaculate Conception Basilica. Another was the pilgrimage of soon to be Cardinal Burke:

cardinal burke lourdes

Another was just over a year later on the National Feast Day of France, August 15, 2008, during the National Pilgrimage, when I was able to arrange for and offer the Mass in the underground Basilica of Saint Pius X. A solemn high Mass with a good 7000 people assisting:

Mass Lourdes Pius X Basilica

That Mass was a nuclear explosion and caused no end of troubles for me, with accusations being made against me from near and far, with letters of complaint being sent near and far. What a nightmare. “You told people that the new Mass is invalid and they are obliged to go to the traditional Mass!” It never happened. But the same higher-ups insisted that this was the case until I finally departed for the USA (at a time foreseen before I went to Lourdes in the first place). What to do with such slander? I’m only telling you just a fraction of what went on.

I once said that I don’t know any priest who has suffered more for the re-establishment of the Traditional Mass in living memory – and I know a lot of priests who have suffered for this – and I still think that that is true. I include bishops in that assessment. I don’t say that to toot my own horn, but rather to give encouragement to those who suffer. And yet, so many among the traditional-ism-ists on the far end of the spectrum are so bitter and angry with me, I suppose because I am not bitter like them. Why be bitter? That gets no one anywhere. It only hurts oneself. We can be faithful sons of the Church and not be bitter. In fact, we can be joyful.

Anyway, I was being so smashed down that I was grinding my teeth at night so that dentists noticed that my teeth were being worn down and cracked. One recommended dental guards at night such as one might wear for American football. I didn’t, but I have to say that this was at the same time the worst time in my entire life and also the most glorious. I wouldn’t change any of it. And there was joy in the midst of this.

Through it all I got to know Jesus and Mary so very much better. I was told by many priests I talked to at the time – friends on pilgrimage – that surely this time in Lourdes was providential for me, to bring me closer to Jesus and Mary.

And I was happy to do what I could to be a good son of the Church in the best way I knew how, trying to fulfill the wishes of Pope Benedict and, indeed, the Holy See of the time. I was doing my best to make friends with the pilgrimage groups that came, with the priests, with the FSSP, with the SSPX who have a house up the hill across the river. I regret nothing. I would do it all over again. After my requested two year sojourn in Lourdes was completed, I was felicitously replaced by a great young priest of the FSSP. Here’s a changing of the guard picture in the sacristy:

lourdes traditional mass chaplains

I was saying that I was willing to do it all over again. In fact, I did do it all over again in re-establishing the traditional Mass in the Pontifical seminary in Columbus, Ohio, the Josephinum. There were some bishops saying that they would pull out their seminarians unless classes were taught for this. I, of course, volunteered, but it was the same permit so as to control and smash down effort by the powers that be, much of that not seen by the seminarians. I taught the Mass and all the sacraments and even exorcism and blessings in the old ritual, and also liturgical Latin. It was a strictly optional course but, whatever. The traditional Mass was back and it all took on a life of its own. Great! Novus Ordo Latin Mass also became very frequent after this. ;-)

When you really want something you have to be willing to suffer for it, and not be bitter about it, because it’s a matter of love. And I love being a priest. Didn’t Jesus encounter difficulties? Unimaginably worse, and so many priests have actually suffered right around the world right through the centuries, making my ruminations almost seem blasphemous. But, when you’re going through something, it can be kinda rough. We’re all pretty weak, whatever protestations we might otherwise make about ourselves. But we learn. As the Master, so the mere disciple. We learn that it’s all about Jesus’ love and Jesus’ truth and Jesus’ goodness and kindness and all the rest doesn’t matter, as it won’t matter in heaven, and, so as to praise Jesus, that’s where we want to go, where we must go. No bitterness. Just wear a dental guard. Save your teeth for a good smile. I love being a priest!

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“Vaya con Dios!” Thanks, mom.

just me 04

Christmas of, I think, 1972, when I was twelve years old, with mom and dad. My brother is just on the other side of mom. One of my sisters is taking this picture.

My mom died in 1994. On this Mothers Day in 2017 I am remembering one rather heart stopping event with my mom early – I think it was – Monday morning, 3 October, 1983, when I was going back to Rome for the umpteenth time. I was a mere 23 years old.

