Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Thoughts - Fall Risk

As I continue on my journey to recovery from a most horrendous injury of my ankle, the Lord continues to teach me things. He won't let me lie in my unreflective space. He continues to draw my mind to Him in simple ways.

Take for instance the photo to the left. I was given this wristband after my surgery. I thought it funny to keep it especially once I returned to the seminary because my fellow confreres would get a kick out of it.

I thought wrong. Most haven't mentioned it, or if they have. They haven't gotten the joke. (Just my luck, I'm the only one that fell for it)

Crutching around, at least in some areas, it is indeed very true. I am at risk of falling. Indeed, I have fallen to the chagrin of my Borg-like right foot, when pressure was placed on it before it was time for it to bear weight. Falling is a danger when I move too fast for my own good on the crutches. It's just not the safest way to travel.

As I started reflecting deeper though, I came to realize the moral truth in the bracelet. I am indeed a fall risk. I know my own faults too well, and Satan does too. He wants to pull me, push me to fall, fall away from my Beloved. I am at a constant risk of falling into sin, of falling in love with creation neglecting to love my Creator. I am at risk of falling for the distractions of Doctor Who: Season 6 away from the calling of study I have received from the Lord while I finish my last semester.

I go even further though. If you look past my bracelet, you see my body, my humanity. It speaks its own language, and its weakness is a constant reminder that I am a fall risk. My inheritance of original sin and my previous revelries in personal sin make me liable. Even as I grow in union, which is slow, that liability will never cease.

The only insurance that I have is Christ. It is He who will catch me. It is He will even after I fall pick me up and restore me by His infinite mercy. It is He who will be next to me as a perpetual support. He never leaves His beloved. Although I may feel that I crutch alone, I crutch with the strength provided me by Him.

Lent is a great time to remember that we are all fall risks, and we are in need of internal purification. As our spiritual wounds heal, the day will come when we can, with the healing provided by the outpouring blood of Christ, walk on our own to feet and cut the band from our arms.

Let that day come, when it is best to come.

The Ankler

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Ankler is Lowered Down from the Roof by Wily Seminarians

I was very moved by today's gospel. The spiritual director for the seminary preached this morning tellings that spiritual healing comes before physical healing. The paralytic's sins were forgiven before he rose, picked up, his mat, and walked. I must say that I had a similar experience.

While on the basketball court one week and six days ago, I asked for a priest. Lying on my back, my foot was in a contorted position. One of my fellow competitors called the ambulance, I had another go fetch a priest. The director of pastoral formation for the seminary came. He was perturbed, to say the least, by the current condition of my foot. He brought with him the oil of the sick. I had been present at the Chrism mass the year previous, when that oil was blessed. Lying on the cold court, I received the sacrament of the sick.

Just this past semester, we studied the theology of the sacrament, its effects, its matter, and form, etc. Intellectually I knew what was happening. Spiritually, I experienced a profound grace. There were sins on my soul that needed forgiveness. There was healing that needed to occur within me. The oil on my forehead and hands placed there by hands that were anointed by a different oil, the laying on hands, the words spoken, were means of sacramental grace that was nearly tangible through the searing pain in my ankle. Where before there was a restlessness, in flowed peace. At that moment, from the sacrament I received the grace to bear this burden, to walk with Christ and learn how to be dependent on Him; to walk with Him up the calvary of looking like a bionic man to die to my vanity; to sit, hoping one day to again kneel, with Him in the Garden on Gethsemane and say, "Father, not my will, but your will be done."

Physically healing is ongoing. As it progresses, the Lord means to progress my spiritual healing, cleansing from me pride and vanity especially.

I move one crutch, one turn of the wheel at a time, but the temporary Zion of my ordination looms in the horizon. I see and I hope. I walk with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. Like Peter I am learning more about that to which God is calling me as well as learning the gravity of Christ's mission in my life.

Till the next chapter

The Ankler

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Thoughts - Pray for Your Priests

There's so much I want to write about. Much has happened in the last week. The Lord is doing great things in my heart, in the hearts of the people of this country, in the hearts of the seminarians. What going to write about might seem to some gloating, but the Lord has really convicted me.

