Tag Archives: Vocations

Old time trains, Mother Teresa, Jesus

Yesterday, while out and about doing priest stuff, I stopped along the river road of the Nantahala Gorge – part of which is in my parish – to take the above 14 second video of The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad passenger train that is complete with dining car.

I only wish I could have recorded the iconic chug-chug of the engine, the squeal of steel on steel around the endless curves, the ever-so-loud horn sounding for no apparent reason other than there might be a panther or bear or elk on the tracks, or perhaps a wild boar as big as a cow in these parts of the upper ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains. The horn is surely sounded for atmospherics what with all the tourists on board.

The train doesn’t have any set destination. It just travels along, stops, and then reverses course. But it’s all spectacularly beautiful, especially for the city slickers on board. I’ve never been on this particular train, but the locals also love to climb aboard.

If it’s shocking to see all that smoke belching out of the engine-works up front, try driving behind a pickup accelerating uphill, you know, one that’s been modified to belch out at least as much smoke as seen in the video above. Those modifications seem to be one of the local pass-times. I can’t imagine how expensive fuel and oil costs must be even for a short trip.

Meanwhile, I recall another similar train on the far side of the world whose passenger back in the day was the now canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

From the Vatican website:

“On 10 September 1946 during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” her “call within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life. Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for “victims of love” who would “radiate His love on souls.” “Come be My light,” He begged her. “I cannot go alone.” He revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor. Nearly two years of testing and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin. On August 17, 1948, she dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered sari and passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter the world of the poor.”

mother teresa of calcutta

  • With something so very mundane as a ride on a train, one can be with Jesus.
  • With something so very mundane as anything whatsoever in our lives, one can be with Jesus.

 

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When Padre Pio met Saint Michael. When Father Byers knew nothing at all.

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Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.

[This was written ten years ago. Today, precisely, is a good day to repost it. Padre Pio’s feast day. /// BTW, today marks 25 years in prison of Fr Gordon MacRae. Hail Mary… St Michael the Archangel… ///]

You can read things dozens of times over the years and just not “get it” at all. That’s me. But this year when I read the following letter of Padre Pio, I was mesmerized. I now know a bit more just how much I absolutely don’t know anything about the spiritual life. I have written academically about that of which he speaks, the flaming sword. I am vindicated on that academic level at least, for I am alone across the millennia in what I have written. But on a spiritual level, well, I am thrust to the ground in deep humiliation, for I obviously know nothing of the spiritual life. But at least I know that I know nothing. These days, that’s something. And it’s way more than enough to ask for this great saint’s help. Apologies are given in advance for the inadequacy of [my comments] below. You can see from my Coat of Arms (thanks to Elizdelphi! No words on the banner yet) that I am grateful to have written about the sword of which Padre Pio speaks…

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

From the Letters of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest (Epist. I, 1065; 1093-1095)

I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him

“Out of obedience I am obliged to manifest to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th of this month of August 1918 [Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus] and all day on the 6th [Feast of the Transfiguration].

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“I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during this period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [making them saints!], I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person [an angel, a cherub] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cutesy cutesy. Pio speaks of torment and terror, and this angel is from heaven!]. He had in his hand a sort of weapon [“weapon”] like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. [This is the sword mentioned in Genesis 3:24. It is the sword which “turns into its contrary by way of the fiery grace of enmity against Satan and by way of friendship with God whatever is presented to it.” This is the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. This is the sword of Saint Michael. This is the sword of Saint Teresa of Avila…] At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. [Seeing that a cherub could crush the entire universe if given permission from the Most High, this is saying really a lot…] I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boys to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. [What an understatement of all time. They must have been scared for him.] This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, [“weapon”] and nothing was spared. [“nothing” – and here I try to hang on to this and that. And in doing that I am totally lacking in generosity. I’ve done nothing in my life. I’ve not laid down my life as so many have done. Pio is going through his purgatory all at once, 40 some hours for him. And what would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of the world?]

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Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms

“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [And this is no longer his wound, but that of humanity, with Pio now being in solidarity with Jesus on the Cross even as Jesus is in solidarity with us, loving us while we are yet sinners, drawing all to Himself as He is lifted up on the Cross. And we watch with Him…] I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony. What can I tell you in answer to your questions regarding my crucifixion? My God! What embarrassment and humiliation I suffer by being obliged to explain what you have done to this wretched creature! [For we do nothing to save ourselves. Jesus is our Savior. We come to realize this. We are nothing. He is all. He shows us what He has saved us from, and not just us, me, but we see how He has saved all of us as we gain some heightened perspective on the cross.]

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“On the morning of the 20th of last month [two weeks later], in the choir [making the traditional thanksgiving prayers after Mass], after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash. While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of August 5th. [We entertain angels and even the Son of Man and do not know it. How much the angels reflect the Son of Man! And the fiery love of God, issuing from the throne of the Most High, from the Heart of Him who loves us so much, is just that fierce on that sword which transforms us utterly in God’s love.] The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. [We are utterly weak. It is all Jesus.] The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. [He speaks also and especially of his embarrassment, for he, as all of us from Adam until the last man is conceived, caused those wounds in our Lord. How is it that he, Pio, or any of us could share such wounds of love for all those Jesus has redeemed and wills to save?] The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday.

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

Padre Pio reprimanding the Bishop about the Seal of Confession.

“Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? [The embarrassment, mind you, is more than enough to end his life on this earth.] I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation. The person of whom I spoke in a previous letter is none other than the one I mentioned having seen on August 5th. He continues his work incessantly, causing me extreme spiritual agony. There is a continual rumbling within me like the gushing of blood. [This Hebrew description of this sword in Genesis 3:24 (which I think I am the very first to translate pedantically, as it really is just that difficult), the sword which the angel is mashing around inside Pio is variously and wrongly translated as the twirling sword, the sword which moves about this way and that, etc., is, instead, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Thus, we don’t take from the Tree of the Living Ones, though we can humbly receive its fruit (the Eucharist from the Cross).] My God! Your punishment is just and your judgment right, but grant me your mercy. Lord, with your Prophet I shall continue to repeat: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your rage! Dear Father, now that my whole interior state is known to you, do not refuse to send me a word of comfort in the midst of such severe and harsh suffering.” [If it were I who had to respond to him, knowing I know nothing, but despite that, I would say that in our very reception of mercy we must show mercy to the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, those whom Jesus has redeemed and wills to save. Our suffering is occasioned by the lack of others, lack of faith, etc., but it is not their cross we carry, but instead we come to know what we would be like if we ourselves were to be without the grace of our Lord in therefore our lack of faith, etc…. and our remaining in friendship by the grace of God in such horrific circumstances acts as an intercession for those who are truly without faith, etc. This is drawing all to Christ on the cross in solidarity with Jesus, who does this by His grace. He, the Head of the Body does this, but we are members of that Body and we are with Him. If we only knew! If we only knew! Now Pio had his eyes opened, his soul torn open, his hands and feet and heart torn open. But it’s all Jesus. Jesus’ love taking on our lack. Embarrassing to us? Yes. And we run away. Pio couldn’t run any more. The angel presented himself, and, fiercely raising his weapon of God’s love… I know nothing. Saint Pio: help this donkey-priest to come to know Jesus! Help all of us priests!]

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (Happy Birthday! Coastal Karnataka)

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Dear Father, Wish you a Happy Feast of the Nativity [of Mary Immaculate, September 8]. Here (coastal Karnataka) a novena is conducted at all parishes in preparation for the feast. And after the Novena all gather around the statue of Infant Mary and shower flowers on the statue while singing a particular hymn. On this occasion all the family members gather and have a festive lunch together only Vegetarian on banana leaves. Attached are some photos and a video. With prayers, Father D

Thank you, Father D. I was unable to put up a flower for Mary for her birthday yesterday. Thanks for allowing me to rejoice with you.

