Tag Archives: Father Byers Autobiography

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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Most Holy Father: Thank you!

pope-francis

In a communiqué from the Holy See delivered to the parish today I discover the good news that Pope Francis has personally granted a personal request to this Missionary of Mercy. I am grateful. Thanks, Holy Father! These exchanges are now adding up. For my part, I have never promised anything to the Bishop of Rome. For his part, he has never asked anything of me whatsoever. As it should be. Perhaps he realizes fully that I am a mere donkey of a priest and takes pity on me. I’m happy with that.

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revisionIn fact, I think it is now high time that I finally come up with some words to add below the coat of arms which the talented elizdelphi so artistically rendered for me. I once again open this up to suggestions and, while I do, I apologize for breaking the rules of heraldry. It’s all part and parcel of someone who has crucified the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception with my sin, but nevertheless someone upon whom the Lord has deigned to show his mercy. The words should be short and incisive. Go ahead and suggest in English. I’ll translate them into whatever language best suits that message, whether Greek, Hebrew or Latin.

 

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TEOTWAIKI – Holy Souls Hermitage – Closing of another chapter in my life

holy souls hermitage ad orientem 1

It’s late in the evening of 31 August 2016. I just got a phone call saying that the property on which Holy Souls Hermitage was built is now being sold with a rather extreme urgency. That means I have to move definitively everything out of the hermitage and then that’s it.

I confess that I am weak, and very much tend to nostalgia. I think of the purposely oriented to the East ad orientem chapel of the hermitage. Our Lord is good and kind in all seasons, as are the angels and saints. I have so many memories of Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter…

holy souls hermitage ad orientem 4

holy souls hermitage ad orientem 5

holy souls hermitage ad orientem 3

holy souls hermitage ad orientem 2

I think of the baldacchino lovingly painted by a search and rescue family out East…

Holy Spirit Saint Peter Window

So many good memories… But no time for memories… I’ll have to move quickly…

TEOTWAIKI feeling I got was fierce and immediate, as if the entire world is right now passing away, and, of course, it is. To be attached to this world is vanity, vacuous, villainous. So, no. If the hermitage was anything at all it was about our Lord and His blessed Mother. I had set out to write something about our Blessed Mother and I was successful in writing some few but important pages about Genesis 3:15 and the Immaculate Conception. I think I might have given her a few flowers at that time as well:

flores hsh

I think of the umpteen times I had defied death while building the hermitage (some heart stopping moments), while curing wounds of some 25 serious brown recluse bites (I recommend the Sawyer’s Extractor for however many times for however many weeks it takes), while being around bears and panthers and wolves, while suffering time and again from serious smoke inhalation deathly far from any hospital, when the draw of the fire was no good what with the shell of the hermitage not yet complete, and me then, woken up by my guardian angel, and then sitting outside, freezing and wet and choking for hours, and loving all of it through the tears and not wanting to change anything for anything if only my guardian angel would be with me. I think of many benefactors for whom I still pray. I think of the gymnastics I accomplished doing somersaults down cliffs with a running chainsaw in trying to get wood for winter, or in flipping into a dumpster at the soup kitchen in town for some treasure to eat, I having slyly manuevered myself into being in charge of the dumpsters.

DUMPSTER DIVING

The good ol’ days! I will miss them, truly. It was all a great experience for me. I think I’m better for it all. But I think I need to stop thinking with such nostalgia. It’s time to clean up and definitively move on to the next chapter of my life. I’ve kind of been hanging on to the hermitage as much as I could. But this is it.

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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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Killing priests: where’s Father George?

don claudio toniniFirst anecdote: don Claudio Tonini

Pictured here is don Claudio Tonini (a saint if you ask me), who was brutally beaten by his assistant priest in December of 1992. I used to have all sorts of pictures of him. This one is up on the internet. In the bigger picture, I think I’m the one sitting next to him on his right. He finally died about 12 weeks later in March of 1993 from the battering he had received, dying as pastor of the parish. I had only been ordained for less than a year when I took over his parish in the Sacred Heart of “La Piccola Russia”, “The Little Russia,” as the heavily Marxist town of Piombino, Italy, north of Rome, was nicknamed (and for good reason). He had been a missionary up and down the Italian peninsula in his younger days and then pastor of this church since forever. He was always in demand as a preacher of parish missions, called in by bishops far and wide. The Marxist town couldn’t but build him a youth center for free next the church since everyone in town respected him so much.

