Ordination Registry: like a wedding registry, but for Catholic Priests

During my immediate preparation for Ordination 5 years ago, Many priests told me to discourage gifts of Rosaries and Crucifixes. Some priests were considerate by gifting a useful Ritual Item from the Church Supply Store. However, many Catholics are understandably clueless on what sort of useful gifts to give priests, or where to find them.

So I steered people in the direction of Restaurant Gift Cards. I received a Gift Certificate to a local Church supply store from a leader in one of our parishes. I attempted to purchase useful items for priestly ministry. One person wanted to purchase a Chasuble, but relented upon discovering the average pricetag of $500+. Another person desired I have a Travel Mass kit, but was shocked to find them upwards of $600.

In 2013, I used Amazon to only purchase text books, Blu Ray movies or electronic supplies. It would not have occured to me to search Amazon for Clergy or Church supplies. In my quest to construct a Travel Mass kit, I scoured the internet, and shocked to find so much available on Amazon. It was no surprise to find Ritual Books, but to find Holy Water Sprinklers, Chasubles, Stoles, Holy Oil Stocks, and even Statues was a novelty. I realized that I could have created an Amazon wishlist like an Ordination Registry. Often, these items are third-party vendors, that are able to sell merchandise through Amazon, so you may actually be supporting small Christian business throughout the country.

Within a year of my ordination, I created a Wishlist that would include some of these items. I also received a donation to create my own custom Travel Mass Kit, merely by assembling it piece by piece by Amazon. Generous donors would receive a private Mass offered for their intentions.

Only recently had I noticed Idea Lists on Amazon, that is a list for sharing rather than wishing. I created one as a Sample Ordination Registry for Seminarians and young clergy on Amazon. They could use it as something to send out to family and friends. I also created it with the lay faithful in mind. Some might have a friend in the seminary, or are always wondering what is a useful gift to give their pastor. In glancing at this Idea List for an Ordination Registry, I thought a few things could use further explanation.

Click Here to View the Ordination Idea List on Amazon

Chalice & Paten; Priestly Vestments

There is an ancient tradition, that the parents gift a Chalice & Paten upon the Ordination of their son. Although, every parish likely owns a set, the Priest may prefer his set, or may use it for his private Masses. Several months before my ordination, My father and I visited a large Church supply store to make a special order. Unless you are immediately related to him, I would discourage this purchase.

The same might go for priestly vestments. There is no similar tradition regarding Priestly vestments. Because of formation they would probably have an Alb (White Inner Robe). If they are looking for a Chasuble (Colored Outer Robe), you should purchase this in consultation. Their assigned parish may have a large supply of old vestments. If you are happy to spend over $100, look no further. Most people will want to look at other items on this list.

Catholic Art

Despite our nuptial theology of the priesthood, the priest’s daily personal life is still that of an unmarried man living in a bachelor pad. Catholic Artwork, Framed Prints, Icons, Statues and other similar items may help keep his space from looking a tattered mess. On a more profound level art attunes the soul to the presence of God in daily life, particularly through the Saints. Catholic Art reminds us that God is near. They may like to have a personal prayer space, including Icons, a crucifix, a Nativity scene.

It may incredibly thoughtful of you to find non-religious artwork. I swear I have been in many priest’s personal spaces, and all the walls are blank. If you know the Priest or Seminarian well, you might have a sense of what they will like. They may dislike cluttered rooms of heavy ostentatious artwork. I avoided this for my Registry List, but thought it worth mentioning.

Holy Water, Holy Oil & Communion

The Ritual for Anointing of the Sick can include the Sprinkling with Holy Water or Giving Communion. It must including Anointing them with the Oil of the Sick. ‘Last Rites,’ or the Commendation of the Dying usually includes Sprinkling & Communion, but doesn’t include Anointing. Particularly when visiting others a portable stole and small Ritual Book is essential.

For the Ritual of the Final Commendation at the Grave Site, the priest would need a special ritual book, but also a Holy Water Sprinkler (especially at a non-Catholic Cemetery). The Church Sacristy should have all the ritual books, yet an Associate Priest may need an additional copy for a day with multiple Funerals and Services.

In proximity of a Major Metropolitan Hospital, I take Sick Calls multiple times a week. Many people request Anointing of the Sick prior to Operations or Procedures. When I go, it helps the hospital staff to identify my car when I have to park in the short term parking outside the emergency room. I often have to run in and out of hospital rooms, with Sick Call items conveniently at my disposal. During my time as a campus minister, these rituals were so rare, that I made time to prepare. Preparation is a luxury many new priests will not have, so having the items together is a great help.

Ritual Books

As the Associate Pastor will typically be his first assignment, he will be involved in a variety of Rituals in the Parish. The Parish Sacristy should have all the Ritual Books. For his proximate preparation, he may need a personal copy in his office. However, during his time in the Seminary, he may have acquired some ritual books.

