Wednesday, August 31, 2016



Father, as head of the Parish Finance Council I think I can speak for the whole board when I say the repairs to the plaster in the old church ceiling is rather a priority.  If we don’t place God first, then what are we here for?”

“Terry, I agree with you,” said Father scratching is beard.  “There is nothing I would like more.  But ever since the janitor admitted to projecting the image of the Blessed Virgin on the wall, the money has completely dried up.  We have seven empty buildings that nobody wants to buy.  Two empty parking decks for a place that barely needs any additional parking on the street, and a quickly deteriorating financial balance.  I just don’t think it is responsible to spend that kind of money on something ornamental.”

“Firstly, it is hardly ornamental.  Damaged plaster means a leak in the roof!  It will only get worse and more expensive,” replied his Council chair.

One of the young people on the council sighed.  “I wish there was some magical person we could ask for money from.”

“DON’T SAY THAT!” Fr. Andrews said a bit too vehemently. 

“I was just joking.”

“I know.  I’m sorry.  I am just a little stressed these days.”

“It’s still a great parish,” said one of the other members.  “Somehow we will see it through.”

“I’m sure we will,” said the pastor with little enthusiasm.

A few days later, Fr. Andrews and his dog were once again on the ill fated path with the object of going on a walk.  “Oh no,” Father thought to himself, “not them again.”  He thought of turning and walking the other way but there was no point.  “Good evening ladies.”

They said in unison, “Hello Father.”  They sat once again, not looking up.  They were all quiet for a while and then one of the voices said, “Quite a sticky wicket you seem to have at the parish.”

“Quite,” he thought out loud trying not to think to much.

The other voice said, “You know you still have one more wish.”

“Don’t I know it,” said Father Andrews.

“What is it that you desire?” asked the first.

“Listen.  I appreciate all that you have done.  You have always exceeded my expectations and I really can’t complain.  But if it is all the same to you, I’m just going to let things be and trust  God to see us through whatever happens.  It may be good, it may be ill, but I will just trust Him take care of it.  No more of this engineering my fate.  Even when it is successful it seems kind of empty.”

“O come now.  Surly you can come up with SOMETHING even if it is just a booby prize wish.”

“No.  Thank you.  No.  And God bless.”  He started to walk away when he heard, with his ears, “Awesome!”  He turned back to see the two girls standing, smiling, and overjoyed.

“What?  What’s going on?”

“Finally we met someone who decided not to use all of their wishes but to live the life they have and get through it the best they can with God.  That only took - what?”  She looked at the other girl.

“Seven hundred some odd years?”


“I don’t understand,” said the priest.

The second took over.  “We were doomed to be wish granters by a witch who was tired of us always complaining that we wished life was better.  So to spite us, she made us wish granters and we would only be released when we came across someone who would give up their wishes and be satisfied with the life they had.  You, Father, are the first.”

“To be fair,” the other said, “this was the first time we teamed up.  Otherwise you might not have made it.”

“What will you do now?”  The priest asked in amazement.

“Well,” they looked at each other and nodded, and one said, “let’s find out more about this Jesus fellow you represent.  If was able to make you satisfied with the life that was handed you, maybe there is something from Him we might learn.”

And the three of them and the dog headed off into the woods.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016



Please Bishop, I really think I have done all that I can do here.  The parish is in default and I don’t seem to be able to help the downward spiral!”  There was a tinge of frustration and sadness in his voice.  “Please let me transfer!  Get someone in here that knows what to do!”

“Fr. Andrews, you far undervalue your services at the parish.  You know as well as I do that we cannot close the it.  It is far too historic and important to the diocese.  I also believe that if it wasn’t for you, the situation would be far, far worse.  I can’t imagine another priest in this diocese that would be as good a priest for this parish as you are.  I know it’s difficult.  Nobody saw all of the factories in town closing and so quickly.  I need you there!  You are a great pastor of the people who are left.”

“But . . .”

“No buts.  The conversation is coming to an end.  I told you my decision Fr. Andrews.  Be the great pastor to this parish that I know you are.  Remember: it is not about numbers.  God bless you.”

