Thursday, August 30, 2018

"You're as sick as your secrets"

Image result for healing

As we have gone through these revelations of sexual abuse and cover-ups in certain places in the Catholic Church lately, I am always glad that these things, as horrific as they are, are coming to the light of day. The victims need healing, the public deserves to know, the offenders need to be punished or sanctioned or whatever is appropriate, and the Church itself needs healing and cleansing. The only way any of those things can happen is to reveal them publicly. 
I can speak of this with a bit of experience as I was a victim of sexual abuse when I was 11 years old (NOT by anyone in the church). But I didn't tell anyone until I was 50. As I think about that I wonder what was wrong with me. Why didn't I tell my parents or some other trusted adult? Why did I keep this a secret? I believe there were two reasons: 
1. I was ashamed. I constantly ask myself, even today, how I could have been so weak and stupid. 
2. My dad tried to teach us to be tough. That worked pretty good on my two younger brothers but not on me. I thought if I told my dad he probably would have blamed me for the whole thing. In retrospect, I don't think that is true. He would have been angry and yelled a lot but things eventually would have gotten taken care of in a good way.
I tell you that little story now because many of the cases that come up are very old. Persons in their 40's or 50's suddenly make these accusations. Assuming they are credible, I understand why they didn't say anything at the time. But eventually it needs to come to the light. In my own experience, I could go for many months or a year without even thinking about the abuse I suffered but then something would be in the news and it would all come crashing back in on me and it would effect me as if I was 11 years old all over again. Once I spoke about it and prayed about it and went through an exercise of forgiveness I finally found some peace. It's one of the reasons I'm sharing this publicly - so more light can shine and the healing can continue.
I imagine the same thing happens to many victims of abuse in the church. They just want to forget all about it - but it NEVER goes away. My spiritual director tells me "you're as sick as your secrets" and he's right. Those things we repress and think we can handle on our own NEED to come to light and receive the healing balm of prayer, understanding, compassion and the care of a good and loving God so the pain of those old wounds can be alleviated.
Are you the victim of abuse - either at some time in the distant past or right now? For your own good find someone you trust - a counselor, a friend, a coworker, a police officer, a priest, a pastor - and tell them. Allow them to direct you to the right places so that you can receive healing and that, if possible, justice can prevail. In my case, the person was long dead before I talked about it. Maybe that could be different for you if you start the process NOW.
Above all, if you are in a situation of ongoing sexual abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is, get some help immediately. Call 911, talk to your school counselor or a teacher, tell a trusted adult friend, but do NOT let it go on another minute. You are a child of God and deserve to be treated with the dignity that goes along with that title. If someone at St Michael Parish (or your own parish) can help, let us know. We have staff members and clergy who stand ready to assist in any way needed and will walk with you through the entire process - whatever that turns out to be. Don't hold on to sickening secrets for another day - get help and get it NOW and let the healing process begin.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Deacon’s Digest
Constant connectedness - is it good?
I love to ride my bicycle or walk for exercise around town and have been doing that for several years (I used to run). For me, one of the benefits of being out is that I do NOT 
have my phone with me. I like being “disconnected” for a while every day.
But the one thing I notice from many fellow exercisers is that they are talking on their phone or listening to something or frequently checking their phone as they walk or ride. Now, I’m an old guy who grew up without all of this technology which probably makes it easier for me to set it aside but I do wonder if this constant connectedness is really good for us, for our relationship with ourselves, others, and especially our relationship with God. I have read many reports over the past couple of years about psychological conditions that some people experience when they are away from their phone or are out of range for a good signal. What about you? Can you leave your phone behind when you go for a walk, go shopping, or go out for a nice meal with your spouse or close friends? 
Here are a few tips for taking a step back from your phone, pad, laptop, and social media that I read in a magazine article:
1. Take a weekly technology Sabbath (Sunday?)when you do not carry your phone with you throughout the day. You can certainly check it every once in a while to see if there are urgencies.
2. Plan your data consumption. Cut the number of times you connect on social media or the internet to just 3 or 4 times per day. If you’re really brave you could even set a time limit and close the apps when the timer goes off.
3. Choose just one (maybe two) social media platforms. If you’re currently doing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Hangouts, Yik Yak, and WhatsApp cut out all of them but one to do your connecting.
The idea is this - as you spend less time with the “screens” in your life you will be able to spend more time with people, with yourself and with your God. I hope you’re willing to give this a try for at least a week or two and just see what happens. I think you’ll find that you are a much healthier person in body, mind and spirit.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What to say, what not to say...

