Friday, May 18, 2018

FIELD OF SCREAMS




Additional fallout from my defection constituted the loss of Hispanic ministry.  This was ad hoc, a labor of love.  My day wasn’t complete without speaking my second language, why I spent time at Fiesta Chapo: good food and drinks on the house.  I thought about Zorista and our forbidden love.  She wasn’t just a lover but also a mother who taught me her language like un chicohanging on her knees. She lectured me about my “sins.” Puta, she lived with a man who wasn’t her husband yet maintained gratitude because I vanquished El Diablo.  Our affair cost me a lover, my livelihood, and nine months in ecclesiastical prison ...       
I traveled fifty miles along dirt roads to celebrate Mass in a celery packing plant in 100-degree heat.  The workers compensated me with stalks of celery.  
After the Maximum Security Roman Collar Prison released me I held off on Latino ministry———I had a weakness for Latinas and didn’t want to make the same mistake by falling for una otraPuertorriqueña ... yet I kept my eye out ...  
That Sunday after The Las Sermon and my date with Moonbeam at Burcham Farms I went locissimo, because the Hispanics mocked my Spanish.  I cursed them in English, Spanish, and Latin. Anathema Sit.  That rocked them; they they broke my heart.  
Marcus Maximus had allowed me to celebrate bilingual Mass on the Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe where we broke new ground——the first Mass Spanish in the history of the parish; I praised the assembly as a “pioneering generation.” I planned another service but the ungrateful bastards went over my head and invited the Bishop as the Celebrant. Another Latino community threw me under the bus and I didn’t get laid ... Bastardos ...               
Still I sought my satisfaction. Nada.  I rapped on the door of the barracks where the laborers lodged.  They parked their shiny Fords in the dust.  The sacristan, of indeterminate age, greeted me warmly and I chatted with her tweenager who spoke flawless English.  The aroma ofarroz y frijoles intoxicated lascasas.  In the warehouse we set up the altar and prepared the Missal and lighted the candles.  My brain was boiling, my reason spent as thunderheads brewed from the Western horizon.  I hustled through the Liturgy until I noticed them snick at my pronunciation and I exploded. In lieu of a homily I launched a diatribe against lasEspalda Mojadas. I crushed them.   
“You’re laughing at me?  I drove fifty miles to bring you sacraments and this is how you thank me?  My Spanish isn’t good enough?  Pendejos!You can’t speak English. Bienvenidos to los Estados Unidos. Have you no gratitude? If you want priests who speak perfect Spanish then send your kids to the seminary, otherwise get use to gringoswho speak broken Spanish. You’re under surveillance. Los Federalesare looking over your shoulders.  You can keep the celery.”
     I blew out the candles and stripped of my vestments, stormed from the warehouse and left the Texicanos staring dumbly at the bare altar.
Ninety minutes later I arrived at the presbytery with a bottle of Malbec and kept Holy the Sabbath——I got drunk on wine for the remainder of the day. Lo Dejo.  I quit.   





      
     


POST HOMILY REFLECTION





After lunch with Moonbeam and her father I returned to the rectory but I couldn’t sleep. I felt certain that she and I were together, despite my distrust of women.  We agreed to meet tomorrow “on the moon.” 
     The parish posted podcasts of homilies on the website.  Painful to listen to but I learned a lot about my cadence and delivery.  An experienced homilist I feared nothing. The assembly accepted my witness——I touched their hearts at the deepest core and they learned more about this dynamic preacher.  “He’s got had potential,” some murmured. This homilist took risks; wasn’t afraid to walk the tightrope.  I raised the bar. The Word demanded it.
     Love never fails, the Apostle wrote to Sinners.  I failed to relate.  Mine was a heart of glass and I lost God’s love when I became a priest.  Zorista affirmed that I wasloveable.  Moonbeam conferred ... so she said.  
     As I preached many thoughts crowd the mind——I sold my soul.  I thought of Moonbeam giving me head in my office Friday.  I cast my glance at her. She returned my stare. Our affair never reached Erosbecause; she failed to possess the adventure necessary to take our relationship from Philiosto Agape.  When Christ queried the Rock on the lakeshore one morning he asked, Simon, son of John, do you love me?  The Rock responded, “Yes, Lord, you’re my friend.”  What Jesus wanted the Rock to say was, “Yes, Lord, I love you unconditionally.”  
     I took the people on ride on the Wonkavator, shattering the glass ceiling.  That was pure homiletics——whatever moved the story Further ... 
     ‘But the times they are a changin’ ...  I moved ad libitumtoward risky rhetoric: criticism of the Unholy Father. Pope Dumbass the Zero.  I delivered cold shots against the Charlatan in the Vatican.  Censuring this Anti-Pope could break a curates’ career.  Forward a copy of the podcast to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith; they could examine my writings and determine whether I was a heretic. Unlike Origen I was no gelding. 
     Pope Dumbass the Zero was a popular Pope but an unimportant Pope. I can say that about him because I don’t work for him anymore. History will affirm me.  What more damage could Bergolio inflict on the Church behind his walls?  The Argentinianaglowered. 
     To be cliché it could be said that you could hear a pin drop in church that morning.  Certain iconic phrases hung in the air. Everybody in the assembly was pulling for me.  What a witness. I told this story to myrmidons in the pews.  Wasn’t I Legend?      

