Archive for September, 2011

Day 3

How good is the Good God! The angels sin, and are cast into hell. Man sins, and God promises him a Deliverer. What have we done to deserve this favor? – St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Mary Baptist Vianney, you were so adamant against sin, yet so sympathetic and so ready to welcome the sinner. I come to you today as if you were still alive, as if I were kneeling at your feet and you could hear me. Bend towards me, listen to the repentant confidence for the weaknesses and miserable deeds of mine.

Priest of the Lord, inexhaustible Confessor, obtain for me the horror for sin. You wanted us First to avoid the occasion of sin. I want totake your advice and make the resolution to break bad habits and to avoid the dangerous occasions of sin. Help me today to examine my conscience.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for the pro-life movement’s leaders who need your constant guidance.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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I said I wouldn’t comment again until a resolution had been reached, but this weekend’s developments cannot go unanswered. Some of Father Pavone’s supporters in the pro-life movement have descended on Amarillo, Texas, with tactics normally reserved for the enemies of life. Banners being towed by planes showing aborted babies, and trucks sporting images of aborted babies circling St. Mary’s Cathedral and school, a campaign to vilify Bishop Zurek…

It’s twisted, and it’s wrong. It’s also starting to alienate allies.

Here is a comment from a mother of a child being besieged with such disturbing photos, as written at Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog:

Angry Mom
My children attend St. Mary’s Cathedral School. I wish someone in this group protesting would realize that my kids shouldn’t be able to view these pictures. They are outside of a school. My kids shouldn’t have to be around pictures of dead fetuses. If they have a problem with the bishop’s decision, they need to wait until he comes back, or get a petition going. Hello????

I agree with her. I don’t want my children seeing those images either. They are too young and not ready emotionally for such a sight. This is thuggishness, holding children and parents hostage until the activists get their way.

Is this what Father Pavone is all about? Is this his great life’s work? I think not, but people are asking why he hasn’t called off the dogs.

Bishop Zurek didn’t come to town and immediately change course, which is still his episcopal prerogative, anyway. He allowed Father Pavone to continue on in his ministry and launched an investigation of the finances and the prudential use of monies after receiving complaints from clergy and laity alike. That’s his responsibility.

Then he took further action (however clumsily and uncharitably) when he didn’t like the answers he was getting, which is also his responsibility. And now, here we are. Trucks sporting pictures of murdered babies circling a Catholic school until Father Pavone’s friends get their way.


This is not how the Holy Spirit works. He unites. He does not divide.

It also might just work, but it will come at a terrible, terrible price. It is already creating a split in the pro-life community and causing Father Pavone to lose more stature than Bishop Zurek could with ten more letters like the first. It’s called a Pyrrhic Victory. From Wikkipedia:

The phrase is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

In both of Pyrrhus’s victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers, so their casualties did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus’s casualties did to his.

The bishops are watching and taking careful note. We want more involvement from them, more outspokenness. We want more priests involved in the pro-life cause. How many bishops in their right mind would consent to further involvement if they suspect that this circus would arrive at their door should they dare to discharge the duties of their office, should the need arise?

The beauty of Priests for Life has been the visage of priests sent by their bishops to bring the heart of the Church to this fight. Priests acting in communion with their bishops, strengthening the hearts of the faithful who wage spiritual and political war on the storm troopers from Hell itself.

This siege on the Cathedral and children in Amarillo is a distortion of that visage. It suggests a loss of mission and perspective. We Catholics like our priests in union with their bishops. This has become ugly.

Father Pavone needs to call off the dogs. He needs to stress respect for his bishop in all matters. He needs to lead the movement in prayerful discernment and focus the faint of heart on God’s providence, which is boundless. He needs to protect the children at St. Mary’s School, especially as he is a priest of that diocese, and they are being assaulted in his name.

Not so far from Amarillo is the site of one of the great Pyrrhic victories in American history, The Alamo.

General Santa Anna had himself a victory there, even though he lost twice as many men as the Texians. However, he was perceived as so cruel that the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo” would lead to his defeat shortly thereafter.

Making war on children in order to muscle a bishop into submission to activists has the potential to make Amarillo not only Father Pavone’s Alamo, but ours as well.

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Today is Day 2 of our novena.

Day 1 here.

Day 2

When we pray with attention, with humility of mind and of heart, we quit the earth, we rise to Heaven, we penetrate the Bosom of God, we go and converse with the angels and the saints. – St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney, what confidence the people had in your prayers! You could not leave your old rectory or your humble church without being surrounded by imploring souls, who appealed to you as they would have appealed to Jesus Himself during His earthly life. And you, O good Saint, gave them hope by your words, which were full of love for God.

