Jun 082018

Suicide

I had started writing this week’s blog post when a notification popped up on my phone. My stomach sank as I read that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. This after reading earlier in the week that fashion designer Kate Spade had also committed suicide.

So I threw away what I had written and decided to try again.

Many people say that these people had so much going for them. They were rich, famous, well-liked, and had many friends to support them. Why did they kill themselves? Others will claim that if only they had more faith, more love, more strength, more courage, they would not have killed themselves. And then there will be those who will say they took the cowards way out or that they were only being selfish.

All of that is crap.

I tried to kill myself as a teen. I have had thoughts of suicide throughout my life. And I can tell you that it was not because I lacked faith. It was not because I was not strong or courageous. It was because I had come to the end of my strength. I had come to the end of courage. And I believed that I would see God and that maybe, just maybe he would be merciful to me and let me into heaven.

I was tired of being abused. Rape and sexual assault had left me a shell of who I had been. I had no hope that life would improve. And when I dared to speak up, no one would listen or believe me. I was strong, but even that strength had its limits.

And to those who say I was being selfish, I was not. I believed that others would be better if I was not around. Society had convinced me that my struggles were a burden to others. I was left feeling like I had caused the abuse, rape, sexual molestation, and that everyone would be better off if I was not here. I was not suicidal because I was being selfish, I felt it was the ultimate sacrifice for others.

It is not being selfish, but it is also not going to help others either. Having to help families cope with the loss of a loved one who killed themselves has shown me the other side of those situations. Families are left in despair. They realize, all too late, that they missed the warning signs. Guilt consumes them. And then there are the questions about how they could let their loved one die. There are the condemning looks.

And even that is not fair.

That is why more and more people need to speak up about their struggles. That is why, as pastors, we share our brokenness with others. And yes, you may get tired of hearing us talk about how broken we are. But if it helps one person find the help they need, if it saves one person from killing themselves, then I will speak about my brokenness night and day!

After all, that is what I am called to do. That is what you are called to do.

My struggle is not over. And the struggles of my brothers and sisters who wear the collar are not over. Our struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness may never end. It is my commitment  to do whatever I can to help others through their struggles and to find the help they need. And in a way, helping them helps me. It helps me find peace with my lot in life.

So, what can you do to help those of us who struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness?

BE THERE. Be present to us. You don’t have to say a word. Just listen. Be a shoulder to cry on. Invite us to dinner. Ask us to join you for lunch. See if we want to go to the mall.

BE PREPARED. There are many resources that you can find to help those who need it. Carry the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your phone. Have business cards printed up with the help line numbers on them. I am planning (when I can afford to) to have new business cards made for the parish. On the back, I will have the Lifelines listed.

BE LOVING. Be ready to give them a hug. Just pick up the phone and call someone for no reason. Send them a message on Facebook or via their phone that just says you love them. And understand that sometimes they may not respond right away. Your message of love, your call, just knowing you are there and you care, could mean the difference between life and death.

AND DO NOT BE AFRAID. If you feel someone is in immediate danger of committing suicide, DO NOT hesitate to call the police or EMS. They may be angry at you for calling for help, but in the long run, they will thank you for caring enough to reach out for help. They may not be able to reach out, you might have to reach out for them.

At the end of the day, a person may still end their life. As a Bishop, as a Christian, let me make this very clear: Suicide is NOT a guaranteed ticket to Hell. NO WHERE in the Bible does it say that if you kill yourself you will go to Hell. The church for many centuries was wrong and caused so many people hurt and pain when they needed love and compassion. But if your loved one has committed suicide, God understands what they were going through and in his mercy, he will grant them peace and joy in his kingdom.

If you need help, please do not hesitate to ask. We have a new page here at our website that give you resources that can help you through your struggles.

Please know that God loves you and so do we!

Jun 022018

Dark and Light

Dark

They say the night is darkest right before the dawn. Given the struggles I have experienced in my life, I believe this to be true. But the dark can never truly overcome the light.

The last two weeks have been difficult. Today is day 16 of my life without my pain medication and my anti-depressants. The worst of the withdraw is behind me. And now I begin the process of finding my new normal. It has been tough, and the last week has been the darkest by far. But now the light is beginning to shine over the horizon.

