Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Reading

I find it difficult to fall asleep at night without having read at least a page or two of something.  My favorite day of the month is when my new copy of First Things arrives.  This journal, however, can only satisfy for so long.  As a result, I have also turned to these books:
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

A Mexican priest in the 1930's attempts to escape the persecution that has left most of his confreres in Southern Mexico martyrs.  He is deeply sinful, constantly pursued by the atheistic lieutenant who wants him dead, and beleaguered by a toothless man.  This novel, often called a theological thriller,  reflects on the power of love, and from my perception, on the incredible reality of the sacraments.  This priest, in the midst of his own doubts, his own sinfulness, and his own worries, remains a priest by whose hand God's grace is brought to His people.

Wild at Heart, John Eldridge

A penetrating discussion of what makes a man a man, and of how his relationship with his father, his mother, and his wife are all connected to this central question.  Eldridge eventually draws men to recognize that manhood must be rooted in a deep and intimate relationship with God the Father.  This is a fantastic book.  I formulated my homily from its contents last weekend.  Though an excellent text,the book, written by an evangelical Christian, does need to be informed by JPII's Theology of the Body.

Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child

I love a little pulp fiction now and then.  The thirteenth book in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, this book is a stretch of the imagination.  Reacher, and ex-MP witnesses the suicide of a woman on a train which eventually leads to a crisis involving the FBI, CIA, and Osama bin Laden.  Child's books are often bloody and extremely violent.  This is no exception, but the quality of writing and the suspense of Child's prior novels are not to be found in this one.  In this book, Child is just trying too hard.

The American Short Story (Anthology)

This is a fantastic collection of short stories written by Americans.  It includes familiar names like O. Henry, Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ernest Hemingway as well as other not so familiar names (to me, anyway).  I bought this book years ago, and have been slowly working my way through it since then.  It has given me a chance to revisit Ambrose Bierce's "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and to be introduced for the first time to Frank Stockton's "The Lady of the Tiger" (both of which are must-read stories).  I have traveled with the book by train, and have fallen asleep to it at night.  If you love American Literature, and if you especially like the short story, this book is for you.  As an added bonus, it is currently selling for $5 at Amazon new, and for $.01 used.  It will cost you more to ship than to purchase this collection.

The Cure D'Ars, F. Trochu

I started reading this biography of St. John Vianney last summer at the commencement of the year of the priest.  I have been slowly working my way through it ever since.  I love this book, and the life of the saint inspires me.  I have to admit, though, that I find the text a bit intimidating.  It can become extremely tedious (I say this having read all of War and Peace) as it relates one act of piety or holiness after another.  To skip the book, however, is to skip the life of a priest whose interactions with his people were moving, comical, and deeply holy.  His encounters with the devil are of particular interest.  This book reminds me that I have a long way to go between here and sanctity.  I have yet to finish the book, but one shouldn't rush through the biography of a saint; if you are looking for a good one, this is it.
What are you reading?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Coolest Thing to Happen This Week

St. Patrick Driving the Snakes From Ireland
I hate snakes.  I hate snakes of all varieties.  I believe that the Sacred Scriptures provide compelling evidence of our commission to exterminate them (Cf. Genesis 3:13-15).  So, it was with great glee (and a degree of revulsion) that I was informed today that some of the neighborhood boys, while out biking on some of the local trails, found and killed a rattlesnake.  I would likely have screamed and then climbed a tree (which would have been sight to behold).  They chose, instead, to smash it with a rock.  And then they cut its head and rattle off.  And then they took it home and ate it.  This is by far the coolest thing to happen this week.  Kudos, boys. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Of Mice and Men - Blog Edition

The past week was one of great anticipation for me.  As I have already noted, while at my fraternity gathering, I went trout fishing with no success.  Such results did not deter me, however, from having determined to go fishing again very soon.  Soon, as it turned out, was Tuesday.  One of the local teens planned to come with me, and ideally, bring a friend or two.  We would depart early in the morning and make a whole day of it.  