Deacon’s Digest
What NOT to say...
One of the most difficult things for us to do is visit someone who is experiencing loss or a bad time in their life. Maybe they just got some bad news about their health or the health of a loved one, maybe someone significant in their life has just died, or maybe they just lost their job. Priests and deacons often find themselves in these situations and it is always tough to find the right words. I’m sure you’ve found yourself in that place a time or two and felt awkward when approaching the person. In my experience ( and probably in yours’) I have learned there are words that are helpful, words that, although well-meaning, are hurtful, and that there are times when saying nothing is the best approach. Also, I recently read an article in “Relevant” magazine that sheds a lot of light on this subject.
First, what NOT to say (things people have actually been told at times of loss):
· “This is all a part of God’s plan.” Recently, a young lady lost a 2-month old baby to SIDS. Naturally, this was a devastating experience for her and for her family. But to tell a 21-year old that God took her baby away from her because it was His “plan” is not helpful and in fact was quite damaging to her own relationship with God.
· “I know EXACTLY what you are going through.” You may have experienced something similar to what others are going through but you probably have no idea EXACTLY what they are feeling. Each of us handles loss and pain in unique ways and we need to be sensitive to that fact when addressing others.
· “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Oftentimes people become angry with God or with others or they may experience depression, anxiety or other emotions in the face of death or other loss. The fact is that they feel what they feel and they probably cannot help it.
· “Get over it, it’s time to move on.” If you’ve never experienced real grief it may seem odd that come people seem stuck in their loss but they probably can’t help it. Telling them to “move on” may be a direct assault on their memories and attachments to the loved one they lost.
· “You should have prayed harder.” In the wake of 9/11 I actually heard a radio station telling their listeners that if they were worried about someone they knew in the World Trade Center or in the Pentagon they should pray for them to be found ’OK’. When people called with stories of death and loss, one of the announcers told the caller that they must not have prayed enough or that they didn’t pray ‘rightly’.
· Don’t worry, God will give you another child or husband or job, etc.” When a person is grieving a profound loss they want a particular child or person or job or whatever back in their life - not a replacement.
So, there are a few things to avoid saying in a situation of loss but what should we say or do? Here are a few suggestions:
· LISTEN! I have found that many people in the wake of death/loss want to talk about the situation or about their loved one. Just being present and listening can be a real help.
· Ask what they really need. Sometimes we think we know that they need help with food or a gift or a memorial, but that may be the last thing they need or want. Ask them so that your efforts can match their needs.
· When the time is right, tell them what the deceased person meant to you and how they effected your life.You may know things that this person said or did that no one else knows - sharing those in appropriate ways with the family can be a real boost.
· Stick with them. It’s easy to forget about a person or situation shortly after the funeral. When a person experiences a profound loss it (usually) take them months to start feeling a bit “normal” again. Be sure to call, send a card, or invite them out.
In the end, the best we can really do is to be a good friend by being present to them throughout the early, middle and later stages of their recovery. And – don’t forget to pray for inspiration and for your friend. This isn’t the least you can do for them but the MOST.
Also, there are many good programs for persons experiencing grief and loss. We offer one right here at St Michael Parish on Thursday evenings. Catholic Family Services and many funeral homes offer seminars and programs as well. Perhaps you could offer to attend one of them with your grieving friend. That support could be what makes the biggest difference for them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Full Life?????