With a click the line went dead.  Placing the receiver back onto its cradle Father Andrews rubbed his eyes and sighed heavily.

“What is it boss?”  Mrs. Bailey came into the office carrying a tray of coffee.

“Oh?  Nothing.  Nothing.”


“Coffee pusher.”

“What did His Excellency have to say?”

“What?  Nothing.  I mean, what excellency?”

“Oh come on.  I know it was the Bishop on the line.”

He held her gaze for a moment and then relented.  “There isn’t going to be any help coming from downtown to save us and I was told to buck up and keep the place going.”

“Ah,” she said, sitting across from his desk and stirring her own coffee.  As the milk turned the coffee caramel she asked, “What do we need to make a real go of it Father?”

The priest snorted.  “People and money.”

Mrs. Bailey clicked her spoon down on her saucer.  “Well there's a revelation.  I meant, what do you suppose we need to get more of both over in the church?”

“A miracle.”

“What kind of miracle Father.  Dream big.  What would do the trick?”

“More jobs in town.”

“Yes, that would be nice,” she took a sip of her coffee while resting both elbows on the edge of his desk.  “But what is something more realistic?  If you could wish something what would it be?”

The priest guffawed.  “Wish?”

“Yes, what would you wish?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe that we had some sort of vision or something.  Maybe if the Blessed Virgin Mary showed herself and we started getting bus loads of people in here to help pay for all of the repairs these old historic buildings need.  That would be great.  I wish something like that would happen.”

As Mrs. Bailey sipped her coffee she let slip a "Humph!"

Just then there was a frantic and persistent knocking at the door.  Mrs. Bailey and the priest looked at each other.  "What could that be about?” Mrs. Bailey asked.  More with his eyes than with his voice he conveyed that he hadn’t the slightest idea.

“FATHER!”  The pounding continued.

“For the love of Pete come in.”  The door flew open and a young altar server stumbled in, his face red, his eyes wild, arms flying.  

“Father, get over to the church right now!  On the wall over the organ!  There is an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary!”


Father Andrews slammed his fist down on his desk.  “This is ridiculous!”  

“That may be,” said the inspector,  “but it is the law.”

“Look, I think that we have been more than accommodating.  We built two new parking garages,  purchased the surrounding houses of upset neighbors, updated everything to be in line with codes, built the reception halls; the new church alone built to hold all of the extra people cost millions and now you want us to help pay for road improvements?  Are you out of your Vulcan mind?”

“That is uncalled for Father.”  The inspector adjusted the briefcase in his lap.  “This was a quiet neighborhood.”

“WHAT NEIGHBORHOOD?  There was no neighborhood.  The neighborhood was DEAD!”

“Be that as it may, the area was not designed for the high level of traffic that your church is attracting not to mention the busses and . . . “

The intercom buzzed.  “Fr. Andrews?”


“There is another unscheduled bus that just showed up, the Society of the End of the World is holding a rally outside again, there is a news crew in the lobby wanting just a quick word with you, and Mrs. Lanning has chained herself to the altar rail again.  Do you want me to call the police?”

The inspector stood.  “Here is your warning letter Father.  Fines will start if don’t start taking care of this project.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be . . .”

Just then the door burst open.  “Father Andrews!  Come quickly.”  It was the neighboring pastor and he had a rather desperate look on his face.

“What is it Jack?”  His level of disinterest matched Fr. Jack’s level of excitement.

“There’s no time to explain.  Just take my word for it that you need to follow me and NOW!”

Fr. Andrews lumbered to the door and Fr. Jack grabbed his arm and forcibly picked up his pace.  

“Wait.  Where are we going?  Are you taking me to my suite?”

“You look miserable.  Sit down.  I’m making us drinks.”

“But there is a bus and . . .”

“It’s not your parish Father and you are not the savior of the world.  Let the bus take care of the bus.  This is ridiculous.” 

“You can say that again.  This place has become a zoo that happens to have Mass and confession.  Wow, does that taste good.  Thank you.  I just might make it to dinner aline now.”

