Tag Archives: Priesthood

The priest is a parable

Look closely…

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Homily 2017 09 27 Forgiving Priests!

This is what our Lord thinks about having patience with priests and bishops and Apostles. Yikes!

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

God made you special rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

george david byers pastor 1

george david byers pastor 2

“Life is changed, not ended!”

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

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

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Jesus: God or Savior or Friend or…

jesus baptism

Jesus: God, Savior, Friend

There was a question on the blog a while back as to whether we can ever approach Jesus as God and Friend but not keeping in mind so much that He is also our Savior, even while not at all denying in any way that Jesus is objectively God and Friend and Savior. The question is more about, it seems to me, whether or not, subjectively, an emphasis can be put on Jesus as a Divine Friend, fearing that that might be off the rails.

Giving a short answer at the time, I think I said that as a tiny little kid of say two or three years old and just learning how to pray, I might not have been paying too much attention to the redemptive action of God’s Divine Son among us, and more that God was looking down upon me from heaven.

To be more specific – I remember this well – I was directly, immediately aware, as it were, that I was God’s tiny little boy, so that the emphasis is on a filial relationship with God, God in all His majesty, mind you, but God who to whom I belonged as a son, not just His creature, that too, but with a bond of love. From time to time we hear people say that their mom or dad or both are best friends as well. With God, a filial relationship is not not exclusive of friendship but necessitates that friendship: God is interested with and wants to be involved with everything we do so that we walk in His presence.

But even as a tiny little kid, I knew there was more, both in learning how to pray always (not that I have prayed always!), and in my own priestly vocation experience at 2 and a 1/2 years old – as clear to me today as it was then: God needs to work with me and others because we are inadequate in our response to His gracious good and kind love in all truth. As I’ve described at length elsewhere, this was part and parcel of my vocation, with an emphasis on the fact that priests in particular need help. And we do.

As time went on I began to get to know what Saint John speaks about in the Apocalypse, His seeing Jesus as a Lamb with the wounds of slaughter upon Him (so that He should be dead) but standing (and so gloriously risen from the dead). In other words, He is divine, He is our friend (as He Himself called us), but He is always wanting to reveal to us the full extent of His love in all truth to us. This is not a punishment, an incrimination, but always and even in heaven an invitation to rejoice in this love in truth all the more. Think on that. Not an incrimination. Not setting us back on our heals. But rather an invitation to rejoice in goodness and kindness. Remember Thomas reaching his hand into the side of Jesus, in which case it is not possible except to touch the still pierced open Heart of Jesus: “My Lord and my God…” This is not a dumbing down of the divinity and friendship put before us, but a lifting of us into that friendship right into the life of the Most Holy Trinity, always through, with and in Jesus, we made by the Holy Spirit to be members of His Mystical Body.

When we touch the pierced Heart of Jesus, how can we not share the greatest love of our lives with others? I think that humble thanksgiving in all rejoicing is always the Way to go. This is reality. I cannot imagine any other way. All praise to the divine Heart which wrought our Salvation. Amen.

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Loneliness in the priesthood. Solutions.

rescue by helicopter

Analogy in this picture: The Priest is the one drowning; the rescuer is…

Father, I had dinner with a new […] Priest last night. I asked him what one thing surprised him the most about being a Priest, and he replied “the loneliness.” [Picking that one thing, meaning that it’s among other things and stands out as the most important among all things, and that he’s come to this point so soon, and that he’s telling you, a layman, is rather revelatory, or not. See below]. I felt very saddened by this as I listened. [Since I’m not privy to that, the meaning is wide open.] It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that I could (should?) have asked him what the faithful might do to help dispel hid loneliness. [If they could and would is extremely unlikely. It can happen, but… See later comments.] I had no presence of mind. [See “if they could or would” above, which is not the layman’s fault. Don’t beat yourself up.]

Anyway, I once asked you about approaching a Priest in regard to Confession (his personal practice) and you gave me very good advice on how NOT to go about it – thank you. So I now ask you (and for the benefit of other members of the laity who may read our exchange): What can the laity do to combat/prevent a Priest’s loneliness? [Hmmm….] What might the signs be? [Real loneliness is frustration because of wrongheadedness about expectations, a frustration, even worse, cut off from any hand up, giving up looking for a hand up because… of ever so predictable unrepeatable circumstances when that certain wrongheadedness prevails.]

I have read, somewhere, that this is a common malady [absolutely true among, say, military chaplains who are constantly changing assignments to places where no one speaks any language you could possibly learn with any speed, with no other priests around even for very extended periods of time. Lots of alcoholism], but it did not register as anything I should trouble myself about until I heard the sad words from a Priest’s mouth for myself. Please advise us.

The short answer is one you already know: the harder you try with banalities the more you will fail. I can’t remember if it’s the story of Blessed Charles Eugène de Foucauld, when he was still a knucklehead party boy and not a yet someone who knows Christ, that the more of a party boy he was, the more knuckleheads around him, the more he wanted to go and commit suicide. The answer isn’t smothering someone with attention and company and keeping someone busy and involved blah blah blah. All of that merely intensifies loneliness, reinforcing the impression that the loneliness cannot be escaped through circumstances we can control, doing this or doing that. And that’s when escapes become self-destructive, like the alcoholism thing.