Friday, May 11, 2018

LET'S GET TO THE GIG






“Let’s get to the gig.”  The words of Elwood Blues urged me to quit the rectory.  I fired up the Beetle bound for the CatholicCenter, driving up the highway slipshod, in a state of mind that should result in a DWI ... dodging road cones and laughing, still drunk from the nightand mulling over bionic penis envy...    
I never arrived at the church more than thirty minutes prior to Mass, which minimized the morning jitters prior to liturgy.  I avoided queries from groupies asking for my autograph for they distracted me as I prepared to deliver the Word with characteristic aplomb.  
     In my dressing room rehearsed my homily and preparing for the gift to be conferred on you when Jesus Christ appears.  My public had me for one hour; I primed myself to satisfy their desire for the Word. All that peyote I consumed in college made me the freethinker that I am, unlike the clerical robots of the Church. 
     The Sheeple held high standards and I never disappointed.  I recall one Sunday during Lent when a woman buttonholed me in the narthex.  
“Why didn’t you preach, Father Teddy?”  
I passed my hair through my hair. “It was the deacon’s turn. He preaches on every third Sunday.” 
“I didn’t come here to hear him, I came to listen to you.”  
So I had a fan base; a growing reputation throughout the Diocese. Shut-ins watched me on TV and listened on AM radio.   
     At the Catholic Center I worked under Marcus Maximus
 who believed that good music and stellar preaching were the hallmark to a vibrant assembly.  The results were self-evident.  The Impermanent Deacon lent depth to the roster.  
The music ministry comprised of music majors and professors routinely drew applause following the recessional.  The spiritual and liturgical clime of the church pushed demanded continuous improvement as a purveyor of the Gospel.  Prior to Christ the King last November my sermons were more head than heart, intellectual but devoid of emotion. So I began to write anecdotally, taped Gregory’s maxim to my computer and meditated before I composed; I prayed the Spirit prayer the bedrock of homily preparation.  If I were to be a Minister of the Word then I had to bein Word.  
In the sacristy the sacristans made preparations for the Mass. Parishioners filed in and I entered the sanctuary to set the ribbons of the missal——I forbid the sacristans to touch the Libro Santo.  The choir was tuning up but the music director, a protestant, complemented me over my sport coat.  “Very professorial,” he said He knew I was a professor.  “You’re not like most priests,” said the maestro.    
     Now there she was, Alison Greenock, the English teacher at the Parochial School. I couldn’t keep my eyes off this lithe leggy creature. And she was single.  How could anybody that sumptuous be single?  That really blew my mind and how hard was that?
     Mercedes Luis, the Spanish professor, sat front and center mumbling rosaries, a prayer that developed in the thirteenth century for illiterate Catholics who couldn’t pray the Divine office.  Behind her sat the Treadwell woman who insisted on remaining in the nave when her terrible twos toddler wailed rather than taking it into the cry room.  What was worse than a colicky baby?  Shh … shh … shhwhich to me was like fingernails on a chalkboard and never silenced the urchin. “Let the children cry and do not hinder them,” says the Lord.   
     It was ten minutes to noon.  Moonbeam promised to attend the service so she could introduce me to her father over lunch at the Mexican restaurant.  I didn’t see her.  Did she stand me up?  She inspired me to write my masterpiece but if she didn’t come then I wouldn’t be distracted by her for I had prepared to deliver the greatest homily of my life. It ain’t bragging if you can do it. 


Thursday, May 10, 2018


The subject of what would be my final homily was unconditional love.  Wives, be submissive to your husbands, the Apostle’s controversial letter to the Ephesians.  All week I wordsmithed the piece as I’d been doing since my chartbuster on Christ the King. “I didn’t want it to stop!” a fan wrote me following the delivery.  The primary audience of my remarks on this Sunday were to be directed to one woman in the congregation: Moonbeam, the latest love of my life, a woman who reciprocated my feelings and pledged her undying love for “the rest of our lives.”      
     I wasn’t certain that I wanted that from her. Face down on the floor in my cell my head cleared and I recalled my dream of Zorista as I finalized the homily I composed to Moonbeam for she claimed to be in love me.  That’s what they all said——Moonbeam, Zorista, but not Mercy von Hertz, who was my latest heartbreaker.     
The rectory was silent like a monastery.  Ghosts of curates past haunted the hallways and I listened for their footfalls.  Now the Kid, age 26 and recently ordained, arranged the liturgical schedule and assigned me for the later Masses because he knew I stayed up all night drinking.  Like Julian of Norwich (d. 1342), an English mystic, I rarely left my cell.  Marcus Maximus had slid a tray of victuals through my door before he went to the parish to celebrate his own cause celeb.   
For the remainder of the morning I studied the Missal Romanoand the lectionary and rehearsed the collects, and the Roman Canon. I rehearsed because I was a professional liturgist and didn’t wish to tongue-tied for I already spoke with a stammer. (Must have been that LSD I dropped in college.)  My primary rule as a liturgist: don’t embarrass yourself.  A wise nun in Philadelphia said that no homily is better than an ill-prepared one.  Her counsel resonated with me. I was the best-prepared and the hardest working preacher in the history of Saint Paul’s University Catholic Church. 
     After rehearsal I took a scalding shower, committed a sin offering down the drain to reduce the sperm count to diminish the chance of impregnating Moonbeam.  I shakily shaved then donned my cassock and reclined on the sofa to review the Homily and the entire set list.  On stage I mattered.  People paid attention to me, whereas prior to priesthood I was a nobody, an untenured History professor with few publication credits. But when I entered the sanctuary members of the assembly responded to the call to raise their minds and hearts to Omnipotent Roi. Dom Gregory, my ceminary advisor, told me that I ‘had it all,’ and that I had no idea of the ‘impact of my presence.’  Dom Gregory was right. To Moonbeam I was a rock star on stage, was evocative and that gave me a focus I never possessed before.  Sunday morning in America provided the purpose to rise from the dead despite my permanent residency on the dark side of the moon.  
     At the rectory I grew ruddy with shame and then physically sick, feeling a smidgeon of guilt over the affairs with Zorista, Mercy von Hertz, and now Moonbeam ... The drinking, my reclusiveness and the desolation of Spirit of which Ignatius of Loyola warned hurt me. I hurried to the bathroom and dropped to my hands and knees and vomited into the commode.  Happy Sunday.  
My alcoholism intensified the longer I remained in ministry.  Self destructive as they were, these bouts offered me surcease from the emotional pain God inflicted upon me arbitrarily because he was Omnipotent and I was dust in the wind.  “Why are you punishing me, Lord?” “Because you’re a sinner,” he said point blank.  I wanted to be loved but love is the ball-pein hammer that shatters my eggshell heart; I’ve become a man I never wished to be——unloved, unlovable.  What of Jesus Christ? I appealed to his Mother only to be told again and again: Do whatever he tells you...
     Paulie, my homeboy, offered a hard line. What shall we say?  Is there injustice on the part of God?  Of course not!  No, for he says to Moses: ‘I will show mercy to whom I will.’  Cold comfort from a man I thought I knew like a brother. I begged the Father to lift the hex. Enough!  I sideswiped “God’s will” and moved on with my life.  If God wasn’t for me then he was against me.  Who could fight Omnipotent Roi?