You, who had always counted entirely on the heart of God, obtain for me a deep filial trust in His Providence. As the hope of divine goods fills my heart, give me courage and help me to always obey the Commandments of God.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for all those whose faith is shaken by this rupture between a priest and his bishop, that these two men may come to understand that the faith of the faithful is an equal concern alongside zeal for the unborn.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Today we begin the novena to Saint John Vianney for the intentions of Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. We begin on the feast of another priest who was recalled for a time, Saint Padre Pio.

Day 1

“We have not deserved to pray – but God, in his goodness, has permitted us to speak with Him.” – St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney you were born of a deeply religious mother; from her you received the Holy Faith; you learned to love God and to pray. At a young age, you were seen kneeling in the front of the statue of Mary. Your soul was supernaturally carried towards the things on High. Despite the high cost, you answered your vocation! Against many obstacles and contradictions, you had to fight and suffer to become the perfect priest which you were. But your deep spirit of faith supported you in all these battles.
O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena for the restoration of the father-son relationship between Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek, that strengthened in the priestly regard for one another the faithful may be strengthened in heart.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

Day 2 here.

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As the new National Director for Medical Students for Life of America, I have as my first priority the goal of establishing a chapter of MSFLA in every medical school in the United States. Our outgoing coordinator, Dominique Monlezun has gotten us off to a great start by helping to start fifteen chapters last year. With your help, we can double or even triple that number over the next twelve months. Here’s where you come in.

There are plenty of pro-life doctors, nurses and medical students out there, but many may feel isolated and alone. They need us. They need our support. They need to meet other pro-life medical students and physicians.

We need them to know who we are at MSFLA, and that there are a great many like-minded professionals such as themselves, and that there’s strength in numbers. If you know of any pro-life doctors, nurses or medical students, please tell them about us and ask them to contact me at my email address:


Other people who might know of medical students and pro-life doctors would be pastors, pre-med students, members of your church, college professors, family members and family friends, classmates, etc.

MSFLA exists to support the needs of pro-life physicians in training, and network them with other like-minded medical professionals. We also have a number of conferences and other events, all aimed at teaching, mentoring and supporting pro-life medical students and resident physicians.

As we all know, the best time for starting a student organization is at the beginning of the school year, which is already underway, so the quicker we can gather the names of pro-life medical students, or the doctors and nurses who may know them, the better we’ll be able to reach out to them and support them.

Looking forward to an avalanche of names!

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Update on Elise

Good News!

Today is Elise’s 16th birthday, and she is celebrating it with some slight but significant movements in her hip flexors and right thigh. She is also celebrating it in one of the premier spinal cord rehabs in the nation, Magee, in Philadelphia. After initially balking at Magee, Elise’s insurance company did the right thing and reconsidered, finally consenting to pay–which gives our loved one the best possible chance at recovery and restoration. They’re to be commended.

Words are wholly inadequate to thank everyone for their prayers. We’ve come through the worst of it in no small measure because of those prayers and all of the love. The movements are significant, as the muscle groups that are coming back are those necessary to at least stand upright with leg braces. With another 70 years before her, the accelerating pace of medical technology (especially adult stem cell therapy), and the power of prayer, I have every confidence that Elise will walk again.

God Bless, all.

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In my first posting on the plight of Father Frank Pavone, I drew the analogy, which gained little traction with fellow pro-lifers, between the Apostle John’s deference to Peter on the first Easter Morning, and the relationship between the pro-life movement and the bishops.

Then, I wrote in response to some ugly, ugly letters and sentiments out there directed at Bishop Zurek, as well as the “Free Father Pavone” website that has been established. Not much luck in the persuasiveness department regarding my belief that we should allow Father Pavone and his bishop a quiet space to work out this situation.

Now I have fellow pro-lifers upset that I will not cosign letters to Bishop Zurek, or speak out against him. (I’m beginning to miss the Zen of working with bacteria that can kill me in one act of carelessness!)

It seems that there are a number of misunderstandings, coupled with rightly held love of Father Pavone that seem to be fueling this fire. My own love of Father Pavone directs that I attempt to assuage people of their misunderstandings, which having done so, should set the ship aright.

My last word on this before a resolution between Father and his bishop.

I don’t expect non-Catholics to understand the unique relationship between a Catholic bishop and his priests, and I apologize for the lacunae in my understanding of Protestant ecclesiology among the varied denominations. I don’t even expect most Catholics to have a good working knowledge of this Presbyteral dynamic, given the appalling state of Catholic catechesis over the past fifty years.