This was the one year I had no books with me as I had a rather large library of personal books waiting in my residence in Rome. I only had some fifteen pages of notes in the tiniest handwriting ever so as to study for some exams which I had put off to the Fall in favor of leaving Rome weeks earlier in the Spring (I was actually able to take other exams early and leave by the end of May, making my friends terribly envious, as some would be there taking exams until mid-late June).

That would be the last Summer of my life that I would be in insanely good shape. My mode of transportation was a ten-speed K-Mart bicycle, with which I go to town for a daily Holy Hour at Saint Mary’s Cathedral (a 45 mile round trip). So, now, it was the last moments at home and, having said my goodbyes, I jumped on my bike to ride into town to catch the shuttle van from Saint Cloud to the Wold-Chamberlain International Airport of Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Once there I would box up the bike right at the airport and then, arriving in Italy, ride the bike from Fiumicino into Rome.

But, just as I got about 100 yards away from home, at the top of the hill, just before the road went precipitously down, I heard mom calling out to me. I jumped off the bike and looked back. She had run out in front of the house and was calling out: “Vaya con Dios! Vaya con Dios!” (Go with God! Go with God!). This phrase is only used with religious sincerity while someone is going away for a long time, and that’s exactly how she meant it, especially the religious part. I forget my response. She was worried for me. And I think she was worried for herself. She wasn’t in great health. It hit me strongly that this was what she wanted me to remember her by, a kind of last will and testament: “Go with God!” Heart stopping for me. But this is a great memory and makes me feel close to my mom right now. Happy Mothers Day, mom!

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Trey Gowdy’s kiddie-porn investigation. This kiddie-porn star (now years later) requests RICO prosecutions of abusers

I am so happy to see that U.S. House of Representatives’ Trey Gowdy from South Carolina’s 4th district (and future POTUS?) has convened a congressional committee to investigate those producing and providing child-porn with an end of setting up eventual prosecutions. I hope that he will attempt to structure the procedures so as to get what he needs for a stringent usage of appropriate RICO legislation.

As longtime readers of this blog know, when I was a kid I was a victim of kiddie-porn producers, a veritable star of kiddie-porn, though not in the worst way and I survived without scars (as I didn’t really know what was going on), which I can’t be sure was the case for all of my friends. The producers might well have been and are surely still to date the largest volume producers of kiddie-porn anywhere, and that’s saying a lot. The producers were so brave, acting with such public impunity, that it would be easy even after all these years to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It’s not that any statute of limitations has expired, for, as I understand it, if redistribution / sales are still continuing (and why not if it brings them money, right?) it’s as if it happened today. This involved all the boys of the junior high schools in my city of, at the time, 48,000 people.

Here’s a snippet of an article about the experience of yours truly regarding just one of those Junior High Schools:

north junior high school

The swimming pool at North Junior High School would be a source of trouble time and again. When I was eight and nine years old, the older neighborhood kids were saying that swimming trunks were not allowed by the gym teacher. Everyone had to swim, and swim naked, saying that this had already been going on for some years. I would soon be towards the end of my twelfth year of age, and would be attending there myself. Many schools were starting to do this I was told, including South Junior High School.

just me climbing treeNo adult questioned it in what was now a Woodstock society. But don’t be fooled, all the kids hated it, at least at the beginning. They thought that the instructor was going after the boys. But I thought that I could handle myself, and there was no question that I had to go to school, and to that particular school. When the time came after summertime climbing of trees, I did go.

What I found, at twelve years of age, was that the teacher’s office, with its large bay window overlooking the locker room, was always jam-packed with naked boys, whom he seemed to be totally ignoring.

