Archive for the ‘sex’ Category

Empty Nests

To be moved, in this world with all of its dysfunction, to act.

The 40% of American Catholics that had moved to different churches, amidst the dysfunction. The European Catholics who just plain quit worshiping. The leadership which by the way was supposed to believe in the Gospel of “I am the Good Shepard,” failed to respond to the dysfunction. Mostly it was left to the parish priest. The leadership, which seemed to called to go looking for its lost sheep, were lost in their own spiritual golf game.

To be moved. When creation had become chaos. Golf games. The priests to whom I was related had loved to play golf. Simple parish priests.

Dysfunction. The dysfunction. I saw it not far from my home in the black community. I heard it on a walk the other night where one woman never took a deep breath in the 120 to 180 seconds I just stood listening to an uninterrupted rant inside a house. When another neighbor came along from the opposite direction, I felt like I had to move on. It might have been the television but if it was, a commercial seemed over due. To this passer-by, it was not funny. It was hilarious.

Uninterrupted rants. There were a lot of them in the world. Creation had become chaos. All that the Good Book says is that Noah submits to God’s will and nothing more;uninterrupted rants. About the ongoing effects of World War II. When you elected leaders who had lived through it all. It was not just what Adolph Hitler had done to all of us, Jews and non-Jews. It was what Stalin had done to all of us. When so much of the media was ready to offer canonization, what had the leadership of John Paul II done to the church? How could anyone lived a life through all of this and not show affects of dysfunction?

Gdansk in 2001. People coming back to claim property wrongfully taken. Gdansk is about my favorite historical place in all the world. On issues of freedom in that shipyard. Following September 11, there were not many travelers looking at the Gdansk museum, where I learned that Gdansk represented much more than just Lech Walensa. The fight for freedom that arose there under the leadership of Lech Walensa came from events that had happened at the shipyard over a 10 year period. Massacres really. This was the successful Polish uprising, a lot like the ones that had ultimately failed in Warsaw in response to German occupation.

Where was the accountability in Rome to all the lost sheep? It was not just the abuse of the 20th Century and the lack of response from Rome. It was about addressing the status of women in the church for the 21st Century. Men born before World War II did not see the need to address it. Not when nuns were still ironing your vestments, making your food, and cleaning your apartment.

With a dysfunction seen in the corporate world with board of directors appointed by CEOs. When those boards did not question executive compensation. With politics as usual, without a concern for the real world. The real world of Bernard Law. And archbishops like that all over the country, not much different than the world of Wall Street.

When there was a laziness that came from your habits, without thinking. Going back to the same staid ways. When things quit working. The culture will soon be demanding even more reparations for these sins, if they had not already. The juries made up of women were a scary scene when they were going to sit in judgment of this church, on issues of damages against the church.

In this dysfunctional world, with all of the lost sheep

That party in Omaha. “What did you think about John Paul II.”

To be moved. Beyond words of apology. To be moved to change. It was time. This Penecost Sunday.

The Conflict



What were you doing when your life had urgency? When life seemed exciting? In the morning. When there was real traffic flow, outside of the rush hours?


In the morning. Of light and movement. Of climate change. Global warming. Global dimming.

Ugency upon waking to get to work. But first the news. The urgency of ….The urgency of Henry Paulson for the last 4 months. The urgency of Christopher Cox at the SEC.

Global warming: Was it the result of avoiding suffering? The result of air conditioning? The result of cars and trucks? The result of heating spaces. Global dimming. Was its result on sunlight one affect of all these airplanes? And this affect on water evaporation?

Global dimming was as big a threat as global warming. They both are now affecting everyone. There was urgency. Like an urgency of hunger. Or of love.

Global warming: A lot of the world, the emancipated world, does not think it is wrong to turn up the air conditioner. To get drunk and drive. To do drugs. To stay warm. To avoid suffering. Or to avoid another child.

“Give me chastity. But just not right now.” That was the prayer of St. Augustine. He had a wild youth. Which was why his mother, Monica, was later canonized.

Trying to convince a kid it is wrong to have sex. To advise a son, a daughter. To stay away from someone who appeared to be evil. A lot of the world, the emancipated world, does not think sex, free sex, is wrong. Either in or outside of a relationship. So there is the conflict. Whether government belongs in the debate? Whether a religious body does? When there is national health insurance. When there is welfare. When the community was fitting the bill? With group insurance. With tax money. With the law.

