Sunday, March 14, 2004

Thank God It's Sunday!

Or at least it will be. Next week, 6 priests will be here to hear confessions for my parishioners. Would everyone who reads this blog pray for all those who will come and those who are hesitant to come to confession?

For the loverly dinner before the penance rite, this is what I am planning to serve:
Cream of Red Pepper Soup
Roasted Beet Salad on a Bed of Beet Greens
Some sort of Beef (Roast or Steaks), Pasta with lovely red sauce made by Fr. H (Shush! Ancient Italian Secret), and a vegetable medley

and for dessert...Homemade Blueberry Ice Cream with a cookie

Sounds good doesn't it...
Tanti auguri Santo Padre!
Today, Pope John Paul II becomes the third longest reigning pontiff in Church history. I can still remember his election because my kindergarten teacher, Sr. Mary Samuel, O.P., gathered us before a television to watch the news of the election. Though I can recall the death of Pope John Paul I, for all intents and purposes, Pope John Paul II is the only pope I have ever known. Viva il Papa!
Steps to Authentic Reform: St. Padre Pio

For a Sunday, this hardly seems a cheery thought but it applies to reform. I am amazed at all the crap Padre Pio had to put up with. Not just cluelessness from superiors which often thinly disguised malice, but physical and spiritual ailments. But through it all, that is how he functioned. Because He believed that God would deliver him, any problem and strife was tolerable. It simply had to be offered up.

Step Three: Perservere in the Face of Opposition. Because we believe or know the righteousness of our actions, we find opposition hard to cotton. After all, if I am correct, why don't more folks want to come along for the ride? The problem comes when you figure out what you are trying to change. Change a behavior is one thing, and plenty hard by the way. Change the heart requires repentance and conversion, as the cycle C gospel reminds us, and can't provide that for anyone. That is up to them to come up with. So work like it matters and pray like it's in God's Hands.

Only one caveat. There is a distinction between perserverence and pigheadness. Prudence sides with perserverence but not with pigheadedness.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Like an oasis in the desert
I just discovered some interesting news that a new English translation of the ordinary parts of the Holy Mass may be out as soon as early 2005. It apparently -- and finally! -- translates the response to "The Lord be with you" as "And with your spirit." The Confiteor may once again see "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." And I am sure there is more. Finally! Yes! I hope it is true and that the oasis my eyes are focusing on (at least in English) is not another liturgical mirage!
Yikes! Now, this is a different take on The Passion!
Look at what I stumbled upon today while trying to find the Hebrew for the inscription on Jesus' Cross. (By the way, if anyone can help with what the Hebrew would have been, please e-mail or comment.) Here are some excerpts:

"It is a Catholic movie. It is based on the traditions of Rome, rather than the Bible. It was produced, directed, acted, and endorsed by Catholics. It is a catechism and commercial for Catholicism. Rome’s history of opposition to the Bible and present practices contrary to the Bible make this a grave concern. The movie is based on the Rosary’s five sorrowful mysteries, follows the Stations of the Cross, emphasizes Jesus on a crucifix, includes many Catholic superstitions, and gives Mary a preeminent role....

"Mel used the Mass for inspiration. What is the Mass? It is a staged act where a priest turns a cracker into God and sacrifices Him again, and again, and again. It is called transubstantiation – transforming the substance of a cracker into God. Catholics assassinate their senses to believe the cracker has become God, because it still looks, tastes, smells, feels, and sounds like a cracker! It is the most abominable religious act in the world. Mel and J.C. went to Mass every day during filming to be “squeaky clean”....

"Mel requires the Tridentine Mass. Mr. Gibson is a serious Catholic. He wants Mass in Latin. Think movie! He imported priests to do it the original way. For 1500 years until 1965, Catholics only watched the stage act and admired the pictures at church, for Mass was in Latin. Mel began each day crucifying a cracker Jesus in Latin! What Baptists and Protestants once despised as blasphemy, they now think are Mel’s godly devotions. They now buy popcorn and watch a Catholic movie together … in Latin!

I bet there's plenty more where these came from!
Why not save us all some time?
As I ate a late dinner tonight after Holy Mass, I had the television on (something I largely try to avoid) and something came to me. First, I noticed a commercial for Average Joe: Adam returns. So, let me get this straight, this guy, Adam, loses out on Average Joe and now he gets his own show where the nonsense can start all over again. What a joke these shows are! Immediately following that commercial, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit began.

So, I thought, hey, why not save us all some time and maybe some Hollywood money by combining the always-ridiculous Average Joe-type shows with the ever-subdividing Law & Order shows. It is still in its seminal phases but it could go something like this:

The losers from Average Joe, rather than being voted off, are "disposed" of in various ways. Perhaps they mysteriously disappear. Perhaps they are charged with a crime, arrested, and taken away. Perhaps their bodies are found face down in a vat of pudding. Here the Law & Order folks come in to investigate the crime scene and we follow the legal developments. The method by which an Average Joe loser is disposed, would dictate which Law & Order actors would be present (Criminal Intent, Special Victims Unit, etc.).

What do you think? Have any ideas?
Hey, I have an idea!
Could this lady's community service be completed here?
Steps to Authentic Reform: St. Paul

Frequently in the New Testament, St. Paul and others commend us to imitate their faith and their behavior. For example, in 2nd Thessalonians, you find this: "For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. [2 Th 3:7-9]" Or see this from the Letter to the Hebrews: "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith [Heb 13:7]." One last citation. Look at this from the 3rd Letter of John: "Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does what is good is of God; whoever does what is evil has never seen God[3 John 1:11]."

Living the faith well is not something we have to invent on our own. We can take from a great cloud of witnesses the example of their lives and make application to ours.

Step Two: Befriend a Saint. How does one befriend a saint? Here's how. First, get know some saints. Read their biographies and read and pray some of the prayers they composed. Second, once you find a couple of particular saints, regularly ask for their intercession on certain matters. Third, practice the virtues in the way that they did. Take a direct cue but adapt it for today.

Cancer runs rampant because it convinces other cells to malfunction, or at least, that is the theory. The Church is a Body and each of us a living stone, or said another way, cells within the body. Are you a cell that will be easily swayed to become cancerous? Let the saints fortify you against all destructive forces.

And to get you started, here are two who still influence me greatly: and
And your point is...?
I recently overheard a priest from another diocese responding to a layman's comment about his not being in clerical attire. He raised some apparently historical account of the future Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli) who, at the time he was Apostolic Delegate in Turkey, faced government persecution of the Church. Clergy there at that time, so the account goes, were not permitted to wear religious garb. I guess a priest decked out in mufti apologized to the Apostolic Delegate Roncalli for his not being in clerical attire. Roncalli is said to have responded to the effect: certainly you know, Father, the clothing doesn't make the priest. The priest whose comment I heard then went on to report to the layman that Roncalli even ordered priests in Turkey at the time to offer the Holy Mass in the vernacular. Apparently, there were significant numbers of French priests in Turkey at that time and they had been proclaiming the readings and the homily in French.

First, let me comment on the vernacular before going on. You know, Roncalli's command that priests in TURKEY cease using FRENCH at Holy Mass really doesn't strike me as all that amazing. Of course, the invoking of the name of the future pope and blessed, I guess is supposed to convince us that the use of the vernacular is an 11th Commandment! Is Roncalli's order all that surprising? He was giving a pastoral direction for Turkish people who, I guess, didn't know a lick of French. Duh! And, though I haven't checked (because I really don't care), I'm not sure that Roncalli's directive meant that Latin for the ordinary parts of the Holy Mass was totally abandoned. Rather, his directive could have simply put an end to the proclaiming of the readings and homily in a language that was not that of the local people.

So, I guess this priest thought these historical stories demonstrated something for his local situation and the explanation for his own lack of clerical attire. I almost released a ragemonkey on him! I wanted to approach him and say, "And your point is? Certainly, the clothing doesn't make the person, but, uh, the last time I checked, Father, we live in a land of freedom, it is 2004, and we aren't under any overt government persecution! So, please, walk us back through 1930's Turkey, grab our hands, and help us jump with you across the enormous irrational canyon you just crossed, because I fail to see how your example provides ANY compelling explanation for your frequent inability to wear clerical attire!"

I'm not saying a priest must always and everywhere be in clerical attire. But for the most part, I believe his donning of mufti should not be a regular practice. And, don't even get me started on this priest's wacky liturgics and poor theology.
The Answer is...

No flourishes. Let's get to it.

The Answers for Last Round

A. Marcion: Many people guess Martin Luther but as I had just used him I would hope that most folks would have eliminated him. Also, the move to exclude certain books from the Bible was more about avoiding Catholic doctrine than treating them as though they were unnecessary. Now, Marcion was a different story. Marcion was a first century heretic who rejected the Old Testament wholesale and large swathes of the New Testament with it.