Meanwhile, I was alone in the parish. Don Claudio was still in the hospital when I got there. The assistant, “Quel M,” as don Claudio called him, successfully escaped to the mountains and then, not being arrested, hid out, somewhat ironically on any number of levels, at “La Misericordia,” at the waterfront just down the street from the parish.

The most the bishop and the vicar general would do at that time was to take me away from my studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome so as to get me to come to the parish, maybe because I was an unknown for “Quel M” and maybe also because I was also physically about as big as the assassin and so most likely would not be bothered by him while I tried to take care of don Claudio when he was brought back to the parish. They were wrong on that. They and the other priests of the Diocese of Massa Marittima – Piombino were scared to death of him.

What had happened is that “Quel M” was finishing Sunday Mass, and while everyone was still there don Claudio went up to the pulpit to announce that all the youth were to gather over in the youth center after Mass, so, an announcement of ten seconds or so. “Quel M” let himself get enraged about this, but disappeared for a few hours, only to come back that afternoon to hunt down diminutive don Claudio (mid-80s, frail, about 5’5″ and perhaps 125 pounds), who was sitting at his desk in his office. With both hands, “Quel M” (mid-30s, strong as an ox, about 6’5″ and perhaps 300 pounds) grabbed the largest volume of the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas (which don Claudio would read before giving his catechism classes to the youth), and proceeded with all his might to bash don Claudio over the head and on his face with it, then choking him in a strangle hold trying to crush his throat which don Claudio had used to preach about Jesus throughout his life. “Quel M” left don Claudio for dead. Three days later (three days, mind you), don Claudio awakens from his coma and, from the floor, is just able to reach the phone and call an ambulance, face and head swollen like a basketball, eyes still swollen shut.

Senseless, you say? Sick, you say? Yes, well, I’ll write about that soon.

Meanwhile, “Quel M” returned to the parish (though forbidden by the bishop), in order, he thought, to preside at the funeral of the head of Italy’s Catholic Action. She was from the parish and all sorts of politicians and dignitaries and untold numbers of churchmen of every rank showed up in that little out of the way parish church. I asked the higher-up ecclesiastics if they would like to preside over the funeral. They were afraid, and so cited my appointment by the local ordinary to surveil the situation. “Quel M” was a volcano. A monsignor whispered to him that he shouldn’t be there and “Quel M” erupted violently, but somehow got himself out the door like a twirling Tazmanian devil of Bugs Bunny fame, though there was nothing funny about this. He again had murder in his eyes and was totally out of control. Within a few minutes he was back in again. In order to calm down the situation I asked him if he would do the first reading. “Si!” he exclaimed. But then, during Mass, from the side, he said all the parts that I was to say in a very loud voice indeed. Just so sad. I let him read because I was afraid that he would actually have killed a number of the old priests there. Truly… Anyway…

Don Claudio and I became instant life-long friends if such a thing makes sense. It’s just that it seemed we knew each other forever. He loved Jesus. He loved the truth. He called our friendship in the priesthood a “sintonia” in the truth, explaining that sintonia has to do with radio waves being on the same frequency, strengthening each other.

When Saint John Paul II got wind of all this, he was pretty upset, furious really, and sent a letter to all the Italian bishops about how to deal with their priests. Yikes! This was a saga which carried on for some years.

And now the rest of the story: I repeatedly begged don Claudio to tell the police what had happened, to tell the full story to the bishop, but he would not do this. Don Claudio didn’t want to hurt “Quel M” in any way. Don Claudio wanted with all his might that “Quel M” come to know the mercy of the Lord. Don Claudio taught me much about the priesthood in view of other priests. I don’t know if I leaned what I should have learned, but my experience with him has nonetheless been invaluable for me. Thanks, don Claudio! I went to visit his tomb in the mid-2000s, brought there from Rome by a friend who has served as a kind of special secretary for a successive number of Roman Pontiffs. Even after so many years, his tomb was surrounded by huge bouquets of fresh cut flowers.