There is a longer answer. But it asks more questions. First of all, I think that most all priests have no idea what they are saying when they say they are lonely:

  • In saying they are lonely, do priests mean that they have no idea of the positive life of celibacy, of chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of the heavens, not knowing that they are married to the Church by the Sacrifice of the Mass that they offer, repeating the wedding vows daily of total giving of self to the Bride: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice… This is actually likely; I’m guessing that one would be pressed to find any seminary in the world that says that explicitly, and reinforces it with formation conferences and spiritual direction until the seminarian lives this as the driving force of his perfect chastity. I mean, if a priest is constantly living regret he’s a catastrophe waiting to happen, and he already is a catastrophe, unconvinced of what he’s doing. That does no good to anyone. “I wish I were married,” he says to himself. Crap. He already is married and he doesn’t even know it. Instruction and formation and direction is much needed, the sooner the better. This needs priestly conversation. I need to up my series on priestly celibacy once again.
  • In saying he is lonely, does he merely mean that he misses having any specifically priest around with whom he can spend some time in recreation with common interests, such as mountain climbing, sharp shooting, hiking, going on pilgrimages, having a priestly book club with a meal they all prepare, or just a priest with whom he can, on occasion, perhaps over a stiff drink, solve all the problems of the church and the world, but again, with priests that think as he does not just on those things, but about Jesus Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception? Not having those opportunities isn’t real loneliness. This is just a bit of a cross to carry until he can get like minded priests to join him, or he them, in whatever. Friendship with the laity is great! Hey! Really wonderful! But friendship with good priests is so very important.
  • In saying he is lonely, is he really talking about real and wonderful progress in the spiritual life? Saint John of the Cross says that it is a terrible mistake, a kind of worst possible sin for a spiritual director to make, to say that all loneliness is evil and bad. As we progress in the spiritual life, Jesus reveals to us what He saved us from, and that includes, at its worst, feeling all the effects of original sin and whatever of our own rubbish, the worst effect of which is being alone, cut off from God and others, feeling that being cut off. Yikes! We are not our feelings. If this loneliness is actually spiritual progress, what we want to do is to recognize that Jesus is still with us in all the chaos (and this is discernible, that good and kind presence of Jesus) and say this to Him: “Jesus, wow, now I see more why we had to be saved. Thank you for coming into this world, knowing what we are like and what we would do to you, letting yourself be ‘abandoned’ on the Cross, right to death, so that you have the right in your justice to have mercy on us. I should hope that the priest would learn over a lifetime to carry, with Jesus, the loneliness of the world as he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you know, during the consecrations, the greatest moment of unity and love in all truth. “My God, My God, Why?” Note the unending filial union with His Heavenly Father.
  • In saying he is lonely, does the priest really mean that there are no good priests around him, that is, priests who believe, who are pious, who are respectful and reverent and honestly good and kind and welcoming, who “always have the billy (the tea-kettle) on the boil,” with the door open, with open ears, with affability, with time. Really honest to goodness good priests are lonely in a bad way when they expect that there are priests to be found everywhere you look who are also best friends with Jesus. There are those. But in some places they can very very few. A good priest must be good to other priests himself, regardless of what the others are like. A good priest must be first of all good friends with Jesus, meaning that he knows already that not all priests are good friends with Jesus. Loneliness, again, comes from the frustration of too high expectations with no way out. Hopelessness. If one expects faithfulness in this world, one will be disappointed. If one finds a priest by chance who knows Jesus, ahhh! This is to rejoice. Again I will say, Rejoice! Having no great expectation except in Jesus will also shield one from loneliness.
  • One of the hardest things for priests to do is to go to confession, though they should be going very frequently, always frosty, always humbly thankful to our Lord, and if a priest should hear in answer to his question – “Father, could you hear my confession?” – an immediate: “Sure, right away, and then you hear mine, O.K.?”… well, in that case, I would say that there would be no real loneliness to be found (see above for distinctions). If instead, one is confronted with laughter, or scorn, or simply has the door closed on him, or your last confession is repeated to you with sarcasm outside of confession, well, this is devastating. But even this is not necessarily the depressive frustration of hopeless loneliness unless one’s expectations are too high. One can experience the agony of the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, one can groan over Jerusalem, but this doesn’t speak of loneliness in and of itself. Grief speaks to sorrow, which comes from love. The one who has love is not lonely, perhaps in great agony and darkness, but not lonely. There’s a huge difference. But I’m guessing most priests just label any of the above as being “lonely” when it’s absolutely not necessarily so, and it would be mistaken, even catastrophic, to guess wrongly.

