Many thanks to all who build the Kingdom of God by being faithful witnesses to the Gospel. Please continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life.
I had the privilege of being the guest speaker today at a meeting of the Cheyenne Catholic Vocations Club. It was great to be back in Hartmann Hall at the Cathedral of St. Mary for the first time since we moved away in 2018.
Many thanks to all who build the Kingdom of God by being faithful witnesses to the Gospel. Please continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life.
I received an email yesterday reminding me that I only had five days remaining to submit my abstract for the conference. Unfortunately, when I started contemplating this idea over a month ago, I had no idea that I would be battling the effects of COVID for nine weeks (and counting). I not only lack energy to research and write the paper, I also have a tainted view with the politicization of the virus because of my personal experience.
Let me share the topic as presented by the organizers. Then, I will share more thoughts after you have had a chance to read some of the questions my paper would need to address. This blog post will be in place of my abstract.
We invite abstracts for paper presentations, posters, panel and workshop sessions, that address issues at the intersection of medicine and religion, including but not limited to the conference theme. All proposals must be submitted online by 11:59:59 p.m. CST, Sunday, October 17, 2021.
The Call for Abstracts can now be found on the
Conference on Medicine and Religion's webpage.
March 13-15, 2022
Space for the Sacred in the Care of the Sick
Contemporary medicine, by all appearances, is a secular domain, governed by the norms of science and industry and ethical principles that are ostensibly separable from religious traditions. Is there space in the medical domain for the sacred? If so, what does this sacred space look like? What is sacred about the work of medicine? What kind of attention to the sacred is fitting for medical practitioners? What relevance does the sacred and sacred space have for patients and practitioners who consider themselves spiritual but not religious? Can good spiritual care be provided in religiously neutral terms? What stories would foster more space for the sacred in contemporary medicine? Does the modern bureaucracy of healthcare provide space for the patient-clinician relationships that historically formed the cornerstone of ethical medicine? What religious norms and relationships can reframe understandings of care and of the patient-physician relationship?
The 2022 Conference on Medicine and Religion invites clinicians, scholars, clergy, students and others to take up these and other questions related to the intersection of medicine and religion. We encourage participants to address these questions and issues in light of religious traditions and practices, particularly, though not exclusively, those of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The conference is a forum for exchanging ideas from an array of disciplinary perspectives, from accounts of clinical practices to empirical research to scholarship in the humanities.
The Hundere Endowment in Religion and Culture, Oregon State University
Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Ohio State University
Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine,
and Initiative on Theology, Medicine and Culture, Duke University
Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University
Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center
Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality, Harvard University
Institute for Faith and Learning, Baylor University
Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture
Loma Linda University
Program on Medicine and Religion, University of Chicago
Where do I start?
I have obviously spent more than my share of time in the hospital over the course of my lifetime. If I remember correctly, I am up to nine surgeries now. The first one happened as an infant. Then, they have been scattered throughout my teens, twenties thirties, and forties. In my fifties, I just did things like have two heart ablations and experience cardioversions (shock the heart back into rhythm) on four different occasions. These are technically not surgeries so I did not count them in the total.
In my sixties I experienced something new. A biological weapon, created in China with the help and funding of the United States government, attacked my body. Gain of Function research (which creates a biological weapon) was/is supported by Dr. Fauci, and yet, he continues to be the "expert" in instructing us on how to respond. That is quite ironic to say the least. He exacerbates my symptoms every time I see him on TV.
My anger about all of this is quite palpable. The virus has significantly impacted my life. I am nine weeks into this journey and still far from well. Why am I angry? No one is being held accountable for this virus being unleashed on the world. Someone going to jail won't make my symptoms go away, but it would be nice every once in a while to see the powerful and elite be held accountable for their actions. There are definitely different sets of rules for the general populace compared to the politicians and the wealthy.
Sadly, this event--the release of the virus and the subsequent handling of it--will most likely be the final nail in the coffin of our country. The divide is so great that we as a nation will never recover. Now, we not only distrust the government, but we have serious questions about the medical industrial complex too. Do they really have my well-being in mind as they decide how to treat my symptoms?
On a side note, how did Bill Gates become a medical expert? If a person reads the information on the Gates Foundation website about overpopulation, can you really blame the person for having concerns about side-effects of the vaccine?
Vaccine mandates as outlined by the Biden administration will cause a certain number of disruptions to goods and services being delivered. The government will capitalize on this by creating other emergencies to shut down things and cause more havoc. Look at the shipping ports as example number one. What is the real cause of these ships all sitting out in the ocean unable to unload? Does this make me a conspiracy theorist? As one of the memes on social media points out, "Having a distrust of the government does not make me a conspiracy theorist. It makes me a history buff."