For you, Mary, from your priest sons.

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Charlotte Eucharistic Congress 2019

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There were no politicized banners this year at the Eucharistic Congress. That kind of thing was halted for good. Instead, there were great speakers, lots of devotion, lots of Adoration, lots of Confessions, heaps of activities for all. Every year for 15 years there has been an increase in the size of the crowd that comes. I don’t know what the count is, but this year there seemed to be really a lot more people. Great to see. And people were very devout in reception of Holy Communion, with many going down on their knees on the concrete floor.

At the end of the day, after the closing Mass, just after the Apostolic Benediction with the plenary indulgence, the bishop asked the huge crowd whether or not they would like to see this next year, 2020, dedicated in Charlotte Diocese to Saint Joseph. There was a huge round of applause, so the bishop declared on the spot that this was to be the case. And this announcement was followed by another huge round of applause. I love that. This is such a good diocese.

There was also a lot of catching up with friends, both laity and priests, really good priests. I ate lunch with a group of seminarians, really good seminarians. I’m very impressed with their integrity of doctrine, morality, spirituality, just plain groundedness. They get it. They know who they are in Christ Jesus, that is, those who are in humble thanksgiving before Jesus.

Meanwhile, just in case I myself forgot who I am, I was supplied with two IDs:

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I always knew there were two of me somewhere in the world anyway (and that’s now confirmed by Diplomatic Security. So, Hahaha.

It was the comment of one of the nice ladies in charge taking care of the priestly vestments for the day that the two IDs were a statement about my supposed ability to bilocate. Um… No… Not yet anyway!

Some of the priests were a bit snarkier, saying that the IDs provided me with some rather glorious titles. Um… No… No me. Not ever! Those are the names of the churches of my parish, with Holy Redeemer being the “parish church” and Prince of Peace being the “mission church.”

The trip put well over 400 miles on Sassy the Subaru, often through mountainous cell-phone dead areas. And the phone was off for most of the long weekend, even for emergencies, as it’s not good to have the phone on during Mass, during Confessions, during Adoration, during the Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Charlotte, etc.

So, apologies to those who have phone calls and emails and such awaiting responses. Today’s the day I’ll try to get some things done. It’s just that Friday night I went to bed at 10:30 pm and got up at Midnight to get some things done before leaving for Charlotte at 2:00 am. Then Sunday night I got back to the parish at 1:30 am and got to bed at 2:00 am, only to get up at 4:00 am to get ready for the day. Let’s see:

  • 1:30 am – get back from the Eucharistic Congress (dogs had been fed by the neighbor)
  • 2:00 am – finally get to bed
  • 4:00 am – wake up for the day, with lots to do, including feeding the dogs! I noted that I was actually having knee tremors from lack of sleep at this point. Not good.
  • 5:30 am – travel to the church to set up for Adoration
  • 6:00 am – Adoration and hearing confessions until 7:00 am
  • 7:10 am – rush up to the mission church in Graham county
  • 7:30 am – set up for Mass and Adoration
  • 8:00 am – Adoration and Rosary and hearing Confessions
  • 8:30 am  – Mass
  • 9:45 am – Social in the social hall
  • 10:00 am – rush back to Cherokee County
  • 10:30 am – Confessions
  • 11:00 am – Mass
  • 12:15 pm – Social in the social hall
  • 1:30 pm – Start off on Communion calls for the sick and trips to the nursing homes in a couple of towns, utterly non-stop
  • 6:30 pm – Feed the dogs and start winding down…
  • 7:45 pm – To sleep. That lasted until 5:00 am Monday with prison ministry to begin, as always, after 7:00 am. So… Still alive!

Meanwhile, I love being a priest.

And we need more priests here. To guys thinking they just might have a vocation that needs to be discerned, contact Charlotte Diocese!

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Summary of everything wrong with the Catholic Church in the USA

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I got this as an afterthought, that is, I suppose, as a joke. Someone put me on the mailing list of the AUSCP. It’s already too late for the “Register by March 31” discount. Hahaha.

I guess someone wanted me to see this and put it up on the blog as an example of all that is wrong with the Catholic Church in these USA.

  • I admit: “prayer” is mentioned. I bet that’s in the style of Los Angeles REC.
  • I admit: there is an icon pictured, but I have to wonder if that’s token bait.

Let’s review:

  • AUSCP wrongly says that it speaks for me, a Catholic priest. How arrogant of them.
  • AUSCP wrongly says that it co-promotes with Pope Francis the implementation of the vision and values of Vatican II. But that’s another rant.

What especially caught my eye and what about makes me want to vomit is the insistence of being embraced with “America’s most inclusive place for U.S. priests.” That’s not true. What about Cardinal Burke. And what kind of ultra-nationalist agenda is that, anyway? What about being inclusive of other priests from around the world, you know, like Bishop Athanasius Schneider, like Cardinal Sarah?

But you know what “most inclusive” means, don’t you? Sigh.

Let’s review again:

  • I don’t want their respect. I expect them to be aggravated with me, because I’m actually a Catholic and a priest and a believer, all three at the same time. The life of a Catholic priest is not about receiving condescension. It’s to be all about Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the Only One. No one has spoken about Jesus since what? 1962?
  • I don’t want their support. What does that even mean? A kind of accompaniment? The life of a Catholic priest is not about being served. It’s about being one with Jesus who came to lay down His life as a ransom for many. It’s about Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the Only One. And since Cupich is going to be there, I ask this: Are the thugs threatening Father Kalchik going to be there? Is Father Kalchik invited?
  • I don’t want their comfort. What is that? One better not ask. The life of a Catholic priest is to fulfill the saying of Jesus crucified: “As the Master, so the disciple.”
  • I don’t want their nourishment, the massive banquets that scream it’s all about me! Jesus said, “I thirst.” I would rather eat out of a much more familiar dumpster that eat at those sumptuous banquets.

Where are the followers of Jesus?

Where are the martyrs?

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08 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Eunuch (2)

jesus faces

The ordained priest, who is the instrument of The Priest, Christ Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Prince of the Most Profound Peace, has charge of the marriage bed shared by Jesus and His Bride, the Church.

Look, I am NOT a follower of slimy interpretations of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. The saint was clear that this is about mercy based on JUSTICE.

The ordained priest, acting in Persona Christi (in the Person of Christ) keeps the bride perfect in purity by his administration of the Sacraments. He prepares the Bride for Christ with Baptism and Confession. In his office as Eunuch, the priest does what the Lord does in preparing, metaphorically, the Bride for marriage. Scripturally, the doctrine proclaimed is as strong as the images provided in, e.g., Ezekiel 16:6-14…

And when I passed by you, and saw you weltering in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live, and grow up like a plant of the field.’ And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full maidenhood; your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. When I passed by you again and looked upon you, behold, you were at the age for love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yea, I plighted my troth to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with leather, I swathed you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I decked you with ornaments, and put bracelets on your arms, and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. Thus you were decked with gold and silver; and your raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and embroidered cloth; you ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful, and came to regal estate. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor which I had bestowed upon you, says the Lord God.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Calvary is where the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church, is celebrated and, so to speak, consummated, that is, by way of mercy founded on JUSTICE. The priest is ordained to be an alter-Christus, another Christ. But there is only one Christ, one Priest, one Lord, one King, one Bridegroom, in whose Person the ordained priest acts (in Persona Christi). The ordained priest has a priestly character in Christ’s image that is far different from all other Christians’ ‘royal priesthood’.

