About my departure from St Augustine High School

Our new statue on campus, St Augustine The Teacher.When I was assigned to St Augustine in San Diego, a few months before my priestly ordination, my life was a whole lot different. Since that announcement over four years ago, much of my life has changed. This post will cover my reasons for leaving, but will not cover my reassignment.

I decided to write to give people a personal update. Mostly, I wrote this, because the average Catholic cannot conceive of why a “young” priest shouldn’t be in a high school.

Before talking about myself, it should be noted that 4 years as Retreat Director is a long time for an old man. My predecessor had the position for 5 years. Her predecessor had it for 4 years. Upon leaving the position both were younger than me when I started the position. Their predecessors had the position shorter than they did. It is rare for someone to be Retreat Director / Campus Minister for more than half a decade. Upon my 4th year, any reasonable person should have asked “Fr Mark, are you really going to stay another year?” Maybe I am also too old for a very high energy job.

Also, before talking about myself, I should comment on the position. I am not the Chaplain, I am the Retreat Director. There is a chaplain, who does a lot of priestly ministry. There is nothing specific in my position / job description that requires ordination. My Brother Friars and I imagined that I would have had more time for priestly ministry on the side, just as previous Priest Teachers had. I have found that it is challenging for an old thirty-something to execute a high energy twenty-something job, and have any extra time to do the kind of priestly sacramental ministry that truly refreshes me. Although I have had priestly ministry, there is nothing in my job description that involves sacramental dispensation (it wouldn’t make sense as to how many lay-people have been in this position before me, and how many lay people will be in the position after me).

Not only is my position a full 9-5 and overtime, but I am probably the only male faculty member who is not a coach. All of the faculty (principally lay), teach 5 classes, and spend a few hours after school each day to coach/lead a team. The fact that I am a male faculty member that doesn’t coach probably seems unfair to the other faculty members that actually have a wife and kids that they are sacrificing their time away from. All said and done, it might seem unfair that I don’t have to coach a sports team, even if the retreats count as overtime, and I have to turn down requests to say mass because I don’t have enough time to get my job done.

This is just about my job… What about my life? As I said, the landscape has changed dramatically since I was first assigned.

  1. My dad suddenly got very sick, to the point that he lost the capacity to be independent. My mom passed away ~15 yrs ago. We had to move him into a facility, sell his house of ~35+ yrs, and ask him to accept the fact that he will need a nurse to take him out of bed every morning to dress him, for perhaps the rest of his life.
  2. My brother got engaged, married, and has a baby girl. I am a godfather!
  3. After spending 12 years believing that I had a call to “hip hop ministry” I have recently determined that call has passed or completed. I have written about that over a year ago elsewhere. Suffice it to say, there have been a lot of closed doors, and I need to look for new doors.
  4. I have been appointed by the order to be part of an international youth ministry council. I have been appointed by the province for a provincial (west coast usa) council about vocations. I have been tasked by the house to be part of our own vocations/formation business. I am also expected to say Mass in our chapel with some frequency. Over the past 3 yrs, on numerous occasions, had to ask my superiors to be relieved of many of these responsibilities in order to accomplish my responsibilities as Retreat Director. I often say no to my superiors more than my school.

As a husband might find that his family suffers because of the high demands of his job, perhaps my family and community have been at a disadvantage because of my ministry assignment. I don’t have a wife that goes to bed  hurt at night thinking she is unloved or neglected. I do have a community that was excited to have my involvement, only to discover that my job/ministry became more demanding than they expected. The school expected to have an unmarried young man with no kids. Instead they got a thirty-something new priest, with a family and community in need.

So, when you look at a ministry, where the life expectancy is 4-5 yrs, that involves no sacramental dispensation, where a young priest who helplessly watched his family endure a crisis, there shouldn’t be any question about his stepping away.

Although, it would have much easier with a reassignment thrust upon me months ago. I had prayerfully discerned that education is not for me at this time in my life, and then decided to stay one more year for various reasons. That year has completed, and it is well time for me to move on.

