The last time I was at St. James Parish in Douglas, Wyoming was to lead a parish mission for Advent in December of 2017. It is hard to believe that four years have passed by since then. It will be nice to return to the parish to lead an afternoon of reflection as the current liturgical year draws to a close. I will also stay and preach at the 5:30 pm Mass that evening as well.
I had just wrapped up a parish mission on the evening of Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at St. Matthew's Parish in Gillette, Wyoming. I was driving home to Cheyenne on Thursday, October 29, well aware that my mom who lived in Missouri had become ill. Unfortunately, I had a doctor appointment scheduled for Friday morning, October 30. I needed to keep this appointment because I was running out of heart medicine. Mom was insistent that I stay and get my medicine refilled before leaving for Missouri. Sadly, on Friday morning, about an hour before my appointment, I received the call that mom had died. I did not make it home in time.
Yes, tomorrow (Saturday, October 30, 2021) marks the six year anniversary of my mom's death. I am still grateful for the trip mom and I took in October of 2014, just one year before her death. I am also grateful that I started blogging in 2013 so I have these memories well archived in this platform. The pictures mean a lot to me. Here are just a few.
This last photograph was taken just a few days before her death. The infection in her legs won the battle. Rest in peace mom!
How has COVID impacted employment? How have government policies impacted employment?
What role can each of us play in building a society that lifts people out of poverty? How does capitalism help achieve that goal?
A job fair with more than 60 companies represented would seemingly attract a large crowd of potential applicants, would it not?
The job fair was open to the military and veterans for the first half hour. It then opened to the general public for the next two and a half hours. These photos were taken about a half hour into the general public time frame. What will it take to get our society working again?
I know Cheyenne, Wyoming is just one small community in what is referred to as "fly-over country." However, there are lessons to be learned from what you can observe in these two photos that speak to a much larger dynamic. I'll leave it to each of you as to how you interpret it. Bottom line--people of faith better start rising up to the occasion.
Who could have ever imagined where the journey would lead 33 years ago? My first battle with cancer was in 1986, so I was almost two years out from that when we got married in 1988. However, I was still worried about my cancer recurring. I knew the gamble Margaret was taking when she would express the vows, "in sickness and in health."
Thankfully, I went 15 years in relatively good health. Then in 2001, I was diagnosed with cancer a second time. I just hit the 20th anniversary of that surgery last week on October 16, 2021.
In 2003, I needed my mitral valve repaired due to damage from the chemotherapy in 1986. Open heart surgery happened on November 13, 2003.
I was in pretty good health again until about 2014. Since that time, I have now had four cardioversions, two heart ablations, and numerous other small procedures. However, since November of 2018 after my second ablation, I have been doing pretty well again. At least that was the case until my recent bout with COVID. Slowly, but surely, I am recovering from that experience as well.
Now, the coin has flipped. Margaret was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She has undergone surgery and is recuperating from that. As her body heals, we are preparing for the next phase of the journey. She will begin chemotherapy treatments in less than a week. I am hoping that they have made a lot of progress in chemotherapy treatments since I went through it 35 years ago.
As I reflect upon the journey, I realize that there have been many challenges over our 33 years of marriage. However, there have been some calm and peaceful times as well. I especially appreciate the memories of some of the places we have been. We have lived in numerous locations throughout the years. Although moving was a hassle each time, I am grateful for the unique experience that each locale had to offer.
We have been blessed with some awesome vacations too. An Alaskan cruise that we took around our 12th anniversary was nice. A couple of family vacations to the Caribbean created some wonderful memories. Our last vacation was a trip to the Grand Canyon after our son's high school graduation. That was a phenomenal experience, especially in the early morning hours before it got crowded. That was five years ago now. Wow! It is time for another vacation.
Once we both get healthy again, it will be time to climb out of the valley and onto the peaks. Happy Anniversary, Margaret. We are both still kicking, just not too high.
Cheyenne Catholic Vocations Club
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!
Early October in Cheyenne, Wyoming
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.
Seeking Peace In Turbulent Times
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.
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