“I don’t know how you think you are going to continue this way.  It isn’t particularly good for you and your parish is practically nonexistent.  All your people have fled to surrounding parishes.  This is nothing but a religious tourist trap.  Nice new bookstore by the way.”

“Thanks.  Here’s a discount card for clergy.”

“Thank you.”

After a sip Fr. Andrews told his friend,“This place is going to be the death of me.”

“I can see that.”

“Sometimes I wish . . .” with that, Fr. Andrews slapped a hand against his lips.

“What?  Wish what?  What were you going to say?”

“I - I’m afraid to say it.”

“It’s just me.  You can say anything in front of me.  It goes no further.”

“You’d be surprised how far it might go.”

“What?  Are afraid that your room is bugged?”  He took a quick look under the lamp shade.

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

Fr. Jack took a sip of his drink.  “You worry me Father.”


“Yes.  Really.  You seem like you are on the edge of falling apart.”

“Wow,” he said as the realization of how stressed he must seem hit him.  “Maybe I should say it.”

“Say what?”

“I wish all this craziness would end.”

Monday, August 29, 2016


I know, I know.  You came here today hoping to find Monday Diary.  I honestly couldn't think of anything today - I think I am suffering from empty nest syndrome - all my priest and seminarians buddies are either back at school or on vacation.  BUT!  I haven't written a serial short story in a loooooooong time and this one came to me yesterday and was just bursting to get out so this week will be short story serial week!  Here is the first installment.  (I don't have a title for it yet.)


It was said softly, under his breath, and with the proper sarcasm that meant the situation was anything but.  Father Andrews was taking his dog for a walk on the trails through the woods, but where the trail forked as it entered the first stand of trees, there were two young ladies sitting and apparently texting each other for although they were facing each other, neither looked up nor said a word.  They giggled but other than that were still as the trees.

“Of all places to sit!” he muttered to himself in his head, “the one spot where there is no easy way around them.  It's almost as if they planned it.  And now the dog will bark and lunge, probably making them scream.  What an annoyingly stupid place to plop down and do nothing.  I wonder what their mothers would think.  But hey, that’s the way it is so here we go.”

Amazingly, the dog didn’t bark.  In fact, he went on sniffing at the plants at the side of the trail as if the silent squatters were not even there.


The priest looked down at the girls whose hair didn’t so much as blow in the breeze.  Staring at the top of their heads he said hello back.  “Or did I say hello?” he thought, “I don’t actually remember vocalizing it.  But I must have.  Right?”

“You did,” came a different voice.  It was if the voice was in his head.

“So what are the two of you doing sitting here blocking the most awkward part of the trail?”  Am I really that rude to say that to them?

There was a giggle.  That definitely landed in his ear.  But then the queer sensation that a voice was in his head said, “We were waiting for you.”


“Yes.  Of course.”

“Why were you waiting for me?  Do I know you?”

“We have come to grant you four wishes.”

“Ha!  Four wishes did you say?”  Fr. Andrews felt the mirth in his chest and his face brightened.  “That is very kind of you.”

“Oh, we are quite serious.”

“Are you now?  And what kind of wishes do you grant?”

“Any kind of wish that you want.”

“Like a genie in a lamp type wish.”

“Something like that,” said one voice, and then, “Except this is for real,” finished the other.

“How terribly interesting,” the priest said trying his best not to roll his eyes, “but shouldn’t it be three wishes, not four?  Isn’t that how it goes?”

“It would if you were in a fairy tale and we were fairies,” said one and then the other finished, “which you are not and which we are not.”  The first continued, “In real life, each wish granter,” here the other interjected, “which is what we are,” then the first continued, “is permitted to grant any person they choose two wishes.  There are two of us, each of us has two wishes to give you, and that equals four.”


The dog pulled on his leash wanting to go down the trail.  Scratching his bearded chin and creasing his brow Fr. Andrew said slowly, “Well, thank you very much.  I’ll give it some thought.  But it looks like the dog wants to go on his walk now.”

“Wise dog,” said the second voice.  “But there is a catch,” said the first voice.

“Ah, there’s always a catch isn’t there.”