The celibacy, the chastity, the continence and even perhaps the virginity he can enjoy finds its fulfilment in the charity of this wedding of Jesus and His Bride of which the eunuch priest is officially in charge and in which he participates, being married to the Church by the Sacrifice he offers, by the marriage vows he pronounces in Persona Christi, in the Person of Christ: This is my body — given for you in sacrifice… This is the Chalice of my blood — poured out for you in sacrifice. Total self-giving to the other. The priest is in love with the Church, also his Bride, through, with and in Christ Jesus.

From the Congregation for Clergy:

“Through Him, with Him, and in Him, the priest becomes the servant of mankind. His very being, ontologically assimilated to Christ, constitutes the foundation of being ordained for the service of the community. Total commitment to Christ, aptly effected and witnessed through celibacy, places the priest at the service of all. The marvelous gift of celibacy is clarified by, and draws inspiration from, assimilation to the nuptial gift of the crucified and risen Son of God to a redeemed and renewed mankind.”

Note that this nuptial gift has nothing of the sexual about it, nothing of a pornographically fallen eroticism that is so often effervescently spoken about these days by some few in glowing terms, making the Last Supper and particularly Calvary some sort of sexualized experience even for Christ. That’s the most blasphemous perversion of the Theology of the Body of Saint Pope John Paul II. Blasphemy.

The begetting of children, the primary end of any marriage, is wrought in Christ’s marriage with His Bride, the Church, not by sexual activity, but by way of JUSTICE: He took on the consequence of the guilt we incurred because of original sin, death, which is also the worst we can give out, and is, therefore, exactly what we  deserve in justice… He took this on and, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, He had the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, to tell our Heavenly Father: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

This is how He begets the children of God, usurping the rights of Adam over us, and then the rights of Satan over us. Satan had rights over us because Adam was obedient to Satan instead of God. But the Lord transformed us from being the members of the fallen body of Adam that had been given over to Satan into the members of His Mystical Body. To become the members of His Body is marriage terminology of Saint Paul.

Saint Paul speaks of the Body of Christ, for this we become by way of the Eucharist, coming from the Last Supper and Calvary. These are united by Christ’s usage of the present participles: This is my Body now being given over for you… (eδιδόμενον) This is the Chalice of my Blood now being shed for you (ἐκχυννόμενον).

The priest, in acting in the Person of Christ, pronouncing these words, must himself be at the ready and in fact be laying down his life for his Bride, the Church, all in total self-giving for the other, the height of matrimonial love for the other. Here’s what Saint Paul has in Ephesians 5,22-33 (RSV):

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Note that the purity of chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven brings with it a lively silence of heart and soul, an openness to listening to the Incarnate Word whom the priest preaches and whom the priest brings upon the altars where the nuptial joys of the Paschal Mystery are celebrated. The ordained priest rejoices by means of His obedience to the Incarnate Word, obedience meaning to be so transformed by that to which one listens that one’s life is conformed to this. The Father speaking the Word into us – that Word which resounds in the ever so lively silence of the chaste heart and soul – so transforms us into another Christ, an alter Christus, that there cannot be loneliness, only purification… and abundant innocent joy, beatitude and goodness.

Perhaps the fact that it is the bridal chamber of Christ’s own marriage with His bride, the Church, by way of His two wedding vows at the Last Supper, as manifested on Calvary — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — that is meant for His Apostles, His priests, when He says in the passage about the eunuchs, the keepers of the bed, of the bridal chamber:  He who is able to make room, let him make room. He who is able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Bride of Christ in Persona Christ (in the Person of Christ), let him offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We miss so much of this because of bad translations. When Jesus, in parables, speaks of His Apostles as “wedding guests”, the real translation is “sons of the bridal chamber.” When Jesus speaks of His Apostles as Eunuchs, He actually says that they are to be Keepers of the Bed, that is the wedding of Christ with the Church, which is an exercise of mercy founded on JUSTICE, Jesus on the Cross, which is the Holy Sacrfice of the Mass and the Sacraments which flow from the Sacrifice: Baptism, Confession…

NOBODY BUT NOBODY speaks of these things unless it’s blasphemy on the one hand or just total mayhem of sexual licence on the other.

In all of this, we have forgotten about Jesus. Priestly celibacy is all about Jesus. He came into this world to die. And THAT’s how He married His Bride, the Church. Being a “Eunuch” is all about laying down one’s life for the Church, the Bride of Christ.

By the way, all priests are married. So…

  • Priests should stop whining that they’re not married. Those who do are liars. They are afraid to lay down their lives for the Church. They see no reason to do so. They don’t love the Church. They couldn’t care less. It’s not about the Church for them. It’s only about their own sexual license. Where are the martyrs, you ask? You won’t find any martyrs among the whiners.
  • Laity should stop telling priests condescendingly that they should be married. They already are married. If only they knew it, and we wouldn’t be in such dire straits.

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07 Priestly Celibacy Series – Fulton Sheen

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This series on priestly celibacy began with a guest post. That was Ignace de la Potterie, S.J. And now we have another, this time on something noted by the Venerable Fulton J Sheen, this being recalled by a priest friend, a past student of mine, who has far surpassed his teacher in all things. For that, I rejoice.

That priest is presently across the pond. He’s been been distracted by this blog from time to time. He has gone to the point of sending in some Flowers for the Immaculate Conception from the patio-rooftop from which he can see the Vatican. It’s rare for him to make such an intervention. But in following this series on Priestly Celibacy he couldn’t help but rejoice in recalling what the Venerable Sheen had said. Behold:

Dear Father, [I’m always happy to see the spelled out version instead of the abbreviation “Fr.”, and “Father” instead of “Reverend” or “Rev.” Priests need to know they are Father. We need to remind priests of their fatherhood of their parish families. This is all part of priestly celibacy. Don’t use nicknames or merely names with your priests, like “Skippy” or “Jim Bob.” Remind them of their calling, especially if you think they’ve lost the plot.]

A blessed Lent to you! [Lent is about the blessings of deepened friendship with the Lord Jesus.] I have been ever so grateful for your recent celibacy posts. It is refreshing to see faithful, truth-preaching priests amidst the chaos of these days. [Thank Jesus’ good mom for dealing with the awful likes of me.] May my own donkiness* be as simple and humble as yours one day! [Already done, my friend. Already done.]

I also wanted to send along an interesting bit I heard from Ven. Fulton Sheen today. [“heard”… In other words, he’s listening to the shows and retreat conferences and talks given by the Archbishop. I think I wore out all the little cassette tapes of his talks back in the 1980s. Good memories.]

He was talking to priests about celibacy and started with the Old Testament. He said there were only 3 instances when a “temporary celibacy” arose:

[1] before theophanies (e.g. Moses commands this before ascending Sinai);

[2] in wartime (David and his men when they receive the show bread from the priest);

[3] and at the dedication of the Temple.

How applicable these are to us, no?

[1] For as priests we are constantly in the Divine Theophany of the Eucharist and the Sacred Liturgy—[3] we are constantly in the Temple of the Church, and are temples of the Holy Spirit. [2] And if it isn’t clear to all and sundry that we are at constant war as priests, then they haven’t been paying attention! Spiritual warfare, war with the spirit of the world. But we have angels on our side.

Anyway, I know you refer to the good Fulton Sheen every so often, so I wanted to send this along. I look forward to the future posts about “making room” and celibacy. Know of my prayers for you. I will offer Mass for you tomorrow morning. God bless! [I am very humbled by you’re offering Mass for me, dearest Father. Thank you. I shall return the favor in just a few hours, at the parish’s Noon Mass at Holy Redeemer.]