B. Utraquism: I think that is how you spell it. This heresy was and is becoming more popular. This heresy rejects the notion of natural concommitance in reference of the Holy Eucharist. In answering the question of how is the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, the Church teaches, in line with St. Thomas Aquinas, that the whole Christ is present under each of the eucharistic species. How is this possible? Because, if the Holy Eucharist is the real body of Christ, and it is a living sacrifice, then where the Body is, the Blood, Soul, and Divinity must also be present. The same applies to the Precious Blood. An utraquist would say that you imperfectly received communion if you only received under one species. Go back and re-read the original set-up.

Next Round

The rules are the same. I give the set up; you give me the error. Example A. is a particular person / Protestant Reformer / Religious Loony. Example B. is a defined heresy. And now a new feature: PRIZES! This is not a joke. The first person to answer correctly with their choice of one of two books. This week's selection are: A First Glance at Saint Thomas Aquinas: A Handbook for Peeping Thomists by Ralph McInerny or The Men and the Message of the Old Testament by Peter Ellis. Second Place will get the leftovers. The game runs until next Saturday when I will post the winner's name and contact you by email. Then you can send me the address to deliver your most excellent prize.

A. One of the co-owners of the bar comes in and stays to one of the bartenders, "You aren't pouring that beer correctly." To one of the waitresses, he says, "Lower that skirt." She responds, "It's already to my ankles." He says, "Lower it!" When the other owner of the bar comes in, he says, "Why are you doing this?" The first man says, "The Franchise Owner told me too." "Well, he's not here. How do you know?" "I have a very special relationship with the Franchise Owner, and He tells me." "If that is the case", the other owner says, "you can get out!"

B. A man walks into a bar and sits down. The bartender comes over and says, "Hey your father was just in here." The man pulls off a mask and says, "I am my father and I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling bartenders."

Friday, March 12, 2004

One Day More...
Another day, another destiny / this never ending road to Calvary...

The latest round of Name that Heresy will come to a close tomorrow. Scan through the archives and get into the game.

And next round...Prizes!
In response to Frustration
In the comments area, Jim commented on his frustration. I am glad he felt he could voice his sense of distress at the situation. It sounds like for lots of our readers there are a couple of lights in the clerical sky where they live. But I suspect Jim is not alone in this. So I offer this observation. It might not comfort. It might even be a little incendiary. So proceed with fair warning.

In the seminary and in my previous assignments, I would often get down or feel lonely or desperate. I especially felt this way when it seems like no one was on my side or I was in a particular constant screw up mode. Then while I was in seminary, in my personal prayer time before morning prayer, and I don't know what made me say this to myself, but I said, "Shane, you have one friend in the seminary. His name is Jesus Christ. In the final analysis, His is the only friendship that matters, so don't blow it. If Jesus turns some of his friends to you, that's a bonus. But you have one friend in the seminary. He is Jesus Christ."

For those who are frustrated you must fast and pray. By coming to know the only friend you have in that parish or diocese, his name is Jesus Christ, He will direct you to others who are His friends. Or His Priests. Pray that He would send someone who is His friend to be your pastor or your bishop. I know of a place that was mismanaged and mangled by a pastor for more than a decade. One of the parishioners said to me, "We have prayed for all this time for a real priest. Now we have one."
I am putting the letter to HOPE in the post today. Someone email me in two weeks and remind me to check for a response...
Can I borrow your cell phone?

I need it for George Carlin. Now he can call someone who cares?! Oh, for the days of Lenny Bruce, who worked blue, granted, but was oh, original and witty and, well, you get the picture...

George Carlin is foul and frankly, quite anti-Catholic. I don't know about Lenny Bruce. Although to Carlin's credit, his early stuff is very funny and original. Now, he sounds like an old hippie winding down...
Lenten Reflection #6 is up
Steps to Authentic Reform: St. Barnabas
For the next couple of weeks, I will be putting up some ideas I have been having about Reform in the Church. The idea is to give an idea and a way to implement it. The most important part is that they are relatively simple and can be done by anyone. Reform doesn't require a big pointy hat to make happen.

I have always found this comment from the Acts of the Apostles interesting. Acts 4:36 reads, "Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated "son of encouragement"), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth." Barnabas is not the man's given name, it's a nickname that describes the character of his apostolate. Therefore, it seems that encouragement is a necessary assistance to those who have apostolic ministry.

So, Step One: Encourage a good priest. As pastor, I have come across this strange paradox. Your enemies are the most outspoken. The people who support you never or rarely open their mouths. In situations where a new pastor is trying to clean up old messes, he needs all the support he can get. Today, or at least on Sunday, encourage the orthodox, excellent priests of your parish universe.

How? Compliment them on the things that they are doing that promote the Gospel and especially the Gospel of Life. If they are good homilists, compliment that. Or good counselors. Or what ever. It could be a note or a dozen cookies, although I would deliver cookies after Lent. Give the compliment now. But whatever it is, be specific. Generic comments are not as helpful.

Why? Priests are like the front line soldiers and nothing is more disheartening than run out into the battlefield of the world only to find yourself alone. Make your presence seen in the army of the Lord. I can guarantee that knowing that the people support him, this will embolden him to go for more.
Faithful in Small Matters = Faithful in Large Matters?

For those who wonder about reform in the Church and who long for it, I have got a counter culture claim to make. If you are looking at big changes and saying, "Wow, that's a good sign," forget it. Big Changes are usually cosmetic. If you are looking for reform, look for small changes. More on this when I respond to Fr. H's earlier and excellent post.

I have finally found the source of the Red Sox Curse. They eat meat on Good Friday, or at least, they encourage it. Here's the relevant link My reason for bringing this to your attention though is different. I say, "Way to Go, Boston Archdiocese." After all, Good Friday should be a day of particularly acute penance. What are people thinking? "We'll go to the 3 o'clock service and then catch the game. A beer will really help wash down that piece of bread. Too bad they didn't serve wine today. [I know that it is no longer bread or wine. Don't send me comments.] Oh, and by the way, thanks Jesus for saving me FROM NOTHING!"

But this is why I think real reform might be on the way. If people pay attention to the details of the faith, there is a reasonable assumption that the major issues of the faith will be taken seriously. Just call me a starry eyed optimist.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm at a total loss
I really don't think I am terribly naive or ridiculously optimistic, but certain things simply are not conceivable on the radar of my world vision. Fr. Tharp can tell you how very often we have a conversation in which I express surprise, outrage, disbelief at something (not necessarily always church related). Usually, after I spit out whatever I find shocking, once I get the issue out on the table, he usually says something like, "And you find that surprising?" And then I know it is another one of those conversations where I must appear really naive.

Before I reveal the latest thing to bring out my surprise, allow me to direct words to any reader who may be a current parishioner: understand my words are motivated from a shepherd's heart who really fears for his people, especially for the younger generation. I do not intend this post to be a blanket condemnation of any parent or religious education teacher here. Sadly, I guess I am realizing, this is probably not a unique situation. Okay, on to the meat...[Dope! It's Lent].

Last evening I led our 7th and 8th grade youth group through the Stations of the Cross. They have two very dedicated teachers. It always impresses me when RE teachers ask a priest to spend time with their classes and suggest pious prayers and devotions. So I happily gathered in the church with the kids. I had prepared a brief statement about the devotion of the Stations, explaining a bit of its history and the notion of a spiritual pilgrimage. I gave a general run down of what we do at each station and practiced with them singing the Stabat Mater (in English). Now, I recognized a good portion of these kids (sadly, I can't say that of them all) as ones who attend Mass. Of the group, only three had ever been exposed to the Stations before. That is sad enough. It got worse.

As we began with the first station, I discovered many of these kids didn't know what the direction "genuflect" meant in the Station booklet. They had no idea what the word meant! It is something we learn from a very early age, something we do each and every time we enter and leave church, and yet they had no idea what the word meant? How is this possible? If these were small tikes, I could understand. These were 7th and 8th graders. It is simply unthinkable to me that one could grow up Catholic, be raised Catholic, and not know the word "genuflect" and the accompanying action it calls for. I was utterly astounded.

It made me re-think not just everything I had said to them that evening, but almost the entirety of my share in Christ's teaching office. I mean I had just spoken briefly about spiritual pilgrimage and Franciscans developing traditions and these kids don't even know what a genuflection is. What incomprehensible niceties the people must be hearing when I homilize (no jokes, please!) because I assumed we at least had genuflection down. How much lower can I set the bar? Can it even be truthfully said, in any sense, that these kids are being raised "Catholic"? And please don't think I am pointing fingers at parents who do all they can, only to have children leave the faith, but if I were a Catholic parent and my teenage child didn't know what a genuflection was...I would be worried for my salvation. I certainly knew we had lost generations to extremely poor catechesis, but I thought we at least had the genuflection down.
What a thought!
Just when I thought that God would simply permit California to fall off into the sea, there appears to be some semblance of rationality and order in that part of the country. Here's the headline.

I recognize it is a small win. But a necessary change of direction needed to stem the flow of those who assumed it was a done deal.

But here's a question for the con lawyers out there. By adapting the definition of marriage and placing the civil expression of marriage in direct contravention of religious definition of marriage, doesn't this violate both the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment? I mean, I am not a lawyer, but I could play one on T.V. You can see, the big beard, the Armani suit. Have your people call my people.
Miss Me?
Sorry to be away for the last couple o' days. Had my priest support group and then preached a penance rite in Duncan, OK. Best part of Duncan was reconciling a person to the Church who had been away for 60 YEARS! Man, Grace is Awesome!