“Give me chastity. Right now!” That was the prayer of the popes for the last thousand years. To all the clergy. Male and female. The real story of late was gender wars in all the secular world over the last 100 years, and humankind’s struggle with their own independence. The struggle with sex. As an adult men and women. With relationships, with each other, with your God, how to convey to the next generation the seriousness of life, the seriousness of sex and passion, and the seriousness of fertility? After the gender wars? Why should the church be immune? Intermixing the struggle on gender roles in the Church of Rome, the same gender wars in all the secular world was found in church, in discussion with living females on church issues of the day. In the mix of innocence, or purity, of sacrifice, amidst the green house gasses. Note the difficulty for guys with miters, ruling in an institution never particularly inclusive in leadership decisions for either women or married men.

“Conflict is in fact the basic law of life in all social organisms, as it is of all biological ones; societies are formed, gain strength, and move forwards through conflict; the healthiest and most vital of them assert themselves against the weakest and less well adapted through conflict; the natural evolution of nations and races takes place through conflict.” -Alfredo Rocco-

The realness … of God. The realness … of global dimming. The realness … of institutional sexism. Father Ray Bourgois was just excommunicated over the issue of urgency, over real prejudices which, he believed, were just as evil as racial prejudice. Ray Bourgois knew canon law. He knew, as well as Martin Luther knew, that his action would result in excommunication. He saw a kind of religious bigotry. The realness of life.

I was going to be in the most important church I ever prayed at in my life. On Sunday. On the college campus where I had spent 4 years. When the music of the St. Louis Jesuits had been new and heard for the first time by their companions a few hundred miles away. With readings about callings, where disciples were not asked to abandon their wives and families. Rather, Jesus settled down with his followers, and made Capernaum his home. Capernaum was in the territory of Herod Antipas which apparently was much more friendly to fishermen, than Herod Phillip. Working people, pragmatic young people, were all looking for places a little more friendly to the problems of the times. Normal people. His followers became his family.

In the end, what were you doing when your life had urgency? When life seemed exciting? When there was a realness of urgency?

So your sense of urgency. But in your hopes to move with great speed, did you know of the increased traffic in the world over the last 15 years asthe world population of cars since 1994 has grown from 550 million to about 880 million? In the internet age, you could not go so fast?

And why should the church be immune? With old vehicles and old priests? Who would replace them? In the slowdown, for those with expiration dates?

Bishops having to convince an adult he was recruiting that it was wrong to marry in his life. That there was a need for suffering, in a form of celibacy. Avoid the easy way. Find the mystery in this small sense of suffering. When your job was offering care to people. Spiritual care. With physcial exercise, you sweated but you felt good. No short cuts. Just do it. Then see what you think. When all of this was voluntary. The draft. The all volunteer spiritual army. For national service. So exactly how generous were you? With your money? With your life? But you could not have a spouse.

The readings this Sunday were about urgency. The urgency of callings … to change the world.

The difficulty to ask a young man to work for this institution with such apparent prejudices, however he felt called to serve His God. In a world that happened so fast, when not many popes lately had setttled in with his own followers and their problems, running a church 2000 years old, even when you were infallible, there was a still sense of urgency.

This was the real world. Where life seemed exciting. The urgency to communicate again, in the real world, about this God. The married and the unmarried. Men and women. But for those with real institutional prejudice.

Before the people here were allowed to lose a sense of excitement about God that the people of Europe seem to have lost over the past generation. For people who lost a sense of excitement. When religion became too much of a job. Too unreal with the everyday world. When the urgency was lost.

And when no one talked about it?

In a world where no one talked much about God. And His suddenness. And the “now what” question for Him. About all of this?

Global dimming was as big a threat as global warming. But it was the suddenness of all of this that was the crisis.

On Passing the Turkey


Passing it on.  Thanksgiving was about passing it on.  In one country in North America.  Passing it on.  Inheritence, in the days of vanishing wealth, in the days of vast materialism. 


My dining room table was passed along to me by my grandparents.  I think it had belonged to my grandfather’s father.  I was named after him.  He was born in the decade after the Civil War.  I think there was a time years ago where the family celebrated Thanksgiving at this table.  Soon thereafter my parents were hosting most every holiday dinner.


Turkey.  We had always had turkey on Thanksgiving.  One Thanksgiving when I was about 6-years old, the family photograph appeared on the front page of one section of the newspaper, with my father cutting the turkey.  I discovered once I graduated college that not every family did have turkey.  I think my dad felt like he had worn his religion on his shirtsleeves with that photo, and that his family would always have turkey.  Turkey was always the meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas at the home where I grew up.  But my dad never carved another turkey after the photo was taken.  Maybe he heard from the local PETA group.   