In other words, we’re pretty complex. Just one other good priest, saintly priest, is a boon in any priests life. I’ve been in dioceses around the world where one would wonder if there is even one good priest who is best friends with Jesus, and then I would meet a saintly fantastic priest suffering there. Great! In the diocese where I am, so very many dozens of priests are really good priests, really good, with some real saints, with others really wanting to make progress (and that’s really really good).

I’m trying to wrack my brains to find a time when I was truly lonely. There have been some very tough times in my life, like hell, truly, like hell, wow, real suffering, and from priests, for years. But nothing that would fit the hopelessness of the worst scenario of real loneliness above. And I guess that’s the key, having hope. Hope isn’t just about the future, it’s about a future which is already tied to one right now. Grace turns to glory, as Saint Paul says. We already have one foot in heaven. We walk at risk of going to hell, and yet walk in the presence of the living God, with an angel guardian who sees the face of God in heaven right now. Of this I am and have always been absolutely convinced, that is, about the angels. Their wit and humor and mirth and love and justice and IRONY is unstoppable and does not in the least tolerate any loneliness. Never! How can one be truly lonely with such love and goodness and kindness and friendship at all times and in non-stop solidarity?

So, a bit of discernment, a bit of spiritual direction from a good fellow priest would be good. Priests themselves speaking to each other about the spiritual realities of being an alter Christus, of acting in the person of Christ, speaking of the experience of the Holy Spirit when preaching, speaking of the dynamics of the family of faith from the point of view of being a priest with Jesus… these are all things that only priests can do together. If the laity were to help out their priests when they see him withdraw, becoming distant, whatever —  you’ll know it when you see it — hey! Why not arrange, if it is a big enough parish, for priest get-togethers, which the laity put on for the priests, maybe doing the barbecue or supplying what’s needed and letting them alone? In one diocese there were 40 Hours celebrations, which would be staggered on different weekends, ending Sunday evenings. All priests are invited to the meal after. Really nice. Good priests can get to know each other. This is extremely helpful.

Perhaps this sounds a bit mean, exclusive, you know, “good” priests and all that. What about the liberal ones, who deny doctrines and morals of the Church? Let me be the prophet and say that once those good priests get to know each other and get the plot, as it were, really understand, they will naturally want to invite the liberal crowd so as to bring them over to the side of Christ. This is how it works.

Loneliness, real loneliness, in not acceptable, not for one second, ever. Amen.


Missionary of Mercy Divine Mercy Box donation

For those I see to be in need. To increase amount change times $5.00 is charged.

$5.00

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A day in the life: an Appalachian priest

cloudy ridge mountains

Today’s one of those days which I love so very much. I get to drag Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament around all of His beautiful creation. I’m the designated ecumenical chaplain today at our local hospital for a service that has to be at 2:00 PM. So, I’ll race up to Robbinsville for the Noon Mass, race back to Murphy for that service, bringing the Blessed Sacrament for those Catholics in the Nursing Home there as well (one is 89 years old), and then race up to Fontana on the far side of creation for another Communion Call (she’s 92 years old), and then backtrack yet again to another on the back side of another of these among the tallest mountains in these Eastern United States (he’s 97 years old), then race back over the most dangerous road in the world (after Yungas Road, of course!) to go above the airport in Andrews for a hospice stop (she’s I think 89 years old). It’s it’s not too late, I’ll stop at see another gentleman for a Communion Call who I didn’t get to see yesterday (I think he’s now in his late eighties).

I totally love all these people. I totally love being a priest, and being a priest in the mountains. It’s so beautiful I could scream. I just love it. It’ll be a lot of hard, hard miles on Sassy the Subaru Forester, but she loves getting a work out too.

P.S. I’m experimenting again with timed publication for posts, so that this one is timed to go out at 11:00 AM. The last time I tried this, the post disappeared entirely, and couldn’t be found in drafts or anything. We’ll see what happens.

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Priestly Vocations: I’ll follow Jesus who said, “As the Master so the disciple”.

Jesus Pilate Ecce Homo

Homiletic and Pastoral Review (HPR) published an article by our friends at Opus Bono Sacerdotii: When the Church Defames Her Priests. Good for HPR. The conservative Catholic media has pretty much 99% of the time never been on the side of due process, which speaks of cowardice and a bitterness that has nothing to do with Tradition, but only of opportunism, the definition of liberal anti-Catholicism. But times are changing. With SNAP being outed for getting kickbacks, with lots of money being thrown around, with lots of self-serving self-congratulations of the powers that be suffocating everyone, people are starting to get the idea that due process is, after all, a good thing for justice.

Someone who suffers personal and lifelong consequences of his diocese obliterating due process in his regard is Father Gordon J MacRae (ABOUT). He has written about this, starting off with an account of a young man who is hearing our Lord’s call to him with a vocation to the priesthood even as he reads articles on Father MacRae’s These Stone Walls. Here’s that very moving article: Opus Bono Sacerdotii: Heroic Witness to a Heroic Vocation.

I’m really taken by that account of that young fellow. It is the crucifixion in following Christ which attracts him. After all, there is no greater love than the one who lays down his life for his friends. Very inspiring.

