Category Archives: Fr Roy Bourgeois

30 June, Journey

In the Story Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” where, according to Luke’s perspective, he would be put to death for his unacceptable ideas. He invited several folks to follow him, but they were concerned about what it might cost them. Jesus said things like: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head”; “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God”. He doesn’t offer much comfort and security as we understand them. He doesn’t offer fancy clothes, bling, nice houses, comfortable lifestyle. What he really offers is a chance to follow him in suffering. This is serious stuff. He does not promise popularity or approval. On our journey each of us has to do what we think is right. While we might share our journey with others, we cannot ipose it on anyone.

Jesus does not call his followers to an easy life, but often to suffering. There are many folks who believe Jesus is calling them to take unpopular positions on controversial topics, which bring them into conflict with a religious institution. Can anyone say for certain that folks who feel their journey with Jesus calls them to come into conflict with a given church’s position are not truly following Jesus?

In the current commotion around DOMA and Prop 8 there are many folks whose perspective is not that of the hierarchy. Can anyone say for sure that these folks are not doing what they believe Jesus is calling them to do? Can anyone say for sure, as some are, that the Justices who voted either way were not following what their consciences and Jesus told them was right for them to do?

Can anyone say that parents of children who are described by church hierarchy as “intrinsically disordered” are not following Jesus’ example in loving and supporting their children? Or that persons who minister to the gay and lesbian community in ways not approved by the hierarchy are not following Jesus as they are coming to know him?

Any idea of Jesus, no matter how great or grand it might be, is nowhere near who Jesus really is. Anyone’s idea of Jesus tells more about them and their perceived needs than about Jesus. If we find that Jesus always agrees with us on everything, we might have to relook and rethink. No one has the right to impose their notion of Jesus on anyone else, or to judge someone whose idea of Jesus is different.

Many of these folks are already coming to experience what Jesus meant when he said that his followers had to take up their cross daily and be his disciple. Our crosses show us Jesus and teach us about ourselves. Jesus tells us not to judge, but to walk with each other and help each other with our crosses. We need a prayerful relation with Jesus to bring us all together. There is a lot of pain these days. Each of us has caused some for others. Each of us can also bring healing to others. This is why Jesus tells us to follow him and spend time with him, so we can come to know him, and gradually move towards living as he lived.

We need to give serious though as to how serious we want to be about trying to be Jesus’ disciple. It might be pretty costly. Look how his journey turned out.

Just sayin . .


26 November, thoughts on a weekend

This past weekend was for me an interesting and grace-filled one. I “heard confessions”, celebrated a vigil Mass, prayed the Commendation of the Dying for someone I grew up with in the presence of most of his family, celebrated a Sunday liturgy, went to the wake of a family I knew in my first assignment some 47 years ago. To me this is Church happening.

The local church to me is the real church. This is where the folks encounter God and respond to God’s call. Ideally a parish is a community centered around the Eucharist and responding to the call of grace. The Vatican, again to me, is the embarrassing anachronism. I think of the Rabbi’s prayer in Fiddler on the Roof, “God bless and keep the Czar (Vatican), far away from us”. Those who run the Vatican are dangerous, and in their way of operating they are not that much different from the czars. While the czars acted in their own name, the Vatican and the hierarchy up the ante by claiming to act in God’s name. This, they seem to believe, gives them the power to abuse whomever they deem to be out of line, in other words, anyone who doesn’t agree with them on anything, is thinking the wrong things or discussing what cannot by Vatican law be discussed, etc. And, as with the czars, there is no appeal. It is not safe to think. There seem to be some bishops, fortunately not that many that we know of, who assume this same power for themselves. Some have told their priests that voiced oppositions to their policies would not be tolerated. Some have acted with impunity in implementing their own choices in spite of counsel to the contrary, such as closing parishes, arbitrarily increasing the retirement age of the priests, etc., thereby inflicting unnecessary pain on their folks. How well do these bishops know their folks? How many care for their folks less than they care for their own agenda?

But then there seem to be some parishes that are no less czar-like. In an email to me last week someone said, “My younger brother, who is gay, believes that he was chased out of the Church because of his homosexuality, nor shall I say that he is wrong; my pastor spoke to me, threatening to deny me the sacraments since I termed the official stance on gay marriage ‘bigotry’”. No doubt some pastors are dictators, but there are many who are not, and truly are pastors to their people. The rich life of their parishes reflects this.

Someone for whom I have the deepest respect said recently, “I am still a Catholic; but my mind and heart are anchored in Jesus of Nazareth…not in the increasingly strange Jesus of Rome”. I can go along with that, my feeling are not too different. As someone else put it, “I have little interest in the Vatican’s opinion about anything! Christ moved out of there a long time ago!”. Roger that.

In another comment an Army Wife said, “I face the decision to remain Catholic and raise our son in the Church; what used to be a clear decision for me no longer is”. More folks are saying the same thing as they are making their own difficult decisions. I wonder how many in “leadership” care anything about these people, or if they are even aware of them. I hope these folks look around and try to find a parish that meets their needs before moving on out. One parish I am familiar with in the D.C. area is known as the “last stop on the way out”. Fortunately a great many folks of all stripes are finding plenty of reasons to stay with this parish. Hopefully there are other such parishes in other places. I think the search is part of our journey.