Satan hates priests. He despises them worse than my sister hates roaches. They are so effective at doing God's work, following His will, being manifold dispensers of His free grace. He wants nothing more than destroy every single priest that is alive. Anyone he can get his hands on, he wants destroyed. He does it in many ways. Some are drastic like what experienced last summer in Fr. Corapi. Most though, he works through a slow grind, weakening them to his prowl and deceits and leading them in this way or that direction to lead the people of God astray. He gets them thinking they are doing the work of God, glorious work for the sake of his people, but they are silently, subtly leading His flock astray. The temptations are great for Christ's priests. Not much different than what Satan took Christ through after His baptism in the Jordan and in the Garden of Gethsemane. He hits priests at their weakest because the sin of a priest has greater affect than just the regular doctrine of social sin. The sin of a priest affects every one of his parishioners, students, his whole flock.

So I ask you, kind and few readers pray daily for priests. Pray daily that they stay connected and in communion with Christ whom they represent. Pray for seminarians for aspire to so noble a gift and discern whether God desires that gift them. Pray for our bishops who even more so are under great spiritual pressure to buckle and give in.

Jesus, meek and humble of hearts. Make our hearts like Yours.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Thoughts - The Ankler

I had three other blog posts planned for this week with more than enough time to write them because I had read ahead in class. Come Monday night, my year changed. I decided to do what I do most every Monday night {no not take over the world, that's Thursdays} I played basketball. Basketball has been my favorite sport since I was a child. Before I understood the full reality of professional basketball, i.e. it helps to be tall, I wanted to be a professional basketball player.

Ten minutes into the game, I go up for a layup, which is rare due to my aforementioned lack of height. At some point on the way up or the way down, my foot forgot to do its job and keep footing and my ankle gave way. It happens in games all the time, a twist here and sprain there. Nothing big, except for that night. I came to ground writhing in pain I looked at my ankle in utter horror. My foot had turn inward a full 90 degrees making its best Linda Blair impression. My fellow players went into panic mode. They called for a young priest, because all the old priests were asleep. It was after eight thirty. I received Anointing of the Sick for the first time. I tell you; it was a grace filled moment being on the other side receiving the sacrament as opposed to watching other people receive it. The comfort of the spirit was surely there and helped
me to patiently endure what came ahead.

One of my fellow basketballers hailed an ambulance with his arm out and robust whistle. In came not only EMTs but a doctor. Uh oh. A doctor is on the scene? They said they'd never seen anything like this. EMT's have seen some crazy things for sure. So when I heard this I knew I was going to be the freakshow of the day.

"So what's your name," said the EMT that accompanied me into the ambulance.

"Deacon Kyle," I responded.

"So your gonna be a priest," he asked while jotting down my health insurance information.

"Sure am."

This starts many conversations for me, never did I think I would be having it in an ambulance with the EMT caring for me. I used it as a jumping ground to see where the Lord was in his life. He hasn't been very faithful to going to mass. His work is his life to the detriment of any romantic relationship. I definitely loves to help people who are in situations like myself. Please pray for him, either he's called to the priesthood or he has met the girl that will help him to heaven. Either way he needs our prayers.

I arrive at the emergency room of University Hospital, the teaching hospital. I became the specimen of the day. Look at this guy's injury. Something new. I was kindly given cc's of something that can be sold for good money on the street. That gift was repeat about 10 minutes later. I was in a kindly state. Until the petite blonde doctor, let me know she was going to place my foot back where it should be. {I hadn't listen to my mother. I didn't put it back where I found it.} I experienced what a 10 on the pain scale feels like after an unknown number of cc's of some drug was flowing through my system. I appreciated there the depth of the faithfulness of the Japanese martyrs we had celebrated that day. They went through much greater pain without meds and for the sake of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Now, it was time for surgery. They wouldn't let me wear my scapular, which I was not a fan of, but I acquiesced. I went under anesthesia and ... and ... {cough} (cough} {heave} {heave} My eyes weren't yet able to open and apparently neither were my lungs. I was having an unenjoyable {not that they're ever enjoyable} asthma attack. In my asthmatic anesthetized daze I could see some sort of contraption on my ankle area, but it was too blurry to become reality yet. The nurse told me I couldn't get my CAT scan until my breathing was controlled. I never like cats, but I did my best to steady my breathing over a 45 minute period.