Sunday, May 6, 2018

AUGUST 23 +TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME







+ In nomini Patris, et Filii, et Spiritui Sancti.  
     Amen. 
On Sunday, the twenty-third of August, in the Year of Our Lord 201- I, ordained a priest of Christ Jesus by the will of God, preached my final sermon.  
     I didn’t know that this would be my final incursion into the art and science of homiletics, but it was fitting because it was the finest sermon I ever preached in all my years of ministry.  They, whoever ‘they’ are, say that when a priest leaves the ‘hood it happens in the first five years after ordination.  So let it be written; so let it be done. I said my peace; I shot my wad.  It was a good note to end on.      
     I delivered my prescient remarks——call it a thesis, a treatise, the Magna Cartaof homiletics——before one thousand worshippers at the noon Mass at Saint Paul University Catholic Center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin on the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Year of Saint Mark the Evangelist.  I enjoyed a reputation as a great fucking Catholic preacher.  The Lord himself couldn’t have preached a such a swan song. Every parishioner at the Student Center, every priest in the presbyterate, knew it and I did too.
     Two days later I resigned in scandal after admitting to the bishop that I committed another “boundary violation”——a consensual sexual relationship with another married parishioner.  Jesus says, Whoever looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  I believed the Word of the Lord but failed to quell the imperious urge.  To me, imposed clerical celibacy, a thousand-year-old man-made law, constituted an unholy and unhealthy burden, an assault on my manhood, a yoke too heavy to bear.  I couldn’t resist any woman willing to take off her clothes and slip between the sheets with me.  I was a man weak and short-lived.  
     On my desk as I write stands a copy of the Ten Commandments, a gift from my bible study class, chiseled on a marble tablet the size of an IPad, a reminder of how often I violated the sixth and the ninth commandments.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.  These “ten words,” which is what Decaloguemeans in Ancient Greek, God spoke to the Israelites through Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai amid fire, thick darkness, and a trumpet blast heralding the end of all days.  God broke into history in a watershed moment second only to the Hypostatic Union.  Ol’ Moe, himself a philanderer, kept another tent far from the Israelite camp which he shared with an Ethiopian woman who possessed mountainous breasts.  On Sinai Moe sweated it out as he chiseled the Ten Commandments on stone tablets as fast as possible beneath firebombing lava.  In his rage the Fugitive rose up and smashed the tablets at the base of the golden calf around which the Israelites whipped themselves into idolatrous frenzy.  “How were we to know?” Aaron asked his brother who stood six foot ten.  “Ignorance of the law,” he said, “is no excuse.” 
     I couldn’t claim ignorance of the law anymore than Aaron.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself, says the Lord.  That was the problem: every time I loved Sister Christian I got busted. If only I had pitched my tent further from the camp my disgraceful acts would never have happened and I wouldn’t be writing this story.        
     As a priest I succumbed to fornication because I didn’t want to be chaste.  I knew going in that this was going to be a substantial trial.  I figured I’d hold my nose and go to it and rely on support from my brother priests.  Whoever causes one who believes in me to sin, it would be better if he hung a great millstone around his neck and plunge himself into the sea. 
     Suicide was always an option and I studied the subject for years.  Drowning, I learned, isn’t a bad way to go.  It’s not as gory as slitting one’s wrist in a warm bath, or as horrifying as hurling oneself from a skyscraper and plummeting to the earth while entertaining yourself on the Skyfall.  The skyfaller has time to apologize to God for breaking the Fifth Commandment.  With drowning, by contrast, once the initial panic subsides and your lungs fail to suck in the oxygen in the water because you’re not a fish, it’s like falling asleep and slipping to the other side where Saint Peter waits to process the new arrival with warm towels and a fresh bathrobe.  The most effective method is hanging.  A hanging is a statement, the perfect method for the literary minded one, sure to shock whoever discovers the dangling corpse which leaves a stench after the sphincter muscle relaxes.  I delighted at the thought of the horror of the one who finds me swinging from the rafters.  But if I botched the attempt, failed to tie the slipknot properly, or miscalculated the length of the rope necessary to sever the spinal column that’d I’d end up brain-dead or a quadriplegic.  Was the Lord advocating suicide?  Were I to strap a pair of concrete slippers to my feet and tumbled off a bridge into a river and died would he condemn me?  God didn’t intend me to die by my own hand.  By the time I turned thirty-five I survived four suicide attempts, each one precipitated by some temptress who shattered my porcelain heart.  Beware of the seductress.  Take precautions against the loose woman. This proverb mocks the one who allows himself to be seduced into adultery.  Back then; incidents such as these convinced me that celibacy was the best revenge.  In the Bible adultery was regarded as so grave a sin that the Sacred Writers used it as a symbol of abandonment of the Covenant.  If you can’t be faithful to Matrimony or Holy Orders then how can you be faithful to God? Fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.  I found heaven between the legs of my lovers.     
     