Pax,

Father […]

* Donkeys are always in the midst of the Holy Family, from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and all the way back to Nazareth and, years later, bringing Jesus into Jerusalem for the Last Supper and His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

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06 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Eunuch (1)

miguel pro martyr

Blessed Miguel Pro as he starts to fall a split second after being shot, immediately after famously saying, “Viva Cristo Rey!”

Of all the posts in this series, the present article – 06 Eunuch (1) – and then the next in the series after this – 07 Eunuch (2) – are by far the most important.

Mt 19,12 – Eunuchs for the sake of Heaven’s Kingdom

(1) For there are eunuchs who have been brought forth from their mother’s womb like this and (2) there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men and (3) there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. He who is able to make room, let him make room.

Eunuch — from the Greek words εὐνη, which means bed, and ἔχειν which means to have [and, in context: have charge of something], is understood to be someone who has [charge of] the bed [that is, for someone else]. “The bed” may very well refer to a large harem of a powerful king. The eunuchs would not dream of touching any of the women of a king like Solomon, even with his three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). This kind of misbehavior would mean certain death. To keep them from physical temptation, most eunuchs were castrated by means of even total removal of the genitals… However, this is merely the prudence of whatever king, and has nothing in itself to do with the actual office that is being executed by the eunuch, the keeper of the bed. To be a eunuch and to be castrated are not synonymous. At any rate, eunuchs, not surprisingly, often came to be the most trusted individuals of most any empire. They were often second only to the king in power. Not infrequently, they were more powerful than king or emperor who was only a figurehead for the eunuch who actually ruled the land. The “bed” which is being supervised by the bed-keeper, the eunuch, was often a reference to the political relations of the king. We still hear this as a euphemism for political maneuvering: “So-and-so is in bed with so-and-so.” Eunuchs were so respected, I suppose, because the horrendous barbarism so often inflicted upon them was seen to be some sort of participation in a materially effective redemption, something seen as a correction of the havoc original sin has caused, havoc which is manifest both within individuals and in relations with others. Indeed, the destruction of the image of God in man by original sin wrecks havoc on the impetus for man and woman to come together and procreate. But hacking off genitals is not the way to go for the true redemption of specifically that kind of destruction. Such violence only causes further spiritual and psychological chaos inasmuch as attempted repression of the dreaded devastation caused by original sin can only bring about more frustration. This only makes the individual and all of society much worse.

Having said all that, the word eunuch is by far the richest of all of the terms we’ve seen, and it is the only one used by Jesus Himself in describing those men whom He calls to Himself for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, though there is a synonymous phrase He uses, which will also be examined briefly further below. Again, Matthew 19:12 reads as follows, with my rather precise translation:

(1) For there are eunuchs who have been brought forth from their mother’s womb like this and (2) there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men and (3) there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. He who is able to make room, let him make room.

The usage of the term eunuch by Jesus admits of three types, the first two have similarities, while the third is unique.

The first, “there are eunuchs who have been brought forth from their mother’s womb,” is a not infrequent correctable congenital defect.

The second, “there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men,” refers to those who not only have the office of eunuch described above, but have also suffered the humiliation of being castrated.

The third type of eunuch, “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven,” cannot refer to self-castration despite the fact that some of the greatest thinkers, such as Origen († @ 254), have mutilated themselves because of what they thought they saw in this passage (perhaps paying too much attention to the Latin Vulgate translation). The Vulgate at this point changes the phrase to say “castrate themselves” (se ipsos castraverunt). While this has a correct spiritual sense, one must further nuance this rendition by paying more attention to the original Greek!

Those who do something for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven do what they do only with the greatest respect and reverence for God’s economy of salvation. It would be positively anti-evangelical to castrate oneself while saying that this was done for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thinking one can save oneself from temptation and sin, and also do something positive for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, and simply because one castrates oneself, is a most gross, crass insult to the saving power of the grace or charity (χάρις – caritas) which Christ granted to us from the Cross.

Being continent, chaste, celibate and possibly even virginal for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven must be wrought in a manner which demonstrates that the establishment of the Kingdom is paramount in our lives, that the transformation in grace of the individual (Ephesians 1:3ff ) who would generously give himself to the Lord (with the generosity provided to Him directly by the Lord) is what has enlivened the individual in the Trinity’s fullness of life.

This does not mean that the carrying of the cross in regard to faith-filled chastity is any kind of burden, a woeful curse, a cruel condemnation to suffer the most useless loneliness – an attitude only those suffering from the most stultified torpidity come up with. That there would be those who would not be open to the radiance of Jesus’ loving union with His Bride, the Church, is here recognized by Jesus with His ever unsurpassed agility in setting the matter straight. He offers this admonition: “He who is able to make room, let him make room.” This is often mistranslated to read: “Let he who can receive this, receive it,” or “Let he who can understand this, understand it,” or some such thing along the lines of “Let him who has ears to listen, listen!” Instead, here, we read about making room. This, take note, is the named office of the eunuch, who is to have care specifically of the bedroom (again: εὐνη, which means bed, and ἔχειν, which means to have [and, in context: have charge of something], is understood to be someone who has [charge of] the bed [that is, for someone else]). One’s vocation to the priesthood depends upon one’s being able “to make room” because of having received that very ability from the Lord. The question then, is, what is “making room”?

Stay tuned for Part II !

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05 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Virginity

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Virginity — to be a virgin, comes from virgo (virginis), which is like unto virga, a twig, a slender branch, a young sprouting shoot. In other words, someone young, male or female, who does not know willing sexual intercourse.

Saint John, a priest, Apostle, and Evangelist, uses the word virgin for men in the Apocalypse 14:4. The beloved disciple himself is thought to have always been a virgin. The same word, παρθένος (virgin), is used for the Blessed Mother of God (Luke 1,27, etc.).

Continence, celibacy and chastity can be thought to have primarily negative meanings to which positive spiritual motivations must be added. Virginity has a primarily positive meaning, the pristine, wonderful, lively goodness of men and women who, for even very positive reasons, have not (yet) known willing sexual intercourse (or willing sexual compromise for that matter).

Saint Augustine, not a virgin, came to know chaste, continent celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven more than many virgins.

I should add here that unwilling sexual intercourse, such as being raped, would not disqualify one from being a virgin even in the strict sense. The hymen may be missing for many reasons, including disease or disfigurement or birth defect. Whatever. Can women who have been raped be admitted, for instance, to the order of consecrated virgins? Yes, of course they can. Much has been made of comments to the contrary, but I would bet that those who made such comments did not have rape in mind! Honestly!

What about those who have known willing compromise? Let’s review: Saint Augustine, not a virgin, came to know chaste, continent celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven more than many virgins. Does that make him a virgin? No.

However, I don’t think people should be singled out for a past life. Women who were previously married, but, for instance, their spouse died, and they want to get remarried, don’t want to wear a white dress since that would somehow negate the great married life they had with their beloved who have now died.

But should women who fell in weakness before getting married be forced to wear a non-white dress? That, in my opinion, would be perverse. And what about the men? Honestly!

Also, by the way, our ever virgin Blessed Mother remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ. Why? There are many reasons. A very important one was the her Son was the Son, by whom we all exist, and with whom we are to be unified as members, so to speak, of His Mystical Body, of which He is the Head. The Blessed Mother is the mother of us all, giving birth to the rest of us in her Son by way of her perfect intercession for us under the Cross, those birth pangs which brought us to see the light of day in the Son of God. She is not the mother of a monster — as I think Saint Bernard said — the mother of only a Head, for instead, she is mother of the whole Christ, the Head, Jesus, and us, the members. This divine work was first wrought by Holy Spirit, not the intervention of man. This divine work continued by the Holy Spirit, not the intervention of man. The virginity of Mary is a sign of all of this.

