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Letter to the Bishop
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Letter to the Bishop

Your Excellency:

A few years have passed since we corresponded. After my last letter to you, I’m afraid I took a wrong path, crashed and burned, and now stagger forward, burdened by more ordinary trespasses. But still a believer, grateful,

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Broken Windows

Your Excellency:

My schedule this past summer gave me the opportunity to attend daily Mass.  Nearly every noon found me seated in the pews, garnering the gifts—fewer distractions, the bare-bones order of worship, the solace of quiet prayer—often missing on

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Sacred Language

Your Excellency:

Doubtless you’ve read about the old days when our country was dotted with one-room schoolhouses.  Well, good bishop, I am a one-man school staff: principal, teacher, tutor, and sometime janitor.  My two classrooms—one doubles as a breakroom and

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Grades and Passes

Your Excellency:

This past season of mortification was my most wretched of Lents.  The Ash Wednesday promises made to myself and to God lie behind me like spiritual road kill.  If you were marking me on my Lenten practices, you’d

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The Peter Principle

All across America this Valentine’s Day platoons of men will stand at the counters of flower shops and grocery stores, clutching cards, chocolates, and roses to their chests, tokens of affection for their wives and lady friends (and sometimes, no

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Adventurous

Your Excellency:

October and November in these mountains often seem to me a time of melancholy and bereavement, of Demeter grieving the loss of Persephone, the good earth receding into itself.  In Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe, who grew

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Preparing for Battle

Your Excellency:

May is once again upon us, bringing that mad dash in which you sprint from parish to parish, rubbing oily crosses on the smooth foreheads of gawky teens, confirmandi mentally and spiritually armed to do battle with the

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America’s Coldest Winter

Your Excellency:

To illustrate how Christians must live in both this world and the next, our parish priest recently quoted a Jesuit who once said: “In our right hand we carry the New York Times.  In our left hand

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Election Hangover

Your Excellency,

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for this campaign season to be as dead as Scrooge’s doornail.  For the last month, political commercials have crowded television screens and websites, interrupting even Mayberry reruns and the

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Yang and Soap Suds

Your Excellency:

Right now the weather here is hotter than those vestments Pope Benedict refused to wear for World Youth Day.  By noon the sidewalks wiggle with waves of heat, and the very air leaks terrestrial perspiration.  The afternoons are

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Black Like Me

Your Excellency:

I know May is a monster on your calendar, a whirl of confirmations requiring your presence in the backwater outposts of the Faith.  The physical demands alone—the hours in the car, the parish suppers, the compliments and complaints—must

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Unsettling Accounts

Your Excellency:

One Sunday in September, about 60 adults gathered between Masses in the sanctuary of the basilica to hear a professor from our local university speak on the history of Islam.  This speaker, a pale, young man with close-cropped

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All Saints?

November can be a dreary month in these parts, a season of fierce winds and day-long rains.  Clumps of damp leaves plaster the streets and walkways.  Leafless maples and oaks raise their limbs to gray, lumpy skies like souls in

Abysmal Answers
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Abysmal Answers

Your Excellency:

In June, I began reading The Inferno.  This is my first excursion into Danteland, as I like to call it.  (What do you think, Your Excellency?  Wouldn’t The Divine Comedy make a great theme park?  “Visit Danteland! 

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Guts and the Grace of God

Your Excellency:

It’s the lusty month of May, and you are doubtless zipping from parish to parish, dabbing chrism oil onto the foreheads of gawky teenagers.  (Incidentally, would you ever consider restoring the slap on the cheek that once accompanied

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Waste of Space

Your Excellency:

Is the winter hiatus between Christmastide and Lent regarded by you men of the cloth as a sort of midterm break, a chance to loosen your clericals and put your feet up, so to speak?  If so, I

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A Plea for Clarity

Your Excellency:

I trust you are in robust spirits as you face the rigors of the Christmas season.  Surely, nowhere is there greater evidence that sin is a good wrongly twisted than in the manner in which we Americans celebrate

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The I-Word

Your Excellency:

This past May, I attended commencement ceremonies at Christendom College, where James, the oldest son of my oldest friend, was graduating with a degree in philosophy.  Some of our fellow countrymen would declare such a degree about as

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Seminary Boot Camp

Your Excellency:

Please forgive my extended holographic hiatus.  What with the “priestly scandals,” the “bishop scandals,” the decline and death of one pope and the election of another, I assumed you and your fellow shepherds had your hands full.  Besides,

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The Fornicators’ Mass

Your Excellency:

Recently, I read in our diocesan newspaper of the “gay and lesbian Mass” offered at St. Peter’s Church in Charlotte.  According to the article, this Mass was a means of comforting those who have been ostracized by the

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Liturgical Flora

Your Excellency:

Two months ago, the priest in our parish removed six candles from the back altar of our church—the one that’s still against the wall—and replaced them with potted plants on either side of the tabernacle.  When asked why

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Eucharistic Seconds

Your Excellency:

Recently, having finished my post-Communion prayers at Mass, I was sitting along with everyone else, listening to our priest make a few announcements and deliver his last joke of the day, when I noticed my young neighbor in

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Fax for Pax

Your Excellency:

Recently you offered Mass at our church.  In your homily, which was quite inspirational, you urged parishioners to avail themselves more frequently of the Sacrament of Penance.

Believe it or not, Your Excellency, I try to go to