The Pastor will assign him a funeral soon after his ordination. The Funeral usually includes three parts: 1) Vigil, commonly with a Rosary, 2) Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy of the Word, 3) Final Commendation at the Grave. The new priest will probably preside at all three. Many Catholics never attend their parish, will call the Vigil Rosary ‘Mass,’ will fling the kids up to do all the Readings at the Funeral Liturgy. If Catholics, who regularly don’t attend Mass were defensive enough around religion, the funeral only makes them in desperate need of guidance and pastoral care. The least you can do to support your priest is make sure he has a Book or Holy Water Sprinkler.

The Marriage Ritual Book includes a ritual for blessing a couple on an Anniversary. This might be useful for a formal Blessing at an Anniversary celebration held outside of the Church.

Sometimes Other Rituals & Blessings will need to be included within a Sunday Mass. The Pastor may feel comfortable winging it, and making up prayers on the fly. As a young priest, I hated this. Since there were Ritual Prayers & Blessings available, I would defer to these. I often found the Ritual Books too massive. Having them when necessary, printed and copied in a ceremonial binder was my preference.

Being Organized & Having a Personal Life

Having been in a boys high school, and having lived with men in community, I know even good men are not organized or tidy. Young men do not immediately acquire items to assist them in organizing. The parish secretary might keep notepads, pens, tacs, folders, sticky notes, and other handy office supplies. There may even be a staff or volunteer cleaner. What they won’t do is organize a priest’s desktop. The pastor isn’t going to help the new priest with this, but will expect him to be on top of things. Although the Sacramental Life of the priest may be enlivening, the crucial office work may not be as exciting. I think that planners, small office boards, and desktop organizers are essential to helping me stay on top of things, prioritize, and remind myself of the plethora of menial tasks. I even included Priest collar tabs, because in the messiness of our life, being a guy, these things always disappear.

I needed a personal tool kit, to assemble furniture or hang pictures. Our basement, like many parishes, had a disheveled tool cabinet. Since my brother had some construction experience, I requested a birthday present of a personal tool kit. He said he could get one at Target. Your priest friend won’t be doing major repairs, but he shouldn’t have to call a repair man to assemble furniture or hang pictures.

I have included other things that will be more beneficial to a priest on a personal and spiritual level. A portable bible for instance. I keep a New Testament & Psalms in the Confessional, as well for Confessions or Counseling at Retreats. A Journal or planner with stuff from our Catholic Tradition is a bonus. A set of thank you cards will leave him without an excuse to thank people. A shoulder bag will remind him that the faithful expect him to take care of himself by going to the gym or getting away on his day off.

Treating your priest to Restaurants & Membership Passes

For one year, as I was assigned to a small town parish, there were plenty of welcoming people around. They frequently gifted cakes, pastries, sweets, and deserts. Consumables are always wonderful for anyone. However, As many parish priests get swept up in the demands of ministry, they neglect their health. Someone might stop at the grocery store on their drive from work, the priest doesn’t drive home from work. If people swarm his kitchen with unhealthy food, he may end up subsisting on coffee and junk food because he’s too busy to get fresh food. The priest may have too many evening meetings for you to take him out for dinner. A gift card to a restaurant is always appreciated. It allows him to use it at his convenience. If he lives far away, this sort of gift card may be the best option.

An Annual Membership Pass to a museum or Botanical Garden might help him break the routine. A new priest will probably be in survival mode. Trying to get to know everyone, make a good impression, prepare homilies, drop everything to for someone in a crisis… His day off suddenly blindsides him, and he will do nothing but sleep in, bum around, and watch the game. When a married father is challenged to be creative in entertaining his wife and kids. He may even find amusement in these sorts of family outings. The priest is often not challenged to be creative with leisure time and will settle for doing nothing. Get him to a museum or a beautiful garden. Let him experience some culture, and set him up for a show. Who knows his local art museum may have some nice Catholic Art.

Housewares

Since most Wedding Registries consist primarily of Housewares, A few things should be said about this. Since a new priest will most likely be assigned as Associate Pastor, he will certainly arrive in an Apartment and Office that is nearly fully furnished. There is a possibility that the kitchen is fully stocked, and a part time cook prepares meals. There is something heartfelt about donating a waffle iron to a new couple, therefore, every time they have waffles, they will think of you. I would personally discourage these sorts of gifts for a new priest. If he does not already regularly make waffles, he probably won’t start during this new transition.

Since I moved into a religious community, Housewares were perhaps the most irrelevant thing. My only purchase during this time was bed linens and towels. It would therefore be helpful if you were to gift linens, or a card for Bed Bath & Beyond or Target.

Asking the priest what they want

I can guarantee, that if you want to give a priest a gift of what they want, they will have no answer for you. The fact that you want to express your appreciation will warm their heart. They also may have difficulty in receiving, not wanting to come across as too greedy.

If, however, you were to be more specific, you might narrow it down. For instance, “Father, or soon-to-be-Father, I was thinking of gifting you a Marriage Ritual, but wanted to know if you needed the bilingual edition or the english edition. (Wondering if they will be doing ministry in a hispanic setting).” Another instance, “Father, I found these reasonably inexpensive vestments, and was trying to decide between one of two to give as a gift for you.” You should make them choose between two or three specific things. This means that they can’t default to humility and decline, while wanting to choose the more useful of the two. Apply this scenario to buying a sweater, a gift card, or anything else described above.

