Author Archives: sshields

It’s not about comfort

The article Alan posted is racist and Anti-Semitic.  It is hate speech cloaked as religious discussion.  It suggests that white nationalism and anti-semitism is somehow an alternative opinion.

It is not.

Racist, anti-semitic rants posing as alternate Catholic thought, like the one Alan published, are hate speech and those who do not condemn it are complicit. This is not about dialog.

I condemn racism and anti-semitism as being abhorrent to me and to the Church in which I belong. I also call out the contributors to this blog to do the same.

I will continue to keep both of you in my prayers, but you folks own this



Social Media: Part 1

It has been a while since I published on this blog. I stayed away because I strongly objected to some of the content and statements made by my fellow contributors. My disagreement to some of these posts has not changed, but I see the opportunity to examine this tiny internet blog in relation to the greater social media environment.

My utter lack of phycological training is obvious, but my life experience makes me believe that people do and say things that bring them some kind of reward within the society they inhabit. Once they learn the rules, most people quickly figure out how to succeed and make choices to bring them success. The rules drive behavior which also means that dysfunctional rules tend to drive dysfunctional behavior.

The internet is a wealth of information and a very powerful tool, but the society and reward systems that have emerged through social media create a distinct set of problems. People who participate in social media are accepting a set of rules which measure their worth with views, likes and shares. We are led to believe that smart, interesting and creative people get a lot of them and low achievers, not so much.

Once immersed in this manufactured, online, middle school, it doesn’t take long to recognize that attention is lavished along the lines of cuteness, comedy and conflict. The cuteness section is dominated by puppies, kittens and other small animals doing adorable things. The comedy section falls along the lines of visual slapstick while conflict is about choosing sides and dominating the conversation. Being successful in the first two areas of cuteness and comedy require a certain degree of talent and luck, but the area of conflict is universal and much easier to master.

What makes it so easy to dive into conflict on social media is the firewall that allows us a certain amount of anonymity and separation from those we choose to engage with. This separation encourages a level of meanness and vitriol that we would never use in person. In fact, increasing the level of attacks brings a higher likelihood of reward through increased views, and shares. It encourages conflict as entertainment without the hinderance of having to recognize our targets as people. This behavior did not start with the internet, but social media seems to have all the attributes required to rev it up into high gear. We can say almost anything without real, negative consequences and increase the likelihood of our popularity with “like-minded” social media followers. We are rewarded for being assholes.

This brings us to the rise of the social media troll. This is the person who intentionally publishes inflammatory posts and comments with the intent of increasing getting someone to engage with them. These posts are focused on aggravating others and increasing negative responses. This is the point where “likes” are not as valuable as “views”. The troll wants to elicit a response, and it does not matter if the response is positive or negative.  For trolls, getting increased views is their crack cocaine. Over time, they have to come up with more outrageous postings to entice responses from their increasingly immune audience. It’s an addiction.

Since the beginning of social media, hackers, marketing firms and dodgy consulting companies found ways to prey on our gullibility and quest for social media recognition through the collection of more and more of our personal data. Facebook became the star of data appropriation scams through traps like online personality polls, and “like the puppy” trackers. Eventually, our data was used by paid trolls to increase conflict and confusion through fake postings and sites. It turns out we were (and continue to be) an easy mark.

By now any reader has figured out that I am disappointed with the promise of social media, but now that we understand the rules and behaviors they drive, we have an opportunity to make a change.  Part 2 will start to look at how we can do this.

What are we supposed to do?

A reading from Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[d]

This is a wonderful Gospel reading because it provides us with the “Mission” of the Church.

  • What are we supposed to do? “Go therefore and make disciples”
  • Who are we supposed to make disciples? “of all nations”
  • How? “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

It’s a great idea and quite a challenge, since it indicates that we, who have embraced discipleship, are actually being asked to do something to bring others into communion with the Church. The challenge, of course, is that circling the wagons to commiserate with only those who adhere to our personal opinions of Catholicism is rank with passivity, yet forcing others to embrace our brand of Catholicism has not had a remarkable success rate. In spite of the difficulties, we have been asked by Christ to do something, which means there is a way to do it.

  • There is a way to make disciples of all nations.
  • God has a plan
  • We are part of that plan.

