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Father Dave Answers Questions on Priesthood from ‘Maternity Leave Matt’

While Busted Halo Show producer Krista LePard is out on maternity leave, our temporary producer, “Maternity Leave Matt” has some questions of faith for Father Dave:

Matt asks, “When you became a priest, did you stop being Dave Dwyer and become [solely] Father Dave? Do your friends or family call you Father Dave or are you still Dave to some people?”

Father Dave first answers this question from a broader theological perspective. “The Sacrament of Holy Orders is for a deacon, a priest and a bishop; you'd have Holy Orders for all those three. We believe that, like the Sacrament of Baptism, it does make an indelible change.  So we would call it an ontological, meaning at the very essence of a human person, an ontological change, which cannot be undone or reversed.”

WATCH: Holy Orders in 2 Minutes

In other words, even if someone leaves the priesthood or if a layperson decides to leave the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the Sacrament of Baptism cannot be undone.  Father Dave adds, “The sacraments leave an indelible mark on the souls when we talk about Baptism and when we talk about Holy Orders; it’s an ontological change. So in some ways, yes, I ceased being the prior version of me and I'm now a different me.”

Father Dave is still, however, Dave to good friends and family members.  “In fact, my sister and my mother were really the only people in my adult life who called me David, because that's leftover from back when we were all much younger.”

Matt’s second question is, “What brought you to be a Paulist – and what’s the difference between Paulists, Jesuits, etc.?”

Father Dave responds, “The jargony word we would use in the Catholic Church is called “charism:” Each of the different orders have a slightly different way, mission, approach, origin story, and all that kind of stuff. In the same way that you might say, ‘What's the difference between all the superheroes?’ They all like fight crime and save the world, but they each get a little different origin story and a different uniform, and, you know, that kind of thing.”

RELATED: What Is a Charism? Understanding Our Holy Traditions

Father Dave gives a few examples of some of the different orders but reminds us that these are broad brush strokes.  Franciscans are living out the vow of poverty, Dominicans are the Order of Preachers and tend to be fairly academic and intellectual, and Jesuits usually work in universities and tend to also hold other roles, like professors, physicists, or astronomers, in addition to priesthood.   

The Paulist Fathers are missionaries who take a vow of stability, meaning they're going to stay in one place and stay connected and rooted there. Father Dave was drawn to the Paulists because of their reputation of working in media.  He’d been working in television and radio and wanted to continue doing that when he became a priest. 

Father Dave reiterates, “The charisms are really different ways in which people can serve the Church; different ways in which people can live out their Catholic faith. In the same way that Catholics who have not joined a religious community might prefer parish A over parish B, because parish A has a lot going on with social justice and serving the poor and parish B has a great music ministry and a Latin Mass – there are always going to be different things that are under the big tent of Catholicism that will connect or be more attractive to someone, whether you're talking about just a Catholic in the pews, or someone that's living out there life.”

Siblings of Jesus? Unforgivable Sin? Father Dave Answers Questions From the Gospel of Mark

At the start of a recent homily, Father Dave addresses two things from the Gospel of St. Mark that Catholics and non-Catholics alike often have questions about.  

In the Gospel of St. Mark and in a few other places, we hear about Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Father Dave explains that those who translated Gospel texts from the original languages wanted to keep  faithful to the language. In the culture of Jesus' time, immediate and extended family were considered almost the same, to the degree that they would actually use the same word for “brothers” and “cousins” – two family members that we would have distinct names for in today’s culture.  

RELATED: Learning About Sacrifice, With the Help of St. Mark

The Greek term Adelphos used The by St. Mark in his Gospel is an ambiguous word that could mean either brother or cousin. This passage could actually say that Jesus had blood brothers and sisters, or it could refer to cousins or more distant relatives, common parlance in Near East family descriptions. 

