Sunday, September 30, 2018

One More!

After a dry spell, three in a row.  Here's my latest over at the Register, Today, Tithe Your Time.   I hope you like it and share it, and I'll get back to writing more...

Friday, September 28, 2018 the Register Again

I submitted this piece a while ago, but tinkered with it after the fact which frustrates me from a writing stand point.  That being said, you can see the original over at the National Catholic Register...and please share if you liked it. 

Pray Thy Will Be Done and Mean it.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Small Success Thursday

I realized I've been writing this thing since some time in 2009 I think...but it's Thursday so you get the link to and Small Success Thursday.  Sometimes I think I'm just repeating myself, but other times, I remember, I'm writing these so that I can look back at some point (and I should) and know, there were blessings every day, every week, and they weren't just little things, they mattered. 

They mattered because all of life is made up of those little moments, of little memories where you had the opportunity, and you didn't opt for the wrong thing.  I usually remember this reality after I'm correcting life because I did the wrong thing. 

This Thursday, I was running late.  I get up at 5:45 and somehow, by 8:40, I'd fallen behind.  Handing my son a piece of bread and a fist full of washed grapes, I felt like the ultimate slumming mom.  I couldn't even toast the butter...just bread. Walking down the hill, I watched as my grateful (Grateful) son munched down on his not toast.   We sat on the driveway waiting for the bus. 
He took one of the grapes and made me say prayers.   Grace over meals...over grapes...and bread.   He offered me a grape.  I tried to refuse.  He wouldn't let me. 

 ate the grape and he patted my shoulder and gave me a smile.  He'd given me one of his two loaves and five was more than I deserved...and it filled my heart.   He didn't want the food in particular, he wanted presence.   I know this.  I forget this.  I forget it in mass.  I forget it in the evening, when I'm tired or stressed.  He gave me another grape.  The bus came and he gave me a happy, "Bye Mom." and I walked back up the hill, munching on the gift of the second grape, grateful for a son who could see, his mother needed to be fed.   

It made the rest of the day better, but I resolved, tomorrow, I'm making him a better breakfast as a thank you. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

This is a Good Start?

The Administrative Committee of the USSCB released a statement outlining steps the Administrative Committee has taken to address the crisis.

Boy I feel better. Don't you?

Everybody got that?  Remain calm.  

The Bishops have released a policy and procedure paper. 

If only we’d had a statement outlining the steps of how to handle when someone behaves in an illegal and/or immoral way.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly certain the criminal abuse of minors and cynical abuse of power with respect to seminarians and others of age, wasn’t the consequence of a lack of policy.   

But wait, there's more.  As a bonus feature, we’ve been told how powerless this governing body is, to do much beyond the four steps they outline.  

If that's the case then what exactly does the outline establish which holds weight? Where is the weight?

Here are the four points the USCCB held out as signs of progress:   
1) Establishing a third party reporting system, where laity can go to report misconduct by a bishop so that it will be directed to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority. 

No.  I’m sorry, that’s saying, “Trust us. We got this.”  No. That’s how we got to the point of having this seventy years of cover up from the grand jury of Pennsylvania.    (There already is one, it’s called the police).   It’s one and done now, because there should be no difference between how we handle reporting an abuser in the laity, and in the clergy.   As optics go, it looks like “we’ve drafted a policy so we can keep this in house.”  

2) Instructions to develop proposals for addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations. 

Could we sound more mealy-mouthed? Instructions to develop proposals?  What in heaven’s name does that mean?   How about, specific policy regarding the consequences for bishops removed because of allegations?  

How about naming the consequences, in duration and type, so it’s clear, this is a severe breach of moral leadership, of moral behavior, it’s wrong, it’s always wrong, and it carries the gravest of consequences for those convicted.    

It’s not that I think the bishops have bad hearts, but is this seriously the best they can do in light of the crisis? 

Do I hope not? Do I hope so?  I'm at a loss. 