To me, celibacy proved to be more than a cross but a curse.  I recall one afternoon, years ago, when a psychologist conducted an interview of me prior to my entrance to seminary.  The examination took place on December six, the Memorial of Saint Nicholas.  The doctor’s name was Leigh Scott Rosenberg.  I arrived at his office smartly dressed in a sport coat and tie.  The night prior I felt so wracked with anxiety that I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight during the interview and with good reason: Rosenberg’s primary practice centered on children but the Church contracted him to interview potential candidates for the Holy Orders. I sat in the waiting room filled with children crazed with sugar, stoned on Ritalin, and suffering from chemical imbalances.  The place was crawling with urchins rattling erector sets, booting soccer balls, and wrestling on the carpet.  For an hour I sat on a chair with a clipboard on my lap penciling in responses to seven hundred questions that queried me as to whether I fantasized about being a florist and whether I enjoyed changing door locks.  Finally the psychologist invited me in.  He looked like Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws: red-graying beard, wearing a Canadian Tuxedo, and sporting bifocals. Rosenberg analyzed my “psychosexual history,” gleaned from the questionnaire, and displayed Rorschach inkblot cards that revealed myriad impediments precluding my acceptance to the priesthood.  I offered full disclosure——if I wasn’t honest I would fail the exam.  Alcoholism.  Drug addiction.  A non-canonical marriage and divorce that produced no children.  Suicidal ideation.  Numerous psychiatric hospitalizations between the ages of twenty-four and thirty-five. Bankruptcy.  A bad LSD trip when I was twenty.  Any bishop who would accept me as a candidate for the seminary was a madman and a fool and deserved the scandal I was to have wrought upon the local church.     
     The examination concluded and Doctor Rosenberg rendered his prognosis.  “None of these impediments necessarily preclude you.” 
     That rocked me.  “Seriously?  What’re you saying, Doc?”  
“What I’m saying is that most guys who want to be priests get rubberstamped.” 
     The doctor signed off on my file because the Bishop had instructed him to turn a blind eye to candidates with issues, so long as they didn’t exhibit pedophiliac tendencies or didn’t display ‘overt’ homosexual behavior.  Every catholic on the planet knows that the Church needs priests.  Desperate bishops accepted “second-career” vocations though they knew older men (I was ordained at age forty) brought gifts and skills, scars and idiosyncrasies.  Mature men pursuing Holy Orders are told that our experience makes us ‘uniquely qualified’ to minister to “the people of God,” more so than the cadre of big-collar virgins who have little to offer because they have sacrificed little.  You can’t sacrifice something that you never possessed——sexual intimacy, money, a promising career, et al.  I knew who I was and who I’d never become.  I was a beagle off the leash; my nose hit the ground and I followed the scent straight into traffic. 
     “The body remembers,” said the Psychologist as I headed toward the exit.  “If you’re going to struggle with anything it’s going to be celibacy.”  
     I wanted to tell him, well, Doc, if you know that then you better tell the Church to blackball me.  Jesus says Cut off any member that causes you to sin, your eye, your hand, and your foot ... If half the priests I knew took the Word of the Lord literally they’d all be wheelchair bound, half blind, and consecrating the Eucharist with bionic hands. 
     In my case the primary ‘member’ that imperiled my celibacy “for the sake of the kingdom” lurked behind the buttons of my 501 blues.  Knowing this, I weighed the pros and cons of imposed chastity on every level of meaning, even as I dated a girl from the parish at the time.  (Catholic girls are easy, I discovered.)  The solution, the supreme sacrifice to the repression of the libido, would disqualify the man altogether——castration.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “lust is the disordered desire for inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure.”  And I’m like, what could be disordered about sexual pleasure? 
     There were many levels to this conundrum.  Were a man to castrate himself to dispel his lust the Church wouldn’t ordain him.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Origen, the third-century priest and heretical theologian, waited until after ordination to castrate himself.  He was known more for taking a meat clever to his junk than for his disordered theology.  In seminary we studied him in Patristic Theology and that’s all I could remember about him. Ouch!
     In the minds of the Church Fathers a man who didn’t possess the cojonesnecessary to carry out priestly ministry was unfit to receive Holy Orders. Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) they inserted a codicil into the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope Saint John Paul the Great.  JPG foisted this belief on generations of catholics when he commanded that such language be crafted into the Catechism.  Clerical celibacy, the Holy Poly argued, existed for “the sake of the kingdom ... accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the reign of God.”  
That excerpt would be laughable were it not so ludicrous. I recall my final year of seminary when the doors of the august institution flew open on Friday afternoon and the deans dispatched legions of dewy-eyed apple-cheeked men-children, the transitional deacons, who skipped if not floated down the blue marble steps with missal in hand rushing off to their weekend pastoral assignments, becassocked big-collars who onanated themselves over the salvation of souls. In my mind, I looked forward to the weekend furlough to escape the Minimum Security Roman Collar prison that is the seminary.  
     Of course the Princes of the Church took clerical celibacy with great earnestness.  A man must be virile, possess potency even though he can’t use it licitly.  The man in black must have a hard-on for the priesthood, a contradiction of terms.  In the case of an older man preparing to be ordained, between the ages of fifty to seventy (say, my classmate the Always Right Reverend David Bruce Almighty Rosenberg Foundation, LLC) the Congregation for Consecrated Life dispenses an indult and issues the mature candidate a prescription for Viagra, otherwise the man wouldn’t have the balls for apostolic labors. Come to think of it there may have been a kiosk in the refectory. In the case of the Big Collars the Warden authorized the Dean of Mento administer the Saltpeter.   
     The new young priest bushwhacks through the thickets of the Garden Primeval.  The cleric is forbidden fruit, which is why catholic women pursue us.  Who tempts whom?  Who brought Adam his last supper?  The Bishop places blame on the cleric who holds “power” over the woman.  I rejected that logical fallacy.  Jesus said to Pilate: You would have no authority over me but what has been given to you from above.  I guess I was a lightning rod for disordered sexuality.  Bone-crushing loneliness impelled me to act out.  Aggressive women hungry to bite into this Manchop turned me on. Father-what-a-waste.  I enjoyed being chased despite being ‘married to the church.’ God created me to be a ‘sexual being’ yet the Church hijacked my sexuality and put my testicles in a lock box.  I had a serious problem with that for I was not unattractive to women. Many told me that I looked like Richard Chamberlain as Ralph de Bricassartin The Thorn Birdswhen I wore a cassock.  In those days I was tall, trim, and clean-shaven.  Many Rachel Wards met me after dark in the grotto. 



