Monday, July 29, 2013

New Encyclical, "Lumen Fidei"

On June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis issued his first encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei, "The Light of Faith."  He admitted in remarks after the letter was released that it was "the work of four hands," that is, written both by Pope Benedict XVI and himself.  I would judge that 95% or more was written by Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger).  It has the same style, and the same themes, as his previous encyclicals, Deus Caritas Est (2005), Spe Salvi (2007), and Caritas in Veritate (2009).  In fact, Francis acknowledges in paragraph 7 that Lumen Fidei forms a kind of trilogy with these previous letters on hope and love.

It took me the better part of two afternoons to read Lumen Fidei last week, but the time spent was worth it.  The text takes up powerful ideas, but does so in a way that is accessible to any high-school educated person.  Let me all too briefly share a few major points of Lumen Fidei.  But in doing so, I don't want you to be deprived of the wisdom and spiritual wealth of this work.  Do read it for yourself.

The letter opens with a meditation on light, and how light as a metaphor enlightens the darkness of the world with faith.  Then comes the first major point:  faith is always connected with love.  Pope  Francis writes, "Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives." (paragraph 4) "Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives." (13)  In a powerful (to me) sentence, Francis says, "Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love." (26)  Tell that to any Christian (or Muslim or Jew) who espouses war and violence.  

A second theme is that the opposite of faith is idolatry.  Idols are not just things we humans make.  Idolatry is making us the center of all reality, worshiping ourselves and all that we have made or done.  In contrast, faith is a light which leads us to God--Father, Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit--who is before us and beyond us.

From there, Francis links faith and the church.  Faith is ecclesial, that is, always nurtured within the community of the church.  Our ancestors passed on to us their faith is Jesus, the Crucified One, now risen from the dead.  Francis says, "Just as Christ gathers to himself all those who believe and makes them his body, so the Christian comes to see himself as a member of this body, in an essential relationship with all other believers." (22)  In other words, one cannot have faith without the church.  Even if the "church" is another person who brought you to faith, you and he/she are connected.  In our western world which is saturated with individualism, this is a hard, but necessary, sell. 

In a theme which Pope Benedict often spoke about, faith is related to truth and reason.  "If love needs truth, truth also needs love.  Love and truth are inseparable." (27)  As the believer thirsts for truth, we enter into a fruitful dialog with reason, and with all reasonable people.  Reason prevents the believer (and the church) from falling into fanaticism or fundamentalism.   

At the end of the letter, Francis brings faith down to earth.  Faith which is sown is love and nurtured by truth, must be practically expressed in building up the common good.  The light of faith "does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build and eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey toward a future of hope." (51)  The common good seeks a just world, peaceful relations among nations, and dignity and respect for every human being.  It is here that Francis/Benedict connects faith in the action of love with the strongest social justice passages in Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate.  "Precisely because it is linked to love, the light of faith is concretely placed as the service of justice, law and peace." (51)  

There are many more insightful passages and pithy sentences to ponder in Lumen Fidei.  Over the years, just using the word "encyclical" causes Catholics to roll their eyes and think, this is going to be way too hard for me to understand.  But don't believe that canard.  This one is another keeper (just as Benedict's three previous ones are).  It is accessible in a most positive sense.  I hope you will go to  to read Pope Francis's first encyclical letter.  

St. Vitus Big Festival

One of our parishes, Mary Mother of Hope, successfully completed its Summerfest the weekend of July 12-13.  Another of our parishes, St. Vitus, hosts its annual Big Festival next Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (August 7-10) on the church grounds at South Mercer Street, New Castle.  Both festivals are rightly known for their excellent homecooked food.  

Last year the St. Vitus Festival brought back the "Baby Doll Dance."  This is a crazy stunt, with a man in a huge baby doll costume dancing to the tune of the "Tarrentella" while fireworks shoot off his long extended arms.  It has to be seen to be believed.  (One priest, who shall go nameless, smilingly calls it "nothing less than an ancient pagan ritual.")  Again this year come out on Thursday night (about 9 p.m.) to see the Baby Doll Dance.

This year the hard working members of the committee have brought back FIREWORKS! to the Fireworks Capital of the World.  Using the site of a recently cleared mill a quarter mile from the church grounds, our friends at Pyrotecnico will offer a grand display of fireworks to conclude the St. Vitus Big Festival, about 10 p.m. on Saturday.  

