Rest in Peace, Dad

Dear Dad,

I found you dead this morning, in your recliner, with your hands balled in a fist.  I could see your purple legs and your ashen gray face all the way from the end of the hallway.  I touched your arm and you were stiff as a board.  I called your name a few times, but you didn’t answer.  I pushed on your legs a few times but got no reaction. Your mouth was gaping open and your eyes were closed.  Thank you for not having your eyes open.  That would have been it for me.  I called 911, but, it was just a formality.  Dad, you’re not the first dead person that I’ve seen.  Just the first one that I’ve seen in my living room.  You were ice cold and the compressions that they told me to do were useless.  It took the paramedics at least 9 minutes to arrive from 1 1/2 miles away.  Good thing you weren’t having a heart attack, huh?  I did their compressions for a few minutes, but then I stopped and just made loud breathing noises into the phone when they asked me if I was doing the compressions.  Fuck their formalities.   

I’m pretty pissed right now, dad.  In the last five months, I have taken you through countless surgeries to fix up all of the bumps and bruises you collected throughout your life so that you could be comfortable and healthy in your retirement.  I did all of that so that you would be with us for another 20 years.  I didn’t expect us to get to the point where all you were getting was follow-ups for you to have, what is likely, a heart attack in the recliner.  Aside from all of the things that we fixed up, you were healthy as a horse.  You worked out every day, you ate no fat, you didn’t drink or smoke.  Why in the hell are you laying in a freezer right now? WHY???

I talked to all of your friends today, dad.  Your little old-fashioned flip phone was a fount of information when I needed to get the word out about your passing. They were all shocked and heartbroken.  Some of your old military buddies picked up the torch and carried it for a few hours by calling other friends, just so that I could get a break to go to my church to pray.   Dad, do you know who I didn’t talk to today? I didn’t talk to that manipulative girlfriend of yours who took advantage of your mental illness to drain you dry of much of the money that you earned over the years.  Yes, dad, that’s right.  She hasn’t called you in a few days.   No calls, no texts, no emails.  I wanted you so badly to get away from her.  She didn’t care that you were miserable in your own mind, she saw you as an ATM.  I’m not going to call her, I want to see how long it takes this bitch to call.  You were the one who always called her, weren’t you?  She knew that she could keep you coming back.  Ugh!  That makes me so angry.

So, I guess over the next few days, I’m going to be learning a lot more about you than I thought I already knew.  I was surprised to learn that you had been seeing a doctor for mood stabilizers.  Do you mean to tell me that the entire time that I was pleading with you to get some help, you were, but were denying it?  Really?  Honestly, dad, I  would have loved to have helped you with that.  But, whatever.  In the last few weeks of your life, it seemed that you were much happier than you normally were.  Much more loving.  The rage in your brain wasn’t as loud.  I’m glad.    You showed my friend’s dog a picture of me as a baby and told the dog that I was your little girl.  Okay, you told it to a dog.  I was in the room.  I know how hard it was for you to communicate with other humans.Thank you for acknowledging that I was always supposed to be your little girl.  Oh, dad!  I’m so relieved that you aren’t sad in that head of yours anymore.  You are no longer imprisoned by the thoughts that you couldn’t change. 

The next few weeks are going to be hard.  You have somehow made your Will disappear. But, I’ll find it.  Remember, I was an investigator in my past life.  Thanks for not making me one of those people in the life insurance commercials, waiting at the mailbox for a $10,000 check to bury you with. Nope.  You were very proud of the fact that you set all of your children (and your ex-wife) up for life..or close to it.  I don’t know what you left me, dad. I really don’t.  At this point, I don’t care.  You gave me a don’t quit, addicted-to-work attitude in my genetic coding and I won’t need all of that extra money. 

I love you, dad.  We didn’t say it a lot but I think we both knew.  Please watch over me tonight.  Goodnight, dad.

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I’m not “not anxious for nothing”

“If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention”  I’ve been paying attention and I am worried.