Boston Daniel Devlin
January 9 - March 17, 2015
Exactly one week ago at this very moment I was standing in an emergency room at a local hospital watching the staff do everything they could do to revive a person who had stopped breathing. As I stood there I prayed FERVENTLY that God would put the breath of life back into this person and that we could all leave knowing that everything was going to be OK - job well done!
That didn't happen. The person died despite heroic effort and heart felt prayer. By the way, the person was my 2 month old great nephew, Boston Daniel. As I prayed I was holding on to my niece, Boston's mother Sara. Boston died for absolutely no apparent reason. He was healthy, he was happy, he was well cared for and was well loved - he simply quit breathing. Although an autopsy was done the likely outcome will be "SIDS".
We had a 'nice' funeral and a nice luncheon and everyone went their own way but something remains with me - I AM ANGRY!!! I am mad at God for taking this little life from his mother. I am angry because I've had to watch my brother (one of the toughest men in the world) be reduced to a blubbering mass of tears, heartache and grief. I am angry because of what this has done to my niece, the one who chose life for Boston. I am mad because one of the holiest women I know is now swimming in a sea of doubt and confusion. I am angry because good prayers are supposed to be answered - aren't they? I prayed that God would spare this little one. When that wasn't working I started to bargain with God. I told him to take me instead - if someone needs to die better a 57 year old man than a 68 day old boy, right!? I am angry because NOTHING WORKED.
So, what should I do with that anger? I know I have to take it to God. It doesn't do much good to be mad at someone and then tell everyone in the world except the one you're mad at. So, I've been talking to God - a lot. Although I still haven't gotten over my anger, I have heard a couple of replies from God that I'm still mulling over. First, God assured me that Boston's 68 days was a full life. He reminded me that the deepest human desire is to love and be loved - Boston experienced that every day from his mommy and grandparents and aunt and big brother (and others). Second,  God "said" that he understands my anger very well - he watched Jesus die a violent, humiliating and painful death on the cross. And third, as I asked God for understanding he replied that it would be better for me if I didn't understand. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean I just hope I can accept it someday.
Some of my friends think I'm having a crisis of faith - nothing could be further from the truth. The God with whom I'm angry is the God that gave me the ability to be angry, to be rational and to be irrational. The same God that created the heavens and earth and Boston created me. That God is patient and understanding and has been loving me all the way through this terrible situation. I can't imagine it being any other way.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Did you know…?

What do you do on days when the weather is so bad that school is cancelled, work is called off and it’s simply too nasty to even think about going outside? Today, of course, many kids have TONS of distractions with video games, mp3 players, iPads and the like. These things weren’t around when I was young so my brothers and I used to entertain each other with trivia. We would find weird facts in magazines or catalogs or stuff we learned in school and challenge each other to guess the right answer. Some of the goofy questions we posed were:
· How many blood cells dose your body produce every second? Answer - 15,000,000
· Which “king” in a deck of cards does not have a mustache? Answer - King of Hearts
· How many pennies are minted each day? Answer - 26,000,000!
· True of false - the Mona Lisa does not have eyebrows. Answer - True
How many of those could you have answered correctly? Several years ago I was asked how many homeless people are residing in Sioux Falls. (Talk about being stumped.) I said that there were probably less than 100 living in our fair city. Imagine my surprise when I was told that there were approximately 700! How would you have answered? Does it surprise you that there are so many?
I have lived my entire life in Sioux Falls. I grew up on the north end near the Cathedral and have always been proud to live here. I have consistently envisioned Sioux Falls as a “big small town” where the needs of the people were always met by someone (family, neighborhood, church, or government). It never dawned on me that there could be so many that “slipped through the cracks”.
Here are some more interesting facts about homeless people in Sioux Falls:
· Over 55% of them have a full-time job.
·  22% are single-parent families.
· 18% are military veterans.
· 218 are children.
The one number that really hits me in the heart is the fact that the Sioux Falls School District identified 935 students who were homeless at some time during the 2013-14 school year - 935! Many spend the nights in vehicles, under bridges, or at a motel (when their parents can afford it). For the last few years the Salvation Army has provided a temporary emergency shelter during the winter months so people would have a place to sleep out of the cold and the elements. They announced early this year that they are no longer able to provide that service.
Most of us don’t have to worry about ever being homeless. We have a place to go, good relatives or friends to help us in times of trouble, and enough of an emergency fund to see us through bad times. But just imagine if you were suddenly homeless. What would you do? Where would go if all of the doors were closed to you?
Enter the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House (BDHH). This is an effort by the Sioux Falls Diocese along with many other churches and businesses to provide a dignified place for people to stay in an emergency. There will be a section for men, women and families (currently there are NO emergency shelters that provide a place to keep families together). This new facility will be able to house 120 people per night. It will also offer the homeless in Sioux Falls a way to meet with many other social service providers. The Good Shepherd Center (a daytime drop-in facility) will also be housed at the BDHH. This gives people an opportunity to use phones, computers, showers, and laundry facilities as well as place of hospitality and community.
So, what can you do? PLEASE be ever aware of the homeless in Sioux Falls. This is Homelessness Awareness Week. Keep in mind the plight of so many who work hard but don’t make quite enough money to pay a security deposit or rent. Make plans to volunteer at the BDHH. In time, there will be many daytime and overnight volunteers needed. And, assist them financially if you are able. The BDHH is not yet fully funded and needs your contributions. Please put the BDHH on your list of worthy agencies to receive your donations.
There are many percentages and numbers that can be examined concerning homelessness in Sioux Falls. But remember - these are not trivia but a fact of life for far too many in our “fair city”.
As I finished writing this piece for our church bulletin last week it was announced that a woman had frozen to death in the stairwell of a downtown parking ramp. What a tragedy. Sure, alcohol may have been a factor but this poor woman was still a child of God deserving dignity and respect. Hopefully, this is the last time we will hear of such devastating news.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Catholic Synod of Bishops said what!!??

