Our Guy

Our Guy

Seeing this pos, I needed to make the following comment:

“Biblical” meaning that we can use this person for our purposes to promote anti-abortion/pro-theocracy agendas, even though there hasn’t been a moment in this person’s life when the Christian message of forgiveness, reconciliation and reform has been an active principal of action. No, this is bullshit in the name of a bankrupt religious agenda. It’s all built on lies and ungodliness.

Source: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2019/04/michele-bachmann-trump-is-most-godly-biblical-president-in-our-lifetime/

Blog Reunification/Relaunch as joebustillos.com

jbb's profile slideshow

Blog Reunification/Relaunch as joebustillos.com

I used to think that it was a problem that I could never narrow down my writing or my blog posts to one subject. I mean, I know that I cringe when the tech podcasters I follow venture into areas outside their expertise. Alas, having experimented with separating my many interests into separate blogs, I find treating these things as separate subjects a bit artificial and sometimes confusing as to which blog I should publish the post under. I am by no means a “know it all,” but it turns out from my training as a journalist I value balanced observation, the power of words and good storytelling; from my years of biblical studies I value academics, philosophy, mythology and universal truths; from my years working as a technician and with technology I appreciate the process of troubleshooting and that it’s not about the shinny toys but the minds and hands behind the toys; from my years as an educator I am amazed at human resilience, the desire to learn and that I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to be a bored student continually getting in trouble; and finally as another human being I look for the connections, compromises and the glimmer of hope that many of us secretly clutch in our hearts as we go through our daily repetitive motions. This blog and these posts are my ongoing notes. Enjoy. Oh, and I also love little robots, photography and making music.

Please click on the links below to explore this multi-subject blog. Then scroll to the very bottom of this page where is says, “Follow Blog via Email,” and click the FOLLOW button to get a notification via email whenever there’s a new post. Finally, feel free to leave a comment or suggestion in the form below.

On Knowing What Other People Are Thinking

2017-07-15_SRT_WH-IMG_1941 by Joe Bustillos

In an exchange that began with a conservative friend fretting over CNN’s obvious obsession with bringing down tRumph he commented, turns out accidentally, that in view of the scandals he’d blame Melania for leaving tRumph. That didn’t make sense so I commented:

You’d blame Melania if she left Trump? That doesn’t seem to make sense. She should “stand by here man” while he has multiple affairs? That doesn’t make sense. And Clinton’s alleged misbehavior doesn’t give a Trump a pass.

Does CNN want to bring down Trump or are they unapologetic about reporting legal actions being conducted in relation to his actions before, during and after the election? Bill Clinton, sad that he didn’t live up to his ideals… again, that doesn’t excuse Trump’s behavior in view of the open investigations and legal situation his administration is currently engaged in.

Where’s the line? Paying off porn-stars to not talk about affairs? Using stolen emails as political canon fodder? Promising to put in Russia-friendly state department personal in favor of “loans” and “business arrangements”? Where’s the line?

My friends response, noting that he meant to say that wouldn’t blame Mrs. tRumph III for leaving …

“Joe, I meant to say that I WOULDN’T BLAME Melania if she did. The only reason HRC “stood by her man” was so that she could stay in power. I am not trying to give Trump a pass, and Clinton’s alleged misbehavior – especially during office – cheapened his presidency. Immorality is immorality. Marriage vows are supposed to mean something. What I find interesting is how HRC sought to destroy each of the women who brought such allegations. Where was her support for the women who had been sexually assaulted by her husband? Too bad there wasn’t a #MeToo movement going on at that time. Rather, the Democrats in power, at the time, stated that “We had to learn to understand why Bill Clinton did what he did, and to “just give him a chance”. No such mercy for Trump.”

Yeah, the only reason I’m bringing up this exchange is the assumption to know what someone is thinking and not attributing the same humanity one would hope to have others attribute to ones own actions. I see this all the time with tech journalists assuming to know why company Z released some product, etc. As frustrating as it can be for these wanna-be super sleuths or arm-chair psychoanalysts, no one who has studied human intentionality would risk to fathom the real thoughts behind the words or actions of others. I would also caution those wanting to make mental/medical diagnosis on tRumpf from afar. These are concerns that will need to be written into law, just like the nepotism laws that followed JFK’s presidency and oversight laws following Nixon’s presidency.