I have two friends from school that have the exact same autoimmune disease that I have.  The one is a male in his early 40’s.  He’s been suffering for at least 12 years now.  When I say suffering, I mean suffering.  Every organ in his body has been attacked, he has had his heart, lungs, and small intestines fail.  He has spent what is equivalent to years in a hospital bed.  As if that weren’t enough, on one ambulance trip, the driver didn’t close the ambulance door correctly and the gurney rolled on to the road as they pulled away from his house.  He’s almost dead now and the tragic irony that he was training to be a doctor when he was hit with the disease is not lost on me.  How he could not be bitter is beyond me; but he’s not.  He’s still trying to figure out ways to supprt his family. My other friend is a year older than me, she’s had the disease for a long time and had to spend two years with a feeding tube.  Right now, she is in the hospital again, having a pump removed because she has an infection.  She will, no doubt, be there for weeks this time.  The contrast between her attitude and my attitude about this disease is night and day. Every single time I read her online posts, she is joyful, thankful, gracious, and loving.  How??!!  I spend one night in a hospital bed and I am miserable.  I take it out on medical staff when I have to wait longer than 15 minutes for the doctor to see me.  While she is patient, I am always in a rush.  I don’t understand her joy.  If I had to sit through one family dinner with a feeding tube in my nose, I’d be pissed off to no end.  But, not her. She’s happy.  Despite her now gaunt frame, her eyes scream ‘happy’ in every photo.  I fight medical issues, I get angry at them.  She accepts them and makes the best of them.  I guess I make the best of them too, but I don’t accept them.  I am so angry that my life is being snuffed out by a disease for which there is treatment, but no cure.  I am so angry that I am tired and in pain every day of my life. I go on living, but I am angry. 

I feel ashamed to be so privileged as to not be sitting in a hospital bed like my friend who is only a year older than me.  My form of the disease attacked my central nervous system first and is just now starting to attack my organs.  I’ve been fortunate enough to go on, despite the recommendations of my doctors, working.  Whenever things get bad, they pump me up with steroids, and although I get fatter, I go on my merry little way as if I were perfectly healthy.  The worst that I’ve had to face are doctors, family, friends, bosses who all called me crazy for years until they got the correct diagnosis.  But, I know that worse days are coming.  I don’t want to swallow the reality that is upon me. I see my life as a ticking time bomb and want to grab it by the horns and take it for one last really wild ride.

I hope that I get to take that one last wild ride.  I’ve been unwell for a while now and the disease is clearly progressing.  There must be some disconnect in my brain that tells me that my friend’s joy is ‘less’ because she’s happily not in control.  She’s not weak, but that’s the way I process her happiness.  There is, however, this tiny bit of curiosity that I have inside of me – a voice that tells me to let it go.  I don’t want to let it go. I’m not ready to let it go.  The way I think about this is all pretty stupid. When I make it to the other side, I won’t look back and yearn for the things that I wanted to do.  In the meantime, I continue to torture myself.  To make matters worse, because my disease has strong neurological consequences, I know that one day, sooner than I’d like, I won’t even be able to form the thoughts that are necessary to desire the things that I fear that I will miss.  I wish that I could change that about myself before it’s too late and I’ve found no joy in being right where I am.  In 2010, my uncle died from Hep C.  He did a lot of what I do now. He fought that disease tooth and nail.  The less he could do, the angrier he got.  It wasn’t until two weeks before his death that he started to have sweet aspirations, like going to church and feeding hungry children.  He accepted his life in the last fourteen days of his life.  That is so sad.  If those last two weeks hadn’t happened, I don’t know what in the hell the preacher would have said at his funeral, because up until fifteen days before his death,  he was a son-of-a-bitch.  I  don’t want the clue to my impending doom to be that I quit fighting.  I’d like to find some way to accept the end way before then. 

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It’s not God’s fault (or the Church’s fault either)