Back on the letter to HOPE, thanks for all the positive feedback. Yes, these people are sneaky and really need a good solid shake. Some of you wondered what "perichoretic" meant. Perichoresis is the technical theological term in Greek for the interpentration and circumincession of the persons of the Holy Trinity. It is meant to describe the complete gift of self and return of that gift within the Godhead. Someone told me once that it derives from a type of Greek circle dance where the dancers move in and out of the ring, hence the connection to the Trinity. However, my systematics prof at St. Charles in Philly dismissed this.
Link update
I just noticed that Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S., has moved his blog, The New Gasparian, over to St. Blog's. Our link has been updated; yours should be too. His old address on blogspot will remain as an archive of material up to this date.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

And while I'm at it [Part III]

Shouldn't the animals at least go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion? Look at the sin we find in the animal kingdom. The drug abuse alone among roving bands of adolescent animals is truly disturbing. What else could they be getting into that might separate them from the Sacraments?
And for the record [Part II]
I am anticipating the response to my post directly below and taking a preemptive strike. For the record, I am an animal lover. I have no problem with pet blessings (outside, not in church) on the Feast of St. Francis. I took Francis of Assisi as my Confirmation name. I have a picture of my late dog with Santa -- one framed and one in my wallet. I cried when my beloved dog died (which I don't expect to see in heaven). So, please don't paint me a cold-hearted animal hater. But a clear line needs to be drawn between valuing a pet according to its place in the hierarchy of being and craziness that extends to pets rational capacities and even excessive medical care that we don't manage to give to certain impoverished persons in society!
At what age should pets receive Holy Communion? [Part I]
Thanks to Fr. Sibley's blog for alerting me to this. This is so crazy! Talk about the wrong focus for worship. Uh, hello, worship is, first and foremost, directed toward GOD!!! GOD!!! NOT DOG!!! Nor any other creature, whether angelic, human, animal, vegetable, mineral, etc. AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

The article seems to suggest both that pets are given "Holy Communion" and that they are blessed in the distribution line. Lord, I hope it is, at most, the latter! Of course, since the places that do these pet services probably don't have a Holy Communion that is Christ's true Body and Blood, I suppose I should tone down the raging. NOT!!!

I knew the article would be chuck full of poor theology and utter stupidity. And I found it in some unexpected places. Here are some examples:

"For devout pet lover Kathleen Eickwort, of Ocala, Fla., these developments are welcome. When her dog, Sarge, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in June, she made religion a part of his treatment. In addition to chemotherapy, Sarge received a 20-minute visit from the rector of Ms. Eickwort's Episcopal church, who touched him and prayed for his recovery. Sarge also went to church twice. Now, his cancer is in remission." The dog underwent chemotherapy?! OH, please! Make Sarge comfortable for as long as you reasonably can, and then give him some sleepy juice! I mean, come on!

"Mary Wilkinson was happy that she had brought Purr Box Jr. in to be blessed for his digestive problems. Now, she says she plans to come back each month, rotating her 11 other cats." Uh, yeah, can anyone say nut case? TWELVE freakin' cats?! Could twelve cats in one domicile possibly be the origin of Purr Box, Jr.'s problems? I don't know, I'm just thinking the putrid stench of the litter boxes for 12 cats can't possibly aid one's digestion!

And finally,
"Last summer, a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford began bringing her King Charles Spaniel on Sunday mornings; soon, several other attendees were regularly bringing their dogs." Couldn't anyone have told this person to STOP?! I mean, I suppose what we have here is the canine equivalent to Call to Action or Voice of the Faithful -- changing things by simply taking authority that is not theirs. OH, gosh, excuse me, that should have been "Bark of the Faithful!"
Lenten Reflection #5 is up
In Tribute To Our 5,000th Visitor

We here at Catholic Ragemonkey never anticipated the many and varied reactions our blog would receive. Only weeks ago, the notion of thousands of people putting up with Fr. Tharp's hostile foaming at the mouth, in order to read my humor, commentary, and inspired reflections seemed far fetched at best. But here we are: 5,000 visitors. We thank you, dear readers. I suppose we erroneously presumed our blog's hostile take over would be more along this pace. As proof that there has not been any Floridian-like tampering with the visitor count, we offer the above photo of a protest now taking place outside of Catholic Ragemonkey Headquarters. While we are flattered by the desire of some visitors to vote more than once, we refuse to lower our ethical standards.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

It's mine, mine, mine...
I just mailed my LAST car payment! It's mine, mine, mine...the P-R-E-C-I-O-U-S!!! Okay, calling a 2000 Buick Regal with 85,000 miles on it "the precious", is probably a bit much. But it is mine! Now if it can only remain road-worthy for several more thousand miles...
From the "More Rage, Less Monkey" file...

In a previous post, Fr. Hamilton shared with you, our faithful readers, a letter he was sending to a group called HOPE, that is active in the Archdiocese. This group is VOTF and Call to Action lite. Same agenda, same nonsense. The bishop has gone so far as to prevent them from meeting on diocesan property, but I am still waiting for the throat crushing.

Anyway, so that you would not think that I am a big wuss, I decided to post my letter. Mine is of a different tenor than Fr. H's. Mine is more Rage, less Monkey. As someone invested with the teaching office of Christ due to my ordination to the Priesthood, I feel it is my obligation to shake people ever now and again.

Comments are welcome, but I am taking this draft to the bishop to look over. So it will probably will go out on Friday.

March 9, 2004

Dear HOPE:

I read with interest your recent letter to the priests of the Archdiocese. I apologize for not responding sooner. That is how the life of a busy pastor goes.

Frankly, I was a little nervous about responding to your letter. I was not, as your letter implied, nervous that the ordinary would find out about this communication. I was nervous that my acknowledgment would lend credence to both your proposal and your methods. Permit the opportunity to comment on both.

As to the methods of this survey, I cannot express how offended I am. Your suggestion that I need the cloak of anonymity to approach my archbishop concerning controversial matters is simply astounding. If you are not aware of this, but on the day of my ordination to the diaconate, I made a promise of respect and obedience to my archbishop. I renewed that promise the night I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ. For the last three years, and again this year, I intend to renew that same promise of obedience and respect to my archbishop. People who respect one another say things to each other directly, face to face. I don’t need an anonymous survey to discuss things with him. I can bring any concern, problem, or difficulty to him at any time.

As to the purpose of this survey, again I am offended by your action. If a group of my brother priests in Milwaukee want to open a discussion concerning mandatory celibacy, I can respect that. I might not agree but I can respect that. They must live by this regulation and therefore, they are the ones to open that discussion. But sir, I don’t know you from Adam. You don’t share the hardships and joys of the office of priesthood with me or my brothers in this diocese. I am shocked that you would make this proposal for me. It would be equivalent in my mind if I opened a discussion on your behalf to permit polygamy. This is why, I suspect, that you and the group you represent do not have the best of motives or intentions when it comes to this topic.
As my sainted mother used to say, “Only thieves and thugs hang out in the shadows.”

As to the question of a discussion of mandatory celibacy, I found this most amusing. What do you think I did with those seven years of formation in the seminary? Do you think that the question of living chaste celibacy a.) never crossed my mind and b.) never was discussed? Every year when I was in the seminary, we discussed, prayed about, and practiced this discipline and I have come to love the gift and charism of celibacy. We don’t need the discussion because it has already taken place in the intimate depths of the soul.

A discussion of mandatory celibacy is not needed; a renewal of its meaning is. Divesting the Western Church of this charism would destroy the iconic character of ministerial priesthood. The ministerial priest is a three fold icon. He is first the icon of Christ the Bridegroom. His celibacy chastity signs in his flesh the covenantal love of Christ for His Church, for whom he gave up his life. He is also the icon of Christ the High Priest. By his celibacy, he signs in his flesh a dedication of his life, above and before all else, in service to God. Through his configuration to Christ both through the sacramental character and an outward conformity, the ministerial priest is the perfection of the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites. He is the icon of Christ, our eschatological future. In heaven there will be no marriage or giving in marriage. When one looks at a celibate ministerial priest, or a consecrated religious, he should see that glory of our future where all will be directed to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in a perichoretic gift of self.

In closing, if any of my comments need further elaboration I would be more than happy to meet with you or your group and spell out these matters in greater detail.

In Christ, Our True Savior,

Rev. Shane Tharp
Pastor, Sacred Heart, Alva.

cc: Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran
Pass Out the Cigars! New Bishops Are Born!

Or at least being reassigned. Yes, I have been checking the Vatican website for information about the appointment of bishops to open sees. And no, I haven't sent the order form for my miter just yet. But it is filled out and sitting on my desk should the call come.

Anyway congratulations to the following (arch)dioceses: Ad multos annos!