Thursday, May 3, 2018

THE LAST SERMON: COR AD COR LOQUITOR (“HEART SPEAKS TO HEART”)







From the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians Chapter 5 verses 21-32

Delivered at Saint John Church and Student Center at Michigan State University Sunday August 23, AD 2015 at the 10 a.m. Mass. 


MORTUA USQUAM

SHE DIED ANYWAY.  Decay in the marrow.  Radiation robbed her radiance.  Fragile peals of thunder protected summer showers that watered her flowers as she lay dying on the cancer ward of Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in our hometown of Torrington, Connecticut.  If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.  If the chemotherapy don’t get you then the radiation will.  Life submits to death and death don’t have no mercy.  
My parents, Moose and Sylvia, made an odd couple, like an elephant and a tickbird.  He was Oscar Madison.  She was Felix Unger.  She chased me around the house with her Comet cleanser, Lysol, and a dust rag.  He was Newsweekand Time Magazine; she was House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens.  Friday night they sat like mummies on the couch and recliner watching Dynastyand Dallas.  Who shot J.R.?  Who cares?  That series jumped the shark.      
Moose and Syl complimented one another.  He got expelled from college for gambling.  She dropped out of high
school and became a waitress to support her family.  Moose, a civil servant for the state of Connecticut, was slightly left of center—Syl was always right.  She deferred to Moose on money, retirement,
banking, his area of expertise.  As head of our marginally Christian household (I was the only practicing catholic in the family) he never made a decision without consulting her.  A wise decision from which our entire family benefited though she is no longer with us. 
Fifty plus fifty equals 100 percent. Yet unconditional love can’t be tallied with an adding machine. Love is trust mind body heart soul companionship complementarity and respect.  No matter how fast your fingers jab at the adding machine there isno bottom line because the checkbook is always balanced.  Unconditional love can’t be tallied on a ledger.  Love never fails.    


‘THESE THREE’

The ancient Greeks—not the fraternity Kappa Delta Phi, or the sorority Gotta Get a Guy—hammered out a three-tiered code to understand the birds and the bees: Eros,PhiliosAgape.  Eros is love at first sight, a crush, physical attraction, puppy
love. Infatuation must pass the litmus test of Philios, the love between friends.
I remember two lessons that I learned from my high school social studies teacher, Mr. Rezniki, a broken-hearted divorcee who chain-smoke and never showered.  A dirty bird to be sure. First, never admit guilt if you’re arrested.  Next, you have to marry your best friend.  That stuck with me, never forgot Mr. Rez’s maxims. 
Top tier of the foundation of love as understood by the Greeks is called Agape, unconditional love between the spouses and their children, a gathering of friends.
That, dear people, is the basis of family.  Dare I invoke the rock star Meatloaf? I dare. “I would do anything for love.”


‘FAMILY IS FAMILY!’

