Monday, April 30, 2018


"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24)

I believe it was last Friday when I heard a very strange news story reported on television.  I honestly don't remember which national news broadcast I was tuned into at the time, but it was reported that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had fired the Chaplain of the House of Representatives!  It was also reported that in all the years they've had chaplains in the House, none of them have ever been fired.  I must say the idea that the Chaplain of the House would be fired seemed most bizarre!  Of course, I wondered what very serious offense could possibly have caused such an event to take place!

I'd honestly had no idea of the identity of the Chaplain of the House.  It was reported that the person who'd been forced to resign was a Roman Catholic priest.  His name is Father Patrick Conroy.  Conroy states that after a pleasant seven years of serving in that position, a public prayer he prayed last autumn stirred things up quite a bit.  If you do an on-line search, you can easily find more details about this, and you can read the exact words of the prayer, as well.  The gist of the prayer is that Fr. Conroy hoped that whatever the results of pending legislation there would be only winners and no losers among the poor.  The priest says he was confronted by the Speaker shortly after he uttered that prayer and was told that there had been complaints that his prayer was "too partisan".  He believes that's the issue which led to his resignation being requested a couple of weeks ago.  Speaker Ryan has told reporters that wasn't the case at all; that the real issue was that Fr. Conroy was not providing effective pastoral care to the members of the House.

During the first twenty-four hours after I heard this story reported, there were a number of posts which popped up on Facebook.  Most were from Facebook friends of mine that tend to be "progressive" in their political and social views and tend to vote for Democrats.  Father Conroy was portrayed as the epitome of a totally selfless man who'd lay down his life for the poor, while Speaker Ryan was portrayed as, well, at best Eddie Munster and at worst, Satan.

Now, don't get me wrong here!  I had no problem with the words of Fr. Conroy's prayer.  And, just to make sure I wasn't missing something, I "ran this by" a couple of my evangelical Protestant friends who also had no problem with the words of Fr. Conroy's prayer.  I had strongly considered posting something very critical of Speaker Ryan, myself.  I mean, we evangelicals (and Ryan's a Catholic, incidentally) are constantly saying we want more prayer, more Bible reading, more acknowledgement of God in public life, etc.  So, even if Fr. Conroy is a liberal and had a political agenda in praying that prayer (and we don't know if that's the case) it would seem foolhardy to fire a chaplain for something like that, whether he's a priest, or a rabbi, or a Unitarian-Universalist minister, or whomever he or she is!

After thinking about it for a few days, I will admit that Speaker Ryan's stated reason for asking for the Chaplain's resignation seems very, very weak, but I really don't know the facts, and I doubt that the people posting about it on Facebook do either!

I guess what strikes me as ironic is that so many (but not all) of the people who came to the priest's defense were those who usually won't come to any clergyperson's defense!  Somebody did post that James Madison back in the day very much did not want chaplains in Congress and that maybe this is proof that Madison was right.  Maybe.  Or maybe it's making some folks see that clergy who speak and pray with a prophetic voice- whether they're registered Republicans or Democrats, and whether they're liberals or conservatives - bring something very positive and very important "to the table" in a society where that moral and spiritual voice is typically not welcome.

Yes, the case of Paul Ryan and Fr. Patrick Conroy is indeed strange and it will be interesting to see who replaces the priest in the House, and whether the position of Chaplain comes to be considered of more significance and importance than has previously been the case!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:  for they are foolishness unto him:  neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  (I Corinthians 2:14)

This morning I noticed an interesting question which had been posted on Facebook by one of my Facebook friends.  I'm not sure if she'd want me using her whole name or not, so I'll call just use her last name's initial and call her "Jennifer B."  I have something like two hundred and fifty Facebook friends.  There are probably not many more than twenty that I'd consider fairly close friends, although I have met Jennifer B. one time a few years ago.  It was at a venue where I was the guest speaker.  Here's her question, exactly as she worded it:

"Why do people find God so offensive!?  I don't believe in lots of things or behaviors so I go on with my life.  Why can't OTHER PEOPLE do the same when it comes to God?"

My sister has asked me a similar question at times, although my sister's "question" is more of a statement.  She often says, "I can't understand why so many people want nothing to do with God.  I just don't get it!"

I know my Adult Sunday School class is far away for many of you.  (It is at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, MA)  Ironically, during last Sunday's class we discussed something along the line of why people just ignore God, don't take Him seriously, and don't want anything to do with Him.  (The class right now is on Ezekiel, which is kind of a tough book, and the lesson was on God's judgment falling.  Yeah, a tough topic, but we actually got into a really interesting discussion!)  Jennifer B. got thirty-one "likes" for her post, and if my count was correct, she got sixteen comments.  I was one of the people who commented.  I wrote that many people want to be totally free and independent.  The idea of a Supreme Being to whom they're supposed to be accountable makes them very uncomfortable and they recoil at such a thought.  Many also see "religious" people as "repressive" and "trying to ruin their lives" etc.  I closed my comment by saying they fail to understand John 3:16!

If you want to understand what I mean about John 3:16 I recommend you go to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website (you can find it pretty easily with any online search) and watch any one of Billy Graham's sermons.  They all pretty much have the same theme:  That God is actually not some horrible cosmic jerk.  Rather God is love.  He loved us so much that He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase our eternal salvation.  I know.  Most modern sophisticated Americans and Europeans don't want to hear that message.  They tend to recoil at the idea of a bloody dead Savior dying on a cross as, (to use a word that the late Senator Robert Byrd made famous in a Senate speech) "barbaric!".  In fact, as one song puts it, "There is No Greater Love".