(Well, maybe not THAT big a fireworks display.)

There is free entertainment nightly and an upgraded "children's corner" with rides and games.  Among the great "high carb/high comfort" foods offered are pasta fagioli, cavatelli, fried eggplant sandwiches, pizza greens, pepperoni puffs, french fries, sausage and peppers sandwiches, and (my healthy--and best selling!--contribution last year) salad with chicken.

The cavats and pasta fagioli are available as early as 4:00 p.m., the rest of the games, food, entertainment and fun begins at 6:00 p.m.  Come one, come all, to the St. Vitus Big Festival, August 7-10.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vocations Mass

Each year the Bishop's Latin School Alumni Association hosts a Vocations Mass.  This year it is scheduled for Sunday, August 25, at 4:30 p.m. in the Bishop McDowell Auditorium, on the campus of St. Paul Seminary, in the East Carnegie neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  (For your GPS, use 2900 Noblestown Road, 15205.)  A festive dinner follows in the Cardinals Great Hall.

The Bishop's Latin School was a short-lived high school seminary here in Pittsburgh.  It was founded by then-Bishop John Wright, and staffed by members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  The Jesuits used its centuries-old educational method known as "ratio studiorum" to train young men's minds and souls in the Catholic faith, using a heavy emphasis on Latin, Greek and the humanities.

Though it was only open from 1961 through 1973, the Bishop's Latin School produced almost five dozen priests, several deacons, many many talented and devoted laymen, and one cardinal.  Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the pride of BLS, and the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, will be the presider at this years Vocations Mass.  Con-celebrating will be Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, and several priest alumni.

The BLS Alumni Association honors several with its John Cardinal Wright Award.  This year's awards go to Father Joe Freedy, our diocesan vocations director, Mr. Christopher Rebstock, a 1971 BLS classmate -- and yours truly.  

If you would like to attend the Mass, please come on Sunday, August 25.  And if you'd like to attend the dinner (and support vocations to priesthood with your donation), tickets are $60 each.  Visit the BLS Alumni Association website for more information.

The founder of the Bishop's Latin School, and the eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh, John Cardinal Wright.

Fireworks Capital of America

Bet you didn't know that New Castle, Pennsylvania, is "The Fireworks Capital of America."  

It is.  And -- watch out -- the title is trademarked!

Fireworks is a billion dollar business across our country, and two of the five largest companies are headquartered right here in New Castle.  Zambelli Fireworks Internationale and Pyrotecnico were founded over 100 years ago by Italian immigrants with a peculiar and special talent -- making fireworks.  Both are fifth-generation family firms, which together produce almost 5,000 shows annually.  According to a recent article in Businessweek, one quarter of all  firework outdoor displays happen on July 4.  Talk about a short season!  Article here.

But who doesn't love fireworks?  We in western Pennsylvania are skilled in the "oooohs" and "aaaauuugghhhs" and "wwwoooooowwws" sounds to make while watching the bursts of colored lights in the sky.  

I remember as a kid our family driving out to nearby Brentwood and sitting on a hillside next to the football stadium watching a Fourth of July fireworks show.   PHHHHOOFFFF!  Off went one fireworks shell...........(one looong minute wait)...........PHHHOOFFFFTTTTTT!  Off went a different colored one............(another loooong minute wait)..............SSSSHHHHHFFTTT!   Off went another.  Another minute wait.  Only at the end did the sky erupt in an almost continual shooting of fireworks.  Then the crowd showed its appreciation with loud applause and wide grins.

Well, you get the message.  Fireworks have come a long way since then.  Last weekend was the annual New Castle Fireworks Festival.  One of our parishes, Mary Mother of Hope, holds its festival the same weekend, piggy-backing on the civic festival and the many thousands of folks who come downtown to enjoy food and games and the 10 p.m. fireworks display.   (Our food is hand made, less expensive, and better than anything you'll find up the street!)  Over the next six weeks, there are no less than 16 festivals and fireworks displays in Lawrence County alone.

Here are some great photos of fireworks.  For more photographs and vivid video, go to the Zambelli website or Pyrotecnico website.

From the New Castle News, our Fireworks Festival.

From Zambelli:

And at the Point in Downtown Pittsburgh:

From Pyrotecnico:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Generativity: Contributing vs. Just Getting Old

Years and years ago I read Eric Erikson's books on the eight stages of psychosocial development.  These stages are helpful for understanding that a person's life is not static, but dynamic, and that each of us is challenged to "grow" into deeper authenticity as the years go by.

