09 February, 2012

Gobsmacked: What a perfect word! It's taken me a lifetime to discover one word that describes the spiritual experience of prayer.

Gobsmacked! 

This singular English word captures perfectly the sense of gratitude and communion that prayer often brings to me. Or, perhaps better put... brings me to.  

A few summers back, a brother priest and cherished friend once snapped a quick picture of me in prayer with his cell phone camera as we enjoyed each others company at my cottage, nestled alongside the majestic Ottawa River. With the grace of years of discipline and experience, I saw in that photo the look of a happy man. When I was young and far less practiced in the regimes of prayer, penance and discipline, I think I would have probably thought the old guy in the picture looked spaced out... or asleep! Today, as I once again sat here in prayer and quiet, the word suddenly came to me which captures the expression on my face in that photo: Gobsmacked.

I’ve written from my personal experiences of pain, shame, and difficulty in the wake of the clergy sex and financial scandals many times, and in in many places, that these wounds have been wrought on the Church by clerical concupiscence. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the current situation of our diminished influence within the larger community. I believe that convicted members of the clergy, irrespective of rank or honor within the communion should be expelled from the clerical state. I deeply regret each time I think it necessary to repeat this position, however the injury is both self-inflicted and necessary to try to win back those who have left the Church as a direct result of their malfeasance and infidelities. 


Mercy and forgiveness are the principle teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Both seem to be missing through the application of such a costly penalty as I propose. It is only through the grace of a rich and bountiful prayer life, nourished often and fruitfully in those sanctuaries of rest, peace and quiet I’ve been fortunate and capable of maintaining that I find the clarity and peace of communing alone with my God and experiencing so fully his blessings.

That is essential for me as a priest who is responsible principally to the demanding needs of a large and rural parish. As pastor, I am called often at a moments notice to put aside any previous plans so as to help, educate, and accompany people at many points in their life’s journey. In Mattawa, which is a elderly community, the watch word given to Funeral Directors, parish groups, and others is that ‘funerals trump everything’. By the time the sun has set on this last night of a rare two days off, I’ve discovered that since my departure from town Sunday night, four more funerals have been scheduled for the end of this week and the start of the next. I marvel deeply into the mystery of God’s providence and kindness. He continually replenishes my spiritual strength with experiences of utter joy, love and communion; moments when I slip the grasp for a few moments of sufficient inner quiet and focused ‘emptiness‘  as final surmount my own agenda, fears and desires and catch again that powerful, all consuming and exaltation of God’s expression of joy.  When I’ve finally surrendered and let him rush in to talk with me believe me, such a moment gives one a profound experience such that they will say they truly know the expression on the Father’s face with the young prodigal child who has finally comes home to spend some ‘quality time together and listen to the old man‘ for a while. 

Aside from a singular occasion where I was able to visit the holy land on a 10 day exposure tour of biblical sites, there is no place were God has so radically touched and changed me as often as when I spend time alone with him in prayer at my cottage. The days spent in silence, time measured not by appointments, funerals, or television shows, but by the number of pages read, words written, and hours wiled away, talking to no one all day but my canine companion, (a Beardie who hails by the name, Mateo) and the God whom I have pledged my life to love, honor, respect, and obey in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  


These long hours of silent communion and the fruits are born of years of practice turning my thoughts to praising God in interior prayer whenever and wherever I notice my mind empty or idol. It provides me with a reservoir that’s always sufficient to sustain me when sustained tranquility is available only late in the day. Then too often silent prayer and meditation is quickly followed within seconds by the loud and regular sounds of me snoring. 

I’m told the sound has convinced some of the grandchildren of a neighboring cottage a little bit further up river, that a bear sleeps in the woods between our two cottages I overhead them tell their Pepère on the dock that they had heard fearsome animal that very afternoon! He told them it was a good thing I've got a trusty dog who keeps us safe by eating lions, tigers and bears and not even leaving the bone! Oh my!

From early days when every visit meant fighting with a finicky jet pump that was temperamental.  Plumbing was an issue.  Often it would take its prime to draw water when it would be time to leave. When I returned, the battle was joined again as another hard battle had to be waged coaxing water up the hill to the cottage. Until that is I gave up and started saving until I could afford a plumber!!


The first item for that got written on to the list of renovations and repairs was written down that first night that I took possession of the cottage. It was accompanied by a night and day of pelting rain, lightning, thunder, and wind ... and an old outhouse too many steps outside. There was no argument that a plumber would be the first of many tradesmen that would help me renovate what was a summer cottage into my sanctuary of peace 12 months of the year.

