All posts by Dr. Aaron Milavec

Aaron Milavec, Professor Emeritus, has served as a seminary and university professor for over twenty-five years. He brought his fresh approach to the Didache to the attention of biblical scholars by originating a new program unit of the national Society of Biblical Literature, "The Didache in Context," which he chaired 2002-2005. Meanwhile, his website, www.Didache.info, promotes pioneering research and scholarly exchange on issues of the early church. His thousand-page commentary, The Didache: Faith, Hope, and Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E., received a 2004 Catholic Press Club award recognizing the best books in theology. To date, Aaron has published fifteen books in theology and ministry. brief bio = http://didache.info/AaAuthor.htm CV = http://didache.info/CV.htm research = https://catherinecollege.academia.edu/AaronRoseMilavec support = http://www.supportpopefrancis.com/ renewal = http://churchonfire.net/ GLBTQI = http://jesus4lesbians.com/

#0

Almanac of Precious Ones

 

From the Almanac of Precious Ones
I choose recollections of my mother
sweetly scented with lilac powders
cultivating the roses in her garden.

I also choose my dear grandmother
who taught me to roll out Slovenian potica
and to make delicious soups on the fly.
She was the one who mothered me.

Then I would choose Carlie, my first love:
the girl who listened to my mind and heart
with a grace and intensity that melted my soul.
She was the one who loved my curiosity.

I must also choose the swift-moving river bass
that follow me under the keel of my canoe
through the crystal clear waters of Wolf Creek.
These are my joyful water companions.

Not to be forgotten are the chanting cicadas,
my short-lived Brothers singing out their life
along with honking Canadian geese flying south.
These will accompany me on my dying day.

I remember endlessly the hundred million stars
that spiral in our lofty Milky Way Galaxy
and send down flashes of meteor showers.
They clothe me in the vastness of our universe.

But, above all, I remember the One Who Made Me
and set me free from the fears that shackle others
in order to hold on to those dreams that chose me
and enable my soul wondrously to take flight.

For all these, I mightily give thanks, both today
and on all my tomorrows; I hold them as my
Almanac of Precious Ones who bless me
and who offer me bliss within the eternal quiet.

 

With love,

Aaron


2.20.20

 

Last night I wrote out a sort of life-long reassessment.  I went into my Almanac of Precious Ones and selected the top nine that shape my life as I immerse myself deeper within the eternal quiet.  As it happens, there are three beloved women, three natural creatures, and three cosmic forces. If you want to know the real me (the stripped down to the bones me), then you’ll have to explore with me these Precious Ones.

 

What might be your choices from your own personal Almanac of Precious Ones?  I could make some guesses, but I’d rather give you the complete freedom to identify them for yourself and then to tell me about them with unvarnished honesty. This would open up an entirely different way of getting to know each other deeply as unique individuals, as writers, as friends, as life companions, and, who knows, maybe even much more.

 

In anticipation of your arrival,
I remain your devoted servant,

Aaron

#1 My Mother

Dearest Wuxiang,

From the Almanac of Precious Ones
I choose recollections of my mother
sweetly scented with lilac powders
cultivating the roses in her garden.

 

Angel of God, my Guardian Near

When I was a young boy of six, my dear mother explained to me that God loved me. “How so?” I would ask her. “God has given you, my dear son, an angel whose mission is to guide and protect you.” I must admit that it was comforting to know that God took a personal interest in my welfare. Before going to sleep at night, my mother would turn the lights out and take me in her arms and together we would recite the standard prayer to our guardian angels: “Angel of God, my guardian near. . . .”

When I turned eight, my mother became very ill. She could no longer hold me and pray to our guardian angels before I went to sleep each night. So I decided to recite the Guardian Angel Prayer twice; once for my mother’s angel and once for my angel. When my mother died just after Christmas, I stopped praying entirely. I was secretly angry with the God who “loved my mother so much that he took her to be with him in heaven” (the words of my favorite aunt to me at the funeral). In my childish way of seeing things, God already had Mary, the Mother of God, with him in heaven. “By what right could he rob me of the only mother that I had?”