When talking to my students, they find one explanation very sensible. Over the years, many grey-hairs were how exciting it is for the boys to have a “young” approachable, relatable priest. Instead of being a relatable priest, the students perceive me as a coach. I often feel that I can be a coach, a teacher, an entertainer, but I often do not feel like I am a priest. Since I gave up so much to be a priest, it has left me very unfulfilled to not preach enough, to not hear Confessions much, to not do Spiritual Direction, or offer much Pastoral Care. Here, I cannot be artistic, poetic, philosophical, and spiritually mystic. Maybe the kids need more coaches, but this has made me unhappy. What makes me even more unhappy, is when adults try to give me some encouraging word on how this is a good thing. I have felt trapped in a box. I have not felt like myself. I do not have the opportunity to be who God made me to be when I am trapped in the coach paradigm.

So, despite this not being the best fit, I do have a series of good memories that I will be posting about tomorrow. I feel like the ministry and job has paid off for me in many ways. Sometimes I feel as if I have benefited from it more than they benefited from having me. I have benefited by being here in San Diego, and developing relationships in the school and the diocese. I have been blessed being part of an awesome Catholic community that impacts Southern California. I have been fortunate to have the credit of running 28 retreats. I have learned much in terms of administrative tasks. I have gained confidence in certain areas. I might rethink being a teacher at some point later in life.

5 Reasons I hate the term “Practicing Catholic”

The term Practicing Catholic merits little explanation. It is common. What deserves more critical attention is perhaps it’s origin.

There are Catholics that do not practice their faith, and still staunchly identify as Catholics. There are those who identify, and do not practice, nor believe any of the tenets of the faith, and are still unflinchingly, and irrationally, attached to an identifying label. I’m Catholic but [insert phrase here] I don’t go to Church, I don’t care about what the Church teaches, I don’t care much for the Pope, or my bishop, or the parish priest… the list goes on.

So, in an effort to make it clear that a self-identified Catholic actually attends Church, receives the Sacraments regularly, believes in Church teaching, tries to live it out in their daily life, and hopefully tries to maintain a close relationship with Jesus Christ, they identify themselves as a Practicing Catholic. Perhaps the amount of Catholics who do not actually live their faith or attend Mass has become so normative and rampant, that one feels it so significant to actually use the term. Also in the case of why I brought this up, sometimes people would prefer that Catholic Institutions be staffed exclusively by “Practicing Catholics.” (Although, I suspect that there are some that would wish to purge the world of anyone who isn’t a “practicing Catholic” but that’s another story).

I must admit, I don’t care much for the term.

Obviously, as a priest, it would be incredibly redundant for me to even describe myself as a “practicing Catholic,” that would begin to imply that you could be a priest who is not a “practicing Catholic.” I won’t even begin to imagine what that would entail.

I was impressed, on the flip-side, but by an alternative catchphrase. The high school that I work at never uses the term practicing Catholic in it’s faculty handbook, but it does say that faculty members must be involved in their parish communities. The omission of the term Catholic is not to suggest a watering down of Catholic identity, but merely to acknowledge that a minority of faculty members are not Catholic, and are still to be involved. Involved Catholics.

The majority, however, are very involved Catholics. Knowing the religion faculty, I am not worried about Catholic identity. In fact, I have found myself in numerous situations where faculty members nonchallantly mention something about their Catholic parish. They mention it, not to show off, not to prove they are “practicing Catholics,” They just talk about life, and life happens at their parish. A number of our faculty members lector or cantor at Mass, teach confirmation, give bible classes, and have a variety of connections in their parish.

I think that the term is incredibly outdated. A practicing Catholic made sense before the Second Vatican Council, and perhaps only made sense almost immediately preceding it. You attend Mass when required, you drop money in the collection plate, you say your prayers, you eat fish on fridays, and fast when required, etc. I really believe that this falls short of what the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the Saints, the Second Vatican Council, and our current and recent Popes have called us to. It falls so incredibly short.

In brief, I can sum it up as follows.

