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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Stuff a Priest Might Collect?

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Here is a bobble-head Pope Francis (in honor of his visit to the Philippines) on my bookshelf next to the Metaluna Mutant from the 1955 classic science fiction film, THIS ISLAND EARTH. The books they are sitting upon are rather interesting, too… see the titles.

Rest in Peace, Fr. Don Worch

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Rev. Donald P. Worch, 75, a Catholic priest who worked at ten Washington area parishes over the course of his 49 years with the church, died August 27 at University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Beloved brother and spiritual leader of Rudolph Christian Worch (Vivian), Robert Dennis Worch (Mary) and Richard Reynolds Worch (Ann).  Also survived by 8 nieces and nephews and 22 grand nieces and nephews.

Friends may call at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 9200 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac, MD on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 from 3:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. where a Vigil Mass will be held at 7:30 P.M.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on Thursday September 1, 2016 at 10:30 A.M.

Interment will take place at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

We have lost a saintly priest. Earth’s loss is heaven’s gain. Fr. Donald P. Worch died on August 27, 2016. He was 75 years old. Every time I saw him he would ask about my mother “Lena.” He was our Associate Pastor at Mount Calvary in Forestville, MD from 1971-1977. He came back in 1978 to bury my grandmother. She was interred with his Rosary in her hands. He was the first priest I called when Mom died recently. There was no answer and so I left a message. Now we know why we did not see him. He suffered from a bad heart much of his life. When I was a boy all the ladies thought he was quite handsome, yes, literally a “father-what-a-waste.” He was a good and holy man. A true priest of God.

Rest in Peace.

In lieu of flowers contributions may be made in his name to Catholic Charities.  www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/

My Mother is with the Lord

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Sometimes all you can do is cry. I told friends, “Well, at least now I know someone for certain among the saints who will plead to let me in when I come to the gates of heaven.”

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Rest in Peace, Momma.

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Many thanks to the Knights of Columbus Color Corps for lending solemnity to the services.  The family and I appreciate the support of friends and parishioners.  God bless you all.

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Not Quite Alone in the Dark

scare7I will begin with the admonishment, “Beware of what lurks in the shadows!” Properly forewarned, I will tell my story. My brothers and I delighted in scaring one another and/or testing our courage. We would tell scary stories in closets. We would make faces in the dark and then shock one another with a flashlight showing a devilish grin or eyes popping out. I was probably the best with scary faces. Even today, young mothers should probably remember this when babies spy me over their shoulders and start to cry. Did I make a face or am I just naturally scary looking?

My parents had added two bedrooms to our small house. There was an interconnecting hallway room with three doors. There was no light in the small space. When all the doors were closed, it was quite dark. Mike, Danny, Paul and I would play in the room. The hard tiles made marbles exceptionally good fun. We would also play dare games, sitting in the blackened enclosed space, making eerie sounds and telling scary stories, daring each other to be the first to open a door and run for it. I was quite good at this game.

I recall one in particular . . .

“Hey, Joe, come and play!” I heard my baby brother Paul call out.

Okay, I thought, this will be good. He’s the easiest one to scare. I entered the dark space and closed the door behind me. Surrounded by pitch darkness, I sat down on the floor, facing where my brother was obviously sitting.

I started, “Booooo! Muhahaha! I’m coming to get you! Muhahaha!”

“I’m not scared,” Paul cried, “now it’s mine turn.”

“I’m coming to get you!” he parroted in baby fashion.

I interrupted, “Oh come on, try something different.”

“Let me finish!” he complained.

“All right, go ahead, give it your best shot.”

“I will, I really will,” he responded. His voice had taken on a shrill quality. Hum. He was getting better at this. “I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother! I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother.” His speech entered into an up-and-down sing-song kind of pattern. It was really quite unusual. “I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! I’m not your brother!”

He really was getting good at this. The voice he was using was now nothing like it was usually. I tried to interrupt again. “Uh, that’s pretty good, but it’s my try again,” I said.

Nevertheless, he did not quit. It was as if he no longer heard me.

“Stop it, I said, it is my turn,” I argued.

Still he continued in the peculiar rhythmic speech. “I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! I’m coming to get you!”

I could not believe it, I was actually getting scared. He would not stop, that was unlike him. Paul always listened to me. His voice got louder and he began to hold the vowels longer. The words were clear but the inflection was all wrong, as if he did not know how to speak as a human.

“I’m not your brutheeer, Joooooe! I’m a deeemon from hell! I’m going to get you! I’m right next to you! Ready to grab you! Take you with me to hell! I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! A demon from hell! From Hell!”

I yelled at him to stop but he wouldn’t. I had all I could stand. This was a little too scary and on top of that I had to go to the bathroom. I opened the door. Light poured into the small chamber. I stared at my brother, well I would have, except there was one small problem. He was not there. I had been in the dark space alone. I stared in disbelief and ran to the kitchen where mom was cooking. My brother Paul was eating a cookie. He had been there the whole time. I had been by myself or worse, maybe not? I can still hear the shrill sing-song voice after all these forty plus years, “I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell!”

