Wednesday, December 23, 2009

True Meaning Of The Twelve Days of Christmas

The following email was sent by one of my diaconal candidate brothers. Maybe you've seen and heard this before. If not, enjoy the revelation.


Merry Christmas!

What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge in the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

Here is the meaning:

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol.

Joe Sifferman

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How God Works Through All Of Us

God's hand is in everything we do. All we have to do is open our eyes to see God at work in our lives.

There is a cause near and dear to my heart thanks to the grace of God. It all started in January 2007 as a participant in the annual Homeless Count in downtown Seattle. While walking the streets of downtown Seattle counting the men and women who were sleeping on the streets on a cold Winter's night, I met the director of Noel House in Seattle. Eileen McComb was the leader of the count team I was on. Noel House is affiliated with Catholic Housing Services and provides permanent shelter for women in need of a roof over their heads, a warm bed and a hot meal.

She seemed very suspicious of a member of the media wanting to participate in such an important exercise. She was quite direct in asking me why I was there. I shared with her KOMO Newsradio's mission to be a good community steward. I told her we do that by telling stories of need in the community and letting our listeners do the rest. She was still wary. Can't blame her. Eileen is a longtime veteran of the mission to tend to the needs of the homeless and has probably had her fill of the morbidly curious. As we walked the streets, she told me about Noel House and about the overwhelming need. I listened. At the end of the night, I promised to be in touch.

It took several months before the right opportunity arose to help out. The event was a gala for Noel House and the attendance needed a boost. I promised to tell the story on KOMO Newsradio and assigned one of our most gifted storytellers Corwin Haeck to share the need. He did a beautiful job.

Mary and I attended the event and were surprised by how packed it was. God's work in full display.

Another opportunity came about this time last year. Noel House needed help with a gift card program. KOMO Newsradio did a Saturday morning interview and a good Samaritan listener stepped forward to fill the need. Again, God's will be done.

Word of the biggest need came around Thanksgiving of this year with the revelation that a 10-thousand dollar grant had gone away and Noel House's nightly feed program was in jeopardy for 2010.

I took the news to my counterpart at KOMO 4 News and shared with her an opportunity for the Problem Solvers unit to get involved in making a miracle happen. She enthusiastically agreed. The story aired on Thanksgiving eve.

Noel House has closed the gap on the 10-thousand dollar need by half thanks to viewers and listeners. But they still need more cash donations to keep the program afloat.

A Facebook post by my friend Eileen tugged at my heart a few weeks later. The post was sort of a prayer for the women who would be sleeping in the frigid cold that night. Women Eileen knows personally. I asked her what KOMO Newsradio could do to help. She said the women needed blankets. Lots of blankets. And gloves and hats.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. God's handiwork on full display in the secular media.

My KOMO Newsradio colleague Brian Calvert went to work and found what Noel House needed.

If we all pay attention to the quiet whisper of God's voice, miracles are still possible.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Catholic Principles For Health Care Reform

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have advocated for health-care reform since 1993, writes Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle. He responds to criticism of the bishops' position on health-care reforms being considered by Congress.

Seattle Times - Guest columnist
By Alex J. Brunett
Special to The Times

THE United States' Catholic Bishops are upholding a centuries-old tradition of caring for the poor and sick with our advocacy for health-care reform. Some of the first hospitals in the United States were established by Catholic religious sisters, and today the Catholic Health Association is the nation's largest group of not-for-profit health-care sponsors, systems and facilities in the United States.

When the uninsured visit an emergency room, there is a good chance it will be in one of the 624 Catholic hospitals in this country, and they will be welcomed and respected regardless of their beliefs or ability to pay. Catholic teaching holds that health care is a basic human right because every person, created in the image and likeness of God, has a right to life and to those things necessary to sustain life, including affordable health care.

Despite the U.S. bishops' consistent advocacy for comprehensive health-care reform since 1993, a recent guest column in this newspaper ["Bishops take low road on health-care reform," Opinion, Dec. 10] suggests that we are willing to "toss off the bridge" the uninsured because of our equally consistent opposition to abortion. The facts do not support this claim.

Let's set the record straight. Our position does not scale back "women's abortion rights" as Sam Sperry's guest commentary suggests. We bishops recognize that any attempt to change current law giving women a legal right to abortion would be dead on arrival in Congress.

As a result, the amendments related to abortion we have supported in the U.S. House and Senate do not alter, add or subtract anything from current federal law. In addition, the amendments specifically state that insurance companies may sell and individuals may purchase coverage for abortions.

The intent of our advocacy on this issue is to promote universal access to health care and to preserve the long-standing federal policy prohibiting federal funding of abortion. Recent public opinion polls and the favorable vote in the U.S. House of Representatives affirm that a majority of Americans overwhelmingly agree with this position.

Our advocacy with regard to federal funding of abortion, however, is a consequence, not the sum total, of our teaching. As teachers, the bishops of the United States have not taken a position on any particular health-care reform bill, but have forcefully articulated our Catholic values and principles.

Those interested in understanding authentic Catholic teaching on the issues of health care and abortion need look no further than the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states, "From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the first moment of conception to natural death."

Where the column is most in error is in its suggestion that the bishops' position represents a narrow religious perspective shared only by a small minority. If that were the case, federal law that has protected citizens from paying for abortions would not have been the law of the land for more than three decades during presidencies and congressional majorities representing both parties.

Catholic Church teaching does not divide humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. Catholic teaching holds that every human being — including unborn humans in the womb — have fundamental human rights, including the right to life.

That is why the views expressed in the recent guest column pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of the poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection, which includes access to health care.

The Most Rev. Alex J. Brunett is the Catholic archbishop of Seattle.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seattle's St. James Cathedral Pastor Speaks Out Against New English Mass Translation

I pray this issue does not become a battle in our parishes. Fr. Ryan's protest is not over a doctrinal issue, but semantics. Other local pastors may follow suit. Or not. Agreeing to disagree is OK. These dialogues are healthy for our faith if we approach the discussion constructively and with the grace of God in our hearts.


By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times staff reporter

A new translation of the book that guides the prayers and responses of the Roman Catholic Mass is coming to parishes, and the longtime pastor of Seattle's St. James Cathedral isn't happy about it, saying some of the language is awkward and clumsy.

The Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan also is critical of how the revision came down, saying the process violates the spirit of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council which, among other changes, included priests celebrating Mass in English rather than in Latin.

The new English translation of the revised Roman Missal is a more literal translation from the Latin and lacks richness and beauty, Ryan said.