  1. Labeling oneself a practicing Catholic does not seem to put the Person, Life & Mission of Jesus Christ at the forefront. It is not obvious that one has a living faith in, and relationship with Jesus Christ, recognizing him as the Son of God, and the Savior of humankind. It might be obvious from this term that one attends to the typical Catholic things: Mass, Rosaries, Baptisms, Weddings, Candles, etc.
  2. A “Practicing Catholic” can only be measured or verified by externals: Do they attend Mass? It cannot be verified by internal disposition or attitude, but only upon externals. Someone can easily succeed at making Mass weekly, but not open their heart to the grace of the Scriptures and Sacraments. There is really no way of confirming one’s purity of heart without immediately sounding pompous and conceited.
  3. Labeling oneself a practicing Catholic may not necessarily mean that one lives their faith in a healthy way. It is possible to create a solipsistic Catholic world, in which one does indeed attend Mass regularly, practice the faith, says prayers, believes Church teaching wholeheartedly. They can, at the same time, not have another family member who is Catholic, not have a faith-centered friendship with other Catholics, attend a Church without interacting with anyone, go Church-shopping for an extended period of time, have no familiarity with a particular priest as their Pastor, live their faith on Catholic blog message boards. A lot of people have been quite adept at living out the Teachings of the Church, while completely missing Jesus own ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom, and mercifully attending to the needy. It is really easy to imagine one to be in communion of Church, but not actually being in Communion with any particular Catholic Parish Community. That is problematic.
  4. Labeling oneself a practicing Catholic may or may not indicate that one is actively engaged in any actual outreach, Evangelization, or corporeal Works of Mercy. It is used only to emphasize one’s proximity to the Sacraments or Catholicism, with NO implication that they live out their faith after Sunday. This term falls dramatically short. In fact, Practicing Catholic might as well be the same as Mediocre Catholic: one who accomplishes the bare minimum. Although the bare minimum might be reception of the sacraments and acceptance of Church Teaching, and may be better off that many others. It is still a bare minimum, qualifying one as mediocre.
  5. Labeling oneself a practicing Catholic is 100% conditioned by our time and place. It depends entirely on there being individuals who identify themselves as Catholic who don’t even attend Mass or believe in what the Church teaches. At the rate that “nones” are the fastest growing religious group (those who have no religious affiliation), it is already clear that more people are hesitant to identify as Catholics when they do not practice. In a generation, this term will already be useless. It is entirely conditioned on there being an alleged group of non-practicing Catholics.

Really, if someone says that they are Catholic, shouldn’t it imply that they are practicing?

A List of 10 Cliches among Young Catholics

The world of practicing Catholic young adults is it’s own thing, the likes of which would make little sense to our twenty-something non-Catholic peers, or most other Catholics our age who do not have the same fervor. I am referring principally to American young adults who attend mass regularly, engage in service or leadership, and attend other Catholic events outside their parish. Like any world or subculture, it has plenty of clichés, quirks, gimmicks, and colloquialisms that are meaningless to those outside.

Sometimes these clichés are mistaken as Official Catholic Teaching that ALL people of ALL times of ALL places MUST love passionately! Sometimes they seem to be the latest coolest gimmick that other Catholics are into, and if you don’t get into it, somehow you are not a “real Catholic.”

What cannot be on this list.

Anything essentially Catholic cannot be on this list. This is especially true when you think of traditions shared with Eastern Orthodox Christians. For instance, Sacraments, Marian Devotion, Catholic reading of Scripture.

I also did not include a few non-essentials, since they are not exclusively to this group. Some young Catholics tend to be passionate about Natural Family Planning, the Pro-Life Movement, or an exclusive attendance of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. One may not share a deep passion for any of these, yet still be a decent or excellent Catholic IMO. Most of all, intuitively, I personally, cannot imagine any of these labeled cliché.

I also did not include the dusty played out things of a bygone era. Some of these things include: Felt Banners, Allegiance or Association with the Democratic Party, modern mega-churches, Campaigning for Contraception, Nuns in Pantsuits or without habits, reducing everything to psychology, being personally indistinguishable from secular self-indulgent agnostics. These belong EXCLUSIVELY to an older generation of American Catholics, and therefore are not discussed in this group as much as dismissed.

Young Catholics are not thoughtful about their faith

Yes, it is true. In my experience, young Catholics get a lot of flack for the faith they try to live. They get put on the spot. They get called out. They get humiliated. They are declared “ANATHEMA!” by secular agnostics. They get derogatory labels and names. It was my experience for most of my youth before I entered religious life. And to this day, anybody I knew from school or my past life refuses to keep in touch with me.