But on the human level, to assume to know that Hillary didn’t divorce Bill because X, Y or Z is pure backyard gossip. You don’t know. And to use the phrase “Marriage vows are supposed to mean something” in defense of a president who has shown a consistent blatant disregard for his marriage vows for all three of his marriages, is pretty much without merit. Regardless of Bill & Hillary’s marriage ills (a marriage, by the way, that is still intact) none of this gives tRumpf and his many wives and many lovers a pass. Period. Frankly, being an imperfect human with my own closet full of character flaws, I’d be moved to understand his failings if he (and Bill, at the time) stood up to his critics and acknowledged his failing and said it was an issue(s) between him and his family and throw off the robe of Christian morals and admit that he is/was only interested in adding the belief that beautiful women found him attractive and he couldn’t and didn’t say “no.” Then we’d have a different discussion.

Right now all we have is backyard gossip, where Melania has wisely stayed silent, Hillary is dragged into it because she’s had the nerve to have a political opinion and act on it for the past 30-years, the current president has no respect for any vows whatsoever, the ruling party continually backs hypocrites and can’t get anything done because of their radical “burn it all down” right flank, and devout Christians have sold their alleged moral high ground for a seat on the supreme court. Don’t tell me that you know what anyone was thinking, because you elected a “soupreme” commander with the attention-span of a gnat.


Daily Random Sh*t: Reckoning & The Bible

Virgin Mary Statues by Sean MacEntee

Daily Random Shit: Reckoning & The Bible

In view of Senate candidate Roy Moore’s defenders & Moore’s apparent defiance & our culture’s history of predatory behavior my thoughts: Hiding behind the Bible is the shameful act of a predator… if this happened, no bible excuse even remotely justifies it… shameful.


Virgin Mary Statues by Sean MacEntdee, https://flic.kr/p/9NBRTb retrieved 2017-11-11, creative common – attribution license

Religion in the Classroom: A Video Reflection (1993)

Religion in the Classroom: A Video Reflection (1993)

In 1993, during my teacher-credential training I produced this video to address the notion of how one might teach religion in the public school classroom. Even in 1993 this was a controversial subject and probably not something one should publish as one was trying to get employment in the school system. This video was also produced without computers, using two video tape players and one recorder and audio mixer to edit and record the video in one take. Sorry about the audio analog hiss. Enjoy.

Written, Produced and Directed by Joe Bustillos
Filmed on Location in Irvine, CA
Audio: The Voice of Enigma by Enigma Mcmxc A.D., 1991
Audio: A Call To Us All by Teri Desario, 1984
Video: Documentary The Glory & The Power: Fundamentalisms Observed by Bill Jersey, PBS/BBC, 1992
Video: Kung Fu TV-Pilot episode, Directed by Jerry Thorpe, 1972
Video: Fall of the Berlin Wall CNN, November 9, 1989
Video: Altered States directed by Ken Russell, Warner Brothers, 1980
Video: Second Baptist Church of Santa Ana, Filmed by Joe Bustillos, December 1993

Video Project BTS Notes & Script (PDF version)

A Personal Reflection on the demands of Religion in the Classroom
by Joe Bustillos

There’s a call to us all to love all humanity
Every race on the face of earth 
come to unity
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
These, the Master’s words, would do us well
But Man’s belief, religious creeds, can make him blind
The narrow way is not a narrow mind.
– Teri DeSario

My fundamentalist father and I had a boisterous discussion the other day about “the state of education.” In the past my father’s general arguments (true to his conservative roots) have centered around a need to return to the basics—reading, writing, arithmetic. He wanted to know how my teacher training was going to address the moral needs and foundations of my students. Ouch, I wasn’t ready for that one (I should have been ready—we’ve been having religious tussles since I was fifteen).

I wanted to say something about the separate roles of public education and religion but I knew that wouldn’t get very far. I mean, the question about moral education has always been a cornerstone to his theory about the decay of the education (which predictably includes the need to bring prayer and Jesus back to the school system). No, this was a very old discussion that I should have seen coming. I could have said something about Irvine School District voting to require graduating high school seniors to take courses in Ethics and Morals but I knew that that wouldn’t begin to address the crux of his concern. The real difficulty with what he wants is that to “teach morality” of the fundamentalist Christian variety in our divergent society is to open a Pandora’s box.

The thing is that I’ve been there before, I understand my father’s concern. He and I may not see eye-to-eye but I understand that “to not teach X” is “to teach Y.” That is, on the surface one can talk about Morals and Culture and Heritage and Religion like they’re all complete separate subjects with no association but that’s a bit like teaching To Kill a Mockingbird without talking about racial prejudice.