He said it will lead parishioners long accustomed to saying and responding to prayers a certain way to wonder why the changes were needed and will put priests in a position of having to "sell" the new translation even if they don't like it.

So he has taken some unusually bold steps, writing about his concerns in the Dec. 14 issue of the Jesuit magazine "America," and calling for a waiting period to test market the new translation before it reaches all English-speaking parishes, possibly in the next year or two.

He's also set up a Web site (, encouraging priests, bishops and lay Catholics to sign up in support of his position.

"I know it might smack of insubordination to talk this way," Ryan wrote in his piece in "America." But "what is at stake, it seems to me, is nothing less than the church's credibility."

The new translation, recently approved by U.S. bishops, is still awaiting approval from the Vatican.

While some Catholics see it as a welcome return to more traditional elements, Ryan says he's hearing from Catholics across the spectrum who are simply wondering why the change is needed and how it helps their prayer life.

In South Africa, where it was mistakenly introduced earlier this year, Ryan said, the response was not good. People he's spoken with who are familiar with the changes haven't liked them either.

Ryan said one example is that the phrase "Joseph, her husband," has been changed in the new translation to "Joseph, spouse of the same virgin."

Other new phrases he cited in the "America" article include such examples as "consubstantial with the Father," and "oblation of our service."

Ryan said he feels so strongly about the issue because "we're dealing now with the heart of our church — the central prayer. There's no more important prayer for us than the Mass." In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council — or Vatican II — initiated changes that were intended to open the church and update its rituals. Along with saying Mass in English or other local languages, Vatican II gave bishops in each region the authority to produce their own translations, subject to Vatican approval.

Ryan believes that spirit of local initiative was violated.

"The initiative came from the Vatican," Ryan said. "They put people in place to do the translations who would meet their expectation."

The Rev. Thomas Reese, former "America" editor and senior fellow with the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, agrees with Ryan's take.

"I think this is a liturgical train wreck that is going to be happening when they implement this thing," Reese said.

The reaction of people in the pews, he said, is likely to be, "This is not better. In fact, it's worse."

But others say they like what they've seen of the new translation.

Joseph Bottum, editor of the magazine "First Things," which frequently focuses on Catholicism, says the new translation isn't perfect. "But it's a step in the right direction. It's more faithful to the Latin, and thereby more reflective of the long liturgical tradition of the church."

Plus, the new translation will include elements of the old Latin Mass that were left out of the previous English translation, he said.

He expects the reaction to be far more muted than with the sweeping changes of Vatican II, about which "some people were ecstatic," he said, and "some people were furious."

If the Vatican approves the new translation — which is almost certain, given the conservative stance of Pope Benedict XVI — a period of education in the parishes will take place, with some observers saying the new translation probably wouldn't be introduced until 2011.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says it's "very unlikely" that Ryan's effort will succeed.

She noted the bishops have been discussing and voting on various sections of the new translations since 2004 and their final vote for approval in November was by a wide margin.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finding That Christmas Feeling

I don’t remember how I lost the Christmas feeling. I just know that sometime during my teenage years the annual Christmas feeling disappeared from my heart. Perhaps it happened after my father’s tragic death when I was 14. Or maybe it was an angry teenager shedding all things heartfelt from his childhood. I don’t remember Christmases ever having the same joyful and peaceful atmosphere as I trudged into adulthood. Christmas was nothing more than an obligation to get over and done with.

That is until one Christmas Eve in 1986. It was a foggy, still night. My new wife (the one true Catholic in the family at the time) wanted to go to Midnight Mass. I begrudgingly went along not sensing what was about to happen.

As we drove to the nearby parish, Mary popped in the new cassette of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music (she has a near obsession with Christmas music). As we rode along the song Silent Night came out of the speakers. I remembered this song being a favorite for my baby sister back when we were little kids.

Every Christmas, we would reenact the manger scene at family gatherings. Erin loved Christmas. She was born with a congenital heart defect and found joy in few things thanks to hundreds of doctor’s visits and heart surgeries endured during her short life. But love Christmas she did. Especially “Mee-Mohs” (chocolate, marshmallow Santa candies) and her beloved toy piano.

One particular year, a few months before she died, Erin unwrapped the toy piano after we regaled the family in the true story of Christmas. I can still hear her playing it in my head.

As I daydreamed while driving, the closing strains of Stille Nacht snuck up and knocked my cold, stony heart for a loop. At the end of the songs, after the rushing of what sounds like some magical wind, the song concludes with a child’s toy piano playing the opening stanza of Silent Night.

As I drove, tears streamed down my face. And I felt it! The Christmas feeling came flooding back to me once again and I have never lost it since.

God works in mysterious ways in our lives. As I listen to the song now, I envision the Holy Spirit in the rushing wind that precedes the child’s toy piano. For this moment to me was a first step back to my Catholic faith after a long prodigal journey. It was a blessed Advent miracle.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A "Candidate" For The Diaconate

On Sunday, December 6, twenty-four men and I were called by Archbishop Alex J. Brunett to Candidacy for the Diaconate in the Seattle Archdiocese of the Catholic Church. In the Rite of Candidacy, the Church accepts our offering, calls us to a three-year formation program and officially recognizes us as candidates for the diaconate.

We were each called forward by our full baptismal name, answered "Present," walked to the altar, bowed, and took our place in front of the Archbishop. The Rite of Candidacy then was conferred. The experience was awe inspiring and humbling. I was so nervous that when I shook the hand of the spouse of one of my candidate brothers after the Rite I realized my hands were drenched in sweat.

Mary and I were joined by our youngest son Connor (oldest son Sean is a freshman in college and was unable to join us due to finals) and many family and friends. The biggest surprise came as I approached St. James Cathedral. I heard the voice of my mother Suzanne Arango call my name. But how could that be? She lives in Arizona this time of year. But off came her stocking cap and there she was. I was overjoyed by her surprise visit to town. Also there were my brother Dan Kelly and his daughters Katey and Sara, my uncle and aunt Glen and Susan Kelly who drove up from Waldport, Oregon, their son and my cousin Keven Kelly and his four-year-old son Finn. Even my mom's best friend Marie Louise Wahlstrom, who has been close to our family for over 35 years, came.