Ties.  Hats.  The generations before mine had men who wore ties and hats.  Maybe it was the influence of John F. Kennedy but I always avoid hats.  Even when the temperature is minus 20 degrees.  Fahrenheit.  But I have been pretty traditional in wearing ties.  On Christmas Eve, until the past few years.  Now I keep the tie in the pocket.  A lot of the rituals that I grew up with are being discarded.  The torch has been passed to a new generation. 


Ties. Hats.  Turkey.  Rituals.  I have been living in the shadows of a Catholic church, since 1987.  A lot like my grandmother.  Since 1991 my view mirrored that of my grandmother’s, when I knew her, with a view of the Catholic church across the street.  She worked for the priests in the rectory, and she lived across the street.  The pastor at the church where I worship had come from that parish was he was a young man.  He wrote one Sunday in his parish bulletin that he was looking for a woman to iron the altar cloth, and all the other things that were ironed, like when he was a young priest.  He referred to my grandmother by name, about 20 years after her death.             


Deoxyribonucleic acid had not been discovered for most of my grandmother’s life.  Or at least what to call it.  Somewhere along the line physicians discovered that family medical history was important.  Genetics can determine life and death.  For cancer.  For arteriosclerotic coronary artery disease.  At the time of Darwin’s writing, nothing was known of this theory of inheritance called genetics.  Her genes could determine my longetivity, and she probably never even heard the terminology. 


The passion.  DNA.  Passing it on.  When that moment of love, when the DNA was formed.  In one moment.  Who would have thought?  The inward and outward signs of DNA. 


Over the river and through the woods.  To grandmother’s house.  The horse knows the way.  The moon revolves around the earth, the earth around the sun as one but many planets.  It took a few generations to discover all of this out.  But the horse knew the way.  The predictability of the solar system.  There was an animal sense about it.  


Rituals.  Rituals were a part of history.  There was a mystery in the rituals.  History seldom has a prominent place in the life of a young person, and because history never had a prominent place at the table, rituals, family medical history, and the meaning were often forgotten, or not passed along.  The family dog often sensed things that your teen-ager never seemed to grasp.  If the world was 10 million years old, the location of the revolution of the earth was known only over the last 500 years, in black and white.   


Thanksgiving was a day that was all about relationships.  And people brought together.  In good times and bad.  It was a day to stop and give thanks and praise.  For the revolutions of another year.  For those of us who are alive.  Together.   Few people ever really talk about passing on ritual along with its meaning.  Few people ever really talk of the mystery in relationships.  Without its meaning, relationships and ritual would just be another motion, in a world still spinning on its regular axis, at its regular speed, in the solar system.  When it came to passing on traditions, real life examples were more affective.  Dining room tables.  Turkey.  Darwin.  The fittest who survive.  Passing on ritual, from loved ones who have passed. 


DNA.  Passing it on.  Seeing it in the kids.  Where the invisible became visble.  That invisible that was felt all along.  The mystery in the ritual.  Was it why I got that table which was now to me an outward signs of mystery.  A Sacrament?  The “seen” in the years before I had figured out the mystery, of the “unseen.”


Tonight an Italian-American brother-in-law and his wife are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time.  Everyone is waiting to see if he and his wife prepare turkey.


In a show today about fidelity and infidelity on Minnesota Public Radio, I heard the guest speak of the desires of everyone for an intimate relationship.  The show just as well could have been about a relationship between God and the individual.   

  • It is a dangerous process opening to someone.  There is a need to risk in a relationship before you can be comfortable, have efficient sex, and before you can be truly intimate. 
  • Most guys have unbelievable ignorance about their lover.  Women use conversation to get close.  Men do not. 
  • Part of the learning process of marriage is to face the truth that all people are imperfect, all people face one day a disappointment in themselves or in a part of that love.  A relationship was learning how to deal with those imperfections and life’s problem.  This process is present in all marriages.   And that was where the theme of forgiveness comes in. 
  • Coming slowly to the revelation…of my imperfections.  Of the partner’s imperfections.  And talking about them.  Trying to do better. 
  • There is magic revealing yourself to someone else.  A therapist role, as an interpreter when a marriage becomes stressed, is to make it safe to communicate about everything, including sexual fantasy, emotions….What is it that you talk to this person about? 
  • There is always a need for a closeness ritual, or you are having trouble getting attention from your lover.
  • A man has a need for sexual interaction, revealing embarrassing things, how foolish he is.  These are the endearing things for a woman to hear.  When the foolish no longer is revealed, ways to stay close are lost. 
  • The crisis in a marriage IS part of the process of becoming a human being.  It develops character.  Ideas as to what is appropriate in a marriage come from families that we have lived in, and are distorted by movies and TV.  
  • Problems in marriage do not make people have affairs.  The lies and dishonesty in an affair do more damage than the sex in an affair. 
  • People who get out of the habit of talking to their spouse are vulnerable to infidelity.
  • Women desire more, who are lonely inside their marriage
  • Infidelity: the looking, the touching, the lying, but the desire to meet that person when intimacy, when the dearth of the soul was again revealed, to fill a void. 
  • Touched.  To be truly touched, and its affect on the heart. 
  • People trained for honesty and fidelity need to be shown how to communicate efficiently.  Too often an answer is an invitation to stop thinking about something, to stop talking, to stop wondering about the mysery of your lover.  The mystery was in the ongoing questions.    