So, we cope with that by clinging desperately to fixtures of Catholicism, and ignoring or dismissing any thoughtful criticisms, even from other believers. We are convinced that a thoughtful Catholic who criticizes non-essential features of Catholicism to be in league with people outside the Church who really dislike it. They must be heretics, or liberals, cafeteria Catholics, or “Not REAL Catholics!” We lack subtlety, nuance, complexity, delicacy and sophistication.

This is not an Edict or Absolute Condemnation

In fact, it is not even a personal condemnation. This is more complicated than moderating people’s passion. I am not looking to dismiss the priority people place in these things. By leveling the charge that these are cliché, I hope that young Catholics can 1) find humor in the fact that these are more niche then actual official Catholic practices, 2) not be shocked or offended that other Catholics do not take to these things wholeheartedly, 3) broaden their horizons of what being a Catholic today means. In the case of the few that top the list, it is really about broadening your Catholic Imagination.

I am partial to many underrated catholic things not listed, being too infrequently discussed. Things listed are all over blogs, events, seminars, and conferences. On the flipside, there are so many rich treasures in our Tradition, that are often neglected in favor of many of the things on this list. A list of underrated Catholic Traditions might include: The Liturgical Cycle, moving Ascension Thursday back to Thursday and Epiphany back to January 6, Lectio Divina, Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth series, Abbey Ale, Eastern Orthodox Theology and Mysticism, and Catholic Memes. Well, the last one is not so much of a deeply rooted tradition, but yeah, it is pretty cool.

Just imagine if your Catholic events covered these topics!

Honorable Mention:

I almost included something here about the Divine Mercy Chaplet, but decided to exclude it. Although I have no problems with it as it is. What I have found more often, is that it becomes a superficial fixation more than a deepening spiritual exercise. Many of the Great Spiritual Masters warn of devotionals potentially hindering our spiritual maturation. Whereas I find people fix onto it like it’s the latest trendiest Catholic thing, like it’s the new One Direction video or something. Since there was the novena going on, I didn’t want people to quit the novena. I wouldn’t recommend not praying it, as much as I would recommend experiencing more on the Catholic traditions of prayer, particularly more ancient ones.

10. “Discerning your Vocation” into pychologically destroying yourself.

“I’m discerning…” Have you ever seen a vocation wreck? Have you ever been one? You know, everytime they meet an attractive person they are convinced that God is throwing them a curveball. Everytime they have a sudden desire for Consecrated Life, they are frustrated at God. “Why does God keep confusing me about my vocation!”

Or you know, the discerning thing is a way of avoiding something, whether it be loneliness, or commitment, or lack of success in life.

It really is acceptable, I believe, to say, I am not discerning right now because my life is undergoing so many transitions from school, work, family, and moving around. Genuine Discernment, according to the great spiritual masters, has to happen at a time of relative stability and Spiritual Intimacy. Spiritual Discernment should be happening with a spiritual director & retreats. It isn’t something that you do amidst chaos.

There could also be a subset here for “I’m praying for my future spouse.” I mean who else does that?

9. Catholicizing your favorite non-Catholic thing

“Les Mis, that movie is sooooo Catholic!!!” or “The Avengers! That movie is SOOOOOO CATHOLIC!!!! LOOK!!! CATHOLIC!!!!” You know what it’s like, I have been doing this too for a long time. Some of us may have had our share of Catholic adults that are convinced that Hollywood is the playground of Satan and his cohorts, but our experience of quality film is such that it is sometimes too overwhelmingly inspiring to be dismissed as evil.

The same can be said of music: “Mumford & Sons is SOOOO Catholic! LISTEN!!!! CATHOLIC!!!!”

You’ve seen it, maybe you have done it too. It used to be such that the Bishops issued a list of forbidden books, and now it is quite the opposite. I wonder if the Catholic Label is thrown around so haphazardly at everything we prefer or find satisfying. It may be unfair to the artists themselves.

I mean, I remember when everyone was saying Star Wars, or the Matrix is so Catholic. Really?

It might be more fair to say that Mumford & Son’s music resonates with my faith or Catholic identity. It may be more fair to say that the Lord of the Rings is Catholic, well, because it actually is.