For years, I have had the tendency to blame the Church, and secondarily God, when things go wrong in my spiritual life.  She is an easy scapegoat, she doesn’t put up much a defense because she doesn’t have to.  In the past, I have been right to blame some things on the Church (flawed humans acting on God’s behalf) and, I guess on God too, as He’s all into that ‘ free will’ thing.  Unfortunately, there are things that we can do to keep us out of God’s perfect will.  I have some friends who have fallen out of a state of grace with Church simply because they failed to get married in the Church.  They are really good people and my heart breaks for them because it seems like what they did should be inconsequential.  Everything else that they do as a good Catholic should count, right? No.  As much as I wish it did, it doesn’t.   I hurt for them and hope that they will do what they have to do to have their great marriages recognized.  I recently found myself in a very sticky situation where my actions resulted in temporarily falling out of a state of grace, for which I had to confess.  My first inclination was to do things on my own, as if God had no business telling me what to do in my personal life.  For a brief time, I was angry at being made to feel uncomfortable- a discomfort that was self-imposed.  Lucky for me and probably for all Catholics, God doesn’t bend, nor does the Church, because it’s not good for us.  We all need stability, even with those boundaries that we don’t enjoy acknowledging.  I have had what I consider to be a revolutionary transformation when it comes to my attitude about God and the Church. I feel as if every day of the last four years has been designed to bring me to the place I am at today.  My previous priest taught me how to accept God’s Laws, even when I didn’t like them (and this time, I did not like them  at all). He also emphasized not skipping out on God just because you were pissed about something or out of a state of grace.  Sunday is still Sunday and unless you are dead or close to it, you better be there!  Until late 2013, I was at at that great church with that great priest and those great parishioners. I was comfortable – too comfortable.  A combination of issues helped me to eventually move from that parish.  I loved it there and the lack of attachment can only be credited to a God who had different plans for me.  So, in September , I started searching and by November, I had moved to a different parish.  I now have the intimate support system, with parishioners that back me up in my desire to continue to grow spiritually.  My current priest places the emphasis on God’s love and acceptance of us, even when we really screw up.  He has taught me that God takes what we think is bad and turns it into good – but only if we let Him.  I needed to learn how to respect God and how to accept His love exactly in the order that I learned to do so.

We all have our choices. There are things that we won’t like about the Church or her stance on things, but those rules didn’t originate with Man, they are based on what God wants for us.  I have found a great deal of peace in knowing that while my decision to do wrong has led to very painful consequences for me physically and spiritually, in the end, I still have a very loving God.  I also have a Church that is not as much interested in penalizing me for the sake of punishment, but rather in asking me to practice a discipline that will lead me to a closer relationship with the Christ that I so gratefully receive in the Eucharist. 

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Forget the “Crown”. I don’t even want the “Crown”.

Any small business owner knows that there will always be that one employee/contractor who is a major pain in the ass but too good to fire.  I’ve seem to have had my spat of them over the past couple of years.  What I do is specialized work.  When people see the word ‘clean’ in my business name, they assume that I’m a maid.  No.  We are not maids.  What we provide is art, patience, and ultimately miracles.  There’s nothing maid about it. We go into homes that have been abandoned, both physically and psychologically, tear them apart, appliance by appliance, scour everything down to the screw holes, reassemble, and then clean the exterior of the appliances.  We then, clean down to the last crevice in the house to such detail that dirt and grime don’t dare to show up  again for a long time.  Once that’s done, the homeowner sells the home for sometimes hundreds of thousands more than what they would have gotten if they hadnt called us.  That’s what we do. 

This work takes talent and common sense, but not ingunuity and ‘too much’ brains.  The people that I hire and contract to work for me will never be caught in a 3-piece suit unless they are in a casket.  We don’t wear uniforms because our budget doesn’t allow us to destroy a uniform every day – and that’s exactly what would happen.  There’s not enough OxiClean in the world!  Okay, enough about that, back to the matter at hand, the people that work for me. 

My entire family is in the business of making homes shine. Me, my sister, my brother, all of us.  We’ve all worked for and with one another at some point and it’s made holiday meals very uncomfortable because everyone wants to be the boss because the boss earns a lot of money.  Thus, we each cordially told one another to go fuck themselves and started our own companies.  Now, we only chip in for one another when someone is deathly ill or a baby is born (sometimes one in the same!)  About 18 months ago, I picked up an awesome contractor.  She was great except that she doesn’t drive, has a record, and is always one smart mouthed comment away from being kicked out of her father’s house.  She has mental issues and some drug issues.  Before you judge me, remember, this is not office work.  This is brute work.  So, I brought her on board.  She only works jobs that I am on because she doesn’t drive.  She was fine for the first few months.  Oh, by the way, she has to be paid in cash because she owes the banks money.  Alright.  Last September, the weekend before my birthday, we finished up on a mansion in Virginia.  The homeowner paid us a grand sum on his credit card.  Contractors don’t get paid until the credit card clears. That’s the deal.  Well, she picked that weekend to do some serious drugs and when I didn’t pay her immediately because the card didn’t clear immediately over the holiday weekend, she threatened me.  First off, I am a gun owner.  Make that plural, I own many guns. I believe in the Second Amendment and I don’t miss.  The irony of her calling me and leaving me threatening texts while I was out buying my birthday gun was not lost on me.  But, I had enough of her 300 texts a day and terminated her contract.  Silence.  Sweet, pure, silence.