The darkened space was created by the addition of two rooms upon the house. We had neglected to have that section blessed and there were no holy pictures or crosses in the enclosed space. Maybe this oversight was all the thing that I had encountered needed to violate our home. Or, perhaps it was all the overworked imagination of a young boy?

One evening not long after, I recall awakening in the middle of the night and putting my hand out into the hallway beyond my bedroom door. Again, in the darkness there was absolutely no light to see. Everyone was in bed asleep except for me. I dared myself to get over the fear I had experienced in the connecting space to the new rooms. There was nothing in the dark that was not there in the light, right? I had to prove it to myself. I would not be a coward. I stretched out my hand as far as my arm could reach. Just as I was ready to dismiss my earlier experience, something grabbed at my finger tips and I quickly withdrew my hand. I shook with fear in my bed. The grownups were wrong. There was SOMETHING IN THE DARK that was not there in the light!

Humanity has always feared the unknown associated with the darkness. We cling to the light. Many of the dying saints have begged to have a lantern or candle burning by their bedsides so that they might not have to die in the darkness. May we take comfort and courage in the true Light of the World who leads us out of the darkness of sin and death.

Order of the Dead

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It was the mid-1950’s. Despite certain reservations, Joseph entered the Trappist monastery in Berryville, Virginia. He was a simple but devout man. Pressing family needs compelled him to quit school when he was in the fifth grade so that he could go out and work. He had labored hard ever since. Now he was nearing 40 and wanted to give a definite direction to his life. The hard existence of the monks appealed to him. As for the religious element, that was also firmly grounded in his soul. For a time he functioned as a church sacristan and altar server, earning seventeen dollars a week. Okay, he did not make much money, but material things never seemed all that important to him. Among his occupations, he had been a fisherman and crab-man, a construction worker, a surveyor’s aide, you name the grunt work, he had done it. He staunchly believed that faith and work were the two vital estimations that made up a real man.

After a long illness, Joseph A. Jenkins, Sr. passed away on February 24, 2000. The story narrated here was told to his children many times over. The monks took a vow of silence. This was hard but for Joseph there were some definite benefits. His speech always had been impaired by a cleft palate. It took two surgeries to close it and still his words sounded slurred and awkward. The hardest aspect of this new direction was meal time. The monks were vegetarians and had to ask for bread or water or whatever, entirely by improvised sign language. While they ate less than appetizing food, large dogs ate juicy steaks in front of the monks. He began to envy the dogs.

The monks would sing and say their prayers in choir fashion and while processing. Joseph had yet to fully appreciate what it meant to join the “Order of the Dead.” This unofficial title conveyed not only the fact that these hermits from society were dead to the world, but as a Catholic monastic brotherhood, they prayed especially for the souls in purgatory. Two events would forcefully bring this home to Joseph.

After a long hot day working in the fields, Joseph was eager for rest in his cell. He went immediately to sleep but his slumber was not restful. He found himself looking upon a wall of flame and from the fire he began to see many faces. Wearing monkish hoods, their glowing eyes were red with anguish and their faces were all aflame. Piercing cries of agony and pleading reached him. He abruptly awoke. Sweat covered his skin. He was shaking. Each time he tried to close his eyes or even blink, he could still see them there, on fire– crying out– begging him for something.

Fatigued from lack of sleep, he went to see the superior early that morning. “Do you think I’m going crazy?” he asked.

The superior answered with directness, “Joseph, what you saw, we have all seen. They are the souls of your ancestors crying out for prayers so that they might be liberated from the fires of their prison, purgatory. They know that your prayers here can be most beneficial to their release and entry into heaven.”

Joseph accepted the answer readily. The interpretation explained to his satisfaction the meaning of the vision. It was like no dream he had ever experienced. Like the flash of a camera, something of the image remained for a short time after he awoke. He would devote himself more earnestly to his meditation and prayers.

One day while praying alone in the chapel, he heard someone come up next to him and call his name, “Joe.” He looked around and there was his Uncle George.

Not desiring to be rude, he spoke, “Uncle George, it is good to see you, but why are you here?”

The old man answered, “Pray for me, Joe, that is all I ask.”

Motioning for him to be silent and to return to his prayers, Joseph did just that. Many people came to the monastery for retreats and days of recollection, but it was quite a ways for his dear uncle to come, all the way from Southern Maryland. It was nice to see a familiar face. Maybe he could get permission to visit with him later in the day? Yes, that would be nice. Uncle George was a good man but he was a haunted one. Many years earlier his only daughter had gotten involved with a young man who took advantage of her. Uncle George was furious. He went over to the man’s house and shot him dead. Then he called the police and turned himself in. Rumor had it that his wife, a well-to-do woman, paid the judge off so that Uncle George would not go to prison or worse. He ended up spending a year in a mental health institution and then came home. Those had been days when even society at large took the virtue of a young woman very seriously. Many considered Uncle George a hero, that in his place, they would have done similarly. Uncle George, however, regretted his acting in anger. But, he could not turn back the hands of the clock. What was done, was done.