The government found out how easy it was to get churches and businesses to comply with mandates to close. Religious freedom was forfeited without a fight. Churches were declared non-essential, and Church leadership readily agreed with their assertion. I never imagined the sacramental life of the Church being tossed to the curb with such ease. We will now be expected to relinquish our rights any time the government decides to create an emergency. Do you remember the words, "Two weeks to flatten the curve"? How has that been working out for you these last 18 months? Oh, that's right. It is the fault of the unvaccinated who refused to listen to the all-knowing Dr. Fauci. Give me a break. Always look at who benefits from a crisis.
Who got rich from the pandemic? Why do members of congress invest so heavily in the pharmaceutical industry? Have treatment regimens been different for the elite versus what the little guys could get? I can only speculate because I do not have access to such data. However, there are certainly enough anecdotal stories circulating on social media to raise eyebrows. It is plausible for people to question the integrity of the government and the medical community when they witness these huge disparities depending upon one's social status and political affiliations. Isn't it reasonable for people to ask questions when they see discrepancies all around them? For instance, why are doctors and nurses with viewpoints contrary to the government narrative suddenly silenced? How can they be immediately labeled by the fact-checkers as disseminating inaccurate information? When did the techno-geeks get their medical degrees to make such determinations about individual posts?
All of this shapes my sentiment about the question for the conference. Is there space for the sacred in the care of the sick? Obviously, the answer should be yes. However, in this new era, the patient better be able to find the sacred on his/her own--especially if you enter the hospital with COVID.
I took the selfie above as I laid in the hospital waiting for blood test results and the reading of a chest X-ray. No family member was allowed to accompany me into the emergency room. The door to my examining room had to be kept closed. People had to "gown up" significantly to enter my room. The funny thing about all of this is the fact that I had already been released from quarantine by the health department prior to this hospital visit. This particular hospital visit was weeks after my journey with COVID had begun.
My point in describing the isolation is twofold. First of all, I can only imagine how scared I would have been going to the emergency room alone if I was unfamiliar with hospitals in general. It was still a bit unnerving for me to realize that no other family member would be listening to what the doctor had to say. I was quite ill. What would happen if I misunderstood something or forgot the details? There is no back-up when family isn't allowed.
The last words from wife as I walked into the emergency room kept resonating in my head, "Don't let them put you on a ventilator." Those words of guidance were not exactly comforting, but I knew her concern. Was this potentially the last time we would see each other? Was there a chance I would die alone in the hospital? I did not think I was that seriously ill, but I wasn't sure. My oxygen levels were quite low when I entered the emergency room. It is a shame that these emotions were generated because of the extreme protocols put in place, but that is the reality of healthcare in the current climate.
Secondly, when did the medical community lose sight of the fact that "healing" is more than a medical procedure? How many anecdotal stories can be told about people surviving accidents or illnesses beyond all expectations because they were loved back into health by their family and friends?
The medical industrial complex, along with government entities, have tried to remove the sacred, as well as the humanity, of caring for the sick with protocols put in place that are absolutely mind-boggling. Thankfully, many of the individual doctors and nurses still shine brightly despite the burdensome protocols put in their way. A glimpse at the sacred through these dedicated individuals will be your best hope in these dark times. My experience with the doctors and nurses during my stay was all positive. I am grateful to all those who continue to serve with compassion and professionalism.
Please do not misunderstand my viewpoint. I do not want to unnecessarily jeopardize the health of hospital personnel. However, there has to be a balance in regard to the safety of staff and the emotional support needs of the patient.
Finally, I want to address this from my vantage point as a member of the clergy. I have not been allowed to enter nursing homes or hospitals for a year and a half--even prior to my own COVID diagnosis. In some locations, a priest would be allowed to enter the building to anoint the sick. In other locations, even priests were/are not allowed to enter. A lowly deacon such as myself had no opportunity to minister to the sick and suffering in any institutional settings during the lockdowns as established by the government for our own good. (I wonder what St. Damien would have thought about all of this.)
If we are to find space for the sacred while caring for the sick, we better start holding people accountable for crimes against humanity. How many of our elderly, and others, were forced to die isolated and alone? Who is going to take ownership of that horrendous failure in our responsibility to care for the sick and elderly? How can the Church effectively proclaim a pro-life message and allow the sick and elderly to be treated with such negligence? What part of the failure lies directly at the feet of Church leadership? What obstacles to pastoral care were created and implemented by Church authorities in lockstep with overbearing obstacles already in place by the government?