camera reel to reelBut then I saw a very expensive movie camera – very professional looking – set up on a large tripod facing the bay window from the locker room, with its on-air light lit up. He was filming the whole thing. The boys, so eager to be around him, were part of a “secret club” that – as one boy told me as if I were entirely stupid – could only be opened up to membership by the gym teacher himself. Poor kids. They fell for what they thought was the excitement of immodesty and the sense of belonging to a group. I was disgusted by the kind of spirit that seemed to have blinded them to all but a tiny set of arrogant, self-centered emotions, which were lit up so brightly in them that they were blind to everything else, having no agility of spirit whatsoever. They were like deer willingly mesmerized by their own headlights, being shot down by an unscrupulous hunter. I knew that something was terribly wrong with all this, and was taken aback by the very public nature of it. It was the old trick of flaunting it like its normal so that people will think that it is normal. It worked in society then just as it does today. Some few of the kids didn’t fall for it. Neither did I. But what could a little kid do back in those days, so very different from today? Of course, there will be those who blame me for the whole thing. There’s nothing I can do about that. I think those perpetrating the crimes should be the ones to be blamed, not the kids. Just my opinion.

studio camera 1960sI could try to avoid that camera. But the cameras were everywhere. There were more cameras throughout the locker room, with heavy cables all over the floor. There were cameras in the open room showers, and out in the pool area. There were very large movie cameras, Hollywood cameras I would call them, up in the empty swim-meet bleachers high above the pool, lights blinking away, another in an open storage room at the end of the pool next to the locker room door, and, it seems, below, inside the underwater window at the deep end of the pool. A mafia operation with the school being paid off to turn a blind eye? I think so. The gym teacher made everyone march around naked, sit in certain areas facing certain ways, sit in groups on the diving board, dive from the board in certain ways, and so on, like scripted scenes that would fit some sort of porno story. He even had us swim to the bottom of the deep end of the pool two at a time in order to fetch a block of heavy rubber matting, asking us to fight for it underwater. That’s where the underwater window was located. I was by far the best underwater fighter, and wanted to do this activity, being under water all the time, as it was an escape from hanging around with the gym teacher and everyone else up top. But then that window gave me the creeps…

just me 04He must have taken thousands of large reels of film over the years that this continued, from the mid-1960s into the mid-1970s. I can only guess that this was a fraction of the operation, another part of which was surely the “secret club” of the gym teacher’s naked boys. I can only guess that the fellow with the Cadillac Limousine mentioned in a previous article was financing all this. I can only guess that the school and police and the Feds had all been paid off to keep quiet. I can only guess that these films still make up by far the largest source of “kiddie-porn” still circulating among the perverted until this very day throughout the United States and around the world, with enough footage for millions of still photos, uncountable DVD’s, pay-per-views, and a multitude of internet formats. In other words…

just me 03I had been prostituting myself and didn’t even know it. I was a kiddie-porno star and surely I still am so today, with dirty old men doing unspeakable things while gaping at images of myself and all those other boys. It only hit home when it was too late. Abuse of minors is always abuse, because, no matter how worldly wise youngsters can be, or however much they think that they can take care of themselves (with me being in first place in that category), still, when one is going through a situation as a kid it really is hard to imagine the immense evil of some adults. Sure, I saw the cameras. Yes, I knew they were rolling. So did everyone else. But we just could not imagine for what reason. It just didn’t make any sense. None of us could fathom the depths of the evil at hand, and so mindlessly went along with it, especially because it all seemed condoned by the most trusted adults, the teacher and the school’s administration. I had told my parents about it. I think my dad tried to do something. But the power behind this operation seemed to be beyond anything he could do anything about.

pool lifeguard chairThere was some grumbling among the boys, but only one bit of real, though only momentary rebellion. The occasion for this was one boy being singled out. I felt so sorry for him, and angry and confused right along with him, as did we all. He was made to climb up an inordinately tall life-guard chair and stand there, naked, standing, the gym teacher insisted, with his hands to the side. This boy noticed the cameras up in the bleachers, and mentioned them, pointing to them. You could see the scars of hatred being seared into his heart, as if someone was dragging a dagger right through his chest, deeply, right through his very soul. He put his hands over his privates and was told to put his hands to the side, again and again, with threats. Overwhelmed, the boy himself then threatened to jump from the chair so that his head would hit the tile edge of the pool below, breaking his neck, smashing his skull open, killing himself. “No! Don’t do it!” we said. “No!” We just couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. We almost lost our voices. He didn’t jump, thanks be to God.

With that, the “game” was over for the day, even though there was still some twenty minutes left for this “class” in the school schedule. The gym teacher knew that if he didn’t let us go now, he himself was going to pay a heavy price. He let the boy climb down. I don’t know how the boy didn’t fall while climbing down, so much was he shaking with anger.