But the times they are a’ changin’.  This year certain top-tiered black-robes legislating from the bench altered the definition of family for good or for ill forever.  Fair and balanced.  We report, youdecide.  Our fearless leader in the Vatican jumped on the bandwagon.
“Family is family!” the crazy ol' coot exclaimed from the logia.  “Who am I to judge?”  Aneurisms, strokes, brain bubbles.  Jorge Mario Bergolio is the Joe Biden of the Church.   Judge not lest ye be judged, says the Lord.  I will judge and my judgment is true.  Put Bergolio behind a microphone and he makes headlines. He has no filters and his handlers are powerless to stop him from going off script.
But we’re comparing apples to oranges.  Christian marriage is the true sacrament of the gospel.  Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.  Jesus regarded marriage so highly that he elevated it to the dignity of a sacrament.  And what is a sacrament?  A sacrament as defined by Saint Augustine is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace.  Not seeing is believing.    
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  A fresh pink bundle of joy and many more delivered by the stork.  It’s up to you to explain the birds and the bees to your children.  Take it from the celibate, childless priest.  
Bergolio says that Catholics don't have to “breed like rabbits,”—nice work if you can get it—but what does a celibate man know about conjugal love?  Quite a lot, actually.  For the celibate priest unconditional love for the Church comes with the territory of becoming in persona Christi.  Alter Christus.  Another Christ.  That’s me, but not really.   
In truth we lead by example, a witness to the waiting world.  Simple but not easy.  Always a work in progress.  Keep moving, don’t look back.  More will be revealed.  Don’t quit before the miracle happens.   
            This distillation comes from the Book of Genesis which is the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning.  Like outer space love is open borders.  A love shack without walls.  Skyrockets inflight afternoon delight.  (Who wrote that song?  Abba? No, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.  Where are they now?)  Pretty freakin’ 70s.  Love is the launch pad to the moon—(“To the Moon!)— into deep space to boldly to where angels fear to tread.


'KISSING GOD'

Saint Paul utilized the philosophy of the Greeks in describing Christian love to the pagans he converted.  Take his epistle to the Ephesians.  Wives, be submissive to your husbands. 
WAIT A MINUTE?!   Submissiveness to husbands?  Do I hear a groaning from the assembly?   
Is this the same Paul who wrote love is patient kind unselfish un-snobbish never rude boastful ignorant devoid of self-righteousness pompous bluster squeegees in the sink salt on the counter and dirty socks and negligees on the floor?
Yup, that’s crazy ol’ Paul.  To know him is to love him—I sure do.  I only speak the truth.  Allow me to edify.
Trust me, I know from Paul.  We have a very strong
bond like Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia.  My day isn’t the same unless I inject my soul with his poetry.  Basically Paul is my older brother. We share Philios,are friends who spend time with each other and we can be ourselves though he does most of the talking for he is quite loquacious.  He wrote half of the New Testament; like a speed-freak uncle he has a lot to say, raps on and on.  I defer to him as elder statesman, which is what Ken Kesey said about Jack Kerouac.  And I know that Kesey meant that with all due respect.  Don’t dis Jack.      
By contrast, Agape between spouses is butterflies in the belly when you hear his car pull into the driveway.  Goosebumps when she walks through the front door.  To look into the eyes of the one you love is to hold conversations without saying aword.  The actor Scatman Crothers called it shining in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film.  I won’t say that it’s telepathy because the spiritual life is that too.     
Cor ad cor loquitur.  “Heart speaks to heart.”  You have to have it in your bones.  Dig deep; it’s there.   Inexhaustible.  A bottomless mine and if you keep digging you’ll hit the mother lode.  Eureka! 
Love never fails Paul wrote to the Corinthian church whose members practiced wanton lust; the entire community was a brothel until he taught them real love that transcends the physical and attains metanoia, a profound spiritual experience, akin to kissing God.


LADIES’S MAN

The fact is—hold onto your bibles (assuming you read them)—that Paul didn’t write Ephesians. His piece de resistance was crafted by disciples more than two generations after his death. This was a common practice in the apostolic age, to write a corporate letter, like an editorial, constructed around the ideas of the leader of the community who continues to inspire Christians from beyond the grave, including us here in this assembly today.  
Paul was not a misogynist, was not the man you think he was at home.  Study the scriptures and you will see that women held prominent roles in the Pauline church. Women, he says, struggled beside me in the gospel.
Phoebe was his deaconess.  Priscilla and Paul owned a business together.  Lydia the matriarch crafted and sold dresses, ribbons,and embroideries to support the mission. Paul was not a misogynist.  He was a ladies’s man.
And he was a marketing genius. His stock in trade: eternal
life.  As with Steve Jobs the mastermind of the minions the gentiles didn’t know what they wanted until Paul presented it to them.  Here’s the crux of the matter: the Apostle constructed a Rogerian argument, which is what the auto industry uses to negotiate with the union goons, directed to the Ephesians to gain their confidence by appealing to them in their own language and to guide them into the church.  
Then having drawn them to himself he shifted the paradigm to Christian marriage founded on equality and mutual respect of the spouses.  So when Paul via his ghostwriters writes “Wives, be submissive to your husbands,” he isn’t speaking to us today so much as he was to the families he converted in Ephesus.  He isn’t speaking to us today so much as he was speaking to the families he converted in ancient Greece.  Like E.F. Houghton: when Paul speaks people listen.  Paul speaks to Christians worldwide throughout the ages.  He is the lion of the Gospel.  Hear him roar.    


RED BULL COCKTAIL

Christian leaders defended women from brutish husbands who hazed their children and bullied their wives.  Big shot Bubbas ruled the roost until Paul drew them from their man-caves and administered an evangelical smackdown.  He was in the right.  He knew who he was.  He was the prophet of the Christian Testament.  
He told his friend Timothy, “Some of these men make captives of women oppressing them with disordered demands and desiresborne from patriarchal egos and too much Red Bull and vodka.”
In olden days the family was patriarchal because men were larger and stronger and protected their families. Real Christian men put their families first.  Real Christian men put their families first.  
The Copernican shift that resulting from the gospel demands mutual submission between the wife and her husband modeled on the love that Christ, the Great Lover, has for his Church.
This impelled Paul to write Husbands love your wives and your children as Christ loves his church for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  Bank on it. Nobody defended Christ and his Church more than the Apostle.  


RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAMS, CARPENTERS!

For Moose and Syl years of struggle yielded to prosperity. In the autumn of the 80s they broke ground on their dream house. ‘We’re movin’ on up to the east side’ like the Jeffersons, another forgotten television series like DallasThe A Team, and The Dukes of Hazard.  Strictly a personal opinion.     
Midway through construction she received her death sentence: stage-four lung cancer.  No cure.  Little hope.  Pain, crying, and confusion compounded by legitimate anger and fear.  “Stop building the house,” Syl said.  My father’s face fell.  He was confused, couldn’t process what she was telling him.  I’m an emotional sponge; he’s an emotional vacuum.  “Why?  What for?”  “Because I’m not going to live to see
it.” “Nonsense.  Don’t talk like that.”  He knew that nothing could save his wife and gradually accepted the truth.  I never could.   
His heels dug in.  He would do anything for love but that.  Raise high the roof beams carpenters! JD Salinger wrote.  He paid the masons, his brothers, overtime to complete the house before she died and they laid hundreds of bricks a day with fastidious concern.  Sylvia was the magic object in our family.  She had this beautiful manner about her that made everybody love her from the get-go.    
Alas, she never lived to plan a housewarming party.  Instead the new house became a museum filled with her artifacts.  Cold year round desolate empty, angry, frustrating, with a free-roaming vapor whose body never treaded through the hallways.  Every time I turned a corner I expected to bump into her.  Even today when the telephone rings I answer expecting to hear her voice, telling me that everything’s going to be okay, that she’s cancer free, and that she’s on her way home from the hospital.  That feeling will never go away and I don’t want it to.  That’s the only way I can keep her memory alive until we reunite in heaven.    
I disliked living at the new house intensely.  Not a home.  A house.  Cold as a meat locker.  I escaped to college, joined a fraternity, self medicated—how else could I cope?  Her final words to me: “Don't do anything stupid.”  You can imagine how that went.  Everything went according to plan.  SNAFU.  
            As a young man Moose worked as a bricklayer with his brothers for his father’s construction company.  He selected  the bricks for the façade and Syl the interior decorator arranged them.  The night before she died—the memorial of Saint Benedict—he visited her on the cancer ward to show her the samples.
He told me, “That was the last decision we made
together.”  Agape love means spousal equality and submission till death do us part.  Simple but not easy.  Not for the feint-hearted.  What else you gonna do? Live and love, love and live.  Then die.  The Word of God demands this from us: submission to the Divine Will.  It is the priest who guides the soul home to God.   
Sylvia was vain and concerned about her appearance. She insisted on a closed-casket funeral.  Moose wouldn’t abide by that either.  For to him his wife of just three weeks shy of twenty years was as beautiful in death as she was in life.  How much more beautiful could such a woman be in eternal life?  


LET IT BLEED

That is my love story.  The outcome, of course, was inevitable.  She died anyway.  No more butterflies from thedriveway.  No more goose bumps through the front door.  The flowers in her garden dried up and blew away.  Life yields to death and eventually you submit to the truth.  Some days are better than others.  Actually they all suck.  
Why the long sob story, Father?  Because the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart in order to open the minds and unlock the hearts of his spiritual family.  That’s you.  This comes from Pope Saint Gregory the Great, also a ladie’s man, who needed all the help that he could garner to protect his bride Holy Mother Church during the barbarian invasions during the Dark Ages.  Everybody lives in a dark age from time to time.  Some of us take up permanent residence between the dark and the light. I hear it’s nice this time of year.  
How much more, I tell you, does the unconditional love that the priest holds for his church in imitation of Christ set an example for divine love matrimonialized?  But I’d be lying if I said to you that it’s the same.  Amen, I say to you, marital love and the love between the priest and the Church are equal but they are not the same, like man and woman: equal, but not the same.  We must continually seek common ground.  This also comes from Genesis.      
Sacramental bloodletting saves the day but what else can I
do?  Christ shed his blood on the cross.  The priest does, too.  Let it bleed then let it grow.   
Is there a happy ending?  No, because the love between Christ and his church is the never-ending story.  No fairy tale happily ever after, no “you complete me you had me at hello.”  The gospel is the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning.
Husbands love your wives and avoid bitterness toward them.  God has called you to peace.  For do you know, O wife, that you will save your husband, and you O husband, do you not know that you will save your wife?
Hubbies, is there anything that you wouldn’t do for your wifeys?  Wifeys, is there anything you wouldn’t do for your hubbies?  Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your family?  I don’t know about you but I would do anything for love.  How about you?  Love God as Christ has loved us and love one another as I have loved you.
    

QUOD SCRIPSI SCRIPSI/ What I have written, I have written.    


WHAT IS PURE HOMILETICS?



The preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; only then can he reach the ear of his neighbor.
     ——Pope Saint Gregory the Great 


RAISING THE DEAD 

Gregory (d. 604) is the patron of teachers.  A member of the great Order of Saint Benedict of Nursia, Gregory created Gregorian Chant, the sacred whispers of God transferred and uttered by the monks throughout the ages and by “the people of God.” Gregory reformed the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours (the official prayers of the Church for those who are catholic). He is one of only three popes who is recognized as “the great” in the Roman Catholic Church, the other two being Pope Saint Leo the Great (d. 461), and Pope Saint John Paul the Great (d. 2005).
     Discovering Gregory’s maxim [see above] revolutionized my approach to catholic preaching and, by extension, my writing.  At long last I felt that I could write and preach honestly——the effect on this writer was nothing short of revolutionary.  I discovered Pure Homiletics on All Soul’s Day 2014 when I delivered a personal witness concerning the carrying of the torch for my deceased loved ones.  Never had I delivered such personal material but discerned it to be appropriate because I wanted my assembly to identify with living without departed loved ones, something none on the face of the earth could not identify with.  Who could not relate to the truth of human death and the hope of the immortality of the souls?  That is the reason why I write, to bring new life to the old dead who have passed off the scene, to make them live, breath, and jump again, words Jake Blues used to resurrect the Blues Brothers Band after he was released from the service of the great state of Illinois.         