Humans are Religious creatures. The Soviets weren’t able to erase it in 70 years. In the West, Television and its attendant shallow pop-culture has defamed it and trivialized it but not eliminated it in 50 years. Those who say that they don’t believe in any religion are in fact practicing the religion of “no-religion.” In the end we believe or choose not to believe, not because of “objective scientific inquiry” but because of gut-level personal faith. We like to think we’re being rational but when push comes to shove the tenor becomes very emotional.

So then, how does one teach Morals or Ethics or Religion? Without being overly didactic, it’s a matter of casting a broad enough definition about what is considered “normal” human behavior and culture. One thing that I learned during my brief stint as an Anthropology major was that the Polytheistic cultures tended to reflect the greater range of human behavior in their gods without downplaying the moral consequences of that behavior. They didn’t suffer from the tyranny of the “One Standard” that on the outset is not a “Human Standard” at all. It will not satisfy the conservative factions,^ but teaching religion, or morals or even cultural diversity is a matter of presenting it as just another part of the “normal” human experience. This is certainly preferable to ignoring it like it was something our ancient ancestors did but that we’ve “grown beyond.”

Religion in the Classroom

Blog Action Day: Inequity and The Opportunity to Learn

dad and mom - post-WWII dreamers

dad and mom – post-WWII dreamers

My mom and dad grew up in the post-World War II boon when they really believed that you could achieve anything that you worked hard at. They grew up in San Gabriel, CA, where the joke was that everyone was related to one another and it was understood which side of the railroad tracks, which ran directly behind my grandparents’ houses, one should stay on. But my dad was a dreamer and moved us away from San Gabriel, and briefly away from Southern California. When we returned to Southern California we ended up in very white Orange County, in a place called Mission Viejo and the year was 1965.

The community may have had a Spanish name, but we were the only Mexican-American family in our neighborhood that I remember. Dad and mom became fast friends with the Olivareses, but they were way on the other side of town. All of the kids I remember growing up with were various shades of white. That said, except for the occasional random name-calling, I don’t remember many cases where I was treated any differently than any other dorky kid. Mom said much later that she thought that my younger brother and next older sister had it more difficult than I did because they were darker than I was. I didn’t see it, but then I was just a kid and all I cared about was football, my G.I. Joe and the Apollo space program.

I grew up believing and then acting on the belief that you can be anything you want to be, if you just work really hard at it. It was a different time and I was able to just be a kid with no concerns about food or whether someone might take our home from us or keep my dad from doing his job. I never worried that someone might say that I couldn’t take any class, sport or school organization that I would want to participate in. I knew that I was lucky to grow up in this place, at this particular time in history, but I never really thought about how life for others wasn’t anything like what I had experienced.

Somehow it was understood that, even though my grandparents only had a grammar school education and my folks got as far as high school graduation, Education was going to be the key to having a better life. It was just a given in my mind that after high school I was going to go to college. It never dawned on me that some people had to choose between making a living or getting an education. And the idea that someone wouldn’t be allowed to continue their education because of their gender, their ethnic heritage or because of which religion they were raised with was even more foreign to me. I knew that school wasn’t some kind of better-job-factory, as much as it enabled one to reach beyond ones upbringing, ones native village and participate in the much larger world. Ones native language, country of origin or what ones father did for a living was immaterial to the task at hand. What was more important was ones willingness and energy to learn and the diversity of experiences one brought to the learning.

So, I’ve never really known inequity in my career or social life because I was one of the lucky ones who had access to Education and I was able to jump in with both feet and have never stopped learning. And now as an educator, going into my 20th year working with students, I see that my job isn’t to be someone’s judge or inquisitor. Life is hard enough and will do that job well enough. I’m the coach meant to push and motivate the students to do more and be more than they ever imagined that they would accomplish. My job is to bring as many along as are willing to do the work and surpass anything that I might have accomplished.

There will always be places in the world where small-minded people will inflict others with their own self-doubt and fear and backwater mythologies. But as my life has enjoyed great freedoms from restriction, so others will overcome and move beyond the inequities that they might have grown up with if they have access to Education and the opportunities presented having endured the process.