After almost of 25 years of saving, scraping, hammering, painting, cursing, praying and crying - and with the kindness of many friends and family, and more than a little good fortune along the way, I’ve reached finally done all that was necessary to be prepared materially and spiritually when/if I ever get the joy of drawing my first pension cheque.   

When I finally lay down my fruits of my priestly ministry at the feet of the perfect and eternal priest, I expect to see with that loving and joyous expression radiating from Christ’s face when he comes to greet me. It will be the start of a new, wonderful experience,  that will encompass all and more as I am privileged to experience on my little quiet corner of the Ottawa Valley.

Thank God (literally) and Mateo, for they are always present no matter where I am, to mount a defense when such dangerous creatures like bears or trolls attack. I would lack sufficient grace need to fruitfully sustain both my ministries, real and digital, had I not come to appreciate how both perfect and important it is to find the time and place to get ‘Gobsmacked’ by God as often as possible.


(Personal note to Larry Green... thanks for the inspiration!)

32 comments:

  1. It is too bad this is all written in Fantasy Land! Father, you are a little further away from God since your brain cramps of Sunday and Monday. More Prayer and less public bragging would seem to be more in line for a GOOD Priest.

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  2. Anon: Thank you for pointing that out. I had not realized that I posted my first draft instead of my corrected version. The joy and simplicity of using USB sticks to carry work around from place to place is somewhat undone if one doesn't always choose the right file! You help is appreciated.

    Nice to know there's still nice people around these days after all!

    Fr. Tim

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  3. Thank you for a beautiful post.
    The pay may be bad, but your final dividend will be great! :-)

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  4. Anonymous, it is so sad that your words are filled with such hate and venom. My you are the perfect holy specimen. I am not angry with you, I pity you. But, I will pray for you at mass. Blessings!

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  5. Fr. Tim, don’t be to disappointed in me , I am human too. Sylvia is such a devoted and hard working person to the cause that she is dedicated to and with my very weak heart -of a father - I can not bear to see her and her diligence be treated with the indignity that you two have treated her with at all. I have a very natural compulsive tendency to jump to the defence of any human being who I perceive to be treated unjustly and without dignity. You betrayed her Fr. Tim and you need her forgiveness and I can assure you that although I don’t know her well , I know her well enough to say that she will forgive you in a heartbeat if you ask her to.
    F. Tim I have never attacked you , I have very often attacked your ego and I hope that it was some of the time effectively but it’s never ever my hope or aim to hurt Fr. Tim .
    Like Peter , you want to wash the feet of Jesus with your goods. If you don’t let Jesus wash your feet then you can’t follow Him. You wash mine.

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    Replies
    1. Right on Larry. You have seen into his methods,interests,weaknesses,and lacking as a Priest. The fact he and Ballard actually contrived to do what they did as a tag team, is reprehensible.
      I have viewed late vocations with some wariness, and I have been happy I did so several times.
      The worldliness of these two must cause Jesus some angst.

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    2. Larry: Thank you for your gracious comment. May I do as well. Sylvia had nothing to do with what occurred on Sunday on her blog. To think we were attacking her is believe a false narrative for not once did she post a comment during the spat until she entered to accuse us of attacking prima, jg, et al and threatening to ban us from her site because we dared to say that she was wrong on the facts (as we politely and clearly demonstrated) and on morals.

      As a result at that point, I got into a scrap with her upon which she banned me from her site. She had every right to do so. It was blog. It's no different than asking me to leave her kitchen and I respect her right to do so. I have told her that in private and public statements (public, inasmuch as I posted them on her blog but she deleted each one as moderator).

      As to your belief that were I to ask for forgiveness it would be extended: that's already been proven to be not the case. Without disclosing private details of our email exchange, suffice it to say that you are very much mistaken... if her declaration on her blog that I am permanently banned is to believed.

      Finally, yes you did intend to attack and harm me, although I believe you that it was not entirely something that you could see. If you were concerned about my ego, which btw cannot be separated from 'me'. To think that the appropriate way you can attack my ego is by posting a entirely vile description of my character and not call it an attack... then you are deluded with a hatred that's almost schizophrenic in nature. When you had the opportunity to express yourself to me either in private or here - but chose instead to do so on a the most popular Canadian blog dealing with these scandals so that the maximum number of people would share in your assessment of my severely personal and character deficiencies - and somehow convince yourself that you did not intend me harm is a self deceit beyond my capacity to comprehend. I've never been that blinded with malice and evil intent that I could possibly relate to what you claim were your intentions. That's like saying you can kick me in the groin but that's not attacking my entire body.

      You did not wash my feet in any Petrine fashion. You dumped sewage on top of me, not wash my feet.

