Saturday, February 18, 2006


We'll hold a funeral service this next week for my dear parishioner. We'll commune with him tomorrow around the table of our Lord. At the funeral, we'll pray for him. Tomorrow, we'll praise God with him.

For many who live, ecclesiastically, where I lived in years past, this all sounds strange--very strange. The person's dead. Why would you pray for him? What do you mean we'll praise God with him? commune with him?

Our protestant limitations in American Christianity (at least in the protestant sections--actually, probably in much of the catholic sections too) really do us no favors in understanding the Church of Jesus Christ. Broadly speaking, it tends to be thought of as all those who have accepted Jesus into their heart. That, of course, is just not the definition given in the Holy Scriptures. The Church is all those who are "in" Jesus (whether they remember saying the sinner's prayer is really besides the point). This getting into Jesus is by grace through faith and the operation of the Holy Ghost through Word and Sacrament (all that to say that I won't be getting into this stuff, I'm not trying to argue soteriology here).

If we remember that "all" those in Christ are in his Church, then we realize that when we worship with the whole Church, we worship with those that have gone before. Thus, we commune with our departed brother tomorrow at Christ's table, where all the Church communes.

Why do we pray for those who have gone before? Because our prayers do not just have to do with earthly things. We often pray for spiritual growth in Christ for each other here on earth. Why do we presume that such growth ceases to happen because we are departed from our bodies? Being without our bodies may mean that we are free of the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, but it doesn't mean that we have nothing else to learn. Unless we are like God when we die, which the Holy Scriptures seem to oppose, we still have much to learn. After all, Adam and Eve prior to the fall had much to learn--and they were without sin.

So, we pray for our brother at his funeral this week and thereafter. After all, he is a member of Christ's Church, and we are to pray for the Church--both here on earth and in the heavenlies.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I have a dear parishioner who is at home dying. He and his wife are so wonderfully kind and generous to me as I visit them, and I am moved by the seriousness and piety with which they take their faith and spiritual lives.

This sort of situation is not uncommon in the life of a parish priest, I'm afraid. In a healthy parish of some average size, a parish priest is not dealing with this every day, but it comes up periodically. At the recent clericus, one priest mentioned that his parish had been an older parish and in the last dozen or so years, he had buried 90 of Christ's faithful. Wow.

So, I am ministering, to the best of my ability, to this older couple. I bring them the sacrament, pray with them, give them the parish news. The parish can ill afford to lose either one of them, as we don't have that many older people in the parish--well, they're essentially it.

As to the title of this post. Much happens in life that is so trivial and inconsequential. So much happens that is just stupid and insipid and tediously taxing to one's patience. In one sense, because of our laziness and slackness, much just doesn't happen at all.

So many people spend their life complaining--and I point the finger at myself too for such silliness and pettiness. Yet, when I am faced with the death of a wonderful member of our parish, when I meet with a student who has just lost her father, when I see the brokenness all around me, but particularly, death, I have my meter recalibrated.

It's the sort of meter that would flash or buzz when you enter an outhouse. It's the sort of meter that everyone really needs to have and keep calibrated. For me, death up close and personal does a very fine job of recalibrating it. Suddenly the world and life and the universe is all put into perspective, I'm reminded that we only have one ride on this merry-go-round, and each moment is particularly precious and important to the Kingdom of God and to the joyous life I am supposed to live in Him.

So, when I hear the incessant complaining and carping, when I hear how rough it is in this situation or that--and particularly when I come up with those issues from my own heart, I am reminded of the young death of my best friend from childhood, of the young death of two friends and mothers (one a parishioner) on Christmas Eve's two years apart, I'm reminded of the accident this last Christmas time of a family friend who lived through his own car accident only to be killed by the car coming behind him, I'm reminded of my dear parishioner and his wife who is not ready to say goodbye, who spend their days together comforting one another, laughing a little, crying a little and probably just being quiet together as a married couple learns how to be after dozens of years of marriage.

I hope and pray that I am patient and kind and loving to those who are complaining, but I hope to God that I can communicate the important things of life to them too--especially when I am the one complaining. We only go round once; let's live each moment in the joy of our Lord and quit complaining about the great blessings that He has seen fit to bestow upon us--even the blessings of trials and temptations since we know that they are meant for our continual sanctification as well.

And, may God continue to give me opportunities to re-calibrate that all important meter in His timing and will.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Carmelite Monastary in Napa Valley. Father Brad (first collage, top right) and I made it in time for the start of the Clericus, and I went ahead and stole all these pictures from his camera. Nice photo's, Father!

The Clericus gatherered 17 bishops, priests and deacons on the lovely grounds of the monastary right next door to the Mondavi Winery, whose vines are pictured below (about 80 years old).