“Not a difficult one,” said the second voice.  “It’s just that the first wish must be made now.” said the first.”

“I see,” said Father.  Wishes started cycling through his head before the thought popped up that he could not believe that he was taking this even mildly seriously.  Just the same he wanted to be careful.  If fairytales taught him anything, it was that greed always ended badly.  It was only when he thought of the most innocuous wish he could muster that he let slip out, “I wish a was a far greater pastor of my parish.”

“DONE!” said both voices together just as the dog jerked the priest down the trail.

Friday, August 26, 2016


80% of holiness is presence.

That is what one of my spiritual directors in the past said.  I suppose that I cannot refute that statement.  But I might add that prayer is a lot like exercise.  The first 80% might be good for you, but it is the last 20% that really is the most beneficial.

Showing up as a warm body for Mass may be 80% of holiness, but the last 20% is what pushes everything over the top.  Moving into Chapter III of the GIRM (and skipping over paragraphs until we get to ‘THE FUNCTIONS OF THE PEOPLE” para 95.  When we celebrate the Mass, the congregation forms the People of God, “a royal nation, a holy priesthood, a people set apart” as the preface goes.  During the Mass, all are to participate in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice.  In this way, we offer our very selves as part of the sacrifice.

Pope Benedict, much vilified in certain circles, was a HUGE proponent of this.  Forget having 5 people read the petitions, three lectors, 500 EMHC in order that people might be “more involved.”  In fact, those persons are LESS involved because they are being taken away from their primary and earth shattering duty of offering the Mass by virtue of their anointing at their baptism into the priesthood of the people.  (We do a huge disservice in grade schoolers by making up ministries in order to get the children to feel more active.  We should be promoting their primary role and building that up!)  Being in an extra ministry is not part of that extra 20%.  It is more like being a dishwasher in the kitchen.  You are still at the party, but you are not celebrating, you are performing a service so that others may more fully participate.  (That may be a bit extreme but . . . you know.)

The true extra 20% is listening, growing, participating, and praying; thanking, worshipping, petitioning, and asking for forgiveness for yourself, your loved ones, for the world, and those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Not too long ago we went from permanent pastorates to term limits in our diocese.  I was on the committee.  One of the points I bought up was that the reason there are two methods (you may have one or the other in a diocese, not one for some and one for others) is that they both come with their own set of problems.  Neither is particularly better than the other.  With one there is a particular set of difficulties and advantages and likewise with the other.  So today we have what we have and while it cleared up a lot of difficulties in the diocese, we are faced with a whole new set.

Many people would like to see a more Protestant form of choosing a pastor: that of a board at any given parish hiring and firing the priest.  Once again, that would mean some great advantages and some disadvantages.  One of the (depending on who you are this is either a dis or an advantage) is this: because a pastor does not have to worry about teaching and preaching about something that pleases a board, he may be more daring.  If a parish has a large percentage of euthanasia proponents, for example, he need not fear for his livelihood preaching that older Americans are people with dignity and rights too and should be treated as such..

Leading a parish, in some ways, is not much different than being the mayor of a town.  There are decisions that you make that you know will leave 10% ecstatic, 10% furious, and most the rest just fine.  Sometimes you weigh popular demand, sometimes you weigh Church teaching, sometimes you guess and you try to remember that the worst thing is not that someone might be angry because if they are angry, they are still invested.

It is an imperfect world and all of our human institutions, even those inspired by God Himself, are imperfect and are incapable of pleasing everybody so you try not to take it seriously when you’ve not pleased everyone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Honking horns and computer screens and long lines in airplane terminals can make us sick, but the stress of living near saber-toothed cats on the prowl was probably sickening too.  Maybe balancing on the edge between sickness and health is what it is to be alive."  


Monday, August 22, 2016


Sebastian (my dog) had a play date the other day with Atticus and Monsignor, the dogs of two other pastors.  (Talk about three pretentious names for a pack of dogs.)  We all got together along with a couple of seminarians for an afternoon.