It was truly spoken that the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

First was the problem of the job.  Patrick had to work in the morning and would be unable to leave until around noon.  Second, Patrick also recently celebrated his sixteenth birthday, thus requiring him to accomplish another rite of passage.  He had to purchase a fishing license.  In South Dakota, one can purchase a fishing license along with one's pheasant license, but to do this, a minor must provide his hunter safety card number.  (If my perception is accurate, this is required in order to prevent as many sixteen year old boys as possible from carrying a firearm, as boys of that age are not widely recognized to be proficient at keeping track of innocuous pieces of business card sized card stock containing important pieces of personal data.  Patrick, though a marvelous young man, is no exception to this rule.)  Moreover, neither of us had gotten around to the business of inviting some of his friends until the night before the expedition was to transpire.

Somehow Patrick's mother worked a miracle at the Game, Fish, and Parks office on Tuesday morning, and Patrick had a license by the time I arrived at his house.  After a sandwich and promises to have him back by six so that he could return to work, we departed for Custer State Park (I already had the entrance pass to the park after the Harney Peak adventure the day before) searching for a series of dams I had never seen.  I only had to make one u-turn before finding the parking area for the dams, and by about 1:45 our lures hit the water.  No luck at the first one.  We trudged on to the second.  Patrick stayed at the dam and cast into the current.  I moved further along and cast from the bank.  The first spinner did nothing.  So too with the second.  And the third.  But, a lovely green and pink spoon quickly did the trick.  

I had soon caught my limit . . .

. . . of little baby trout.

Luckily, baby trout are exceeding dumb.  Unfortunately, full sized fourteen inch trout are not.  All in all, I hauled in seven of the little devils.  It was not quite the fishing experienced I had hoped for, but I did catch fish, even if I couldn't keep them.  Which is better than what Patrick did.  The big trout were just beginning to rise and feed again as we departed.

I have occasionally wondered how it is that people can fish every weekend, and love it.  I am beginning to see why.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Putting on My Fr. DeSmet

There are days when I long to be a hero and explorer like Fr. DeSmet.  The problem with this is that being like Fr. DeSmet would involve a great deal of walking, climbing mountains, and sleeping outdoors.  Though growing fonder of such things, I have not yet arrived at the place where I would simply abondon my room to spend a week sleeping in a tent. 

I do, however, have my moments.  A month or so ago, I climber Bear Butte for the first time in years.  Later today, at the bequest of a friend who wants to do so while wearing his cassock, I will be climbing Harney Peak.  I have never done this (with or without a cassock).  Though I have no intention of wearing a woolen garment that looks like a man-dress*, we will surely draw some stares and perhaps even elicit some curious remarks. 

Hilarity is sure to ensue.

* I have no problem with wearing a cassock.  In fact, I rather like it, and would wear mine more often in other circumstances.  I am not, however, inclined to wear it while climbing the highest peak between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random Observations

Teenagers apparently find it quite hysterical to discover that their priest snores like a freight train.  Weariness from the weekend ensured that I was out like a light.  The unusual position in which I was sleeping ensured a particularly good show for the kids.  Fortunately, I will never be required to share a bed.


I tried to tell the kids not to get energy drinks when stopping for snacks and a bathroom on the return trip.  I knew they wouldn't listen, but I told them anyway.  It didn't really matter.  Never underestimate the power of teenage girls to turn the teenage boys into crazy people.  Add a cramped ten hour bus ride, and you have a circus before it is over.


It is of little avail to ask kids on a bus to be sure that they have taken everything off of it.  Among the collection of lost items this year are a pair of shoes, several water bottles, and a pillow.  The shoes, sadly, don't fit.


Cynicism is an art form of which priests are masters.  I was with my Caritas group on Monday and Tuesday.  The cynicism was thick enough to cut with a knife.  As good as it is for priests to be together, we must be careful that we not become bad for each other.


There are no rainbow trout in the Black Hills.  For many years now, my father and I have made an annual fishing day.  In these trips, neither of us has managed to catch a single fish.  Caritas afforded me the opportunity to spend several hours fishing the same waters again.  In keeping with tradition, I managed to catch nothing.  It is said that the definition of insanity is attempting the same behavior repeatedly hoping to achieve a different result.  Perhaps I am insane.  Shortly after arriving home, I went to Cabelas and bought more trout lures and some pliers with which to remove said lures.  Maybe I will even need a knife with which to clean the fish one of these times . . .  Some say crazy, but I prefer to think that hope springs eternal.


Speaking of insane, the reason that I didn't sleep enough yesterday was because I decided it would be good to watch a movie until 1:30 AM with a group of high schoolers.  It was for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, of course.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As a child, the most dreadful part of my day was the nap.  I recall very vividly the debates with my mother about naps, the insistence that I was not tired, and her vain attempts at reasoning with me.  "Why do I have to take a nap?"  "Because you will be crabby if you don't and I don't want to put up with you."