Joseph prayed for his family, saying as requested a special prayer for his uncle. He was just going to see the superior when he himself was summoned.

“Joseph,” said the superior, “I have some bad news for you. A call just came in that your Uncle George died earlier today. Your family wanted you to know so that you could offer special prayers for him.”

Joseph was stunned. If Uncle George was dead, then he had seen his ghost. He explained what had happened to his superior. He nodded in recognition. Had this also happened with the other monks? Joseph would continue to pray for Uncle George.

Eventually, and he attributed the trouble to the dogs eating better than the monks, Joseph discerned that the monastic life was not for him. He left but retold many times over the two interventions of souls for prayer and penance on their behalf. Joseph felt that he had actually assisted in the translation of all his deceased family from purgatory to heaven.

A few years later, Joseph married a young woman and had a family of seven children, the first of whom was placed upon the altar at his baptism by the priest. No doubt responding to a call from heaven, implored by the prayers of this simple man, this son of his would become a priest. I am that priest.

We are bonded with each other in a way that transcends death. Never should we underestimate the power of prayer and sacrifice on the behalf of others. May we never neglect such offerings on the behalf of our beloved dead in purgatory. While their individual salvation is assured, these souls need to be perfected by the fire of God’s love and by the intercession of the saints and the Church.

The Pope Meets Patrick & Philip Jenkins

This is my current screen saver on my computer. It is a video grab photo of my nephews Patrick and Philip (the two African-American boys) having a close encounter with Pope Francis at the US Nunciature.  Both were touched, blessed and one got his head rubbed!  It was carried on ABC News and on C-SPAN. 12034215_10153197439093435_4606405033964439681_o

A Priest’s Personal Blog

Recently a bigot and dissenter argued that priests like me had no right to share our views.  He would silence our voices on blogs, Facebook, twitter… what have you.  The critic sought to use our conservatism and orthodoxy against us.  He argued that unless a priest’s blog was promoted on the diocesan website or endorsed by the bishop, then he had no right to communicate on the Internet.  The only exception he would allow was if the priest denied his priesthood and title.  That, of course, is ridiculous.  That would force us to reject our presbyteral identity.

It is enough to say that this is a PERSONAL Blog that is neither directly associated with nor endorsed by my parish or the Archdiocese. However, it is a fulfillment of a papal command from Pope Benedict XVI to priests on January 24, 2010:

The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different ‘voices’ provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

LINK:  Does a parish priest have time to blog?

LINK:  List of Clergy Blogs

CANON LAW

Can. 831 §1. Except for a just and reasonable cause, the Christian faithful are not to write anything for newspapers, magazines, or periodicals which are accustomed to attack openly the Catholic religion or good morals; clerics and members of religious institutes, however, are to do so only with the permission of the local ordinary.

§2. It is for the conference of bishops to establish norms concerning the requirements for clerics and members of religious institutes to take part on radio or television in dealing with questions of Catholic doctrine or morals.

General guidelines vary from one diocese to the next. For instance, in the Archdiocese of Washington a priest is required to get permission before giving public interviews on television or radio.  The new social media is a separate matter and the Church has opted for freedom so that the voice of the Gospel will be heard and not overwhelmed.  Every priest in good standing is an apostle and evangelizer.  This electronic forum is one of his instruments in the NEW EVANGELIZATION.

Just as parish bulletins with weekly messages are posted online by pastors, many priests blog and use social networking to communicate with family, friends, parishioners and others. There was some speculation a few years ago that new legislation would shut down priest-bloggers, particularly because a few proved an embarrassment. However, Pope Benedict XVI made his statement to ensure the continued clerical (orthodox) voice in the new public forum.

I am proud to say that I was one of the first priests in the nation on the World Wide Web. I established a parish web page in the mid-1990s. While blogging sites did not exist, I ran several informative personal websites (mostly defunct now) and the old message boards. Years later when the Archdiocese decided to ramp up its web presence and to add blogs, a priest friend called me to let me know first. Little did I know that my pattern of blogging, if not my poor or silly messages, would become a model for others. Today I still blog, but not every day. I am also increasing restrained by charity and an abiding respect for others (even when I disagree with them). In a sense I have stepped back for clerics and others who are far better than I am at communicating the things that matter.

Who is my favorite priest blogger in the Archdiocese? I am divided but can list these as the ones I regularly read and have the most intense respect:

Father Scott Hurd

Father Kevin Cusick

Msgr. Charles Pope

Donald Cardinal Wuerl