My reward was received. My first CAT scan. The technician mentioned something about not being wise and I responded with, "In Proverbs, it says, "Wisdom is the fear of the Lord." I took both him and me off guard. Post surgery Scripture quoting ... only from a seminarian. We had a good little conversation about Scripture, before after my scan, which, thank God, involved no scratches or litter boxes.

Finally, I arrived at my room. It was a private room with a window overlooking the lit Superdome, excuse me, for trademark purposes, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It was in the light of the room that I could finally see what the surgery entailed. Two metal rods protrude from my shin while another protrudes perpendicularly from heel. Inside, the ace bandage and other medical linens is a cage called an external fixator that is intended to keep my bones in the right place. No more dislocation, it says to me.

Here is where my final road to priesthood begins ... welcome to the life of THE ANKLER.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"When all is done, Judgment comes..."

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets' warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

I have a new favorite song: the Dies Irae. Day of wrath, day of mourning. Sounds really heavy, right? And Lent is still over two weeks away. Why not wait ‘til then to talk this up. Better to set that dreary mood after Mardi Gras. That was my initial thought. However, after jamming out to DC*B's version of this ancient hymn for a month, it has made me realize something that's bursting in my chest right now. This song about the dawn of Judgment Day illuminates a part of Christian theology that was once over emphasized and is now largely ignored, a part of our good news that for centuries was seen as nothing more than bad news. Our modern mentality looks upon the last Judgment with a skepticism that disguises a groping fear. Some of the hardcore movies of our time (Terminator, Armageddon, etc) are about preventing judgment day, about erasing it, rather than about finding the courage to face it down. But Judgment Day, in the Christian tradition, ends on a happy note.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its Judge an answer making.

David Crowder purposely wrote his version of the song in C (the happiest of all keys!). That doesn't mean that the song is all sunshine and sparkles and rainbows. It does mean, however, that the very last note we hear resolve the whole hymn is a ‘C.’ If you have a piano or guitar on hand, go ahead and strike a C for me…Very good! It’s quite a happy sound, isn’t it? In the context of a sequence of songs full of dissonant power chords, fiery prophets, peals of thunder and the death of the Son of God, this simple C rings out with profound beauty. The point that Crowder is trying to make after 18 minutes of reflecting on death and judgment is that there is something strikingly beautiful to look forward to. At the end of it all.

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

So there was the Holocaust. And there were the Gulags. Now there is apartheid and abortion, greed and global warming. So there will be political infighting, economic unrest, famines and fires, widows and wars, and yet it will not yet be the end (See Matt. 24:6). We know not the day nor the hour, though in our darkest hours we may hope it comes sooner rather than later. Though I do not consider myself a melancholy person, I cannot have an entirely optimistic outlook on the way the world is going. I've certainly never had the chance to be idealistic. My teenage years began with 9/11 and culminated in hurricane Katrina. Whether or not things are really getting any worse, I have no scientific reason to believe that anything short of the Reign of God could make them any better. Yes, scientific: because, as far my study of the sciences (physical, social, liberal) goes, it seems obvious that God would have to come down in order to truly reverse the effects of entropy. The crimes of racism and murder cry out from the ground not just to congress or the UN. They cry to the heavens asking for atonement. My faith brings me real comfort in the knowledge that, when the time comes to judge humanity for the killings of the poor and the Jews, it will be a poor Jewish carpenter sitting on the throne.

