My Brother the Deacon

I’m back from a whirlwind visit to Washington DC. My brother just took final promises and managed to get himself ordained as a deacon. In under a year that turns into a full on Roman Catholic Priest. My dad has already posted an overview of what happened here. You don’t need me rehashing the order of events from first promises through to his first Mass acting as a deacon. So forgive me if I skim those bits.

I never really doubted that Evan would continue down his path. It suits him fairly well, gives him a good and fulfilling life, and most of the other Paulists seem nice enough. I can’t speak for all of them as I haven’t met all of them. Anyways from the time he told me over Christmas break that he was changing his major to Philosophy with a minor in religious studies (to which my response, incidentally, was “Oh great my brother’s going to be a priest”), I figured he was set for life.

CSP_logo[1]That said, sure or not, it seemed like a fun idea to lay a side bet. So about four years ago I made a promise to Evan. If and when he took final promises I would get a tattoo of the (then current) Paulist Fathers logo. Now I fully intended to keep to this promise. But I had briefly forgotten it in the rush of travelling from one coast to another and prepping for a con the next week. So it came as something of a surprise to me when the first thing he said to me after his Final Promises Mass–literally the first thing–was “you owe me a tattoo”. To which I could only respond that he was right.

So I guess I need to find an artist, and scrounge up the money. There is also a small debate as to where to put the tattoo. He requested it be somewhere I could show off by rolling up a sleeve. I’ll figure something out.

Other than that everything was a massive blur of receptions, family, Mass, more Mass, another reception and sneaking off to do homework when I could. I am not as overwhelmed as my parents are. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in but it doesn’t feel like much changed. He made this choice years ago. Yes now there are official titles, duties, responsibilities and abilities to go with it but it’s just another step on the path. He’s still my brother, he’s still brother to all the Paulists and he’s still doing that thing he set out to do back in college. Good for him.

A few small notes about proceedings.

First the Ordination Mass: the one bit he got to control was who in his party would help carry the gifts. Usually the choice is one’s mother but he picked me. Apparently in equal measure because I am his one and only biological brother and because between the lack of a tie, long hair and generally scruffy appearance even in formal attire I helped to embody the Paulist rebellious streak. Works for me.

Secondly, gift giving. He wanted various texts of the forms, prayers, rituals and so on for various sacraments. The parents got him Marriage, his godmother sent Baptism, so it fell to me to provide for funerals. I’m gothic enough to pull it off. When I get back to the coast I will also be sending a small secular gift. After all he may have devoted his life to God but that doesn’t exactly take every second of his time. Oh and the Mission Crucifix he got is awesome. Never seen one with a skull and bones on it before.

–Brother of Evan




How Agnostics Pray

Candle FlameRight, so this isn’t really all that directly linked to my brother’s current work but it seemed the right place to post it.

You’ve heard the saying “There are no atheists in foxholes” right? Well I can’t speak to that specifically but I admit I’ve been doing a bit of praying myself lately. And no that doesn’t mean I have any more faith than the last time I wrote, or that I’ve returned to the fold or joined a new church. I still don’t believe in much of anything, and if something does exist I have no reason to believe inherently that it is the Abrahamic God. So, I don’t know if anyone is there to listen, if someone can listen I don’t know if they are, and if they are I don’t know if they care, and if they care I don’t know if they can do anything. Seems a losing proposition doesn’t it? Yeah it kind of is.

Rationalists would say I’m either trying to shift my problems onto a force beyond my power so I can blame them if things go pear shaped or I am attempting to control the universe in ways that are flatly impossible. And maybe they are right. But right now, right now I’ll take anything I can get.