Also in attendance, was the one-time Bellevue High School teacher who introduced me to the world of radio Bill Poirier and his wife Missy, my favorite WSU broadcasting professor Glenn Johnson who is also the Mayor of Pullman, fellow WSU Murrow College Professional Advisory Board colleague Joyce Szymanski, friends from work Paul Tosch and his wife Stacey, friends from church Randele and David Cross and their five beautiful children, John Olson, Peter and Ruth Wolff, our close friends Gary and Leita Garside, and buddies Peter Shmock and N.Y. Vinnie Richichi. The mother of friend Shannon Drayer delivered a card from her daughter who was at the Winter Meetings for Major League Baseball covering the Mariners, but sent her mom to represent her. Some in attendance are Catholic. Others are not. All are very dear for being a part of this special day. Words cannot express my deep gratitude for their presence.

My candidate brothers and I have been in formation since June 2008. It started with an Inquiry period (during the summer of 2008) and a full year of Aspirancy studies (September 2008 to June 2009). The vetting process is thorough.

Our intellectual formation happens over a weekend once a month and features classes taught by professors from Seattle University, University of Portland and Pacific Lutheran University. We have 300-500 pages of reading each month, numerous papers and other homework.

Our spiritual formation is placed in the hands of our own personal Spiritual Director, Pastoral Supervisor and others. Our pastoral formation happens in our parishes and by serving in ministerial internships. This year I am honored to be placed with the L'Arche Community on Capitol Hill and work weekly with "core members" who deal with mental disabilities and assistants who make up this unique community. It is my sanctuary from the chaos of being a member of the news media in these crazy times and my work managing KOMO Newsradio.

The formation process as a Candidate will last for three more years. With God's good graces, formation will culminate in ordination as a Deacon in the Catholic Church in December of 2012. If you are so inclined, please keep Mary, my family and me in your prayers.

Advent Peace & Blessings...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holy Orders: Edible Gifts By Mail

By BILL DALEY - Chicago Tribune

Your gift is in the giving, the old holiday nostrum goes. But you also can get a feel-good gift in the buying, especially if you tap the monasteries, convents and hermitages scattered around the world. Many specialize in making food products, the range of which goes way beyond the usual fruitcake to include spice blends, jams, cheese, truffles and even coffee.

And no matter whether they're Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, they do it while pursuing what they say is their main mission: prayer.

"Prayer and labor have been in the monastic tradition from the very beginning," said Sister Gail Fitzpatrick, a member of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, known popularly as Trappistines. She is based at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa.

The nuns there make candy, including their signature Trappistine Creamy Caramels. Fitzpatrick is up every day at 3:45 a.m. By 5, she's at the candy facility tempering chocolate. Then she goes back to the abbey to pray, read and celebrate Mass before returning to tend the chocolate.

"You do have to weave tasks," the nun said with a chuckle. "Chocolate has demands."

Fitzpatrick is proud of the candy. She points to the quality ingredients used but notes the fact that nuns make them is also a selling point with the public.

"I think they can trust us, that what we put into that candy is good," Fitzpatrick said. "The environment in which we make candy is one of love and care. And if they believe in prayer that will mean something because we pray as we work."

Will Keller has been selling products made by nuns and monks for 10 years through his Cleveland mail-order company, Monastery Greetings. Among the religious communities Keller's company represents are the monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Clark, Wyo. The brothers began roasting, blending and selling coffee beans in 2007 to finance construction of a permanent monastery.

"One of the brothers was something of a coffee expert. He was a barista," said Brother Paul Marie of the Cross, who oversees the coffee business. "His family owned a coffee plantation in Costa Rica."

Now the monks roast and blend 30 different coffees, including decaf. Brother Paul Marie said some customers buy the coffee to support the monastery but others buy it because it tastes good.

"We use good arabica beans. The gourmet coffee drinker appreciates it," he said.

For John Tapert of Duvall, Wash., it was disappointment in a gourmet cedar plank used to grill fish that led him to make fish planks out of alder wood and package them for sale with bottles of his own St. Benedict barbecue sauce and spice rub.

A one-time jewelry maker, Tapert now specializes in religious art. He and his artist wife, Candace, belong to the secular branch of the St. Joseph Carmelite monastery in Shoreline, Wash. They live in their own hermitage in Duvall, Ill., following many of the same rules and traditions as the cloistered nuns, who are part of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. In addition to the alder grilling sets, he makes a range of jams named after various saints.

The 5-acre hermitage provides both the alder wood and the fruits and berries for the jams.

"It's a simple, honest, straightforward way to make a living," he said. "It involves a lot of quiet labor. We're not out in the world doing it for the most part. The end product is something you can be honest about. It has integrity, if you will."


These products are made by or for monasteries, convents, abbeys and hermitages in the United States. All are available by ordering directly from the source. Or you can buy them through Monastery Greetings, a Cleveland mail-order firm (800-472-0425, Prices for products listed below are from the makers and do not include shipping or other charges:

Trappist Abbey Monastery Fruitcake by the monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lafayette, Ore. $27.50 (three 1-pound fruitcakes). 800-294-0105,

Milk Chocolate Butter Nut Munch by Trappistine Quality Candy. Made by nuns at Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, Mass. $12 (10-ounce box). 866-549-8929,

Deluxe Caramel Assortment from Trappistine Creamy Caramels. Made by nuns at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa. $17 (24-ounce box). 866-556-3400,

St. Benedict sauce and plank from the Northwest Alder Plank Grilling Kit. Fashioned by John Tapert for the St. Joseph Carmelite Monastery in Shoreline, Wash. $39.95. 425-788-4905,
Cowboy Blend Coffee by Mystic Monk Coffee. Made by the monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, Clark, Wyo. $9.95 (12-ounce bag). 877-751-6377,

Springerle Cookies by Simply Divine, a bakery run by the Sisters of St. Benedict, Ferdinand, Ind. $10.50 (12 cookies). 812-367-2500,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Admission To Candidacy - Diaconate

Help us celebrate…

Admission to Candidacy for the Diaconate

In this rite those seeking ordination as deacons show publicly their willingness to offer themselves to God and the Church for service as a deacon. The Church accepts their offering, calls them to a three-year formation program and recognizes them as candidates for the diaconate.

Time: Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Place: St. James Cathedral
804 9th Avenue, Seattle

Reception following

Friday, November 27, 2009

Alma Mater (Our Mother)

Looking for that perfect Christmas gift for your Catholic loved one? Look no more...
NOVEMBER 26, 2009 

Pope’s ‘debut album’ a surprising pleasure

‘Alma Mater’ mixes chant, classical music and papal prayers


It’s a strange concept on paper: an album of modern classical music featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome … and Pope Benedict XVI on lead vocals?