For those who are wondering what his eight stages are:

Trust vs. mistrust (ages 0-2)
Autonomy vs. shame and doubt (ages 2-4)
Initiative vs. guilt (ages 4-5)
Industry vs. inferiority (ages 5-12)
Identity vs. role confusion (ages 13-19)
Intimacy vs. isolation (ages 20-24)
Generativity vs. stagnation (ages 24-64)
Ego integrity vs. despair (ages 64-death)

As with all such stage/development constructs, the passages from one to another are fluid, and overlap.  The ages for any stage depend on the person.   Like Lawrence Kohlberg's six stages of moral development, one can not only go forward, but occasionally backward.

Though I've been in Erikson's stage 7 by my age for many moons, this summer I'm particularly feeling both my age, and the possibility of generativity.  The diocese and our bishop graciously gave to me and to our four parishes this summer two seminarian interns.  

Chris Mannerino is heading into his third year at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore.  His home parish is St. Cecelia, Rochester.  He was with me last summer as an intern, working in both St. Vitus and St. Vincent de Paul parishes, and living in the same rectory with me at St. Vincent de Paul, in the Mahoningtown neighborhood of New Castle.  He and I got along well, I think, and he told me that his ten weeks in the parish helped him to integrate his previous three years of seminary academics, with the pastoral work of a parish priest.  I was glad to welcome him back, and he felt good returning to New Castle for the summer, feeling more comfortable having gotten to know a few parishioners in both parishes.

Zach Galiyas is studying at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe.  He hails from Montour, and is a parishioner at St. Malachy Parish in Kennedy Township.  This is Zach's first year with me.  

Both sems are doing the typical pastoral work of summer:  assisting in Vacation Bible School, attending daily Masses and Sunday Masses, lectoring and serving, visiting the sick at Jameson Hospital and local nursing homes, and leading committal services at the cemetery and funeral blessing services in the local funeral homes.  I've had them attend a Pastoral Council and Finance Council meeting, and each offers a weekly "reflection" at a daily Mass, to allow them to learn the ropes of preaching.  They sit with us three priests when we have our weekly Tuesday lunch and business meeting, as well as other shared meals during the week.  They are experiencing what it is like for priests to serve multiple parishes in a collaborative process. 

Chris and Zach are the fifth and sixth seminarians I've worked with as a pastoral supervisor and pastor.  It is definitely a privilege to serve in this role, and to know the confidence that the diocesan officials and bishop place in me, as pastor, and in our parishes to host them.

This is where both age and generativity come into play.  I meet with the two of the each week, both together, and individually.  Each of them set up four goals for the summer, so we review how they are moving to fulfill these goals.  We talk about their ministry, their living together in the rectory, and anything else they want to talk about.  We are also walking our way through a book, Living Celibacy, by Gerdenio Sonny Manuel, S.J., a priest and psychologist.

Listening to their tales of doing ministry and seeing their enthusiasm to do ministry, and to move toward priestly ministry, is touching.  It also makes me feel old!  They talk about their first sermons, recent experiences visiting the sick, and their feelings and difficulties about integrating the actions of ministry with the contemplation of prayer.  I talk about working for Bishops Bevilacqua, Wuerl, Bradley and Zubik.  They pray to St. Pope John Paul II.  My classmates and I were ordained before he was elected bishop of Rome.  They easily handle smart phones and texting.  I remember the novelty of a fax machine, and the days of finding a phone booth to make a phone call.  Their goal in life is to be a diocesan priest in a parish.  I share experiences of serving in parishes and diocesan offices, and attending (and occasionally speaking at) national meetings for Catholic social ministry and Catholic healthcare.  Biologically I am old enough to be their father.  There are moments in our conversations when I feel like I'm talking about attending the Council of Trent in the 16th century, not participating in the recent events of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the 20th and 21st centuries.

But I do feel that I can contribute a small part in their formation.  I share stories of my successes and failures.  I try to express not only the "what" of ministry, but also the "why," the "how" and the "who" of ministry.   This is the generativity of my age and experience.  I bring more than three decades of priestly ministry to our discussions, and memories of other priests and teachers who treated me with respect even though I was at one time wet behind the ears.  Working with these young men as both a mentor and a brother is invigorating, and builds my confidence that what I have learned can be shared and passed on.