3) Develop a code of conduct for Bishops…I had to stop, I couldn't quite give this recommendation because I think it is silly. 
We don't need to develop a code of conduct. That already exists.  It’s what each and every person who received the sacrament of Holy Orders agreed to live out.

Theoretically, if you're a bishop, you've lived this, you know this...or should.  One would hope no one goes into the priesthood or holy orders looking for the loop hole of how they can hoodwink God and obey the letter of the law.  Well, that's the code for priests...but not Bishops's above/below my pay grade.      

This scandal is about breaching that code of conduct, whether by commission or omission, ignoring the lost sheep for the benefits of comfort or promotions, and ignoring the devouring of the flock because facing the wolves would be hard.   The code is be men of courage, men of faith, shepherds who lay down their lives for the flock. 

What is lacking in these proposals is a unified voice of courage declaring what will be done. 

How about, you propose a public form of penance to be conducted by each and every bishop and perhaps also by the priests, in reparation for the grave injustices done, and as a reminder to all that for one sin, we lost Eden, and for these sort of sins, we’ll damn ourselves if we don’t repent.

4) The USCCB declares it supports a full investigation…here we agree, but not just of former Cardinal McCarrick. This isn't just about one man abusing his position. 

You believe in a full investigation.  Great. Lay bare the bones of the institution.  Be unafraid to look at the wounds, to recognize them for what they are in each and every occurrence, nails in Christ’s body.  

That you fled the problem up to now, it's understandable in a way.  The apostles fled at His Crucifixion. The full investigation is beyond a single man, it’s the collective result of a bureaucratic organizational structure which sought to protect the reputation of the Church, at the expense of a few souls being damaged. If you really want to show the laity how sorrowful you are for the corruption and abuse and cover up, support a full investigation to root out all who sold everything for Wales.

Reform must happen, but for it to take hold, the Bishops need to stop hiding in committees that draft policies and stand as men of faith, as true shepherds who will seek out every lost sheep and fight off every wolf.

Personal Note:

I don't want to stay mad, but we can't let this go or be swept past by the comforting reassurances of a position paper, committee or future policies. This is the Church, these our our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

We don't want to lose any Bishops or priests or seminarians or laity to sin, by omission or commission.  So we will keep bringing this up, until they recognize, we need a better response than this...

So I'm praying.  Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sherry's Musings on a Day Off about...Knowing and Not Knowing...

The internet is great for finding out just about anything about anyone provided you don't mind whether or not what you find out is true, only that someone found it.   

In the midst of everything in the news, about the Supreme Court nominee, about the Church, about the President, about Congress, the raging debate is about what should be believed, and why and how one goes about establishing truth.  What one believes about any of the hot button topics depends largely upon what camp one wants to support or upend.  We're mad as hell about X, you're associated with X, ergo, we're mad at you.  We've gone from "trust but verify" to "No trust and  no verification is sufficient if I doubt, and no verification is necessary if I believe."  

It's like we're stuck in the first line of the Iliad.  RAGE: Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage, Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls Of heroes into Hades' dark, And left their bodies to rot as feasts For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.  

The spirit of the age, is rage.  It's an all consuming type of hunger which doesn't lead to changes in behavior, heart, or even a lessening of the need for more outbursts or anger within the individuals proclaiming their outrage.  Fire consumes and turns all into itself until there is nothing left but ashes. We'll have yelled and screamed and demanded a pound of flesh, a fist full of dollars, and change, but will it bring justice, or merely be the next part of a vicious cycle.

How do we break it or at least, put the breaks on this perpetual trench warfare of relativism and epistemological nihilism to get at knowing reality and being able to do something with that knowledge?

1) Take off the lenses.  My professor on policy spoke with great caution about how the political, rational and ideological lenses we wear if we use them exclusively, necessarily cut us off from thinking about the multi-faceted nature of issues, and from seeing the legitimacy of arguments not our own.  Life is, truth is more than what we can confirm by our biases, and bigger than any side we champion, and it does not need me or anyone else to minimize it or shave part of it away to make it bearable. 