Things don’t get any clearer when you find out that the choir and orchestra were recorded in different countries — at St. Peter’s in Rome and Abbey Road in London, respectively; that the pope’s contributions — in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German — come from prayers and speeches broadcast on Vatican Radio; that the composers of the eight tracks include an Italian Catholic, a British agnostic and a Moroccan Muslim; or that the album is being released on a label that also features Rob Zombie and Snoop Dogg.

But somehow it works. “Alma Mater – Music from the Vatican,” set to be released Nov. 30, is as eclectic as its background would suggest, both between tracks and within them. A mix of chanted Marian litany, orchestral music and spoken word, it’s almost certainly unlike anything you’ve heard before. And yet the juxtapositions are not jarring; in their interplay, the disparate elements enhance each other’s beauty.

For instance, track three, “Advocata Nostra,” begins with an upbeat “world music” section that builds in complexity for 80 seconds before suddenly giving way to a series of chanted invocations of the Virgin Mary in Latin; a minute later, it’s back to the music, which subsides just before the three-minute mark as the pope chimes in, praying in German over a cello line; soon the choir returns, followed by the strings; and the final minute of the 5:44 track returns to the opening theme.

It’s surprising, but pleasant, like the whole album.

The compositions are simple yet lovely, the orchestra and choir generally solid (though the singers leave something to be desired when they venture out of chant mode into harmony, which is rare). But the unexpected star of the show is Pope Benedict, whose verbal interjections do not seem out of place, but are always welcome and somehow comforting — his voice radiates warmth and love in any language.

The album would serve equally well as the soundtrack to a period of prayerful meditation or a festive family brunch. It deserves to be a popular Christmas gift for any Catholic or music lover.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Divine Grace

Grace is God's way of revealing Himself to each and every one us.

"God speaks in the silence of the heart. And we listen."

Grace stirred the soul of Augustine. Grace inspired the intellect of Aquinas. Grace was with Martin Luther King Jr. as he penned "I Have A Dream" and on that balcony in Memphis. Grace allowed Nelson Mandela to forgive. Grace drove the mission of Mother Teresa.

Grace is alive and well and living in all of our lives if we just open our eyes and our hearts.

U2 - Grace

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

Music: U2
Lyrics: Bono

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Divine Revelation

The Word of God reveals itself to us in many unusual ways. Listen to the Gospel accounting of the betrayal of the "Son of man" in the lyrics of the U2 song "Until The End Of The World" in the attached YouTube video. The lyrics are below.


Until The End Of The World
Music by U2
Lyrics by Bono

Haven't seen you FOR quite a while
I was down the HOLE just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
Except you
You were talking about the end of the world

I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You were acting like it was the end of the world

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret, waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you'd wait till the end of the world.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Call To Faith Stewardship

I was asked by our parish Priest to give this weekend's witness talk as our church (Immaculate Conception - Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Parishes in Everett, Washington) begins its annual stewardship or giving appeal.  A witness talk is supposed to be about one's faith journey and why we commit ourselves to our faith and church community.   It's supposed to be about how God is calling each of us to give of ourselves.

I share it with you... 

 Witness Talk

My name is Dennis Kelly.  And I am humbled to be invited by Father Hersey to stand before you to talk about our faith.  And about how we can best support our faith.

All my life, I have felt God’s blessing.  And in thanksgiving do what I can to give back. 

I can still remember my first conscious conversation with God as a small child.  After being shunned by classmates in an elementary school P.E. class, I felt the warmth of God’s presence as I played by myself on a balance beam.

My childhood ended early as a result of two tragic events.  Both tested my faith in God.  When I was 7, my three-year-old baby sister Erin died of a congenital heart defect.  I was the oldest child in the family and she was the youngest.  Her death forced me to question God with, “Why?”  When I was 14, my father died suddenly.   Again, I asked God, “Why?”

I struggled with faith through most of my teen years and early adult life.  In fact, I went on quite a prodigal journey.  But I still continued to experience blessings.  Only now I foolishly thought it was luck or personal talent that opened doors to incredible life and career experiences.

I met the love of my life Mary in May of 1984.  We worked together at KING radio in Seattle.  She was an intern.  I was a newly hired news anchor and reporter.  In 1986, we were married.  The day after Christmas 1990, we had our first child, Sean while living in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In late May of 1994, our second son Connor entered our lives while we were in Portland, Oregon.  As I experienced marriage, childbirths, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, I heard God’s voice.

My professional career in Seattle began at the tender age of 23.  At 24, I was anchoring the news daily and served as a reporter for KING radio.  At 26, I found myself traveling to South Africa as part of a journalistic delegation invited to observe the start of the dismantling of Apartheid. 

Our group met with most of the major players in the country, except one.  Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu cancelled our scheduled gathering at the last minute after learning of our meeting with South African President P.W. Botha. 

But Tutu was far too important a figure to not hear from.  So, on Ash Wednesday, 1987, I took a cab to Tutu’s home church in Cape Town to hear his noontime homily and hopefully get an interview afterwards.  Tutu graciously accepted the interview opportunity even after I explained my connection to the American journalist delegation.  

During the entire interview, I felt God’s presence.  I felt God’s love in the man.  And as we ended the interview, he surprised me with an embrace and we shared a moment of God’s love.  I knew in my heart that God was the reason for my good fortune…  all of the good fortune in my life.  That moment sparked a conscious transformation in my thinking about God’s presence in my life.  It also started a lifelong process of asking God what He wanted in return for the many blessings bestowed on this life.

As I have increased my involvement in the church, I’ve found a deep sense of belonging and interconnectedness with our faith community.  As a lector, reading Sacred Scripture and the “Prayers Of The Faithful,” I feel a limitless passion of faith that words cannot describe; I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

We each hear the Lord’s voice differently.  Some listen closely to the voice of God in Sacred Scripture and find comfort, guidance and a call to action.  Others listen to fellow parishioners or friends and through these interactions experience God speaking.  Some listen to the voices of intuition in the quiet of prayer.  There is no right way or wrong way when it comes to hearing God’s voice.  There is just our own way.

I am so aware of God’s presence in the many gifts received throughout my life.  But I count even the simple gifts  like that breath we all just took… as a gift from God.  Life is a gift.  And when we live life to the fullest we want to share these gifts, these blessings with others.

As we heard in the Gospel, sometimes a little is a lot.  And sometimes a lot is a little (Mark 12:38-44).