8. Theology of the Body

Back in 2003, I read Karol Wojtyla’s “Love & Responsibility.” A year later, I read Christopher West’s “Theology of the Body for Beginners,” Which has since been revived. I have met people who have had their lives turn around for the better because of it. It wasn’t until hearing of “Theology of the Body,” that they have firm conviction of human dignity.

Now there’s an explosion of married qualified theologians, it is only natural that they are turning to the topic of Theology of the Body. Until recently, there had been little depth in theology around the sacrament of marriage & human sexuality.

I see the term “Theology of the Body” everywhere. I have talked to people that wonder if we are catering to our over-sexed culture by insisting that we have the sexiest ideas of sex in Theology of the Body. Some wonder if we are narrowing our faith vision by spending a lot of time on this. Mayhaps there are some young Catholics who can go to a Theology of the Body group, and scratch their head, and not want to go to another. They can still be a decent Catholic without it.

As someone who is vowed to a celibate life, I rely on a spirituality and framework that is not contingent with “Theology of the Body,” and I do not doubt that many other people do as well. As I understand it, Theology of the Body hinges on the essential nature of the human person created in God’s image. My self-identified understanding has more to do with the essential character of the Baptized person configured to Christ.

7. Praise & Worship

When I came into my Church Youth Group, there was a lot of Praise & Worship. It was like there was this youth group culture around that. Now it’s like, so many of those people that came into Church as youth, have come into a world where Praise &Worship is the norm. It used to be: “There are a bunch of youth here, we need PRAISE & WORSHIP!!!” Now it is like: “There is a bunch of young adults, we NEED PRAISE & WORSHIP!!!”

I am still a fan of Matt Maher, Audrey Assad, Chris Tomlin and all those people. I have been personally bothered by the formulaic and theologically unsubstantial lyrics of P&W music. “We praise you Lord, We lift up our hands! We lay down our lives before you!”

I do think as we mature in our faith, we do need something with more substance to it. Some musicians, like Gungor, have been creating music that is more poetically rich and theologically subtle then I have heard by most Christian Pop P&W. However, most of the oldies are recycled, and have only hedged the little Catholic events with the same songs.

6. New Evangelization = Share photo on Facebook

Popes John Paul II & Pope Benedict made the New Evangelization a priority of their pontificates. Benedict even went so far as to create a Twitter account. Pretty astonishing proof of the existence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, since Ratzinger is hardly a 140 characters or less kind of guy.

But everyone has a facebook. Your middle school math teacher, your grandma’s book club friends, your favorite grocery store bagger! So let’s all be friends because we had a random conversation when you were having coffee with a mutual friend, and so maybe they can get you to LIKE their underwater basket weaving team and invite them to their competitions!!! And Be sure to like Tom Bruer’s Propane Tanks Facebook page for exclusive offers!

So when the New Evangelization gets brought up, we think, GREAT! I will Evangelize on Facebook by sharing someecards photos. I think there is more to the New Evangelization on Facebook. It is not just that Facebook has gotten so large that there is no real connections, and that algorithms actually inhibit the message from being proclaimed by closing you into your inner circle, but of course evangelization is really about posting clever pictures to all the people you are facebook friends more for obligation then anything else.

5. “They are being so unfair to us Catholics!”

Artist portrays Christians as bigots and hypocrites, and is described as visionary, while a Christian suggests that the entertainment industry is not family oriented and is dismissed as a bigot. Some Radical Fundamentalist Islamist can do everything a Christian doesn’t without getting accused of it, and a Christian can do nothing a radically violent Islamist does, and get accused of it. It’s Easter Sunday, and Google chooses Cesar Chavez.

Yes there is a double standard, but we may be either too rash in broad-brushing every challenge to Christians as somehow rooted in unfair hate for us. More often then not, I have seen Christians despair that Christianity has no esteem, as if Christianity or Catholicism, by necessity needs to be on a pedestal in the secular world. Last I heard, Jesus Christ, in the Gospels, tells us that this sort of thing can be to our benefit. Blessed are the meek or whatever.

4. Pre-Vatican II vs. Post Vatican II

Before Vatican II everyone counted their rosary beads, and the priest had his back to us! Before Vatican II, everything was beautiful and reverent! All that is left of the pre-VII Church are ideas and images of perfection that has somehow eroded. And we, Catholics, screwed it up! What else is new, that’s what we are good at as Catholics, we are really good and messing it up. So move on, and make it better.