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Father KKK: Pipe bomb making, cross burnings, assassination threats

william aitcheson

I’m Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy, also a Catholic priest. One of my fellow priests, Father Bill Aitcheson, used to head up a cell of the KKK, a terrorist group targeting Jews, Catholics and people with varying degrees of pigmentation.

  • O.K. I get it. Our Lord forgave Saul of Tarsus, Saul who was persecuting people to death. Great.
  • O.K. I get it. We’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God with original sin and whatever rubbish sin we’ve otherwise come up with. And the Lord is willing to forgive us. Great.
  • O.K. I get it. Father William Aitcheson, native of Arlington diocese, repented of his being the leader of a terrorist KKK cell as a fully grown man in his mid-20s (not an “impressionable youth”) and then started the process of becoming a priest in Reno-Las Vegas diocese, attending the North American College in Rome the same years I was in Rome. Great.

What I don’t understand is how the diocese in Nevada and how the NAC and again how the diocese of Arlington years later and until today could overlook the fact that he didn’t pay his court imposed fines to pay for damages to multiple victims, fines merely totaling $23,000 at the time, and, if he paid none of it, now equal to $58,769.08, still not that much.

  • $20,000 to the Butler family at whose house he burned a cross (He did NOT pay that.)
  • $1,500 to the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at the University of Maryland where he burned a cross (Did he pay that?)
  • $1,500 to the Beth Torah Congregation in Hyattsville where he burned a cross (Did he pay that?)

When people repent, part of the repentance involves restitution. He says he wants to do this now. The diocese of Arlington, which insists he’s merely temporarily on leave, ought, because of their own obtuse assertion, pay his fines with increased values straight out in one chunk of money. Father Bill can pay the diocese of Arlington back.

But until then, I don’t believe either he or the diocese is sincere. He’s still Father KKK to me. And the diocese of Arlington, until they pay up, is basically saying that terrorism doesn’t matter, racism doesn’t matter, bigotry doesn’t matter, violence doesn’t matter. Father Aitcheson says he came forward because of the Charlottesville murder. The diocese says he was instead caught out by a reporter. I suppose both can be true coincidentally. Fine. But the restitution needs to be paid. Real apologies need to be given.

The spokesman for the diocese of Arlington says that “Father Aitcheson and Bishop Michael Burbidge have expressed a desire to meet in a pastoral, private setting with the Butler family in the hope that it may bring them healing.” — Do the Butlers want all that privacy, or is it Father Aitcheson who suggested that? He’s mentioned his embarrassment any number of times. Moreover, is there any meeting set up with B’nai B’rith Hillel and Beth Torah, or did he apologize 40 years ago and so we can forget about all those Jewish people today?

A serious question for Father William Aitchenson and to diocesan officials all of whom overlooked the lack of restitution: Was there ever any real intention to pay restitution, and, if not, was any forgiveness from the Lord ever received by Aitcheson by way of baptism or an absolution? Bear the fruits of repentance, and I’ll be happy to provide an absolution for you as Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy. I’m no better than you. I’d rather see you go to heaven with real repentance. It’s all about Jesus.

From the relevant declassified FBI file:

kkk 4

kkk 3

kkk 1

kkk 2

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Fr Gordon J MacRae – Prayers please

GORDON MACRAE

Prayers for Father Gordon J MacRae, please. Urgent.

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Day off 4: FBI QIT-99 drills: Chaplain Qualification

FBI QIT 99 legal size paper

To become a police chaplain in North Carolina (at least in Charlotte) one has to go through the FBI course which includes being acquainted with firearms, including a variety of sidearms, assault and long rifles. That’s a whole different universe for me, so some months ago, on the same day:

  • I got a sidearm purchase permit from the sheriff’s office
  • purchased a Glock 19 gen 4 and a box of ammo
  • shot a few rounds for the first time in my life (from a pistol)
  • qualified 40/40 at a gun range first attempt
  • signed up for a concealed carry course

Soon thereafter:

  • I sat through that very useful concealed carry course
  • applied for a concealed carry permit
  • after many SBI / FBI background checks, got the concealed carry permit

Since then, I’ve been throwing out a few bullets so as to become more accurate more quickly in incrementally difficult circumstances, for my safety and the safety of others. Upon reflection, I think I’ve been having too much fun. I think I should get down to business and put myself through the FBI qualification course, that is, just for practice, on my own. Since the FBI targets are printed on larger paper than can fit in my printer, I’ve just magnified the most important detail of the target in 1 to 1 proportions, which will print out on legal paper (8 1/2 by 14). See the top of this post.

The FBI course requires 48 hits out of 60 for a pass = 80%. Meanwhile, using the same target, Kansas LEO qualification requires 35 hits out of 50 for a pass = 70%. Both courses are fairly demanding. Kansas has more variety. The FBI is perhaps more realistic.