One the interesting parts of the journey through PTSS and depression has been the rediscovery of my emotions. This means that I am experiencing a full range of emotions where in the past I had a rather muted range of emotions. That process of discovering my new emotions and normalizing them can take months or even years.

Father Rick reminded me today that in life “sorrow and joy walk side by side.” This is so true. We cannot experience light without the darkness. Sorrow helps us understand joy. Unrest helps us know peace. And doubt helps us know what true faith is all about.

When life is its darkest, we must remember that Christ is right there with us. He experienced all the pain, sorrow, frustration, joy, peace, love, and even darkness that we do. Christ comes to us in the moments to walk with us and provide us with the strength and love we need to survive and flourish.

And the church is here to provide you with the support and love you need to move forward. Without my brothers and sisters in the church (especially my fellow clergy in the OCCI) I would not have made it this far. It is our goal to provide a church family where you can find strength, love and support through the struggles of life.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

May 252018

Life can be hard

life

Life can be hard. At times it seems like no matter how hard we try, things remain difficult. As a clergy person, I experience people at the worst moments in their lives. And sometimes that occurs when I am dealing with a difficult time myself.

God did not promise that life would be easy. In fact, we see story after story in scripture about how difficult life can be. Matter of fact, the entire book of Job is one long story about how difficult life is. Job was a man that worked hard to follow God. And still he suffered from some very sad and disturbing things. He lost his family, his money, his possessions, and then his health.

Despite it all, he did not give up. Yes, he felt upset, angry, and even depressed. But he never walked away from God. He trusted that God would bring him through all these sorrows to a better day.

We are called on to stand firm on our faith even in the darkest moments of our lives. You are not alone in your struggles. Too often, people think that they are alone and that no one understand what they are going through. But that is wrong. So many people struggle everyday too. We must not isolate ourselves, but instead, we need to reach out to those around us for encouragement and strength in these difficult times.

And the church can be an outlet to help you through those times. We are not perfect people, which means that we have been through similar things to what you have been through. It is our hope that we can be there to help you through your struggles too.

And together we can work toward a brighter day!

May 182018
Pentecost

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. Pentecost is called the birthday of the church. It is the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. The coming of the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the courage and strength to preach the Gospel to all people.

We continue this mission to this day. We work to bring the message of the love of God to all people. And in doing so, we work to build a church where all people can come together and worship God in “spirit and truth”. (John 4:24) In doing so, we also recognize that we are broken and weak people. That is why we strive not to judge those who worship with us.

Lately, people seem to be judging each other more and more. It is almost like it has become a national pastime! We forget that we are not perfect and that we too have skeletons in our closets. It is like we have forgotten that when we point our fingers at others that we have 3 fingers pointing back at us!

Our calling is to love all people. It is not our place to judge them. And when it comes to our clergy, we need to remember that they are human too. They make mistakes, they are not perfect, and they too are broken. I have seen so many people attacking clergy because they are human. When did clergy become perfect? When did we stop being human beings? I want to know, because I missed that memo!

If you want a perfect clergy person, a perfect church, or a perfect friend or spouse, then disappointment is around the corner. There was only one person who walked this earth that was perfect. And people hated him so much they crucified him. This proves that even if we got what we wanted, the perfect person as a cleric, friend, or spouse, we would likely hurt them and leave them.

It is time for us to stop expecting perfection from those around us and to accept that we are all human beings. The time has come to love those around us without preconditions. It is time for us to start living the Gospel instead of being hypocrites.

If you want an authentic church with broken people who love unconditionally, then come visit us at Saint Francis!

May 112018

Love is our only commandment

love

We have struggled for many years now trying to build up a parish here in the Augusta, GA area. It is even harder to build one based on love rather than judgement! It has been a long and difficult road and I cannot thank those who come to our parish enough for giving us a chance. I wish more people would give us a chance!

Here is the thing, we are trying hard to build a parish where everyone is loved and respected. We want you to feel safe and loved in our parish. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in our world today. But we believe that we are on the right track to do just that.

Saint Francis is about building a place where you can be you and find God through the Sacraments without judgement. We believe that God creates all people uniquely and that we should respect the spark of the Divine in each and every person. It is not our place to judge you. It is our job to love you!