The Small Comfort of my Teddy Bear

I held my warm and fuzzy Teddy Bear tight against my chest.  I waited for hours, crumpled on the floor in front of my mother’s door.  Sadness overcame me.  My dear Teddy Bear was my only comfort and joy.

I could not understand why my mother did not come to tuck me in at night and why she didn’t hold me tight as I recited my nightly “Angel of God” prayer.  I missed the lilac scent of her as she listened to me reading stories from my third-grade reader while she washed dishes in her crisp, starched apron.  She would tell me daily, “I do like your stories, my dear Son.”  I’m sure my stories could help her get well now—if only she would invite me in.

I remember when Dad got his tools and removed the normal bed from my parents’ room.  Then huge men came into the house and installed a huge bed with lots of steel bars.  My Dad said, “This bed will make your Mom more comfortable.”  But that bed was of no comfort to me.  And my mother was not “more comfortable” as my Dad had said.  I knew what it was to get sick.  And I knew what it was to get well.  Why then was my Mom taking so long to get well now that she has her new bed?

When I get sick, it’s always a joy to have my Mom fuss over me—taking my temperature, placing a cold washcloth on my forehead, running her hands through my hair, singing me her little songs.  Hey, these are the very small comforts that I could bring to my mother now.  Why, then, doesn’t she call me to jump onto her big, new bed?

Why has Mom forgotten me?  Why doesn’t she call me and ask me to read a story to her?  Why doesn’t she allow me to place a cold washcloth on her forehead?  Couldn’t she just silently wrap me in her arms and gently rock me for a while?  Would this be too much of a comfort to ask?

The hired nurse notices me sulking in the hallway and says, “Go outside and play.”  “I want to see my mother,” I whined.  “Your mother is too sick today to have visitors,” she replied.  I couldn’t understand this at all.  I wanted to yell out, “I’m not a visitor.  I live here.  I’m her Son.”   I was plenty angry.   But there was no one to whom I could tell such things save my Mom.

So I made plans on how I might be able to tunnel into her room and bypass the nasty nurse who locked Mom in her bedroom.  On another day, I tried to figure out how I might be able to fly through her open window.  But my sadness was so heavy that it held me down and prevented me from taking flight.  So I settled with crushing my Teddy Bear against my chest.

Then the nasty night of lies arrived.  I awoke when I heard strange men talking outside my bedroom door.  I got up, grabbed my Teddy Bear, and walked in the darkness toward the sliver of light that seeped out from under my door.  When I opened it, I saw two huge men carrying a large and long basket out of my mother’s room.  “What’s going on?” I called out to my Dad.  “It’s nothing, Son.  Go back to sleep.”

The next morning, my Mom’s door was wide open, and the nasty nurse was gone.  Seeing my chance, I tossed my Teddy Bear aside and rushed frantically to my mother’s bed, but I found it empty. This made me exceedingly sad.  I was never to see my dear Mom alive again.

All I would have now is the small comfort of my Teddy Bear.

Afterthoughts

Some events from my childhood are long forgotten. Others are seared into my memory.  Telling you this story, for example, I could recall with a visceral certainty the comforting feeling of my Teddy Bear and visually see the hallway where my bedroom was off to the right and my mom’s bedroom off to the left. Our interior doors were stained dark-oak and the framing matched. The doorknobs were round and made of brass. The wallpaper showed pastel floral designs.

I can close my eyes while writing this story and actually see the wicker basket that was being carried on the men’s shoulders. In a lineup, I could never finger any of the morticians, but I definitely could pick out the wicker basket that they carried from my Mom’s room.

I left out “wicker” in my story because, as a boy, I would not have used this word. On the other hand, I can audibly hear the matter of fact tone of voice that my Dad used when he said, “It’s nothing, Son. Go back to sleep.” I’m 80% certain that these were his exact words.  It’s curious that some aspects of the events are very clear while others are fuzzy and THAT I CAN NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE.

