Food for Thought

Study Shows Most Terminal Cancer Patients Have Less Time to Live Than They Think

A study published in the American Journal of Oncology (May 23, 2016) and highlighted by Bioedge reports the hardly surprising news that patients come to a clearer understanding about the prognosis of a fatal cancer after honest and effective communication with their doctors. 

Such communication may not be frequent or effective enough, however.  In this study only 5% of the terminally ill patients at the beginning of the study understood the gravity of their diagnosis. This improved over the six week period in which they were given more informed details about their disease and the likely outcome of chemo or other therapies. The authors of the study rightly worry that without such information, a person may not be able to make timely and appropriate plans for medical care especially hospice. 

Patients may not have the information they need for many reasons: they do not ask; family or physicians are reluctant to tell them; many of the clinicians, caregivers, family or patient may harbor unrealistic expectations of the outcome; fractured lines of communication between specialists and primary care physicians; fear of removing all hope from the suffering.

The authors of the study report conflicting evidence in the literature about the effects of accurate prognostic information on patients' peace of mind and equanimity. Some studies have reported the troublesome reactions we fear when we conspire not to tell someone about the dire nature of their diagnosis, while others report no harm to the psychological or spiritual well being of either the patient or those involved in such direct communication.

The study concludes that accurate, ongoing and  recent communication with oncologists and physicians can inform realistic decisions about end of life care in terminal cancer patients.

How does one balance hope and realistic acceptance? It is surely a spiritual discipline we can practice every day of the Christian journey, especially during times like Lent and around the time of mourning the death of a loved one or friend.

How and when to have these discussions needs prayer above all. The Sacrament of the Sick can be an important help to the dying and their loved ones in not only drawing strength from the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but with wisdom, prudence and courage.



Food For Thought: The Triads of Ireland from the 9th Century

Three rude ones of the world: a youngster mocking an old man, a robust person mocking an invalid, a wise man mocking a fool.

Three ruins of a tribe: a lying chief, a false judge, a lustful priest.

Three signs of ill breeding: a long visit, staring, constant questioning.

Three signs of a bad man: bitterness, hatred, cowardice.

Three candles which illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge.


Food For Thought: Archbishop Chaput, A New Catholic School Year Begins

2w48There's a ritual at Holy Cross School by which you can always tell the opening of school approaches: the waxing of the floors. Well, the final coat of wax is drying today, so school must be opening next week, ready or not. We're ready!

Archbishop Chaput's letter to the troubled church in Philadelphia provides us with food for thought this Labor Day weekend.

 ...our [Catholic] schools exist primarily to develop the whole human person with an education shaped by Catholic faith, virtue and moral formation.  The goal of the Church, and by extension, the goal of all Catholic education, is to make disciples.

God renews the world with our actions, not our intentions. What separates real discipleship from surface piety is whether we actually do what we say we believe.

Welcoming Students and Understanding Our Mission, Archbishop Chaput

Read the entire letter here.

Food For Thought: Sing Out and Stick Together

Scar02Ten Voices

 It’s O.K. for the rich and the lucky to keep still;

No one wants to hear about them anyway.

But those in need have to step forward,

Have to say, “I am blind,”

Or, “I’m about to go blind,”

Or, “Nothing is well with me,”

Or “I have a child who is sick,”

Or, “Right there, I am sort of glued together…”


And probably that doesn’t do anything either.

They have to sing. If they didn’t sing

Everyone would walk past, as if they were fences or trees.

That’s where you can hear good singing.

People really are strange,

They prefer to hear castratos in boy choirs.


But God himself comes and stays a long time

When the world of half-people starts to bore him.


Rainer Maria Rilke in

Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Bly, ed and translator.

Catechists Needed for Our Religious Education Program

Communion Bread and Wine with Cross
“My teacher, we made bread together, and I ate it and it was good.”

                Religious education student to his parents, in Craig Dykstra’s, Growing in the Life of Faith


…on Sunday School teachers…

What are they doing these teachers? They come, each with his or own piece of life, in fear and trembling, most of the time feeling as though they've got little to give and almost nothing to say. Probably someone asked them to do it, almost twisted their arms to do it. But the reason many keep on doing it, I think, is that they are compelled to do it, from within, or maybe even by a sometimes painful, sometimes satisfying grace that works through them. They search through curriculum materials for something to teach, and in the how-to manuals for how to teach it. But what they do more importantly is bring themselves to another person, to a group of children they hardly know. And there they make bread together, and eat it and know from time to time that it is good….

Teaching in church school is nine parts getting a weary body out of bed early on Sunday mornings, cutting out construction paper patterns, cleaning hardened glue from tables too low to bend over gracefully, matching the right snow boot with the right foot, and keeping noise levels within moderate bounds. But those nine parts are the things that make the one part possible. And if you, as a teacher, are ever fortunate enough to overhear one of the children in your class say, “My teacher, we made bread together and I ate it and it was good,” you will know what that one part is.

Craig Dysktra, Growing in the Life of Faith

We need dedicated and courageous catechists for our Tuesday evening or Sunday morning sessions of the School of Religious Education. Please consider helping pass on the faith to the next generation in this very important ministy. 

Return Christ's call by calling the Parish Office and volunteering as a catechist, an aide or hall monitor.


Food for Thought: Moral Indifference

The Devil's cleverist wile is to convice us that he does not exist.



…Take for example the popular myth that people get what they deserve….The myth of fairness or justice is reinforced by countless stories of people ascending from rags to riches through virtue, hard work and perseverance. We want the world to be fair, and the myth of fairness perfectly fills our deepest desires….