I’m here to tell you today’s Gospel reading is alive and well.  Several years ago, I was helping at a holiday food drive.  As I stood out in the cold, I saw a man about my age approach us.  Most people were donating cans of food.  This man handed over several crisp hundred-dollar bills.  I thanked him for his generous donation.  He then told me his story.  He said he’d been unemployed for quite some time.  But he had faith.  And faith told him to give what he could.  The man told me he’d always operated from the understanding that what he gives he gets back ten fold in the many blessings in his life. 

The Gospel lives!

When we give, when is it enough?   We each answer that question differently.    Most of us start by counting our blessings and the many gifts we’ve been given by God.  That’s a good place to start.

So, I stand before you.  With this card in my hand.  And I encourage you the pledge your support to our parish.  Your annual contribution helps pay for simple things like the light and heating bills for this room here.  But your contribution does much, much more.  It helps fund scholarships for families in need who want their children to experience a Catholic education.  It pays for religious education and the other ministerial materials.   It pays for a variety of social justice work.  It pays for so many important things.

This is not a bloated budget mind you.  It’s a simple humble budget.  But it needs your support.

Will you join me?  Spend some time thinking about your contribution for the coming year.  Pray on it.  Talk to your family.  Then give what you can.  God will let you know when it’s enough. 

God Bless.  And thank you for listening.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Moment Of Surrender

U2 concludes each and every show on the current concert tour with the song "Moment Of Surrender" from its latest CD "No Line On The Horizon."  Read the lyrics (below) and see its message in light of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

It's pretty clear what Bono is saying here.  Personal salvation comes from understanding the selfless sacrifice was an act to restore man's relationship with the living God.  When the impact of this act sinks in, we are compelled to drop to our knees and pray.  And start to listen to God's voice alive in our lives.  Amen!

Moment Of Surrender (lyrics written by Bono)

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses roam free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

We set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her
It’s not if I believe in love
If love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pain would stop

At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Controversy Over Catholic Majority On US Supreme Court?

Alito troubled by concerns over court's Catholics

PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito voiced frustration Tuesday over what he called persistent questions about the court's Roman Catholic majority.

Alito aired the topic in a speech to an Italian-American law group in Philadelphia.

"There has been so much talk lately about the number of Catholics serving on the Supreme Court," Alito said in a speech to the Justinian Society. "This is one of those questions that does not die."

Alito complained about "respectable people who have seriously raised the questions in serious publications about whether these individuals could be trusted to do their jobs."

He said he thought the Constitution settled the question long ago with its guarantee of religious freedom.

Alito, 59, the son of an Italian immigrant, is one of six justices on the nine-member court who were raised Catholic, including new Justice Sonia Sotomayor. A dozen of the 111 jurists in the court's history have been Catholic.

The Roman Catholic Church endorses positions on several high-profile legal issues, including abortion, the death penalty and gay marriage. Some commentators have argued that Catholics in the court's conservative voting bloc - Chief John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Alito - are likely to oppose abortion or otherwise apply Catholic teachings to their rulings.

In a telephone interview, Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett echoed Alito's comment that the religion of qualified justices will not determine their views of pending cases, even if their experiences might shade it.

"It's not the calling of a Catholic judge to enforce the teachings of the faith. It's the calling of a Catholic judge, as well as he or she can, to interpret and apply the laws of the political community," Garnett said.

However, noting Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" comment, he added: "No one thinks the moral commitments of a judge are irrelevant. I don't think anybody can completely put aside who they are."

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said he believes the focus on the religious makeup of the court is really a ruse.

"I think it comes down to one issue, it's abortion," he said. "The people who are complaining about Alito and Roberts are the same people who would have nine Nancy Pelosis on the Supreme Court who are pro-choice Catholics."

President George W. Bush nominated Alito to the high court four years ago from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Gospel According To U2

My family and friends tease me all the time for calling U2 lead singer Bono a modern day prophet. His lyrics challenge us to live the Beatitudes and proclaims God in our midst. His One Campaign ( unites people all over the globe to pressure governments to do more for the poorest of the poor especially those devastated by the leprosy of our day, AIDS.

As I see it, Bono is a modern man of God. If you doubt my opinion, watch his speech at the 2006 U.S. National Prayer Breakfast and draw your own conclusion.

Holiness comes in many forms. In our modern age, I believe one of those forms is a rock star singing and speaking with a clear voice about the troubles of our times and calling us to our better angels.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Enigma - The Child In Us

I am a huge fan of a European world beat group called Enigma. It did a song in 1996 mixing lyrics found in ancient Sanskrit, Latin and English. The result is a beautiful song called "The Child In Us."

Enclosed is the video and translation of both Sanskrit and Latin.


(Sanskrit: prasanna vadanaaM saubhaagyadaaM bhaagyadaaM hastaabhyaaM abhayapradaaM maNigaNair-naanaavidhair-bhuushhitaaM) Translation: Who is of smiling face? Bestower of all fortunes? Whose hands are ready to rescue anyone from fear? Who is adorned by various ornaments with precious stones?

(Latin: Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: cujus emperium super humerum...) Translation: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government will be upon his shoulder.

Some day you came. And I knew you were the one. You were the rain, you were the sun. But I needed both, cause I needed you. You were the one I was dreaming of all my life. When it is dark you are my light. But don't forget who is always our guide. It is the child in us.


The meaning is both universal and timeless.

Peace & Blessings...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

God's Ample Blessings

I was reminded of God's ample blessings this past week in a most unusual way.

This past summer was the first summer in nearly a decade that I did not play hardball. Baseball is a passion in my life. I love the game and the joy it brings to both watch and play.

The reason I did not play baseball was due to being invited into the Deacon Formation Program of the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese. I knew this four-year educational commitment would be time-consuming and have a deep impact on family life. As I looked at things I could give up, baseball was the one selfish endeavor I could no longer justify.

I made the announcement to my team's managers about four games into last season, but asked that we keep it quiet to the other guys until the end of the season. After toiling for years in mediocrity in the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League, our team, under the new name Iron Pigs, was finally on a winning streak and I didn't want to create any distraction, minor as it might be.

That was until we went into a losing skid near the end of the season. With three games left, we had a team meeting after a tough loss and everyone was asked to say something if they had something to say. I was the last to speak and told the team this would be my last season playing baseball. My calling to the diaconate would take me away from the game I loved. I told the guys I had never been in a championship game in all the years in the league and hoped we might be able to go out winners this season.

