Sunday, February 29, 2004

EWTN programming idea

Since Catholic hierarchy and so-called "Catholic" politicians have been in the news of late, why not take an ugly situation and make a fun game we all can enjoy? It works like this: We round up so-called "Catholic" politicians around the USA at all levels, national to local, and invite them to be on the Catholic version of "Weakest Link"! It would be tempting to have Madame Weakest Link do the honors, but I suggest Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz in full pontifical regalia (check out them buskins)! The only twist? All "contestants" would be told "You ARE the weakest link! Goodbye!" Or perhaps for a more ecclesial flare and as a slight variation of the dismissal at Holy Mass, the good bishop, one of his assisting deacons, or other suitable minister, could chant: "Ite, mendacium est!"

While we're at it.... Judge for yourself. Does Anne Robinson look anything like this chimp?
What the ?!!

I don't know who these reporters were talking to, but none of the interviewees are Catholic...

Study: Blogging Still Infrequent
It's not Lenten reading, but it is reading in Lent. The John Jay Study and the study of the National Review Board regarding sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics in the United States have been released. Both reports are found on the site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with press releases and other documents. Notice on that site, at least at the time of this posting, the one study is attributed to the "Natural Review Board." Sic. I wish I could hack into the USCCB site and edit by adding "Law" after "Natural"!
Out of order?

I must give credit for finding this to Bec's archives over at Pencil In Your Hand. It speaks to me of the utter lunacy that is the real terror alert scale. And in a travesty of justice, based solely on color (hhmmm), poor Elmo is associated with the Red Alert, while Oscar lurks at the bottom. I don't know about you, but based on this scale, I would be much less at ease on Oscar days! I mean what could possibly happen on an Elmo day? The terrorists would give us sinus congestion and tickle us silly?!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

What About Spiritual Abuse?

I was thinking during Mass tonight about all those parishes where the bishop dumps his problematic priests. No, not the pedophiles or even the eccentrics. I am talking about the guys who are just barely still in communion with the Church. Much like the sex abuse scandal, there is a scandalous abuse cycle when heterodox priests are shuffled into parishes that are considered expendable. And the sex abuse scandal, it usually isn't one priest these people are subjected to. It continues as one heterodox priest is replaced by another until the parish is so damaged and so warped that when a reasonably orthodox priest shows up, his job is made a thousand times more difficult.

So where is the hand wringing over the spiritual rape of parishes? Who will remedy this matter?

Pray for our bishops. For the strong, for the weak, for the timid, for the clueless.
I'm already gone...

It all comes with the tab collar I guess. Tomorrow is a marathon in a very literal sense. I have two masses, then I hop in the Batmobile and streak off down the highway. Tomorrow is the Rite of Election which means down to the Cathedral. This wouldn't be a problem except that the Cathedral is TWO AND HALF HOURS from Alva. Then the one hour rite, a brief stop for dinner with my candidates, and then back into the car to return to Alva. I have a Mass on Monday mornings in Lent. You might say that the trip is unnecessary but it is. Trust me, it is.

Thankfully, I have one of these...

But I could use one of these...but I would have to change the voice template.

Point is, I won't be around so no posts from me...Keep the tree clean until I get back.

Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund
loins of Rum and Monkey.

I am worried about anything coming from anybody's loins, but the website demanded to be featured here. Just to be clear I am a Catholic Ragemonkey...not a mad monkey.
Cause for concern?
Last night, returning from seeing "The Passion", my radio was on and the song "Imagine" began to play. As soon as I heard its introduction: "Imagine there's no heaven...", I switched stations, assuming it could, quite possibly, have been an evil influence considering what I had just seen. Then, this morning, as I unsheathed my Rosary, the Crucifix fell off.

Hhhmmm...should I be worried here?
If only my fiery chariot would arrive...
You are ELIJAH!
Which Old Testament Character are you?

brought to you by Quizilla
Some of these quizzes are rather uncanny in their accuracy.
My US travels

create your own personalized map of the USA
or write about it on the open travel guide
Neat to see a map of the states I have visited. Of course, I'd like to believe that I could carry this many states if I were a candidate for President of the United States!
Talk about damning someone with faint praise!