Back in January, she seemed to be behaving so I decided to bring her back.  This time, she had to sign a contract that was twice as thick as the one before.  I had included every single one of her shenanigans in the new contract – and lowered her to hourly pay (still over $20/hour) instead of percentage payout.  Again, it was all good until it wasn’t.  On Easter morning, she showed up on my porch, high on PCP, almost banging the door down.  She was greeted by my friend, Sig Sauer.  Eventually, I got around to calling 911, and she got around to figuring out that she was tripping and ran out the front door again.  I spent Easter talking to her, trying to get her to get help.  That night, she involuntarily got help when she tried to kill her father with a knife, high on PCP again!  I sat with her in the ER as they admitted her and did all of the running around to help her collect her stuff as she moved into transitional living.  I spent the next ten days working part time while she got her shit together. I was very encouraged because, on meds, she seemed normal.  I liked the medicated her!  Twelve days out,  she came back to work.  Day one, medicine taken.  Great.  By the second day, she had stopped taking the medication.  She turned into this unbelievable ridiculous hulk.  She demanded that I run the company schedule by her, accused me of never thinking about her (the most untrue thing in the world – I’ve been her mother), and then the veiled threats to not work for me started.  What do I care?!!  Her leaving would be a blessing.  It would save me the trouble of issuing yet another end of contract certified check.  On Wednesday, she finally pressed her luck for the final time. 

We had a job on Wednesday.  It was supposed to be a Thursday job, but she had forgotten to tell me she needed that day for a medical appointment at 2:30.  Because we couldn’t perform the job and get her to her appointment on time, I pushed the job up to Wednesday. She actually got pissed at me for taking MY day off to make sure that she had work and money!  The job started to run longer than expected (as most jobs in this field do, stuff comes up!)  Immediately, she started to whine and accuse me of ruining her day.  Shut the fuck up already!  I would have yelled at her in the home, but the homeowner was home.  I told her to knock it off and after a few minutes of silence, she said, “Sorry, Wendy”.  Ya, I’ve heard that at least a dozen times from her before.  I told her that we would talk later.   As soon as we took a break, I unleashed on her in that calm cold tone that anyone with a mother has heard before.   I told her that I didn’t need her to work for me, that this company was only one of my business ventures,  and that I have a weekly income that has nothing to do with her or this particular company.  I then went on to tell her that if she ever disrepected me, called me a liar, acted out in a customer’s home, or complained about a schedule, I would call a subcontractor to help me finish the job. I would then pay the customer for half of the job – just for the inconvenience.  I would drive her to the bank, issue her a certified check, drop her off at home, and she would never work for me again.  I reminded her that I leave in 2 months, I don’t give a shit how many stars I get in my reputation builder,  and that I would not help her to get a new job.  Silence again. And then some tears.  Oh well.  I hope she cries.  I hope she cries like a baby.  By the time we left the job, she was behaving.  I know that she’ll start up again and I will follow up on my word.  One more instance of acting up and she’s gone.  Let the system fix her.

I grew up fundamental Baptist.  We were always taught that patience is a virtue and we’ll get a crown in Heaven if we are steadfast.  Looking back, I have realized that the incentive was a bunch of bullshit.    God is super busy. Have you ever seen Bruce Almighty?  He doesn’t have time to count jewels and He is willing to forgive me if I do anything less than kill her.  He’ll even forgive a murder, but I have no time for the paperwork, news reporters,  explanations to the district attorney, or God forbid, Nancy Grace!  The jeweled crown was a way to make us keep quiet while we endured every kind of abuse that could be inflicted on a child.  Warren Jeffs, imprisoned head honcho of the Fundamental Latter Day Saints (FLDS), taught his followers to “keep sweet”. Same concept.  I am at my limit.  If there is a crown and I get it, I’ll get it.  But for now, forget the crown, I don’t even want the crown!