Having said all that, if I had walked in on “Quel M” attacking don Claudio, I think I would have – in one movement – thrown him through the window (high up along the ceiling) and out into the garden. If he had broken down the doors (I think we had already changed the locks) so as to reenter to do away with me, the witness to the murder, and if I then had a gun… Look, I just don’t know… but… He’s lucky I wasn’t there. Is that a good thing about me? Where’s Father George as Father George? That’s the question. I still have to write about priests and guns. Patience!*

Père Jacques HamelSecond anecdote: père Jacques Hamel

I’ve written about père Jacques: ISIS murders priest during Mass. R.I.P. Père Jacques Hamel. My comments. As you know, one of his attackers said: “To those who dare to say we shouldn’t kill a priest… we spare no-one.” Apparently, that’s a citation from Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi:

“And it is allowed to kill anyone aside from those we have mentioned, among the combatant idolators or the non combatants, such as the trader, the servant, the old man who gives his advice or not, the farmer, the bishop, the priest, the monk, the blind, the cripple. Spare no-one.”

Senseless, you say? Sick, you say? Yes, well, I’ll write about that soon.

It seems that the mosque to which the jihadis belonged was donated by the parish of which père Jacques was the pastor. Whatever you might think about all that (and I would have really a lot to say as you might imagine), you have to think nevertheless that père Jacques just wanted to do good to people and would hold out a spirit of forgiveness even while his throat was being slit.

Do I learn anything from that? You know what I wrote in the post about père Jacques linked to above, you know, the bit about “If I had had a gun…” Is that a good thing? Where’s Father George as Father George? That’s the question. As I said, I still have to write about priests and guns. Patience!

* I wrote to the parish in Piombino yesterday, asking the email address of “Quel M” so that I might relate to him the mercy that don Claudio desired for him. It’s only right. It just entered my heart all of a sudden to do this.

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Jennies, bumper stickers, heraldry…

donkey jenny card.jpg

This card came in from Father Gordon J Macrae (About). He can’t receive cards, but he can send them. These two mama donkeys (jennies to be exact) sport some great bumper stickers. Which reminds me. I need to come up with a motto for the coat of arms wrought by elizdelphi. I have been told by the priest who first reprimanded me about the heraldic sin of my having arms (sword and quill) behind the blazon is perhaps not forbidden after all. “Actually, I just don’t know,” he said. At any rate, I’m falling back on my original motto of many years, decades really, which comes from Luke 15:20, wherein the father of the prodigal son has pity, mercy, compassion…. on the prodigal. Actually, the word in Greek, a verb, is a passive aorist, whereby we see that what the inspired Scripture actually says is that the father’s heart was sacrificed. We’ll keep it in Greek (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη), but in all capital letters with no breathing or accent marks). The banner will have to be without the ripple in the middle…. You’ll remember what we have so far:

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

The sword, as I’ve pointed out in other posts on my coat of arms, refers also the flaming fiery sword of Elijah, which sword, mind you, was hardly a CCW! ;-) Anyway, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about CCW stuff as you know, and haven’t yet concluded that series, as I would still like to comment more about CCW priests and whether that’s a good idea or not. Just sayin’…

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The sins of my Coat of Arms (revision)

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

In my opinion, this is the best Coat of Arms for a priest ever.

We’re still working on the motto… I am rather indecisive…

elizdephi is an extremely talented artist. It makes me wonder what treasures she has…

This is the third post on this. Behold, posts one and two:

As for the sword and quill pen, a lawyer who is also a Scott has written in to complain, saying, “Hmph!” and adding that “I seriously think you are NOT allowed swords behind your blazon. How very brazen!” To which I answer, there are not “swords” but only one, and then a quill. Perhaps it is with this kind of intervention that the exclamation came about: “Scotch that!”