“So we're left with a big shrug, right?” Father Dave says. “Which is why many of our Christian brothers and sisters would adhere to the fact that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth, but not necessarily after that, whereas we, from our sacred Tradition, have always believed and always taught that Mary is blessed Mary ever virgin, and that she did not give birth to any more children. So for us, our faith always comes with a balance of Scripture and Tradition. And tradition isn't simply, well, we've always thought that so I guess it must be right. It is, we believe, Holy Spirit- inspired sacred Tradition, in a similar way, that the Scriptures are inspired.  So for us, if we take those two together, we know that we must be talking about cousins, and not literal brothers and sisters here.”

The second question Father Dave answers comes from the Gospel of St. Mark when Jesus refers to the ‘Unforgivable Sin.’’  He begins with Jesus’ own words, “All sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness.”  

LISTEN: Are Any Sins 'Unforgivable’?

“What does that mean?” Father Dave asks.

Father Dave notes that St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical about the Holy Spirit specifically addresses this concept.

“Scholars and official Church teachings have been unable to really pinpoint exactly what Jesus means by that. St. Pope John Paul II said that it really emanates from God's gift of free will –that God desires that all be saved and offers forgiveness. But he doesn't ever force it down our throats. So in that sense, John Paul II defined this ‘blaspheming the Holy Spirit’ as a complete, utter rejection of God with our own free will. So it's not that God can't, but that God won't force it on us.” 

Father Dave goes on, “So is there an unforgivable sin? Is there some secret list somewhere, like the secret menu at a fast food place? No. There's not something that you can utter by mistake or even intentionally that will cast you away from God if you seek God's forgiveness, which is what we're encouraged to do all the time. There's also not one particular thing you or I could ever do, that God wouldn't forgive if we asked.”

‘Wildcat’ Producer on Flannery O’Connor’s Lasting Influence

Eric Groth, president of ODB Films and executive producer of “Wildcat” stops by the show to talk about the film about the late Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. ODB Films is an award-winning not-for-profit Catholic film company whose mission is to foster an encounter with Christ through artfully made, spiritually rich films.  Their newest movie, “Wildcat” was written and directed by Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke and details O’Connor’s struggle to publish her first novel. 

Flannery O’Connor was a devout Catholic living in the Jim Crow Era south in the 50s and 60s.  When she was 23 years old, she began writing, hoping to leave her home in Georgia and see the world. At age 25, she was diagnosed with Lupus. Over the next 14 years O’Connor wrote “A Prayer Journal,” more than 30 short stories and two novels. 

Eric explains why he believes her writing was so important.  “She was addressing a very contentious, racist south.  As a Catholic, she was really calling out a lot of Protestant brothers and sisters -- she was calling out the church that would be worshiping Jesus on Sunday and wearing the Ku Klux Klan hoods on Monday, and the culture of white supremacy that was masked as Christian ethics.”  

“She wrote a lot about grace and her stories were tough, because we want heroes in stories and in her stories, [we wonder] ‘Who's the protagonist? Who's the antagonist?’” Eric continues. “But she showed how God delivers grace, however God wants to deliver grace, and we as humans often resist grace because it can be painful.”

Father Dave and Eric discuss the origins of this movie and how it began 10 years ago with Ethan’s daughter, Maya Hawke.  “This really started with her,” Eric says. “She was 15 and going to Catholic school in New York and she read Flannery’s “A Prayer Journal” and fell in love with this woman.” Maya would later go on to ask her dad to write and direct a movie about O’Connor that she could star in.  Eric and ODB films were eventually approached for financing and a producing partnership.  Eric tells Father Dave what attracted him to the film: “I love my Catholic Faith. I Love our stories and telling great stories and she [O’Connor] was a bit of a mystery.”

“This film was super special for a lot of reasons,” Eric says. “Flannery was a devout Catholic, so we could bring the beauty of the Catholic faith naturally and organically in telling the story without ever having to force it in any way.”

Unleashing Your Artistic Gift With Clare McCallan

Father Dave welcomes Clare McCallan, founder and creative director of St. Joseph’s Home for Artisans, TV and podcast host, and spoken word poet, to the show to discuss her new book, Courage to Create: Unleashing Your Artistic Gifts for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

In her book, Clare and her artist friends ask the question, “How do you own your identity as an artist for Christ?” Through a series of stories and lessons, they share their wisdom for overcoming obstacles in the creative life to help artists fulfill their callings and serve the Lord.  