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04 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Celibacy

crucifix

Celibacy— from cælibatus and cælebs and the indo-european roots, means alone-living, that is, living alone, or, at least, unmarried. This is simply descriptive of that which we see in this world. If it is without a spiritual dimension, celibacy is sterile, cold, lonely, something which positively rejects the way God made us. Here is where some of those in Holy Orders limit their understanding, and whine about loneliness and lack of fulfilment, begging to have a physical marriage in this world, or putting themselves in de facto concubinage, i.e., the state of being with someone in one’s cubo (in Latin), that is, “cube” or hut or shack. “Shacking up” is simply a translation of concubinage. A concubine, then, is the person with whom one lives without the benefit of marriage. Celibacy, living alone, is the most unfortunate word to be used for the marriage of the priest to the Bride of Christ, for this is hardly living alone, or being in an unmarried state. The priest is to be married to the Church. He must understand that, or he’s in deep trouble. And if he’s in trouble, others are as well. To avoid misunderstanding, the words for the sake of the kingdom of heaven are added from Matthew 19,12, the passage about Eunuchs (which will be discussed further on in this series, please God).

Now, did I mention whining above? Perhaps I shouldn’t tread so roughshod over those who never had anyone to invite them to a deeper understanding of their marriage to the Church through the Sacrifice of the Mass they offer daily. I suppose one can be so enthusiastic that others come to know the awesome love that celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God entails that one gets a bit carried away.

It’s just that I remember when I was much younger than I am now, during one of the first trips of Saint John Paul II to the United States, that a priest was chosen by some Federation of Priests or other to address the Holy Father in the name of all the priests of the United States. “Speak for yourself!” I exclaimed to the television. He went way, way, way over time. No one knew what to do. 15 minutes. 20 minutes. Half hour. 35 minutes. 40. John Paul was most patient throughout the most whining diatribe of cloudy thinking imaginable. The priest’s biggest gripe was that priests are soooooooooooo loooooooooonely. Yep. I bet that’s true… for those who don’t know that they are married to the Church. Anyway, this fellow, although American, was very, very Irish. Finally, he finished. All looked for the response of Pope John Paul. What could he say after this diatribe, this whining, all this “Boohoohoo!” Knowing the priest was Irish, Saint John Paul II simply said — quoting the popular song — “It’s a long way to Tipperary!” Muffled laughter was heard throughout the crowd. JPII is awesome! Here’s the greatest Irish singer ever, ever, singing “It’s a long way…”

Meanwhile, Jesus on the Cross, cites Psalm 22, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?” Lonely, in the very moment when His self-giving to His Bride, the Church, is complete? No. Look at the rest of Psalm 22, and discover the wonderful filial unity with His Father, the trust, respect, the love. No, really, look up Psalm 22 and read it right through. I dare you. This is important. This is the heart and soul of our redemption, of our salvation, of Jesus’ marriage with His bride, the Church. This is the very moment when He is drawing all to Himself. Here is the completion of the wedding vows of the Last Supper which priests offer daily: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, my blood poured out for you in sacrifice. If priests don’t get this, they are absolutely dead in the water. Done. This is the Mass they offer. This is their marriage with their bride, the Church. If they don’t understand the Mass they offer, they are absolutely dead in the water. Done.

Save celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, save the priesthood.

Save the liturgy, save the priesthood.

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03 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Chastity

mudbowl faith by the sword elijah

This is the football “Mudbowl” jersey I helped to design for the “philosophers” of the seminary where I was teaching. The “name” at the top is for my own jersey only. I was one of the spiritual directors for the philosophers. Note the fiery sword of the great prophet Elijah!

As we continue our series, we’re still establishing some of definition of the terms. It’s all technical vocabulary. It’s worth the effort. Knowledge is good. Truth has good effects. Know the truth. Set the truth free in your life and you will realize that it it The Truth Himself who has set you free. Let’s talk about chastity:

Chastity— to be chaste, comes from castus, the past participle of carere, which means to [be] cut off. The meaning of “cut” is not in reference to castration[!] but refers to the result of living in a manner contradictory to the fallen ways of the world, keeping the commandments, cut off from the utter stupidity of the world specifically to be in awe before God, especially the priest (see ἁγνός – 1 Timothy 5:22).

“Do not lay hands too readily on anyone [in reference to ordination to the priesthood], and do not share in another’s sins. Keep yourself chaste.” (1 Timothy 5:22)

That term, ἁγνός, refers in its most ancient usage, going back to Sanskrit, to one who is set aside for worship. I find that to be most impressive. However, it our present usage:

Everyone is meant to be chaste, so that begetting children in the married state is living chastely. Chastity is holiness of life in regard to sexual morality. Priests are held up as examples in this regard since people have a sense that priests are to know that they are married to the Church, and are therefore to have the ferocity of spousal self-giving that is faithfulness, and this as a faithfulness in their vocation unto death to themselves so as to live for this Bride of Christ, the Church. What a travesty is bad example!

Christ “married” His Bride, the Church, at the Last Supper, with those ferocious wedding vows said by the priest today in the first person singular, acting in the Person of Christ: This is my body, given for you in sacrifice…. This is the chalice of my blood, poured out for you in sacrifice. This is total self-giving to the other, in this case right through death.

Again, if the priest does not realize that he is married to the Church by the very sacrifice that he offers at daily Mass, then surely he will be lost to all sort of sexual idiocy, at least in his spirit if not otherwise.

The sword here is double-edged. The same sword which would cut the priest off from the stupidity of the world, setting him off for worship, for offering the Sacrifice, is the very same sword which is medicinally cut him off from that worship should he fall into such grievous un-chastity that such a cutting off is merited.

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02 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Continence

holy souls hermitage ad orientem 3

As we begin this series, the definitions might seem a bit pedantic, but even these will start to get rather interesting. Anything really worthwhile takes some effort, right? Bear with these first posts! Our first word to describe is continence, which can have a spiritual sense to it, however physical is seems.

Continence — from continentia and continere, means to contain. In its most graphic sense, this refers to the proper containment of sexual behavior, but not at all to the repression of untoward sexual behavior (which repression, as mere repression, is always evil, for mere repression fails to correct problems and is only escapism).

So speak of continent sexual behavior is open to the understanding that one who is continent or contained enjoys a lively peace of soul in that, by grace, he is contained in God, “hidden with Christ in God” as Saint Paul says, happy to walk in God’s presence. To put it another way, when speaking of “containing”, one recalls this from Saint Paul (2 Corinthians 4:5-7):

“We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of (Jesus) Christ. But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”

Other passages from Saint Paul come to mind:

“Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Or how about this one…

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

One will sometimes read the phrase perpetual continence as referring to the result of undertaking a promise or vow of chastity, so that the application of the word refers to not getting married and having children.

When understood with the nexus virtutum in the Thomistic sense, continence, in reference to temperance, can be said to be a virtue. John Paul II speaks of the “imperative of self-control,” bringing one to “the necessity of immediate continence and of habitual temperance” (27 Oct and 4 Nov, 1984).

Biblically, priests who are incontinent deserve death, such as Hophni and Phinehas, the ever so truly evil sons of Eli, who spent their priesthood raping the women at the entrance of the temple (1 Samuel 2,22).

This description of continence may bring up more questions, and that’s good. The series continues.