In Bad Faith 22: Book Comment: God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

I know, ugh. I just posted the following on GoodReads, which I consider a “comment” and not a “review” because, well that’s in the comment:

So… people have done bad things in the name of religion. If that’s news to you then you live in a very special place. Conversely, if you think that religion is required for people to behave, that says more about your own un-self-actualized existence where doing the right thing requires external motivations. Sad. But to say that the problem is religion elevates how religion influences the daily individual behaviors way too much. The Problem isn’t Religion, any more than Religion is the Answer. The answer is dealing with bad people using this social/cultural thing to their own ends. So… I’m bailing on reading the rest of this book after reading 25% because lining up all the misdeeds of the religious does not represent the behaviors or failings of all religious. Moving on.


amazon link: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

In Bad Faith 19: Jerry DeWitt’s Journey from the Known to the Unknown

2014-05-02 Book covers - 1 Jerry DeWitt - Hope After Faith

I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Jerry DeWitt last Fall, that was at the end of his book tour promoting, Hope After Faith. I felt a tad guilty that I hadn’t read his book at this point but going to the presentation was a good introduction to this former Pentecostal preacher who had chosen to embrace his skepticism. One of the interesting things about the book, that might frustrate some, is that the bulk of the book chronicles DeWitt’s journey from enthusiastic believer through frustrated evangelist and only spends the last couple chapters on his life as a non-believer. So much of the book was about his lifelong efforts to become the evangelist for Christ that he felt he was called to be, that it might be confusing to some, especially given the book’s title. It could be too much church-culture for those looking for some behind-the-scene/dirty-laundry against the church expose. As someone who continues to try to figure out how to integrate my own “church history” to my present journey, I can understand the need DeWitt might have had to spend so much time writing about all the years he spent trying to live up to the calling he felt in his life.

I don’t know that the book would help those without any personal experience growing up religious and then openly choosing another path. And as one who has that experience, there’s part of me that wonders how the story might have been different had DeWitt had more success as an evangelist. I mean, I don’t care who you are, but anyone’s faith would be greatly tested if one set the goal to preach the Word as one highest goal but at the same time couldn’t afford food, housing, decent transportation or adequate healthcare for ones family. And we’re not talking about the extravagance that religious leaders are often accused of committing, but just meeting the basic day-to-day needs.

Anyway, this leads me to believe that however one lands on the God/Atheist question, it’s a completely personal question that no one else can decide for you. Those of us on the outside are entitled to our opinion and may work toward supporting each other’s desire to have good, decent lives, but on a personal level, we can’t tell someone that their experience(s) aren’t real. Like any personal relationship, only those on the inside can really say whether it was a mistake or not. It’s just like when a Christian preacher tells me that I can’t know what love is unless I’m his or her kind of Christian. Ah, no, you aren’t entitled to validate or invalidate my own emotional experiences. Thus, it goes the other way too. Only the person in it can decide what is good for them and what’s not with the understanding that there’s often a pretty big gap between our stated intentions and where we continually find ourselves. Coming down with some declaration trying to invalidate another’s experiences just creates boundaries and doesn’t do anything to help us understand that we’re all humans, just trying to make sense of our existence, wanting to have a better experience from what we knew before. DeWitt’s book very much communicates the struggles of a young man trying to help the world in the only way he knew and where that journey eventually led him.


amazon link: Hope After Faith by Jerry DeWitt

Sister Mary Holywater and Friends [short story]

Intro: The original version of the following short story was written in 1984. I did some re-writing and re-editing before sharing it this week with my short stories group. The theme, if you cannot guess, was Catholic schools. Enjoy.

“Good morning, sister.”

“Have you read today’s lesson?”

“Yes, I have sister.” I had glanced at it five minutes before walking into the room.

“All right then, hand me your book and recite for me the ‘Our Father’.”

“uh… Our Father… who art… in heaven… uh… hollow bee… uh… uh…”

“Thy name.”

“Thy name. uh… uh… Why kingdom come… uh… Why… uh… Why…”

“Not ‘Why kingdom come,’ but ‘Thy kingdom come’!”

“Thy kingdom come… uh… Why what begun… uh… uh…”


“On earth who sits in heaven!” I stared out the window of the school’s classroom to an ugly overcast day. I kept staring out the window, hoping that sister wouldn’t know…

“Young man, are you sure that you read this week’s lesson?” Somehow sisters always seem to know everything.

“Yes, sister,” I said weakly.

“All right then, recite for me the ‘Hail Mary.’” My weak smile broke and my mind went blank.

“Hail Mary.. uh… uh… Hail Mary… uh… uh…”

“Young man, do you or don’t you know the ‘Hail Mary’?!”

“Yes, sister, I do… but right now I don’t.”

