Sunday, July 18, 2004

A commentator in the Scandal Time post below calls me an [nasty name].  I liked that because sometimes I enjoy being an [nasty name].  But today, I realized I am an ungrateful [nasty name], and that is not cool.  Here I am posting on horrible things in the Church and I just realized today how lucky I have been since my reversion (and before)  Here is why:  I spent a good amount of time at the bookstore today skimming through two books: 
Father Joe:  The Man Who Saved My Soul
The Miracle Detective:  An Investigation of Holy Visions
I like to skim books at the bookstore because if I bought every book I was interested in I would need a warehouse to keep them in.  I still have many books on my shelf that I have not had the time to read, so I skim.  In skimming Father Joe, I found the story to be funny and heartwarming.  The author, Tony Hendra is a writer, known for his work at National Lampoon.  Hendra was 14 when he groped a married woman, whose husband then insisted he see Father Joe.  Hendra was so impressed by this Benedictine monk, that he trained to become a monk himself.  He was encouraged to go elsewhere though, but he kept visiting and writing with Father Joe throughout his life.  Through failed marriages, agnostic periods, and substance abuse, the author was wisely and lovingly counseled by Father Joe.  He takes his son to visit Father Joe when the priest was dying of cancer.  I was imagining how this might make a good movie.  The scene of Tony Hendra visiting the monk's grave and singing the Salve Regina for him almost made me tear up a little.  (I am not emotional at all).  How wonderful this book would come along at this time when Catholics need stories of great priests to refresh our confidence!  The thing is that I have never met any "bad priests".  The priests and brothers and nuns that taught me were wonderful, so I should be grateful, as is Hendra.
Skimming The Miracle Detective really hit me hard though.  The book itself is interesting as an agnostic author who writes for Rolling Stone investigates various Marian apparitions and how the Church "handles" them.  He is respectful and even drawn to the faith in the process of writing the book.  But for me, the author's interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel at the end of the book really made me realize how lucky I have been.  He is informed about Fr. Groeschel by two priests at the Vatican who speak very highly of the priest.  One calls him a saint, one calls him "Groucho Marx in a habit".  (I think they are both right).  The author writes about how difficult it is to get in touch with the friar.  He is told he only answers phone calls about 2 hours every other week, so he calls several times.  He recounts attempting to speak to someone in Fr. Groeschel's office who doesn't seem able to carry on a conversation.  (He later learned Groeschel ministers to the mentally ill and they act as his assistants).  When he does meet him, he learns that his reputation as a funny, brilliant and holy man is well-deserved.  The author is impressed by Groeschel and I realize that I have had the opportunity to hear this great priest speak several times.  I have even been on two weekend retreats with Fr. Groeschel giving almost all the talks and celebrating Mass the whole weekend.  The book makes Fr. Groeschel out to be one of the most impressive priests (intellectually and spiritually) in the Church today and here I am (me!) able to meet and learn from him.  
This weekend I will be attending the "teaching retreat" run by Lay Preachers that Fr. Groeschel helped establish at the Kellenberg High School retreat house.  This is the first time that Fr. Groeschel will not be giving the opening talk for the retreat.  Fr. Pereda, the priest who celebrates the weekly traditional latin Mass in the diocese, will be speaking on the latin Mass.  He asked for and was given permission to celebrate the Mass at the end of the retreat.  How fortunate I was to come back to the Church at this time, and in this place. 

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