‘ATOP AN UNDERWOOD’

Pure Homiletics is a unique literary genre that I created when I was a practicing Roman Catholic preacher prior to my departure from the ministry in the Year of Our Lord 2015.  My style of preaching and writing is comprised of Biblical Realism——the terrestrial engages with the divine.  Bible characters, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus, Mary, Paulie and the Rock (Peter) et al coexist with mortals through a literary construction that centers on the literary elements of scene setting, summary, plot, dialogue, theme, and characterization.  Preparation of Pure Homiletics entails a rigorous weekly commitment from Sunday to Sunday.  It begins with exhaustive study of Scripture from the lectionary and concludes the following Sunday with the delivery and execution of pure before the assembly who hears the message of the homilist with great delight. The great crowd hears this with delight (Mk 12:37).  That was my experience and I pay it forward with the work I continue to do post-priesthood. I was an extremely unique preacher. I don’t know of any other catholic preacher who could do what I accomplished.  God who began the good work in me brought it to completion each Sunday when I ascended the pulpit (Phil 1:6).  I hit one chartbuster after another and secured my legacy.  All that is over and I have resumed my writing business anew.          

  
PREACHER MAN = BIBLE MAN = WORDSMITHING  

It has been said that the preacher must have a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other hand.  That suited me.  I’ve been a working journalist since I was 22 years old, but found I cared less about the world than I did about the otherworldly.  It was the Curé of Ars, Saint John Vianney (d. 1859), the patron saint of priests worldwide, who said, “The eyes of the world see no further than this life, but the eyes of the Christian see deep into eternity.” Vianney was a simpleton who failed to pass Latin in seminary but the man possessed supreme holiness and Christian vision and sensitivity.  Of him it was said that he heard confessions for 18 hours in summer daylight but I disbelieved that and wonder when did he have time to go to the bathroom?  Few priests that I knew and consorted with deserved to be elevated to the status of a saint.  None, actually, including and especially myself, a sinner much more than a saint.  Popeye in a shameless riff stole from a line from Paulie.     
     These writings of mine that I display each week are neither truth nor fiction, neither memoir nor autobiography, drama, novels, poetry (I am a failed poet) nor cinema.  Pure Homiletics incorporates all literary genres, an amalgam that I can’t explain, can’t understand, nor do I care to——it just works for me.  The Word manifests itself to me as inscrutably as Jerry Garcia or Father Time.  Pureis 24/7/365 and beyond.  It’s like “Dark Star”, a signature Grateful Dead piece composed in their acid days.  “ ‘Dark Star’ is going on all the time.  You don’t begin it so much as you enter it.  You don’t end it so much as you leave it,” Tom Constaten, former Grateful Dead organist, told an interviewer in an magazine celebrating the group’s 50thanniversary.  Constantine sums up the meaning of Pure Homiletics.  The long, strange trip of the wayfarer never reaches conclusion because it’s written bottomless from the bottom of the mind and is purely my greatest sin as a preacher but my primary asset as a writer.  I’m the only priest I know who qualified to be a saint, a crazy dumbsaint and a legend in my own mind. 

‘ATOP AN UNDERWOOD’   

Jack Kerouac exerted upon me the greatest influence, more than the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, Paulie and the Rock, Ike, Jerry, like any of other prophets, even the Lord, for that matter, with his sketch of “Belief and Technique for Writing Modern Prose” (Evergreen Review, 1959) fueled by Benzedrine as he belted out On the Roadin three weeks on a teletype roll fueled by coffee and pea soup.  That story is legend. “You’re a genius all the time,” he wrote in a slipshod essay describing his writing curriculum.  That truth was never something I shared with other preachers or members of my congregations.  I preferred to keep them guessing as to the originality of my work, far superior to the average chapter-and-verse preacher with his “let us this, let us that,” and shoulding on everybody.   I accepted loss forever——I encountered few who experienced lost like I did——and believed in “the holy contour of life.”  I write in recollection and amazement for myself (my sermons were highly self-pitying), swam in a sea of language, and struggled to sketch the flow that existed intact in my life.  Like Jack I was the writer-director of earthly movies sponsored and angeled in heaven and I never forgot what happened and never forgave those who betrayed me.    

CODA     

Pure Homiletics then is the story of God that has me chasing the dragon like heroin addict as I paint my masterpiece.  My influences also include the prophets, the evangelists, particularly Mark and Luke, Hem, Kesey, Thomsonion wildness, Ginsberg in his vulgarity, Dei Verbum(1965), the Swiss reform theologian Karl Barth, and America’s preacher Billy Graham whose achievement was substantial, and my humanity which needs no authentication, what Doctor Johnson described as “the pain of being a man.” 
     Something that you feel will find its own form.  In the words of Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus to death at the behest of the Jews: Quod Scripsi Scripsi——“What I have written.” I have written and I continue to write because, after all, writing well is the best revenge.  

QUOD SRIPSI SCRIPSI