KANSAS

  1. 3 yd line – Beginning on the 1 ½ yard line, shooter will draw and fire 3 rounds as they are stepping backward and moving laterally one step. Shooter will re-holster and repeat this procedure again on command. 2 strings of 3 (6 rounds total) 3 sec. per string.
  2. 5 yd line – Shooter will draw and fire 3 rounds from a two-hand, supported grip. Shooter will reholster and repeat this procedure on command. 2 strings of 3 (6 rounds total) 5 sec. per string
  3. 7 yd line – Shooter will fire 2 rounds from the threat ready position with weapon in strong hand, supported by the weak hand. The weapon is then transitioned to the weak hand and supported by the strong hand for the final two rounds. 1 string of 4 (4 rounds total) 10 seconds
  4. 7 yd line – Shooter will fire 3 rounds from threat ready, strong hand only, one-hand shooting grip. 1 string of 3 (3 rounds total) 4 seconds
  5. 7 yd line – Shooter will fire 3 rounds from threat ready while moving laterally one step, using the two-hand, supported grip. Re-holster and repeat on command. 2 strings of 3 each (6 rounds total) 4 seconds per string
  6. 10 yd line – Shooter will draw and fire 4 rounds using the two-hand, supported grip. Re-holster and repeat on command. 2 strings of 4 each (8 rounds total) 5 seconds per string
  7. 15 yd line – Shooter will draw and fire 4 rounds using a two-hand, supported grip. 1 string of 4 (4 rounds total) 6 seconds per string 
  8. 15 yd line – Shooter will draw and fire 3 rounds using a two-hand, supported grip. 1 string of 3 (3 rounds total) 5 seconds
  9. 25 yd line – Shooter will draw and fire 5 rounds from a two-hand, supported grip around a barricade in a standing position. 1 string of 5 (5 rounds total) 15 seconds
  10. 25 yd line – Shooter will draw and fire 5 rounds from a two-hand, supported grip around a barricade in a kneeling position. 1 string of 5 (5 rounds total) 15 seconds

FBI

From Three Yards (12 rounds fired):

  • 3 shots in 3 seconds, strong hand only
  • repeat above for 3 more rounds in 3 seconds
  • 3 rounds strong hand only, switch hands for 3 rounds weak hand only: 8 seconds

From Five Yards (12 rounds fired) [two hands for rest of course]

  • 3 rounds in 3 seconds
  • repeat 3 more times for a total of 12 rounds fired

From Seven Yards (16 rounds fired):

  • 4 rounds in 4 seconds
  • repeat above for 4 more rounds
  • 4 rounds, reload, then fire 4 more rounds all completed in 8 seconds

From 15 yards (10 rounds fired):

  • 3 rounds in 6 seconds
  • repeat above for 3 more rounds
  • 4 rounds in 8 seconds

From 25 Yards (10 rounds fired from cover)

  • Move up to the cover and fire 2 rounds standing and then 3 rounds kneeling, all under 15 seconds.
  • Repeat above

RESULTS:

  • 86% for Kansas (cold barrel) 
  • 88% for FBI (hot barrel)

Points off at 75 feet out. So I’ll need to practice that. I haven’t done that since Ricky was out from South Dakota. I totally missed when going down on a knee (no knees). No excuse! More practice needed. Anything less than 100% is no good. Mind you, I have no timer but I think I was well within the limits.

    JUST TO BE COMPLETE

    • Do the above courses at dusky-dark to simulate conditions 99% of the time.
    • Use two targets five feet apart. Any string moves from one to the other whether two, three or four rounds are required.
    • Add close quarters shooting (one hand) right up against one of the used targets used for the courses above.

    I didn’t get around to doing any of these things yet.

      JUST FOR FUN

      • Shoot in half a 1″x1″ by however long swinging stick at a marked line:

      I did do that again yesterday:

      That will take some time to own. All that is just for pistols. One has to be familiar with assault and long rifles, etc. More on that in future.

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

      LOURDES-GROTTO

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

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

      lourdes

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

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

      LOURDES-MICHAEL

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

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

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

      cardinal burke lourdes

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

      Mass Lourdes Pius X Basilica

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

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

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

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

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

      lourdes traditional mass chaplains

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

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

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      This Catholic priest’s Glock 19 target practice: Rope swinging video

      Before heading off to lunch with some good friends on my “day off”, I stopped by the hermitage to set up a new target, a half-gallon cranberry juice bottle filled with water swinging from a branch from about 35 feet up. If you watch the 3 second video you’ll get the idea.

      I set the bottle in motion and stepped back some 33 feet. The very first shot from the Glock 19 was a direct hit, middle-middle. It was, in fact, a bit too easy, though I did miss some as I replaced magazines and replaced bottles, four of them. After lunch I came back for more. Maybe standing so far away is too easy because you have to move your arms less. The closer you are the quicker you have to move. I’ll have to remember that. Advice welcome.