Unfortunately, most people reinforce and recycle the narrative of Vatican II in their little bubbles, and have little clue to how passive aggressive and socially disordered much of American Catholicism sometimes was. There were priests who were convinced of their damnation for stuttering a word during the Prayers at Mass. There were people convinced that honest mistakes were putting thorns in the baby Jesus head. There were priests quite skilled at finishing Sunday Mass in 15 minutes so that their men’s club could get out on the green earlier. Some people thought that Jesus had the Last Supper in Latin, and all the Apostles knelt and received Communion on their tongue. There was plenty of glory, and there was a whole lot of mess, that us Catholics excelled at sweeping under the rug.

3. Absolute Allegiance to the Republican Party

Mitt Romney came along, and it was clear that he was not going to do anything to help the Pro-Life Cause. But instead of thoughtful criticisms of Mitt Romney, or the National Republican scheme of things, the kind of thoughtful criticisms that could very well give a deeper Pro-Life conviction to the Republican Party. Instead, Catholics attempted a variety of mental gymnastics and rhetorical maneuvering, mostly inspired by a deep fear or loathing of the other guy. The other guy that won anyways.

Plenty of young Catholics have had a real awakening, because, we were hereditary democrats who were fed up with debt induced inhumane (and even cynical) bureaucracies. That, and how the Democratic Elite have driven the Pro-Life cause to the margins, virtually excommunicating us as heretics, or declaring us anathema. But that is another story. I think part of taking ownership of a Republican Identity is being able to thoughtfully critique the flaws in the state of all things Republican. Moreover, I think, part of taking ownership of your Catholic Identity should help you to have enough distance from your political allegiances to be leaven in the world.

The next time the GOP throws a waste of a candidate like Romney, we can have the wherewithal to notice when we have been duped. Or, take a thoughtful alternative approach like Libertarianism.

2. “Church Militant”

There are many images of the Church: God’s Reign, Pilgrim People of God, The Vine, Mother, Leaven in the World, Bride of Christ, Hospital for Sinners, Herald of Salvation… The least favorite image of mine is perhaps Army or Military. There are references to the Armor of Christ in the Bible, so one can argue it’s Scriptural Foundation. Images, by their very nature, are supposed to help us understand something. The images, however, reveal different aspects of the Church. Among young Catholics, Very rarely do I find alternative images to “Church Militant” being used.

So what? Are we going around marching with weapons all the time? Are we in lock step? Are we wearing uniforms? I, personally find images of the military more stifling to the images of the Spirit. I am not even bothered by the term “Spiritual Warfare,” and I can probably write another blog post on the significance of that.

Unfortunately, with so many terms thrown around “Attack on Marriage,” “The Culture Wars,” etc. It provokes all sorts of questions. So, what, are we at war with homosexuals? Are we at war with Feminists? Are we trying to overtake feminists, atheists, liberals and homosexuals with violence? Do we engage in rigorous discipline only to be effective combatants, or does our disciplines and penance have more to do with letting go of our fixation on sin?

Considering how we, as a nation, are becoming adept at subjecting foreign nations to constant warfare, bombs, and drone attacks. Warfare, in the pre-nuclear age was understandably considered a noble thing. Swords, Horses, Banners, and Armor. The way that science has amplified the destruction and trauma of war has made it more savage.

I am certainly not an absolute pacifist. Considering that this is an image of the Church, and not necessarily THE essential nature of Church, I think it would be helpful for young Catholics to integrate more images.

1. Use of the term “Real Catholic” or “True Catholic”

You remember the time when you got dragged into Church, and you were thinking about getting back onto your Xbox, and playing Halo. I mean, the time years back before you got into your faith, and you actually tried to pay attention at Mass, listen to the readings, pray your heart and soul, and receive Jesus in Communion after preparing your soul going to Confession. Maybe there are things about your life before your encounter with Jesus that make you shudder. Maybe there are things that you regret. Most of all, maybe you relish in how much better off you feel with a personal relationship with Jesus in the Church and the fullness of faith.

