My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Longing for Traditional Music



Dear Blog Visitors:

I continue to enjoy the welcoming environment at Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester. For example, I can now receive the Eucharist, minus any controversy over whether or not I should be permitted in the Communion line. Because of my ordination as a married priest, there was an ongoing debate in the Rochester Diocese as to whether or not I excommunicated myself via my ordination at the hands of a married archbishop. Not wishing to place Bishop Matthew Clark in an uncomfortable position, I elected to join Spiritus Christi.

I continue to pray that the Vatican will come to a realization that marriage should not be a scandal for a priest, but rather be celebrated as a response to God's will.

As much as I love the inclusivity at Spiritus Christi, there are times I find myself longing for the traditional music of the Roman Catholic Church. As you probably know, I was trained/educated in classical music prior to studying theology. As a student at the Eastman School of Music, in addition to studying conducting, voice, trumpet, piano and violin, I was also drawn to studies that brought me in contact with centuries of church-related music.

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to visit cathedrals, in the hope of experiencing traditional music. I don't mind an occasional folk/contemporary ensemble, as long as the musicians have appropriately rehearsed. However, my worship is always enhanced with the sounds of a good organ, cantor and choir.

When Fr. Frank Lioi was pastor of St. Anne Church in Rochester, he oversaw the construction of a glorious organ, and introduced well-attended concert series. It was a privilege for me to get to know Frank. (His brother, Phil, like myself, is a married priest.) My good friend, Sr. Joan Sobala, is now pastoral administrator at St. Anne, and I hope she will keep the tradition of concerts going at the parish.

I am occasionally criticized by traditionalists at their respective blogs. It is my hope they will at least appreciate the fact that they have a friend in me via my love for traditional church music.

In the picture above, I am seen conducting the Franklin High Concert Band in 1967. I look forward to gathering with my Franklin classmates next weekend, as we commemorate our 60th birthdays. It was at Franklin that my love for classical music found its full fruition.

Peace to all,
Ray

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Celebrity Complex



Dear Blog Visitors:

For the past few weeks, we have been saturated with news about Michael Jackson.  Like many around the world, I mourned his passing and I extend my sympathies to all the family members, friends and fans he left behind.

While I was not a big fan of Michael Jackson, I did in fact recognize the fact that he was a musical genious.  I recall from my days as a part-time disk jockey at a nightclub in the late senveties and early eighties, that patrons would often request tunes by Michael Jackson, and I was more than happy to honor their requests.As controversies surrounding Mr. Jackson continue to infiltrate the news, I hope in the final analysis, he will be remembered for his talent.  Being a genious can often have tragic consequences, and we saw that with Michael.  He was not alone. 

The gift of creativity can be both a blessing and a curse.  As a person who favors classical music, my heroes include persons who were indeed geniouses, but at the same time, had experienced multiple traumas in their personal lives.  For example, when we look at the lives of Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaichovsky, we see musical triumph mixed with emotions of despair and the pressures of society in general.

In a more contemporary mode, I had huge respect for the late Frank Sinatra. Like Michael Jackson, many stories saturated media outlets following his death. I admired Mr. Sinatra for his multiple talents and his charitable generosity. I was personally bothered by all the attention the media paid to a few of his controversial friendships. In the final analysis, I recognized Frank as a genious and I was very honored to have been able to correspond with him on a couple occasions and get personal responses.

The autographed photo above from Frank Sinatra was in response to the tribute I paid to him on a nightly basis when I worked as a part-time disk jockey. I closed each night's music by playing some of his biggest hits. It became a tradition over several years, and Mr. Sinatra kindly thanked me with this photo. (You will need to click onto the photo to get an enlarged image.)

As we remember Michael Jackson, and all the celebrities who preceded him in death, let us try to see the good in their lives, as opposed to focusing on their faults. After all, none of us are perfect.

Peace to all,
Ray

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Radio and Television Interviews



Dear Blog Visitors:

From time to time, I have appeared in television and radio interviews to discuss the corresponding topics of priestly celibacy and married priests. I obviously prefer opportunities that allow me to address these topics thoroughly, such as the utilization of historical, theological, scriptural and practical perspectives. However, as we know all too well, most talk shows are designed today with either quick sound bites or debates that are characterized by one speaker interrupting another, resulting in very little substance getting through before allotted time-slots are complete.

I was recently asked to appear on the Larry King Show to discuss priestly celibacy. However, when I was informed I would be debating Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, I declined. It is not that I am afraid to debate Bill Donohue. However, it has been my experience to witness him behaving in a rude manner, whereby he raises his voice in anger to get his points across and often interrupts the person he is debating. (I much prefer respectful dialogue.)

When I approached EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) a few years ago about the possibility of a debate on priestly celibacy, I was informed that their network will not allow subject matter that challenges current policies of the Roman Catholic Church. I nevertheless thanked them for their consideration. Presently, I hope an alternative to EWTN will eventually surface, whereby Catholic reformers and Catholic traditionalists can come together in such a way that will allow for 'respectful' interchanges on topics of interest to Catholics throughout the world.