Clare begins her discussion with Father Dave by highlighting the final three words in the title of her book: “Truth, Beauty and Goodness.” Clare defines each term by posing a reflection question. “Truth – is something in accordance with reality? Beauty -- does it point to the divine and eternal? And goodness - "does something accomplish its purpose?”  She goes on to say, “Art as just mere self expression is really the lowest kind, but art that meets those metrics of truth, beauty and goodness, are really the only thing worth accepting in and outside of religious spaces.” 

RELATED: How Artwork Opens Me Up to God’s Handiwork

Father Dave invites Clare to share a little bit of her own journey as an artist and asks what ultimately led her to writing this book.  She explains that she went to school at Franciscan University and ended up in Calcutta with the Missionaries of Charity.  While in India, she became very sick.  While she was bedridden, she discovered spoken word poetry and decided that when she returned to the United States, she would move to New York City and give it a shot. “And so I moved to New York,” she says, “I got on the scene, and you’ll find in the book a lot of my stories of starting out as a fledgling artist with no guidance, no roadmap, which is really what this book is intended to be - the roadmap that I needed at 22.”

Father Dave says, “Maybe some of our listeners are thinking, ‘Sounds like a book for artists - I know some artistic people, but that’s not me.” Clare responds, “You're a craftsman made in the image of the creator, and so if you are created in the image of God, you have those creative qualities and talents, and so it's up to you to find it. You don’t need to be fantastic at painting or writing. It's much larger than that.”

Father Dave points out that often in society, artists are not looked upon the same way as a doctor or lawyer, and we often get messages that suggest having a backup career or only pursuing art as a hobby.  “How do you address those that have felt discouraged from using their gifts?” Father Dave asks. 

RELATED: Using Art as a Path to the Holy Spirit

Clare responds, “I think that that's going to be a paradigm shift that we're going to see, especially as Catholics start to mourn a culture that maybe used to serve us in our beliefs, but doesn't anymore. And we can see that we really need to be making active changes in the culture. And those shifts in culture that we want to see are going to come from arts, and so it's very important that we're basically missionaries to truth, beauty and goodness.”

Father Dave asks if every Catholic who is an artist needs to produce exclusively Catholic or ‘Gospel-ly’ looking or sounding art. “No,” Clare says, “I would actually say that in the current climate, it's probably more powerful and effective to create allegories and to dabble in storytelling.  What I tell everybody is if you are regularly receiving the sacraments, it will be infused in your work.”

Sacred Conversations: Dr. Christopher Reed Shares Tips for More Meaningful Communication

Do you remember the last conversation you had that challenged your way of thinking or inspired you to act? A conversation that changed your mind, your heart, or maybe even your life?  To help us have more meaningful conversations more often, Father Dave welcomes Dr. Christopher Reed to the show.  Dr. Reed has a Ph.D.. in human communication and believes that dialogues that transform hearts and strengthen relationships are sacred and he shares a blueprint for having more meaningful interactions in his new book, “Sacred Conversations: How God Wants Us To Communicate.”

Dr. Reed begins by explaining his “Sacred Conversations Model to Father Dave:” The model itself is laid out like an Ikea set of instructions, do step 1 before you do step 2 and the components are invitation, we can open ourselves to those invitations, we can open ourselves to the spirit, invite people into them. Intention, what is the aim of the conversation.  Inquiry, very powerful, Jesus was a master of inquiry.  Illumination and integration. And at the center, the sixth component is love. It all starts with love and compassion for the other person, the face of Christ that we see in them right in front of us. If we start with love, we can't go wrong.”

RELATED: 7 Steps for Navigating Crucial Conversations

Dr. Reed explains that part of the reason he wrote the book is because there are many secular books on having tough conversations, but there haven’t been any simple, accessible, well-researched books on Catholic dialogue and how Christians should engage in dialogue with one another.  He says, “Sacred Conversations” is a “blending of science and Scripture” that can be used for all of life’s moments. 