My two associates, Father Bill Siple and Father Nick Vaskov, also interact with Zach and Chris, and offer their own experiences and personalities to this summer internship.  So do parishioners and staff members from all four of our parishes.

I hope that Chris and Zach have good internships this summer in New Castle.  I am looking forward with hope (God willing!) that they will be ordained deacons in the spring of 2014, and priests in the spring of 2015. And I am grateful to serve the church as a mentor and almost senior priest.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bishop Anthony Bosco, R.I.P.

When you die at the age of 85, few people remember that you were once a "boy wonder."  But that was the case with Bishop Anthony Bosco.

Bishop Bosco died on July 2 at his home in Greensburg of natural causes.  He served as the third bishop of Greensburg from 1987 to 2004.  A native of the North Side of Pittsburgh, Anthony Bosco was the son of a tailor who was ordained a priest in 1952 for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  He was sent to Rome by then-Bishop John Dearden to get a degree in canon law, and when he returned home served in the chancery.  For most of the next decade he served under Pittsburgh Bishop John Wright.  Clerical rumor credits Wright with having the influence to have Bosco named auxiliary bishop in Pittsburgh at the age of 42 in 1970.  The previous year Wright was named a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI and appointed to head the Congregation of the Clergy.  There were many other--older--Pittsburgh clerics as potential candidates for an appointment as auxiliary bishop, but Bosco was the one chosen.

Then a funny thing happened--nothing.  For the next 17 years, under Bishops Vincent Leonard and Anthony Bevilacqua, Bishop Bosco toiled away at the routines of an auxiliary.  Confirmations (50 or more a year), graduations, parish anniversaries, diocesan meetings by the score, diaconate ordinations, ceremonies of all kind--when the head bishop either couldn't or didn't want to attend. Every year Bishop Bosco would come up with some cutsey homeletic story/joke/trick, and use it in his dozens of confirmation ceremonies. 

In 1987 the second bishop of Greensburg, William Connare, passed away, and Bishop Bosco was named to succeed him by Pope John Paul II.  No longer a "young bishop," Bosco was well known among his brother bishops around the country.  He had been elected to chair the communications committee of the national conference of bishops by his peers, and was "a good quote" to reporters, print and tv locally and nationally.  

Once time I bumped into Bishop Bosco, and complimented him on his comments in a recent tv interview.  In that deep gravelly voice (seasoned by his cigars), he said to me, "Remember, Frank, when they interview you, always do it live.  Then they can't cut-and-paste your remarks and take them out of context."  

As the excellent obituary by Ann Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7/3/2013) notes, Bishop Bosco showed his true colors as a diocesan bishop.  He was fore-square in favor of the church using the gifts and talents of the laity.  He supported the transition from "parish" councils to "pastoral" councils, engaged his diocese in a thorough pastoral planning process to readjust to changing demographic trends, and was not afraid to make hard decisions regarding the closing of parishes and church buildings.  All of these attitudes flowed from his support of the Second Vatican Council.

In an indirect way, I had a hand in one of Bishop Bosco's most controversial moves.  (I told this story when I did a blog post on the death of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua on February 12, 2012.)  Bishop Bevilacqua had asked me, a member of the priest council, to put together a committee to examine the age for reception of the sacrament of confirmation, and to make a recommendation.  Our committee's recommendation was to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation   baptism-confirmation-first communion.  Further, we suggested that the pastor confirm all children at the third grade level, and then in the same celebration of the Mass, give them their first holy communion.  We made our presentation in the spring of 1987, and it went nowhere.

But more than two years later, after Bishop Bosco became head bishop in Greensburg, he set in motion a several year process to do just what we recommended.  To my knowledge he was the first bishop in the U.S. to lower the age deliberately, on the rationale of confirmation's linkage to the order of the sacraments of initiation.  Our committee didn't know it, but the really attentive listener in the room at that priest council meeting was not Bishop Bevilacqua but auxiliary Bishop Bosco.  

My understanding is that the priests of the diocese never really understood this decision, and never really liked it.  Religious educators didn't buy it either.  They by and large used confirmation--at the 7th or 8th or 9th grade level--as a way to keep the kids in class and extend their formal religious learning as long as possible.  I don't think that Bosco's innovation has survived his successor, although I have read that it is in ten other dioceses around the country.

Throughout his ministry as a priest and bishop, he was a down-to-earth Pittsburgher, who never forgot his Italian roots and lived out his service quietly and matter-of-factly.