“Very well then,” she began to scribble something into my workbook, “when you get home show this to your mother and see to it that you do your homework before you come to class. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sister.” I reluctantly took the workbook and walked out of the classroom like a sentenced criminal. Even though I was only in second grade I knew that some doom was impending, and failing a test with a nun spelled doom as clearly as anything. Forget about what God thinks, my mother was more the one who was going to kill me. When I got outside I looked at the note that sister had written. Darn it, she wrote it in cursive. She knew I can’t read handwriting. Here I am carrying my death sentence and I can’t even read what it says.

When I got home mom automatically took my workbook and read the note. She shook her head and gave me her “you’ll never amount to anything” look and walked to the kitchen to start dinner. This class was supposed to prepare me for my first Holy Communion but all it really seemed to do was cause my mom a lot of heartache. I wasn’t very hungry that night.

The other years that I had been in C.C.D. (the Catholic equivalent to Sunday School) all we had to do was listen to dumb stories about some guy with this boat full of animals that got swallowed by a whale and draw pictures of God. But now we had to learn prayers and ceremonies, and with nuns! (Pity to you parochial school kids! I only had to put with nuns for one year, just one day each week, and that almost killed me). And what was worse was that we also had to go to our first Confession. Why anyone would stick a scared seven year old in a dark box to confess to a stranger things that he wouldn’t share with his best friend was beyond me.

Fortunately, at least this time I knew what to recite… “Bless me Father, for I have sinned, this is my first confession.”


“Oh, these are my sins: I lied to my mom and I lied to my dad. I broke my little brother’s bow and arrow and told my mom that my sister, Tina, did it.”

“Anything else?”

“Nope.” I didn’t tell him about wetting my pants earlier in the week and then throwing my underwear away.

“Well, then…” The man proceeded to rattle off some prayer in some foreign tongue. “Your penance is to say four Our Fathers and six Hail Marys.” Oh God, not more Our Fathers and Hail Marys! I walked out of the dark box, knelt in the empty church, prayed to the invisible God, then went home to tell my little brother about the funny man in the box.

A week later I found myself with a hundred other squirming second graders being herded into a processional line in a back room of the church waiting to begin our first Holy Communion ceremony. The head nun, Sister Mary (why are all nuns named Mary?) addressed us:”Boys and girls, your mothers and fathers are going to be very proud of you when they see you march up to the front of the church, so please stay in line and do not converse with one another. Remember that the little Lord Je…”

“Sister!” A boy ahead of me in line was waving his hand in the air and frantically jumping up and down.

“Sister Teresa, will you please take little William to the restroom?” We all giggled and pointed at the puddle that William was standing in.

“Boys and girls, please remember that the little Lord Jesus is in the church and is waiting for you to receive him in the Host. This reminds me of what Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say to her congregation of nuns when they used to walk through the streets of that God-forsaken city…” She talked so long, I swore we were going to grow out of our brand new suits. “… Now, Father is waiting for us in the front of the church, so let’s walk in. Remember two lines and no talking!”

We all began to file into the church. By this time most of the adults were leaning on their elbows, the weight of their boredom causing them to disfigure their faces, making them look like pudgy little pigs. We sat in the first rows of the church, boys on the right side and girls on the left. After we sat down, Father O’Donnell and his two altar boys paraded around the altar in their robes, kneeling and standing and praying and doing things with their hands. Some of the kids were enthralled to be so close to the front of the church for such a holy event. But after a while my friend, Chuck, and I got bored and began a silent game of “paper-scissors-stone.” When the time finally came to receive communion, having missed our cue to stand up, we were prompted by sister’s loud cough.

Heads bowed, we slowly walked up to the railing at the front of the church and knelt before the altar. Then the priest went down the row, with the altar boys on either side of him while he placed thin white pieces of stiff bread (it looked more like small circle of white construction paper than bread) on our out-stretched tongues, each time repeatedly chanting something that sounded like “Body cry.” When we got back to our pews we had been instructed to kneel and pray with our faces in our hands, thanking God for our teachers and parents. Anyone who dared to look God straight in the face while praying would be struck dead. Luckily, God must not have been looking in my direction when I tried to peek at Him through my fingers.

When Mass ended we filed out amidst flashing cameras and crying mothers. At home there was cake and punch and a gift from my god-parents. I worried a little bit that Jesus might not enjoy the company of the cake and punch in my stomach. He was there first. But it didn’t seem to bother him.

