Christmas in July


The other day, July 25, my Christmas cactus bloomed.

They are very cool and very temperamental.

A friend told me his hadn’t bloomed in ten years.

Being a guy who always ponders the meaning of symbol

I’m wondering what good fortune this suggests for my Christmas in the fortieth anniversary year of my journey as a priest.

Hope it will be good for you too, dear readers!

Bob Traupman

priest / writer


The summer of ’69: The lunar landing – July 20


Dear Friends,

I had said (tongue in cheek) that I had set off a chain of events for the Summer of ’69 with my ordination to the Catholic priesthood on May 24th of that year.

I did a blog on the second event which was as almost equally unknown as my event in Orlando — the Stonewall riots in New York City that is marked as the beginning of the Civil Rights movement of gay people (though I hate that word.)  You might check out my blog on that event posted on June 28th.  Be sure to read my reply to the comment below about how we can overcome our prejudices.

images-2I also had a very personal connection to the Apollo ll flight to the moon.  I arrived at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in early June with the holy oils fresh on my hands as a baby priest.  Father David Page, editor of the Florida Catholic newpaper asked me to write the lead piece for that publication reflecting on the spiritual significance of that event.  What an honor that was!  But since my files are still unpacked after moving here to Lauderale 11 months ago, I couldn’t possibly find it right now.

Holy Name had many of the men who sat in the Mission Control room which you will see in the video below were in our parish, including Paul Donnelly, the launch director for Apollo 11.  I was very aware of what a privilege that was.  Mr. Donnelly had given my parents an intimate tour of the cape and I was permitted to eve to step into a LEM for a later lunar flight!

It was my duty to stay in the parish for the July 16th lift off while the pastor was a guest at the launch site.

Here are three videos to recapture that event.

The first is a the actual lunar landing.

images The second is a narrative by Buzz Aldrin recounting an unidentified object flying along near  them.   Hmmm. I wonder . . .

The third is a photo album of pictures from NASA for that flight.

Forty years later I wonder if we have any kind of connection with the heavens above any longer.

I wonder if we have the sense of wonder we had back then. We take everything for granted.

I wonder if we wonder when we look at the moon.  If we’re ever moon struck any more.

I often muse about the crew of Christopher Columbus charting their course over the vast unexplored ocean by their knowledge of the heavens above.

I wonder how many of us have seen the Milky Way on a really dark night away from city light pollution?

What has happened to our sense of wonder and exploration since 9/11?

Where do we really fit in this world? In this universe?

Do we have any sense of connectedness or communion with anything bigger than us?

What’s it all about?

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

Worshipping celebrities / thirsting for meaning


Dear Friends,

I was very sad about the Michael Jackson story last week.  I pray for him.  He had a lot of suffering in his life.  But I wonder how much of it was redemptive.  I was sad for other reasons, though. I want to share with you an excerpt of a fine piece of writing by Jamie Manson whose blog appears weekly in the National Catholic Reporter.  I agree with it 100%.  She says it clearly:

“Celebrity culture, it seems to me, has become our religion. It is unreality posing as reality. It devours our attention and shapes our values and concerns. It has a unique power to move us and propel us toward action. Sometimes it even helps mold our consciences. We donate to a cause if “American Idol” has decided to “give back” to it. We become interested in Darfur because George Clooney insists on it. When Oprah made a documentary about building a girls’ school in South Africa, millions were moved by her generosity. And who has been a greater promoter of Kabbalah spirituality in its centuries-old history than Madonna?

As much as I appreciate celebrities who use their enormous power for the good, I cannot help but be troubled by their capacity to dominate our minds and hearts. They lift us up in frenzy of concern that seems to fade as quickly as it erupted. Celebrity culture is fickle and faddish, and very often the social awareness the celebrities promote suffers the same fate. Remember Jackson’s “We Are the World/ USA for Africa” project that set out to end famine in Ethiopia? He received an extraordinary amount of celebrity support and a mega-hit was born from it. Sadly, 25 years later, the situation remains the same in that region of the world.

So, for this week at least, Jackson is the object of worship and veneration in our cult of the celebrity. The heightened sense of loss suggests that we are so hungry for meaning, for some sense of the sacred, that the moonwalk and an epic music video are being spoken about as if they are sacraments.

But what I believe fuels our obsession with celebrities most is not their artistic or philanthropic contributions — or even their scandals — but their fame which serves as a symbol of our own deep desire to be known. Our preoccupation with them is in many ways a mark of our own yearning to be well-known. As communities decline and the act of socializing becomes more isolated by communication devices and social networking sites, we become less and less present to one another. This is why, I believe, sites like Twitter are so popular. We are so anxious to be recognized, that we feel the need to tell our every move to anyone willing to read about it. Unfortunately, this does not create the quality of presence that feeds the spirit and leads us into more intimate levels of knowing and being known.