As a conclusion, I have already acquired almost everything on this list, or some variation of each item. This wishlist is not for me, but for seminarians planning their ordination, and people looking for a gift for their favorite priest. I am currently preparing a similar idea list for those entering Religious Life (or perhaps making vows), that I plan on releasing in the early summer.

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Spring 2018 update

For all my family and friends that have been praying for me, sincerest thanks. I ask that you may continue to pray for me. I thought about posting a lengthier update here, as some of you may have been redirected from an email. I thought it worth being more comprehensive here.

  1. I will stop blogging this summer. I have seen this go nowhere, and don’t see much of a future for it. Looking at site traffic, I know that few of my most loving and supportive friends actually look at this page. Since I moving from tumblr, I have no evidence of anybody positively effected by this blog. Also, people that I encounter in ministry show no interest in reading. I have a handful of drafts in my queue that will be posted over the next few months. Because I have seen this go nowhere, I am not expecting a game-changer, I just would rather get them out of my draft box.
  2. I am posting memes on my twitter and facebook. However, this is a short term gig. I will probably stop posting by the end of the summer, unless I see a reason to keep posting regularly. Some of this is a burst of creative expression with original content. Just like every other form of expression, it does me a lot more than anybody else. I am not getting much, if any, traffic or feedback.
  3. What I really need help praying for. I am aiming to create a part time preaching ministry. It seems to be the only thing I do that God moves hearts. Right now I am stuck in an odd place. The province has no assignment for me (None of our parishes have openings, and I cannot be an associate pastor in a parish where there is no Augustinian). I need to be available part time for the parish, and need to find gigs to supplement our community income. When our Order began, there were typically a community of friars living together around a public chapel, where they publicly prayed the Liturgy in Common. Many of the friars would go around and preach. I aim to do this in three ways: 1) filling in at Catholic High Schools, 2) leading parish retreats (or parish “missions”) at local parishes, and 3) filling in for priests when they are absent, which may involve their youth ministry events. Because I do not have enough of a reputation, I need your help in praying for people to give me an opportunity.
  4. As far as rapping & hip hop, nothing for now. I have said a lot about this previously here. I sometimes think that it will make it easier to get people’s attentions, or to get gigs, but my experience is, much like blogging, much like all other digital ministry, over the past 8 years I have not found God moving in this ministry. I have only found it be a parlor trick.

Being assigned to Los Angeles seems to be a good fit for my Augustinian Community (being the community of four priests, including me). I am only 34, the next youngest priest is closer to 60, and the remaining are 75 or older. I am not helping frail elderly people get around, but I am instrumental in facilitating a genuine community life. Whether that means getting our bachelor pad a little more organized, preparing meals, or suggesting new ideas for common life. Since most people don’t realize how significant this is for an Augustinian, it can be glossed over, and somewhat difficult to explain. With little else to recognize, my Augustinian Community benefits from me being here.

 

 

If I were married, I would have a sad, lonely, unhappy wife: A reflection on priestly celibacy.

Over the next few weeks, I have numerous posts about the priesthood. This is perhaps the most difficult one, and it has been challenging to post it. It has waited among my drafts for over a year. The following posts won’t be as difficult. Take this as a warning.

I was ordained in June of 2013. In a hypothetical scenario, were I not ordained, but married a woman at that time, would perhaps present a case for priestly celibacy. Let us imagine that every other aspect of my life mirrored my life save the priesthood.

My position of campus ministry is not specifically a priest position. I manage a budget. I book retreats and event centers. I book catering. I train student leaders for retreats. I manage programs, resources, supplies. I say mass at these retreats. Except for a Mass at a retreat, there was literally nothing about my actual job description that required a priest (Saying Mass at a retreat is not in this description, I could book a priest). I am held accountable by well qualified lay people who run the school.

For the sake of this reflection: I finish grad school, move across the country to San Diego, get married, and begin the same campus ministry job. My mom is deceased. My dad lives ~130 mi North in Los Angeles. My younger brother eventually get’s engaged. My sister is an artist, student, bartender and waitress. Instead of saying Mass in local parishes, I find a local parish to get involved in (helping youth ministry, lectoring etc). All normal things for a 30 year old to do after being hired as a full time 9-5 minister in a school.

My first school year goes somewhat well. I am held closely accountable with a great amount of practical support from numerous colleagues. Occasionally, I have 10 hr days. I have over a dozen overnights away from home. I typically feel unsatisfied with my job, yet have many new ideas for improvement. I have new teacher blues: no lesson plans, too much grading, uncooperative students, needing years of experience to earn respect, being an outsider.

In real life, I never finished sending out thank you cards for my ordination. I moved out, planned a big ceremony, and immediately traveled around the world to Rio 2013 World Youth Day. Were I to conjecture this episode, I would spend months moving in, and not attending Rio 2013 (The Order sent me. Neither the Order or the school would have sponsored a brand new staffmember). My poor wife would take the lead on sending out thank you cards, as I am still transitioning from moving and taking a new job.