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01 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Ignace de la Potterie, SJ: All priests are married!

ignace de la potterie sj

Father Ignace de la Potterie, S.J., a most extraordinary biblical scholar, was a close friend and confidant in the last years of his life. May the Lord grant rest to his soul. The following heavily researched and careful study is one of his extraordinary works is one which I used in many seminaries and one which caused his fellow Jesuits to become bitter enemies of him. This study has been put up by the Congregation for the Clergy. The bit in this post can be found at Vatican.va. I have much more to say on all this in future installments of this series. If you want to solve the crisis in the Church, you have to pray, and you have to know what you’re talking about. //

The biblical foundation of priestly celibacy

Ignace de la Potterie, S.J. — Biblical scholar

For several centuries there has been much debate as to whether the obligation of celibacy for clerics in major orders (or at least that of living in continence for those who are married) is of biblical origin or whether it is based merely on ecclesiastical tradition dating back to the fourth century, since from then on, without question, legislation exists on the subject. The first of these two possible answers has recently been presented. once again, this time with an extraordinary wealth Continue reading

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00 – Priestly Celibacy Series – Intro

wedding of cana mosaic lourdes rosary basilica doors

Some fifteen years ago I wrote a series of handouts for my seminarian students at Good Shepherd Seminary of the Archdiocese of Sydney on Priestly Celibacy. I was invited by the Rector, now an Archbishop elsewhere, to provide something, anything to the seminarians so as to – in his words – inoculate them against the horror they would be getting at the filthy liberal Catholic Institute of Sydney. One of the Cardinal’s advisers asked the Cardinal why he didn’t have me teach right at the Institute, and the Cardinal’s response was that he would have to replace the entire administration and faculty if I were to go there. The response to that is that’s exactly what he should do. ;-)

Anyway, this series will include much of what I gave to the seminarians back then – which was post 2002 mind you – as well as some new material.

It’s obvious to all and sundry that hardly anyone of any standing in the church in the world has any kind of grasp of the issues at hand. Most all seminaries have zero clue how to provide “human formation”. Bishops won’t permit seminarians to formed according to the teaching of the Church, according to natural law. The fraudulence is coming from the top down, hardly the other way.

Let’s not be afraid of reason. Let’s not be afraid of faith. Let’s not be afraid of Jesus. Let’s not be afraid to fix what’s busted. Let’s attack CYA tactics by telling the truth of the glory of what God our Creator has created and how it is that He redeems us, saves us, and draws priests into the Sacred Mysteries. Instead of just reacting to stuff, let’s put something out there that positive, which presents solutions by presenting the fullness of Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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FBI Pistol Instructor re-qualification course: first time for this priest

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You can’t practice what I’m guessing is the FBI Firearms Instructor Pistol re-qualification course at an indoor range what with all the running and jumping around, so it’s away to the great outdoors where one appreciates the beauty of God’s creation. And that’s all part of it, btw, and all the more for those who are in deadly situations every day. The integrity of knowing how to be safe with some tools of self-defense is consistent with the integrity of walking in God’s presence.

The hermitage gun range is stretched up a super-steep pathway – at about 3,000 ft up, close to heaven, if you will – with the only kind-of-flat place being the starting firing line (used in this case for the first stage only), the rest of the path/course being as steep as 38º. But I won’t allow myself extra time for the parts where one is supposed to run, in this case climb, even with my middle-aged-ness kicking in. Real situations don’t allow for extra time. I’m told that shooting up-hill is more difficult. Good.

Here’s a downloadable graphic presenting in my own shorthand what I’m guessing is the briefest of re-qualification courses for FBI Firearms Instructors. This is only part of what they do, excluding the drive-by shooting scenarios, the “kill-house” scenarios, the pop-up discern bad-guy from good-guy exercises, etc. You can copy the graphic of this most basic part of the course below and fit two of them on one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. The timings are very generous.

FBI Tactical Pistol Instructor Course

If there are any mistakes with that, let me know. It’s a point per bullet. But I don’t know if a “hit” refers only to entirely inside the line of the QIT inside bottle or the whole “body.”

I only briefly researched this once like a year ago. I tried to verify it just now. There’s a lot of BS on-line. For instance, the entire first stage above is, from my research, to be done continuously in a total of 75 seconds or less. One guy put up four minutes for the first stage. That can’t be right. My times – which I thought were really slow, even for a first attempt, and not having practiced for a good while – came in at about 60 seconds. I mean, the entire course shouldn’t take but two minutes shooting time max, which, as I say, is already very generous. Of course, if you’re not changing out the target, you’ll still have to stop to count hits and mark out already fired shots after each stage.

Btw, I use not-foreseen-for-this-course Glock 19 Gen 4 that was refurbished by Glock down in Smyna, GA. With that, I use the absolutely forbidden ultra-evil never-to-be-used Blackhawk Serpa (it has a dangerous trigger-finger unlock for the holster). It’s just that it’s safe for everyday carry as it’s almost impossible for a bad-guy to take the gun. Any suggestions are welcome for an alternative OWB holster that’s similarly close to the body (which excludes pretty much all LEO holsters).

Previously, I’ve tried my own makeshift running courses – like running by a small target [paper plate] some seven yards away while shooting with whatever hand – but this is the first time I’ve done an “official” tactical pistol course involving running, or going from prone to a knee to standing, back to a knee, amid combat reloads and after that more running. The extra activity is done for the sake of getting the adrenaline going, and to make for a more realistic exercise. Great.

But perhaps I should combine the courses I’ve been doing, like the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal TPC (the timings for which are hilarious for me, as they are two and three times quicker than the FBI instructor course), and what I know of the SEALs TPC (even quicker), as well as a few exercises of my own, like shooting a suspended wobbly stake in half. Even direct hits with target ammo won’t snap it. It’s gotta be hit many times in the same place:

It’s not a sin to have some innocent fun that is also useful in real life. As I say, I’ve already had to draw up on a carjacker who had just robbed everyone at a rest stop and wanted a get away car. I had a police officer in desperate straits as a passenger. I was bringing him to the hospital for major surgery for an almost fully ripped-off arm at the shoulder. He was already helpless besides that as he was still suffering from a broken back because of one of the traffic stops he had made in the past. This cop in my passenger seat desperately said that this was a car-jacking. What was I supposed to do, let him be kidnapped, become a hostage (because he’s a cop) and perhaps be murdered? I support our LEOs! Surely saving the life of a cop and otherwise protecting a cop from grave injury isn’t an unseemly activity for a priest, is it?

Thankfully, at that very nanosecond, another LEO screeched to a stop in front of the robber, now would-be carjacker, kidnapper, hostage-taker guy. Then eight more cruisers joined that cop within seconds, and how many more from the other direction I don’t know as the first cop let us go as other cops joined in the apprehension.

If I write such things, it’s to demonstrate that priests are people too. It’s good for priests to know that they are human beings. And good for other people to know that priests are human beings. Just because of my background, this is my way of having fun. But it comes with a price – enjoyable – of keeping sharp, a bit edgy, well-practiced. I was happy for a day off. And, yes, lots of prayers were said too.

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Homily 2019 01 20 Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; Οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. John 2:4. *The* Wedding. Priests are married.

wedding of cana mosaic lourdes rosary basilica doors

These are the massive central portals to the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, in front of which the candlelight rosary procession is led nightly in Lourdes, France. The artist attempts to get us to understand that the two scenes are one by distributing the jars of water now turned to wine at the Wedding in Cana on both sets of doors. He also has us pointed to where the real “Wine” is to be had, as well as Mary’s solidarity with Jesus at His Hour, where she is to intercede for us in the redemption of the image of God, as Genesis has it, one man and one woman for marriage and family.

Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; Οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου (John 2:4).

  • Mary’s statement: “They have no wine.”

After all, we have to celebrate the image of God as to be found in marriage and the family when the Redeemer of the image of God within us is present. All the Sacred Scriptures point to this. She, who is the Mother of the Redeemer of Genesis 3:15, knows she can go to her Son who is set for the rise and downfall of many in Israel, He who is the Light unto the Nations.