My fantasy of flying through the window is also part of this memory. I haven’t told anyone this story until now. Hence, I am quite sure that I didn’t just make this up in order to fill in the story. The fact that the fantasy of flying would never occur to an adult is perhaps a confirmation that even my fantasy life was being seared into my memory.

Most of the activities of my childhood are entirely forgotten. But the events leading up to the death of my mother were so unusual and so traumatic that I cannot ever forget them. To forget them would be to forget who I was and who I came to be.

The Lies Told and the Terrible Silences

My Mom was dying for roughly six months in our own home.   As an adult, I discovered that the cancer had spread throughout her internal organs, and no surgery was ever contemplated.  Hence, following the medical practice of that epoch,  my mom was sent home to die.  Morphine was used to take the edge off her pain.  This usually led to drug addiction and the dossage had to be increased to the point that my Mom was living in a continuous mental fog.   My suspicion is that she entirely forgot her children.

My Dad, meanwhile, decided to keep all of this secret from his own children.  He didn’t even have the presence of mind to say anything of significance to his first-born Son.  He could of, for example, taken me in his arms and said to me, “Your Mom loves you very much, but, because she is so ill, she is unable to tell you this herself.”  He might even have said something as simple as this: “I talked to your mother last night, and she told me that she loves you dearly.”

Even after Mom’s death, my Dad never had the presence of mind to communicate key messages coming from my mother beyond the  grave.   “Your Mom would have been proud of how well your doing at school” [or “how well your doing with your paper route” or “how well your doing in scouting.”].  Nothing.  Total silence.   With the death of my mother, I had effectively lost both my parents.  I felt that I was orphaned and that I needed to pull myself together and to manage things on my own.

So, there you have it,  I invite your reflections either in the space below or using FanStory–whatever most appeals to you.

Affectionately,
Aaron

 

 

 

What our parish does about gay relationships

What our parish does about gay relationships

May 5, 2014

by Fr. Peter Daly

Fr. Peter Daly is a priest in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.  I am including this dated presentation because it so aptly illustrates “the pastoral art that sees the whole person.”  It also illustraits how a pastor has to be a faithful interpreter of the Lord’s ways and not just a blind follower (of societal and Vatican decrees).

This is the second in a series of columns written in response to Pope Francis’ call for input from the faithful in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on the family set for October. The first column dealt with the annulment process.

Pope Francis has asked our bishops to report to Rome on what is actually happening in the parishes in regard to marriage and family life. Among the many topics to be discussed are “same-sex unions between persons who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children.”

I think that our parish is a fairly typical middle-class, mostly white, English-speaking, American parish. I also think it would be fair to say that our approach to same-sex couples, including marriage and adoption, is evolving. One might characterize our approach as public silence and private acceptance.

In public, we are silent about the fact that some of our fellow parishioners are gay, even though some people are aware of their relationships.

In private, we are accepting their relationships so long as we don’t have to acknowledge them.

Such a modus vivendi is not really an ethical resolution to the question. In fact, it is merely a strategy for avoidance.

There seem to be two great divides in my parish over issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. One divide is generational. The other divide is personal.

The generational divide is the most obvious and clear-cut, but not absolute. Older people are less accepting of LGBT relationships. Younger people see no problem. In fact, younger people often think the church should move beyond mere acceptance to affirmation. The dividing line seems to be about age 50.

This generational divide is radical and serious. For some young people, it determines whether or not they will remain Catholics. One young man left our church over the issue. As the older Catholics die off, the church will find very little acceptance of its current negative position on gay relationships. We will find ourselves culturally marginalized in countries like the United States.

The personal divide is more subtle and harder to quantify. People who know someone in their family or circle of friends who is publicly gay are much more accepting of LGBT people than people who claim they don’t know anyone who is gay. Of course, the fact is, everyone actually does know someone who is gay. They just know that their friend or family member is gay but does not admit it.

Personal experience is important. More and more people are coming out as gay. More and more people will have to accept their relationships. Our younger people nearly always know someone who is out as gay and find it very easy to accept. This is a sea change from a generation ago.