I just can't take some celebrities. The fact that Kevin Costner is the only one who comes to Mel's defense suggests something of the state of things in Tinseltown.

Read it here.
Humorous Aspects from The Passion of The Christ

I arrived at the theater about a half an hour early. I became confused as to the exact time of the showing. So as I stood in the cold, some amusing thoughts, they amused me at least, crossed my mind.

Would they show trailers for other movies before hand? They actually did. The theater in Alva showed the trailers for SpiderMan 2, Shrek 2, Madison (a new movie with Jim Caviezel [I guess his career isn't over yet], The Day After tomorrow (a very promising sci-fi disaster flick) and Home on the Range (an animated feature about adventurous cattle featuring the voice of Roseanne [No, it is not an E! True Hollywood Story of her life]). The last one seemed especially cruel given it was a Friday in Lent. Talk about temptation.

Now normally the studios tailor or target trailers and features to saturate the same audience. Looking at the five trailers, can anyone figure out to whom the studios were directing these particular films?

The other funny things was the line for concessions. In Alva, the only movie showing at 9:30 p.m. on Friday was The Passion. I couldn't figure out for the life of me why they were getting snacks. What did they think they were getting ready to watch?! The snacks were soon abandoned...pretty much from the moment the film started.
Answers to Round Two / Set-up for Round Three

Answers to Round Two:
A. Jean Calvin. Those who got the right answer recognized my club-footed description of Double Predestination.

B. Patripassionism. The key to recognizing patripassionism is the activity question. In modalism, the question revolves around person and not activity. The activity is of less importance because the same singular God is doing all of them and appearing to be the Son and Holy Spirit. In patripassionism, there is clearly a distinction between the persons of Father and the Son, affirmation that they both exist, but here what the Son does, the Father does. Fr. H's comment about being confused by the absence of sufficient description of the beer is a "red herring."

Round Three:

Okay, folks Name that Heresy! Description A. is a Protestant Reformer or founder of an ecclesial community. Description B. is a known condemned heresy.

A. A man walks into the bar and sits down. The waiter comes over to take his order. "I'll have steak fingers," the man says. The waiter replies, "We don't serve steak fingers here, consult the menu.' The man replies, "I have been given a better menu which explains everything about your menu." "Let me see it," the waiter responds. "uh, I can' is hidden." To break the situation, the "Okay would like a cup of coffee." The man says, "Decaf only. God says the other stuff is evil."

B. A man walks into the bar and orders a beer. He looks closely at the bartender. The bartender is dirty, his fingernails need to be clipped, and he can't quite get the beer in the glass. When the bartender sets the glass before the man, the man looks at him and says, "It is obvious to me that because of your terrible bartending skills that this is not really beer you set before me."

Have fun...Answers appearing next week and a reminder whenever this archives.
The Difference Between Dog People and Cat People

In our ongoing effort to divide the world into "us" and "them," I thought you'd like to see how cats and dogs spend their time when you are away.

Since pets reflect the attitude of the owner, or that's how the story goes, I think I might be a cat person despite my ferocious dander allergy. I think this fits my desire for perverse discomforting humor. All the priests know that cats can sense black clothing and come running to rub their shanks all over your fresh pressed slacks.

However when I say that I am a cat person, I am not referring to this and most certainly not to this.
The Film That Needs Culture To Be Understood

I got home from seeing the Passion of the Christ about ten minutes ago. I am at a loss for words. More correctly, words keep coming but they do not correctly express the effect of the movie. But two comments before bed...[Spoilers ahead]

1. It is a movie that a good ear assists. I took two years of Latin in high school and another semester in college. After that, my Latin studies were confined to choral music. A close listen to the dialogue allows you to pick up on subtle nuances in the action. Specifically, the exchange between Pilate and Christ in the praetorium and the use of the word "satis."

2. It is a movie that needs culture to be translated. The careful construction of each scene, each move, each element kept and each element discarded means that not only was there a vision at work -- there is a worldview as well. The name Caravaggio has been thrown around and with some cause. I was most moved by what certain scenes suggested, not what they "came right out and said." Think about the encounter in the alley.