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Confessions of a Parish (S)hopper

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I call this the "Jesus is watching you", Jesus. No matter where you stand inside the church at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC, the eyes of Jesus follow you.

In the next ten weeks, I will be buttoning up my business dealings here in Maryland and moving all the way to Santa Clara, California.  Excited?  Yes.  Scared shitless? Yes.  One might think that my biggest fears would be about money, friends, family, a social life, being fat in a skinny city.  One might think that, but really, my biggest fear is not being able to find a Catholic parish where I’m happy and can grow.  I need a parish that is small enough to make me feel at home, but big enough to have daily Mass and tons of social interaction.  I want and need all of that, but I also need a place where I am at peace.  Not the peace of familiarity, but a true peace, where I know that I can go and always feel safe. 

That’s asking a lot, I know.  But, I’ve been through the warzone when it comes to Catholic parishes.  In 2009, I came back to the Church and my first choice of a parish was a real stinker.  It was fairly small, insulated, but also came with the things that insulated parishes come with – tons of cliques and gossip.  The Gossip Mill wasn’t a joke there, it was a reality.  Before long, it was my turn to be the victim of the gossip (because any single female with huge career prospects and talent just has to be Satan’s daughter).  I was going through serious health problems. I guess the priests did what they could do, but, ya, not really.  It felt like my soul was dying and I was angry about its demise.  I was growing closer to my therapist than I was to Jesus and our Blessed Mother. I lasted a little over a year there.  Thanks for the good times, see ya. 

My leaving was not pretty.  I was pissed.  Felt used.  And I was not quiet about it.  Enter parish #2 and my fabulous friend and priest, Father John.  In 2010, Father John scooped me up and saved me from burning parish #1 to the ground (or at least shooting out its windows with a pellet gun).  His parish was a 45 minute drive from my house.  I didn’t really want to go to Mass there.  It felt like I was just doing it for the sake of doing it, and it felt that way for over a year.  In comparison to parish #1, it felt huge.  It was definitely more ornate and felt more churchy, but it was a filler.  It took until 2012 for me to start to feel at home there.  The people there, although I knew only a few by name, are amazingly loving people.  It was there that I started to truly let go of my ‘church anger’.  I have never been a big fan of our Cardinal, but I learned to not squinch my eyes together when I heard his name.  I chose not to get involved in any ministry.  No sir!  Not me!  After I had gotten involved at parish #1 and been scorned, there was no way I was sticking my neck out there again.  For the first time in my life, I decided that someone else could be the sacrificial lamb.  A couple of years into my time at the second parish, our senior pastor left.  I loved that priest.  His homilies were a 7 out of 10 and he always said the exact same thing in the confesssional, whether you confessed killing a mosquito or killing your boss, but he was so warm and bubbly and open.  You could always find him in the kitchen, helping out at church dinners and he had 24 hours and 1 minute in each day, a little extra time for the person that needed him.  In his place came a senior pastor who was going through a lot.  A perfectly capable priest, but he spent his first years there battling a life threatening illness.  This, of course, made him more than a bit cranky.  That was fine.  Illness, I understand.  But sadly, it didn’t stop at the illness.  He started making the church feel like it didn’t belong to the people.  The Adoration Chapel that used to be open from 6 am – 10 pm started getting shorter hours. And not only were the hours shorter, but they were also upredictable.  He even got frumpy when someone would go to use the bathroom that was attached to, but not in, the sacristy.  I have the bladder of my grandmother on water pills. Suddenly, I felt like my time in Adoration had to be very abbreviated because always sooner, rather than later, I would have to pee.  I was already 45 minutes away from home and that meant that 25 minutes was all I was going to get before I had to go hunt down a toilet.  A few other things bothered me, like the difficulty of the 45 minute drive when I wasn’t feeling well most of the time, and after almost 4 years there, I decided it was time to look for another parish. 