A 20-something new wife would be uncharacteristically patient, perhaps on an emotional honeymoon. She would reason excuses for her tired overworked husband who ministers at an all boys school, with a campus ministry team made up entirely of men. It is not uncommon for women to put up with a husband’s work-load this early in the marriage. Like any normal woman, she could stretch this to a point. I would leave for work before 7am, return between 4p-5p. Spend a few hours grading, organizing files etc, want to veg in front of  a tv screen, and soon crash. On a good day, I would be so overwhelmed from all the sensory stimulation and socializing I couldn’t even talk. In my first year, I went to bed at 9am, then woke up at 5am.

I ended the first year looking forward to a greater degree of control. I knew that I was to be held accountable and expected to improve. That goes with any professional career. I was only successful in surviving, not in thriving. The most exciting thing about the beginning of my second year would be to put the new ideas into effect. Perhaps some of this cheer and summer availability would bring a second wind to my marriage.

I would find myself immediately challenged in my second year. After 14 months in San Diego, I still had not settled in. The old priest’s in my community were not interested in meddling with my possessions. A wife would have had some ownership, but perhaps found it difficult to deal with my inability to smooth everything out. The rubber meets the road, the free ride of feelings screeches to slow down for the expectations of life.

In September, two days before my birthday, my dad is brought to the hospital. He remains in and out, near coma for almost a month. After two weeks of trips to LA, I discover that my dad has West Nile Virus. He will need a feeding tube. He will need a few months of rehab. It is possible that he may never fully recover. I cancel several of my scheduled commitments at a local parish. I cancel my birthday plans. The staff at my school is reasonably frustrated that a lackluster employee is 130 miles from his office, unable to get his job done.

The next month and a half does not see my dad return to normal. My newly engaged brother gets stuck with my dad, as I have no more time away from work to get help my dad with this ongoing crisis. I cancelled all weekend volunteering over the next month, in this scenario, I cancel all commitments outside of my job. Everyone sickly imagines that my bedridden feeding tube, medicine wired dad is magically going to return to normal while I frantically catch up on my workload. No substitute is available. If I am not there, the retreats cannot happen.

Perhaps this unpleasant birthday might rally my wife behind me. I did receive a lot of support from the friars. They weren’t the one’s disappointed in my job performance. Eventually my brothers asked about my dad, without asking about me. The hope of my dad’s recovery diminished each day. I suppose my wife might have been more perceptive to my feelings. She would have had to put up with me, yet again, having ten hr days at work, an inability to contribute around the house, weekend trips to Los Angeles, returning every time more beat up than the year before. She would watch my absence, as I was too psychologically exhausted to give her attention. The support I received from the friars did not leave them feeling rejected. I imagine it would take a greater toll on her. This absence might mirror the local Priest who could no longer book me for any Masses. I could not take a weekday off, as the school did not require me on the weekends. All my parish commitments get cancelled. Perhaps my wife would see that I was not the cause of her loneliness, but it would take a toll on her during this second year of my job.

My spring and summer would be consumed with cleaning and selling my dad’s house in Los Angeles, moving him to an assisted living facility, organizing his possessions, trying to find rehab after insurance gave up on him. I finished my year, as all my colleagues convinced that my dad’s situation settled quickly after it began, and believed every flaw in my job was not connected to my dad loosing everything overnight. Perhaps they would be more frustrated, that I was the only second year male teacher at an all boy’s school that couldn’t coach sports. I had less and less to offer the school, and I don’t know that this current situation can sustain itself at work, let alone motivate me to want to continue. Would the school even want me to continue?

Everything in my life was precarious, who is to say that my wife would even want to stay with me? I would certainly sympathize with her. Concretely, being married to me would not be of benefit to her. Catholic marriage is about more than personal benefit. It would be a lot of work for her for three years, only for things to spiral downward for her husband and his family.

Things improved much my third year, but I still felt that I needed more concrete support than I received. I still had to cease doing weekend ministry in parishes, in this case, I could not take any commitment outside of my job description. Now, in my third year of ordination, I was receiving more pleas from parishes in need of priestly support. I repeatedly said no. My dad was still stuck in wheelchair in LA, asking me daily about my next visit. Sometimes I had to say no, so I could get some sleep after chasing insomniac kids at a retreat, after waking up at 5am regularly to setup for other retreats. I was saying no to the parishes, I was saying no to my dad, I probably would have been saying no to my wife when she asked for a favor. My Campus Ministry intern was doing a spectacular job. My colleagues were probably not thrilled about my lack of involvement. However, My Campus Ministry student leaders were willing to do a lot more work, and probably had a lot more respect for me than the previous two classes.

The obliviousness, however, continued. During Christmas and Summer, all my colleagues would ask me if I was going “home?” For one, just because I am not married doesn’t mean that I am a college student who needs to spend weeks at a parent’s house for Christmas, and secondly, My parent lived in a facility. No such idyllic “home” existed.

