Free to be faithful to conscience and to self


Dear Friends,

It’s is a brilliant sunny day here in Lauderdale.   I type lazily on my silver Macbook Pro sprawled out on my lounger  on our second-floor screened porch overlooking the pool and a wonderful expanse of trees and luscious beds of red and white impatiens.  The mowers are scurrying around trees and flower beds  in our condo courtyard nearly the size of a football filed.. (If I ever needed  job in a second life I think riding a tractor mower would be fun.) The Canadians are enjoying their last week with us by the pool or playing petangue before they go back to Montreal for Easter.  Shivvy is sitting at my feet waiting patiently for the natural crunchy treats he delights  and which I forgot to give him which I forgot to give him this morning. (He is such a noble creature, a devoted companion of the past 11 years  in my otherwise alone bipolar journey.)

But there is a sadness mingled from my gratefulness that I have such a place to  live and write.  I kinda get this way before Holy Week as I try to immerse myself  a little more deeply in Jesus’ Paschal Mystery and unite myself with his concern for our world.  I always look for new meaning, hopefully deeper understanding of the sacred mysteries and allow them to penetrate the needs of our times, to see where Jesus is crucified in our world today, where there is hope for new life.  I have the draft of my special Holy Week Arise out to my editors and, as all writers do, I guess, am a bit nervous to get their reaction.

As always before Holy Week I am thinking of my priesthood.  But this year I’m preparing to write the story of my uncoventional journey as a priest who after thirty one years of severe manic depressive  illness has retained his priestly faculties (credentials) but no community to be a part of as yet.    We’re reading Hebrews in the Office of Readings: “Since he (Jesus) was himself tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18) And I am pondering: has my priesthood of forty years been fruitful?  Have I touched some people’s lives?  In spite of the unconventional nature of my priestly journey, do people see me as one who desires to please God?  As one who has a passion to share the love I have for Jesus and his love for me? Do people see Jesus when they see me?  But many do or cannot.  Some see me as unworthy of priesthood.  But my bishop in Orlando still recognizes me as a priest in good standing.  Many look down upon mentally ill people; perhaps part of my witness is to simply walk the path among all those who have been marginalized, whose talents have not been recognized and to give us a voice.  I move in and among people who haven’t got it all together.  I know for sure I don’t.  But I have finally realized — and I want you to know that GOD DON”T MAKE JUNK!  Each of us is cherished by God;  each of us has a purpose for being on this planet.

And that is a perfect segue for another reason I am sad today.  Each human person is cherished by God.  But we don’t cherish each other.  We don’t cherish the gift of life.  We don’t cherish the gift of the planet God has given to sustain us.   I fiercely respect all life; I don’t even like to kill roaches.   I voted for Mr. Obama.  I pray everyday for the gift of sight for him and for so many in our culture that God would open their eyes to see the gift, the wonder of all life.

I am also sad because I believe we need to change our rhetoric in the abortion discussion.  We have to learn to listen to one another.  The sad thing is that neither side on the abortion question is willing to change the nature of the discourse.  We are screaming at each other, instead of listening.  Mr. Obama, I do not appreciate being called an “idealogue” because I believe that science must respect the laws of God. I expect you to take the leadership in listening; of asking God to help us all understand.

But I feel betrayed, Mr. Obama. I voted for you because I see possible greatness in you, even when so many of my fellow Catholics feared you.  As you also are an author, I have seen in you a quest for authenticity, of integrity.  In my own quest for integrity as a priest and a writer I understand how difficult that quest for honesty and authenticity is.   So,  I pray for an intellectual conversion for you, an “aha experience” not unlike Saul of Tarsus who was trasnformed from a murderer to one whose eyes were opened.

Your understanding of what makes a human human and mine differs, Mr. Obama.  I believe  that God creates each individual uniquely and loves each of us individually.  Yes, I have reverence for the process of evolution and even natural selection.  But I also believe that God uniquely creates the soul of each individual.  I believe that each of us exists for all eternity.   I feel so sad that you cannot see that!  It’s so obvious!  A woman conceives a new life, with new DNA, with a unique soul, a life as precious as the life of the mother.

America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave if those with strong convictions about life and death do not have the right to stand up for what they believe in.  You must respect the consciences of those of us who witness to that.

On the other hand, I am sad about the hatred I see among many pro-life folks toward you.  Jesus said, “love your enemies.” Brothers and sisters, the truth will only prevail in an atmosphere of love and dialogue, respect and civility and kindness. Perhaps that’s what the President of the University of Notre Dame had in mind when he invited Mr. Obama to the graduation ceremonies.  Who knows?  Maybe our Lady will zap him good!!! while he’s there.  You know, it could very well happen, and I pray that it would.  Instead of being acerbic, let us double our prayer for the President — and so many other’s conversion.  And our own too. Because we become so self-righteous in our condemnation.  I wonder if we are more taken by the righteousness of our position than the result.


Mr. Obama, you have said you want to bring us together as one nation. I call you to the great statesman I think you can be.  But that will happen only if you safeguard all life and respect the consciences of the health caare workers who do.   As best you can, of course.  I pray earnestly for you, pleadingly, every day that your empathy and compassion would not just be for women but for the unborn as well.

Brothers and sisters, if you agree with me, I call you to intense prayer.  I know God answers the prayers of the humble, not of the self-righteous.

In the middle of writing, Augie and I sat down to read the powerful scriptures of today.   And then the Spirit opened our hearts to one of those teachable moments that we need to be ready for and not be too busy to overlook with our kids.  Its the story of the innocent Susanna from Daniel and in St. John, the adulterous woman condemned then freed and forgiven. We aare reminded that Jesus stood in defense of sinners to his own peril.  His conviction, his staying on message no matter what brought him to his own death.

Now that’s the Jesus I know and love.

Lord Jesus,

please open our eyes to see and understand Your ways.

Let us more and more build a society in which we cherish and respect one another,

including the unborn.

Please be with Mr. Obama, who bears the heavy burden of office

in a most difficult time of American history.

Dearest Lord and dearest Lady,

I pray that you would grant him the grace

to see and understand that all life must be protected.

Help us to enter into Holy Week with mind and heart renewed.

To You be glory and honor forever.  Amen.

One thought on “Free to be faithful to conscience and to self

  1. matt March 31, 2009 / 3:51 am

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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