There was a big difference, thought I, between this gym teacher/kiddie-porno-film director, and my friend with the switch blade in an earlier post, though both may have had similar histories. I want to think my friend had remained with a shred of hope in his soul, even in his darkest moments, a hope which manifests the power of the grace of God in the midst of the hell some live through on this earth. The kiddie-porn director, instead, had chosen not to have any hope. It is how low the human soul can sink. But I will insist, even this kiddie-porn operation isn’t the lowest of the low. The Mafia isn’t the lowest of the low. There are others pulling strings. I’m hoping Trey Gowdy can do something about it. I’d be willing to testify before whatever Congressional committee if that would help.

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Suicide dare. No. Yes. For mercy’s sake!

crocadile

FoxNews carried this AP story: Crocodile attacks Australian teen who jumped into river on dare. It reminds me of my childhood when a kid I knew, who wasn’t my friend, would dare me to do something which would certainly most likely bring about grave injury or death. I think I was a bit autistic as a kid and he knew it. Some autistic kids do grow out of it just a bit. The spectrum is very broad. I was an easy target. Somehow I just didn’t do what he wanted. I’m thinking this was my guardian angel making me just too stunned that he would ask this, and so was unable to wrap my brain around a such a thing. If I remember correctly, it was something like this:

  • Jump off this high bridge into the river, the Mississippi.
  • Jump off this roof (and so many times almost pushed off).
  • Jump out of this fast moving car.
  • Ride your bike in this super-dangerous area.
  • Drink this deadly chemical.
  • Cut yourself with this knife.
  • Shoot yourself with this gun (and shot at… once successfully)
  • Hang onto the back of this truck on your bike as it takes off.
  • Lay across train tracks next to the wheels of this momentarily stationary train (this being the most common dare).
  • Get electrocuted in this way.
  • Dig a cave into the wall of the deep trench of that excavated loose sand pit.
  • Jump into this quarry water.
  • Jump off the chairlift we’re on.
  • Et cetera et cetera et cetera. Just about anything you can think of.

Mind you, this wasn’t said like a typical “Go jump in a lake” brush off. Instead, in the circumstances, the pressure was really put on. I think my eyes just glazed over and he got tired of this and he went elsewhere. In looking back I have to wonder just how much his lack of a good experience with the father of his family affected his perspective in life. Although it seems he spent a lot of time with me from that list, these were instead momentary, purposed encounters. And that was the end of that.

Having said all that, we do have even more deadly dares of suicide coming to us all the time from Saint Paul and Jesus, all of Sacred Scripture really, the old die to yourself so as to live for Christ dynamic. I’ll tell you this. That dare is a lot more enthralling, captivating, necessitating, compelling, but it’s incomparably more difficult to wrap one’s mind around however much it makes sense. The reason for that is we don’t have the gumption to do it, to die to ourselves to live for Christ. That comes only from the grace, the love, the friendship with our Lord that He provides to us, He having taken the dare, if you will, to lay down His life for us that was issued by our dear Heavenly Father on our behalf. Jesus jumped right down to this earth. And we did what He knew we would do, therefore gaining the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, standing in our stead, the innocent for the guilty: “Father, forgive them!” We need but ask Jesus for the grace to say with love: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Meanwhile, I wonder if all that imprudent fearlessness of my provocateur had an effect on me after all. I mean, how many terrorists (a number of whom one way or the other committed suicide) have I gone out of my way to speak with? How many impossibly dangerous situations have I been in on purpose, bullets whizzing by? I think all the challenges as a kid made me think about the distinction between taking one’s life just to do it and putting oneself in circumstances in which one might well be hurt, even mortally, but for a good end. That might have prepared to begin to listen to those words about dying to oneself to live for Jesus. I admit I’m a bit slow with that one, a bit afraid, a bit weak. Actually a lot weak. But Jesus is very good and kind and patient. I’ll ask my guardian angel to smack me down so that I don’t use that as an excuse for complacency. My prayer is: “Jesus, please, don’t help me; instead, just kill me off to myself so that I live just for you.” Words are one thing. Actuality is another. But: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Lastly: I have zero animosity for that kid, who now must be getting on toward 60 years old (older than me). I think he’s had what anyone might call a fairly daring life as well. I just hope he’s taking up Jesus’ dare to take up one’s cross and follow Him, dying to ourselves to live for Him.