I do not know the situation in a parish. When my mother was sick, I found the parish rally behind me. However, as I learned being a priest in a school, that many people cannot conceive of a priest having anything less than a perfect personal life. What is the new priest supposed to do? Take a leave, as rumors of crimes and scandals abound? West Nile Virus is rarer than scandals in this church.

Perhaps the wife of this reflection becomes a sad and lonely woman who has to dig deep for a reason to stay with this husband of hers. Disappointment. She would be much better off without him. Three years of her life tied down to a man that was incapable of offering anything to her.

Perhaps this should give us something to think about when we see a priest leave in their first five years. A new employee out of his depth is not disimilar. There are plenty of workoholic men, who learned to sell out the risk of being vulnerable and affectionate at home, and letting the demands of work consume them. Divorce is rampant in our western consumer culture, so why is a sad, unhappy lonely marriage a bad analogy for a new priest’s ministry?

When I try to use the image of marriage for my first three years of priesthood, I find it circle right back to celibacy. Many lay people, who are not called to celibacy, often accept the priesthood simply as a marriage to the Church, or to God. They also accept religious life as marriage to Christ. I found that my marriage, from a purely legal perspective, was more of a marriage to the Order, rather than the Church, per se. Yet, even with all the similarities, there are so many differences. I lived with a group of men, I worked at a boys school, The image of Christ’s marriage to the Church was very unhelpful for me in my first few years of ordination. This image did not help me as a priest to love or serve the Church that I was ordained to serve. In fact, this image was more of an obstacle, and were I to stick with this image, the only place for me would be is divorce, and subsequently quitting the priesthood.

Perhaps the image of marriage bears more relevance to the assembly of the people of God in the Church. In this, they can expect service and support from their priest, but also realize that they have a responsibility of service to the Church alongside the priest. Perhaps there are other images that may inspire lay-persons to respond to God’s call to follow Jesus Christ in discipleship and service.

As I wrap up this reflection, I do not propose a full alternative to this overused nuptial image that I have found unhelpful. I realize that there may come a day when not-only protestant converts can be married and ordained, but the reality and challenges of ministry should allow us the thoughtfulness to look critically at proposals to dismiss celibacy. Although lay Catholics may be comfortable with the idea of a married priest, the practical reality would require every single priest’s wife to have the holiness and resolve of the Mother of God herself. Perhaps the major takeaway is the indispensability of priestly celibacy.

For those who do not read this blog, I have done plenty of personal updates elsewhere, like here, here, here, here, and here. My dad stabilized years ago, but can never live on his own again. My dad’s permanent condition, in addition to my place in the school effected my discernment to leave. I found sources of support, almost entirely outside of my ministry. That is what every young adult needs to learn. I found stories and images from Scripture and Tradition that motivated me. I dug into my past experiences of God’s work in my life to continue to inspire me. But this post is not about how I got through this, or had to get out of it. This post is about how naive it is to discredit celibacy amidst a divorce addicted culture.

Special Memories from my 4 years of ministry

When people ask me if I am going to miss the school, or my previous assignment, I wouldn’t immediately shout yes. It is not for dislike. I work in a high school. Every year is different. From year to year an entirely different group. Missing someone or something just wasn’t part of that experience.

However, there have been a number of memories, so I thought I would write in tribute. Out of respect for the privacy of my students, I will omit full names.

