Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letters To The Editor

OK, Just in case you missed these...

January 29, 2008 - 7:11PM

Bishop’s new year list requires additions

To the editor:

In response to Bishop Peña’s article of Jan. 11, “Top Ten List for the New Year,” I am pleased he is asking us to pray and work for an end to abortion and the death penalty, for world peace and an end to war, for justice in the work place, for an end to poverty and hunger, for a revision of immigration policies and a halt to the border wall project, and for an end to racism and prejudice.

What is missing is what the diocese is committed to doing about these issues. I hope the bishop has a plan for conveying his commitment to these issues to his priests who then would bring them to parishioners. How refreshing and challenging when I hear homilies based on the social justice concerns. How wonderful if the diocese would issue a call to action with specific suggestions for us. For example, every fourth Sunday of each month, a group gathers on the corner of Nolana and 10th streets in McAllen to protest the war and demonstrate for peace. The local chapter of the Texas Coalition against the Death Penalty holds prayer vigils outside the Hidalgo County courthouse when there is an execution. Border wall opponents get signatures for petitions. There is much that can be done and more folks would be involved if encouraged to do so by their priests.

The bishop also calls for Catholics to confess their sins, and be reconciled with God and the community. It is time our diocese does this itself regarding the sexual abuse scandal in our church. There needs to be a loud cry from the people that the diocese be transparent and reveal the names of pedophile priests in order to protect our children.

Bishop, please add that to your top items for the New Year.

Sister Moira Kenny

January 25, 2008 – 7:33PM

Less talk, more action from Bishop Peña

To the editor:

For the most part, Bishop Peña’s Top 10 list for the New Year (Jan. 11) is admirable. But like so much the bishop does, it is only empty talk. Why doesn’t he send letters about these topics to the parishes to be read at masses and acted upon by the congregations?

His No. 10 wish is that people “practice the faith.” Maybe he could start by showing us how it is done. Does one practice the faith by hiding pedophile priests? By not coming clean with the faithful in the way donations are used? By running public broadcasting stations with secrecy and deceit? By having toady priests fire loyal church workers? By destroying unions started try and help these good workers? By ruining former excellent parishes like Holy Spirit in McAllen? By making looser priests monsignors? By lying?

Yes, Bishop Peña, show us how to practice the faith. Then maybe your wishes for the New Year will come true.

Guy Hallman

Re: Bishop Pena's Top 10 List

To the Editor,

It was encouraging to read Bishop Pena’s top ten list for 2008. The items he asks us to prioritize this year are all necessary and worthy items.

However, the Bishop needs to set an example by personally demonstrating ways to be active in accomplishing these goals. It does no good just to talk, action is required if we are to be an example to everyone in the Valley in caring for our brothers and sisters and our world.

I ask Bishop Pena to show us how he and the diocese are taking the lead in addressing these issues. By the examples of action and programs supported by the Bishop, each of the members of the diocese that he leads can see the value of action and join in the process.

Christians are called to be in the world addressing injustice and the leadership needs to be an example to the entire community. Others will be attracted to the Church community by the example of support for justice not just words or wishes.


Fred Dabrowski

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 01/20/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
January 20, 2008

True of Many?
I met a gal wondering exactly what God wanted of her.
She realized one thing for sure:
that in order to keep her faith she had to leave.
Not leave the Church, but leave the inside of the church,
Leave Church official, go out the church door leaving behind clericalism and arrogance and hierarchical exclusiveness,
to begin a refreshing search in the wider Christian community
where she might find God in new places.
Though Church official cannot be reformed from the outside,
and maybe not even from the inside,
it is sad, though understandable, to see such loving agents of reform,
just simply leave.
Sad, because, it makes happy the anti-agents of reform,
those seeking a smaller purer church, (contrary to Jesus’ call);
Sad because they are our family.
But our sadness is overcome by Joy.
Joy in knowing their departure speaks the Truth of Jesus’ Call;
Joy in knowing that their departure is a true sign of the end of times for the outdated and un-Christ-like form of church;
Joy in knowing that they will grow and prosper outside fake hierarchical boundaries; and
Joy in knowing that this is the Will of the Holy Spirit.
from John Churchman, poet and bereavement counselor