WORCESTER, MA : S.E. Mons. Robert Joseph McManus
OGDENSBURG, NY : Mons. Robert Joseph Cunningham
SPRINGFIELD, MA : S.E. Mons. Timothy Anthony McDonnell
KANSAS CITY-SAINT JOSEPH, MO (Co-adjutor) :Mons. Robert W. Finn

Monday, March 08, 2004

That mischievous spirit
As Fr. Tharp and I explored the wild, wacky world of sedevacantist schismatics, that mischievous spirit came over me. I viewed the photo gallery for the "true Catholic Church" and I just couldn't resist. On the home page for "His Holiness, Pope Pius XIII," I noticed an option to e-mail the "Papal Secretary." So, I devised the following e-mail (it may only make sense if you visit their site and look at the photos, especially here, and here):
8 March 2004

To Whom It May Concern:

I have just visited your web site and I have viewed your many wonderful photos.

What an exciting time this must be for the true Catholic Church! And I can see from your photo gallery that the Holy Spirit must surely be with you. I give you that compliment because I can tell that you have responded to the promptings of the Second Vatican Council. It is abundantly evident from your photos that you have been moved toward the "noble simplicity" in liturgical rites, called for in the Council's magnificent document on the Sacred Liturgy. You are to be congratulated on simplifying rites, using less grandiose sanctuaries, and bringing the liturgy so close to the people, it is actually in their living rooms! This is truly a fruit of the Council. May you continue to serve as credible witnesses to the Second Vatican Council. May the rest of the Church follow!

And I was graced with this response:

I must say that yours is a very odd email. If you read the website, even cursory reading, you would know that V2 invented a new non-Catholic religion. The Catholic Church under Pope Pius XIII has condemned V2 and its leaders and its fruits. Your email implies that the Catholic Church is WRONG that is.

In subsequent reading of your email, it appears that you have written this as a parody, perhaps as an attempt to mock God's one true Church. If so, may God have mercy on you.

Fr. Lyons

A parody? Moi? You think so?
Genius and a Happy Life Oft Meet Not

I was saddened to read of the untimely death of Spalding Gray. Mr. Gray was a very talented author, actor, and monologist. I became acquainted with his work in the movie, "Swimming to Cambodia," where Gray tells the story of his part in the movie, "The Killing Fields." He had a passionate, almost neurotic, obsession with observation and language.

Of course with genius came some self destructive tendencies, and these apparently got the better of him. May he rest in peace.
New Ecumenical Efforts

As a convert to the Catholic Faith, ecumenism is, almost, by nature, a subject of interest to me. "After all, I was able to scale the fence why can't they", I say. But I am dubious that excepting the Orthodox and certain sedevadicanist groups we will see the traditional arm of Protestantism return to the Church en masse. So here at CRM, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite anti-Popes, Pope Pius XIII. Here's a picture of him at his election.

Looks good, right? Of course running the new papal states can be expensive, so I would like to suggest to "His Holiness" that he think of creating a "brand". All of the products could include the word "Papal" as part of the franchise.

Take a look at this picture from the burning of the ballots of his election.

What does that remind you of? It reminds me of pancake syrup. So the ad line might be, It's so wonderful / to start your day / the Papal Maple Syrup way. Then a shot of thick wonderful maple syrup pouring over pancakes or waffles. The announcer could explain how early each morning the "Holy Father" goes out with the only priest he has ordained, Fr. Robert Lyons, to gather each golden drop of maple sap for their syrup. They would wear a feriola and a gremial because face it, the feriola is so darned pratical and the gremial would be wonderfully functional in this case. Of course, you would have to run a separate ad for Lent so that no bacon or sausage would be featured. After the syrup spreads over the plate, the announcer voice comes back on, saying Papal Maple Syrup. It's infallibly delicious and indefectably good!"

For more pseudo-pontifical hijinks, surf over to True Catholic. But if it starts making sense, lay down, take a shot of bourbon and place the Catechism on your head.
It's Either This or That!

Please check out this picture from the Kerry Campaign. I picked it up at the Drudge Report. Here's a link to the associated article.

Now, where do you think he is speaking? It looks like a church. So here is today's this or that. Either this is a case of someone exploiting the DUMBEST Catholic priest in town or that John Kerry loves his Catholic Faith so much that he will spend Sunday in a Protestant Church. Either way, the U.S. loses.
What's a priest to do?
I was really flabbergasted. Back in December a young Hispanic boy came to the rectory door, a running truck with tinted windows was waiting for him in the parking lot. I assume the truck contained a parent, probably his father. The boy was looking for some youth meeting of dancers in preparation for the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since I was not aware of where the meeting was taking place, I led him over to the parish hall. And then I saw it.

On the gate of the truck bed was an ENORMOUS white Playboy Bunny. I couldn't believe it. I mean, folks, you can't miss this thing -- it takes up the entire center portion of the truck gate. The driver, presumably a male parishioner, drives around town advertising pornography and, most likely, his addiction to it. And, I guess he sees nothing wrong with it. After all, anyone who sees the truck can't miss this ad. Furthermore, I can only assume as much since he must feel comfortable parking this truck in the church parking lot. He even brings his son to parish events in it. I can't imagine driving around town with such a thing on my car, much less actually coming to church and parking my car in the lot.

And, the next concern I have as a priest, is that young boy. What is he learning? How likely is he to grow in holiness, to be serious about discipleship and conversion, when he realizes (if he hasn't already) what that bunny means?!

I don't know what to do. It seems like something should be said. The next time I see that car parked somewhere in town, I think I am going to find the driver, ask him if he is a parishioner, and then question him on the bunny.
Wait a minute! Is that...
...Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion or maybe Josh Groban and Charlotte Church at the parish penance service? One would think so, considering that the popular song "The Prayer" was used after the first reading at one parish I visited to assist with Confessions. No, it was not my parish, or Fr. Tharp's. By the way, I really like the song -- I sing along with it when I hear it -- but in NON-LITURGICAL settings, please!

When will the madness end? How long, O Lord...?
A welcome surprise

Well, kids, I didn't think I would have anything to blog about. Silly Rabbit. Thanks to Jeff, the Curt Jester and Victor at Et Cetera for this. This is going to push up my pitching of the series based on my fantasy life as a secret agent, "Fr. Tharp, Priest of Rome." I thought Dave was working on the PITCH but SOMEONE dropped the ball...(Just a jest, we have been kicking that around the office for a couple of years now.)

And speaking of rabbits...this is both strange and wonderful.
No Soliciting
What does that mean? It is clearly posted at the entrance to this town's movie theatre complex. Would you think it ought to apply to a local Baptist pastor handing out his ecclesial community's fliers WITHIN the theatre complex, directly in front of the entrance to the particular screen showing "The Passion?" But apparently that is what happened. A seminarian from this parish informed me the pastor was handing out fliers as people were exiting the screening of "The Passion."

I have a good mind to call the theatre, not to lodge a formal complaint, but simply to ask when I may come and invite movie patrons to Stations of the Cross -- assuming the manager would want to offer equal time to all of the clergy in town. If nothing else, I am sure my assumption of equal opportunity would alert the manager to enforce his own policy before things get out of hand with every minister requesting an opportunity. If it weren't for the fact that the manager gave that special free screening to local clergy, I would probably call him.

Of course, but the real issue is what I see as taking advantage of people who have just had an intensely emotional (and spiritual?) experience. Perhaps my cradle Catholicism a priori sets me against such street corner, doorbell ringing, typically Protestant methods of "evangelization." But isn't there something objectively wrong with this too?
Graces in the Panhandle
Last night was my parish's Lent Penance Rite, where we invite many priests to come and assist with Confessions. The priests represented five states: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado! Yes, ministry out here in the far western reaches of Oklahoma requires cooperation with priests from other states who are nearer to us than the rest of our own archdiocese. Fr. Tharp was also here to assist; I will return the favor at his parish in a few weeks.

Considering penitents, the service was well-attended. I know I heard about 19 confessions. Assuming that was about average (I know some priests heard more, some less), then we had at least 200, maybe upwards of 225, people in attendance.

I had not one native English speaker come to me. I wasn't expecting that. Certainly a large part of my work in this parish is Hispanic ministry -- Hispanics are the majority of our parishioners. A significant portion of that majority speak no English whatsoever. If truth be told, Hispanics are also the reason this town has not dried up. They come here for jobs, largely at the local hog farms and the pork processing plant, and they prop up the population since, by and large, Anglos aren't reproducing.

Though I say the Holy Mass in Spanish and do Baptisms too, I try to avoid confession because I don't have much conversational ability. I can read the language perfectly, without an American accent, but that's because I am reading from a book or text. When it comes to speaking and understanding what someone is saying to me, it is much harder. But I guess that so many of these people have seen me offer the Holy Mass in their language, they naturally assume I must be able to handle it. I didn't do half bad, but it isn't a very comfortable experience for me. Most of the people who came to me last night were Hispanic children making their first Confession. In retrospect, it doesn't surprise me they came to me. I had spoken personally to each class in preparation for this Sacrament to explain what to do, to show them the Confessional, and to answer their questions. I am sure since they saw me in an other-than-Mass setting, I was a bit more of a familiar, friendly face. I don't write any of this to say I regret last night, it's just another one of those experiences I never thought I would have. I suppose their is one regret: I wish more of our Anglos would come to Confession.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Teach me how to pray!
Following the prompting of at least two gospels from this past week and today's account of Jesus ascending the Mount of the Transfiguration, my homily this week was about prayer. Specifically, I think a lesson we can learn from Peter's being too quick to speak and to plan and to do, is precisely what the voice from the cloud said: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." And then Peter, John, and James, "fell silent." We too need to go away to a quiet place, to listen and to be silent. Lord knows we provide ourselves enough distractions in prayer (a problem the Catechism calls a habitual difficulty, cf. CCC 2729).