  1. In my first year, there was Joshua. He was a character, he took over a conversation, his charisma took over a room. His parents were really cool, and his super chill Hawaiian Dad told me never to go easy on Joshua. When I gave Joshua a detention, I actually imagined his dad giving me a round of applause! But this isn’t about Joshua, but his friend Bradley. Bradley was Joshua’s sidekick. He didn’t say as much, and somewhat agreed with Joshua. When we did the Living Stations of the Cross, Bradley stepped out of Joshua’s shadow so that he can play Jesus. Despite his loser goofball buddies chuckling during the Stations, Bradley was very prayerful.
  2. A teacher kept wondering what got into Aubrey. Why did he keep hanging out in the Campus Ministry Office. He didn’t have a filter, and got on people’s nerves. I was quippy enough to stay a few steps ahead of him. His younger brother struggled to find his place there. Had Aubrey not made such an impression on me, his younger brother Lane may have gone under the radar. Despite being very distinct personalities, I was impressed by their artistry and creativity. At the core of their lives, something special was happening, something that neither of them really put into words. It does amount to having students you wouldn’t expect being impacted by Campus Ministry.
  3. In my second year, Kevin, and many of his friends took over my office. Kevin had a way of snapping back at myself and the other campus ministers. This was always appreciated, as many young men in high school don’t get sarcasm. He advocated for himself to be a leader in campus ministry. Despite his overly biting humor around me, as a retreat leader, I watched him listen and lead with care & sensitivity that rare among the young men at the school. After graduation, he came back to lead some retreats as an alum.
  4. East San Diego has become one of the largest diasporas of Iraqi Christians, or Chaldeans. Over four years, the amount of Chaldean students drastically increased. I attended the large Chaldean Liturgy at St Peter’s in El Cajon numerous times. In my first year, a Chaldean junior, Arman, was on the fringes of the school. It is perhaps a common story, being from a tightly knit ethnic community, you might feel out of place in the larger American Culture. For whatever reason, selecting him to be involved as an alternate for a retreat actually helped him to start taking more steps to be involved around school. I was very moved by his faith. His freshmen brother would follow in his footsteps by comfortably being involved. However, Cameron, unlike Arman, was accompanied by some of his Chaldeans in his classmates who turned out to be the biggest group of comedians. Sometimes I hope that our Order is blessed one day to have a vocation from the Chaldean community.
  5. Kraussy-poo, as I jokingly called him, stood out during my first year as one of the daily announcers. I found him involved in his youth group, and his dad was in preparation for the diaconate. I took Krauss as a leader, I teased him for drinking chocolate milk, asking if he needed a straw to blow bubbles. While away at another retreat, I found him upon my retreat saying that he missed me calling him a loser. At another retreat, I turned around, my coat and sunglasses were missing, and I see him wearing my stuff, taking selfies. Happened a few times.
  6. I stepped away from my desk during lunch. I returned to find my whole computer moniter, keyboard, and speakers completely covered in sticky notes. George Thomas, this cackling little leprechaun of a man announces that he got me, laughing and running out of my office. I actually laughed out loud. But I also laughed knowing that he would remove it all if I asked. He did. Georgington was a very gifted creative musician. I never let his mischief get to me, and always found ways to make sure he felt like he was valued in campus ministry.
  7. On his way to his Junior year, Andrew started feeling like he could become a leader in Campus Ministry. He had a massive amount of school spirit, loved being at a Catholic School, and was always very helpful in motivating his teammates on the football field. Although he showed leadership across campus, he didn’t do much in Campus Ministry before his senior year. Starting the year, I was having a bit of difficulty getting a skit together from the students involved in drama. Andrew stayed up, and wrote something fun, easy enough to act out, and perfectly appropriate. As a result, I felt more confidence in letting him use the microphone to wake up the freshmen the next morning. He kept his upbeat vibe in our group, knew when to step up in leadership, knew when to step back in a supportive role. When I talked to the coaches, we usually laughed talking about him, because he was unbelievably positive and self-motivated.

I tried to capture some of the moments. There could be another 50 or more students that did a variety of little things that impacted other students in a variety of ways. I tried to capture some of the amusing moments, but also some of the special moments. Perhaps I could brag briefly to others, but couldn’t write here. Some things involve personal struggles of students, and how they overcame them, but I didn’t feel comfortable writing here. It is there story to share, not mine.

2017

20171222_224029.jpgand personal update

I haven’t posted regular updates, because there has not been much to update.

I say Masses at various parishes. I try cover Masses at different Catholic Schools (mostly girls schools), but there are so few and far between. I have had good experiences here and there. Perhaps me not being frantically busy all the time is a gift from God.

Over the past few years, much of my leisure has been dedicated to a few things: Catching up on sleep, Drinking Craft Beer, and taking care of my dad (which includes hours of sitting in traffic).

This year I made a trip to Denver as I suspected my time in San Diego would be coming to an end. I remember the sadness of knowing my hopes in SD would be unfulfilled. During my Easter vacation trip to Denver involved me being a tourist, eating delicious food, drinking beer, and of course visiting a museum & botanical garden. Over the summer I planned a trip to Minneapolis and visited Chicago, which included some more museums.

While I travelled I found books of poetry my companion. I let my perception carry itself away in gazes of wonder and delight. When my dad got West Nile Virus, lost his home, and independence, I also lost a lot too. I quit hip hop music, but more significantly my creative artistic expressive impulse died.

As much as some people can find athletics life-giving, being in an athletic heavy school didn’t help me find revivification. Although it is true that I may never make hip hop music again, and the creative impulse I had was gone, I think that I am finding a brand new one. I don’t have a hold on it, or enough of a grasp to say what it is.

I ask for your prayers for 2018. There is a lot of ideas I have for future ministries in the Church, that I cannot publicly post, but am in need of your prayers.

Is hypocrisy really worse than a moral vacuum? How valorizing the morally vacuous hurts people.

It took a week for the memorializing and eulogizing of infamous Playboy mag founder It's only creepy if he's poorHugh Heffner to be interrupted by another Entertainment mogul scandal.

On a personal note, I cannot write about Heffner unreferential to the gruesome monster lurking in my bedroom closet: The stack of decades old Playboy magazines perched out of the reach of my childish arms. As a 17 year old, trying to have some peace of mind, I demanded my dad remove his firehazard collection of Playboys from the closet in my bedroom. My childhood bedroom was the replacement to my dad’s mancave, one that was never properly transformed. When my dad agreed to let me dump every last one of them, my mom tearfully thanked me. Playboy caused me anguish, and likely caused my mom unimaginable pain as my dad listlessly kept them hidden away at home.