The danger is that in order to distinguish yourself from your past, your parents who go only on Easter, Christmas, and a few other Sundays that they are in the mood, your Confirmation classmates who were rolling their eyes at the retreat, the Catholic school kids who were hooking up, and the list goes on.

Aside from the fact that it sounds overly judgmental, or self-righteous, it oversimplifies everyone else’s brokenness. Who are we to say that God is not already working in their lives. That is what Augustine’s Confessions was all about. God, somehow, managed to reach Augustine through and amidst all the mess, emptiness, muck, mire, self-loathing, and putrid sin. Yet, God’s integrity was never compromised. Even as Jesus heals the sinful and ritually impure, he is not afraid of being contaminated by being Cafeteria Jews, or not True Jews who keep the Law. Jesus knows that grace and mercy can always overpower the impurity of sin. Jesus integrity was never compromised by closeness to the sinful or the ritually impure. So why is it that we are so convinced that our faith is so flimsy that it can be ruined by associating with Baptized Catholics who have not arrived at accepting all the rich beauty of their Catholic Identity yet?

The Future of the Papacy

On February 11, when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation of the
Petrine Office, he had implied a few things relevant to the selection of
his predecessor. Moreover, some of those implications, as well as this
renunciation will have a solid impact of the future of the papacy. In such
a subtle way that a visionary theologian, although introvert, such as Pope
Benedict could accomplish.

p>Ratzinger witnessed his aging predecessor opting to hold on to his task
as Successor to Peter as a witness to human dignity. Pope Benedict has not
opted for a similar path. Cardinal Ratzinger has been very decisive in
finding ways around just canonical and Vatican protocol to have pedophiles
removed from the priesthood. With a storm of scandals in the Vatican, many
with no connection to clerical sexual abuse, Pope Benedict has had a
difficult time accomplishing a greater reform within the Curia.

Likewise, Pope Benedict has pushed for a New Evangelization, as well as
a clear engagement with the culture. Pope Benedict even created a Twitter
account, one that will be handed on to his successor. Although, himself
hardly a media or tech savant, Pope Benedict has taken measures to
modernize media usage within the Vatican.

The implications for the future of the Papacy, as a result of this, are
three things I want to highlight. These three things will be on the mind of
the Cardinal Electors, since they will not be under pressure to eulogize
the papacy of Pope Benedict. As Pope Benedict has already criticized his
own capacity at his age, the Cardinal Electors ought to as well.

The three areas of attention then, as implicated by Pope Benedict, will
be 1) the strength of mind and body necessary for governance thus implying
the need for a Cardinal with administrative competence, that 2) can
understand the rapidly changing modern age, and how faith can confront
that, implying the need for a media savvy Cardinal, as well as one that
might be younger, even under 75, and even under 70. Finally 3) it may be in
the mind that a younger Cardinal could indeed resign when he has been Pope
to a certain, and would not be out of the question to push the age
younger.

Pope Benedict has indeed started a subtle revolution, one that only
perhaps only a visionary theologian, as well as introvert, could do.

More thoughts on Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Yesterday, I briefly wrote a little about Pope Benedict’s announcement of his resignation. I thought it more important I say little, jump to few conclusions, and not publish all my sentiments online, when they could quickly change. I followed this up with a few words of encouragement.

Many people, I am sure, are reasonably shocked and saddened. It, perhaps came from nowhere. As a Ratzinger fan I saw something coming, and I couldn’t exactly be sure. So I thought in a little analysis of what was leading up to this, it might help to go over some indicators. This might help give some people a why. I hope to follow up with more analysis of Pope Benedict’s Legacy.

Two years ago, at WYD in Madrid, I already noticed that BXVI was markedly frail. He was unremarkably elderly, and nothing alarming could be noticed of this. He did not explicitly indicate that he would be at the next WYD, but did end with something more open ended. Although I believed he would live until WYD13, I figured he might find health issues would impede him.

Pope Benedict made comments in Light of the World, an interview with Peter Seewald, that a Pope should resign if he sees himself unfit for the job for health reasons.

Last year, Pope Benedict published the final piece of his Jesus of Nazareth work. To him, a Biblical Christology would conclude, or crown all of his theological works in his life. Having fully accomplished this, I knew that the Pope would feel ready for whatever came next.