      I have not betrayed Sylvia, you, or my principles. Since you obviously still enjoy scriptural meditations, why not spend some time this evening reading Matthew 7:3. You might find some inspiration there.

      Good night.

      Fr. Tim

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    3. Anon: What you state as fact is in fact an error. The only message that passed between the two of us that day and evening was one email sent to me predicting that since we would not shut-up in the face of bullies who were defaming all the priests of the Diocese (to say we are all in a criminal conspiracy designed to endanger children and protect predators is clearly defamatory) that we would probably shortly be banned from the site. I regret he was so prescient. Neither knew the other was monitoring the site everyday and each caught the slander being put forward about +Harris by Sylvia when we confronted prima et al (or as I now think of them, 'Prima & the Donnas') and his vitriolic comments.

      There has not been any coordination between the two of us. Aside from both being priests and graduates of the same class at SPS, we travel in completely different circles. I can count on one hand the number of times we were in each others company outside of for work gatherings since we graduated in 1989. We are brother priests, and I consider Steve to be a friend, but we are far from close buddies who are romping around the internet pummeling fools like you in some coordinated or pre-planned fashion.

      Take this one malicious little assumption out of your comment and your entire argument falls apart into little more than a salad of rotted fruit from a poisoned tree. You should be happy that I even allow such freedom for those of you with such a poisoned eye to comment here rather than trying to come up with new ways to insult either of us. It's a right and generosity that the likes of Sylvia's Site haven't the grace to do. I guess I was just raised with better manners than her. I hold out hope that she might soon do better.

      It's time for you to take up a new hobby before you hurt yourself in these threads. You're certainly poorly equipped to formulate or present an actual argument. All you can muster is invective and insult. Engaging in battle with you is truly a fight with a 'one-armed' man. The only rationale for doing so that I can think of is out of charity for the weak minded and feeble among us by letting them tape their handiwork on the kitchen walls to show off to others.

      Fr. Tim

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  6. Interesting remarks. The indignity with which the two of us treated her - are you kidding me Larry? Two bloggers pour slime on me without provocation, including the accusation that Fr Tim and I had knowledge of other cases in Pembroke and covered them up, and we are somehow the evil ones? Incredible. All along the way, the supposedly devout Catholic lady does not challenge it. However challenge her logic or positions or that of her faithful followers and we are banned immediately. Quite a thing going here.

    By the way, I don't know how one divides up a person in such a neat and tidy way that you do - a person's thoughts, feelings, ego are all part of the person we call Tim or Larry!

    Finally, interesting that when a few people offer constructive thoughts about our participation - including Anne C., Sylvia slams the door shut on the thread! As I said and repeat, she would make a terrific bishop! See a pattern? She does not want to be challenged - that's ego and that's sad!

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  7. Furthermore, I still await clarification about the issue of the lawsuit launched against the Ottawa Sun and Sylvia. As one who has disdain for bishops and their vicar generals who will ignore her pleadings, I would expect that this devout Catholic lady would want to be fully transparent. There are now TWO versions being tossed around: that she and the Ottawa Sun were sued by a now deceased priest of the Diocese of Pembroke - the case was settled out of court ; the priest was given an out of court settlement and the Ottawa Sun paid for not only their own legal costs but those of Sylvia.

    The other narrative, briefly alluded to by Sylvia in a recent article on the net, is that the legal matter was simply dropped!

    Could Sylvia explain? I want to understand. Why would, if it is true, the Ottawa Sun pick up her costs in this matter - who made the overture and why such a very generous gesture on their part? Very SIMPLE questions.

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    Replies
    1. How, in God's Name, do you even imagine you deserve an explanation on this old matter?
      You are really out to lunch on this one.
      By the way, since the word EGO is being thrown around so blandly, have you ever researched what the word means?
      A scholar did spend a lot of time researching it, and the result was that the word EGO, being a Greek word, in old Greek meant I, THE CREATOR .
      Both you and Moyle are sounding like each of you, independent of the other , think you fit that description. Instead, be assured you are each a poor example of a Priest !

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  8. Throw whatever insults around that you may like - juvenile. I ask a simple simple simple question. If a moderator had some relationship with a paper, which I am NOT suggesting she has, it goes to the issue of bias, credibility and agenda. Her banishment of two priests from her blog heightens that concern.

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  9. By the way, there are dozens of definitions of the word ego - cf. Fraud and many others.

    One defines it simply as the 'consciousness of self".

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    Replies
    1. Sorry Steve. Couldn't correct it for you so I had to publish and add this note instead.

      cf. Freud and many others

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    2. Ballard knew what he was typing. Fraud was the correct word.,
      Anyone can choose a definition which best supports his intentions- in this case, one of explaining away PRIDE.