New Year’s Wishes vs. New Year’s Resolutions
In his column of January 11th, Bishop Peña presented a “top 10” list for the New Year. This was a list of wishes—outcomes that we should pray for and goals to be achieved. It is an impressive list that touches on virtually every social issue in our nation and our world: abortion, the death penalty, building strong families, peace and war, violence, justice in employment, poverty and hunger, economic inequality, the environment, immigration and the border wall, globalization, racism and prejudice. It reads, in the main, like a set of concerns of the nutty, left-wing peace and justice crowd. Of course, that is not surprising, since the nutty, left-wing peace and justice crowd takes up these concerns from the teachings of the Gospel and the longstanding social teachings of the Church—which are presumably the same sources that the Bishop draws upon.

The Bishop himself makes it very clear that this is not a list of resolutions; that is, specific things he is going to do or even specific things he is exhorting Valley Catholics to do. The question is why did he not present a set of his own resolutions (or propose some for us)? If these are important goals (important enough to pray for), then they should be important enough to generate, as the bureaucrats like to say, “action plans.” Of course, making a dent, even a tiny one, in many of these concerns is problematic, but as some leader once said, “every great journey begins with one small step.” How difficult would it have been for the Bishop to inaugurate a diocesan office of social justice that could inspire and organize the work of lay people, working at the grassroots level with fellow parishioners?

The Bishop’s track record in this area is consistent: fine words and no works. It is even more disturbing when you reflect on the fact that he has permitted (and possibly encouraged) the ostracizing and public vilification by a pastor of his own parishioners for trying to organize peace and justice efforts in the context of their own parish community. Bishop Peña has not prevented the dismantling of Holy Spirit’s social justice work, work he lavishly praised in February of 2003, so even though his “wishes” are well articulated, some cynicism about his willingness to actually do anything to support their fulfillment seems justified.

Let’s make our own resolutions on these important issues, let’s make common cause with those of like mind, and wait for (work for?) the day when our Eucharistic communities will be environments within which we can carry out the mandates of the Gospel.

Parishes and Families
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line

The parish as a family is a metaphor we are all familiar with and when all is well in a parish, we take comfort in the metaphor and it seems apt. When the edges of parish life start to fray and we continue to cling to the “parish as family” metaphor, we can get ourselves into a difficult position.

A parish is not the same sort of society as the family and neither is the Church. The family is a natural society, “the end of which is the human fulfillment which husband and wife achieve by conjugal union and the rearing to maturity of the children born to them (John McKenzie, Authority in the Church, p. 9).” Authority in a family is dominative (paternal) and is directed to the maturation of the children. The parish is not a natural society and authority in a parish is not paternal. The parish differs from all other kinds of societies (po-litical, familial, contractual) in its ends and its means—both to be found only in the Gospel and New Testament. Metaphors can only go so far and pushing them beyond a certain point can be destructive.

Anna’s Peace
My daughter Anna was so excited when she figured out that she would be celebrating her birthday on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. So to honor the gift of her wonderful enthusiasm, a quote from him and another great peacemaker, Gandhi, as we hope to start a new year for peace, peace for our world and for our children.

“The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. Violence is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his or her understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood and sisterhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence … My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence. The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes until it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might sweep the world … When the practice of nonviolence becomes universal, God will reign on earth as God does in heaven.” Ghandi
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

Come To The Cabaret
What is the fascination with sponsoring performances by artists who are physically challenged in some way? Isn’t the point of art the art itself, not the personal story of the artist? People were initially drawn to Ray Charles (or George Shearing, for the really old amongst us) by the music, nothing else. Has the sanctuary of Holy Spirit become a carnival midway?

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 01/06/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
January 6, 2008

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly. …
from Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot, 1927

Epiphany, meaning “appearance” or “manifestation,” is a feast intended to celebrate the “shining forth” or revelation of God in human form, to the Gentiles, in the person of Jesus. Originally it was the only celebration of the Incarnation and it consisted of a combined commemoration of the Nativity, the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and even the marriage at Cana—all manifestations to the world of God in human form. It wasn’t until the year 534 that the celebration of Christmas was seperated from the other commemorations, and that was only in the Western Church. To this day, in the Eastern Church, Epiphany is the third most important feast (after Easter and Pentecost) and far outshines Christmas.