Pope Benedict recently established a Twitter Account. This goes against  every intuition of Joseph Ratzinger. By this he was not saying that he would take on social media, but believes that his successor ought to be aware of its impact, and ready to take it on. He was attempting to set the stage, as well as an expectation.

Finally, Pope Benedict recently ordained his Personal Secretary Georg Gänswein to the Episcopacy. It is customary for a Papal Secretary to be ordained a bishop upon the death of the Pope. This was the major indicator that something was upon us. At this point I was already worrying that the Pope saw something coming… I guess it was the Spirit moving him to do this.

As I found out yesterday, Pope Benedict has been visiting the relics of St Celestine, pleading in prayer. St. Celestine was another Pope who resigned.

As it goes, my Director, said that Augustine makes references for Bishops to resign for health reasons. A bishop is not ordained for himself, to Augustine, the bishop is ordained for service to God’s people: “For you I am Bishop, with you I am Christian.”

Ratzinger has a deep love for Augustine, always has an influence on him. Augustine always put humility first. He put humility second, and he put humility third. I admire Pope Benedict for deciding for humility. The papacy is not there for itself, but for the Church, God’s people. It is for us that he has done this. Pray for the Pope!

Sebastian Elkouby wrote a letter to Potholes in my Blog on why he’s quitting the hip hop business. He manages to articulate exactly how I have felt for years. I thought this paragraph vividly elaborates on the unethical standards of the music industry.

Behind every mainstream rapper glorifying money, sex and violence, there is a cast of managers, publicists, lawyers, program directors, DJ’s, bloggers, journalists, producers and other industry executives working hard to make that artist a household name. Behind every Chief Keef, Tyga and Trinidad James, there are college educated men and women whose job it is to promote music that contributes to the dumbing down of our youth. Behind every music video full of half naked girls, there are casting agents and directors who would never allow their own daughters to portray themselves in such light. Behind every rapper who claims to be a thug, there are countless professionals who send their kids to private schools while promoting music which sends our kids to prison. Behind every mainstream rapper on BET, MTV, Hot 97, Power 106 and any other popular station in your city, there’s a Clear Channel, Viacom, Emmis Communications and Radio One made up of powerful decision makers who would never in a million years listen to the kind of music they get rich promoting. And behind every rapper with a criminal record, there’s a publicist spinning a story to make crime more marketable.

^THIS!

Potholes in my Blog: Confessions of a Failed Hip Hop Publicist

Hildegard of Bingen 1: Introduction

In the Fall of 2007, the “Gates of Paradise” were on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. we were graced to receive Ghiberti’s famous Gold-gilded doors from the Baptistry at Florence’s Cathedral. Although they were on display in the Museum, people were content to instead watch the video program in the next room that explained the laser technology used to restore the Gates of Paradise.

This experience echoed itself for me when I saw the Botafumeiro, the famous massive Incensor at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Instead of experiencing and watching it, I, like everyone else, was watching it through the screen of my portable electronic device filming it. The same technology that restores, sustains, and sometimes creates great art, often seems to bring us to a personal disadvantage.

Hildegard of Bingen, herself a woman of her times, herself a woman immensely creative in many multimedia fields, achieved a greater balance. She was ahead of her times, and yet her times contributed to her brilliance. As a deeply Spiritual and Learned Monastic Woman, Hildegard achieved a unique balance and elusive brilliance. She was mystified by God’s closeness to our world & experience as many Medieval mystics were, and she also contributed to the flourishing of Art, Spirituality, Liturgy & Theology. She worthily attains the title of Doctor of the Church.

I believed that it was a good time to dig up the paper that I wrote on Hildegard of Bingen, as part of an Undergraduate project. I have touched up the paper slightly and divided it into two parts. I have only been deliberately provocative in this initial post. I wanted to also elucidate more on her contemporary significance.

The primary, and most helpful resource for me has been Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader edited by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. The book provides an accessible and critical edition summarizing some key readings, ideas, and intuitions of Hildegard. Hildegard, Doctor of the Church, was a theologian. She was also a hymn writer, a master chef with many recipes (to which I have sampled), a healer, and a playwright. Many of these works were published in this Spiritual Reader. Another one from the Classics of Western Spirituality, The Scivias, I have not read, and imagine it would be another quality resource.