Parish #3 came in November 2013.  I had been there a few times for Young Adult Masses, but wasn’t overly impressed.  It’s small, kind of plain, and while closer to home was pretty out there in the country.  But, I was looking and why not look there as well? After all, I had never been to a Mass there during a regular Mass. I knew two families there already. I went to my first Mass there on a Sunday morning.  I remember it distinctly due to the fact that I ended up spending 30 extra minutes in the parking lot because Mass started on the half hour and I wasn’t expecting that.  This time around, I was extremely apprehensive.  As good as the homily was (and it was a 10 out of 10), I didn’t want to know the priest, because I didn’t want to know that he was human and could have jerk moments like the priests at parishes #1 and 2 did.  Fortunately, the people made me not even have to worry about the priest.  By my third week at the parish, I knew at least 20 people by name.  Yes, name.  Six months later, I am pretty familiar with several familes at the parish.  We have lots of great activities and it’s a warm, friendly, safe environment. I am free to be at peace there without being judged and when I need a fellow lay person to talk to, one or five are always available.  So, of course, now is when a job offer in California that I cant turn down would show up!  I am really sad about having to leave this parish. 

So, as I leave the Archdiocese of Washington, I know there will be a lot of priests and parishioners who will breathe a sigh of relief.  I too will be relieved to leave most of the ADW behind.  But, not my current parish.  I am so very sad to be leaving .  I hope and pray that my new parish in Santa Clara will be at least half as awesome as the one that I currently belong to. 

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The trainwreck that is the former “father” Nathan Monk

Since last Wednesday, I feel like I’ve been watching a train wreck.  Last Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court passed Gay Marriage rights in California. They also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Before you call me all kinds of names for being closed-minded, hear me out.  This post is not primarily about Gay Marriage/Marriage Equality or DOMA being struck down, this is about something much more disturbing to me.

On Wednesday, after a busy day of work, I came home to find a post by Father Nathan Monk in my Facebook newsfeed. The photo attached to the post had a man in a clerical collar apologizing for hurting his wife, family, and friends/loved ones.  The photo caption goes on to explain that he is losing it all to support gay marriage, universalism, polygamy, and to denounce the idea of an eternal Hell.  This, as one might imagine, is pretty shocking for followers of an Orthodox priest.  It has nothing and everything to do with his choice to support agendas  that stand in contrast to the Orthodox Church all at the same time.  Immediately, outrage on both sides began.  Those who are  more conservative and truly concerned for his soul begged and pleaded for him to slow down and think about what he was doing.  Those who are more liberal minded cursed out the conservatives and called them every name in the book, several times over and over again.

Included in this shocking post was a video link for a fundraiser for Nathan and his family. The video was made before he decided to step down.  Nathan had made a recording indicating that he was pro-gay marriage and more-or-less love all around and because of that, he was going to lose his job as an Orthodox priest and would need money to pack up his family and move.  Remember, the video was made and on the internet before he made the announcement.  If that wasn’t good enough, Nathan chose the day of the Supreme Court rulings to be the day that he “came out” about his support of gay marriage.  This to me, seemed more than just a little bit disingenuous.  The gay community has worked long and hard and suffered many pains in the long battle for marriage equality.  I likened Nathan’s timing to catching the carpool after everyone else has paid for the gas.  Many of us tried to communicate to Nathan that we were suspicious about his timing…

THEN the next post rolled in.

This post told his tale of woe to the world. About how he was poorly received into the Orthodox priesthood and how his life had been a living hell ever since he began Orthodox formation.  He has only been an Orthodox priest since October 2012, but he was tired of being treated like crap and wanted to leave.  So, that was story #2.  More comments, more hateful remarks, more begging and pleading from those who care about him.  Every follower pieced together his life timeline, protestant first, then Old Catholic priest, then Orthodox priest, advocate for the poor, faithful man of good, and then in the time span of one magical day, he turns into an apostate.  Unstable, at best.

THEN, The posts went into….

All you need is love.  Honest-to-goodness.  If all you need is love, we need to fix something because even Woodstock wore off after a while.  Love is also a subjective term.  Is that the kind of love that is dismissive of all wrongs?  Is that the kind of love that ignores when someone is screwing their lives up at warp speed pace?  Not so ironically, the “all you need is love” crowd was the same crowd that was cursing out every person who opposed his recent choices.

THEN, the “I’m not a martyr” martyr reared his ugly head.  