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Yet, this is not the only comfort I derive. He is, after all, a truly merciful judge, like us in all ways except sin. In all ways except sin. In all ways that are good, true and beautiful. In all ways except those ways that have led to our own destruction. To this Judge, who is truly God and also truly bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh (recall: He is our spouse as well), we cry out, "Huic ego parce, Deus!”

When all is done, Judgment comes. Spare, O God: have mercy.

As a closing note, I would like to point out how refreshing it is to hear the phrase "Have mercy" resound in praise and worship songs. Normally, the Protestant theology of the authors of this genre steers them away from publically proclaiming this petition. Because of the reasons listed above, I feel that it is oh so necessary to sing it now and always. With all the weariness of this world, my heart cries out for mercy, but it cries out in the key of C!

Pie Jesu Domine,

Dona nobis requiem. Amen.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Aquinas and More

If you look over to the side you'll see a few things different on the sidebar. There is a badge that says Tiber River. I have become an official Tiber River reviewer of books. I am very excited about this. I love the resource that Tiber River provides. They pool together book reviews on thousands of books. All the reviews are from a Catholic perspective. They even have an orthodoxy meter. Which is pretty sweet.

Tiber River was designed by Ian Rutherford, the owner and operator of I was first turned on to them when I went looking for the insert for the newer feast for the breviary. They were the only ones that had that in stock. From then on I would return to purchase things. I am so confident in their selection of Catholic goods and customer service that I have joined their affiliate program. You might notice me referring to them a lot more in my posts. I did this for two reasons.

1) To practice what I preach. I'm constantly telling people to support local businesses here in New Orleans. The same applies for online shopping. I want to support Ian, his family, and those who work with him when it is at all possible.

2) Whatever money does come my way will be what I use to purchase more books to talk about on the blog.

Friday Thoughts - Reflections on Catholic Education

We are at the end of Catholic Schools Week. Catholic education is something that is near and dear to my heart, not only because of the call the Lord has put on my heart as priest, who is both preacher and teacher, but, also, because I understand the great power and gift of Catholic education today in the United States.

Over the past  sixty years, there has been a drastic change in Catholic education. It is first felt by the students. Teaching orders have significantly diminished in vocations and have been forced to pass their ministry to the laity. Don't get me wrong the best teachers I have had are lay. However, the lay teacher is, in a sense divided. He or she must first provide for children. This puts Catholic schools in a precarious situation, without government grant money, they cannot pay their teachers a competitive salary. The pay difference between public and Catholic school teachers here in New Orleans is about the price of new car. Whereas before the religious orders staffed the school because it was an integral part of their vocation as religious. For them it was community, prayer, and teaching.

To a certain extent devoted lay faithful have taken over that charism and have forfeited greater wage for the sake of the mission of Catholic education. I am all to grateful for that sacrifice. I would have been deprived of a Catholic education otherwise. I was not taught by a religious until my first semester of college seminary at a Benedictine monastery. That was twelve years of Catholic education provided by lay faithful. Some communicated their faith well. Some did not have a faith to communicate. My vocation indeed was fostered in way by their sacrifice.

As a student I did not understand their sacrifice at all, but by their silent witness of less pay for the sake of teaching in a Catholic school softened and prepared my heart for the day when the Lord would ask me to sacrifice my life.

That being said. I did not learn about the Tradition of the Church in any depth, other than sexuality and a short introduction to the Church Fathers in high school, until I arrived at seminary. Consecrated religious teaching in Catholic schools is by its existence a witness of faith. However, they have also entered into the Tradition of the Church and can communicate it while teaching about photosynthesis or multiplication tables. In their own study, they encountered Christ there.

Let us pray specifically for the growth in vocations of these teaching orders that the Lord is calling to re-catechize the Catholic education culture. Their witness was invaluable to the growth in faith of our grandparents and to some of our parents. At that same time, we need to pray in thanksgiving for the devoted laity who have stepped into and taken over the charism of these teaching orders.

St. Dominic, pray for us
St. John Bosco, pray for us
St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, pray for us
St. Angela Merici, pray for us
St. Katherine Drexel, pray for us
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us