We won the next three games by a combined score of 60 to 23. We were white hot going into the playoffs. After battling through some adversity in the playoffs, we worked our way back into the championship game.

On a rainy September night, we lost the game by a few runs. My baseball playing days were over. As I packed my baseball bag for the final time, I noticed my teammates secretly gathering at the side of the field. They were doing something, but I could not tell what. After my bag was packed I walked up to the guys and my teammate Jeff stepped forward and presented me with the game ball signed by all the guys. They also told me that the team had voted to retire my number 21. It would never be worn by another Iron Pig. I was humbled to tears. And speechless. I told the guys what an honor it was to play with each and every one of them and to know them personally. We were a community of friends who cared about each other. That is what I would take with me on my life's journey.

Fast forward to last weekend. I saw on Facebook posts that my former teammates were in the Championship game again. Against the same team that beat us last year. The Iron Pigs would need to win a playoff doubleheader to be PSSBL Rocky Division champions.

After my son and I did our monthly volunteer food pick-up for the Mukilteo Food Bank, we drove down to Peter Kirk Park in Kirkland to watch the guys play. They were up by a dozen runs and saving some of their better arms for game two. Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment, we could only stay about an hour to watch. While there, Jeff pulled out a baseball from his bag. It had my number #21 on it. He said he carried it all season as a good luck charm. What a beautiful gesture.

As we parted, I said a little prayer for victory for the guys.

That night as I was driving home from my commitment, I had a voicemail from the team. They were out celebrating after winning both games. The Iron Pigs were champions! And they had a message for me: They wanted me to have a championship patch for my Iron Pigs jersey.

The tears came again as I stammered to tell my wife what the guys were doing.

God blesses us all in our lives. We just have to open our eyes to see... and blink through the tears.

Former Teammate Jeff With The Championship Trophy

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And Jesus Wept...

Bishop Raymond Lahey resigns
By Brian Lazzuri

Bishop Raymond Lahey has resigned as shepherd of the Diocese of Antigonish (on Nova Scotia's north coast). Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation Sept. 26.

The resignation was announced at Masses throughout the Diocese over the weekend. Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini has been appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Antigonish. He is also administrator for the Diocese of Yarmouth.

“Bishop Lahey has resigned for personal reasons. We are grateful to him for his dedicated and generous service to the Diocese. Let us all hold him up in prayer,” Archbishop Mancini wrote in a letter to priests and laity.

He assured the priests, religious and laity of his “continued pastoral care and support” and asked for “collaboration” and prayers.

Archbishop Mancini concluded the brief letter by renewing all pastoral and curial appointments.

He will also be meeting with priests of the Diocese during an Oct. 1 luncheon at Our Lady of Fatima Hall, Sydney River.

A letter from Bishop Lahey, ad-dressed to the priests, deacons, religious and parishioners, was posted on the Diocese of Antigonish’s website Sunday afternoon.

“I want to let you know that after much thought and careful consideration, I decided to submit to the Holy Father my resignation as Bishop for personal reasons,” Bishop Lahey wrote.

He acknowledged the “challenges” the Diocese is facing and expressed his confidence “that your faith and compassion will continue to sustain you as they have always done.”

Bishop Lahey also expressed his confidence in Archbishop Mancini and those who serve in leadership roles in parishes.

“To so many of you I would want to say a personal word of farewell and thanks. However, I have already left the Diocese to take some much-needed time for personal renewal. I simply ask for your prayers, as I assure you of my continued prayers for all of you.”

Sunday morning Archbishop Mancini announced he was appointing Father Paul Abbass as local spokesperson for matters relating to the Diocese. Father Abbass is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Frenchvale as well as Episcopal Vicar and Director of Pastoral Services. He will continue on in those duties.

“I, like everyone else, was surprised and taken aback [by the decision],” Father Abbass said Monday morning.

“When I read the letter from the Bishop, and saw that it was after prayerful consideration and it was a personal decision, I accepted that,” the priest said.

He noted there was a general affection for Bishop Lahey among many parishioners so there is concern whether he is OK.

“The only thing I think is regret-table is that some think it is con-nected to the recent legal settlement,” Father Abbass said, referring to the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the Diocese.

The lawsuit concerned acts and allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy of the Diocese of Antigonish since Jan. 1, 1950. Bishop Lahey had signed a settlement agreement with lead plantiff Ronald Martin Aug. 7. Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice David MacAdam approved the $13 million agreement Sept. 10.

“I think the Bishop himself would find it regrettable if people were trying to connect those two and suggest in any way that this puts that agreement at any risk. We are going forward. It is an issue of justice and reconciliation that we are determined to honour. It is categorically in no jeopardy whatsoever.”

In an earlier press release, Father Abbass said the settlement is “a legally binding document.”

“It involves painful spiritual healing, profound understanding from all and difficult financial sacrifices. While the resignation of our former Bishop will be a loss to our Diocese in many ways, his departure does not diminish the legal and spiritual commitments we have made.

"After having spoken with Archbishop Mancini, I want to as-sure everyone, and particularly the victims of sexual abuse, that nothing in the recent court approved class action settlement agreement will change as a consequence of this transition in leadership," Father Abbass said.

Martin’s lawyer and Class Counsel John McKiggan said he has received calls from victims inquiring how Bishop Lahey’s resignation would affect the settlement agreement.

“The Bishop's resignation will have no effect on the obligations of the Diocese to compensate survivors in accordance with the terms of the settlement agreement,” McKiggan said.

“I must say that I have a great deal of respect for Bishop Lahey. I believe Bishop Lahey is a decent man who was committed to doing the right thing for survivors of priest sexual abuse in the Antigonish Diocese,” the lawyer said.

McKiggan praised the courage of Bishop Lahey’s apology and his client’s commitment “to seek justice on behalf of his brother David and other survivors of sexual abuse in the Antigonish Diocese.”

“Bishop Lahey acknowledged the responsibility the Diocese of Antigonish had to help those [who] had been sexually abused by priests of the Diocese. [He] has set an example for other Bishops to follow,” McKiggan said.

Victims of sexual abuse have until March 10, 2010, to file applications to take part in the settle-ment. All payments will be made by November 2012. The funds for the settlement will come from the Diocese and its parishes.

Father Abbass also addressed some of the other challenges facing the Diocese.

"This transition in spiritual leadership comes at a time of significant pastoral challenges. Our Diocese is proactively addressing pastoral planning, the amalgamation of par-ishes and a renewal of our approach to evangelization and ministry.