      I’ll also have to come up with better things to swing. The juice bottles are made with hard plastic to avoid mold growth inside the bottle. Hard plastic means shattering and all the water gushes out straight away. I thought I’d have a bit more time with it, but:

      target swinging juice bottle

      So, perhaps a soft plastic Folger’s Breakfast Blend coffee bucket filled with dirt with the lid tied on. I’ll have to remember that.

      The point of all this is just a bit of play time while out at the hermitage. Recreation is important in anyone’s life. And, guaranteed, there’s no indoor or outdoor shooting range around this area that would permit such contraptions to be set up. If you do carry, it’s important to be well practiced, a good shot, which protects innocent people, and that’s what it’s all about. Getting trained up in situational awareness so as to get out of bad situations before they can occur, and getting trained up in deescalation to cool down incidents that are inescapable is all essential. These are just basic life skills that are always useful even if one does not carry.

      And, praying for the bishop and priests of the diocese is always a necessity just at this point exactly in the trail up to the hermitage. The Angelus. Don’t ask me why but I remember this very strongly every time I’m here, without fail. Always. Strong.

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      Jesus & triple-taps on a priest’s day off

      sunset-

      The magnificent sunset nearing home after a super happy day-off yesterday. About 95% of the day was spent with the sick and shut-ins in the twilight of their lives, many of them living in far-flung places, with Sassy the Subaru putting on hundreds of miles. I love a “day-off” like this, sooooooo happy to be a priest.

      There are plenty of people, however, who have a bitter reaction to priests getting a “day-off”. They may wish to read Mark 6:31-32:

      “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.'” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.”

      That’s called a “day-off”. Jesus recommends it. Having said that, we move on to the next verse (Mark 6:33), because text without context is pretext. So, let’s see what a “day-off” is actually like:

      “People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.”

      Yep. That’s what happens. I love it. Jesus is so very good and kind. He directs all through his beloved flock, who say things like: “Did you hear that so and so is terribly sick today as well?” This is when the “breaking of the bread” means that the Eucharistic Host is broken to be smaller and smaller. They love that Jesus would come to them riding along with a donkey-priest. As Saint Augustine said: “Asinus es, sed Christum portas.” (You are a donkey, but you carry Christ.)

      But then I had a few minutes to spare at the hermitage, so, sorry, but, of course, I just had to relax a little as well. A donkey has to be a donkey once in a while. Triple taps drawing from the holster, trying to draw, point and shoot all three within three seconds. I don’t have a timer, so I assume I’m slow, perhaps 2 1/2 seconds. That’s an eternity in combat. Any suggestions for a timer? Here’s a magazine’s worth, which means five draws with three shots each:

      target 3 taps-

      And another magazine with five more draws of three each:

      target 3 taps

      Real shooters would just laugh at that, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? And I’ll be the first to admit: this was fairly close range But for me it’s pretty good. It seems that the less aim is taken in favor of muscle-memory pointing, as it is said, the greater the accuracy and certainly the less anticipatory over-compensation for any muzzle-flip. Still, if there’s any risk of a bystander being hit, I’m thinking I would like to combine the point with the aim a little bit. Again, real shooters would just laugh at that, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? The best shot in the world humbly says that his ultra-perfect aim is nothing special, as anyone would be as good as him if they also threw out a million rounds. Um… I haven’t done that…

      Anyway, I just have fun doing this. And it’s not like I wasn’t also answering the phone pretty much constantly. Three shots out, another call. Three shots out, another call. But it’s all good. Shepherds love to hear the bleating of the sheep. As it is, I also bleat quite a bit, and The Shepherd always hears my voice, and, at least sometimes, I hear His.

      Oh, and, by the way, don’t think that guns and shooting wasn’t part of the conversation with all the sick and shut-ins that I visited with Jesus. You have to know that Western North Carolina is armed to the teeth. People can move seamlessly from talk of armed combat to the arms of spiritual combat without blinking. I am humbled to walk frequently among the saints of God.

      By the way, I make my own targets with poster-board and 3/4 inch sticky dots, mapping out the dots at 4″ intervals so that there are 35 dots per poster-board. Once one board is mapped out, another can be marked on the edges using the same measurements. Easy. Only takes about two minutes for the whole thing. It’s a lot of shooting for one target. The problem is that the targets are not moving, and there is no mayhem. But I have a solution…

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      Ordinations: Good men so happy to be of service to the Holy Family

      triptych

      Dear Father Byers,

      Since there is much Byersian influence here, I wanted to send along a picture of a triptych commissioned for priesthood ordination next year on 9 June (the Immaculate Heart!). You are certainly invited!

      It came in much earlier than expected, but I am fine with that! I know you’ll understand all the symbolism but NB the Hearts so on fire with love, flowers for the Immaculate, and the flaming sword! I was going to ask for a donkey and a deer kneeling in adoration but I thought of that too late. Note also the particularly New Mexican style of artwork, done by the best NM santera in the state. E.g. In NM St. Joseph always has a hollyhock rather than a lily, since they are so abundant, though the symbolism remains.