The myth of just rewards when used a model for interpreting social experience is an exemplary myth of indifference. On the level of seeing, the myth of just rewards simply tells us “how things are.” It tells us that some people are poorer than others and that the distinction between rich and poor is merited and fair. Through the auspices of the myth, we presume the world is fair and that large discrepancies between rich and poor are natural in the same way that the sky is blue. As a consequence, we seldom question or see the contribution of luck, malice, genetics and social structures either to the failures of others or to our own success. Schooled on the old fable of the ant and the grasshopper and its many successors, the myth of fairness and justice encourages and legitimizes social indifference. We see the is-ness of poverty, but we fail to see the discrepancy between things as they are and things as they might or ought to be…

S. Dennis Ford, Sins of Omission: A Primer on Moral Indifference

Food for Thought: Goodbyes

…Just this is the mystery. That all the important moments, and probably the source of all moments, there is something that is illogical, paradoxical, and sort of impossible. Male and female. Good and bad. Loved and hated. Sought and shunned. Alive and dead. A time for loving and a time for hating…

School_father_96052When we said goodbye at the airport – the parents and the children – happiness and sadness were both there and probably some simultaneous. Don’t leave me and good riddance. But because the logic of this world demands that whenever experience offers two sides, only one of them can be good…the other must be named “bad” and removed from awareness.

But every now and then the paradox sparkles from within, and we are mystified and a little frightened and we pause. To live is to arbitrarily choose one, but ever be bothered by the other.

 Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Honey From the Rock.

Food For Thought: My Judgment I Kept Flexible For Too Long

Albrecht Haushofer was a German activist who took a role in the rise of Nazism in Germany, before Hitler had clearly signalled his anti-semitism and willingness to do most anything in its cause. When Hitler's intentions became clear, Haushofer distanced himself from the Nazi party, eventually conferring with those who sought to overthrow Hitler and indirectly with those who attempted to assasinate Hitler (though Haushofer was opposed to assasination attempts since he believed they would be useless.)

He was imprisoned by the Nazis shortly after the failed assasination attempt of Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and eventually executed. He wrote this sonnet called "Guilt" which was found on his body at the time of his execution:

Yet I am guilty otherwise than you think
I should have known my duty earlier
And called evil by its name more sharply
My judgment I kept flexible too long…
In my heart I accuse myself of this:
I deceived my conscience long
I lied to myself and others
Early I knew the whole course of this misery
I warned, but not hard enough or clearly
Today I know of what I am guilty.

Contemporary condemnation of persons or institutions who are deemed "judgmental" often conflates rational discernment with bigotry in a misguided attempt to silence those would dare disagree. Evaluating moral decisions and coming to a conclusion, or judgment is deemed as arbitrary and off bounds as deciding someone's character by the color of their skin.

Albrecht Haushofer learned that sooner or later, sadly later in his case, that being flexible and non-judgmental can also make one complicit in evil.


Food For Thought: C. S. Lewis, Worship and Liturgy

As long as you notice and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becaomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of...our attention would have been on God.


The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremonsiously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual.


C. S. Lewis

A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis

ed. Clyde S. Kilby; Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968

Food for Thought: Edith Stein - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD

514px-DBP_1983_1162_Edith_SteinThis post is late for her feastday, August 9th, but here are the notes I took from a reading of her life by Waltraud Herbstrith.

On encouraging those who care for others despite difficulty:

Whether your contact with people comes through providing medical care, giving financial support or offering legal assistance, the possibility always exists for involving the whole person...This will impose an even greater burden on the capacity to love than a family does. Here, the natural ties are missing, the number of people is much greater, and, for the most part, they are men and women whose situation and current state of mind will tend to make them repulsive instead of attractive.


On the reception of her decision to enter the convent by her family:

Christians themselves often have trouble understanding the value of a contemplative vocation; for the Steins, it was an impossibility. The day came when Frau Stein asked her daughter, "What do you plan on doing with the sisters in Cologne?" When Edith answered, "Join them," peace at home was a thing of the past. Everyone in the family felt crushed by the tragedy. Edith herself clung to her friends to keep from faltering in her decision; her mother, not daring to display her anger openly, wept in desperation; the brothers and sisters did all they could to change their sister's mind. 

"Why did you have to get to know him?" demanded Frau Stein. "He was a good man, I'm not saying anything against him. But why did he have to go and make himself God?"

from Edith Stein: A Biography by Waltraud Herbstrith (see reading list)

Food For Thought: Courage to Get Burnt in the Fire

I was introduced to Brennan Manning (no known relation!) through his book  The Signature of Jesus and learned in catching up on the author that he recently died. His own life was interesting, to say the least, and after learning he left the priesthood, I didn't follow his life's twists and turns. 

However hidden and undramatic your witness may be, I pray that you will be daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, courageous enough to get burnt in the Fire, and real enough to help others see that prose is not poetry, speech is not song, and tangibles, visibles and perishables are not adequate ultimates for beings signed with the blood of the Lamb. (The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning)

New Feature on Diary of A Parish Priest: Food for Thought

  Open_book_2One of the great opportunities seminary afforded me was the time for reflection, prayer and reading. For many years I kept a digest of quotations and excerpts from books which made an impact on me. Since most of them were library books, I typed the sections into my brand new 1993 laptop (!) as a kind of spiritual digest. It was quite an eclectic mix of literature and I can't predict how many blog entries this treasury of collected wisdom will provide. I collected it to help in praying about homilies before the Internet provided such a rich treasure trove of reading material with references to be had at a moment's notice. 

From time to time, I'll reprise a quotation or two. I was fairly good at annotating the source, but sometimes an excerpt from an unknown author just appears on the page. I can probably find the source of those as well using one of the anti plagiarism software programs or just typing some of the text into Google!

Yesterday's quote from Goethe/Hillman was the first example.