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My autosomal DNA results just arrived. The question is: who am I anyway?

ancestry dna gdb

So, I did the AncestryDNA, autosmal DNA test, which, unlike Y- or mtDNA tests, surveys “a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations where genetic markers that identify an individual typically appear. Plus, autosomal DNA tests look at both maternal and paternal lines, meaning discoveries come from both sides of your family tree.” Apparently, I’m not from Mars or the dark side of the moon. There’s still some guesswork, but, as more people do the test, the markers might indicate ancestors with a bit more precision as time goes on.

What came back is exactly what I expected, plus a bit more. I had been hoping (for political reasons, because I’m evil and bad) to have something from Africa. Nothing. Fine.

My father’s ancestors seem to have originated in Ireland 5%, but then moved up between Scotland and England 6%, whence the family name Byers originated. My dad said his side of the family had been in Germany for some centuries, that is, Western Europe, which came in at 12%. They then seem to have migrated eastward.

I’m guessing from this that the Northeast Russia with Scandinavia bits and the Norse bits (less than 1% each) were the most ancient on my mother’s side. They settled eastern Europe. Coming from the other direction on her side again are the western Asia percentages coming in at 4% (as much as 8%). They moved up to Eastern Europe, where I now clock in at 71% (but as much as 79%) where the typical local resident today retains an average of just 82%). From the little I understood from my mom, her side of the family came from an enclave in or next to Warsaw, you know, a Ghetto, so I’m guessing the Warschauer Ghetto which saw most of its 400,000 residents exterminated at Treblinka concentration camp. She spoke some Yiddish, while her mother and grandmother were fluent.

However, the map is a surprise, as I was expecting something from southern Italy and Greece, strong in the DNA of Ashkenazi Jews. Nothing. The Shephardic Jews can be ruled out as well. So, what’s the deal with my mom? I’m thinking that the western Asian percentages are from the Mountain Jews (the ridges and to the North in present day Russia, descendants of the Persian Jews) diverse from the Caucasus Jews, south of the dividing mountains. I say that because the Mountain Jews are closest to Poland and, unlike the Caucasus Jews, have no Ashkenazi population. The history of this would be that Mountain Jews going to Poland would stay to themselves with their wildly different language (though picking up Yiddish from the Ashkenazi crowd) and would have come over to the USA pretty quickly in the mid-late 1800s, having no Ashkenazi contact for the one or two marriages from which my mom was born.

At any rate, we are all children of Adam and children of God, and hopefully children now of the Holy Family. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Savior.

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Update: DHS / Main State P-M Affairs: “Who are you anyway ‘Father Byers’?!”

IMG_20170310_095535

Well, well. That’s interesting. The post going by the above title was scrubbed from the blog. Maybe it’s just a computer glitch. Anyway, my “I-9” went through without further questions. So, whatever. It simply doesn’t matter. I now continue with other aspects of tax withholding, setting up direct deposits, etc…

I had one other experience like this. My “Shadow” and I were texting back and forth for the first time ever not all that long ago. Then his phone was stolen. That texting “conversation” was shown to the police by the thief (perhaps she said she “found it”) as it looked – how to say it? – suspicious. It contained the name and number of a guy in Main State’s Political-Military Affairs, a guy with a six billion dollar budget who coordinates between the Pentagon and various… um… groups, and who dreams up and runs drug and gun and security related programs in various countries (and whose successor is now an Obama appointee, an Ambassador now with no direct superior perhaps for the rest of the Trump presidency…). That’s one less level between the President and some… um… programs… It was a predecessor directing this office who had written me a two page official letter already decades ago. Anyway, the police called my “Shadow” to come pick up his phone. He told me it was totally scrubbed and unusable. But, he was not detained or questioned. You gotta love that.

But now there is another developing problem, scrubbed phone or not, since my “Shadow”, seemingly following up on that texting, began sending me instantaneously traceable money-orders, each for $100. I just now got the fourth one.