      I pray you are well Father. May God bless you! In Christ, Deacon […]

      We follow the saints on either side of the triptych to the Sacred Mysteries taking place in the center. /// I like that: “Byersian.” ;¬)

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      When’s the last time you peed-in-your-pants-laughed, a great time in life?

      Some guy put a few clips together with Navy Seal guy David Rutherford giving a bit of instruction. I like it. I like it a lot. Draw the analogies with your own life, whatever your circumstances happen to be.

      For instance, he mentions being mentored and mentoring, a huge part of the daily life of any priest who takes his priesthood seriously with not only spiritual direction and confession, but also just guys of like mind getting together, which is important. This past week I had a lot of days like this entire speech, which I so much enjoyed I just about had a pee in my pants laugh with a bunch of great guys who likewise erupted into pretty intense spontaneous laughter as we, of course, went on solving all the problems in the Church and world. Not levity, this. No. Just really good times. I love being a priest. One of the guys is on a very fast track to getting the nod by the Combat Applications Group (Delta Force). Really great guys. We’ll be keeping in contact.

      Again, there’s much here that is applicable to everyone’s life, even if… even if… we are no longer in good health as the years have slipped by, even if circumstances in life have had our friends not only abandon us but betray us, even if God Himself seems distant and that we are being smacked down so that it seems our very bones are being crushed, as the psalmist says. This is what all the saints go through, and at such times it is our guardian angels who come to the fore, Jesus Himself, our Blessed Mother, heaven itself. Quite the team, that. And the fire of the Holy Spirit inflames.

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      Mass today for Bishop David Choby

      bishop david choby

      He died on Pentecost. May he rest in peace. I’ll offer Mass for him today.

      I first met Bishop Choby at lunch after a first vows Mass for the Nashville Dominicans. As priests and religious took their seats at lunch I noted that no one had sat at his table, so I did. Soon the preacher for the Mass came to sit with us. Interrogation is the only word I can come up with for the conversation that ensued between he and the other priest, pleasant as it was. After a full twenty minutes of grilling this priest, and it not at all being apparent whether or not Bishop Choby was pleased with what he heard, he then invited the priest to give a retreat to all of his diocesan priests. That made me quietly chuckle.

      But then the good bishop turned his attention to me, and then the whole interrogation thing repeated itself for another twenty minutes, with the subjects beings Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, Theology, Philosophy, the state of seminaries these days, and everything in minute detail about my life since I was a kid until that moment, it never being apparent whether he liked what he heard or not, this also leaving the other priest amazed. But then the Bishop, without asking me about it, simply announced that he was going to make a phone call the next day to my superior and to the new rector at the seminary he was sending his guys to, and that I should expect a call from all three of them the next morning, and that I should get ready in the next day or so to make the 700 mile round trip up to the seminary. So, O.K. That was my fate sealed for the foreseeable future. That’s a bishop. He will be missed.

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      Follow-up on Father Gordon J MacRae’s health: great news.

      GORDON MACRAE

      Last week the post Fr MacRae’s request of Padre Pio: help! was published here and on Father Gordon J MacRae’s Facebook Page. That got 915 shares as of this writing, with quite a good number those people being pray-ers. This was a request for Padre Pio’s help. There is news. This morning during our usual hour-long telephone conversation, I asked Father Gordon if there was any news on the health front. Here are some notes of what he said:

      • My neck is substantially better.
      • I can use my right shoulder.
      • The pain is gone entirely. I can move my head more than I have been able to in the last number of years.
      • And the lump has receded enormously.
      • And we have not yet been moved.
      • Padre Pio came through. I thanked him last night for coming through.
      • Thank everyone for all the prayers. Their prayers are very efficacious.

      So, there you have it. Now, I have another few requests:

      • Thank Padre Pio for coming through.
      • Continue to ask Padre Pio about the resolution of Father Gordon’s situation.
      • And please, please, say a wee prayer for each other, as I’m afraid that quite a number of you did up some extraordinary prayers and sacrifices for Father Gordon and need a bit of support from each other as well. Hail Mary…

      Thank you all for showing Jesus’ goodness and kindness to Father Gordon.

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      Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Father Kenneth Walker edition)

      father walker fssp

      • Note the smile of joy and peace on face of Father Walker, and that of our Lady.
      • Note the Rosary in the hand of our Lady. I’m guessing he put that there.
      • Note the red rose of martyrs in the hand of our Lady. I’m guessing he put that there.

      After writing this post the other day – (USCCA exam results: Master Defender. BUT that’s never good enough) – a reader sent me a link to the very detailed obituary of Father Kenneth Walker, and offered to provide the USCCA package for close-quarters defense training that may have been a help to Father Walker in his effort to save his fellow priest. You’ll remember that Father Walker lost his life in doing just that. Of course, when it’s our time to go there’s no arguing about it with the Lord. Of course, that doesn’t mean that prudence is no longer a cardinal virtue. Just because you train doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful. But that doesn’t mean you don’t train.

      murderer of Father Kenneth Walker

      • Note the smirk on the murderer of Father Walker. The perp was only just sentenced to life in prison a few weeks ago (April 2017).