Anthony Bosco, may the angels and saints receive you (and your cigars, and humor) joyfully into the realms of heaven.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bishop Joseph Sullivan, R.I.P.

I doubt that five people in Pennsylvania know who Bishop Joseph Sullivan was.  But he truly was a giant in the world of social service and social advocacy for the Catholic Church in the United States.

Bishop Sullivan, 83, died on June 10 in his native Brooklyn, New York, where he was a priest and bishop for 57 years.  He was appointed to serve in Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Brooklyn three years after his ordination to the priesthood in 1956.  Within ten years he had earned two degrees (M.B.A. and M.S.W.) and served as the agency's executive director for another twelve years.  He expanded the services of his diocesan Catholic Charities until it had over 160 departments.   In 1980, he was ordained a bishop, along with fellow Brooklyn priests Rene Valero and Anthony Bevilacqua (later Bishop of Pittsburgh and Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia).  

As a bishop he was the episcopal liaison for Catholic Charities USA for the next two decades.  The list of boards, committees, hospital corporations, and task forces he served on are too numerous to mention.

Mostly forgotten in the dustbin of American Catholic history today is that then Father Joe Sullivan chaired the committee "Toward a Renewed Catholic Charities Movement" in 1970-71.  This report, known within the Catholic Charities movement as "the Cadre Study," revolutionized how Catholic Charities would serve the poor in our country for two generations right down to today.  It was this study which developed the three-prong focus of:  offer direct quality social service to persons most in need;  work to humanize and transform society; and convene Catholics, other Christians and all people of good will to understand their role in serving human dignity.  Catholic Charities had always served the poor, beginning in our country  in 1727 with the Ursuline Sisters in New Orleans.  The cadre study called for professional excellence in this service.

But it went far beyond, calling the church to engage and transform society, and to work with all people of good will in that effort.  Bishop Sullivan carried that effort locally, nationally and internationally.  As current Brooklyn ordinary, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (a social worker himself), said, "Bishop Joe Sullivan epitomized the best of our Church's teaching and the fundamental option for the poor.  He was an outstanding priest."  

I met Joe when I served as diocesan secretary for social concerns and attended the national meetings of Catholic Charities.  He was a New Yorker to the core--from his accent, to his energy, his street smarts and ecclesial insights, to his ability to work a room and engage people, to his articulate advocacy to the social teachings of our church.   He was also a realist, and knew how to work within the systems to get the most out of them.  It was his honesty about what the church could do, and did not do, which probably prevented him from becoming a diocesan bishop.  But in true fashion, he did what he could and left others to worry about position or prestige.

After I stopped attending the Catholic Charities conventions, I lost touch with him.  I wonder how he viewed the past decade of our nation's Catholic history.  With its clerical abuse scandals, decline in public engagement (except on the issue of abortion), and national decline in care for the immigrants, homeless, and indigent.  I suspect that the fire which burned within Bishop Joe Sullivan to serve the poor would say, never back down from doing what Jesus called us to do, the parable of Matthew 25. 

May you rest in peace and be welcomed by all the needy and poor you helped on earth into the realms of heaven, Joseph Sullivan.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Father Andrew Greeley, R.I.P.

I never met Father Andrew Greeley--Chicago priest, sociologist, public intellectual, best-selling novelist, Catholic gadfly, Irish storyteller.  I wish I had.  Just about anybody who was anybody in the Catholic Church over the past 50 years did--and each had an opinion on him. 

Father Greeley died May 29, at the age of 85.  Four years ago he was getting out of a cab in Chicago, his topcoat caught in the door, he fell and hit his head.  New reports said he survived the fall and subsequent surgery, but with some brain injury, from which he never really recovered.  

My recollections of him are reading his books, scholarly articles, and newspaper columns, and gobbling the interviews he gave to other media.  

I first encountered him in my freshman year of college seminary in the 1972 document commissioned by the American bishops, The Catholic Priest in the U.S.:  Sociological Investigations.    It was my first foray into the world of sociology, and it was fascinating to me, especially as I was discerning a vocation to be one of that group which Greeley and his companions researched.  He got a couple of other books out of that research too.  This led me to an earlier book, Uncertain Trumpet:  The Priest in Modern America.  Later works I gobbled up included The American Catholic: A Social Portrait, Religion: A Secular Theory, and Unsecular Man.  