  • On the one hand: Is he doing reparation for having become my “Shadow” way back in the day (that’s not the kind of reparation I want at all)? Or is he helping out a priest whom he considers to be poor (though I’m not in dire straits at all)? Either of those would, I guess, be well-intentioned. And I very much appreciate that. Very thoughtful. Very kind.
  • On the other hand: Perhaps someone might form an opinion that this is a result of blackmail or extortion against him on my part. That’s simply not the case either. As I get to know him better, I wish him the best. And I would anyway. After all, he’s my “Shadow.” And anyway, I always report this kind of “personal gift” on the blog, for-the-record, as is my practice. But he also knows that. Back to number one?
  • But it would also be good for him to stop this money-order thing, as it could also look like bribery on his part, kind of a reverse blackmail/extortion, so that, in receiving said monies, I had better keep my mouth shut, or else, from any number of directions. The question to a growing number of people would then be, about what is he so concerned? So, I suggest to my “Shadow” that the money-order thing just stops in the best interests of everyone however good and excellent and totally innocent the intentions have been in providing these monies.

Anyway, he knows what I want, and it’s not from him, it’s from P.-M. of Main State. I still want that. It would put a kind of double reverse on civil effects of big drug-money concerns as I entrench myself in cleaning up some of that bit of evil in this region.

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My own little celebrations

just me 05

  • 25 years a priest on 4 January.
  • Birthday sometime in February.
  • Incardination into the Diocese on 11 February.

Those 25 years in the priesthood were amazing years, lots of joy, lots of suffering, lots of learning about our Lord’s priesthood and His mercy. Things change. For instance, the examination of conscience goes from “What did I do?” to “Is that the way I would be if I were to be in heaven right now before Jesus and Mary and all the angels and saints?” thus going from an act of imperfect contrition (fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell) to an act of perfect contrition (sorry because of hurting God’s love for us).

Perhaps a word needs to be said about incardination. This was the fourth personal favor Pope Francis has done for me. He had to personally sign off on this move to the Diocese. My request was entirely positive, saying that outside of my novitiate year, I’ve instead always been with my diocesan brothers, in the seminary, in parish assignments, in further studies, on missions to foreign lands, living in their rectories, eating with them, recreating with them, going on retreat with them, giving retreats to them, teaching them in seminaries and conferences, on and on. All positive. Just putting legal terminology on what was always the situation. I am quite happy with this. It is our Lord Jesus’ providence for me. I have no regrets.

A great joy which I have mentioned previously it that the Bishop himself brought up on February 11 that the popular version of my thesis stands in need of writing and publishing.

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Father Byers, are you gay?

damian-of-molokai

Even though I was wearing my Roman collar, I knew it was going to happen. I could not but be hit on in the waiting room of the Infectious Disease Unit of Memorial Hospital (South of Exit 50).

I was surely looking very much alone. “Soooo, what are you here for?” asked one very flirtatious gentleman. Imagine, picking someone up in an Infectious Disease Unit! Pretty much everyone there was looking druggie or gay. Sorry. I could be wrong. But appearances are what they are.

I could have avoided that by staying in the car for an hour. I could have avoided the scandal of a priest going in to the Infectious Disease Unit, because, you know, people who go in there are surely shooting up drugs with just-used-needles or are having lots of illicit sex or are otherwise just yucky people, right?

But, no, Father Byers was determined to accompany the underdog, to know the smell of the sheep, to share the stigma of going into such a place where people charitably receive treatment for their ailments. I was accompanying someone who had an infectious disease, as is my practice, it being that the elderly poor in my parish who are without family and without transportation cannot otherwise go to such far flung appointments hours away.

The gentleman, meanwhile, was then distracted back at the receptionist’s window, but then came right back to me, offering me lunch, seeing that I had been there for quite some time. I refused that and he went back to the receptionist.

But then he came back again asking if I were here with my “brother”, you know, my presumed gay sex partner (the brother thing taking drugs out of consideration). By that time, the person who I was taking there appeared at the receptionist and I simply pointed to her, an elderly woman suffering the effects of her having caught something decades ago with the special ed special cases children she taught. They were always getting scrapes and cuts and, because they had their own medical problems, the teachers were supposed to wear gloves while teaching. It’s easy to catch something because sooner or later you’ll have a scrape or cut as well. Blood is blood.