“These are important initiatives that speak directly to our spiritual health as a Diocese. We will be working closely with Archbishop Mancini to ensure these initiatives maintain their momentum," Father Abbass said in the release.

He emphasized ministry is done in parishes. “So all that good work — worship, education and service — continues on in each parish in this period of transition. I would assure people there are leadership mechanisms to carry us forward.”

The priest said the appointment of Archbishop Mancini was “timely.” By appointing an administrator quickly, Father Abbass believes the Vatican “understands our diocese is undertaking some major issues that are important to all of us.”

“We can take some hope from that they recognize our need for leadership,” he said.

Archbishop Mancini will serve as administrator until a new Bishop is appointed by the Holy Father.

“We don’t have any control or influence of that whole process. The Holy Father works with his nuncio here in Canada to look at potential candidates for the episcopate,” Father Abbass said.

Canada is currently without a nuncio as Archbishop Luigi Ventura was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to France earlier this month.

“No nuncio could complicate things,” Father Abbass said but noted no one knows what work has already been completed in the proc-ess to replace Bishop Lahey.

“I think we understand as we move forward we are a community of faith. The Bishop is certainly the shepherd but we also need to be conscience there is a Good Shepherd and, in faith, we believe the Good Shepherd is with us as we walk through these times,” Father Abbass concluded.

Bishop Lahey was installed as the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish June 12, 2003. He was previously Bishop of the Diocese of St. George’s, Nfld. Prior to that, he served as a priest in the Diocese of St. John’s. Bishop Lahey is 69 years old. Bishops are required to submit a resignation letter at the age of 75.

The Vatican Information Service announcement said the Holy Father accepted Bishop Lahey’s resignation “in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

The code states: “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is ear-nestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

With files from Nicole Myshak of The Atlantic Catholic.

Reprinted from

Monday, August 31, 2009

Video Of Sounder Train Passing Edmonds, WA, Ferry Dock On A Glorious Afternoon Ride Home

Keep The Diocese Of Scranton, PA, In Prayers

VIDEO: CLICK ON TITLE LINK TO SEE --- Diocese of Scranton news conference(The Diocese of Scranton conducted a news conference at 10 a.m. this morning in downtown Scranton. If the video does not start automatically, click the arrow to play. The news conference begins 10 minutes into the video. Please fast-forward to that point.)

(Reprint From Catholic News Agency)
Pope accepts resignations of both bishops from Diocese of Scranton

Scranton, Pa., Aug 31, 2009 / 10:32 am (CNA).- At a press conference in Scranton this morning, Bishop Joseph Martino announced that he and auxiliary bishop John Dougherty are stepping down from their posts. Bishop Martino explained that he is resigning because of "crippling physical fatigue," while Bishop Dougherty is retiring upon having reached the age limit.

Last week, CNA reported that Bishop Martino, 63, would be resigning from his post in Scranton. The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Martino in accordance with canon 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law which says: a diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.”

Speaking at a press conference in downtown Scranton on Monday morning, Bishop Martino announced that for some time, “there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development, he continued, “has caused him great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.”

“The Diocese of Scranton needs to continue to respond to the call of our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II, and of his successor Pope Benedict XVI, to engage in the New Evangelization,” he said. “To do so however, the Diocese of Scranton requires a bishop who is at least physically vigorous. I am not that bishop.”

He went on, “therefore, I have asked our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to accept my resignation as Bishop of Scranton.”

He noted that though he has no immediate plans, he plans to remain in Scranton.

Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Martino was ordained a priest in 1970 and was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in 1996 before becoming Bishop of Scranton in 2003.

The Diocese of Scranton will not only lose Martino, but also one of its auxiliary bishops, Most Rev. John M. Dougherty, whose resignation was also accepted by the Vatican today. Dougherty, 77, submitted his resignation when he reached the age of 75.

Dougherty was born in Scranton in 1932. The Scranton auxiliary studied at the University of Notre Dame and was ordained a priest in 1957. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton in 1995.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia will oversee the Diocese of Scranton as its apostolic administrator until a replacement is named by the Holy Father.

When he was asked how quickly he would like to see the Pope name a replacement, Cardinal Rigali said he hoped it would be within six months, stressing that this was his hope, not an expectation.

PHOTO: Michael J. Mullen/Scranton Times-Tribune

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Selecting A New Archbishop... Prayers Needed!

This is a reprint from N.W. Progress (Prayers requested for Archbishop Brunett and the process that will bring to Western Washington a new pastoral leader):


From Seattle Archbishop Alex J. Brunett:

“The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him.” (Dt 32:12)

When Moses transferred authority to Joshua in Hebrew Scriptures (Dt 31:7), he told the people that God would lead them to their future home just as God had led them during their 40-year sojourn in the desert. Moses reassured the Hebrew people, and his words assure us, that while circumstances may change, the Lord is always faithful and trustworthy.

These words resonate within our own church as we continue forward in unity despite changes in pastoral leadership. The rite of succession beginning with St. Peter assures us that the church will remain one, holy, catholic and apostolic, entrusted to the pastoral care of her ministers and led by “the Lord alone.”

This was the essence of a blessing offered by the late Pope John Paul II on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul 11 years ago when I joined other metropolitan archbishops receiving the pallium in Rome: “I pray in a particular way for the ecclesial communities entrusted to your pastoral care: I invoke upon them an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that he may lead them, filled with faith, hope and love.”

His words, like the words of Moses in Deuteronomy, are particularly poignant during times of transition. While the pastoral care of the church is entrusted to individual ministers, it is God who leads us.

Having reached the age of 75, Pope Benedict XVI will choose my successor and bestow on him the sacred pallium sometime in the not too distant future. Although the details of the process leading up to this transition are confidential — and there is no way of knowing precisely when this selection will be made — a number of well-established steps precede the appointment of any bishop or archbishop.

Local report, recommendations
As this selection process moves forward, I thought it might be helpful to explain these steps in some detail. The entire process can take a year or more to complete, and it follows the same basic outlines whether it is the first appointment of a priest as a bishop, a bishop's transfer to another diocese or his promotion to archbishop.

There are three key participants involved in the appointment process: the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops and the pope. The apostolic nuncio, currently Archbishop Pietro Sambi, is the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States. He also is a key person in deciding what names are recommended to the Congregation for Bishops for possible episcopal appointment.