In Greeley's works I encountered that huge, and still debated, dichotomy of secular society vs. religious society.  I was hard put to understand (at the time) his landing on the "secular" side of things.  But I came to agree with his perspective.  I still remember his very short definition of religion:  "man's [sic] propensity to hope."  But what he said about religion in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, resonated with me and my experiences, personal and ecclesial.

Greeley's unabashed embrace of the Second Vatican Council as a positive work of the Holy Spirit began to permeate my thinking.  He welcomed the liturgy in the vernacular (while disparaging the liberal priests who wanted to throw out all the "religious symbolism" of vestment, ritual, and heritage).  He advocated greater resources to preserve Catholic schools (when the religious women were leaving educational ministry in droves, and when the public school lobbies were ignoring the students' high test scores and off-the-charts college graduation rates).  He made fun of the liberal social workers and advocates of liberation theology, while contending that Catholic education was far more effective in alleviating poverty.  He made fun of the conservatives who thought the Catholic Church was going to hell in a very speedy handbasket.  Greeley was neither left nor right, but -- ha!ha! -- in his own mind always right.

Through his friendship with Chicago philosopher and priest David Tracy, and his primary optic of  "the analogical imagination," he produced The Catholic Myth.  His critics said it was over the head of most Catholics.  So he watered down the language (but not the theology) and produced The Great Mysteries: Experiencing Catholic Faith from the Inside Out.  I still think these two books can contribute to any adult Catholic's understanding of the faith.   

I drifted away from his sociology, but like so many others was taken up with his first novel to hit it big, The Cardinal Sins.  I gobbled up many of his early novels, and later the Blackie Ryan mysteries.  I can still remember one night while I was serving at St. Pius V Parish in McKeesport, going to bed with some Andrew Greeley novel (I read every night before I fall asleep).  At 5:30 a.m. I finished it, listening to the birds stirring outside my window and seeing the first pre-dawn light.  "Damn you, Andrew Greeley, you did it again!  I lost another night's sleep to your stories!"  

He was not much of a stylist, even pedantic and pedestrian in his language, but his plots of church life, steamy romances between husband and wife, unseemly affairs going on in the chanceries and Vatican, were imagination grabbers.  These dozens and dozens of novels gave rise to the humorous insight that "Andrew Greeley has never had an unpublished thought--or sexual fantasy!"

When I read his autobiography, Confessions of a Parish Priest, what I had been thinking became clear to me.  Just as a son who is continually put down by a verbally abusive father grows up to want to be the same father, Greeley the priest wanted desperately to be named a bishop, even though at every turn he did his best to point out all the stupidities, faults and sins of contemporary bishops (with the singular exception of Cardinal Joe Bernadin, his friend).  Talk about a love-hate relationship. 

It was the same way with his Irish heritage.  He embraced it fully, but only from the American context.  I have to admit that his excessive and continual emphasis on his Irish heritage left me cold.  As the son of parents of Eastern European stock, I could not relate to "the troubles," the drinking, "lace curtain  vs. pig-shit" Irish divisions, or the obvious historical fact of Irish domination of the American Catholic hierarchy for 150 years.  

But in the end I admired Andrew Greeley for going his own way, using his energy, intelligence, and imagination to serve the church, this Chicago parish priest who was ordained the same year I was born, who loved the priesthood and loved priests.

May you rest in peace, Father Greeley, among all the angels and saints from Ireland and every other land in the very loving Mystery of God.  

New members of the Communion of Saints

When I pray the rosary, at the end I usually add on my own personal listing of favorite saints, and holy men and women  whose lives I admire.  I don't remember where I got the idea, but it is greatly consoling to bring these holy and loving saints to mind.

My listing of saints:  Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Cosmas & Damian, Joseph the Worker, Ambrose, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Juan Diego, John Vianney, Therese of Lisieux, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seat of Wisdom, Queen of Peace.

My listing of holy women and men:  Blessed Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, Bishop Francis Baraga, Bishop Vincent Leonard, Msgr. Jack McCarren, Msgr. Phil Murnion, Msgr. Jack Egan, Fathers Donald Voelker, Joseph Henry, Raymond Brown, J. Berchmans Lanahan, Francis Seelos, Jack Price, Frank Sokol, Karl Rahner, Sister Marge Berry, and Dorothy Day.

(I know, I know, the second group is very clerical and has few -- one! -- laywoman and one woman religious.  I'm working on it.)