  • Jesus’ title for His mom: “Woman”

Some think that this is an insult. Since when is being a woman an insult?! Anyway, this is the epic title of the Woman in Genesis 3:15, the War Hero over against Satan, and the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer, the War Hero by way of her maternity of “her Seed.”

Then we see the Woman below the cross who, already having given birth to the Head of the Body, Jesus, becomes mother also to the members of the Body, that is, by way of her perfect intercession for us under the cross, with all the “birth pangs” as it were that that entails. This is when all of hell is broken out. This is when she is successful in the battle with her Seed, her Divine Son, Jesus, who crushes the power of Satan over us and is crushed in His human nature for us.

Then we see the Woman in the Apocalypse, the Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under he feet, and crowned with twelve starts, she, again, depicted as victor over Satan by way of her maternity.

For Mary to be entitled Woman is not an insult!

  • Jesus’ question: “What is that to me and to you?”

That question refers to both Jesus’ good mom and Jesus. Jesus wants to draw out the truths that are taking place. The Vulgate gets it exactly right: “Quid mihi et tibi est?” “What is that to me and to you?” It’s a real question, seeking the deeper truths to be spoken publicly. Great!

The Holy Spirit inspired the words to be the way they are. If we rewrite the Scriptures, bad things happen. Thus:

The Catholic NAB translates this if not with true malice, then with sheer incompetence: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” That makes it sound like Mary just wants more alcohol for everyone, and that Jesus couldn’t give a hoot about anyone there, so that He wants to point out her stupidity publicly.

The KJV is even worse: “What have I to do with thee?” It’s like these rebels are having Jesus disowning His mother. That’s bad, really evil.

One of the Spanish translations simply has “déjame,” “Let me take care of it” (which leaves Mary out of it altogether. No good, that. And that’s only if we give it the far-fetched best sense, which would otherwise be: “Leave me alone!” Sigh… The Lectionary version we had was this: “¿Qué podemos hacer tú y yo?” That puts way too much emphasis on stuff to do instead of what the real question was about, namely, the explication of the deeper realities at hand.

  • Jesus’ hint for the answer: “My hour is not yet arrived.”

His Hour is when He is on the Cross on Calvary when all hell is broken out and the battle is on, when Mary’s hour of intercession for us is to be in full operation.

Let’s do the analogy: Cana has a wedding banquet. The Last Supper is Jesus’ wedding banquet. His vows refer to the epic battle for our souls mentioned above: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice.

If Jesus wants Mary to make the realities of our salvation more apparent by this question, if Jesus wants to point out that we are to celebrate such a marriage at Cana because Jesus is set to redeem all marriage and the image of God within us by way of His own marriage with His Bride the Church at the Last Supper and then on the Cross, then we understand Mary’s “response.” She simply has to turn and say to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

We priests and bishops MUST understand this, that we are married to the Church by way of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we offer, by way of the wedding vows that we recite in the first person singular: This is my body… my blood. And we have to be just that ready instantly to lay down our lives for the flock just as Jesus, that is, by way of the love and truth and goodness and kindness of Jesus granted with sanctifying grace.

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27 years a priest in a time of abuse, happy to remain a priest. Why?

Today’s the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Ordination doesn’t refer to “orders given” as even some Catholics say today in such de-sacramentalizing, democratic fashion as if a mere commissioning given by a commission was ever sufficient, as if a degree and certificate saying “ordained” was actually something, like a graduation, a rite of passage. No.

The Sacrament of Orders refers to how the person himself, ontologically, is ordered, structured, fit to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that the priest might act in Persona Christi, in the Person of Christ, or perhaps better, so that the Person of Christ might act in the priest, accomplishing His sacraments, His priesthood through His merely human priest, regardless of whether or not that human priest is worthy, or even a believer of any kind. There’s really only One Priest: Christ Jesus. Holy Orders is not about putting the priest on a pedestal, but rather about smashing him down so that he is all about and only about Jesus alone.

Yours truly, 4 January 1992, ordained a Catholic priest. All except one other has already passed away in this picture.

Holy Orders is about the One Priest, Christ Jesus. It is Jesus who consecrates at the Last Supper; it is Jesus who forgives sin. Just as mysterious as we becoming members of the Body of Christ as Saint Paul puts it, so does Jesus take up mere men to accomplish His own priesthood. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus marries His Bride, the Church, by way of His wedding vows at Mass, the Last Supper, that Wedding Feast of the Lamb: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice. The mere human priest recites those words, those vows in the first person singular and is himself thereby married to the Church by the sacrifice that he offers, and should thereby be willing to lay down his life for the flock as much as Jesus. But this is Jesus’ wedding with His Bride the Church by which He redeems the image of God within us.

How dare anyone say that priests are not married! It is that ignorance and malice and hatred for Jesus and His priests which has brought us the crisis we are in. People think they are nice in wishing that priests could get married, but this is really quite demonic. Listen up! If we priests don’t know that we are married to the Church, that we are to be fathers of the family of faith, what do you think is going to happen in living a lie that one is just a secular administrator, a functionary, and is not otherwise married for no discernible reason? The fruit of any marriage, children, will be attacked. It’s clockwork. Either everything that the priest is is given over to the priesthood of Jesus Christ – whose Priesthood is established by the vows of His own being married to His Bride the Church – or that priest will be a detriment to the salvation of himself and others. Period.

The priesthood of Jesus is all about re-establishing the image of God within us, and as Genesis says, this is a one-man, one-woman marriage and family image of God. Jesus has the right to marry His Bride the Church, that is, to redeem us, fill us with the life of God, eternal life, sanctifying grace, because He has, at the Last Supper and Calvary, laid down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty. That re-establishment of the image of God within us by way of that marriage must respect the one-man, one woman for marriage and the family structure of creation in the sacrament of Holy Orders. Women priests would be a sterile, lesbian, monstrous image, a mockery of Jesus’ marriage with His Bride the Church, a mockery of redemption and salvation, a blasphemy. Even if one goes through a ritual and says the words of ordination, a woman cannot ontologically be ordained. That’s the way marriage works. It’s not unfair. It is what it is.

Does that mean that I think I’m worthy to be a priest because I’m a man? Pfft. No! And any priest who does think that is a danger to himself and others. Without Jesus I know that I could commit any sin anywhere at any time for any or no reason, given whatever wildly varying circumstances and history of life. I don’t have all those varying circumstances or histories of life – nor do any of us – and so it would be psychologically quite impossible at the drop of a hat to do this or that monstrous thing even if lacking the grace and friendship of Jesus. Fine. But lack of monstrous actions doesn’t justify. I know that fallen humanity is such that we do need redemption and salvation and that nice circumstances don’t save and that anyone self-congratulating themselves for their own niceness has already granted themselves a licence to sin in whatever way, even in the most monstrous ways. Are there specious motives for a man to become a priest, like running from a past from which he wishes to emancipate himself by pretending to be holy? Sure. But that doesn’t mean all priests have done that or are doing that. We need to know that we are already married, married to the Church by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we offer daily. That changes everything. No false celibacy. No loneliness. A robust spiritual life in which the priest is nothing and Jesus is all.

Priests should know more than anyone what all of sin and all of redemption looks like. Priests should have the perspective of being high on the cross where Jesus is drawing all to Himself, across Calvary, through all of hell, starting with us when we are yet sinners. Priests should see all the breadth and width and depth of hell and our need for redemption because of noting the breadth and width and depth of the mercy founded on justice that Jesus came to bring to us, from the cross, from the fulfillment of the wedding vows of the Last Supper, the Mass, that the priest celebrates daily, like any other day. It’s just that that day, today, this very day, is Dies Domini, the Day of the Lord, which stretches from Creation until the end of the world, until there is a New Heavens and a New Earth. Priests should see, because of seeing all the rest of this, that they are the most unworthy of all.