The Congregation for Bishops is a department of the Roman Curia, the central administrative and judicial offices of the Catholic Church, with responsibility for moderating episcopal appointments and other actions related to bishops and bishops’ conferences. There are currently four U.S. Cardinals on the Congregation for Bishops.

At the request of the nuncio, I prepared a report on the conditions and needs here. My report, developed after broad consultation with pastoral leaders in the archdiocese, included suggestions of individuals in the archdiocese that might be consulted as the process goes forward. This report, along with a list of potential candidates, was forwarded to the nuncio and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At this point, the selection procedure is in the hands of the nuncio, who will conduct his own investigation into the needs of the archdiocese and the suitability of candidates. Archbishop Sambi will consult broadly with bishops within our region, the leadership of the USCCB and other archbishops around the country.

The nuncio will then narrow his list and send a questionnaire to a broad group of individuals who know each of the candidates. After collecting all the material he will review it and prepare his own report along with a terna — or list of three candidates — for the Congregation for Bishops in Rome. His report will include his recommendation for the next Archbishop of Seattle.

The Holy Father decides
All the documentation from the nuncio is sent to the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, currently Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. A cardinal “relator” is chosen to summarize the documentation and make a report to the full congregation, which generally meets twice a month on Thursdays.

After hearing the cardinal relator's report, the congregation will discuss the appointment and then vote. The Congregation may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, choose another of the candidates on the terna or ask that another terna be prepared. The Congregation for bishops will then create a terna for the Holy Father who makes the final decision.

At a private audience with the pope, usually on a Saturday, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops will present the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father. A few days later, the pope will inform the Congregation of his decision. The Congregation will then notify the nuncio, who will contact the candidate. Once the candidate accepts, the Vatican will be notified and a date will be set for the announcement.

I pledge my support and prayer to all those involved in this process. The pope has a special fondness for us here in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and I am confident that he will select someone who is well qualified to serve and that he will give us a shepherd with the pastoral heart of the Good Shepherd and a love for all God’s people.

I ask each of you to pray each day for the selection of our new archbishop. At the same time, I am grateful and hopeful that he will find a vibrant community of believers here, and the support and love of the priests, religious and laity who serve with dedication, compassionate love and dynamic hope for the future. That has been my experience, and I know it will be no different for my successor. May God love and bless you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

St. William Catholic Church in Hanalei, Kauai

On our latest vacation we found an extraordinary Church you must come and visit if you ever get the chance. Where do you find a Church that allows you to attend Mass and commune with nature all at the same time?

St. William's Catholic Church holds one Mass a week at its location in Hanalei, Kauai on the Hawaiian islands at 9am every Sunday. Father Ramelo Somera is the usual celebrant. He's a very expressive Priest who ad libs a most marvelous Homily. His facial expessions and comedic timing make him an effective communicator.

But what makes Mass so special here is the open air Church structure. As you can see from the photograph, the church has sliding doors on both sides. This allows for the trade winds to naturally cool the place (average temps between 75-85). The combination of the liturgical service (exceptional Hawaiian-influenced music ministry, etc.), the trade wind breeze and the sound of birds and other flora and fauna create an overwhelming assault of holiness on the senses and demonstrates God's bountiful blessings to all who attend.

At today's Mass most who filled the pews were vacationers from the mainland. We were all treated to Christ's banquet in one of the most breathtaking settings on the planet.

St. William's is part of St. Catherine Parish in Kapaa. St. Catherine has a special request for travelers: a donation to the "adopt-a-student" program. Islanders unable to send their kids to Catholic school are able to get scholarships thanks to the generosity of others, mostly visitors. If you can help, please join me in sending what you can to St. Catherine School, PO Box 1832, Kapaa, HI 96746.

Mahalo, Peace & Blessings!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Holy Cross Catholic Church in Kalaheo, Kauai

The perfect place for a quick prayer stop on the way to Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Hawaiian Islands).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sacramental Marriage

It seems like only yesterday. But it’s been 23-years since Mary and I stood in St. Patrick’s Church on Capitol Hill in Seattle and were joined together in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Or as Mary’s and my favorite singer Bono of the musical group U2 refers to marriage as, “stuck together with God’s glue.”

There were times when we wondered if our marriage could be counted as official in the eyes of the Church. You see our priest was a Jesuit. But that wasn’t the issue. Father Louis Sauvain taught marriage preparatory courses at Seattle University for nearly 30 years. So he was more than qualified. Father Sauvain put us through the religious rigors in the months leading up to our wedding. When we asked him to be the celebrant at our nuptials, he eagerly agreed.

What concerned us (after the fact and maybe during the fact) was the speed with which he performed the Nuptial Mass. He flew through the Mass. I have never heard a priest deliver the Mass in such rapid-fire fashion. The whole affair was over in 25-minutes, Eucharist and all. For the non-Catholics in attendance, it was “the best Catholic wedding” they’d ever attended. But many of the Catholics were quite distressed by the service. Several said they couldn’t understand a word Father said during the prayers or the Gospel or the homily. You can only imagine what two Catholic kids fretted over in the years since. Are we officially married in the eyes of God?

All humorous stories aside, Father Sauvain helped us to understand the importance of the sacrament we were entering and how we needed to put Christ into our ceremony. This was no problem since we both felt called together by God. Father Sauvain reminded us that the wedding is not a private ceremony, but a public, communal worship service. We picked St. Patrick’s Church at the recommendation of Father Sauvain. While we toyed with having the service outside of the Church (even outside), Father helped us to understand that the Church is a place sanctified for such a communal worship service and the perfect place for the sacrament of marriage. The service offered us an opportunity, a sacred opportunity, to join family and friends in dedicating our marriage to God. After all, God is the author of all love. And God was in the house that day. Despite the rapid-fire celebration, being in the Church also allowed our Catholic family and friends to fully participate in the Liturgy and most importantly the Eucharist, “the sum and summit of public prayer.” Our family and friends joined us in this public prayer celebrating us coming together in this life and for all eternity.

As I look back on the experience, I remember being scared to death. I thought I was ready to get married, but nerves and self-doubt riddled the day. But when Father Sauvain pronounced us, “Husband and Wife,” and I kissed my bride, the nerves vanished and joy and peace enveloped me. Even when the champagne at the wedding party led my bride to be giddy and overly talkative with the passenger sitting next to us on the plane ride to our honeymoon destination, I didn’t feel embarrassment, but a warmth of love that exists to this day each time I fall in love all over again with my beautiful wife.

God stuck us together with His glue in March of 1986 at a public prayer called our wedding.