So how do agnostics pray? In my case with desperation and hope. Without giving out details I find myself in a situation that could end badly and there is nothing I can do to influence the outcome right now. So I have others pray for me, I’m never one to turn my nose up at someone offering aid. And as stress increases I start to pray myself. I don’t know if anyone can hear me and I don’t believe anyone does but I cling to the hope that I’m wrong. That some benevolent figure can pick up what I’m sending out and help out somehow. But I suppose that’s more of a why than a how. The how is more mundane. Lots of pleading silently and hoping against my own mind as I detail my troubles. And in my case lighting candles as a vigil. I’ve always been in favor of enduring actions as an article of ritual, so as I type this there are candles burning in my window, a light to guide someone if they want to find their way back. And on occasion I incorporate saints. They serve as handy symbols of precise desire, like the deities of pre-christian pantheons.

–Evan’s Brother

No, I do not hate your religion.

Good day folks, Sparky here.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. Largely out of being easily distracted by school, work and other such things. But the start of Lent seemed a good time to get back to writing. Today I would like to briefly address my agnosticism.

Weird, right? An agnostic child of two good Catholics, with a brother out learning how to be a priest? Where did things go wrong? What drove me from the faith? I must just be going through a rebellious phase. Or I’m ashamed of something. Those are some of the usual questions and explanations I find. Ex-something or others are common enough here in Utah (usually ex Mormons just by population distribution) that we have all heard it all. Part of this is well meaning concern and some of it is simply folk only understanding (tvtropes link warning) Hollywood Atheism.

Let me answer the questions now so you don’t need to ask the next non-believer you meet. Nothing went wrong. My parents are not perfect but who is, and they did an excellent job of raising me and my brother. It just seems that some of the religious teachings stuck with him more. No one incident drove me from belief and if it did that is no business of yours. I don’t have a grudge against God or the Church. Some do, but as a matter of fact I deeply respect the Catholic Church (and as a side note I think that the current Pope is one of the most awesome humans alive), as well as other faiths. I don’t want to tear down religions, I don’t think they are brainwashing the masses and I don’t think they are part of a conspiracy to control the world. The simple matter of it is that I do not have faith in any higher power. I am not an atheist, I do not inherently refute the existence of such a power, I simply question if one exists and if it does what form does it exist in. This is not an act of rebellion on my part, though there was an element of that in forging my own identity. Nor is it me hiding from God out of shame.

And all this brings me to the title of the post. Just because I lack faith myself does not mean that I defy yours. When someone says they are praying for me it means a lot. I know that they believe in prayer and they have taken the time to include me in that ritual. I don’t hate your religion. In fact I likely admire at least some portions of it. And I don’t take offense to people couching things in terms of faith, addressing or thanking a saint or deity for some act of good fortune or praying for aid during difficult times. If you take nothing else from this post take this. Agnosticism and Atheism simply mean that someone does not believe. No more and no less. Thank you

– Older Brother

The Outside Perspective

Good day all,

This is Sparky, the occasionally referenced elder brother of the Novitiate. My brother leaves town on a largely permanent basis in less than a month so I figured it was high time I put out some words about it.

I think it’s just now hitting me. I mean he and I haven’t spent that much time in each other’s company in years, scheduling trouble and my own reclusive tendencies saw to that. But there is something different in this. I think part of it is geographic. No longer would a trip to see him be just a few hours on the road. But a larger part perhaps is in the nature of his move. Priesthood is a demanding calling, and yes I’m sure he isn’t abandoning his family, and Paulists are rather big on being in the community rather than separated from it, but still. They do refer to it as giving oneself entirely to God. I seem to recall something about a hand on a plowshare,

Now about the title of this post: I am not part of the Church anymore. I often find myself in a position to defend Catholic beliefs and practices but ultimately I struggle with faith on a personal level. I sometimes joke that there was a cosmic mix up and he got all the belief.

So while my parents are watching their younger son go forth in the Service of God I’m watching my brother pursue what he feels is his calling. I’ll not speak a word against it mind you, he does as he feels is right. And there are far far worse things to dedicate one’s life to. But on some level it remains a mystery to me that I can’t quite grasp. Still it is my wish to support him, though probably with less in the way of chaplet crafting.

Another time I shall have to tell the tale of his informing me of his calling, and I’m sure I can come up with a few other posts. But for now I bid you farewell.

–Older Brother