2) Quest for truth first.  What is known? What can be known? Don't just apply Occam's razor to the news, to one's experience.  Truth is not always simply that which requires the least assumptions and is easiest to discern.    Truth is simple but Truth is hard.  Truth is knowable.  Truth is also usually more complex than one side or the other would allow or admit.  
Don't make assumptions, only draw conclusions from known facts.  

3) Ask the unpleasant questions that go against one's own preferences or outcome.  Ask the unpleasant questions that reveal bad acting.  Ask and ask and ask again.   If no one else is asking the question, start asking.  We suffer in this age from a wealth of capacity for information and investigation and a dearth of curiosity.  Part of that lack of inquisitiveness is an effort to protect one's own side in whatever argument is being advanced.   We don't want to have to handle the truth; it's not that we can't, but as a people, we are slothful.   We don't want to have to stomach it, so we opt not to eat.   

The problem with sloth in the mind, is it leads to sloth in action.  All summer we've seen what being unwilling to look squarely at reality leads to, a bigger wound.  What we don't treat, infects.  If we continue to pretend we can know nothing, understand nothing and believe nothing, we will eventually convince ourselves and the reality of a world in which nothing can be known, understood or believed. The subsequent world we'd live in, is a hellish world without end, where all that would be left, is ashes.   

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Reworking the Blog, Getting Back to Work

It's a funny thing.  When you volunteer to do something, it makes you rethink what you're doing and have done up to now. 

Having done freelance writing for the past fourteen years...I realized how much time has passed, and how many errors I've made, and how most of what I learned, I learned via trial and error. 

Things like: Don't bug the editor.

Why?  Because if you bug them, you don't get work.

Things like: Revise and edit before you hit send.

Why?  Because if you don't, you won't get published.

Things like: Don't double send.

Why? You'll lose both markets. 

I've also learned over time, to make concept pitches --like a series on sacred places, a series on the mysteries of the rosary, on the Doctors of the Church.  These sort of scope based projects can get you steady work.   No one taught me, but I wanted more steady work, and discovered, this helps. 

In the Catholic Writers Conference Online today, I heard a good talk about marketing, and thought, it's been a while since I added to my blog, cleaned it up, or reworked.   So you're getting a new look.  I hope you like it.

After I typed up my notes for the Conference, I thought, you know, you need to pitch a big scope again, to give yourself focus, so you're not just addressing current events.  There are plenty of people discussing and parsing current events.  Now I'm thinking...what event?   So I'm thinking, I'm going to take on the psalms.  It would give me 150 to examine. 

The question is...what order to address it in? 1-150, or as I find them.  I didn't do the rosary in order. I waited for the mysteries to find me.  As I sat pondering the pitch for such a series, my husband called.  He suggested the less known books of the bible, because as Catholics unless we're doing the liturgy of the hours or engaged in a concentrated bible study, we only get whatever snatches we find via the daily Scripture, or the Sunday mass.   I'm no expert, but I also knew, that's why it would be a good place to study.

Which meant thumbing through the bible, and I decided to examine the seven books which define a Catholic bible as Catholic, as versus any other bible, meaning Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, 1st and 2nd Macabees and Baruch.  Now I'm a Catholic. I've been a Catholic all my life.  I went to Catholic school for most of my education.  I've been a Catholic educator.  I'm also someone who actively seeks to grow my faith.

I'd never heard of the book of Baruch.  He's a prophet.  The Old Testament reveals the New.   If we don't know the Old, we might miss some of what is in the New.  I knew...this is where to go.  This is where I should plunge in deeper.   I scanned the Wikipedia site and found this: 

Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our fathers, have sinned in the Lord's sight and disobeyed him. ... And the Lord fulfilled the warning he had uttered against us.... Lord Almighty, ... Hear... and have mercy on us, who have sinned against you... (Baruch 1:15–18; 2:1; 3:1–2)
St. Augustine's reflection, which is paired with this reading, on this occasion speaks of prayer: "[S]ince this [that we pray for] is that peace that surpasses all understanding, even when we ask for it in prayer we do not know how to pray for what is right..."; from there he explains what it means that the Holy Spirit pleads for the saints.