Sadly, the same thing is still true.  If I don't sleep enough, I get crabby.

Which perhaps explains why I have been such a bear all day.  Tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Steubenville North

I will not be posting for a few days, as I will be accompanying a couple of busloads of kids from the Rapid City Diocese to the Steubenville North Conference in Rochester, Minnesota. It is a great time, and I spend literally hours in the confessional over the course of the weekend. I'm really looking forward to it right now. We'll see how I feel when I hear my alarm at 4:30 AM tomorrow. Until I return, enjoy the event's promotional video.  If you watch closely you will see me in the video footage from last year. After the conference, I will be heading to my monthly Caritas meeting. I should have something more to say on Tuesday. Until then.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exploring the 10th Commandment, NPR, and Manuel Noriega

Given my political leanings, it comes as a surprise to most people that I listen to National Public Radio almost exclusively whenever I find myself alone in my car for more than twenty minutes at a time.  In a media world, however, that seems more and more bereft of intelligent discourse, I find a great degree of stimulation in listening to programming that is largely commercial free, and that almost never uses the words, Nazi (except in reference to those who are self-professed Nazis), right-wing, loony, nut-job, or "those who hate America."  Moreover, I find that there is often a great deal going on in the world when we are able to ignore yet another dead blond in Aruba for just a moment.  As often as not, the commentators leave me hopping mad, but at least they have done so intelligently.

The entertainment offered by NPR is much better as well.  While I could do without the majority of the "world music" pieces and eulogies to newly-dead and barely remembered pseudo-celebrities, I love "Prairie Home Companion," "This I Believe," "What Do you Know," and "This American Life." (As an aside, I find "Fresh Air" to consistently be the most deplorable, vapid, self-satisfied, banal, smug, inane drivel to ever cross the airwaves.)

In February or thereabouts, I was over at a neighbor's house when one of the local teens arrived flushed with the excitement of having recently acquired an iPod Touch.  I am not a gadgety sort of fellow, and was little interested at first.  The more I looked at it, though, the more attractive it became.  It really is an eye-catching piece of electronics with unquestionable aesthetic quality.  I marveled at the touch technology and asked some polite questions, pretending I was interested.  What really piqued my interested, though, was the revelation that this little device (which I believe to be controlled by very tiny gremlins within) could be synchronized with my office computer's Outlook Calendar.  I had been searching for a device able to do this for a long time, and had reached the point of despair, believing that I was going to have to buy a smart phone with a data plan for which I would have to grudgingly pay.  For the rest of our brief interview, I coveted his iPod.  Upon returning to my own home, I immediately called my tech savvy friend in Denver and then promptly placed an order for my own iPod Touch to be collected at Best Buy the next morning.  Happy Lent to me.  Huzzah for instant gratification.

Though I am not a pro, I did manage to sync my calendar and to subscribe to several podcasts, most of which originate from NPR programming.  For the most part, these have been accumulating on my iPod waiting for me to have the time to listen to them.  A recent trip to Radio Shack and the acquisition of a small FM transmitter has allowed me to play these podcasts in my car while driving (thus saving me from the torturous possibility of enduring the utterly insufferable Terry Gross on yet another episode of "Fresh Air").  In the week or so since this purchase I have devoured Dave Barry's most recent book, several months worth of the "News From Lake Wobegone" and today, two episodes of "This American Life."  And so we finally get around to the point of this entry.

The second episode (I don't recall the air date) featured the story of a woman, who when eleven years old, became pen-pals with drug smuggler, murderer, and despot Manuel Noriega.  Through her letter writing she was eventually invited to become his guest in Panama for about a week.  The story focused on the fact that while Noriega perpetrated a variety of grave evils, to one little girl, he was a very normal man, living with his wife and children.  Through him, she had come to experience the goodness of Panama and the goodness of Panamanians.  Near the end of her visit, she received a letter from Noriega which he asked her to share with Americans upon her return to the States.  It is a beautiful and deeply moving letter that reminds us that even one who has done monstrous things remains a man.  He comments about his desire for peace in his own nation and to provide for the poor, homeless, and uneducated therein.  One cannot help but appreciate these desires, however misguided he may have been in his attempt to implement them.  I was moved by his eloquence; near the end of the letter he writes, "Peace is from God and therefore it is welcome to whichever part of the world will have it."