I needed to lock up the church and so invited the seminarians who had not been in the church before to join me for a little tour.  As we were about to enter the secret tunnel from the rectory to the church (which is neither a secret nor a tunnel) the dogs sat at the door with pathetic looks on their faces.  

Sebastian often goes with me to lock up the church.  At least one time he has caught someone hanging out in a hidey hole and assisted me in escorting the person out of the building before the locks were engaged.  One of the many perks of having a rectory dog.  Atticus too has joined us on the final locking up rounds.  But Monsignor, being just a wee pup has never had the opportunity.  All the same, all three were invited to walk with us on our rounds of the doors of the church.

When we were at the rear of the church, the whole pack was escorted up into the choir loft so I could show them the new organ.
I fired her up and told them that I was going to play a little on it for their entertainment and edification.  But first I wanted to demonstrate what the mighty organ could do and nothing is more powerful and shocking as the Festival Trumpets!

Yep.  We scared the p**p out of the dog. 

And they all got to go back to the party and I stayed in the choir loft to undo the redecorating job performed by Monsignor.  So perhaps there are really good reasons for not letting animals in the church and let that be a lesson to you young priests out there.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Say that you are invited over for dinner to somebody’s house: when is the proper time to leave?  Perhaps there are those who, in not really wanting to be there in the first place, try to leave after the main course but before desert thinking they have fulfilled their obligation to “eat dinner.”  There are those who will stay for desert but then skedaddle not staying for postprandials and taking pride in the fact that they stayed for the entirety the request.  There are those who will gladly stay for a digestive and thank their hosts for a wonderful evening. Then there are those who will simply not go home even after the host has put on his pajamas.

Mass is much the same.  Citing pre-Vatican II rubrics there are those who leave after Communion because they have fulfilled the minimal requirements of getting there in time for the Gospel and staying through the reception of Communion.  This is particularly prevalent in parishes that have poor parking lots with minimal exits to busy roads.  There are those who will not stay for the closing song since, “It really isn’t part of the Mass.”  There are those who will stay and offer a prayer of thanks to God for the graces received and perhaps stay for donuts and/or conversation with parishioners.  Then there are those who will not go home.


So when does Mass end?  The final rubrics in this part of the GIRM (paragraph 90) say four things make up the concluding rite.  (Note that the Prayer after Communion is not part of this because, as you can tell from the title, it is part of the Communion Rite.  These four points immediately follow.

ONE: With heavy heart I report that the first is “any announcements” but stress the second part states, “should they be necessary.”  And really, how necessary are they?  (I know, I know - get over it.)

TWO: The priest’s greeting (the Lord be with you) followed by the blessing.

THREE: The dismissal, “So that the people may go to continue doing good works, praising and blessing God.”

FOUR:  The reverencing of the altar (when the priest kisses the altar) followed by the profound bow (or genuflection if the Blessed Sacrament is in the sanctuary.)

That’s it.  So technically you have fully participated in the strictest requirements of the Mass if you stay for the bow or genuflection.  Time to hit the beach!  Unfortunately for such, point four usually takes place during a hymn - and it would be rude to lead the priest down the main aisle so that you can get to your car before anybody else.  

Now as a priest, I have to remember there are all kinds of reasons that people leave Mass early and they are not all owing to minimalist participation; someone at home is ill, work starts in 10 minutes, the kid just soiled himself, they guy you owe money to is in the first pew. . . 

My suggestion?  (This is not the official teaching of the Catholic Church.)  On average, neither a borrower or a lender be.  Remember this is about being in love with Somebody.  When you were thinking of getting married, eating dinner with your prospective in-laws may not have been one of your top 100 things to do on a Friday night but you did it and stuck around a little after for love of your fiancĂ©.  So minimally stay for the closing hymn or at least until the priest is gone.  Say a quick prayer of thanks.  (Saying, “Thank you God that was awesome” is better than saying nothing at all.)  And say “hello” to a couple of your brothers and sisters on your way out.  

On the other hand, when all the lights have been turned out, the doors are locked, and it is you and one other person, and the priest is leaning up against his car in his bathing suite twirling his keys and he nieces and nephews crying to go to the beach, you might want to consider taking the conversation to the coffee house.