Anyway, thinking about prayer and the constant work to grow in its exercise, tenderly calls to mind what I think is my first memory of prayer. It comes from a prayer card given to my Holy Child Academy Kindergarten class in Memphis, TN, by our teacher, Sr. Mary Samuel, O.P., of the Nashville Dominicans, now one of the four foundresses of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She can be seen on the far right of this picture. Here is the prayer:
Lovely Lady dressed in blue-----
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
Tell me what to say!

Did you lift Him up, sometimes,
Gently on your knee?
Did you sing to Him the way
Mother does to me?

Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things-----
Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels' wings

Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me----for you know.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
And you know the way.

Care to share your first memory of prayer?
Killing me softly with his song
And who is he? Tom Conry. It is the start of the second week of Lent and it finally happened. Ashes -- the song! If truth be told, it should really be "killing me swiftly." Aaaaagggghhhhh!

See Fr. Keyes' treatment of this at the New Gasparian. Also, an article by George Weigel on sacred music is quite good, as are most things George does.

The other thing that kills me is the replacement of the responsorial psalm chosen by the Church with songs adapted from or loosely based upon a psalm. What happens when I, as the homilist, want to make hefty reference to the psalm, only to have it pulled out from underneath my homily like some worn rug? It reminds me how much the priest needs to be involved in clearly training those who assist in any fashion, as well as training the whole parish, about the very essence of the Holy Mass.

And this is not the fault of the laity. I believe priests have been for many decades now largely laissez-faire regarding the Sacred Liturgy. The laity who are paid or who volunteer to plan and play music are often just thrown into the project with no theological or pastoral training. They do the best they can and they presume, and rightly so, that hymns found in approved books are fair game. Sadly, I'm not impressed with many of the contemporary choices in approved hymnals. I think priests need to be far more involved in all aspects of the planning of the Sacred Liturgy. We need to be far more discriminating regarding musical selections. And please, please, do not withhold Latin from parishes until Lent, promoting the idea that using the Church's sacred treasury of Latin is some sort of "penance."

Psalm 74 has become my cry when considering the ruins of what has been the rape and pillage of the Sacred Liturgy, lo these many decades.

"Turn your steps toward the utter ruins, toward the sanctuary devastated by the enemy. Your foes roared triumphantly in your shrine; they set up their own tokens of victory. They hacked away like foresters gathering boughs, swinging their axes in a thicket of trees. They smashed all your engraved work, pounded it with hammer and pick. They set your sanctuary on fire; the abode of your name they razed and profaned. They said in their hearts, "Destroy them all! Burn all the shrines of God in the land!" (Ps. 74:3-8).

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Dentist Office, Bank, or Church?

There is a reasonable possibility that sometime in my priestly ministry here in the Archdiocese that I will be asked to found a parish and build its church. When I think of this, I get a twisting pain in my gut because I would want a little Chartes on the prairie and the parish would probably want a little dentist office. And then as I prepared my notes for my Catechism class, I found this paragraph in the Catechism.

"(#1186) Finally, the church has an eschatological significance. To enter into the house of God, we must cross a threshold, which symbolizes passing from the world wounded by sin to the world of the new Life to which all men are called. The visible church is a symbol of the Father's house toward which the People of God is journeying and where the Father "will wipe every tear from their eyes." Also for this reason, the Church is the house of all God's children, open and welcoming."

I think that if anyone was going to be on the building committee they would have to understand that to build a church is to make a statement of faith. And the parish would have to be willing to carry debt for a long time.

I don't think I have a point other than did this mentality expressed in #1186 find expression in your church?
Overheard while in seminary....

(During an ecclesiology lecture)

Msgr. Richard Malone: "Gentlemen, every heresy lasts only about 500 years. So you will have to be ready to pick up the pieces when the Lutherans and Episcopalians self-destruct."

(That's my kind of ecumenism!)
What is that flushing sound?

Well, just when you thought the Episocopalians couldn't make any more strange decisions, here's a new one. Apparently, they have erected the first Internet Parish.

The best part is the quote from the mastermind of this strategy. "I-church is different from a local congregation. Although i-church is a sacramental community, there is no obligation on members to meet together," said the church's website. Uhhhh...what? A sacrament is predictated on a visible sign. If people are not getting together where is the necessary visible sign?

That cinches it. I am sending a letter to the bishop tommorrow requesting that he permit a couple of city parishes to celebrate the Anglo-Catholic Rite. It is obvious that well-meaning Episcopalians are going to be headed for the door sooner or later. It would behoove us to make the transition easier.
Chimp Change? Rumors of Coup May Be True After All...

Since the ouster of ex-priest Jean Bertrand Aristide from Haiti, I have come to realize that position as Gorilla Presidente might be in danger. I should never have taken advice from a Howard Dean staffer on how to post comments about comments. But that isn't the only problem. After all, there are enemies everywhere...

Then I spotted this Article at Yahoo! News which I thought spelled my demise. Apparently, there is CHIMP CHANGE on the horizons. But thankfully, for once, it was not all about me.

If I am ousted, I can still find comfort in some lovely jungle elsewhere. "Don't Cry For Me, O Blogsphere. The truth is I'll never leave you. Although it may get harder, for me to log on, I am a Ragemonkey, and always will be..."

If I could just get my hair into that blasted chignon.
Answers to Last Round / Welcome to the Next Round

Answers to the Last Round

A.Joseph Smith: I really struggled with how to give enough information without just telling you what the answer was. The Decaf was a dead giveaway.

B.Donatism: The issue in donatism is that the effectiveness of the sacrament is contingent upon the worthiness of the minister. This lead to the great distinction between ex opere operato, by the work worked, and ex opere operantis, by the work working. The easy way to understand this distinction is think in terms of objective and subjective sacrament life. The objective nature is operato and the sacrament is the sacrament. The subjective nature is operantis and this is how the person experiences the celebration of the sacrament or their personal reception of the graces of the sacrament.

On to the Next Round: Get ready...Name That Heresy!

In each example, the set up describes, to the best of its ability, a particular heresy or heretic. The A. example is a heretic, protestant reformer, or religious loony. The B. example is a defined heresy. You have a week. Please leave your answers in the comments area and this one's a little harder.

A. A man walks into a bar and begins to rip pages out of the menu. Then he goes behind the bar and throws out specific brands of beer. The bartender, enraged, comes up behind, grabs him, and loudly demands, "What the #&@$%$%^ are you doing?" The Man says, "It's all right. They aren't necessary any more."

B. A man returns from the bar and kisses his wife on the cheek. She asks him, "Did you drink a beer?" "Yep," the man says. "And did you eat some peanuts?" "No," the man replies. "Well, then you didn't go to the bar at all."
Our Operant Philosophy

We here at CRM want people to understand why we do what we do. I think this sums it up nicely.

Friday, March 05, 2004

That Orange Jumpsuit Will Clash With Everything!

I actually like Martha Stewart. Is she a nice person? That is left open to some interpretation. But sadly, the case of the new Queen of Mean (move aside Leona Helmsley) has been resolved. Guilty on four counts. This means jail time and perhaps the collapse of her empire. After all, like a plastic surgeon who operates on himself, her face and image were and are the brand. Once the stink is on, it is impossible to wash off.

But I find Martha a curious target. Ken Lay and others like him walked away from the wreckage of other peoples' finances with literal golden parachutes. But the oppobrium that is saved up for Martha surprises me. Actually, it doesn't.

Martha Stewart knew that if she was going to make it in the business world she was going to have to have two things to make a success of it: 1. a vision and 2. unswerving will. When men have those qualities, they are called innovators and leaders. When women demonstrate it, the name used for them commonly doesn't occur outside of a kennel.

So long, Martha. We'll keep the stew warm until you get back. At least now everything in the prison will finally match those tacky jumpsuits. Orange, really!
You have 12 Hours Remaining

You have 12 hours remaining for this round of "Name That Heresy." Round Three was well responded to. But it is obvious to me that we have a very literate readership. Exxxxxcellent.

Here's the link. Leave your answer here or there, it doesn't matter.

P.S. The hoof is better but still dragging it around.
Techmonkey Dave here. Did you know Father Tharp got a new license plate this week?

I had nothing to do with this
Okay, let me set the stage. I live in a small town in the spacious Oklahoma Panhandle, also known as "No Man's Land." Folks, we are way out here! Take a look at a map of Oklahoma and you'll see the town of Guymon in that long narrow part of the state on the left side. Much to my delight, our locale recently took a step toward more swanky living. In the new and expansive Hallmark store is a coffeshop, set off in the corner, painted with warm colors, together with a fireplace and nice brick hearth. I'm thinking of beginning my fireside catechetical chats there!

