Tag Archives: Pope John Paul II

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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Excommunicating the Mafia – part 2 – Missionaries of Mercy to absolve?

You have heard that it was said that Pope Francis is intent on excommunicating the mafia, you know, more officially than did Pope John Paul II back in 1982. You can see how scared Marini was in back of him, surely thinking they were going to get shot on the spot. As it is, the mafia was killing priests, threatening the Cardinal of Palermo, executing judges, and doing all their horrible protection rackets, prostitution, drugs. At the time, at least in the Archdiocese of New York, it was forbidden to provide the sacraments or funerals to the mafia. Now, I don’t know. Perhaps it wasn’t “officially” done by JPII and Francis wants to make it more “official.” There are plenty of mafia priests around, especially in Italy, but elsewhere as well, certainly in these USA.

Maybe Pope Francis will make the excommunication something only the Holy See or Missionaries of Mercy can take away. We will see. I have some stories to tell along those lines which involve the Italian Military and the Holy See, with me right in the middle of the whole thing. Perhaps this is what inspired the brain-stormers, you know: “Let the Missionaries of Mercy be put on the spot.” Fine. Whatever.

It is imperative that a bit of thought goes into advice for those absolving such things. I would not recommend that any priest be allowed to do this. I recommend that the possibilities for absolution are made known at the same time as the excommunication, which is supposed to be medicinal, right?

Unless things have radically changed in Rome over the past number of years in regard to the mafia, I would guess that no one has a clue what the political maneuvering is really like. I will try to write more on this, also to Archbishop Fisichella (my boss in this matter) and Pope Francis.

Perhaps it might be thought that my little parish is out of the way and inconsequential in this matter, but, in fact, it is because it is perhaps the most remote place in these USA that the mafia is to be found in abundance, along with, unknown to each other, those in witness protection.

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Filed under Confession, John Paul II, Mafia, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis

Update on malicious fires: Blame me!

rain

In the last week or so we’ve had three long rains, the first rains for the better part of a year, with this last rain lasting for days, looking like it’s going to rain until late tonight. I’m guessing even the deep-down-in-the-forest-floor smoldering fires are pretty much totally out, though a firefighter told me last night at the fire house that there were still some pretty serious smoke columns going up here or there.

Pretty much every single fire was man-made, even malicious, what with burning tires stuffed with whatever rubbish and drenched with flammable liquids rolled down mountains, etc. So many lost their lives. So many lost their homes and livelihoods. A firefighter died of a heart attack fighting the blazes. One of the many arsonists was actually trying to blame someone innocent. Pretty bad, huh?

Well, what if someone instead came along and took the blame for the whole lot of it? In fact, what if someone apologized for anything and everything even though he was innocent of all evil, being innocent Himself, the very Son of the Immaculate Conception, Christ Jesus Our God? What if Jesus were to say to His heavenly Father at His Baptism by John in the river Jordan: “Treat me like I enslaved everyone in sin from Adam until the last man is conceived”? That’s what He did, right, standing in our stead, therefore having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us? “Blame me,” He said. Yes. But…

Let me make this personal. What if I, a priest hearing confessions one Saturday afternoon in my parish, suddenly saw Jesus Himself kneel at the screen and start confessing every sin I’ve committed since birth, you know, all my sins? I think I would start not just crying in thanksgiving for such love so utterly unmerited by myself, but I would be a total wreck, bawling uncontrollably. But that’s what He’s done, and for all of us.

And then there’s Pope John Paul II, a canonized saint, mind you, who not once, not twice, but many times apologized for what sinners did throughout the millennia, you know, those individuals calling themselves Catholic but not acting as Catholics. Remember when all those self-righteous armchair pundits publicly berated him for doing what he couldn’t possibly do, saying that “the Church” didn’t commit those sins, so you can’t apologize for them!

“Nevertheless, it’s only right for me as the Supreme Pontiff to do so,” he responded, entrenching all the more. Right. In solidarity with Jesus as He is in solidarity with us, that is what we are to do. Blame me!

“No, no!” people bitterly complain. “I didn’t light those fires! And I’m not al-Qaeda or ISIS! I don’t do those kinds of things and I’m not going to apologize for what I didn’t do!”

B as in B and S as in S as a famous internet personality exclaims. You and I, innocent perhaps of whatever terrorist or whatever incident, have all done something much worse, so bad that it encompasses all other evil ever done since Adam until the last man is conceived. We’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God with our sin, original sin and our own personal rubbish.

Jesus, Mary’s Son, I’m so very sorry. Please, forgive me. Send upon my the gentle rain of grace and put out the fire of my hell, bringing me into your friendship, having me walk with you through this life and into heaven, for I know you will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.

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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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Filed under Father Byers Autobiography, Priesthood, Terrorism, Vocations

Vultum Dei quaerere: SS Precedent? Natural Family Planning anecdote.

vatican gardens web cam-

Pope Francis has issued a new Apostolic Constitution, Vultum Dei quaerere, establishing the foundation of a change in the law for the monasteries of cloistered nuns.

Mater Ecclesiae monastery is seen in the extreme lower left of this morning’s web-cam shot taken from the perspective of an office of Vatican Radio in the gardens of Vatican City. The monastery was established by Saint John Paul II in order to have cloistered nuns praying away within Vatican City State. The monastery has a short lived history:

  • Order of Saint Clare (1994–1999)
  • Discalced Carmelites (1999–2004)
  • Benedictine nuns (2004–2009)
  • Visitation nuns (2009–2012)

The problem was not that there was a monastery in the gardens of Vatican City – although that in itself had a multitude of difficulties – but that oversight of the monastery was given to the SS, that is, the Secretariat of State. That in itself is surely because of the keen interest of Pope John Paul in contemplative life, particularly that of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns whose more traditional form of life he himself personally defended as the Pope. And while the SS is the arm of the Pope himself, none of those working there could be equated with the sainted Pontiff. The interventions of these men into the lives of these generous women were far reaching.