I know that born-again Christians sometimes do "turn people off".  Sometimes Christians can be loud, obnoxious, negative, and condemning.  They mean well, but I know it can be hard to take.  Honestly, I've been a born-again Christian for over forty-seven years, and I probably spent almost twenty of those years as a hand wagging, condemning legalistic Christian.  I'm so sorry for that!  I meant well, but I forgot about God's love and focused on sinners being punished, etc.  Ironically, a fellow Assemblies of God minister had a little talk with me one evening about my legalistic ways somewhere around 1991, and that little talk caused me to "do a one-eighty" in how I approached "unbelievers"! 

It's not at all my purpose to make this a long boring lecture, so I'm about to wrap it up.  But Jennifer B.'s question really resonated with me today.  Those who have received Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior and Lord and who have had their lives transformed by Him are so eternally grateful!  Sometimes, we just have a very hard time understanding those who frankly don't seem to care about God's love or their eternal destiny.  So, I decided to write about that today.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


"...The things which are impossible with man are possible with God." (from Luke 18:27)

For friends, family, students, parents, and alumni of Marian High School of Framingham, Massachusetts, to borrow from the words of F.D.R.:  Yesterday, April 3, 2018, was a day which shall live in infamy!  Yesterday, the President and official board of Marian High School announced that the school is closing at the end of this school year.  The news was sad and shocking.  My wife, Mary Ann, has been the Administrative Assistant at Marian for well over ten years.  We joke that she, "makes Marian run"!  I hope no one at the school is offended by my saying that, but she really does!  All three of my now grown children graduated from Marian.  During the past (at least) nineteen years, I've been very close to the school in many ways.

I never thought I'd be so involved with a Roman Catholic high school, or that my wife would become a long time employee of the school.  I'm an Assemblies of God minister, and I pastored a small AG church in Framingham for many years.  Much to my parents' dismay, I parted ways with the Catholic Church as a very young man.  I'd become a "born again Christian" as a teenager, and just felt much more at home attending Baptist or Assemblies of God churches.  Mary Ann was raised attending a Baptist church.  Especially as a younger man, I was quick to argue against "praying to Mary" or "Purgatory" or "salvation by keeping the sacraments".  I recall that one September day around thirty years ago, the Assemblies of God had asked its ministers to drive onto their local high school campuses and just spend a few minutes praying for the schools.  I went to a few local high schools.  I still remember feeling kind of foolish praying there in the Marian parking lot!  God must have been laughing, because as I drove away I felt no connection to the place, but He knew what the future held for our family!

During the early 1990s, several teens from our church attended Marian.  At first, I asked their parents, "Don't you have to be Catholic to go to Marian?" I was surprised to learn that was not the case.  I also found that the kids who attended Marian were frankly "a cut above" their peers in every way.  That's the biggest reason we sent our kids to Marian and we weren't sorry we did!  I could get very teary as I talk about the wonderful teachers they had, the friendships they made, and the wonderful activities they enjoyed at the school.  I can't say enough good things about Marian's outstanding Drama and English teacher, Mr. Stephen Flynn.  He's a "class act" and a total professional!  My kids loved the Marian Mainstagers!  Rachel '05 went on to major in Theater at Westfield State and she's come back to help Mr. Flynn with some of the productions.

I was at Marian High School on 9/11/2001.  In those days, because my kids were on financial aid, I volunteered in the Development Office on my day off.  What a day it was!  At that time, Father Sheridan of St. Cecelia's Church in Ashland was the school chaplain.  He came into the school and ran a last period assembly in the auditorium, leading us in prayer and reflection, and bringing comforting words to all.  I was so emotional and upset about 9/11 that I marveled at what a great job he did!  I later told him that and he said, "Well, coming from you I take that as quite a compliment!"  It kind of reminds me of a scene from Robert Duvall's 1997 film, The Apostle.  Robert Duvall's character, a charismatic minister, is traveling in the Louisiana bayou area and sees a Catholic priest blessing a fishing fleet in French.  Duvall's character enthusiastically and happily says, "You do it your way and I do it my way, but we get it done, don't we?  We get it done!"  Yeah, Father Sheridan "got it done" on 9/11 and I will never forget it!

I will also never forget how gracious Religion teacher Colm McGarry (a native of Northern Ireland) was to have me in many times as a guest speaker for his classes.  Sometimes I talked about "The Pentecostal Movement" and sometimes I talked about "The Apostle Paul".  McGarry just couldn't understand why I would have left Catholicism for Protestantism, but he loved me and I loved him.  It was also a pleasure for my daughter Amy and I and a bunch of kids to join Mr. McGarry one evening in serving a meal at Boston's Pine Street Inn.

There's a fairly new documentary called, "Big Sacrifice, Big Dreams" .It's about the important role of faith-based schools in America.  You can find it on Youtube.  If you do and then scroll to around Minute 17, there's roughly a five minute piece about Marian High.  I hope you'll watch it;  it's great!  And, incidentally, a number of famous people attended Marian, including Attorney Jay Carney (Whitey Bulger's lawyer!) and the late teacher/astronaut Christa Corrigan McAuliffe.

At Marian, kids are often told to, "Reach For the Stars"!  That's a direct quote from Christa McAuliffe!  They're also told to live out their faith in practical ways.  I learned last night that the President of this year's Junior Class at Marian, Brendan Seitz has started a "Go Fund Me" page to try to save the school.  You can read about that at:

I know.  A lot of people will roll their eyes.  How likely is it that Brendan Seitz will be successful?  The odds are certainly heavily against him.  But his action touched me very deeply.  I can't imagine taking such a step of faith and leadership as a kid of sixteen or seventeen.  But, Brendan Seitz exemplifies exactly what Marian High School is all about!  He's Reaching For the Stars, and he's practicing his faith in a very practical way!   Godspeed, Brendan Seitz!  Godspeed, Marian High School!