That this fellow is a Scott is rather significant. They are very persnickety about Coats of Arms and all manner of heraldry. I respect that. But, he was born in the British Commonwealth and offered, of all things, to seek a waiver for my brazenness with the very Queen of England. The Scotts have all manner of opinion about any Queen of England having any sort of wealth that is common round about the globe.

At any rate, I hear it told – though I don’t know if it’s true – that the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II was also in some way against the rules. And, at any rate, does not the Church have some weight to throw around with such rules?

Anyway, I’m not sure of the significance of a sword or quill for that matter either turned up or, as depicted here, turned down. For Saint Michael the Archangel, the downward sword being put into the scabbard does not signify peace or surrender, but rather victory in the sense of “It’s over for you buddy. You’re a joke. Just give it up now or you’re dead.” Something like that…

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My mom’s lifelong terror: another hint

warsaw ghetto

Warsaw Ghetto.  Relatives?

A gracious reader just brought to mind for me the Yiddish words my mom would speak. I remember asking her about this. I thought she was speaking Polish. I only found out much latter that all these words were Yiddish. She would only say ever so very wistfully and all so full of nostalgia – my questions making her pause, quite overcome with emotion – that her mom and her friends were fluent and that she herself knew much more as a kid, but that what they spoke was strictly reserved to the house and forbidden to be spoken in public. She was being terribly evasive. It was as if she wanted to tell me so much more, but she couldn’t, as if that were for my own good. She had been whisked away to live with “Aunt Stella” in New Haven, Connecticut as a little kid (then in the country, having to walk a mile and some for the school bus). She was sooooooooooo nostalgic when saying the little she did.

pottery white blue stripe

I think of other things. Perhaps I’m reading into it, but my mom a thousand times pointed out what her favorite style of pottery was.  I myself was quite an amazing potter (I very often had spectators when I set myself to it). She wanted white with blue stripes in the rough style of what’s pictured here (which I did not create), whether jugs, or plates or bowls, or flower pots.

1948 israeli flag

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Scraps falling from the Master’s table (My dark and dirty secret edition)

tabernacle rectory

This is the tabernacle door above the ad orientem altar in my little rectory, which is so tiny that some of the parishioners call it “the hut.” It is a great consolation to be allowed to have a suitable chapel dedicated to our Lord. I know not all priests have this consolation. I think of those unjustly imprisoned by the self-congratulators such as wrongfully convicted and imprisoned Father Gordon MacRae. I think of the priests and bishops faithful to the Church in China being smashed down in labor and reeducation camps. I think of the priests imprisoned by Saudi Arabia because they dared to say Mass in a locked bedroom of a locked apartment.

On this Sunday when most Catholic parishes around the world celebrate the great solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus, Corpus Christi, I bring you a personal confession of a dark and dirty secret. Perhaps it speaks to a bit of insanity on my part, and I’m making myself rather vulnerable to commentary by my fellow priests and those who for mere sport shoot their words of slander at me, but, nevertheless, here goes

When I was a teenager, just 16 years old, and had my driver’s licence, I would take my heap of rust that might politely be called a vehicle, and drove up to another part of Lake Wobegon in my native northern forests. I would park my car behind the beautiful church with its gorgeous German imported (1800s) stained glass windows, and make my way up into the sanctuary with it’s massive hand carved wood ad orientem high altar with it’s moving Calvary scene, take a left into the priest’s sacristy and a right into the little corridor behind the altar that would make its way over to the other work sacristy. But then I would stop halfway across, open a little broom closet door to my right, squeeze myself in to the little space, close the door after me, and rest my head against the wood box that was jutting out into the ever so dark and dirty closet, knowing that an inch away was the glorious tabernacle with the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, seated upon His throne, God Most High, shining His mercy upon the universe.

And there I would stay, my little version of being hidden with Christ in God. I mean, what’s a 16 year old know about the spiritual life? I would think about the Trinity, going through, with and in Jesus to our dear Heavenly Father by the fiery love of the Holy Spirit, perhaps thinking I knew some theology but knowing I am missing everything there is to know nonetheless. And there I would stand in my dark and dirty closet, knowing that my dark and dirty soul couldn’t possibly grasp the glory of the Most Blessed Sacrament right next to me, but wanting to be there anyway, close to Jesus, hoping he didn’t mind my boldness, my silliness, my idiocy, my lack of decorum. And there I would recite the Angel’s prayer of reparation for those who do not believe, who do not adore, who do not love Him, Jesus, God’s own Son. Yes, I would also just sit in the pews, but I wanted to be close to Him who is coming to judge the living and the dead and world by fire, hoping that that fire would purge me first of all that which is dark and dirty.