Intimacy.  It was waking up in the morning realizing how lucky you were in this life.  Realizing how lucky you were, to have that person next to you.  Especially in modern times, in a pop culture of meaningless junk. 


Intimacy.  It involved giving thanks and praise.  At last once a week.  If not every day.  And meaning it.  In good times, and in bad.  It often was harder to stop in good times and pass on a compliment.  There was a daily numbness that set in, when a lot of us just quit seeing all the things close by.   The things that were always there.


It could become the normal human experience to quit expressing thanks.  It happened when a certain sense of humility was lost.  And humility was harder to hold on in the modern world than your 401K. 


Intimacy.  Learning monogamy.  Prayer and sex were a lot alike.  Monogamy.  Montheism.  Revelation.  Of my imperfections.  And of hers.  Slowly over time.  No marriage was perfect.  Because the 2 people are imperfect.  That was also the revelation that most people came to in their relationship with God.



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Mystery: Being Able to Question

The mystery: of baseball, of markets, of the opposite sex, of God. 

Why did you bunt, with a man on second and no one out?  All of the questions of the press conference, there were actually two managers giving honest answers.  We now live in an age where candidates, coaches, managers answered less questions.  They arranged and spun events, setting the tone.  So it was refreshing to see Joe Maddon and Charlie Manuel in action.      

The loss of access to question was followed by people who quit questioning.  It was the environment we lived in, dominated by former journalists turned public relation specialists.  The environment, the moral one, had changed.  It was a result of moral relativism, decried by agnostics like George Orwell or Christian Evelyn Waugh.   Maybe no one would notice.  But the old-timers did.  They saw limited access in press rooms and locker rooms.  Young journalists took all of this loss of access as the norm. 

The loss of access was part of the the daily llfe of a new generation.  Voice messages, e-mail, might increase communication in one way, but it was one dimensional.  I could manipulate people and time to my advantage.  But did it make people, candidates, less authentic?     

Did anyone else see the irony in lower interest rates, announced by the Fed yesterday?  Wasn’t that easy credit what created this mess in the first place?   Washington was going to be compelling banks to lend, in a new form of fascism?  The Associated Press actually ran this story:

October 28, 2008…..WASHINGTON (AP) — An impatient White House served notice Tuesday on banks and other financial companies receiving billions of dollars in federal help to quit hoarding the money and start making more loans.

“We’re trying to do is get banks to do what they are supposed to do, which is support the system that we have in America. And banks exist to lend money,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Though there are limits on how much Washington can pressure banks, she noted that banks are regulated by the federal government.  “They will be watching very closely, and they’re working with the banks,” she said.  She said that Anthony Ryan, Treasury’s acting undersecretary for domestic finance, delivered a speech in New York on Tuesday that made this point. Ryan spoke to the annual meeting of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.” 

It also was reported, “As the crisis that began in the mortgage market spreads through the economy, policy makers are redoubling their efforts to contain the damage. Even as the Fed reduced rates on Wednesday, the Bush administration was weighing a plan to slow the foreclosure epidemic in the nation’s housing market. Details of the initiative were in flux, but the plan could involve the government guaranteeing the mortgages of as many as three million at-risk homeowners, a step that could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, people briefed on the plan said.”

The “why me, Lord?” refrain.  A lot of people sang it in tough times.  Few sang it in good times.  In an affluent time, too many of use just ate, drank, and were married without realizing all of the ingredients put into the food, and from where those ingredients had come.

At some point in a budding relationship, there was hope to find out and put an end to the wonder of what was behind this body.   To see someone naked was move to the next step.  But the real mystery involved responding to a fidelity, to the wonder of nakedness.  It seemed nothing but attempting to feel a lover’s soul. 


With all of the questioning, there are promises made, tested, and kept. In the end, maybe at a funeral, maybe at the end of a season, you see how God has proven faithful.  And for those who survive a deadly illness, an addiction, there is a question of response.  As in any loving relationship, there is a necessity of laying down the proper way to respond to this fidelity.  


With mysteries, it was all about the daily questioning.