The gentleman said, “Oh.” And then he left.

Should Father Byers have been prudent and not gone in to the Infectious Disease Unit for God and the whole world to see? I wonder if Jesus asked that question when coming into this world, wondering if it was imprudent to walk among those He knew would torture Him to death.

Anyway, it is also easy to be proud of being with the underdog. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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Update: Father Byers’ run for political office?

just me 02Inspiration: My dad was commander of the famed USMC Fighter Attack Checkerboard squadron (flying the gull-wing Corsairs from 1943-1953), became whatever the jarhead equivalent of a JAG is by being put through Georgetown lawschool even while being the back-in-the-day equivalent of what is now called a Top Gun instructor at what is now Andrews (Air Force) Joint Command just South of the District of Columbia. He became the most powerful attorney in Central Minnesota, did some lobbying stints at the legislature, knew all the big name politicians, became Mayor of our town of @50,000, and had his sights on more encompassing offices in D.C. Meanwhile, he became father of my brother and myself, which I’m guessing distracted him quite a bit.

I asked him once why he wanted to be an attorney and a politician, and he said without hesitation (surprised at the question, stunned really), with all of his idealism shining out: “Because that’s my vocation, to help people. I want to help people. This is how I help people.” And, yes, he did quite a lot of pro-bono work, having deep respect, to the core, for salt-of-the-earth Americans who just want to do the right thing.

He very much wanted me to follow in his steps. We discussed that many times as he drove me to school on his way to work. My response was, of course, about the priesthood, and I would cite his own words back to him, and then wax poetic: “Because that’s my vocation, to help people. I want to help people. This is how I’m to help people……” He was wanting to start me off as a high school Page in the legislature. I can’t imagine what would have happened had I gone that direction.

Priests in politics are generally a catastrophe. Just recall a few: Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Haiti), Robert Drinan (USA), Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann (Nicaragua / Libya) along with both Ernesto and Fernando Cardinal (Nicaragua). They were president, in congress, worked as foreign minister or ministers of the interior and of culture, etc. D’Escoto was a particular problem for me personally when I was in Nicaragua back in the Reagan years.

As for me, there is presently a push for me to be elected as Alderman of Andrews with its 1,700 population. O.K., nothing like those other priests on so very many levels! Ha ha ha! And don’t forget, I was one of the best students ever of Father of Liberation Theology, Gustavo Gutiérrez (now O.P.). Honestly!

But, seriously, there are far reaching, deep problems here in Andrews which are suffocating (purposely?) the town literally right out of existence, and sometimes a quiet voice interested in law and order and jobs and getting stuff for kids to do instead of drugs and wanting infrastructure for basic utilities like water and services like proper local law enforcement and fire-fighting can be helpful. And sometimes a foreigner (I wasn’t born here) can in fact be helpful as he is not beholden to feuding and the good ol’ boys’ club that might well protect, fiercely, the drug world and all sorts of corruption. Seriously.

But, what does the Code of Canon Law say?

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. [For instance, being a dealer for blackjack at the local casino.]

§2. Clerics are to avoid those things which, although not unbecoming, are nevertheless foreign to the clerical state. [An arguable point, as some political offices are rendered out of service, or that’s at least a possibility, right?]

§3. Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices [This is pretty absolute, but there is some backtracking about the scope:] which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power. [And this is a question for an alderman whose job descriptions in various municipalities or districts thereof are as different as one grain of sand is from another. Is an alderman specifically of Andrews, who, unlike other civilians, has a vote at town meetings, and who is representing the best interests of residents… is he per se EXERCISING civil power by a vote that is quite removed from the actual execution of a resolution, the who, what, why, where, when and how, which is instead brought to bear not at all by aldermen, but by the Mayor, by the City Manager, etc.? In other words, is there not a distinction between public office and the “participation in the exercise of civil power”? Otherwise, why bother, in the law itself, with adding a clause which does in fact make a distinction between public office and “participation in the exercise of civil power” unless there is such a distinction recognized by the legislator. Diversely, all public office by its nature is a participation in the exercise of civil power on some level, or that public office would not exist in the first place. There is a distinction, then, about the immediacy of the impact of the public office on any exercise of civil power, so that a more remote action, such as a vote, is permissible and even perhaps becoming of the clerical state depending on the service involved for the common good, while a more immediate practical day to day application is what is forbidden by this sub-paragraph.]