Confession, by the way, is a favorite sacrament, where such intimate joy is to be found. Be not afraid. Any dark and dirty secret, like lack of trust in God, can be revealed before the fiery love of Jesus, even as He brings your heart close to His. That’s a love that all can see, and yet it is also hidden away, a treasure that we carry in our souls, in our hearts, by that grace which will turn to glory, please God, in heaven. Jesus is good and kind. He also has a sense of humor about our little attempts to be close to Him. How silly I was! But, when I pray, I’m like the tiniest little boy playing before Jesus, apologizing that before Him, I just don’t know how to grow up. I’m glad He said something about it being necessary for us to be like little children if we are to enter the Kingdom of the heavens. He is good and kind.

Praised be Jesus! Praised be the Most Blessed Sacrament!

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Amoris laetitia: Stupid is as stupid is… Mother’s Day Special

It’s a pretty smart saying that stupid is as stupid does, for when stupid does smart, the stupid isn’t there, but when stupid is as stupid is, that is, when someone smart does stupid, well, that’s pretty stupid altogether. In other words, in this respectful way of looking at it all, stupidity lies not in the intellect, but in the will. It’s about acting in good faith or bad faith, choosing to be respectful of others or choosing an ideology of cynicism which smashes others down, whether self or neighbor or Jesus on the Cross. But, let’s take a couple of examples, one being (perhaps) stupid me and my (perhaps) stupid mom, and and another being (perhaps) smart Amoris laetitia.

forrest gump stupid is as stupid doesMy Mom: Stupid is as stupid does (really smart, that)

I was very often chasing about as a little kid, but one of the quiet times I had with the Lord was the day my mom brought home something special. She said she had something for me, but didn’t tell me what it was. When I wasn’t looking, she simply put a really large paper bag with a big box in it next to the bedroom of my brother and me. For some reason, perhaps from the loving but too solicitous tone of voice she used in telling me to go ahead and look in the package, I was apprehensive, which developed into a sinking feeling that all was not well. I asked permission to sit down near the top of the steps next to the bedroom door. I received an affirmative answer, but had failed in the ulterior motive of my quest to have her peek around the corner and up the stairs to give me even more reassurance. I left some space in front of me to take the package out of the bag and spread out its mysterious contents. My heart sank all the more as I took everything out of the package.

There were some very special shoes, boots really, which fit right over my ankles, and were reddish brown. I put them on. They fit perfectly, although they felt strange when walking in them. They had multi-level “saddles”, if you will, meant to realign my rather malformed heels. I remembered having been measured for them. At this stage, I didn’t even know how to tie the laces, so young was I. That knowledge would come along quickly enough. But I didn’t know quite what to do with the metal bars which went along the sides of the legs. I guess they were meant to twist my feet and legs around since one foot wanted to be perpendicular to the other.

I remember the whole scene in the orthopedic surgeon’s office quite a while before this, with him warning against the protestations of my mother that if I didn’t wear them, I would have real difficulty walking when I grew older. “He’s going to walk like a duck,” he said, imitating the waddling of a duck with some sarcasm, “you know, all pigeon toed,” he said, placing his feet wildly perpendicular one to to other. “No!” said my mom, all alarmed, but finally gave in to ordering the shoes.

just me mom brother shoes

I’m the baby of the family, here with my special boots on.

“You won’t have to wear them forever, just for a while, that’s all,” said my mom in a gentle voice from downstairs, not in view. She couldn’t bear seeing the expression on my face as I realized that I was a cripple of sorts and hadn’t even known about it. Little kids don’t notice such things. “Just leave the bars in the box. You don’t have to put those on. Just try out the shoes,” she said with gentle encouragement. And so, I was able to kick off the bars even before I put them on.