Every 12 hours or so, Nathan would switch posts from being a martyr to not being a martyr to being a martyr again.  Just a short while ago, he posted a photo of men in Biblical robes and beards casting stones.  While he blathers on about how he is not being supported, he has amazingly only lost 100 followers, going from 5,414 to the current 5,314 followers.  He has made claims that a group of monks are writing everyone on his follow list to tell them to unfollow him.  Surprisingly, only one person so far has said that they received a message, and who’s to know what the content of the message was?!

I do have a concern about Nathan but I’m not sure which concern to address first…

Should I stick with sorrow for his soul?  Should I think more about the flock that he has led astray?  Should I think more about a man who has clearly been unstable throughout, at a minimum, his entire adult life?  He was removed from his pastoral position because he was speaking against core beliefs of the Orthodox Church, but his platform as a activist for the hungry and homeless has kept him on high ground and high enough to sway thousands of people.  I will never know, but I’m sure his fundraising video brought in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands from followers who can’t see through the bullshit that is the sideshow of Nathan pulling another one of his attention-getting schemes.  There is, deep inside my brain, the knowledge that what Nathan is doing could lead him to being suicidal.  He won’t be suicidal because he supports marriage equality or polygamy, or universalism or anything else that he supports.  He could easily find himself suicidal because he has dug himself into a hole in order to make money and placate the gay community.  I applaud his intention to help the poor and the disenfranchised, but this new turn about was deceptive to himself, his flock, and his followers.  He himself admitted that the real story was how he was being treated by leaders in the Orthodox Church.  Even he said that he knew that he wasn’t making a good choice before his ordination.  I am honestly concerned that this man is unstable enough to warrant some medical attention.  I don’t say that lightly or to mock him.  I’ve stared suicide in the face.  I know how one can go from being seemingly stable to off-the-deep-end with the snap of a finger.  Gay people are gay, not stupid.  Eventually, they are going to figure out that he is using them as a source of income.  The fame, the money, the high feeling will pass, and then what?  I’m left wondering if I should block him forever or just continue to pray for him and interact.

Go ahead and read it for yourself, here’s the link again.

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Filed under Character, Moving On, Prayer, Religion, Temptation, That's Life

On Father’s Day : An objective view of what a priest must go through to be our spiritual father.

For those of us in the Catholic faith, we find ourselves in a quandary every 3-4 years.  All of us – lay people and priests alike.  Just when we have gotten used to, grown to love, grown to hate, or grown to tolerate one another, we get split up. We, the lay people, stay where we are (for the most part) and our priests are sent to different parishes or assignments in the diocese.  For the well loved priest, a few stragglers may follow by driving hours just to attend Sunday Masses at his new parish, but Church leadership has caught on to this and has made it as difficult as possible to “follow” your favorite priest. Unless it cannot be avoided, your diocese is going to make sure that popular priests are transferred to a location that is far enough away that it makes it a real sacrifice for you go to his Masses.  There’s a reason for that and the reason is that priests grow best when they are consistently replanted and parishioners grow best with the roots of their parish.  This is painful for everyone.  Even if a priest is sticking pins in the voodoo dolls of his least favorite parishioners, he is still being uprooted.   There are, of course, other reasons for moving priests, reasons that we don’t want to acknowledge when the priest we love is being transferred.  Your priest may have a special talent, skill, be multilingual, work better with old people or young people (etc, etc, etc)  and are greatly needed at another parish.  But knowing all of that doesn’t make us feel any better – for in their absence is a hole that a new priest has to fill, and therein lies the problem.  The transfer of a priest is filled by another priest, if your parish is lucky.  One might assume that a priest assignment is guaranteed to every parish, great-or-small, but they aren’t.  There are parishes scattered all over this nation and all over the world that lack a pastor.  Tons and tons of them!  There are parishes that need multiple priests, but only get one.  There is a serious priest shortage and one so dire that it does us well to appreciate the gifts that we have from the priesthood

That’s so sweet of you to say.  You must love priests.

Not really.  Generally, I’m not a big fan of priests.  If I were to put all of the priests that I know into a box and give them a description based on how I feel about the majority of the priests in the box, I would seal the box up, pull out the packing tape and Sharpie, and write the word “Jerks” on it.  If I want to face a group of Jerks, that’s where I would go first.  Rude, huh?  No.  Not rude at all.  True.  And I bet that if you were honest with yourself, you’d agree with me.  I know priests who agree with me and would take the Sharpie out of my hand and underline the word Jerks!  None of that means that I get the right to call them all jerks without picking each priest out of the box and looking at what he goes through on a daily basis that might cause him to have jerk tendencies.