You could probably do a bit of your own research into the creepy dilapidated facade behind the glitz and glamour of the playboy mansion. Proceed to links with caution

Our culture likes to celebrate the openness that Heffner ushered, but is still shocked when another Entertainment Industry giant gets caught cashing in on Hefner’s revolution. According to Weinstein, the 60s & 70s helped him feel entitled toward this sort of behavior. It goes without saying that I am disgusted with Weinstein. I wouldn’t want to stop with him. Roman Polanski had his defenders, although I am happy to say Weinstein couldn’t get away so easy. Perhaps the entertainment industry need not moralize and wag fingers at Heffner’s moral legacy, but instead hang its head in disappointment.

Playboy, the sexual revolution, and the male entitlement are often referred to as separate things. Male Entitlement and Sexual Exploitation at the filthy hands of conservatives is often reveled, perhaps because of our self-righteous need to catch others in hypocrisy. But what about the Entitled Male that practices what they preach, is not a hypocrite, and damages many victims and sexually exploits the vulnerable? Putting aside the sort of loser that becomes desperate and puts aside their moral principals to take advantage of others, instead of seeking help in their dire need… What about the person that lacks any moral integrity or personal sympathy of others? We can simply classify them as a sociopath, without the freedom to make moral decisions.

This sort of rationalizing emboldened Weinstein, likely Polanski and Cosby as well. Apparently, Weinstein became in inside joke in the entertainment industry. Some of this could be attributed to the massive amount of influence that he had, much of it could also be attributed to sexual exploitation and predatory practices being a long standing problem. The problem may have been insurmountable or unsolvable if you are in the vulnerable position. Just watch this clip of 1988 Gwyneth Paltrow with David Letterman. If you know anything of what it is to be victimized or vulnerable, you can clearly see someone desperate to speak up, but unable to. Read her body language and awkward laughter. She isn’t afraid to talk about it now.

Now that Weinstein is crashing and burning, now that Bill Cosby (once endeared as America’s beloved sitcom dad Dr. Huxtable) has crashed and burned, who’s next? the 2014 Amy Berg documentary An Open Secret exposes a few stories of pedophilia in the entertainment industry. Backed by Elijah Wood, former child star Corey Feldman alleges that rampant Pedophilia. Here’s one clip of him arguing with Corey Haim about abuse they survived. Clips of Corey Feldman are not hard to find, and I spare you clips posted by conspiracy theory pages..

Respected High Profile celebrities have received honors, awards, and nominations for the past several decades, have now been found credible. Perhaps more accusations will be taken seriously. Perhaps more young entertainers will want to come forward. Perhaps more power movers in the Industry will disappear or go overseas.

But that is just my predictions. I think that the eulogizing of Hefner and fans of the male entitlement culture that he ushered in blind us to the moral cowardice of today’s moral vacuums.

I do want to avoid a few an overgeneralization here. I think a mistake to say that Hollywood is in on it. ‘Hollywood’ is finally comfortable renouncing a predator, and will much more likely renounce more predators. I don’t want to assign a moral value of evil to some abstract concept of ‘Hollywood,’ that would be too simplistic. There has been some degree of courage to speak up about this. Besides, it is the same mistake to assume that ‘The Vatican’ is a monolithic group think institution, and this scandal shows that Hollywood isn’t so monolithic.

However, I do find it a real problem when the ilk of playboy can be shrugged or even admired, while Weinstein can be subsequently be denounced. It is a shame, that in our society, hypocrisy is somehow the worst crime. Could be having a moral vacuum be worse?

Hefner is eulogized for having created an openness, where sexuality is not stigmatized nor shamed. Hefner, and others who helped tear down stigmas are valorized, principally for not being hypocrites. Somehow Hefner is better, because he was consistent. But can I really say that a pedophile who brags about pedophilia is better than the pedophile who condemns it? Let me be more specific, likewise, is the active sexual predator somehow morally superior because he brags about his escapades? What about the inactive pedophile who denounces such practices? The reformed have little space in our cultural narrative. Somehow, Hefner can be valorized for not being a hypocrite, while the person who distrusts or outright disagrees with their own evil behavior cannot even be partially correct for condemning themselves?

I think that the sexual exploitation of others is always wrong. I don’t think that sexual exploitation can become better or worse. Specifically, I don’t think that someone who actively exploits others can make a moral case for their behavior, is not dismissed because they dislike it, nor is an active sexual predator morally superior to the one who cannot practice what they preach. Our aversion to hypocrisy is so tantamount, some would rather take the route of moral cowardice, like Harvey Weinstein, blame their culture. Some would rather avoid the risk of hypocrisy, the risk of having any moral standard whatsoever, and go the Hefner route: blatant exceptionalism.

Having a moral standard, failing to live up to that standard, being a hypocrite is too risky a venture for some. Removing personal responsibility for any moral compass is an easy way out. It would be easier for a young man to reduce himself to a bunch of sexual urges, instead of understanding when a vulnerable young women isn’t interested. The modern young person smugly dismisses the need for a moral identity. They get to do what they want when they want. But then there are no stakes or genuine personal investment. But even the ambition to be morally consistent is somehow too much of a risk for some modern men.