In reflecting on the readings for the Epiphany, it is clear that the focus is on the universality of the manifestation of Christ—He became a human being, not for a select few, but for all of humanity, even for the most strange and foreign people we could imagine. Those Magi were as different from pious Jews as any individuals could possibly be—secular men given over to studying the occult, etc. As St. Paul says, the Incarnation, and thus salvation, is also for the Gentiles, not just the Jews—meaning it is for everyone.

In today’s world and in today’s Church it is important to remember those words. Just as no one is required to become a Jew in order to be Christian, no one is required to conform to superficial details of appearance, pious practice, or taste to be a “real” Catholic. Our Church is meant to be diverse, universal, not narrow.

In Praise of the Parish
“If you are not a child and still get a stomachache on Sunday mornings when you think about going to church, or if you have thought how nice it would be to spend the same hour at Starbucks reading The New York Times, this message is for you.

“Parishes are important. In any larger discussion about the role and direction of the church, we can’t forget that the structure and mystery of the church are actually experienced in the local faith community. The parish is the place where church happens, not as an abstract ideal or as an administrative structure but as an expression of real human lives, a rich but frustrating work in progress, diverse lives united by common hungers and hopes. …

“Baptized people are meant to be in community. It is a loss to all of us when some feel so discouraged that they leave their local church. We know those (or have been those) who, for varying reasons, have needed to “go away for a while” or who have found safe haven and nourishment in other communions. We know all about the sometimes depressing realities of many parishes—the coldness of some Catholics; the lethargy or heavy-handedness of some pastors; the sometimes deadening homilies. Yet, like the anonymous Christian, the anonymous church exists everywhere. People get together over coffee to talk about life. They tell stories, rediscover the scriptures, break bread, drink to common purposes and to making a difference in the world. And like the formal church they have left, they become two or three gathered together, disciples on the road to Emmaus, coming full circle.

“Here are some challenges. Parishes need such pilgrims. The most important evangelization effort needed in the church is to welcome home her own. But this will happen only if we also welcome the de facto diversity of the church as a mystery that defies homogenization, head-counting, personalized envelopes or even regular attendance. Because change will happen only from within, self-exiled Catholics of all stripes ought to belong to a parish—a challenging one, not a comfort zone. It is a good way to stay in the game, at the family table where all the arguments about the future, good and bad, are taking place. But this will be possible only if we accept the mess, the imperfect, painful process of being human together.

“Because the essential work of the church is reconciliation in the world, this starts with us, at the altar, where forgiveness is the miracle we witness in the death of the Lord. Parishes are centers where this grace waits to become flesh in us.
“See you in church.”
National Catholic Reporter, September 28, 2007

One of my many quirks is that I enjoy reading cookbooks – not just flipping through and looking for a recipe, but reading a cookbook like a novel. Cookbooks are more than just ingredient lists and instructions, many share stories, family memories, musings and observations, and how food connects us. I am currently reading one on southern cooking and came across this little piece about washing dishes, something that naturally goes along with cooking.

“Maybe you are lucky enough to have a window over your kitchen sink. You can watch the world go by. Put up a bird feeder. Plant a bulb, an herb, a perennial, a tree and watch it grow … contemplate life. Washing dishes is a chance to be alone with yourself, let your mind wander – or reel it in, whichever needs to be done. Washing the dishes is the Universe giving you a chance to wash up and regroup, to wet down and shake off like a dog, to rinse away your troubles and clean up your mind, to take a Brillo pad to the grimy nooks and crannies of your heart. To wash your troubles down the drain.” (Ann Jackson)

As we start 2008 make a resolution to find a daily, ordinary moment and look for the sacred. God came to us as a most vulnerable human baby – frail and yet divine. And Jesus becomes manifest with us in the most simple of foods and drink, common bread and wine. May we all find something more than ordinary dishpan hands, may we find the miraculous. from Michelle Peña

An Observation for the Political Season
“Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen.” Mort Sahl

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at