This lesser prophet's writings is part of Holy Saturday as well.   I thought about current events and knew...perhaps if we'd paid more attention to prophets. 

We need to know more.  Here was an opportunity to learn more.

So my other bit of advice as a freelancer, is discover what you don't know, and go investigate, find out, so that you cease being ignorant about something. Be curious and be fearless.  Pray. Ask questions, find the answers, write and begin again.  It's work. It's always work.  But it's work we need to do. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Small Success, Catholic Writer's Guild and More

Okay, this week, we had 4, count them, 4 Back to School Nights over the course of three days, so my brain is officially fried.   

However I did write the weekly feature, Small Success Thursday.

I also am part of a panel this weekend over at the Catholic Writers Conference Online.  (We'll be discussing freelancing).   If you'd like to know more, check them out over here.

Lastly, big news!   I submitted a non-fiction book in August to a Catholic publishing company.  Yesterday, they sent me a contract.  The book is slated to be see print in late spring, early summer. 

It's going to take a while to come down from the stunned look on my face.   

Sunday, September 9, 2018

What We Wish You'd Say...

I've read a lot  of proposals, a lot of suggestions, a lot of apologies from Bishops/priests and a lot of commentary on the scandals of this past summer.  For a time, I thought, there isn't an apology big enough, but I realized, what I really want, is for the religious of this Church, the ordained to take ownership, and to lead by their decisions and words, rather than proclaim what we should do.  I want to know they tremble not at the dangers and threats the world and the states might bring down upon them with the force of law and investigation, but from the bigger reality, souls are being lost by the failure to act, and by the unwillingness to be shepherds in this time of trial. 

So I thought I'd help everyone out by writing what I'd hope to hear from those who have chosen first and foremost to serve the Lord. 

Dear Everyone,

I am so very sorry this happened on my watch. I'm supposed to safeguard all of you. I'm responsible for your faith and your family's faith life and to the extent I've failed to send you good shepherds, to the extent I've failed to help separate those with a vocation from those seeking a way to cloak their desires, to the extent I've not heeded concerns or warning signs that caused great suffering, destruction of innocence, and sin in addition to crimes, I'm sorry.

Being a priest, it's with no small amount of fear and trembling that I recognize, every soul is my brother's, and I am my brother's keeper, and thus, this scandal, both the evil acts of it and the cover up are by my either not seeing it, stopping it, taking it seriously, believing it or investigating it, my fault.  My fault. My most grievous fault.  Even if I did everything I could, it wasn't enough.  Because there are victims, more than have been identified, and thus I know, if the wolves came and devoured some of my sheep, it was because I the shepherd either fled or slept. 

I should have stayed awake.  I should have been more vigilant.  I should have loved my fellow priests and seminarians better, protected their souls better.  I should have seen.  I should have heard. I should have spoken. I should have acted.   I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. 

There is no cure for what has been done.  There isn't a way to magic away pain or suffering or loss.  There's only what I can do from today.   I must fast.  I must pray.  I must sublimate myself and sacrifice myself, for the good of all of you, and for the good of the whole church, and for my fellow priests, most especially those who suffer because I failed to stop those who should not have been priests, and those who hid what should have been laid bare. 

To that end, from this point forward, the books shall be open.
To that end, from this point forward, we invite investigation. 
To that end, we will provide counseling for any who are injured by past injustices permitted via the veil of secrecy. 
To that end, we will spend the rest of our lives, praying for the healing of each and everyone hurt by this scandal, and fasting in reparation for the injuries done by people of the Church to the people in the Church.   We'll ask you to all join with us on Fridays in particular, but the five other days of the week that are not Sunday, we will be foregoing some of the ordinary delights of life, as a reminder to ourselves of what indulgences of the body do to the strength of the spirit. 

We will host confessions all day Friday except during mass time and rosary time, and have the blessed sacrament out for adoration for all during those hours. 