§4. Without the permission of their ordinary, they are not to take on the management of goods belonging to lay persons or secular offices which entail an obligation of rendering accounts. [But permission is in fact a possibility so possible that it is placed in the law itself.] They are prohibited from giving surety even with their own goods without consultation with their proper ordinary. They also are to refrain from signing promissory notes, namely, those through which they assume an obligation to make payment on demand.

By the way, just to say, for those who don’t know what an example of the Good Ol’ Boys club might be, here is an example: a statute that prohibits residents from running for office or getting a job with law enforcement if they are not “lifers”, that is, born here. Imagine the law suits on that one! And the results! “We do things our own way ’round here!” Etc.

I don’t need a membership to validate
The hard work I put in and the dues I paid
Never been to good at just goin’ along
I guess I’ve always kind of been for the underdog

Favors for friends will get you in and get you far
Shouldn’t be about who it is you know
But about how good you are

Don’t wanna be a part of the good ol’ boys club
Cigars and handshakes, appreciate you but no thanks
Another gear in a big machine don’t sound like fun to me
Don’t wanna be a part of the good ol’ boys club

There’s a million ways to dream and that’s just fine
Oh but I ain’t losin’ any sleep at night
And if I end up goin’ down in flames
Well at least I know I did it my own way, hey

Don’t wanna be a part of the good ol’ boys club
Cigars and handshakes, appreciate you but no thanks
Another gear in a big machine don’t sound like fun to me
Don’t wanna be a part of the good ol’ boys club

Favors for friends will get you in and get you far
But when did it become about who you know
And not about how good you are?

Don’t wanna be a part of the good ol’ boys club
Cigars and handshakes, appreciate you but no thanks
Another gear in a big machine don’t sound like fun to me
Don’t wanna be a part of the good ol’ boys club
I don’t wanna be a part of your good ol’ boys club

Just to say, being an Alderman for this tiny town hardly takes away from my priestly duties. In fact, I think it facilitates some of my objectives which I share with our police chief regarding community leaders finding ways to get us out of the quagmire we are in.

Any canon lawyer out there who is willing to take a stab at this? Be nice! I know I’m ignorant and that’s why I’m asking for help. Isn’t that a good thing that I’m wanting to follow the codified summary of the pastoral wisdom of the Church distilled from millennia worth of countless events? Whatever you think are my motives, don’t think I’m wanting to run for public office or not. That’s actually not my point. I’m wanting to know this for a multitude of reasons, and this is just one more thing that finally pushed me into investigating this aspect of the Church’s jurisprudence. Can you help?

UPDATE: O.K. So, that would be a NO! vote from one of the best canon lawyers in this dark world of ours. Absolutely not, he said. He even went so far as to say that being an Alderman for this itsy bitsy village would be an impediment to Holy Orders if I wasn’t already ordained. I’m slowly backing away away from the situation and then turning and running so fast I’m outrunning gamma rays. Having said all that, it’s nice to know you’re wanted. There was a bit of a powwow last night at a brewery with some of the local best of the best good guys representing all the first responders and even the office of the […edited…] doing their best to convince me to go ahead and see if this would be possible.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Thank you ever so very much, Immaculate Conception! edition)

shepherd boy

My spirit is as light as a fluffy dandelion being given to Jesus for the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady has granted me this very day a great favor, two, in fact. I feel like a little kid before her, my spirit rejoicing. I’m bursting with joy, smiling from ear to ear.

byers dance paul vi audience hallMentioned in the conversation with the Bishop, who called me up, and with the Bishop bringing up the topic, was my thesis on the Immaculate Conception and my need to make a popular version of it. This is a sign, I believe from our Lady, that NOW’s the time! This will be the little flower I give to her through Jesus, if this is made possible by the providence of her Divine Son. I again dance with joy. Do I ever stop?

But that was just one thing. The other is… well… what a gift! I’ll write about that as time goes on. I’m speechless. I too, must be loved by the Immaculate Conception, and by her Divine Son. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Mary.

Dance dance dance dance dance…

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