Today, I had to buy several sympathy cards and so I decided to take my first test of the coffee shop. As I walked into the coffee area, I noticed their sign advertising the drink of the day: The Spicy Monkey Latte! I had nothing to do with this; but I did try it. I am not much of a fan of the artificial flavor syrups in coffee. I pretty much just go for unadulterated java drinks. The silly syrups can stay on the shelf as far as I am concerned. But, of course, given this blog, I felt compelled to try the Spicy Monkey. It wasn't bad, a nice Lavazza Italian coffee with a dose of gingerbread and coconut flavoring.

So, what will be next? Will I be compelled to buy Samsonite?
I guess you could say 'He had a hand in making her salad...'

From the gross but true files comes another reason to watch carefully what you are eating.

The important thing is would that break the abstinence for Lent?
Lenten Reflection #4 is up
Ancillary Blogging Benefits

I hobbled about the rectory long enough to check my email (none - a mixed blessing), check out Michael O'Brien's artwork on line (more on that later), and make some lunch.

In tribute to our co-blogger, I dug through the archives until I found the recipe he posted pre-Lent for Cream of Mushroom Soup. My review: Blogging is mmmmmm Good. He says that the soup will actually improve over time, and I believe it. As flavors unite and marry the silky creamy texture can only get better. Right now as I sip it at the computer, the flavor reminds me of good white sauces from Italian restaurants where the flavor lays on the tongue to be savored for several minutes after the bite is swallowed. It is a little on the "high-fat" side of the equation. Fr. provides some useful modifications, but I may take a whirl at changing the recipe myself. I only made one minor modification. When I doubled the recipe I managed to triple the amount of mushrooms. So mine is very chunky. Also, I think when I made it I had the heat too low. Aim more for the medium side of low if you are using an electric stove top.

Here's the link for soup if you want more info. Here's the Recipe:

Fr. Stephen Hamilton's Lent-tacular Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/4 Cup Butter
3/4 Cup Green Onion, chopped and including tops
2 Cups Fresh Mushrooms, chopped
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 Cup Half & Half (No fat type could be substituted)
1 Cup Chicken Broth (Low sodium type could be sub'd)
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Pepper

I usually double the above recipe. I also tend to cut back slightly on the amount of onions. In a large skillet or soup pot cook chopped green onions in butter over low heat until tender. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook the mixture, stirring for several minutes (2-5 min). Add flour to the mixture and cook, stirring several minutes (3-5 min). Remove the pan from the heat. Add chicken broth and half & half in a steady stream, whisking. Put back on heat and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer, stirring for several minutes (at least 5). Add salt and pepper. The flavor seems to come out much better if it is not eaten immediately, but made ahead of time and reheated later.
A face only a mother could love: Part 2
I know, blogging about Satan and that ugly baby scene from "The Passion" is all over the place. I promised in an earlier post that I would post whatever I could find on this issue. It appears here is the full, authoritative response from the Gibson camp.
No Blogging For Me, I'm Hurt.

Apparently I hurt my right foot yesterday after the Penance Rite in Woodward. This happens from time to time especially if I am on the road. I suspect I get my foot in an odd position while driving and being in that position for a long period of time it slowly gets over-extended. It could also be the fact that my height precludes beds of proper length.

So I am going to put my foot up and read for a while. Sitting at the computer will probably make the situation worse.
I Guess It Worked...Just Not In My Favor

I won't rescind the death sentences but I might rescind the blocking...oh, wait, is that supposed to be the other way around? =shrug=

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the Harry Potter Post from yesterday. I really meant that to stimulate some conversation on the subject. No matter how people tell me that I am over-reacting, my gut tells me something is up. Sorry, Huck Finn's disobedience comes with a come-up-ance and some sense of change needed. Harry gets rewarded for the wrong doing. The magic component in Potter is of a different character than the presence of the supernatural in Narnia and LOTR, but for some they will say that I am splitting hairs. For a fine comparison on that point, please see Michael O'Brien's comments here.

The only criticism that I agree 100% with is Greg's that a large threat comes from Philip Pulliam quasi-Gnostic nonsense. The only caveat I would throw into that though he is not as well known or covered as Rowling's work. That and that OCP should be burned to the ground for the ridiculous music coming out of there.
Ragemonkey Blog Amnesty Day
Okay, I leave my post for approximately a day and a half, driving hundreds of miles around rural Oklahoma to hear Confessions, and I return to find that our faithful Silverback, Fr. Tharp, has gone on a jungle rampage, making a general execution threat. I suppose I now see anew my important role in this blog: to vicariously accept, on behalf of all of blog's people, Fr. Tharp's violent raging that sometimes boils to the surface. In other words, when I am in the jungle, near the monkey troop, Fr. Tharp has someone upon whom to focus his dominant status.

The ugly events of yesterday -- the denial of a Constitutional freedom, leading oh, so quickly to suppression and death threats -- prompts me to declare today as Catholic Ragemonkey Blog Amnesty Day! Who's in the spider hole now?

Hmmm. It also makes me wonder. I know a monkey troop is not based on democracy, but if it were, which of us would be elected monkey president?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I've Got a Few Title Suggestions for You, J.K.

Well, not that anyone should be surprised, we can expect even more Harry Potter coming in the near future.
Here are some titles I have thought of:

1. Harry Potter and the Puberty Monster
2. Harry Potter and the Uncontrollable Tingling Sensation when Hermione is Around
3. Harry Potter Gets A Real Job
4. Harry Potter Meets His New Boyfriend, Satan

If you haven't guessed, I really, REALLY hate Harry Potter and not just for the questionable occult content. I can't stand Harry because he is held up to the reader as some wonderful hero, when he is terribly unvirtuous i.e. vicious. This is exactly what I need, one more media outlet telling children that being snotty and breaking rules is okay so long as you save the day.

And the first person who comments that Harry Potter is good because he encourages reading and they like it will be both blocked and executed. Okay, blocked. Ragemonkey Hate Free Speech!
"How You Say 'Vogue' in Hebrew?

I'm sorry if your opinion of me just went down, but seriously...she is going to bring peace to Israel?
'Proof' of the Truth of the Holy Eucharist?

I am not one for puns but this story is too much. Thanks to Zorak at E-Pression (link below) for the story.

"Sister, remember. The substance changes...not the accidents..."
Ragemonkey Red Alert 3: On Kerry's Fait Accompli

The next words are not the words of a Catholic priest and bear no resemblance to a political ad, endorsing one candidate over another. This is not taken to be the opinion of the Catholic Church, my archbishop, or any other member of the Curia. It is just me, John Q. Catholic American. There. That should throw the IRS monitors off the trail.

There is one fundamental reason I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER vote for John Kerry. If the election were between Charles Manson, Marilyn Manson, and John Kerry, the Manson Doublemint Twins would be more likely to receive my vote. John Kerry has no integrity. If he can say with a straight face, "I am personally opposed to abortion but cannot legislate others on this matter," then how does he propose to lead the country? When it comes down to policy, he has to make a decision that he thinks right and best for the country. So in lots and lots of cases, he will be doing exactly what he claims he cannot do on abortion, that is legislate to others and for others.

Or I'll put it to you another way. If he will abandon the elements of his faith, which if he understands them correctly lead to salvation, then why would I think that he would keep ANY promise he would make to me, the average voter? If he will abandon the Teaching of Christ and His Church, then why would he be inclined to "keep his pledge, come what may (Psalm 15:4-5)?"

I am not telling you for whom to vote. But you get what you ask for (I Samuel 8:10-18).
It's funny how...

...the same piece of data can sound the same but mean radically different things to two different people. As the paper records of Justice Blackmun are being examined, more of the interesting and disturbing character of the Supreme Court comes to light. Don't get me wrong. I am not one of these wackos who believe that the Court somehow is a shadow government. But I do recognize that Court from time to time misunderstands its role as arbiter of law and legal interpretation and becomes, or attempts to become, the legislative branch.

So, guess what? In 1992, the midst of the case of Casey v. Planned Parenthood (or is the other way around? You get the idea), Roe v. Wade was in serious jeopardy of being overturned. Notice the word I used. Jeopardy. See, that comes from listening to the world. When they see the overturn of Roe v. Wade, they see jeopardy, they see the end of someone's rights. For the Christian, the better word is probably possibility. Once the right to life, a right enshrined in the Constitution but not in the actions of the Supreme Court, is restored as inalienable, then the only thing is possibility.

But here is where my fur gets chapped. Who balked at the possibility of the overturn. Justice Kennedy, a putative Catholic!

It reminds me of the story told of Napoleon, I think it was. Napoleon turned to a captured cardinal and said, "I will destroy the Church!" The cardinal replied (to the effect), "If the bishops and the priests haven't succeeded, what makes you think you will?" I suppose we have to add the highly placed members of the Body as well.