More and more gay relationships are being discussed, even in a conservative community like ours. In the past few years, at least a dozen parents have come to me to tell me that their children are gay. They are supportive of their children. They want to know how I will respond. I always encourage them to accept and love their child.

Two of my friends who go to other parishes left the Catholic church when their children came out. They simply could not accept a church that judged their children to be “intrinsically disordered.” If someone is put in the position of choosing between his or her child and the church, they will obviously and quite rightly choose their child.

The hyperbolic and harsh language of the church will have to change. It is not accurate, and it is not charitable.

Our purpose as a Christian church is to remain faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ. It is significant that Jesus had nothing to say about gay relationships. If homosexuality had been important to Jesus, he would have said something about it. After all, he told us his views on divorce and adultery and many other ethical issues. But Jesus said nothing about it. Maybe it was not important to him.

[Note: Jesus said nothing about it because no one in his society was aware that some folks had a same-sex orientation. In the society of Jesus’ day, romantic feelings were also unknown. No one was “falling in love” in the same sense that no one was “gay or lesbian.” Men who knew that they were not especially attracted to their wives were able to love and cherish them without imagining that sex was a way of expressing their romantic feelings. In the time, no one thought of sex as expressing romantic feelings. Sex was for making babies–end of story. ~Aaron]

Clearly, the most important thing to Jesus was love. The night before he died, he said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, love one another” (John 13:34). Love is the key and the measure of his followers. So long as gay relationships are truly loving and committed, I cannot see how they are intrinsically disordered.

So how do we respond to people in same-sex relationships in our parish?

First, I try to see the whole person.

This is what Pope Francis said he tries to do when he spoke with the Jesuit magazine La Civiltá Cattolica. He tries to see the “whole person” because people cannot be reduced to just one aspect of their lives. Certainly, no one is defined only by their sins. As the pope said, “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?”

Seeing the whole person has practical consequences in pastoral life.

Our parish motto is “All Are Welcome.” We really mean it. That includes LGBT people, too. We welcome them to the Eucharist if they are Catholics. We baptize their children. We register the children in our activities and programs, just like any child. Welcome means welcome.

I am not the bedroom police. I do not quiz people on their private lives. I do not know who is sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I do not know who is cheating on a spouse. But one thing I know for sure: One hundred percent of the people who come to Communion at every Mass in the history of the world are sinners; redeemed sinners.

In a conservative parish like mine, the presence of LGBT people is not generally a big issue, but it does exist. We have a few same-sex couples in our parish. At least two couples have been married civilly. They live quietly, devoutly and humbly.

Maryland legalized gay marriage a little over a year ago. So far, it has not caused even so much as ripple in our parish. It simply does not affect us. Sacramental heterosexual marriages are not threatened by the civil law’s recognition of gay marriage. We are much more threatened by no-fault divorce, which came into the law 50 years ago.

It is my view that we should get out of the civil aspects of marriage altogether, just as they do in France and Mexico and many other countries. People who want to be married in the eyes of the law should go to the courthouse. People who want to be married in the eyes of the church should come to us. Church and state should be free to have their own definitions.

Welcoming gay parishioners does have some limits. We do not perform gay marriages. We teach only about sacramental marriage in our religious education classes. We do not host wedding receptions for same-sex weddings.

(Our parish avoids this conflict by limiting our wedding receptions to weddings that take place in our parish church. We are not a hiring hall for weddings.)

Recently, I was asked to bless the home of a gay couple. Judging from the crucifixes and holy pictures, they have a very traditional piety. Apart from the fact that they are gay, it was a pretty Ozzie-and-Harriet relationship.

In the United States, gay marriage is now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. As a legal issue, I think the debate is all over but the shouting. There will still be serious disagreements within society, of course. There will even be disagreements within families. Just look at the recent smack down between the Cheney sisters over gay marriage.

Civil society will still have to work out a new modus vivendi on such things as open housing, the wording of school textbooks, legal adoption policies, fringe benefits for spouses, and access to government programs. Even the church will have to adjust. Religious liberty, like all of the rights in the Bill of Rights, is a qualified right, not an absolute right.