Though not nearly so eloquent as he, I was reminded of something I wrote several summers ago as the state of South Dakota debated the execution of admitted murdered Elijah Page:

There is no such thing as an evil person. There is no evil gene. There are good people who make bad decisions. There are good people, who by means of many bad decisions, become incapable of making good decisions. There are good people who, as a result of circumstances, believe that they have no choice but to make a bad decision. There are good people who intentionally make bad decisions to make us think a particular way about them. There are good people who are zealots for a cause, and for that reason, are willing to sacrifice any principle for it. There are good people, who, because of their own behaviors, place themselves in situations where they haven’t the mental or emotional capacity to make good decisions. There are good people who are often overwhelmed with passions and make decisions based on emotion as opposed to reason. But there is no such thing as an evil person.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"I Hear You Cluckin', Big Chicken"

People who make their living on stage or in public speaking will often say that they feed off of the energy of the audience.  While would not go so far as to say the experiences are the same for a priest, there are times when it is clear to me that the people are "plugged in"; they have truly united themselves in their own sacrifice of praise to the sacrifice I offer at the altar.  Rather than feeling as though I am dragging the congregation along with me, it become apparent that they are holding their own right at my side.  These are incredible, powerful moments when it is almost as though there is an electric tingle in the air.  One of my professors often remarked that in the Mass, it is as though the space between heaven and earth has been pinched together so that whatever separates them is very thin.  In these moments I am trying to describe, that space is even thinner than usual.  In these moments, I am filled with deep satisfaction as I recognize that today they really get what is going on here.  They give more, and I find myself giving more.  God is working on the hearts of his people and on the heart of this priest.  They are rare, these moments, and precious.  One can only respond, inadequately, "Thank you." 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Not to Grow Basil

It all started last summer when I discovered that Fr. Steve is an exceptional cook and that all of his best recipes include basil.  Unfortunately, basis can be on the expensive side at the grocery store.  While a number of parishioners grow basil by the acre, and are usually inclined to share it with the priests, none of us wants to create a Peter Rabbit/Farmer McGregor sort of scenario as we wander about their gardens under the cover of darkness (which is usually when we get around to eating supper on weekends).  I decided then that we should probably have a garden of our own.  Sadly, we live in a rectory surrounded by concrete and with little lawn to spare.  It became clear that a garden would have to be installed at the home of someone else.  Susan Safford, uninterested in maintaining a lawn or flowerbeds volunteered her backyard.  I eagerly accepted the offer.  Besides the obvious benefits of having a garden, this little project would afford me an opportunity to spend time with the local boys who find it easier to talk while doing something.  It's a guy thing . . .

With the help of the broad shoulders and more limber back of a local teen-aged boy, we used shovels to till the soil of an until recently untamed weed bed, discarding as many of the ornamental rocks as possible.  We eliminated the larger clumps of sod, pulled the nettles, and discarded the body of a deceased rose bush.  We raked the garden down and leveled it (more or less), and left it for the evening.  The following day, I returned with two teenagers in tow to plant radishes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and basil.  A couple of weeks later, we were able to see the beginnings of the fruit of our labors.  The carrots were sprouting along with the radishes.  The cucumbers looked great, and I smiled at the peas in their crooked row.  I had never seen happier tomatoes.  The only thing to elude me was the basil.  Having never grown it before, I wasn't sure what it looked like, but I knew where we had laid the three rows of seeds, so I wasn't concerned.  It would become obvious eventually.

Now, after six weeks, I have tasted every weed in the garden hoping to find one that proves to be basil.  Nothing.  As far as I can tell, not a single seed germinated.  I don't know why.  Perhaps it was too cool or perhaps I over watered it.  Perhaps I mistakenly plucked it thinking it to be weeds.  Whatever the case may be, there is nothing that tastes even vaguely of basil in that garden.  While everything else is thriving, the one plant I had hoped to grow in abundance has eluded me.  This means no free pesto, nor any of the other lovely basil recipes I had hoped to enjoy as the basil harvest came in.  

There are a variety of spiritual lessons to be drawn from this experience.  I can't control everything.  I need to let God be in charge, etc, etc, etc.  The true cynic in me, however, cannot help but remember all the times I have been met with disappointment in the past year when people have assured me, "Remember, you are planting seeds."  I hope they grow better than the basil.