Our country’s preoccupation with Jackson’s death this week illuminated for me the role of celebrities in our society: they are cultural golden calves that distract us from being present to one another and from recognizing the sacred working in our midst. Our cultish attachment to celebrities reveals the pathos of our culture. In our obsession with them, we are at once crying out for attention and being distracted from those realities that are most in need of our authentic presence. At its core, it suggests that we are hungry for meaning that no other cultural entity seems to be willing or able to make for us. We are starving for presence and looking towards American idols to offer us a fantasy of being known and a diversion from the challenge to know more deeply.

Jamie Manson received her master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School where she studied Catholic theology, personal commitments and sexual ethics with Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley. She is the former editor in chief of the Yale magazine Reflections, and currently serves as director of Social Justice Ministries at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, working primarily with New York City’s homeless and poor populations. She is a member of the national board of the Women’s Ordination Conference.

A July 4th Prayer


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of
of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial.
The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.

I continue, as I did yesterday, my personal reflections on these words.
As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart.
Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own.
Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country.
What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America.
But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far way from this vision.
We don’t realize that we are constantly re-birthing America — for good or for ill.

It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to
re-visit that moment of our founding.  Imagine what it was like.
Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world.
Imagine the courage they had.
Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these.
They are sacred because they reflected divine reality.
God blessed these words and our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.

When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old,
I would go a couple of times a week and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine
and ponder anew the vision of these sacred words.
I’d like to share with you what was going on in my head and my heart 29 years ago and today as we face this critical election.
They are faith-based thoughts.  I do not want to impose them on you.
I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world,
a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comotose society.
As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have?
What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?

Dearest God,

I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:


I, as a Christian among other God-fearing women and men.
I address You and love You as my Father.
You are my Father.
But this means that You are not just my Father, but the Father of all the ones you have created.
You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will;
Therefore, we are all equal in your sight.  We are all persons.
You conceived and created each human being with a unique identity, a body and soul, in Your mind and heart from the very beginning
and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, Father.
And that makes us but sisters and brothers.
Help me to embrace all of Your children on this planet in my heart.
Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me —
a little place to call home,
simple food on my table,
a decent education
and decent health care.

Help me, Father to recognize and support
the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own.
Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs,
but to realize that we are all one family.
But we are torn apart by hatred and violence; brother still kills brother.
Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.

This is my constant prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace to be able to help bring that about,
not only for the people of America but for the whole world.
To you, heavenly Father,
Father of my Redeemer and elder brother Jesus,
all honor and praise and thanksgiving now and forever.


This, sisters and brothers, is my constant prayer for the world in which I live,
the world I wish to be a part of and help to bring into reality.
It has ever been such since my lazy summer  of ’79 in Washington and always will be.
I do not expect you to be able to use my words as you pray.
I just invite you to make your own prayer.
Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals.
We need God in our world today.
But we rely on ourselves and not on God.  Capitalism, by definition, creates that illusion.
I urge you to re-birth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2009.
We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, every day,
from the mightiest to the lowest of our land.
And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal,
we will lose what we have and are.
Great civilizations have collapsed because of their complacency before us.

Nevertheless, it is my sense that God IS transforming us.
All we have to do is co-operate with the process.

Let us be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July.
Ask God for guidance.  Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted.
We need God to  bring us through these critical times.

With love,

Bob Traupman
priest / writer

July 4th / The Courage of the Signers

Declaration_independenceDear Brothers and Sisters,

On  July 4, 1776, the men, and their families supporting them
published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence,
that created this country.  At its conclusion, they said:


Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed
to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality.
They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Their signatures, bound to their lives, fortunes and honor, created the United States of America.
We need to return again and again to that moment.
We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.

We honor today the sacrifices of the women and men and their families
in Iraq and Afghanistan who are in service of our country.
Many of these men and women are compelled to serve tour after tour,
sacrificing their physical and emotional lives and those of their families.
But let also realize that the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little.
We go on with our complacent lives,
untouched by the reality of war for our Marines or Iraqi children.

May we not take for granted what we have here in America.
May this Fourth of July be a time for us to take stock of ourselves.
John Kennedy said:
“Ask not what your country can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your country.”
Each of us must be willing to enter a path of personal transformation
for the sake of transformation of our country.
I invite you to pray every day for God’s help in that transformation.

Good and gracious God of our understanding,
we thank You for the courage and vision of our founding fathers and mothers.
May each of us be willing to transform
our hate to respect for all people,
our reliance on material things to reliance on You,
our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion
May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us now are experiencing
to turn to You, God of our understanding,
for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.
May all our actions show Your wisdom and love.

With love,
Bob Traupman
priest / writer