But I don’t think the sacramental definition of marriage as taught by the church will change. We will still limit marriage to one man and one woman.

It seems to me that so long as we are free to celebrate our weddings in our own way and live our understanding, we should not be threatened by same-sex marriages. Indeed, we may come to see them for what they really are: a rather conservative movement that pushes the gay community toward sexual restraint and stability. It may cut down on overall promiscuity in society. Surely, that is a good thing.

I have to say frankly that I have changed my view over the past 20 years. Like vice presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, I am evolving. Perhaps the Catholic church should evolve, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: Fr. Daly here expresses that notion that change is his normal response to new cultural situations. Had he been trained to see change as a normal response of his church in all periods of church history then he would have pointed to this fact as well. He might have said something like this:

The writings of the Church Fathers and the decrees of local Synods and Ecumenical Councils expanded upon the NT norms precisely because they were aware that the NT had no exhaustive and systematic norms for sexuality. Hence, the bishops had to sort out the inconsistencies of the Bible and to respond to new questions and new situations of life that were never addressed in the Bible or that were addressed but only partially and inadequately. [Click here to read more on this.]

Unfortunately, however, Fr. Daly has been schooled in the notion that Vatican rulings CANNOT BE CHANGED.   Thus, he says this: “I don’t think the sacramental definition of marriage as taught by the church will change.”  On the other hand, he also says this: “The magisterium said that all same-sex acts are “intrinsically disordered” and may never be approved in any way. But that certainly is not my experience as a pastor of souls.”  Thus, Fr. Daly indicated how the present situation creates a crisis for many pastors and people: “Two of my friends who go to other [Protestant] parishes left the Catholic church when their children came out. They simply could not accept a church that judged their children to be ‘intrinsically disordered.'”  Fr. Daly does not mention that some gifted priests are also leaving the RCC because they regard the Vatican’s approach to homosexuality as a cruel and inhuman doctrine.  In some cases, priests are leaving in order to enter into same-sex marriages.  And still more priests are leaving because they have found true love with a woman and want to sacrifice their calling to ministry in order to pursue their calling to marriage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When gay marriage passed by referendum in Maryland, our local bishops were notably quiet. Perhaps it was because it passed by a vote of the people and not by a court decision or legislative action. Maybe our bishops are evolving, too.

Most of my parishioners are military or civil servants. They vote Republican. One man, who identifies himself as a tea party Republican, told me that the son of a friend came out to him.

“What did you say to him?” I asked.

“I told him it was OK to be gay. Just don’t become a Democrat.”

For more than 40 years, the language of the magisterium said that all same-sex acts are “intrinsically disordered” and may never be approved in any way. But that certainly is not my experience as a pastor of souls.

Almost a decade ago, I got to know a gay couple in our parish. They had been together 35 years. Both are dead now. Richard was a retired school teacher. George was a retired architect.

When George was dying of cancer, Richard came to see me to ask if I would anoint his friend. Once at their house, I realized they were a couple. Richard was nursing George through his final illness. He had also helped George’s parents.

After George died, Richard came into the parish office to plan the funeral. The rest of the family refused to come, but they did telephone to say, “We don’t want it mentioned that our brother was gay and we don’t want that man mentioned.”

At the funeral, I began the homily by saying, “I want to thank Richard for being such a great friend to George over more than 35 years. Your relationship was the defining relationship of his life and a real sign of love and friendship.”

Richard was grateful. For the first time in 35 years, he started coming back to the church. Three years later, it was Richard who was dying of cancer. I went to see him in the hospital in Delaware. I anointed him and gave him Communion. He asked me to say his funeral Mass, just as I had done for his partner.

Since neither of them was buried in our parish cemetery, I put up a plaque for them on our wall of remembrance, as is our custom. On the plaque, I quoted Sirach 6:14: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one finds a treasure.”

Their relationship was not perfect, but it was certainly not intrinsically disordered.

[Fr. Peter Daly is a priest in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.]