For me the Eucharist is everything. It is a time and space for worship, for healing, for growing. It is not a weapon, as some would try to use it. I believe Jesus meant it when he said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them”. I don’t think Eucharist is limited to the Roman Church. The fancy clothes and artificially phrased prayers might be, but not the Eucharist. It is for all of us.

What happens to priests like Fr. Roy who are tossed out? Are priests ordained a priest for ever just to serve the Roman Church, or are they priests for all folks and all times? Why can they not go elsewhere and celebrate Eucharist and other sacraments for any who ask? If they are thrown out of the Roman Church, then Roman rules no longer apply to them, and they can serve whatever folks ask them. I suspect the czars would not like that.

I watched some of the investiture of the new cardinals over the weekend. It was  Imperial Rome at its best, right out of Cecil B. DeMille, a spectacular. Probably wasn’t cheap. I wonder if the folks recovering from Sandy would have appreciated all the panoply. Or the folks in Sierra Leone, Malawi, or Libya, and any other countries where folks are suffering and in some form of poverty. How many wonderful “consequences of a thought in the mind of God” (a quote from Benedict XVI at his enthronement) died from poverty-related circumstances while these ceremonies were taking place? Maybe the Vatican will publish the price-tag for those ceremonies. Inquiring minds want to know.

I also believe in the Holy Spirit working in all of us on all sides of these issues. The searching and questioning are part of our Spirit-guided journey, and each of us on all sides has to be true to what we prayerfully believe we must do. The operative word has to be “prayerfully”. None of this can be an ego trip for any of us. None of us has all the answers, but we do have our own questions, and we have to keep on searching.

Just sayin   .   .   .

22 November, Thoughts re Fr Roy Bourgeois

These are my thoughts, and my thoughts only.

Fr Roy Bourgeois’ expulsion from Maryknoll and dismissal from the priesthood by the Vatican ought to give all of us food for thought. What is our role these days? Is it simply to mouth what is given to us from church authority, or to live in a personal relationship with Jesus, and go wherever this takes us and do whatever we feel we are called to do? These days the two seem mutually exclusive. Roy’s situation reminds us again how dangerous it can be for any of us to prayerfully follow our own conscience as opposed to blindly following the hierarchy’s dictates. Basically any priest who says something authority doesn’t like can be tossed out. This is already happening on the world wide level. When will it happen on a local level? There have been hints recently in the area of same sex marriages where it seems already to have begun. Standing up for what we believe these days can get us thrown out of the church to which we have given a large part of our lives.

I am not proposing any specific course of action, only raising questions. I would not tell anybody what to do, since I can’t figure out for myself what to do. Many folks claim to have the answers and often are self-righteously abusive to any who question them. I enjoy having questions much more than having answers. For me Jesus is more in the questioning than the stock answers.

I see in the hierarchy’s mode of operating reflections of totalitarian governments throughout history, including many of the extremist attitudes of today. Some groups say, for example, if anything does not fit with our world view, we will destroy it, as is reflected in the destruction of ancient statues of the Buddha. Some will not allow women to be educated because they might be a threat to their power, and so they attempt to silence permanently any who disagree, even if they are only ten years old. The difference in the church these days is only in degree, not in fundamental philosophy: “leadership” will destroy what it cannot control. The attitude is that of a bully who abuses people simply because he can, because nobody stands up to him. There are numerous examples of this style of knuckling under to bullies in the last few centuries by groups who seem just plain afraid of higher authority. Perhaps the matter of the imposing the missal translation and the recent USCCB choosing to update the breviary translation are examples. “Please, sir, may I have some more?” What is going on? Do I really want to tolerate or be part of a system that abuses people this way? Hmmm  .  .  .

The hierarchy has more control over priests than over laity, simply because they can take away the priest’s livelihood, while the laity don’t need the church in order to survive. So this puts most of us in an unenviable position. Somehow this is part of our prayer journey, so our prayer life has to be very important to us. Nothing surprising here. The fact that priests are being overworked and often mistreated has to be considered prayerfully. What is Jesus calling each of us to do? It can well be that we are called to different things according to what our particular ministry is.

I see a great difference between the hierarchy and the local parish. I am privileged to help out in several parishes, and I see tremendous good happening there. Each parish is doing its best to meet the needs of its folks, and it is a privilege to make even a very small contribution, and to support wonderful pastors who are overworked and often worn out, and terrific parish staffs.

A question here is what to do about this. Just stand idly by? Get involved? I don’t know. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” I don’t know if this applies here. I don’t know if what the hierarchy is doing is evil, or just annoying to me. There are some things I resent, but my resenting them doesn’t necessarily make then evil.

Also, the church teaches we are ordained priests forever, except, it seems according to the letter from Maryknoll, when the convenience of the Vatican deems otherwise. For me he will always be Fr Roy.

Some worthwhile questions might be, who’s next?, what now? Huh?

Lead me, Lord.

Just sayin   .   .   .