Just for fun, I have posted the picture above from 1977. It was a promotional photo for the radio show I was part of on Rochester radio station WAXC. At that time, I provided comedy for the show as 'The Wizard of Pun.' (I am pictured in the far left.) I believe humor is much needed in today's society, for we tend to take ourselves too seriously. So, on occasions when I am invited to discuss serious topics concerning church reform, don't be surprised if I interject a little humor from time to time, simply as a means of reducing tension.

Let us continue to pray for respectful dialogue in the Roman Catholic Church.

Peace to all,
Ray

Celebrating Life as a Married Priest



Dear Blog Visitors:

As Brenda and I prepare to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary on August 6, I want to take this opportunity to extend greetings to the approximately 120,000 married priests throughout the world.

The picture above was taken at my wedding 15 years ago. From the left are Fr. Paul D'Souza (good friend who now lives in India), Sister Joan Sobala (now pastoral administrator at two Rochester parishes), Brenda, myself, and Fr. James Lawlor (now in active retirement). Our wedding took place at St. Mary's Church on
August 6, 1994.

It continues to be my prayer that the Vatican comes to realize that the sacraments of Holy Orders and Marriage are indeed compatible, just as the two sacraments were compatible during the first half of the Roman Catholic Church's history. Since the policy of mandatory celibacy for priests was enforced in 1139, we have been witnesses to numerous problems that are verifiable in the Vatican archives.

Let us pray that all who are called to priesthood are allowed to respond, whether they are single, married, male or female. Mandatory celibacy is currently a failed policy - a policy that begs for alteration by the Pope.

Peace to all,
Ray

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Remembering Fr. Joseph P. Brennan



Dear Blog Visitors:

I returned a few days ago from a CORPUS (national association for an inclusive priesthood) conference in Dallas. Two attendees asked me if I still stay in touch with Fr. Joseph P. Brennan.

For those who don't know, Fr. Brennan died on September 22, 2008, following a lengthy illness. He was a good friend to Brenda and me, and I continue to miss him greatly.

Fr. Joe was rector of St. Bernard's Seminary for several years, and then went on to become head of the University of Rochester's Interfaith Chapel for ten years. He further distinquished himself as a leader and facilitator of Jewish-Christian dialogue in the Rochester area, and he also was an assistant priest for many years at St. Mary's Church in downtown Rochester.

Pictured above is yours truly with Fr. Brennan. It was taken at a dinner following my graduation from St. Bernard's in 2001.

My thanks to Joe Brennan for his sense of humor, compassion and friendship. He was an inspiration to all who knew him.

Praying for Peace in the Middle East



Dear Blog Visitors:

Considering all the tension that has existed in the Middle East for over 5,000 years, I continue to be an optimist and feel that peace is entirely possible.

I will never forget how inspired I was during my trip to Middle Eastern countries a few years ago, which was highlighted by visits to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. While tensions could certainly be felt in the process of crossing borders, I also enjoyed the experience of interacting with persons of varying cultures, whether they were Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian or Egyptian.

I am sharing with you a photo that was taken at the top of Mt. Sinai (a 2-1/2 hour climb). Pictured are yours truly, my wife Brenda, and Fr. Sebastian Falcone (former dean at St. Bernard's seminary, former president of St. Bernard's Institute and professor of biblical studies at St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry).

Let us all pray that true peace can finally be realized in the Middle East.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Year of the Priest



Dear Blog Visitors:

I try to stay away from blogs of critics (mostly persons committed to maintaining a status quo in the Roman Catholic Church). However, if someone should call my attention to particular postings that make false charges against me, I will occasionaly feel obligated to respond.

It seems that a few bloggers feel my becoming a married priest was in response to a personal desire, as opposed to being called forth by a community. I want to assure critics that my priesthood discernment lasted almost twenty years, beginning with my name being submitted to the Rochester Diocese in 1989 as a potential priest by members of the community of St. Mary's Church in downtown Rochester. This was followed by personal interviews, an extensive background analysis, and enrollment in a discernment group for men over the age of 40. This included weekly meetings at Becket Hall (residence for potential seminarians) for almost two years. Others discerning the priesthood at that time were Joe Fenlon, Richard McCrory, Ed Simmons and Dick Thorpe. We were aided in our discernment process by Fr. Tom Valenti, Fr. Peter Deckman and Fr. Tim Brown, in addition to occasional visits by Bishop Matthew Clark.

None of us in the discernment group went on to diocesan priesthood, due primarily to the mandatory celibacy requirement, although some of us did fulfill degree requirements (in my case, an M.A. in Theology and a Master of Divinity). As you know by now, I took an independent route to ordination in 2006, culminating in my becoming a married priest, inclusive of a laying-on-of-hands by several married archbishops and a calling forth by several groups of married priests.

In short, I want to assure critics that I was indeed initially called forth by a community to become a priest. I have responded by becoming a married priest, in the hope that the Vatican will finally come to realize the wisdom of welcoming women priests and married priests to the altar at diocesan parishes throughout the world.

Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2009 to be the 'year of the priest.' This is the perfect time to recognize the fact that a call to priesthood is not limited to celibate males.

The picture above is of the discernment group described in this posting. From left to right in the bottom row are Bishop Matthew Clark, yours truly, Dick Thorpe and Fr. Peter Deckman. From left to right in the top row are Fr. Tim Brown, Richard McCrory, and Joe Fenlon.

Peace to all,
Ray