Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 8

One strange (if inconsequential) impact of Covid-19 are ‘virtual’ running races. We who have preregistered for, say, half-marathons, are now instructed that the race will be 5000 (or so) solo ones—take to the hills of your choice, pound 13.1 miles yourself, send in your time, and receive a gaudy medallion in a private ceremony of your own design.

Pretty lame for an $80 investment—solos runs are what socially disinclined runners do all the time. After winter’s gloom, Midwest racers want to inhale Spring with others: first, the corporate anxiety of sizing up your competition then boom, out of the blocks, alternately goaded and annoyed by the guy or girl next to us who seem to have the edge, mile after mile. Finally, the last half-mile or so when you draw from untapped sources and lunge to a strong finish.

I love it! It keeps me sharp and in shape, a little defiant of age, still ‘enlarging the place of my tent, not holding back!’ (Is. 54:2) or in St. Paul’s words, ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of me’ (Phil. 1:12). Running races compels me to reach for more. For the last decade of so, I have slowed only a little, and on occasion have surprised myself with better times.

But this 62-year-old mortal is feeling his limits. Last year I suffered a couple injuries while training with my junior partner in chaste crime-capers, Marco Casanova. New to competing, he ran through his limits and aced his first half-marathon in October. Since then, we’ve trained on long runs together, and, I say with feigned humility, he began to surpass me. Ouch. Experiencing him pace then disgrace me by jutting out til he ascended the hill and disappeared… well, I felt 62.

Why then did I ask Marco to do that blasted virtual run, my first? Cause I wanted the goad and I wanted to see God bless the guy as his gift accelerated and he celebrated the grace of running. As expected, we ran shoulder-to-shoulder for the first half, then Marco broke away. I strove to hold my own, and he found the groove right for him. In a flash I reckoned that others stronger and younger than me must share in this race and surpass me. How else will a generation be rescued from the stink of sexual sin? How else will She be made chaste, ready for Her soon-coming-King?

‘Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…’ (Phil. 3:14)

Sy

My friend and colleague Sy Rogers died a couple days ago of cancer. Loved him.

Sy, Alan Medinger, and me stormed Exodus at the same time in the early eighties, each of us supporting one another as officers of a vibrant, God-breathed movement.

A former transgender-identified, Sy was unique among us. He surpassed us in his courage and good humor about the harassment he experienced pre and post Christian commitment.

Heckled as effeminate by some jerk at the airport, Sy took special umbrage as he was with wife Karen. He took off after the bully, ready to pounce, shouting: ‘It beats high heels and make-up, buster!’

I loved how Sy had his pulse on popular culture and could couch the profane within the sacred. A highlight of each Exodus conference was Sy’s ‘weather’ report where he would summarize ebbs and flows in the ex-gay movement using the tools of a TV meteorologist. Superb.

He was a personality; he gifted the global church with holy panache. Every community that welcomed him encountered a powerful infusion of mercy and truth, nothing less than the power of the Gospel to transform lives. No-one was exempt from the gift and challenge of God’s-Kingdom-Come in Sy. Crazy funny too.

Last time I saw Sy was in Orlando, maybe 17-years-ago. I was with my youngest son Sam who had yet to meet someone as clever and kind. To this day Sam imitates how Sy would stick his clenched knuckle in his mouth and wince in feigned horror. We delighted in him as did thousands around the world.

Good man gone. Sad today.

Grounded 5

A renowned director despises vast landscapes in his movies: ‘Humanity reveals itself only in cramped quarters’, he mused. Apply that to one month in quarantine and he’s right: barely recovering addicts circle their troughs, the mildly anxious teeter on paranoia, sad persons fade, party creatures crash, and binge-watchers without a hint of faith perform exorcisms on the faltering Internet (apparently Satan is in league with most providers.)

Easter is timely this year. Jesus shows up in real time—our time—and saves us from ourselves. He may just join us for breakfast; He deftly walks through walls into strained small gatherings and brings life, hope, light. Disease and death don’t have the last word. He does; He is the Word of Life, inexhaustible in exchanging our little scandals for His mercy that makes all things new.

Yep. In this plague-weary Easter time, the cry for mercy is the best ticket to the free elevator. Heading up. After all. St. Paul exhorts all who claim to be Christian: ‘If you are risen with Christ, set your hearts on things above’ (Col. 3:1). OK, OK. We need help to ascend. Cry for mercy. Rise with Him.

We at the Desert Stream staff are in a 9-day prayer cycle leading to this upcoming Divine Mercy Sunday. A week after Easter Sunday, the Church sets apart this day as a lush opportunity for every person on the planet to open him or herself to Living Water, ‘the blood and water that gushes forth from the heart of the Savior as a fountain of mercy for YOU…’

St. Faustina received that little prayer and we as a ministry pray it all the time (in the context of a bigger one called the Divine Mercy Chaplet—download it here). An uneducated Polish nun, just out of her teens in the 1930’s, she obeyed Jesus’ revelation to her that His mercy could alter the course of the whole world. Instead of judgment, Jesus wants to immerse rebels in the healing flood emanating from His heart. She endured the battering ram of hell itself for mercy’s sake and now Divine Mercy is honored throughout the global Church.