A week later life was back to normal. We found our usual place at church, standing in the back because we were always too late to find a place to sit in the pews. My brother and I played our game “the Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Each of us would stand with our legs together and lean in every direction like a spinning top that was slowing down. The object of the game was to see who could lean the farthest in any direction without falling down. My brother usually lost. That was the extent of my religious life. I guess I was too busy dreaming about becoming an astronaut or some great football player. And no one really seemed to care; that is until I reached the eighth grade.

In the eighth grade we were all poured into one large group where we had “rap” sessions each week. I still have no idea why these were called “rap” sessions. It just seemed like an excuse to let the more extroverted kids (usually the girls who were beginning to fill out their sweaters and the guys who had a real reason to use their fathers’ razors) to voice their confused frustrations. Anyway, to climax these weekly excursions into obscurity, we were given an eighth grade retreat.

The retreat was supposed to prepare us for our Confirmation. They wanted us to become committed Catholic young men and women.

“What we would like for you to do is pair off into groups of two and…” Everybody got out of their seats and started shuffling around in search of a partner. The extroverts in the front, the introverts to the closet, I thought to myself. I ended up with my best friend. “… And please make sure that the person that you’re with isn’t a close friend.” My friend and I looked at each other while everybody else got up and changed partners.

Shaking his hand I said, with what was supposed to be an English accent, “Why, it certainly is a pleasure to meet you, Master Charles. My name is…”

“Please introduce yourself to your partner and then we will give you five minutes to ask your partner these questions: What is your favorite color and why, what is your favorite season and why, and what is your favorite food and why? After you have asked these three questions your partner will have five minutes to ask you the same questions.”

“What’s your favorite color Charles? No, let me guess… pink!” We laughed while everyone else struggled through the questions. What these questions had to do with Confirmation, we didn’t bother considering. Besides, after the first question my friend and I pretty much ignored the rest of the questions and proceeded to play “paper-scissors-stone.” The eighth grade version of the game the loser didn’t get whacked on the wrist, he got slugged on the shoulder. Unfortunately one of Chuck’s more perfectly aimed slugs caused me to fall over and knock some girl in the head (don’t ask me how that happened… I guess she wasn’t paying attention or something). Anyway, Chuck and I were separated. He had to pair up with a teacher and I had to sit with a homely girl who had no partner and who I couldn’t hear because she never looked up and barely spoke in a whisper.

After watching a film and some more ‘rapping” about the masks people wear we listened to sermon number 651 provided that afternoon by Mister Jonathan Conner entitled: Commitment and Hypocrisy. Tall, serious, determined, Mr. Conner, roamed across the front of the room as he began to speak, “Many of you consider yourselves adults. You think that you’re old enough to make your own decisions, to exercise the freedom that everyone’s talking about. You live in a generation that is very quick to point out the hypocrisy of my generation… How we say one thing and do another. Well, many of your points are well taken, I mean, you’re right about the hypocrisy and the phoniness of my generation, in many instances. But so far, all I hear coming from your generation is just a bunch of talk.”

“Okay… here is an opportunity for you to do something about this hypocrisy, the hypocrisy in the church as well as in our community. In two weeks we’re going to be administering the sacrament of Confirmation. Now most of you intend to show up because ‘mommy and daddy’ want you to, and that’s good, you should want to please your folks. But, if that is your only reason for attending, then you’re going to miss a lot of the significance that this sacrament could hold for you.”

“God sent his Holy Spirit into this world so that we as Catholics might be able to live a good life, just as the gospel says: ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, because you love one another.’ And, we, meaning you and I, if we are going to get rid of the hypocrisy in the world, then we’re going to have to start by eliminating the phoniness and hypocrisy in our own lives. To do this we need the Holy Spirit.”

I always thought that Mr. Conner was an okay guy. But I kind of lost interest a couple minutes into his talk and when I left the retreat I could not help but feel as if all that I had received was more empty words.

Two weeks passed. I found myself in church, in the same front rows, with basically the same people surrounding me. There was Father O’Donnell up at the pulpit giving the same long winded indecipherable sermon. We, in the meantime, were trying to decide which girl was the hottest. Later we decided that the girl who slipped on her way down from the altar literally showed the most potential. The sign of the cross, a light tap on the cheek by the bishop, and back to my seat I went, to pray to God with my face in my hands.

When Mass was over there was the same array of camera flashes and the same weeping mothers. And at home more cake and punch and a gift from my god-parents. Only this time I did not worry about whether Jesus or the Holy Spirit enjoyed the company of my cake or punch in my stomach, because if they were there I did not know it.

image: Eileen Fisher, Snapple, nun by Timothy Krause, creative commons – some rights reserved, https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothykrause/5837887406/