There was talk of a surreal ideology, a desire to combine religious not only of different houses of the same religious Order (which was already being done), but also from different religious orders so as to make Mater Ecclesiae monastery a kind of Catholic and cloistered Taizé. Of course, this was not at all the idea of either JPII or BXVI. The nuns would have none of it. So much for respecting the genius of women! They didn’t seem to know, therefore, what their “sign value” was.

Benedict XVI resides in the monastery since the renovations were accomplished after the quick departure of the Visitation nuns. He himself has taken over their work of praying for the papacy.

I’m willing to bet that all of this was a precedent for Vultum Dei quaerere, with those whose idea it was to generate such a document already interfering back in the day.

In the new regulations, the “sign value and participation in life of the local Church” is paramount, so much so that if it is judged by say, the local ordinary, to be lacking, they are to be subjected to a four member “ad hoc commission” which includes the local ordinary as one of those four ex-officio members. “The purpose of this intervention is to initiate a process of guidance for the revitalization of the monastery, or to effect its closure.” I note that the bishop cannot be wrong in all of this. It’s do or die. Perhaps two other members of the commission can convince him to back off.

I remember an Archbishop who was putting outrageous pressure on a fully alive monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns, wanting them to take over the Natural Family Planning apostolate of the entire Archdiocese from their monastery. “Either fill your minds with thoughts of types of mucous or your monastery will be closed for having no sign value or participation in the local church!” They didn’t do it. They were still protected by Pope John Paul II at the time. But no longer.

This touches me deeply as I have a number of cloistered nuns praying for yours truly.

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Scraps falling from the Master’s table (Corpus Christi edition)

eucharist pope john paulToday’s the Solemnity of Corpus Domini, the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. I remember many times walking in procession with Pope John Paul II from the Lateran Basilica to Saint Mary Major down and then up the Via Merulana. In the early years of his Pontificate, the sainted Pontiff would, on foot, himself carry the monstrance with our Lord, no mean feat for any man for such a distance. Pope John Paul spoke much about his prayer life. He wanted so very much to encourage his priests right around the world. I looked forward to his messages, his letters to priests on Holy Thursday (the special day for priests what with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper), which were good to get out again on this Thursday, when the joy of the feast is fully expressed. Let’s take a couple of snippets from his letter of 2005, published just ten days before he died:

Jesus said: “Do this in memory of me”. The Eucharist does not simply commemorate a fact; it commemorates Him! Through his daily repetition in persona Christi of the words of the “memorial”, the priest is invited to develop a “spirituality of remembrance”. At a time when rapid social and cultural changes are weakening the sense of tradition and leading the younger generation especially to risk losing touch with their roots, the priest is called to be, within the community entrusted to him, the man who faithfully remembers the entire mystery of Christ: prefigured in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New, and understood ever more deeply, under the guidance of the Spirit, as Jesus explicitly promised: “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).

“Mysterium fidei!” Every time he proclaims these words after consecrating the bread and wine, the priest expresses his ever-renewed amazement at the extraordinary miracle worked at his hands. It is a miracle which only the eyes of faith can perceive. The natural elements do not lose their external characteristics, since the “species” remain those of bread and wine; but their “substance”, through the power of Christ’s word and the action of the Holy Spirit, is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. On the altar, then, Christ crucified and risen is “truly, really and substantially” present in the fullness of his humanity and divinity. What an eminently sacred reality! That is why the Church treats this mystery with such great reverence, and takes such care to ensure the observance of the liturgical norms intended to safeguard the sanctity of so great a sacrament.

Beautiful, no? Yes! It is good to remember such good encouragement of priests in these days. Saint John Paul, pray for us!

eucharist pope benedictBenedict, of course, has put great emphasis on the liturgy, being found, if you will, by the Triune God there. Here’s a bit from Sacramentum Caritatis (a most wonderful post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation):

The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11). There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God’s breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life. (16) Jesus Christ, who “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God’s own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfilment of God’s promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The “mystery of faith” is thus a mystery of trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: “If you see love, you see the Trinity.”

Seeing Love: seeing the Trinity. Yes.

eucharist pope francisPope Francis has, as well, given us something upon which to be nourished. Fear not! He has! Behold:

The Eucharist is Jesus who gives himself entirely to us. To nourish ourselves with him and abide in him through Holy Communion, if we do it with faith, transforms our life into a gift to God and to our brothers.

I’ll take that. This goes right to the Sacred Heart of it all. Jesus has come to give Himself as a gift to us so as to give us as a gift, through, with and in Himself to our Heavenly Father.

It’s all about Jesus. We must never forget.

I recall a Cardinal, a good friend, who would always stop me as I was walking away after we said our goodbyes after a bull session high atop San Callisto or up in Saint John’s Tower or at the Casa Santa Maria or wherever. He would say: “George! Remember!” I would turn and stare at him, always wondering to what this could possibly refer. To my great shame – shame I tell you – I have only figured it out, decades later, right now as I type this. He was, of course, speaking to me of the Most Holy Sacrifice during which Christ bids us to remember Him each time we offer the Last Supper. Thank you Jesus! So:

“Remember!”

 

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