She wrote pithy things like sin’s ‘misery invites the depth of His mercy’, always punctuated by ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ Last night, tossed by financial and moral and ministry-related concerns, I cried for mercy then sealed it: ‘Jesus, I trust in You…’

I awoke refreshed, in full agreement with the Psalmist: ‘You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Ps. 31:8)

Grounded 4

‘Many are awed by His miracles; few accept the shame of His Cross.’ Thomas a Kempis

From the beginning of His adult ministry, Jesus set His face like flint toward Jerusalem. He lived, breathed, and progressed Cross-ward. His destiny was death. For the life of the world.

This Good Friday, we may be less inclined to leap over the Crucified for miracles of new life. His broken Body stops us in our tracks as we wonder if we’ve a fever, or worse yet, if the mourner next to us is burning.

No stranger to miracles, Jesus performed plenty in order to prophecy the glory that would result from His shame. People loved signs and wonders. This frustrated Jesus. He knew that the majority would just end up demanding more signs, not their Savior.

Scripture describes Jesus as unwilling to entrust Himself to the miracle mob (Jn. 2: 18-25). When asked to show them His best ‘trick’, Jesus responded ‘crossly’: ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days’ (v. 19).

Conversion to the Savior means seeing only Him who goes before us to Calvary. The greatest miracle? That we now see how our sins pierced Him (Zech. 12:10) and we grieve, not as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4: 13b, 14) but with eyes who can see our hope. Our only One.

Our gift is attentiveness, small tokens of gratitude mouthed without sound but from our depths. We know His shameful scourge will become a fountain that cancels our shame and makes all things new (Zech. 13:1, 2). Let our worship rise fragrantly, like the oil Mary used to anoint Jesus for His death (Jn. 12:7).

We can add nothing to His gift of Blood and Water: fitting in plague time when, apart from noble medics and politicians, our hands are tied. Maybe, just maybe ‘we will never again say “Our gods” to the work of our hands’ (Hosea 14:3b). Under house arrest, we give up our schemes; we ‘die’ to any illusion of control. Today, Someone else is doing the hard work that gives life to the world.

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

Forging Young Fathers: Shoring Up Foundations

Marco Casanova and Andrew Comiskey

Best way to prevent moral collapse of pastors? Train them to grow in robust chastity.

It must be evident early on that a young man seeking the priesthood/pastorate engages with God and others consistently about his sexuality. That means that the candidate is integrating his masculine powers of life and love with his Christian commitment. Open and aware, he is allowing his passions to be ordered by the Passion of the One. You could say he lives in the convergence of two streams: the life-flow of Jesus’ blood and water and his own more troublesome waterway of desire. The latter is subject to disorder, which snags or steams up the waters.

I, Marco Casanova, encountered Living Waters as a candidate of the Catholic priesthood. Now as Assistant Director of Desert Stream Ministries, I plainly see the significance of shoring up the foundations of our future “fathers.” Such work is essential to the health of the Body, the Church.

Coming into the light as a seminarian is no easy task. Yet the implications liberated me. The Spirit of God set me in a flow that was inspired and new. I’ve been pondering Ezekiel 47. The stream from the Temple “entered the stagnant waters…making them fresh” (Ezek 47:8). Jesus’ flow of blood and water stirred the stagnant call of Eden in my life, from which I had assumed exception. I felt immobilized because of same-sex attraction. I was missing something profoundly human. Heck, even the Son of God “worked with human hands…thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart.” I wanted to love in a human way, that was ordered and in the flow of the Father’s plan. Such a plan is written in me. It’s written in all of us, according to Eden. I was just late to the garden! That’s okay; the Savior came for such as these.

I have much respect for the good Rector of Kenrick-Glennon seminary, Fr. James Mason, and his human formation team member—Psychologist Dr. Susan Harvath. Their life-force of forming men rests on a simple thesis: “Reveal yourself!” For them most of the necessary prep is realizing a kind of “affective maturity”: making sure these young men are alive to their development as men and show evidence of normal desire and good moral action by which they guide those “waters” well. They deliberately challenge any way young men seek to bypass the hard task of masculine integration by claiming a “spiritual” call when in truth they are just dodging the hard work of growing up. Awesome! Human formation needs to take priority over mystical or intellectual development.

Obviously, Protestant pastors differ, in that they can marry, while Catholic priests must demonstrate a healthy longing for marriage so that their renunciation of it for the Kingdom’s sake is actual, not a bypass. In either case, overseers must make decisions about a pastor’s readiness to be ordained based upon the evidence of growth in robust chastity—the maturity to love a woman honorably and, if necessary, to deny themselves that love for the sake of the Gospel.

Living in the light, “revealing myself,” has been the recipe to my freedom. I wanted to become a priest for most of my life. It was an aspiration I held deeply. It was a pursuit in which I undoubtedly found Jesus. When I felt a strong aversion to even question my becoming a priest, I knew something needed stirring. If I wasn’t free to let go of becoming a priest, I wasn’t free to say yes to it. Leaving the seminary is not the worst thing in the world. Forsaking human love based on a disordered exemption is indeed worse, not only for the Church, but for the man. It robs something profoundly human from him, something essential to any father, biological or spiritual. The call to celibate priesthood is a high call. Therefore, it demands a deep stirring in any future priest. Stir now. Don’t waste a day.

[1] Gaudium et Spes, no. 22.
[2] Susanne Harvath, Paul Hoesing, Ed Hogan, and Jim Mason, Seminary Formation and Transitory Same-Sex Attraction: A Proposal (St. Louis: Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, 2019).

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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