On ordination day, a deacon puts his folded hands inside the hands of the bishop and vows to respect and obey that bishop and all of his successors. That’s a tremendous act of faith on the part of the newly ordained priest. They are sacred vows in a Sacramental Vocation, witnessed by the Church assembled and registered in Heaven for all eternity. As first happened as a deacon, a priest undergoes a radical change in his very human nature that lasts forever.

Married people make their own sacred vows, which are temporal, until death. These too are part of a Sacramental Vocation and are registered in Heaven, given before the Church assembled.

We’re all expected to honor those vows, and in truth, few actually have a clean track record with them. Plenty of priests cross the line from normal grousing about their bishops into uncharitable words, and some into outright defiance. Married people promise, “I will love you, honor you, and cherish you all the days of my life.” Sometimes it gets ugly.

It did for Regina and me some years back, as we missed a thousand checkpoints along the way, resulting in a toxic marriage that came right to the brink of divorce. We slowly, imperceptibly lost our way with one another until we found ourselves in hell. The failings were great and small, and they were mutual. However, we could not escape the solemnity of our vows, which was all we had left after ‘love, honor and cherish’ had been put to flight. If we slid into hell, the journey out was quite a climb; and it required both of us in mutual submission to one another as well as in mutual submission to God’s will for us. Above all, it required frequent sacramental nourishment in Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

At the lowest point, two old priests heard me bellyache for over an hour before they spoke a word. The first asked one simple question:

“When was the last time that you complimented Regina?”

That was sheer brilliance. Go back to where the train derailed.

The second simply stated,

“Gerry, you’re like a son to me, and I witnessed your vows on behalf of the Church. I don’t care what’s gone on between the two of you. I expect you to honor your word to Regina and your God. I expect you to be the sort of man you’ve always aspired to being, and now is when you’ll prove yourself.”

Thus began the journey home. Coming Home has layers of meaning for me, which is why I gave this blog the name. The journey was more than worth it and took us to where we were supposed to be all along.

Father Pavone now finds himself in his own brand of hell in his relationship with his bishop. The dynamic is different from marriage. A priest is an extension of his bishop. He does not possess the fullness of priesthood, as does his bishop. He goes where he is told and does what he is asked to do.

Pope John Paul II taught us that authentic freedom consists in doing what one ought to do, and not what one wants to do.

For all of the immense good that Father Pavone has done, he was not ordained a pro-life activist. He was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest. I was at his ordination. I heard his vows. I saw the chalice and paten placed in his hands. I saw Cardinal O’Connor hand him the Book of the Gospels, signifying his priestly mandates to preach and teach the Gospel and to consecrate the Eucharist.

That blows away everything else on the planet, including the pro-life movement!

Now, to quell the misperception that Bishop Zurek has accused Father Pavone of wrongdoing (aka, malfeasance), I didn’t read those words. I read that Bishop Zurek was questioning the prudential use of large sums of money.

That takes things out of the realm of illegality and places it into the realm of subjective pastoral vision. That makes matters messier. As Father’s bishop, Bishop Zurek bears responsibility and moral culpability for any poor stewardship of large sums of money in a ministry that he has assigned Father Pavone to run.

It’s the vision thing, and Bishop Zurek’s vision and priorities matter. He’s the Apostolic Successor.

So, yes, Father may well have been transparent in his revelations of finances (and I wouldn’t expect anything less from him), but may not have satisfied the subjective vision thing. Who knows?

There are only two men on this planet who know the whole story, and they need a safe, quiet, private place with one another to resolve this situation.

Accent on quiet.

Two priests exhorted me to honorable Christian manhood in honoring my lifetime vows with Regina, despite our mutual failings. Divorce was not an option in their eyes. As Catholics, we understand that the failings are not so important as the humble admission of guilt and the stated desire to reconcile, to allow Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to make all things new.

I exhort two good and holy men to do the same in their father-son relationship, but they can’t unless we drop the torches and pitchforks and allow them the space where each can save face and fulfill their priestly obligations to one another in all charitable forbearance.

That’s a process and not an event.

This is no longer a pro-life issue. This is no longer about Priests for Life. Father Pavone is operating in a much higher realm. He is dealing within the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and his duties as an obedient son to his bishop. There, humility and obedience, not lobbying and blogging, are the coin of the realm.

If we love God more than we love ourselves, He will lead us to honorable restoration of our Sacramental, Vocational duties. I think that’s true for Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. I have every expectation that guided by the Holy Spirit, a restoration of their relationship will produce abundant fruit.

Beginning Friday night (9/23), and every night for nine nights at 8 PM EST, I’ll be hosting the Saint John Vianney Novena for the intentions of Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. All are welcome. If any priest or deacon wishes to guide us with prepared meditations each night, please let me know.

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