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

More technological firsts
I'm blogging from a remote location! This monkey has taken his show on the road. After assisting with Confessions at another parish (where I am spending the night), I am still able to keep tabs on the home jungle! Very important for the beta male to do, you know, because the alpha male ragemonkey must never think he is without competition!
Reflection #3 is posted
As always, link here or on the right under "Monkey Like Spinoffs," choosing Lenten Reflections 2004.
Link Me? Link You!

My ego wouldn't let this go. I surfed the web via Google to find all the sites linked to us. And now, I am returning the favor. Here's a short list of new people:

Heart, Mind, Strength Weblog -- The Planet of the Apes
Come On, Get Lively -- The New Blogs
The 7 Habitus -- A New Blog
Oblique House
The Blog from the Core
Maine Catholic and Beyond
Pencil In Your Hand
Laudem Gloriae
The Edge of the Precipe -- Book Quiz, Got One of My Favs
Sancta Sanctis
Cnytr -- Iiiinteresting...
Only One Question

First, go over to Otto Da Fe (man, that's a clever name for a blog), then go come back here and answer this question: which clown is running for president?
"A Little Child shall lead them..."

Okay, fine, he's not that little. When I see things like this I am reminded of the concreteness of redemption and forgiveness. There is no such thing as abstract forgiveness. Once forgiveness is given and accepted by their respective parties, then healing and restoration begin.

This image of a once and future king working to help the continent that European foreign policy largely gang-raped by imposing national boundaries on people who lived by cultural and tribal boundaries reminds me at least that all of us have some responsibilites when it comes to old injuries. Was the little prince responsible for the bloodshed in Africa? No, but does that matter? No. After the blood shed some one has to hand out the bandages.

Sure it's a photo-op. But I made you think.
Will the Last One out get the lights?

Nuttiness abounds. I found this at Fr. Sibley's site and could not help but bring it here. It reminds me of a conversation in the seminary. A student raised his hand and asked, "Professor, if they were to find the Christ's earthly remains, what impact would that have?" The professor's color paled and without missing a beat said, "If the body were found? Last one out get the lights..."

The Passion is followed by the Resurrection and if the Second Coming has happened no one informed me. I guess I can go take a nap after all...
The Prosecution rests, Your Honor
In the blog immediately below, Fr. Tharp provides evidence that he is a nerd. Um, I don't think we need any more evidence of this other than what Fr. Tharp himself has written. "I wanted to show everyone that I am a polyvalent science fiction nerd," he blogged. Yeah, uh, the very use of the term in bold is proof enough, Father!
The Truth is Out There!

I wanted to show everyone that I am a polyvalent science fiction nerd. Okay, somewhere in the Gospel Jesus says that everything that is hidden will be revealed and everything revealed will be shouted from the rooftops. Well, kids, here comes the abortion industry's worse nightmare.

In a landmark decision, the sealed records of the Supreme Court are scheduled to be opened to the public. The Case? Roe V. Wade. This makes me giggle with glee. It is a major in road for pro-life politicians, are you listening Mr. Santorum, to undermine abortion through legal recourse. If the argument for life is not convincing to some, then take away the legal justification.

I better start warming up the Rachel's Vineyard team. It could be very interesting.
Test Run of the Litmus Test

Okay, so I am an uncharitible jerk! So sue me. I thought we could take our litmus test from theoretical to practical, like the good Thomist I am, except for the uncharitibleness of the project.

The Ranking will work as follows. Each of the positive qualities (#'s 1-5, 7, 9, 10) earns the site one point with a bonus point awarded for Eucharistic Adoration mentioned and 2 bonus points awarded if Perpetual Adoration mentioned. Each of the negative qualities (#'s 6, 8, 11) will deduct one point. I think it's fairer to reward positive work rather than punish the negative.

Okay, so I surveyed three of the dioceses featured on our blog links: Denver, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. And here is how they stacked up. The score is listed in order of the litmus test.

Denver: .5 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 = 5.5 / 8
Milwaukee: 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 3 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 = 6 / 8
Philadelphia: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 0 = 4 / 8
[Most importantly, none of these sites lost points. Granted this is a little abritrary, but if you don't like it, get your own blog.]

These are three of the better dioceses in the U.S., so they are going to be the gold standard for what the rest are like. This is also a lesson for anyone in the hierarchy who reads this blog. People use the internet for information and your website is a little window in your diocese. You might want to sink some more money into this evangelization possibility.

Now try it on your home diocese webpage...You can see where your local church stands.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

When the cat is away...
...the mice will play. However, to use that analogy on the Church, it seems these days the cat is not only present, but standing over the mice and they are STILL playing! With that in mind, priests of our Archdiocese have been the recipients in recent days of a survey from a local group called HOPE. If you don't know of them, I can assure you they are not on a quest for the authentic virtue. Pretty much imagine whatever groups you know who have the same old, worn out agenda to bring change to the Church, and you have an image of this group.

Anyway, their survey is simple in its scope. They claim to support "open discussion of the celibacy rule". The survey asks whether the priest is in favor of such, not in favor, or undecided. It asks if the priest is retired or a member of a religious order. Then it asks for approximate age range of the respondent. Well, I sent my response in with the following letter to HOPE.

2 March 2004

[Address omitted for this post]

Dear Members of HOPE,

I have received your survey regarding the discipline of clerical celibacy in the Roman rite. Though I do not appreciate seeming to validate your survey by my response, I am happy to have responded and to have this opportunity to address HOPE.

I am curious by whose authority it is that you have taken the initiative to conduct this survey? The Church is quite clear about the value of this discipline. In fact, there already is “open discussion” in the Church about clerical celibacy. It takes place in the approximately seven years of seminary formation before a man is ordained – a conversation that takes place between a seminarian and his spiritual director by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Since your survey reveals an interest on HOPE’s part to openly discuss this matter, I come to you with an offer. I would be happy to meet with your group to give you a priest’s perspective on the charism of celibacy and its value for the Church as a mandatory discipline. I am quite confident I could also manage to interest other priests to attend such a meeting. How interested is HOPE? I will await your prompt reply.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.
Associate Pastor

Cc: The Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran
Archbishop of Oklahoma City

We'll see just how interested in open discussion HOPE really is.
A face only a mother could love
Or, what's up with Satan and that grotesque baby thing in "The Passion?" Look under "The Marian theme" of my earlier blog on this subject. It would appear that Mel Gibson's own words back up my take on it. See this post of Amy Welborn's at Open Book.
Judging a Book By Its Cover

I had an interesting thought. Is it possible to evaluate the orthodoxy of a diocese by the contents of its website?

Here's the elements of the litmus test:
1. The Bishop's Attire
2. Any Links to Pro-Life Movement?
3. Religious Sisters Look like...well, Religious Sisters
4. Religious Education Section includes the Catechism, The Bible, and a review of religious education materials.
5. Mention of Popular Devotion in the Diocese: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in particular [Thanks, Tess].
6. Discussion of any ministry to homosexuals that is not Courage is a pretty reliable indicator of heterodoxy [Thanks, Zorak].
7. Links to Positive Ecclesial Movements e.g. Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, Regnum Christi, Communion and Liberation, etc.[Thanks, Alicia]
8. Links to Negative Ecclesial Movements e.g. VOTF and Dignity (funny, how their name came up twice) [Thanks again, Alicia].
9. Presence of good religious art on the site [Thanks Alicia]
10. Mention anywhere on the site of assenting and living the Creed, especially the Paschal Mystery. [Thank you, Dev]
11. Public acceptance of "alternative lifestyles" [Thank you, Cornelius and my parish named after you is very nice, btw].

Yes, I know it's superficial, but am I wrong? What else goes into the kettle?
I have added the following comments from the comments box to flesh out the litmus test. Thanks to everyone who contributed. I think the next step is to take this on a test run.
Theater as we know it is dead!

Well, I thought it was a bad sign when Footloose, Hairspray, and The Producers, to name a few, went from the silver screen to the great White Way.

But this is too much. Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a Musical? Are these people on drugs? The film is a cult classic, I will grant to the readership, but is there any hope that folks will go and see this?
Little Rock takes on Peter
Oh, folks! Thanks to Mom for passing this gem on to me. Yes, my mom has been pulled into the blogging now. Whahahahah! Linda Newkirk in Little Rock, AR, has been called to prophecy. By the way, the last time I visited Little Rock, it looks nothing like the mountain displayed on her website (no offense to my Arkansan friends).

This lady is busy! She has many writings and they have even been translated into other languages! Check the exciting and informative index of Book 1 for things you never knew about the Vatican and the Pope. Of the things to level against the Pope, this one caught my eye as particularly strange: "Yea, The Pope is working in darkness to bring communism back to new heights." We'll have to wait on George Weigel to tell us more about that one, I guess. And check here for updates on fulfilled prophecies!

And here is a brief highlight from the (very long!) message mailed to Mom's workplace today:

"Across America, churches are run by whores, who have arbitrated My word to please the masses! Across America, the churches are run by preachers, who have entered into a blasphemous covenant with a Luciferian government, the purpose of this covenant being to silence My pastors and to keep you in shackles. Yea, great numbers of you have willingly entered into a blasphemous agreement with a Luciferian government, and this covenant is the 501(C)3 tax agreement! ... Hidden concentration camps dot this land from North to South and from East to West and the Satanists, who run this government from the very top, cherish the day when these camps will be filled with Christians..."