Rant. Rant. Rant. For some, the question is this:

“Hey, Father George, you seem like a nice guy. So, like, why don’t you leave the priesthood in view of all this abuse stuff we hear about? Don’t you get sick of people cat-calling and being dismissive and calling you a pedophile just because you’ve been ordained a priest?”

Actually, that monstrousness of bad priests attacking the fruit of marriage, children, is symbolic of precisely why we need holy priests for the One Priesthood of Jesus, that is, to go against the sin, to weed out those who would be so monstrous. You don’t help the Church by leaving the Church. You stay. You fight. You suffer. It’s just that serious. Serious enough not to abandon the flock. Jesus was ripped to shreds, tortured to death on the cross. As the Master, so the disciple. Just because some idiot does an unthinkably monstrous deed doesn’t mean everyone is like that. We priests need to man up and fight the good fight, keeping up with Confession ourselves, being fit instruments of Jesus, because we are nothing and He’s everything. It shows our thanksgiving to Jesus to stay. If I can keep up with Confession and help other priests to keep up with Confession, well then, I think I’ve done something as Jesus’ instrument for the Church and the world. I remember a bishop who gave us Missionaries of Mercy a talk and a talking to, as it were, over in Rome, introducing himself as a sinner since the year he was ordained, and for a long time before that. Good for him to recognize it and encourage us all to participate in the Sacrament of Confession frequently, you know, for sins of thought and mind and deed and… oh my… of omission

just me pontifical family

The Joke Picture. It’s real. But purely a Joke. Hahaha.

As the now sainted Mother Teresa often said, we don’t need more priests; we need holy priests. Indeed. We need priests who know they are married to the Church. We need priests who know that they are fathers of the family of faith. We need priests who know that they are totally unworthy and are utterly dependent on Jesus, the One Priest. We need priests who go to Confession. We need priests who won’t run away because the wolf says: “Boo!” We need priests who have a love within them provided by Jesus that is stronger than death, stronger than mockery, stronger than slander. We need priests of the horrifying exhilarating life of the beatitudes: Blessed are you when…

Am I happy to be a priest even today? Oh yes. Especially today. When all of hell has broken out. I want to be where Jesus is: In the midst of this hell so as to grab souls for heaven. Today I offer Mass wherein the One Priest lays down His life for us, as unworthy as we all are. Yes, I’m always happy for one more day as a priest, as Jesus’ priest, a day like any other day in the One Day of the Lord, the One Worthy Priest using the likes of me, such as I am, utterly nothing and worse than that so that He might show us all the more stridently His wisdom in having such priests as me and my fellow priests who I know to be dedicated to Him. He can use even me! Even us! All glory to God for His wondrous mercies. As Jesus said to Saint Paul: “My strength shines out through your weakness. My grace is sufficient for you.” Yes, Lord. Thank you.

As it is, I’m having a great time at this stage in my priesthood taking Jesus through these back mountains to parishioners. Jesus’ creation is gorgeous:

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As I think back on the 27 years, some of the best times, were of course, at Holy Souls Hermitage when I was writing about the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of the Redeemer, in Genesis 3:15. Long time readers from way back in those days will remember the different scenes:

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Filed under Father Byers Autobiography, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations

“Hold on, please! They’re coming!”

kristallnacht

Apologies for making an analogy with Kristallnacht and the Shoah. It’s just that, honestly, this is what popped into my mind this morning when on the phone with Father Gordon, who’s in prison. The guards were coming to do count. When this happens, almost daily while we’re on the phone, Father Gordon J MacRae (ABOUT) says:

“Hold on, please! They’re coming!”

He then has to run out and stand in line and get counted. Big deal, right? I’ve heard him say this thousands of times over the years. But this time it was different. For me, it was electrifying: “They’re coming!” Honesty, the Nazi murderers coming to kill came to mind.

I mentioned this to Father Gordon just a few minutes ago when he got back on the phone, and then told him of a step even further that that. It struck me that this murderous analogy is not only what he himself meant to convey, but that he meant something even further. It came to mind that the “Hold on!” referred to just wait until we’re both in heaven, momentarily, and then we’ll pick up on this conversation where we left off…” as if to say, “Big deal about getting murdered; who cares about that if we have the Lord’s life within us, a life which is stronger than death?”

Father Gordon, becoming quiet for a moment, then responded to say that he can’t really speak about this, but, he said ever so reflectively, “The analogy is not totally improper.”

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Adoration on the Vigil of Immaculate Conception: record numbers, again.

img_20181207_191219327~22838021313038661011..jpg

While the world goes crazy, ripped in this direction and that, there are those who are stably before our Lord Jesus. Mary does that for us, leading us to her Son. Meanwhile, there are a zillion Confessions during adoration. This is when I am most happy as a priest and it very much strikes me that I am living out the fatherhood of priesthood, being a father of the parish family. Meanwhile, during these dark times, from round about this region, there are a number of men who are expressing interest in being candidates to be seminarians for Charlotte Diocese.

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Suspect *because of* being a priest yet having been a victim

I remember a time some ten years ago when I met some priest friends for the first time in something like 13 or 15 years. They were friends, so I spent some time with them catching up. They were by anyone’s reckoning, “traditionalists”. Whatever, they were my friends I refused to sneak about and hide in order to speak to them. I did so openly, and got smashed down for it. It was said that now, I too, was suspect, since, bluster, bluster, bluster, I had been seen speaking with them! I had no idea, having been overseas for so many years, that things had disintegrated so badly in these USA. Anyway, I figured I would get some spiritual direction about it from yet another priest, and I was again smacked down by my superiors, and this time it was demanded that I reveal what the conversation was about with my stateside spiritual director. I protested that it was spiritual direction and so was privileged, and so I wouldn’t say. That was the end of me.

Years later, in speaking with another ecclesiastical superior who I think is a saint about all this, I could tell he was interested in what the conversation with the spiritual director was about as well, though he told me not to say anything if I didn’t want to. I said that, actually, it’s pretty humorous. The discussion of the spiritual direction was about how to deal with ecclesiastical superiors who want to know about one’s spiritual direction! He roared with laughter. Hahaha.

Anyway, it is pretty tough being a priest these days, as many treat priests as being guilty by association with priests who are guilty or not, as that isn’t known, as no due process is allowed, what with the accusation itself being the proof of whatever crime. Really? Yep. That makes the bishops into heroes, you know, the same old abuse of power so as to do the self-worship thing by which all the abuse came about to begin with.

Meanwhile, what if you were to have a priest who is – ooo! suspect for being a priest! – who is totally disgusted with such abuse, who was himself abused as a kid? Pretty tough, that. I’ve written at length about my own experiences as an unwitting kiddy porn star in what is surely still by far the largest kiddy porn operation ever wrought anywhere at any time to date – as this lasted for years in multiple junior high schools on a massive scale.

Oh, I should add here that the story of speaking with traditionalist priests wasn’t the only thing that made me suspect. I was also loudly claimed to be a priest who abuses kids because, get this, because I also offer what is called the Tridentine Mass, the Old Mass, the Latin Mass, the 1962 Mass, the Traditional Mass, and that Mass – it was said – was in and of itself abusive to any kids present with their families as they would also witness adherence to the Truth of our Redemption, which was said to be passé, overwith, done, a thing of the past, of history, it being a disservice then to celebrate the Mass of the Ages, an abuse of kids and everyone else.

So, the Mass of the Ages = abuse. I see. I’M GUILTY!

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