This is not a call for mercy on me by the world, but a call to the world to pray with me and the Church, and for me and the Church, that we may become more wakeful, more faithful servants. I'm asking all the priests of this diocese, all the parishes to do the same, so that we grow in faith, we grow as communities, and we can make to Our Lord a more perfect sacrifice of our lives.  Once again, for all I did and all I failed to do, which hurt Our Lord's Body, the Church, I am sorry. I am sorry.  I am sorry.  It was my fault.  My fault.  My most grievous fault. 

Your Obedient Servant in all things,

Priest's or Bishop's or Cardinal's name here....

Friday, September 7, 2018

Small Success Thursday Link Up

Here's yesterday's Small Success Thursday link up.  Sorry it's a day late and almost two for that matter, but with school back in session, everything just take a little longer to get to in the course of a day. 

Small Success Thursday over at!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Lifting the Veil

A friend lamented how wrong everything feels, how hard it seems to be both online and in real life, to create genuine community, to make it last.  It was reasonable, there’d been a real rift, and then a death.  Everything hurt.  

When everything hurts, one of the first cries of the heart is why?  Why does it have to hurt?  Why does it have to be this way?   The desire for the good (any good) to last forever, is a hint of our desire for Heaven and communion with God. We don’t want the good book to end, the good lazy afternoon, the good meal.   We don’t want friendships to end, either by separation, fights or death.   We don’t want true endings of anything. Even our happy endings of stories indicate a longing for the infinite.  They lived happily ever after, which doesn’t imply they ever stopped living or ever stopped being happy.  

However, part of what makes this life good, is the knowledge that as good as life here is, and it is good, part of why it is good, is people do the hard work of making it so. Buses run on schedule, and the drivers look for the regulars, giving a smile.   People say, “Good morning.” on their walks with their dogs.  People ask for volunteers for whatever it is, and other people hear the call and say “yes.”   

Much of the every day fills with the not so great like bills and errands, commutes and housework, check-ups, and dishes and laundry.  We muddle through the unpleasant like leaks and trash cans, dirty diapers and arguments and extra pounds, but there’s also all the unhappy of the everyday to manage, like world news, disease, grave suffering, grave evil and death.  What makes all of the bad category of life both big and small bearable, is grace. 

Grace is how we live through ordinary time, making it something more than mere minutes watching the clothes go round, or seconds sitting through a Spotify ad.   It’s when we sing with the radio with our children, and when we apologize. It’s when we make their favorite meal, and when we do the dishes without grumbling.  Grace is rearranging the day to visit the sick, to go to adoration, or to help a person get their papers in order for school.   Grace is the sublimation of the self, for the good of another, by service, or by words, or by simple presence when things are hard, or things are important to someone. 

Grace is like the air.  We don’t see it, but it’s as necessary for life.  It makes life life, as opposed to mere existence.  All we need do, is walk down any street.  Smile at everyone, and someone’s face will lift, because someone smiled.  When we move to a new home, it feels alien and strange and continues to feel like an unbroken in shoe that pinches and hurts until we know some faces, until someone unbidden, sees us in the midst of the ordinary, and says, “Hi…and our name.”  It means we are no longer unknown, no longer alone, no longer in danger of not being noticed by the world around us.  Someone knows who we are, and genuinely enough to remember something of who we are, in remembering our name.   

This society needs to rediscover the joy of being a society, which involves being present, and interacting with each other for the pleasure of each other’s company.  It’s the quickest path to peace. It’s the quickest path to making all the unpleasantness we face every day, more bearable.  Grace is revealing God’s love by our everyday actions and words.  It is carrying the Eucharist by how we carry ourselves, to all who are hungry, all who thirst, all who ache, all who mourn, all who suffer, all who hurt.   We need to be deliberate friends with those online and in the real world, to be salt –making everything taste better, and light, chasing away the darkness, by merely being present.   A friend online wrote, “Grace is dark matter.”

Explaining that it makes up most of the universe, but is unseen.  Grace is veiled, until we cooperate with it.   We should spend our whole lives, doing all we can to lift the veil.   

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!