I had no idea so much was at stake with the 501(C)3 tax agreement. And it's a 'covenant' no less!
NASA Breaking News
An exciting find by NASA's billion dollar toys on Mars: Evidence of liquid water has been found. And while no evidence of living organisms has surfaced, it means that Mars could once have been hospitable to life.

In related news, since Mars could once have supported life, and since we know how those Martians are, weapons inspectors are being sent to Mars to seek out Weapons of Mass Destruction!

When questioned about the hiding of WMDs on Mars, Saddam tore off a mask and said, "I'd have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those pesky kids!"
This makes me so MAD!

As if I didn't have enough to worry about...
Isn't Ironic, Don't You Think...

Alanis Morrissette couldn't get this straight. Insects in wine are not ironic. This is.
Piping Hot and Fresh! apologetics materials....

Check out the two new articles over at Apologize and Don't Be Sorry. One article deals with the nature of sin and the other is a work in progress concerning donatism and contraception. Any useful comments can be left here or send to the other email account.

(P.S. Sorry if the picture above is a near occasion for sin for some. Here in Alva, doughnuts are the domain of Wal-Mart.)
Stabat mater...
No, not that mother, but MY mother. Aaaahhhh. At this earlier post I discovered that Mom left a comment in the comment box. And points to you, Mom, for the correct use of the term "blog"!

Stabat mater studiosa
iuxta blogem fructuosam
dum scribebat filius!
Parsing TPOTC: Prominent themes
The following is adapted from an article I submitted to our diocesan paper. In place of a review, I offer it as a reflection on prominent themes or characteristics of "The Passion of the Christ." Onward to the parsing of themes...

The tender humanity of the story. Having heard both of the level and extent of physical violence, one could easily assume this is an excessive film based on a horrific faith in an almost demonic god who would demand such suffering to appease his wrath. Lost is the message of God’s love, one might fear. But the tender humanity found throughout the film speaks more of love than of involuntary mutilation. One could invoke the film’s portrayal of a reluctant, conflicted Pilate as evidence of this humanity. Certainly the exchange between Pilate and his wife, and his wife and Mary, highlights this tenderness. There is even Pilate’s assistant who rushes in to stop the scourging and later, on the way to Calvary, speaks shocking words to the barbarian foot soldiers driving Jesus: “Can’t you see he can’t go on? Help him.” Veronica’s act of love is a welcome reprieve from the brutal march to the crucifixion. And there is Cassius, bothered along the way by seeing the Galilean’s agonizing mother, who even appears respectful at the foot of the Cross lancing Jesus’ side in the presence of Mary.

Of course, it is the humanity of the Son of God made man that shines through most clearly. In a scene transporting viewers to the life in the home at Nazareth, we see Jesus working diligently on making a table and we catch some endearing moments between a mother and her son. In a very few masterful minutes, the movie shows Jesus laboring to complete an ordinary task, the playful love of family, and the authority of a mother over her child, even a child who is God (you’re not going inside wearing that filthy apron!). Mary’s presence mutes the brutality and brings comfort to the suffering Christ. Simon of Cyrene’s increasing sympathy for Jesus again reconnects viewers to the reality of Jesus’ human nature. The crossed arms of Jesus and Simon as they struggle with the Cross alert viewers to the climax of this tenderness: Simon reassures Jesus that “we are almost there” and he cries as he must depart Jesus’ side. Somehow, in the midst of horrid, cruel violence, a beautiful love and nobility is shown. Though he is the focal point of the brutality, nothing but the peace of calm resolve emanates from Jesus. Far from communicating the idea of a vengeful God, viewers see a Son determined to grasp fully the chalice that is his. What else could be gleaned from the pained crawls as Jesus, by force of will, drags himself toward the Cross, as if assisting the crucifixion?

The Holy Eucharist. This theme is established during the interrogation at the court of Caiaphas the high priest. When the chief priests and the whole council seek evidence against Jesus, one outraged witness lodges something akin to the following: “He claims to be the ‘Bread of Life’ and says that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood or we will not have eternal life!” Even a casual reader of the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel – the Bread of Life discourse – notices the pains John took to establish that this teaching brought about murmuring, arguing, outrage, and the defection of both Jews and even disciples alike. Though the gospels cannot confirm that this piece of evidence was offered against Jesus, it is entirely believable that such was the case. If any piece of evidence would expose Jesus for being a radical, surely this piece would rank high. Has the truth of the Holy Eucharist ever ceased being controversial?

With the stage thus set, the viewer experiences the very offering – the fraction – of the flesh and blood that must be consumed. White cloths in hand, Mary and Mary Magdalene are shown in an act of reverence, not unlike the use of purificators at Holy Mass, wiping up the saving blood of Jesus that has almost literally flooded the scourging arena. Reverence, too, characterizes Veronica’s few moments with Jesus and tradition’s report that she became the guardian of a miraculous image of his face. With an artist’s beautiful stroke, the exposing of Jesus’ body at his stripping is connected to the removal of a cloth at the Last Supper, which unveils the bread that will become Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Back at Calvary, as the soldiers attempt to affix Jesus’ right hand to the Cross, his shoulder is purposefully dislocated, a vision that elicited gasps from all and, it can be imagined, brought to every priest-viewer’s mind the sound of the breaking of the Sacred Host. And finally, as familiar as the Holy Mass itself, the raising of the Cross is linked to Jesus’ very act of instituting the Holy Eucharist – raising the bread and the chalice of wine and transforming them into his very Body and Blood! This is my Body! The Body and Blood of the Lord exposed on the raised Cross, though different in appearance, is one and the same as the Holy Eucharist held aloft for our adoration and reception.

The Marian theme. This theme was beautifully woven into the story, crowning a feminine tapestry whose summit was the unforgettable living Pietà at the foot of the Cross. That Mary is referred to both as “Mary” and “Mother” – by all characters – cannot escape the Catholic filmgoer. Surely every viewer must have been touched deeply by the strength and the intimacy of the relationship of mother and son (played by Morgenstern and Caviezel). That this bond appeared so strong is no small accomplishment considering that, for the entire movie, Mary and the adult Jesus touch on only two brief occasions (at a fall and when she kisses his nailed feet). It is only after his death that Mary is able to embrace Jesus, no longer separated by the swiftly moving Romans and the crowds. The relationship between Jesus and Mary is shown to be mystical, something of a much higher realm, not requiring physical contact in order to be authentic. Juxtaposed to the unimaginable physical brutality displayed on the screen, it sounds ludicrous to suggest that it was the interaction between Jesus and Mary that was almost unbearable to view. However, emotional reactions seem to justify the claim.

Of all that could be said about this theme, the movie seemed to communicate clearly that Jesus was not only deeply comforted by his Mother’s presence, but even more, the sight of her strengthened his resolve to accept the cup of suffering in fulfillment of the Father’s will. What is the possible message here? Why did the sight of Mary seem to give Jesus such resolve? Because in looking at his Mother, Jesus was looking at the one who first said “yes,” “Amen,” to God’s will! The film seems to reveal the idea that the resolve to comply with God’s will was a lesson Mary herself imparted to Jesus! When he saw her, Jesus saw a comforting mother, yes, but also the dedicated handmaid of the Lord, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the first disciple! Catholics rightly relate to Mary as a model of strength in discipleship, but the entirely likely possibility that she stood in such a role even for Jesus is a most astounding suggestion and an artistic triumph of “The Passion.”

Time and again, though separated by a crowd, Mary watches her Son and he looks to her. We catch their first glance in the movie outside of Caiaphas’ court; Mary arrives in haste just as Jesus is being drug before the council of chief priests. Though imprisoned after the council adjourns, Mary finds the spot on the floor just above where her Son is chained, and Jesus knows she is there. In one demonstration of the resolve Jesus draws from Mary, we see Jesus, having been flogged by canes, look to his dear Mother and slowly, painfully, stand back up with a dignity concealed by tormented flesh. Considering the comfort and resolve the sight of Mary brings to Jesus, is it any wonder that Satan would mock the mother-child relationship in that odd scene carrying a grotesque child before the eyes of the Lord? As Jesus leaves the praetorium, beginning his walk to Calvary, Mary follows his every step, moving through the crowd to remain parallel to Christ. Again, in defiant opposition, Satan, too, slithers through the crowd on Jesus’ other side. In a heart-wrenching display of this theme, Mary, remembering a boyhood fall of Jesus, runs to her Son as he falls with the Cross. She reassures him and tells him she is present and will not leave him. In that brief exchange, Jesus, with renewed energy and determination, picks himself up again, bearing the Cross and marching on. Finally, on Calvary, as an exhausted Jesus is slumped on the ground, he sees Mary on the edge of the crowd. She kneels down to be at eye level with him and eventually she is able to approach the foot of her Son’s Cross.

So many other themes and characteristics could be discussed. But these three seem most central. In addition, they are cause for us to celebrate that our Catholic imagination has been captured favorably on the big screen in a labor of faith and love.