Father Dave points out that the book is also drawing on the Word of God, sacred traditions and Jesus’ model of living.

Father Dave and Dr. Reed go on to discuss the chapter called “Rules of the Road” which highlights some of the rules of sacred conversations, like having compassion and not forcing a conversation. Father Dave asks about the rule, “follow through on your good intentions.”

LISTEN: Jonathan Merritt on Sacred Language

“Commit to the process,” Dr. Reed responds. “See it through. A sacred conversation is a ‘helping’ conversation; it’s a build-your-brother or- sister-up conversation…and so all other intentions beyond that should be questioned and reflected upon, and then once we commit to that ‘helping’ or ‘seeking’ conversation, follow the process through, see what emerges, ask for guidance (which is another rule).  Then, when we get to that moment of grace, follow it through - what do you want to do with that? What small steps could you take toward a better outcome, a better version of yourself, a better relationship?

Father Dave wraps up by wondering what happens if the other person in the conversation doesn't want to give anything, “Doesn’t it take two to tango?” he asks.

“This is a conversational dance. It's like improvisational jazz,” Dr. Reed explains.  “But we have to learn how to play our scales before we can truly gracefully improvise together. You know, we have to learn the basic steps of a dance before we can, chacha and Samba and move fluently together.”

How Many Times Do We Bless Ourselves During Mass?

Anna-Lissa from Texas calls in to ask Father Dave a question of faith: “There are two specific times in the Mass that we bless ourselves, and that is at the beginning of Mass and then at the end. And so I have heard that those are the only two times we’re to bless ourselves; that we're not to bless ourselves any other time during the Mass. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Father Dave responds.  “Those are the two proper times that we bless ourselves, but I would also say that it is not some great violation to make the sign of the cross at other times.” Father Dave explains that in the 1950s and 1960s, there would have been more times that even the priest who’s leading prayer would have made the sign of the cross.  This practice was revised in the early 1970’s after the Second Vatican Council when the Church took out all those extra blessings and changed it to, a blessing on the way in and make a blessing on the way out. 

RELATED: Learning About Unity Through the Three Cross Prayer

“The rule of thumb,” Father Dave says, “is if we hear the priest sing, ‘In the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ that’s the time we would bless ourselves because we're being led by the priest.”

Father Dave adds that he’s barely old enough to remember that prior to Vatican II, it was very common for the priest giving the homily to make the sign of the cross at the beginning and end of the homily.  “Part of that was the theology that the homily was sort of an interruption of the Mass therefore outside of the Mass; part of it was because the rest of the Mass was in Latin, and oftentimes the homily was in the language of the people . . .Vatican II, sort of corrected that aberrant notion that the homily is not outside of the Mass.  We don't sort of take a commercial break and then come back in.”

LISTEN: Why Are There Multiple Eucharistic Prayers?

Father Dave also mentions there is one version of the Eucharistic Prayer where the priest personally has the option to make the sign of the cross multiple times.  He explains this is an ancient prayer held over from Vatican II.  

Father Dave clarifies that he is talking about the typical Roman Catholic experience . . .”in other Eastern churches within the universal Catholic Church, as well as Orthodox Christians; they make the sign of the cross a lot more times throughout their liturgies.”  Anna-Lissa points out that often she sees people bless themselves after they receive the Eucharist.  “I did that when I was a kid,” Father Dave says, “and honestly, when I receive communion in line, I still revert to being a kid and I do that myself.”

On Intinction: What Are the Rules Around Dipping the Consecrated Host into the Precious Blood?

On Intinction: What Are the Rules Around Dipping the Consecrated Host into the Precious Blood? 

A listener named Alan asks Father Dave if he did something wrong at Mass the other day when he ‘dunked’ the host into the wine. He says, “I don't know why I can't do it. . . I thought when I was getting communion in the 70s and 80s they had these things (Intinction Sets consisting of a plate or bowl with a matching cup) made just for that, so I'm calling you to ask, what's the proper protocol? Are there rules against it?”