Much has been said in the United States news media about the recent document released by the Synod on the Family especially on the topic of persons in homosexual relationships. Some early reports were clearly mistranslated by many in the media when reports came out on CNN and other cable news networks claiming the Catholic Church was moving toward the acceptance of same-sex unions. This was scaled back somewhat by official reports from the Vatican but the true intention of the Synod was still not being accurately reported. Furthermore, many "traditionalists" or "conservatives" in the Church reacted severely when the initial reports were made public.
The "final document" of the Synod has been released and the tone of the document is much different than the early media stories. There are two paragraphs in this final version (three in the draft report) regarding the topic of same-sex unions. Here they are:

55.       Some families have members who have a homosexual tendency. In this regard, the synod fathers asked themselves what pastoral attention might be appropriate for them in accordance with the Church’s teaching: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family.”Nevertheless, men and women with a homosexual tendency ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” )Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4
56.        Exerting pressure in this regard on the Pastors of the Church is totally unacceptable: this is equally so for international organizations who link their financial assistance to poorer countries with the introduction of laws which establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

As you can see, there is no evidence here that the Catholic Church is changing its doctrines on homosexual issues. However, the Church is indeed changing its approach to persons with same-sex attractions. The emphasis is shifting from a severe outlook that tended to summarily dismiss or reject gays to a stronger push toward understanding and welcoming and finding ways to minister to homosexuals and involve them and their individual gifts in parish life. 
And so, the Synod did not go far enough for some who were expecting/hoping the Church to change its teaching on homosexual matters and it went too far for some who are more traditional or conservative in their outlook.
In truth, no one should be looking for the Church to change any doctrine regardless of the topic. The Church has NEVER done that. But what you can expect is a more open armed attitude and approach to all persons in difficult pastoral situations (divorced & remarried, homosexual, single parent, etc.). This openness truly begins at the grassroots level with you and me being Jesus to each and every person we meet each and every day. (You can read the entire document by clicking here.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS

I had the great privilege of spending about 10 days in the Holy Land last fall. What a great trip and opportunity to see all of the Holy Sites. It was humbling to be able to pray in the tomb where Jesus lay, at the site of his birth and in all of the beautiful places in Galilee. Besides being tourists and sightseers, we were "pilgrims" as well - meaning that this trip had a spiritual and cultural component, too.
The one thing that was impossible to ignore was the animosity between the different religious and cultural groups in Israel. The Israeli population is approximately 77% Jewish, 18% Muslim, and 2% Christian. The remaining 3% are Druze and other religious groups. While we traveled and listened to the "ordinary" people of the country we heard lots of hatred from all of the groups toward the others. I have long devoted some of my prayer time to praying for peace in Israel. Unfortunately, my visit there nearly sapped all of the hope for peace out of me.
So what do we do? How are we supposed to involve ourselves in all of this hatred, violence and unrest? I read an article in Relevant Magazine recently that addressed this very issue. The author, after interviewing those working for peace in the area, concluded that there are two things we in the west can do.
  1. Pray and work for peace. Continue to pray that through the power of faith, hope and love a new era of peace can descend on Israel. Although the possibility of this seems remote, if we are believers in God's providence we know our prayers can be effective.
  2. Don't take sides. Those interviewed in the article asked us (especially Americans) to avoid supporting either side in the conflicts. In this way we are open to praying for all sides and all persons involved and intercede for everyone instead of our 'favorite'. 

The article is long but it is worth reading. Click here to find it.

The United States typically supports the Israeli government in any and all conflicts. While our government officials may have their own political motives for this, we as individuals can choose to work for peace for all. We are still a Christian country (by majority) and almost every Christian in Israel is a Palestinian. They need our prayers and support, too.
Remember, Jesus Christ brought the issue of nonviolence and peacemaking to a pinnacle in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7). He shows by the example of His life, and especially by the example of His passion and death, that nonviolence and peace are the path of the Christian disciple.
As you listen to the news and read the papers keep Jesus' words in mind from the Beatitudes: Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be called children of God.