Over the past several weeks, three clerics died, whom I think I will have to include in my list:  Father Andrew M. Greeley, Bishop Joseph Sullivan, and Bishop Anthony Bosco. 

I'll do a posting on some personal reflections on each one.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Marriage and Matrimony

The other day the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings which will affect our country for generations to come.  One was to identify a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and the other was to choose not to rule on the question of same-sex marriage in California.  On the one hand, the court did not take the obvious step, and order the federal government to redefine marriage as the union between two persons, not a man and a woman.  It left this decision to the states.  But 12 (at last count) states have already done this--redefined marriage as the union of two persons, not of a man and a woman.  The battles are already shaping up for legislatures in many other states to repeat this re-definition.  Surely more states will be added to the list.

In private conversations among friends and priests, I have held the view for years that the way out of this dilemma is for states to keep marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but to create civil unions to allow two men or two women to have the same civil legal rights as married people do.  That is, rights involving inheritance, taxation, health decisions, etc.  For a while I thought this argument was going to win the day.  This preserved our country's (and our Christian faith's) commitment to seeing marriage (between one man and one woman) as a social good, yet permit those homosexually oriented persons who wished to have some kind of permanent bond to do so.  Their unions would come out from the shadows into civil law.

But voices advocating for so-called gay marriage argued, civil unions are "separate but equal," with all the opprobrium that this distasteful and terrible phrase from our racist past carries.  This argument, civil unions are separate but equal, doomed marriage to be redefined.  The voices for gay marriage said, rather, the issue is equality.  This was noted by no less than His Eminence, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on June 28.  He wrote:

Some have framed this debate in terms of "equality."  That rings with a certain American appeal.  Everyone wants to be treated equally, with the love and respect due all people.  But focusing on "marriage equality" gets the question wrong.  Equality requires treating like cases alike.  We need to determine whether we have "like cases" at all.  If we want to address the principle of equality correctly, we need to get to the truth of marriage first.

Cardinal Wuerl then goes on to offer the traditional definition of marriage.  He concludes firmly:

No matter what a court, legislator, president or voter may claim to the contrary  the essence of marriage cannot be redefined.  Its meaning is intrinsic, grounded in human nature and discoverable by human reason with or without the aid of faith.

This is the traditional Catholic understanding and teaching about marriage.  Cardinal Wuerl explains its Thomistic logic, with his usual clarity of expression.  I agree 100% with this teaching, as the Catholic Church has taught it for centuries.

And the United States courts, legislatures, and people aren't buying it.  "Equality" will win the day, every day, in our country.  "Separate but equal" --in matters of race, gender, or now marriage--is dead and never to be accepted again.  Those who stand for the traditional definition of marriage, whether Catholic, Christian, people of another faith or no faith, are forced to live with the reality that marriage now, and will, mean any state-sanctioned union between two persons.

You can see this change in the definition of the word marriage in dictionaries. defines marriage as

1. a legally, religiously or socially sanctioned union of persons who commit to one another, forming a familial and economic bond; 
a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitment, religious ceremonies.
b. a similar institution involving partners of the same gender.

The online American Heritage dictionary is similar

1a. the legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife, and in some jurisdictions, between two persons of the same sex usually entailing legal obligations of each person to the other; 
1b. a similar union of more than two persons;
1c. a union between persons that is recognized by custom or religious tradition as a marriage; 
1d. a common law marriage.

Note that in the first, the union is of "persons," and only in the second line is "man and woman" spelled out, as one among several options for the persons.   The second definition has "man and woman" first, but also "between two persons of the same sex."  It is interesting that the American Heritage definition also has "similar union of more than two persons," e.g., polygamy or polyandry.  

I pulled out my two ancient American Heritage (real book) dictionaries off my bookshelf, to look up their definitions of marriage.  The 1981 edition has this definition of marriage:

1a. The state of being husband and wife; wedlock.
1b. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
2. The act of marrying or the ceremony of being married; a wedding.

The 1993 third edition of the American Heritage dictionary reads:

1.a. The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
1.b. Wedlock.
1.c. A wedding.

Note in both definitions it is explicit that marriage is between a husband (man) and a wife (woman).  Same-sex marriage (two persons) and polygamy (more than two persons) as other meanings had not crept into the dictionaries.  Between 1993 and 2013 they did.