Father Dave responds by saying there was a time in the past, as recently as 2010, when the act of dipping the host into the consecrated wine was an accepted practice.  “The term that we use with respect to the Eucharist is called intinction,” Father Dave explains, “which is just a fancy word that means you take the host and dip it in the consecrated wine.” 

Father Dave explains that intinction was broadly used from the time after the Second Vatican Council until recently, when changes were made, but is no longer allowed to be done by the communicant (the person receiving communion). He clarifies that priests, however, are allowed to intinct the host.

Alan explains that he was scolded by the Eucharistic minister at Mass for doing this and told he can’t do it because his hands are dirty and they shouldn’t touch the precious blood.  

Father Dave explains that the Eucharistic minister was correct in telling him he is not allowed to dip the host into the wine, but was wrong in his reasoning. “The danger that the Church would like to avoid is that if you intinct the host into the chalice with the precious blood, there's still a fair likelihood that a drop of the precious blood would hit the floor. That's what we don't want. That's why that's not allowed.”

One other reason Intinction is not allowed, Father Dave continues, “is because many parishes these days are more concerned about somebody just not consuming the host right there after you've received it from the communion minister – because of the possibility of somebody taking it back to their pew or taking it home for sacrilege or whatever . . . I've even seen parishes where next to the communion minister is an usher, making sure somebody consumes right away.”

A Conversation on Choosing Confirmation Names With Meg Hunter-Kilmer

It’s confirmation season, and perhaps you or someone you know are struggling with coming up with a confirmation saint name! So, we asked friend of the show, Catholic speaker and author Meg Hunter- Kilmer to help us out.  Meg was an itinerant missionary for 12 years, currently works in campus ministry at the University of Notre Dame and has written several books about saints, including, “Saints Around the World,” and “Pray For Us: 75 Saints Who Sinned, Suffered and Struggled on Their Way to Holiness.”

Meg begins by explaining what she does when helping kids pick a confirmation name, “I say, okay, tell me what kind of saint you're looking for. What are some of your passions? What are some of your hobbies? Do you have an idea of what kind of career you feel like the Lord might be calling you to? What are your family difficulties, your mental illness you struggle with, or chronic illness that you struggle with or disability? Anything that you're like, you know, what, here's a significant thing about me. And some kids come with a list of things that matter to them, and I can say, well, here's the saint who checks a couple of those boxes.”

WATCH: Sacraments 101: Why We’re Confirmed

Meg recommends doing some research on saints to see if there is a saint that really sticks out to you or has some attributes that you identify with. Meg goes on to say, “But if you've got a saint you just love and there's no good reason, that's a pretty good reason to pick them for your confirmation.”

Father Dave shares his experience of choosing a confirmation name when he was 13 years old., “Meg, I have to tell you, that when I was 13, and had to pick my confirmation name, I did not have the resources at my disposal . . .so here was my whole discernment:  At the time, I wanted to be a doctor and I heard that Thomas Aquinas was a Doctor of the Church, so I picked Thomas Aquinas.”  

RELATED: A Year in the Word: Journaling With the Bible With Meg Hunter-Kilmer

The Busted Halo’s Show’s producer, Krista, and co-host, Brett go on to share their silly reasons for picking their confirmation saint names.  Krista picked St. Angela Merici because she liked the way it sounded in her name. Brett chimes in, “Mine is even dumber and I wish I had the opportunity to go back and change it. . . at the time, people kept asking me what Brett was short for and I would tell them that it was short for Bartholomew, so I just chose St. Bartholomew.”

Meg responds by saying, “Here’s the beautiful thing, you can pick a confirmation name for a real dumb reason and you're still going to end up with someone awesome.” 


Fatherly Advice: Keeping the Faith Through a Loved One's Illness

A listener named Mark asks Father Dave, “How do you keep your faith when a parent’s health gets worse and looks to be permanent?”

Co-Creator of ‘Blue’s Clues’ and ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ Offers Life Lessons for All Ages

Learning lasts beyond our days in school, and Father Dave welcomes Angela Santomero, creator of seven award-winning children’s educational shows, including “Blue’s Clues” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” They discuss her new book for adults is called “Life Clues: Unlocking the Lessons to an Exceptional Life.