      Some things I note from the obit of Father Walker:

      • Lots of significant dates happen on the 13th of the month, Fatima anniversaries.
      • Both my dad and Father Walker died on the same day, June 11.
      • In looking at the locations and dates… if, as a kid, he ever went to confession and I’m guessing he did, and if, as a kid, he ever served Holy Mass and I’m guessing he did, he may well have been a penitent of mine and served Masses for me.

      I’m forever praying that those boys who serve Holy Mass for me will, according to the Lord’s will, receive a call from Jesus to become priests. I wonder if I prayed for a youngster called Kenneth. I’m guessing I did.

      UPSHOT: Prayer for good, holy, strong vocations to the priesthood, young men who will be priests with the very Heart of our Lord Jesus, who will be good sons of Immaculate Mary. Hail Mary…

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      This isn’t a sandwich. How do you…?

      lobster

      From last night… The last time I had lobster was on Prom night after the dance (in the school gym) at a fancy restaurant overlooking the Mississippi river in central Minnesota with a wonderful Canadian girl from the famous Ecumenical Institute at Saint John’s Abbey, my home parish at the time. This girl and I had put in lots of horse back riding together there in the southern most reaches of the northern woods. We talked about how many kids we would have. She said she had dreamed about twelve. I said that I thought that honestly a good number would be sixteen. We both agreed that God is the one to decide. She went back to Canada and I went to the seminary. The memories! Funny what you think of when you have a meal you’ve only had once before in your life.

      This lobster was eaten in the company of a fellow priest and his parents. His father was ordained a permanent deacon in the same Mass that the son was ordained a priest, and this was the tenth anniversary. So, four lobsters, still very much alive before being put into pots to be steamed. Steamed, it seems, is the only way to make lobster. I didn’t hear any screams from the lobsters. I usually just eat toast and think that to be extravagant. So, what do I know about recipes?

      I hope people aren’t scandalized by this. But there are things to celebrate. It’s good to celebrate. Catholics do know how to celebrate. Though others do as well. I’m sure you remember a favorite of many (the final scene of Babette’s Feast):

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      Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Requesting Martyrdom edition)

      flores papist

      Jesus said to his disciples:
      “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
      No one has greater love than this,
      to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
      You are my friends if you do what I command you.
      I no longer call you slaves,
      because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
      I have called you friends,
      because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
      It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
      and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
      so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
      This I command you: love one another.”

      That’s today’s Gospel. Jesus is commanding us to ask for the grace of martyrdom, laying down one’s life for one’s friends, the greatest love, how He loved us. That’s the logic of that passage. Inescapable. Totally. This is what we are to ask of our Heavenly Father. I’m guessing that that request would make our dear Mother Mary most happy.

      The flowers I put up for this post are in front of the statue of the Immaculate Conception at the rectory. They are yellow and white, the colors of the Holy See, a tad bit Papist of me. Yes. This really makes people angry. It makes Islamists upset. It makes ultra-traditional-ism-ists upset. It makes the filthy liberals upset.

      It is most Catholic to support not only the idea of the office of Peter (which support, cut off from Peter himself as so many do, is a heresy for the reason that the Church is founded on Peter and not on a mere idea of an office), but it is also most Catholic to support Peter himself, his very person, which filthy liberals, ultra-traditional-ism-ists, Islamists, etc., are loathe to do. I take a lot of heat for supporting the very person of Pope Francis. And that’s just fine with me.

      Just because one is supporting Peter himself doesn’t mean that one is supporting everything that Peter says. That would be absurd. Peter himself wouldn’t stand for it. I couldn’t care less if Peter bets on a certain horse for the Kentucky Derby. I’ll bet on my own horse, or actually not bet at all. But I will pay attention when the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ speaks not just for himself but as the head of the Catholic Church, and not just to some group or another or as part of some dialogue (such as is the case with Amoris laetitia), but when he is speaking to the universal Church, to everyone, and as a teacher, not a mere participant in ongoing dialogue, and also, conjoined to this, when he speaks on a matter of faith or morals as found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (or in the natural law for that matter), especially when this is deciding a controverted point.

      But not only. I will also pray and stand in solidarity with Peter to the point where I feel that it is true that he who insults Peter insults me. Indeed, he who insults Peter insults Jesus who established Peter as the Rock upon which the Church is built. He who insults Jesus insults me. Why? Because Jesus did the same for the likes of horrible, sinful me. Thank you, Jesus.

      But Father George! You don’t understand! Pope Francis blah blah blah blah blah. Yes, I’m aware of that and about a million other things you haven’t even thought about. I know. And so I ask: “So? Does that mean I shouldn’t pray for him? That I shouldn’t be a good son of the Church? Does it mean I can’t do my best to be the best priest I can be, teaching the best I can, praying the best I can, encouraging the best I can? I stand with Peter. I’m Catholic. I’m a priest.

       

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      Filed under Amoris laetitia, Flores, Holy See, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Priesthood, Vocations