The bars stayed in the box and I never saw them again. Some forty years later, when an orthopedic surgeon was discussing with me an upcoming surgery on the more twisted leg after it had been totally shattered in an accident, I asked if he could just kind of twist it about so that it would heal a bit straighter. “No,” he said, “the muscles and tendons that you still have wouldn’t know what to do. You would be worse off. Just rejoice in the way God made you.” He was right, of course. And even keeping things the way they were, that leg would a just a few years later suffer a spiral fracture, with the muscles and tendons working way too hard to have the leg walk straight when it actually couldn’t possibly do so. If I have to walk any great distance, my limping becomes exaggerated, even for days at a time, so much so that one of the Vatican Gendarmes, in seeing me walk below the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, imitated my limping with great lurching steps I couldn’t possibly accomplish. Always good for a laugh, these guys.

To the point: All this made me think that my mom and I did the wrong thing back in the early 1960s when I was just a tiny little kid, leaving the bars in the box as we did. She just couldn’t bring herself to let it be known that I needed a bit of extra help. She had had an extremely tough life, having some physical difficulties herself, and was scared to death by the Holocaust, and knew that I was her little Jewish boy (however baptized I was), and a bit of a cripple, and so doubly indicated for the camps, even though those death camps were closed for some eighteen years by this time and in places far, far away. Not long enough a time, of course, and never far enough away.  She did the right thing for me even when everyone else said it was the wrong thing. Thanks, mom, for loving me so much. Stupid is as stupid does, and my mom was really smart.

Amoris laetitia 351: Stupid is as stupid is

And then there’s the (perhaps) smartness of Amoris laetitia, you know, the note 351 fiasco about the universal law that any particular person might well be open to being accompanied with the help of the sacraments when their repentance lacks appropriate attrition/contrition, and any sort of purpose of amendment of life. Instead of having them carry the cross of their infirmity of weakness which we all have, drawn by the love that Jesus will give to them as He does give to us all, they are to be condemned to the camps of being treated as less than human, as less than capable of rejoicing in the love that Jesus will give to them. They are treated as those with bad faith just looking for an occasion to cynically reject any teaching that would put a cross before them, and so one better not put such a teaching before them, for it will surely be perceived as doctrine turned into stones to throw at them with bitter hatred. But, no, that is not the way it is. That is not my experience.

forrest gump leaving the past behind you

The second I tell people the truth of the matter (I’ve never known anyone not to know the truth of the matter), and tell them that I want to be the priest for them, and accompany them, but not now with the sacraments, but with great love and enthusiasm tell them that I will treat them seriously and not just pander to them, but work with them, it is then that tears of joy flow, that the conversion is made, that a decision is made to do things right, that they become excited that for the first time in their lives that a priest actually wants to help them instead of get their congratulations by letting them do whatever they please. They thank me profusely for helping them to learn about carrying their cross instead of putting them in weird prostheses of sacraments that they now would be horrified to receive, knowing that they would not be able to receive fruitfully, which they want to do, and are eager to start upon the course that will bring them to this end. The point is that I give them the gift of being enthralled with Jesus, and they want to respect Him.

It is here that note 351 would have a priest provide absolution and Communion, but, no, that is not the way, not until they are all ready to go. They know this and do not yet want the absolution or Communion. They understand: pandering is offensive to the very ones this is supposed to benefit. Once people have a sense of being treated seriously, with respect, they can never go back to seeking pandering treatment by weak priests who prostitute themselves to the congratulations that the pandering-seekers provide to them. They hate stupid is as stupid is, because that just is not smart.

And besides that, the gates of hell shall not prevail.

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This Catholic Priest’s Invisibility Cloak: Moving up from inside the ceiling to *The Cupboard Under The Stairs*, so as “to be hidden with Christ in God”

usmc f35b stealth fighter

USMC F35B Stealth (Invisibility) Fighter ready for action

Seeing strange references to The Cupboard Under The Stairs of late, strange at least to this most unwell-read priest in the world, I googled the strange phrase and immediately realized that this is a reference to the childhood abode of a certain Harry in another house somewhere in Surrey, not that this North-woods boy of frozen Minnesota of wolves and moose knows where such a faraway place is.