Time and Scarcity:
Everybody wants to be popular – for about 15 minutes.  From the 16th minute forward, the popular priest is trying to hide in his office, under a rock, in his room, in the sacristy..anywhere…just anywhere that they can get a few seconds to breathe.  The moment that they don’t make themselves available to the needy public, they are considered isolationists or disconnected.  Even unpopular priests don’t get a break.  If someone is sick or dying and there are no consecrated Hosts for a deacon or Eucharistic Minister to bring to the ill person, guess who becomes the Man of the Hour?  That’s right, Rev. Grumpy Unpopular Priest.  Tack on the fact that there are so few priests available, the reason for them to be Jerks from time-to-time is understandable. That would be enough…

If they had actually signed up for this:

But they did, didn’t they?  Yes and no.  They signed up to be priests.  They laid down their lives to be the Servant of Men and to bring Jesus to their flock.  They certainly did sign up for that part of the deal. But, they didn’t sign on to whatever they get in their parish.  Consider buying a car or a house.  When making such a deal, we research, we do our homework.  We know every spec. We can tell you how many doors the car will have, if the car has ever been in an accident, if the house has ever flooded, if there will be leather seats, if the previous home-owner had pets or smoked in the house.  We know these things.  Priests don’t get to know the deep specifications of their assignment beforehand and if they do, there isn’t a thing that they can do about them.  Priests don’t get to say, “Give me that parish, but take out the floundering youth group, the lousy choir, the mother with six kids and no husband around, and the man who has been fighting cancer for the past decade.”  They get what they are given.  When I first came back to the Church after being seriously wounded by a couple of priest, the priest who brought me back to the fold told me in regards to my situation that “it wasn’t his fault, but it was his problem.”  That’s the kind of burden a priest takes on with every parishioner that he faces.  They reap the rewards, good or bad, of the previous priest at that parish, previous life pains, and tragedies of every single person they serve and they can’t do a damn thing about it but try their best to make a positive impact.  They’re smart guys, they’ve been trained.  They have the power to to whip up a concoction of “fix it all” and make the skies blue again, right?

Not exactly!

Every priest has a limited amount of autonomy.   Pastors are the bosses and parochial vicars are the vice-bosses of the parish that they are at, but they have bosses and bosses and more bosses. That tricky little vow of obedience that gives them the liberty of having guidelines and leadership that can aid them along the way also puts them into a pretty tight box.  If they choose to change something because they think it will help the parish, they face pressure from their bishop and possibly even the Pope.  I own a company and if I want to screw things up, I can screw them up and nobody but my accountant will look at me like I have a 3rd eyeball.  Priests get the eyeball from their bishops and from parishioners who constantly remind them that they have a bishop (as if they didn’t know this already.)  Everybody wants or needs to get their own way and at the end of the day, the priest can only do so much about whatever the concern is because the rules set in stone are just that, set in stone.  Lay people can disobey as much as they want.  The likely worst thing that will happen to them is that they will get some push back, get scolded, or removed from the choir.  There are no real consequences for lay people. If a bishop is worth anything, we can all be assured that there are dire consequences for priests who do not obey the rules set down by the Church in Canon Law or the rules of a local bishop.

In summary, there are a lot of priests that we are going to love and a lot of priests that we are going to hate.  Unless they are under disciplinary action, that doesn’t diminish their ability to provide us with the sacraments. Since we can’t consecrate a batch of Jesus in the Precious Body and Blood on our own before communion, hear our own confessions, marry ourselves, baptize our own babies (outside of emergency cases), bless our own bikes and pets with a blessing that will stick, make our own Holy Water [Insert ‘boil-the-Hell-out-of- it’ joke here], bury our own dead with Christian Rites, or do many of the other things that lie primarily in the hands of priests (and sometimes deacons), we should learn how to thank God for our priests, pray for them, give them thanks and encouragement, and recognize that the world is against them before they even put their feet on the floor in the morning.

Happy Father’s Day to our priests, our Spiritual Fathers!

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