Don’t Be a Peacock


Opening, Last week’s prop was a shepherd’s staff. This week it’s a feather, a peacock feather. I’ve always considered a peacock feather to be a proof of the existence of God. Beautiful colors, shapes, shadings . Iridescent. Just glorious beauty contained in a single feather.

More about this later.

I had a brainstorm early this week, a bright idea, and that was to declare this week to be Holy Spirit Technology Week. I’ve texted the Pope so that he can get this on his calendar and announce it in Vatican City

I decided this because we are about to inaugurate our new Parish App. You saw the banner in the hall as you came in, and I’ve written about it in today’s bulletin and I’ve already preached about it at the weekday school masses, and I’m going to a Technology Conference this Wednesday in Lansing to learn more.

I gave the app a trial run this past week to see what it could do. One of the categories was NEWS. What going on in the Universal Church. I tapped the icon and I heard a story about our pope.

The news was that last Sunday, Pope Francis presided over the ordination of nearly twenty men to the priesthood where he warned them against being vain priests, who live for their own pleasure rather than for God’s.

“A priest is ugly who lives for his own pleasure,” he said, adding that such a priest “acts like a peacock.” ( Aha! And now you know what the feather was for.)

He went on to say that priests should nourish God’s people with their homilies, while making sure they are not bored.

Make sure, he said, that your homilies reach the heart of the people, because they come from your hearts.

OK, good advice, and so this is my offering for this week. I hope you don’t get bored.

Today’s homily is about technology.

This past Tuesday I turned on my technology, that is, I turned on the television to see what was happening in the world. It was tuned to EWTN, Mother Angelica’s channel. I finished my viewing the night before by praying the rosary with Mother and the nuns. So when I turned it on again the next morning, there she was again, this time leading another prayer called The Chaplet to St Michael the Archangel.

Well, to be honest with you, I was more interested in news at that point so I excused myself and changed the channel. (I’ve got to admit, I felt a little guilty)

But what a bad news day it was. Earthquakes in Katmandu, a volcano in Chili, tornadoes down south, a young man being tried in Colorado for shooting up a theater, the Supreme Court about the take on the question of gay marriage, the latest from Hillary and Bruce, and of course there was that fourth game of the Stanley Cup.

But the hottest news was, to be sure, the situation in Baltimore.

Whew! What images. Amazing, frightening, disgusting, confusing, and very telling. It was mob rule. Again.

I don’t know about you, but the one image that is burned into my mind was of that mother dressed in bright yellow, who recognized her son in the mob, even though he was wearing a ski mask. She went after him beating him and berating him for his behavior. She was deeply distressed, humiliated.

Initially hailed as a hero. Some said she should be nominated as Mother of the Year, but by the end of the week, seen more in a negative light. A culprit. Go figure.

But again, it was technology, one of those cell phone videos and it got a lot of air play. It went “viral”, that is, it spread around the world by social media, in seconds, for all to see.


A while back I learned a new word. An unusual word. I’d be surprised if many of you were familiar with it. It’s German, and I don’t think it has an English equivalent. The word is “Schadenfreude”. (I actually used my technology to learn how to pronounce it.)

It is translated literally as harm / joy, and it means “the satisfaction one can feel at the misfortune of another.

Now if we were honest, we all have to admit to feeling a little Schadenfreude from time to time. Certainly with regard to our enemies but yes, occasionally even toward those we consider our friends. At the heart of it is pride, or jealousy, self-righteousness, and it’s just part of our fallen human nature. We can’t control what comes to mind or how we feel.

But feeling is not a sin. Action, on the other hand, can be a sin.

Sometimes the feelings that we have inside boil to the surface in action. Like laughter.

Have you ever heard the term schadenfreude laughter? Well, if not, think of the famous villain of the comic books, and the movies, The Joker, in the Batman series.

With his insidious laugh he epitomized the Freude, that is, the joy that, thankfully, only a few feel and then express at the cost of others. These people are either possessed or are diagnosed as narcissists, or sociopaths.

Now lately I think that I’ve been able to hear this laughter coming up from hell. With all of those things that I saw on TV that morning, and certainly for months and years before that, Satan and friends have been having a joyful time watching our hurt.

Imagine them in Baltimore, this past week, or in Ferguson last year, or in Detroit in the summer of 67. Or in Paris during the French Revolution, and many other places before that, where the mob ruled. Yes, it must be great fun for them to manipulate us like that. It must be hilarious for them to get us to cooperate in their great plan to damage and destroy all that is made in the image and likeness of God.

OK, I’ll be first to admit that the issues are complex and that fallen human nature is behind so much of this. There is indeed injustice in the world, with prejudice, racism, nationalism, greed, and hypocrisy,

But there are other factors as well. And being a priest, and not a scientist, or a sociologist, a psychologist or a politician, I see at least part of my task as to remind people of the spiritual dimension. We hear so little of this. Even from the pastors who really sound more like politicians.

So I remind that we have been taught by the bible, that our battle is not just with flesh and blood but with principalities and demons. It’s a spiritual battle out there and we have been told that we have a part to play. We are called upon to do some things for the sake of the cause. The cause of truth, of right, of good, and beauty.

And my role is to be a leader in this battle. I do this in several ways. I’m doing something right now. This homily is something like a pep talk. Generally speaking I fulfill locally the role of our bishop. To teach, govern, and to sanctify. On his behalf, with his mandate, I instruct, encourage, exhort, and sometimes correct and admonish. And I hope I inspire you to positive action in your lives in the world.

I also do this through my bulletin articles. But there are other opportunities.

Take for instance, the Family Holy Hour at three on the 3rd Sunday of the month. It was requested by our American bishops.

I’ve been host to a pornography support group. I know there is a need for it. An opportunity to say no to addiction to images that come to us via technology. To be an overcomer

We have that apologetics Bible study on Thursday mornings where we learn more about the living Word of God.

We have Eucharistic Adoration where we can meet God face-to-face and plead our cause.

I’ve invited the school parents, and grandparents, to join the kids, here, in the church, at the end of the school day, to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

We of course have weekday masses, and we pray the rosary before mass W-F and we will pray the rosary before all masses this month of May.

Sign up for the App and I can remind you with a Push Notification next week.

We have several groups that meet during the week, to pray, to adore, to make reparation for our world.

At the end of all of our masses, we have the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel where we invoke his help in the spiritual battle.

(Do you know the origins of that prayer? It came from Pope Leo XIII back in the late 19th Century. He had a terrifying vision of the century ahead and was so frightened he composed that prayer and ordered all Catholics to pray it at the end of mass. At some point after the reforms of Vatican Council the prayer got shelved. But it’s making a comeback.

This congregation was praying this prayer here at Holy Spirit before I got here. Fr Bill Ashbaugh and I instituted at St Joes in Howell in 2001 when I was new priest. It began the weekend after 9-11. And yet there are some here who walk out early not feeling as if they have a part to play in the spiritual battle. And so I think that there must be some Shadenfreude laughter coming up from the nether world.

I began my homily by saying that on Tuesday morning I turned off Mother Angelica when she was praying the chaplet to St Michael,. When I did that I swore I heard some laughter. “Look, he turned off a prayer to watch the news.”

Well, in the end, after hearing of all of that bad news, I was certainly inspired to do some praying… and after that I did go to my technology to put down some thoughts I might share with you today.

Pope Francis told us priests to share what’s on our hearts, and so I have.


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