I believe there are a few ways to walk this road.

  • First of all, our live’s must attract others to Christ.
  • Second, we must each commit to an active ministry with the goal of bringing others to the Church.
  • Third, and most importantly, we must make the decision to turn our life over to Jesus and let Him lead the way. This is the basis of the prayer “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I put all my trust in You”.  This step is most difficult since it requires us to commit to cooperation with God’s plan, even when it is not what we really want to do (think of the book of Jonah). 

Peace and Blessings!


The Shack – Part 1

My wife wanted to go to this movie, but when I saw the early previews I was not so sure. I finally went with her last week and despite my hesitation, I found it worked in several levels. Certainly, everyone who sees the movie has an opinion. I have seen reviews that are very positive and very negative, but everyone seems to have strong emotions about the story and content.

In my case, I saw the continuing theme of Trinitarian relationship. I am sure theologians could do a much better review of the specifics, but I was happy to actually see a movie that put it out there at all.

I have more to share, but ask my brothers to take some time and see it first. I am sure there will be a lot of discussion at that point.

Rest in God Alone

Apologies to my friends in the blog, but I have been swamped lately. the bottom line is I continue to work on recording the music to the Psalms that I wrote over the past 10 years. Back in January the first nine recordings went to iTunes as an album (Psalms Vol. 1) and now I am working on Vol. 2.

As my brothers both are aware, sometimes we are driven to get something done. In my case, my retirement from active music ministry last year kicked me into putting my focus on recording the Psalms the way I originally intended. I am not making any bold statements on the content, but for some reason, as I worked in ministry, the music came very easy.  I felt it was a gift from God, not as a definitive rendering of the Psalms, but as a personal connection and a lesson that God constantly reaches for us. He does not wait in Church for us to show up; He stands knocking at each or our doors in a way that we recognize. He speaks to us with the voices of those we know and those we interact with only briefly. He speaks to us in the Gospels and He speaks to us in our own hearts.

For some reason, I got this music, and for now, I will do whatever I can to put it out there. This one features my youngest son, Noah on lead vocals.


Psalms Vol. 1 Released!

Allison and I released our new album “Psalms Vol. 1” on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby today. This album is a compilation of music we wrote for the Psalms from the Catholic lectionary over the past ten years with the goal of bringing the Psalms to life for a contemporary audience. Allison and I had a lot of help pulling this together; including:

Noah Shields (piano)
Sarah Shields (vocals on several songs and songwriting partnership on Psalm 118)
Kevin Shields (vocals)
Abby Rusak (vocals on Psalm 41)
Wishing All a Peace Filled New Year!

He who places division

A dear Priest friend of mine once told me that the names for Satan were loosely translated as “one who divides”. I did a quick look online and found this:

“The Hebrew word Satan means “adversary” and its translation into Greek gives the word “Diabolos”, from the root dia-ballo, to divide or separate. The meaning of Devil (>Diabolos) would be “He who places division” and its derived meaning would be “slanderer”.

The question then comes back to what we do and say, especially in a public context, like a blog. When we intentionally say things to divide and separate, it may seem like a great way to capture an audience (and quite effective, if the recent elections are any measure), but, in fact,  it places us in direct opposition to the Church we love.

Although it has always been so, more recently, the rise of social media and advanced marketing practices have raised the processes of division and slander to an art form. Worst of all, it suggests that hatred, division, slander and scapegoating are somehow now ok, especially if we stoke enough righteous indignation. The acceptance of this is dangerous to our world and very dangerous to our faith. 

The message of Christ to Love one another becomes very difficult to comprehend in this environment, but if we claim to love our Church, then we must defend it with the tools that Christ gives us and not the tools of one who divides. If there is a lesson here, it is that the ends do not justify the means. In fact, it is all about the means. Our salvation is through our faith in Jesus Christ brought to life by works that mirror His life and message. 

The willingness to use the tools that were given to us by Christ and reject the tools provided by satan, is a foundation of Faith. This is true most especially in this world where the tools Christ provided appear to be so ineffective. Our great temptation is the notion that the Gospels and the Eucharist are not enough; that somehow we need strength and power to defeat the strong enemies at the door. Be assured this is not the case.