If at first you don't succeed, you can always cheat.  Walmart, with whom I typically try to avoid doing business, still has a vast array of plant sets.  The nice thing about these is that someone else has already done the work of making the seeds germinate and grow into pleasant little plants.  As a result, I now have eight basil plants and three cilantro plants living at peace next to the tomatoes.  I am wet to the bone from planting in the rain (I hadn't the patience to wait until dryer weather), but my visions of pesto may still come to pass.

In keeping with my cynical speculation about seeds yesterday, I offer the following spiritual lesson.  When it is too hard to make the seeds of conversion grow, one should give up and concern oneself with those people in whom these seeds have already germinated into a healthy little plant.   

Thursday, July 8, 2010

5th and Broadway

Those who have known me very long are well aware that I suffer an aversion to hippies.  From my observation, the hippie population can be divided into two varieties.  First, there are the original hippies.  These are the sort who were really around in the sixties, who smoked a lot of pot, dropped acid, liked fringe, worried about race and Vietnam, who participated in protests, and who eventually grew up to become accountants and university professors.  I call the second variety the Neo-Hippie.  This group is comprised largely of pretentious rich kids who have never had to work for much, and whose parents can easily afford to send them more money for pot.  Because they don't have race riots or Vietnam, hippies of this variety have been forced to concern themselves with environmentalism and sexual permissiveness.  Like maggots on roadkill, these Neo-Hippies tend to infest the dormitories and student housing complexes of most US universities, trying to seem deep, vitriolically demanding tolerance for all but the intolerant, and generally wasting space that could be used by someone with vastly more potential, and certainly fewer lice and less body odor.  By contrast, the original hippies are much more tolerable.  All they did was initiate a culture war, destroy American Culture, and usher in an era of greed and entitlement that my generation will die trying to resolve.  Besides, they, unlike the neo-hippies, had great music.  For that reason, the Cathedral recently hosted a review of the music of the 1960s at an event that we call 5th and Broadway.

The night featured songs from the Beatles, Elvis, the Beach Boys, Otis Redding, the Supremes, Bob Dylan and many other artists.  There were also a number of selections from the great Broadway Musicals of that time.  From the very young kids, to teens, to the senior members of the parish, every age was represented.  All of the Cathedral priests participated in one way or another.

The event was billed as a fundraiser for kids going to Spain, but in the end, the night was a huge success because it played on people's nostalgia.  The majority of the crowd were those who remembered the songs from the first time they were popular.

I had expected the songs done by the teenagers to be most popular, but I must admit a certain pleasure in the fact that the only standing ovation of the evening was given for Fr. Mike and Me, when, dressed as Sonny and Cher, we sang "I've Got You Babe."  You can guess as to which of us was which.

Below are photos of the events.


"Barbara Ann"

     "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You"

"From Moetown with Love" Supremes Medley

"Stop Children"

"San Francisco"

"Sunshine Day" - The Brady Bunch

"It's a Small World"

"Moon River"

"Impossible Dream"

"Hit the Road Jack"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

By The Twilight's Last Gleaming

It is often lamented that the days of neighborhoods and front porch conversations have disappeared.  In many places, I suspect that this is true.  I am deeply grateful, however, that it is not true here, as was evidenced tonight with a fantastic Fourth of July barbecue.  Nothing seems more American than beer, burgers, brats, and potato salad on the day that we celebrate our independence from the tyrannical rule of  the King of England.

The party consisted of a variety of families from the parish, the director of vocations, and several religious sisters who will be helping to host a girl's camp in the coming week.  There were kids everywhere, ranging from age four to age eighteen or so.  With the end of dinner and the approach of darkness, we enjoyed our own display of fireworks.  Francis Scott Key's "bombs bursting in air" were nothing compared to the shock and awe the kids perpetrated against the neighbors.  As darkness settled on the horizon, our location afforded us a perfect view of the fireworks provided by the city over Memorial Park.  Once finished, the kids retaliated with another volley from their own arsenals.