But I can tell you this. When I was only four years old, I would often search out a mysterious place, enchanted not by magic or some special powers round about, but intriguing because it was a place I could think without being distracted by daily life otherwise all around me. I was, of course, distracted by not being distracted, but this was the charm of it all, and this is what I thought about, even while there was a tug on my heart from the Most High, who was wanting me to be hidden even further away, that is, all that much closer to home. That was the mysterious part.

People were going about their normal activities, absorbed in this and that, chasing about here and there, and I was totally invisible to them, out of sight, of mind. Having stepped back from this, I felt free, but again, I was totally tied into such a dynamic so that, in other words, I was being even more inserted into the realities of day to day life even while being abstracted from it. A clearer vision kind of thing for the fact of being able to take a step back. That helps a lot in not being necessarily ripped in this direction and that by the next thing on the horizon and then the other. That would not be a clear vision of reality, but a being smothered by reality.

My first step back so as to take in the whole wasn’t hiding under the bed, which, although I did a lot of that when my big brother and I would get into it, was never about this kind of taking a step back. That was just about hiding momentarily, waiting for the next opportunity to attack.

ceiling panelMy first step back was, significantly, a step up. There was a storage cupboard above the stairs, inside our bedroom. There were no doors, so you could walk in and turn to the right. At about five feet up, there was another storage space I was able to climb up into at my four years of age. From there, looking up, there was a board in the ceiling which could be pushed up so as to go into the crawl space in the ceiling. It seemed impossible even to me, but I was able to lift myself up, pushing the board onto the insulation above with my head, then replacing the board, thus becoming totally invisible to everyone. That got old pretty quickly. Fiberglass insulation is no fun. But I did learn some great lessons there about taking a step back so as to be all the more immersed in life all around me.

footlockerLater, now at five years old, I moved up into a more advanced invisibility cloak, which was the actual cupboard under the stairs down in the basement. There was a side-door, but this was blocked by a chest freezer, which, as long-time readers know, was to be the scene of being nearly stabbed to death by a friend who apparently did not have the opportunity to ever take a step back from things. But at the tallest part of the cupboard, as the stairs went up, there was actually a door to the backside, where we had our laundry room. That opening was, however, piled high to the ceiling with chests and boxes and all sort of whatnot. I would take a few boxes down, climb over, replace the boxes, and I was now again totally invisible to world around me, taking a step back, as it were, but totally distracted by the lack of distraction, something helping me to be, if I should ever take the opportunity, to be an actor in whatever circumstance instead of being in mere reaction.

george byers jr vmb 611

George Byers Jr while in the VMB 611 before heading off to the Checkerboarders

But this is also where, now, being older, my imagination ran wild. I liked to go through one ancient of days footlocker in particular, filled with my dad’s war things, including his flying gear from the Checkerboard Squadron. There were medals and dogtags, the Checkerboard scarf, the leather head gear, the goggles, the helmet, the flying jacket (all of which I put on, of course), the distress rag (a silk cloth stating who he was in all sort of Asian languages), his flying logs and his war diaries filled with dreams and honor and visions of service for mankind. It wouldn’t be long before I could read these paragraphs which were almost poetry. My heart raced, my mind soared, and I would burst out of my invisibility cloak and, having bounded upstairs and outside, would put my arms out and run, flying about, taking deep banking turns this way and that, until I would just about drop, ready for whatever circumstance might come along.

However much my dad was a hero for me, there is another Warrior to whom I now turn. I am learning to be hidden with Him in God, as Saint Paul bids us all to do:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

Mind you, he says this in a context. Don’t think I don’t know it:

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming (upon the disobedient). By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its Creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:5-17).

In all this, taking a step back, putting on the invisibility cloak of a spiritual life, watching as Christ Jesus draws us to Himself away from this exile right unto heaven, as we so hope, we are in this hiddenness nevertheless all the more immersed into encouraging one another, despite our weakness, to look with enthusiasm and love to Him who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. He loves us so very much. Amen.

pieta

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