However, all too often the church allows itself to fall into this place of judgement. People judge others based on who they love, where they came from, the color of their skin, their gender, their social or economic status, or other arbitrary statuses. They forget that we are called to love, without judgement and without conditions.

We must not forget that Saint John tells us, “And this is his commandment: that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:23 CPDV) He does not say that we should only love those who love us or fit into our acceptable mold. No, Saint John tells us to love one another. It is not a suggestion, but a commandment!

As a result, the time for judgement is over. We must start living the commandment of Christ, “For the first commandment of all is this: ‘Listen, O Israel. The Lord your God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole mind, and from your whole strength. This is the first commandment.’ But the second is similar to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 CPDV)

Join us at Saint Francis as we strive to build a church based on these two commandments.

May 052018
loneliness

I have been very open about my struggles with my health and with my past. It is not always easy to be this open and it has led to hurt in the past. However, I make clear my struggles in the hope that it helps others who also struggle. One of my greatest struggles is with loneliness.

I am have this horrible curse that even when in a room full of people, I can still feel lonely. In reading Holy Scripture, I find that Jesus and even John the Baptist, may have felt this way too. I am certainly no Jesus or John the Baptist, but I can understand how they felt.

There are many reasons that people feel lonely. It could be because they have very few friends or family members. It could be because, like me, they suffer from PTSS or depression which make them feel lonely even when they are around lots of people. They might also feel inferior to those around them and thus they feel alone.

Whatever the reason, we are never truly alone. Even in the dark of night, when I tend to feel the most alone, I know that God, the saints, and even the Blessed Virgin Mary is right there with me. And for me, I know that I am not alone, but I have many brothers and sisters in the church who are there for me.

Here lies the other big issues. Despite knowing that all I have to do is pick up the phone and call one of my family members in the church, I don’t because I do not want to be a burden to them. They all work so very hard and the last thing they need is me burdening them because I am lonely. However, this is only in my own mind. They would be the first to say that I am not a burden and that I need to call anytime!

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy! When we allow ourselves to believe that we are burden to others we feed into the cycle of depression and loneliness. Instead we need to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! We need to remember that there are so many people that love us! And we need to be unafraid to reach out to those around us, to our biological family, church family and friends for support during our dark moments.

And if you know someone who struggles from depression or loneliness, take a moment to reaffirm to them that you are there for them. Take a moment to call them out of the blue and express how much you care. Invite them to get a cup of coffee or to go to lunch.

You never know how such those small acts will mean to someone struggling with loneliness!

Apr 272018

Christ is our confidence

confidence

We all struggle with confidence sometimes. I know I do. I know that Scripture tells us that, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)  It is hard sometimes to accept that when you are going through struggles in life.

I deal with confidence issues all the time. And for the longest time I believed it was just me being humble. But that is a common misconception. Being humble does not mean that we do not have confidence. Rather it means that we place our confidence something or someone other than ourselves.

No struggle is too hard for us if we put our confidence in Christ. I know things may seem dark and desperate, but they are not. We can overcome through Christ.

I have seen good men and women of faith who have endured great challenges and have overcome them. Not through their own power, but through the power of Christ working in them. Some have spent time in prison, some have been defamed in the most public of places. Others have lost everything to follow the call of Christ.

Yet, time and time again, they manage to do the impossible. This gives me hope that even in my broken life I can do great things. I only pray that some day I will be able to do just a small portion of the great things they have done.

And one of those things I hope to accomplish is to build up Saint Francis Old Catholic Church into a vibrant and self-sustaining parish. I have worked for over a decade now to build here in the Augusta GA area and we are starting to see growth. However, without your help and support, we will not reach that goal.

I only ask that you come and see for yourself what kind of parish we are. Come experience the freedom and love we offer.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

Apr 202018

Say no to racism

Say no to racism

I find it very disturbing the level of hate and racism that exists in our nation. It is likewise disturbing to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this.” While many churches, ours included, have taken steps to resolve this issue in our churches, many are still segregated. They may not be doing so by conscience choice, but they do so by their actions towards others.

This becomes most obvious when we see people who claim to be Christian using racial slurs towards others. When people who claim to be Christians write Op-Eds that say that African-Americans should observe curfews to avoid issues with the police. It is obvious when Christians demand that others speak English. They show their lack of Christianity when they shout that immigrants should go back to where they come from. It is obvious when people call the police on people waiting in a coffee shop for a friend.