To all of the families who lost loved ones during this awful time in our world's history, I extend to you my deepest sympathies. If you were deprived of seeing and touching your loved one before death, I am truly sorry. If you were deprived of having an appropriate funeral gathering after your loved one died, my heart grieves for you. I can only imagine the level of grief and heartache you have endured through such a travesty.
My conclusion is simple. There is room for the sacred in the healing arts. However, those desiring to squelch that sacred space apparently wield more power than the deplorables who are still "clinging to their Bibles and their guns." (If I had written an abstract for the conference, I am sure it would have been rejected.)
My dear people, our union with God is more important now than ever. Do not let the chaos of the world consume you and cause you to lose sight of the sacred. Be a person of fervent prayer. Ask our Lord for an increase of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Our world is enveloped in darkness. Be the light of Christ that brings healing to a hurting world!
It appears that I need to wait a few more days. The last time I posted about this setting was on October 6, 2017. The colors arrive later in some years. The above photo was taken today, October 6, 2021.
The above photo was taken on October 6, 2017.
The above photo was taken on October 10, 2016.
The above photo was taken on October 12, 2015.
The above photo was taken on October 9, 2014.
It was obviously Halloween decorating time in our neighborhood this weekend. I did not get the memo. However, I did somewhat feel like the character (pictured above) this morning when I woke up.
The temperatures dipped down into the upper 30's overnight, sunrise still had not happened when I arose this morning, and the chill in the house made it difficult to get out from under the covers. I am into week number eight trying to recover from the biological weapon released on the world. My wife is trying to recover from surgery for her own health challenges. Bottom line-we would welcome a short time of smooth sailing in life. Unfortunately, I don't think that is on the horizon any time soon.
On this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, I may need to meditatively offer the Prayer of St. Francis to experience that peace that only can be found in God.
Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Time continues to march on. It is hard to believe that my dad has been gone for almost half of my life at this point. As I briefly walked around in the sunshine this afternoon in Cheyenne, Wyoming with a temperature of 70 degrees, I could not help but think of him. He loved fall. That last year of his life he took mom on numerous drives to look at the changing autumn colors. He seemed to know it was going to be the final season to do that. He died on February 2, so he was correct in that assumption.
Dad also enjoyed listening to St. Louis Cardinals Baseball on his transistor radio. It was especially pertinent at this time of year to see if they would make the playoffs. I can only imagine some of his commentary that would accompany recent games if he were here to elaborate.
Don't let the chaos of the world distract you from loving those around you!
Liberty will soon be a thing of the past if we continue on the path we are currently following. Pray for our country. Pray for the conversion of sinners.
Congratulations to the six men being ordained deacons this evening for the Diocese of Cheyenne. I had hoped to be joining you for the celebration of this wonderful event in Casper, but my slow recovery from COVID has made it imprudent for me to do so. Please know of my prayers for each of you and your families.
I was on the diaconate formation board for the Diocese of Cheyenne when these men began their journey. It seems like a lifetime ago. Thank you for your perseverance and your willingness to say "yes" to God's call in your life.
I was ordained in 1999. Although that was a long time ago, I still remember the most moving part of the ordination ritual for me. It was when Archbishop (now Cardinal) Rigali handed me the Book of the Gospels and said, "Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you now are. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach." The weight of the responsibility hit me at that moment, and it has stuck with me ever since.
These six men have the capacity to serve the Church well. Being ordained on the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a prominent feature as well. May each of you unite your sufferings to the cross of Christ, and bring healing to God's people in a profound way through your ministry!
It has been a month since my last blog post. I want to thank all three of my readers for reaching out and asking why I had not been posting. Your kindness is appreciated.
Today, the Church celebrates "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross." The gift of salvation brought to us by the sacrificial love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, is beyond my comprehension. I seek a deeper faith so I can better understand the magnitude of God's love in laying down one's life for others.
We each carry crosses in our lives from time to time. This suffering can come in many forms. We can suffer individually. We can suffer corporately. Our whole world has suffered immensely for over a year and a half. The pain has struck close to home for many families who had to confront COVID head on in their own households.
To all of you suffering in any way, please know of my prayers for you. Let us lift one another up.
It is difficult to watch our culture slide more and more into the abyss. Families are being divided simply because of viewpoints about a vaccine. Will there ever be a time when we can disagree on an issue without killing the character of the one with whom we disagree?
Life is short folks. Keep things in perspective.
The next time you get a trivia question about South Dakota, you can answer with this data. There is more to South Dakota than Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, the Badlands, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace. There is the Mammoth Site.
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