Tonight is another night during which I am deeply grateful to be a priest.  The party, as I mentioned, was an assortment of families, but they, collectively, constitute my family.  I have shared moments of great intimacy with each of them.  I have had serious arguments with most of them.  I have been loved by all of them.  Tonight, with bottle rockets still shooting around the city, roman candles arching across the parking lot, fire crackers beating their staccato rhythm in the street, and gray smoke hovering at the height of my window, I prepare for bed a decidedly happy father.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Think I'm Glad This Week is Over

I am not complaining, but rather, remarking on the variety of things that can happen in a given week.  It really is a marvel sometimes.  So, just to recap what has happened since this time last week:

1) Three parishioners died tragically in a boating accident -  A father, his 12 year old daughter, and a young man destined for the seminary.

2) I met with my spiritual director for the last time before he heads off to do more schooling.  I'm not sure who I get next.

3) It was announced that my bishop would be leaving for Spokane amidst great wailing and gnashing of teeth by many.

4) We had two dress rehearsals and the performance of 5th and Broadway (about which i will write when I have pictures)

5) We buried three people.

6) One of the priests in the house discovered that his sister was dying immanently, thus preventing me from making the trip to a forth funeral in Nebraska, and throwing a wrench into all sorts of plans.

7) A couple tried to strong-arm me into letting them drag a wagon filled with infants tossing flower petals down the aisle for their wedding.

8) I conducted my first wedding rehearsal and a bride tried to forbid me from concelebrating a Mass in my own parish.

9) The previously mentioned wedding was celebrated.

10) The World Youth Day kids and parents made, baked and sold 125 rhubarb pies in one day.

11) At least four different people from school have called to chat, presumably about the impending change of bishop.

Friday, July 2, 2010

And You're the One who Jaded Me

So, not to be a Debby Downer, but when given the option to choose between the dead and the living, I am beginning to find myself inclined to work with the dead.  I find that they almost never talk back.  Fr. Mike has all but begged me not to become jaded and cynical about weddings.  I understand why he is so concerned.

On Memorial Day, I met with a couple who had been prepared for marriage elsewhere.  They were planning to be married here in Rapid, and I was helping them facilitate the process.  The bride-to-be was super demanding and things needed to be "just right."  Which was fine.  Mostly.  I wanted things a particular way for my ordination too.  I did not, however, expect the Cathedral Staff to put their lives on hold nor to assume that my ordination was THE most important event of the summer.  Moreover, I didn't change the principle celebrant of the Mass three times.  Nor did I expect my chancery to bend over backwards to accommodate a priest from another diocese who didn't get his paperwork done on time.  This bride did do all of these things.  On a day when I was involved in the funeral rites for three dead people (two of whom were Father and Daughter) I was not particularly well equipped to deal with anyone's nonsense.  I became even less well equipped when it was announced to me that another couple I am working with are threatening to get married in a park because I forbade children who cannot walk, wagons, and flower petals from the wedding. 

Equipped or not, I was scheduled to do the wedding rehearsal.  The groom was twenty minutes late.  That helped my mood a lot.  It also helped my mood a lot when the bride insisted that the way I had spaced the wedding party was incorrect, and that the photographer would be inconvenienced.  Father's willingness to make concessions was reaching its limit.  What really took the cake, however, is when after the rehearsal the bride tried to tell me that I would not be concelebrating the wedding, but that I should not take it personally.  In my own diocese!  In my own Church!  Suffice it to say that she found herself gravely mistaken. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preliminary Thoughts on a New Bishop

In understanding my own identity as a priest, on of the inescapable elements to which I often return is my relationship to the bishop.  While ordination configured me to Christ in a particular way, the fact of the matter remains that I minister in my diocese as an extension of the ministry of the Bishop.  For this reason, it is essential that I promise my respect and obedience to him and to his successors.

I think it is the second part of that promise, to his successors, that requires a great deal of courage from priest.  Beginning September3 of this year, Bishop Cupich will relinquish his jurisdiction over the Diocese of Rapid City and take possession of the Diocese of Spokane.  This diocese needs him in many ways.  They are reeling from sex abuse settlements; money and responding to abuse are two areas where Bp. Cupich is very good.  This means, though, that I will be without a shepherd, and that sooner or later, I will find myself bound to a man about whom I had no choice.  

Already people are asking who will replace Bp. Cupich.  I can't really say, though I would guess that it will be someone from the South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota region.  Indeed, while I can speculate for the next year about who it might be, in the end, it matters little.  I have already chosen to be obedient to him, and I will be.  What I do makes no sense without him.  Who I am cannot be defined without reference to him.  Priests are bound to their bishops.