It is time for the church to find its voice again and speak against this tide of hate and racism. As Dr. King continued in that same speech, “The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body. …. Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.”

We as Christians should stand up against the racism and hatred that has infiltrated our nation. It is our job to stand with the oppressed. We need to be Christ to everyone.

As we approach Good Shepherd Sunday, we should keep in mind that sheep come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. The Shepherd does not care about any of that when he is protecting the sheep. His only concern is to protect them. And the Good Shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. It is time that we follow the Good Shepherds example. We must stand up for our brothers and sisters who are enduring oppression and attacks.

As a church, we resolve to stand with all people who are oppressed. We resolve to stand against racism, hatred, and bigotry.

And we will welcome everyone into our church with open arms.

Apr 122018

Radical Mercy

Divine Mercy

I want to start out by apologizing for the lack of a blog and newsletter last week and ask for your mercy. I had to take a trip to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania for a funeral. Bishop Mel Borham, OSFoc, a Bishop in our denomination, passed away suddenly in March.

With all the long hours of drive time I had, my mind was able to wander down various roads. Most of the time I was considering my own end and the mercy I hope that God will show me when I see him face to face. This led to me thinking about the level of mercy we show to one another while we are still alive.

Bishop Jim asked me to preside and preach at the 9:00 AM Family Mass at Saint Miriam Parish and Friary in Flourtown, PA. Saint Miriam is one of the largest parishes in our church. Being Divine Mercy Sunday, I took the opportunity to share my thoughts on mercy. Thankfully, Saint Miriam records their sermons! You can listen to the sermon by visiting: Sunday Sermon.

God calls us to show each other mercy. It is part of loving others. If we cannot show each other mercy, then we do not really love them. When you say that you love someone, but refuse to forgive them their faults, you are a liar. When you choose to hold on to grudges, you do not love that person.

God calls for us to remember that there are reasons why people do the things they do. We are asked to look at each person and to assume that they are acting out of love. This is instead of assuming that every act they commit is out of anger or hostility. It calls on us to assume the best in others until we know otherwise.

And when all is said and done, the mercy we show to others will be shown to us! If you want mercy for your failings and shortcomings, then you must first show mercy to others.

Visit us this Sunday and experience the mercy of God!

Mar 312018

What is Old Catholic?

old catholic

As with every major feast of the church, I have received a number of phone calls asking about Mass times. They always ask what the difference is between Old Catholic and Roman Catholic. So I thought I would dedicate this week’s posting to discussing those differences.

What are the major differences between Old Catholic and Roman Catholic?

The major differences between our churches are in how we live our faith. For example, we allow our clergy to get married and have families. Our church ordains women to the all ranks of the clergy. We welcome LGBT individuals to participate fully in the life of the church, including seeking Holy Orders if they feel called to the priesthood or diaconate. Our churches practice an open communion which means that anyone can receive communion at our Mass. If you have been divorced, you too can receive communion.

Are you under the Pope?

No. While we respect the Bishop of Rome (often called the Pope), we are not under his authority. Old Catholics were granted autonomy from Rome in 1122. As such, we are a separate Catholic church with our own unique history.

Since you are not under the Pope, how can you still be Catholic?

That is a very good question! The term Catholic means universal. All Catholic churches hold to several universal truths that make them Catholic. One of those truths is the Holy Eucharist. All Catholic Churches participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in one way or another. They have a defined leadership of clergy in Apostolic Succession. This means they can trace their linage of Bishops all the way back to the early church. And all Catholic Churches uphold the one of the three major creeds of faith: the Nicene, Apostles, or Athanasian Creeds. As Old Catholics we hold all three of these major points!

What is your liturgy like?

If you have ever gone to a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian church for Mass, you will find that our liturgy is very familiar. Our liturgy has many of the same elements that those liturgies have.

At Saint Francis Old Catholic Church we strive to practice radical love. We welcome everyone and turn no one away from our church. It is our hope that you will find a home where you can be you. And along the way, we hope that you will find a deeper connection to the Divine.

So won’t you join us and experience a different way to be Catholic?

Log in here!