Not taking any risks, by being morally exceptional, appears like invincibility to the inexperienced. Hugh Hefner didn’t have the courage to live within this tension of moral responsibility, so he abandoned it all and felt better. He buttressed himself inside a withering creepy estate where his many wives provided him no genuine emotional intimacy. Weinstein believed he was above accountability, and used his status to prey upon young women making a name for themselves in the industry. Having no sense of personal moral responsibility, he is only now being held accountable. Despite his freedom at the expense of other’s dignity, he is now, likely, for the rest of his life to be held in shame.

And sure, the ‘safe’ moral ground that people today stand on is avoiding offense and being agreeable. Weinstein was behaving in a way that was agreeable, and accepted, and now the times disagree with him and reject him. Perhaps a more significant moral ground is called for then agree-ability or inoffensiveness.

 

Keeping the Sabbath & Lady Gaga

In 2011, I watched a 60 minutes interview, Lady Gaga & The Art of Fame. It gave me a lot to think about.

A few weeks ago, Lady Gaga posted a photo explaining her tour cancellation. Last year there was another photo from Church. Both posts have caused a lot of controversy, which I don’t intend to dissect today. I do not know Lady Gaga’s heart, and am not really a fan of her music. Although I do agree with Mark Shea’s recent response Jesus founded a Church, not a club. However, in this interview from several years ago, she did give me a lot to think about.

That is, Lady Gaga talks about “Mastering the Art of Fame.”

I am not famous. I am not trailed by paparazzi. When I walk outside of the monastery, I am gladly unknown and irrelevant to every pedestrian and passerby. When I was at a high school, surrounded by adolescents, from Monday through Friday, I had a certain amount of authority and influence. On Sundays, or at other Catholic Young Adult Events, I might even carry a degree of authority or influence. Sometimes I experience this alarming fascination with Fr Mark the young priest…

Between 2009-2011, Facebook’s peak empowered people to have access to every nook and cranny of their contact’s personal life. I often felt pressure to do things, merely to have Facebook posts.  Instead of attempting to capture moments, sometimes we create moments. This moment in Facebook’s conquest over my personal life accompanied a pastoral year at a Parish School. (It was expected that you add everyone on FB). Students didn’t need to see photos my friends tagged me, neither my personal friends need me to take pictures of parishioners and students. Things were tricky to say the least.

As a young priest, I experience an alarming amount of undeserved fascination. I have been monitored by students curious for my reactions to a billboard, or wanting to witness the manner I bit into an apple. In Church settings, I get stopped by women, who request access to something very personal: My vocation story. Although it is very nice for people to see that I am a human being, whether from FB, or RL, people imagine that my mundane trivia is somehow less mundane or less trivial.

Anderson Cooper reports: “They’re not just attention getting, they’re attention directing, To keep the public focused on her work, as opposed to her personal life.”

After Lady Gaga spoke on the craving of the public to see the public meltdown of the superstar, she was very conscientious and deliberate, at least according to this interview.

Even though I don’t have to bat off paparazzi, I don’t feel that I should have to answer for my day off, or answer for my vacation. Although some young people find me fascinating, it didn’t make sense for me to be constantly plugged in and accessible. (Remember when we used to say brb. We don’t anymore, we no longer leave, we live here). To some extent it is important to remind those in your pastoral care that you are a human being that does imperfect normal human things. Likewise, it is my responsibility to carve out time away from those under my pastoral care for my own well-being.

The simplest and easiest example I can name is this. I take a vow of poverty. Some older friars, or perhaps lay people have imagined that I can use the student weight room for free. I shouldn’t for liability reasons. However, I shouldn’t even want to. The community can cover a health club plan so that I have a space for my self care that doesn’t involve students or parishioners. I shouldn’t have to be limited to be with students in the weight room when I am with them the rest of the day. On a funny note, I once saw two of my students outside of my gym, interviewing pedestrians with a camera and mic. I went to the other side of the gym, simply because they would have loved to record footage of me exercising.

Although many young people might have an awkward sense of appropriate boundaries that would keep them from intruding on my private life, there are enough who won’t. I have changed my number, as it has been distributed without my permission. (Here’s Father Mark’s number in case you have a spiritual crisis in the middle of the night? He’s a priest he would never turn someone down right?) This kind of thinking can put me in risky situations. There is an office to screen calls.

People may love to see photos on social media of priests and nuns doing very silly human playful things. The thirst for a privileged behind-the-scenes view of a priest’s life, perhaps, is not too different from the public’s desire for photos of celebrities at the coffee shop. Our desire for an exclusive encounter with the divine is often replaced with a desire for a chance encounter with a celebrity at their favorite paparazzi spotted coffee shop.

So when Lady Gaga makes the difficult decision to cancel a tour, it is not too different from many priests that have seen, ready to take a vacation. Lady Gaga is being consistent and guarding her private life, and I have to hand it to her for sticking to her principals on this one. There is something very holy about sneaking away into the deserted place to speak to the Heavenly Father in secret. It became a noteworthy characteristic of Jesus, perhaps Lady Gaga this time, and I hope to God, me too when I need it.