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    3. Anonymous - autocorrect function...........computers...............understand?

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  10. Last by the way - any person concerned about the abuse of children or teens would never say those words, "......on this old matter"! Otherwise a good number of cases against perverted teachers, dentists, priests and boys scout leaders would never see the light of day.

    If Sylvia is going to host a blog, and climb Mt Sinai and shout transparency, openness - no silence, she had better be prepared to live those words too!

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    Replies
    1. Oh ! So now it is the Bully Pulpit is it- from a priest, no less! You really have become quite a piece of your own work.

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    2. Anon: Do you know what a 'bully pulpit' is? Your comment would lead me to believe that you don't. Here's a link so that you can see what you are complaining about:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bully_pulpit

      Fr. Tim

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    3. Mr Moyle, you up anddid it as they say in the TV add. You pierced my heart with your correction, and trying to point out my error. But, I rely on the logic here of you partner in deception , Mr. Ballard. He said there are many Interpretations for words. I will indeed rely on the way Teddy Roosevelt used it. For his purposes ( and he was the first to use the term) he meant he had the sole attention of the audience by the fact he was the President of the USA- and people listened to the President.
      For too many years, that is what many Catholics did- listened to the Priest in the pulpit. and in far too many cases , were being told do as I say, not what I do. OVER AND OUT. 30

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    4. Anon: Seriously... your comment makes no sense. Teddy Roosevelt was the first to use the word ego? I've got trouble believing that. Maybe if you posted coles notes with your comments we could figure out what you are trying to say.

      Neither OVER nor OUT!

      Fr. Tim

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    5. Exception. Mr Moyle you really need to get more rest. I even included the words bully pulpit in theemial, not the word EGO, and your eyes can still not see it. There are good eye doctors in North Bay

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    6. Anon: Actually, I've got an appointment with one in Pembroke. Thanks for your concern for my health. But here is your comment in its entirety. Would be kind enough to point out the sentence where I will find the words 'bully pulpit' because I cannot find it.

      "Mr Moyle, you up anddid it as they say in the TV add. You pierced my heart with your correction, and trying to point out my error. But, I rely on the logic here of you partner in deception , Mr. Ballard. He said there are many Interpretations for words. I will indeed rely on the way Teddy Roosevelt used it. For his purposes ( and he was the first to use the term) he meant he had the sole attention of the audience by the fact he was the President of the USA- and people listened to the President.
      For too many years, that is what many Catholics did- listened to the Priest in the pulpit. and in far too many cases , were being told do as I say, not what I do. OVER AND OUT. 30"


      Fr. Tim

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    7. O'K- I thought I had used the word bully, but in the last sentence I only use the word pulpit. You have a hollow win.

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  11. Oh Sylvia! So nice of you to stop by but please..............some meat on the bone!

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  12. Excellent point Tim! And thank you anonymous for the compliment! It is exactly what I hope to bring forward.

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  13. Tim, Ego is that which we refer to when we say I . It is often referred to as the ‘self ‘ but it is quite common knowledge that in reality it represents only a very part of the ‘ self ‘ and when it becomes inflated is the only obstacle to communion with the ’ true self ’ , with ‘ others’ and with ‘God .’
    Your “ kick in the groin “ analogy is a good one but it need to be tweaked. An inflated ego is more a like a large cyst on the balls than it is like the balls. An inflated cyst on the balls will make you walk funny and an inflated ego will make you talk funny. If nobody has the courage to prick the cyst, eventually you wont walk at all. I no body has the courage to attack your inflated ego , eventually you will become nothing more than the prick you need.
    Humility is about the truth , it has nothing to do with modesty or mock modesty.

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    Replies
    1. Larry: 'Mock modesty'... 'becoming a prick'... 'inflated ego'.

      Evidently you didn't take my advice about meditating on that scripture passage. If you don't like that one, try this one instead: Mt 7:1

      Fr. Tim

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    2. Larry, Stevie Wonderful is having a difficult time with his image. The gleam has disappeared, and the true side is showing.
      Maybe now he will appear as he really is- a disgruntled youth in adult clothing

      Delete
  14. Tim, I think Sylvia did us a great favor. It would appear that many, but not all, are haters on that site. The blog simply provides a soapbox where they can spout some of the most vile, dark and mean spirited stuff one can imagine. Revelling in such mud leads to no where fast. I wouldn't waste your words on such creatures.

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  15. Steven, I have words for you buddy that I wont waste here.

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    Replies
    1. Please don't call me buddy. Actually, it's Father Steve, Father Steven or Father Ballard. Good luck Mr. Green.

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