Which brings me to my one thought.  In the 1981 American Heritage dictionary, there is a wonderful add-on to the stated definition of marriage, synonyms.  This is the authors's attempt to help the reader in being precise about words that are close, but not exactly the same, in meaning.  Here it lists:  marriage, matrimony, wedlock, wedding, nuptials.  To distinguish, matrimony "applies to the state of being married, with emphasis on its religious nature."

Given the redefinition of marriage now going on in the courts, the legislatures, and our American culture, I think it is time for us Catholics to reclaim the word matrimony.  The American bishops, among many voices, have for years tried to say, You can't redefine marriage.  It is, as the archbishop of Washington said, intrinsic to the meaning that the word can only apply to one man and one woman.  But that ship sailed.  Marriage is redefined, in law and in common parlance.  Marriage is no longer the word used to precisely and clearly refer to one of the seven sacraments.   Let us use matrimony to mean (as the 1983 Code of Canon Law states) this definition.

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.  (Canon 1055, #1)

It is interesting that the Latin word translated marriage or matrimony (as best I can see, interchangeably  in the Code of Canon Law) is matrimonium.  I have to admit, over the years I have never liked the word matrimony.  To me it had a stuffy, snooty, Episcopalian ring to it, denoting only the most "high-church" ceremonies conducted for royals, with the most lavish of party afterwards.  As a Catholic priest, I've been privileged to witness the vows of couples in cathedrals and other large churches, but also in small chapels and with the least amount of ceremony.   All were loving expressions of the same sacrament of marriage.  

But I have changed my mind.  From now on, I will be using matrimony when describing the Catholic sacrament, and marriage for any union of any persons.

As I was preparing this blog post, I came across this response to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions mentioned at the top.

It is becoming increasingly and abundantly clear that what secular law now calls 'marriage' has no semblance to the sacred institution of Holy Matrimony.  People of faith are called to reject the redefinition of marriage and bear witness to the truth of Holy Matrimony as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between one man and one woman.

This is from Bishop Thomas Paprocki, head of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.   I couldn't have said it better myself.

Return to the world of blogging

It has been seven days since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in Boston, with the ridiculous and fabulous come-from-behind victory of two goals in 17 seconds, in the final 1:17 of game 6, which I saw with my own two eyes in the comfort of my living room, and yet still can hardly believe.

Of course, as the few of you who follow this wandering blog know, two months ago I predicted that our flightless birds, the Pittsburgh Penguins, would be the ones to win 16 games in two months and hoist the 35 pound cup.  It didn't happen.  We only got to eight wins, derailed and defensed by the Bruins in four very frustrating games.  Boston went on to the finals, to face Chicago.  For the first three games, it looked like the Bruins defense was doing to the Hawks what they did the the Penguins.  But the Hawks rallied, attacked the great and tall defenseman Zdeno Chara, won the final three games as their offence (the equal of Pittsburgh's) woke up, and persevered to win it all.

Our stars, Crosby and Malkin and Letang and the backup goalie Vokoun and rentals Iginla and Morrow, didn't come through, our coaches didn't make the adjustments, and we only scored two goals in more than 12 periods of play.

What a disappointment.

And so we are left with the memories of a great season, finishing second in points in the entire league, winning the Atlantic Division, going the entire month of March without losing--so close, and yet so far.

The ceremony of the handshake at the end of each round is one of the great things about NHL playoffs, and in all professional sports.  How hard it must be to be a sportsman, especially if you are the loser.

I think I had a dose of depression after the Penguins' loss. It brought back another memory.  In 1995, when the Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX (with woebegone Neil O'Donnell's two unexplainable interceptions), I was depressed for a week.  Probably longer than most of the players, and coach Bill Cowher. 

My wise teacher from Duquesne University put my feelings into perspective, when I shared my disappointment days after the conference finals.  He said, the reason I felt so bad is because there was so little riding on the outcome.  It is easy, as a fan, to invest yourself heavily in the results of your favorite sports team, because in the end it does not affect your life.  If it did, you would not dare to invest yourself so deeply.

So, after an absence of two months, I'm back to blogging, back to life, back to allowing myself not to be hurt by any professional team.  (Yes, I'm talking to you, our 2013 amazing Pittsburgh Pirates.  I almost never thought I'd hear the sentence, "The Pirates have the best record in major league baseball," in my lifetime.  But the All-Star game is still two weeks off.)

And I hope the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2014.