Life’s A Rat Race

On Monday, I had some important errands in New York City.  We drove from Rhode Island to New Haven, CT where we climbed aboard a Metro-North train for Grand Central Station.  We were on a local, so we could have arrived in the city much quicker if we drove right in.  However, this eliminated the need for finding a place to park. (On my last trip my car was towed and it took us four hours to get it back.)

We arrived safely and had an enjoyable trip.  My first stop was only six blocks south of Grand Central Station and St. Patrick’s Cathedral another fourteen blocks north.  After a nice visit to St. Patrick’s, we managed a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant  just behind the church.  From there, we had to get back to Grand Central to head back to New Haven and drive home.

What struck us most on this trip and we all said it a number of times, “I could never do this every day!”.  Some of reading this may be among those who do do this every day – God bless you!

What struck me and my traveling companions the most was the look of so many people.  It was like zombies walking down the street, blank stares, and going through the motions.

My thought is this.  Do we enjoy our daily lives?  Are we miserable in what we are doing?  Where can we find peace, even if our daily work and commute involves something like I saw on Monday?  I think the problem is that most people today do not have a relationship with God.  People’s hearts are empty and longing for something more than the daily grind.

If you are in the daily rat race, and even if you are not, spend some time in prayer every day.  Turn to the Lord in the morning as you begin your day, and turn to Him for a few moments throughout your day.  Above all, if you can possibly find a way, sneak in a daily Mass.  There is a popular bumper sticker that reads: “No Jesus, no peace! Know Jesus, know peace!”  How true that is.

If you are caught in the rat race, let Jesus help you through.  The perfect example is Blessed Mother Theresa.  Before her Sisters go out to work in the streets and face the pain and tragedy of the most downtrodden people, they spend two hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament.  While that is not possible for most working people, all of us can spend some moments throughout our days communing with the Lord in short prayers and ejaculations.

Bishop Tobin Makes It Clear!

So often people write on blogs and tell us priests, “Why don’t the Bishops speak out?”  We’ll my Bishop does, and, I thought you would all enjoy my bishops response to Congressman Patrick Kennedy.  Patrick is the son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

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Dear Congressman Kennedy:

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Providence

Is free speech at risk?

In the past year, we have seen many attacks on our most treasured human rights.  Among these basic human rights is freedom of speech.  The ability of good people to gather and speak out against the destruction of innocent human life other ethical issues is being undermined.  You may remember that Janet Napolitano, Director of Homeland Security declared the “extreme left” as dangerous.  In a word, Napolitano, “warns against the possibility of violence by unnamed “right-wing extremists” concerned about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion and the loss of U.S. sovereignty and singles out returning war veterans as particular threats.”  Pretty scary, ha!

Last night, while I was checking out my many news links, I ran across two YouTube videos of people demonstrating at the US Capital in Washington, DC against Senator Nancy Pelosi.  The first was from the inside.  It showed people ripping up copies of the health care bill legislation and an elderly priest being arrested.  The second took place outside the Capitol as Pelosi gave her “victory” speech.  A number of people were outside with plackets and bull horns, again criticizing the Senator.  I watched in horror and dismay as police once again came, nocked the bull horns out of peoples hands and arrested them.

We the people have a right to peacefully demonstrate for or against something our government is proposing.  The fact is, we pay the bills and we pay our politicians salaries.  Has the phrase “Free Speech” become past tense in the USA?

Video inside the Capital by Palosi’s office.

Video of arrests outside the Capital.

Swine Flu – What’s the truth?

Let me begin by saying, welcome to my new blog!

Every day, there is something new we are told about the swine flu or H1N1. Everyone should get vaccinated, but there is not enough to go around. In the last week and a half, we now have three confirmed deaths, two are 12 year old children and the latest case is a 49 year old woman.

We are told it is a pandemic, but in the past a pandemic killed millions. The current strain of Swine Flu was declared a pandemic back in July, but, thank God, has not caused wide spread deaths as we thought. What’s going on?

I came across a video by a Benedictine Nun who is a physician, trained in the US and living in a monastery in Spain. It’s about 1 hour long. She doesn’t come across like some of the spinsters on both sides of the aisle. Well worth watching. She brings up some great points. There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered. Why all the secrecy? Why did H1N1 suddenly pop up out of no where? Sister gives some interesting facts and points to some real trustworthy resources. Check it out and you be the judge. Here is the video. It’s in Spanish with good English subtitles.