A piece of trivia: The movie gave the name of the soldier who drove the lance into Christ's side as Cassius. Anyone know the traditional name given to this soldier?

More on the movie after Fr. H and I talk about it...process it as it were...

Friday, February 27, 2004

Is this a surprise?

Oh, for Pete's sake, don't act so shocked... You should have seen this one coming...

You are MOSES!
Which Old Testament Character are you?

brought to you by Quizilla
I am such a dork...

At the same time, I went to the local cable conglomerate and signed up for cable internet service. I was a wreck driving home. I was giddy, giggling and trying not to freak out or hit anyone.

It still has a couple of glitches but it's connected and much faster. Oooo, this means I can watch EWTN live from my computer...but only after Lent. Thought you'd catch me, didn't you? Ooo...sneaky reader...bad reader....trying to keep the Preeeecioussses away from me.

This of course means I have to change my picture. Which one do you think is more fitting:

A.) or B.)
I am such a stud...

On the "evangelize like a banshee" front, I got a phone call today. Someone stopped in the local drug store looking for a rosary. Go figure. Anyway, the drug store called me and I smelled possibilities. I said that I had an extra couple of rosaries here and to just send the person over to the rectory. Then the woman volunteered that she would talk to her distributor about getting some rosaries in. I offered to bring over a Catholic supply catalog that way they could order wherever they wanted whenever they wanted. The best part? I think the woman on the phone was part of a large family who had practiced the faith but had since fallen away. Hehehehehehehe! I love being a priest!
Lenten Reflection #2 is up
You may link to it from the title above. A link to the reflection site is also always accessible by going to the sidebar (on the right) and scrolling down to the heading "MONKEY LIKE SPINOFFS!", clicking on "Lenten Reflections 2004".

In addition, should you feel the need to comment on any given reflection, you can do so here on this blog on the post pertaining to the reflection you want to reference. I would be most interested in hearing from readers about any suggested changes to the reflection format. Are the reflections too long? Would it make it easier to only provide a link for the Scripture passage, relying on readers to read the verses I indicate? Or is providing the Scripture text within the reflection better? Would changing the days of reflection posting be better? Currently it is Wednesdays and Fridays -- perhaps moving the Wednesday one up, say to Tuesday, would space it out more nicely? Please let me know.
Let there be Movies!
I think I got the hang of the coding for movies and music...

Let's try movies...

Fr. B. had a much better day today...was off respirator help completely. Deo Gratias! Father was scheduled to be the keynote and main draw for the Wichita Family Life Conference this August. After the accident, I had told a few folks privately that this looked very doubtful to me. But perhaps I am wrong. This will be the great testimony of God's power and grace, his simple presence. Anything that he does say will be overshadowed by the fact that he is anywhere at all.

Music will have to wait...

Thursday, February 26, 2004

What's wrong with this picture?

Readers of the Sunday Oklahoman newspaper were made to endure a front page spread, continuing on to two other whole pages!, on this Oklahoma City police officer. The story? She was (is?) a he! Yes, nothing else newsworthy in the whole world or Oklahoma, so we get three pages of this, complete with photos! Here she is when she was he. And now, years later still with receding hair line, here she is.

Now, I admit, any coverage of this "story" would have been too much in my opinion. But THREE pages?! Can anyone say, "forcing the issue"?
Hhhmmm, what's wrong here?
Global Church Ministries is proud to help you get ordained today. Oh, and they also offer high school diplomas. So, let me see. Conceivably, one could get a high school diploma and then follow it up with licensing and/or ordination for ministry. Does this sound like a good formation program? Is that even the point?
Media Bias: Fact of Life

My German grandmother used to say, "Call a spade a spade, dear," and then would mumble something in German under her breath. Only later that I found out what the other half is. The whole aphorism is "You must call a spade, a spade, and a spade is a shovel for manure," except use an earthier version of "manure."

Let's stop kidding ourselves. The media is biased, it will always be biased, and the sooner we accept that we can watch the news more consciously. Two brief examples of this.

1.) Andy Rooney opened his mouth, spoke for the Almighty in regards to Mel Gibson, and was left to dine upon a fine meal of shoe leather. No one has charged that Andy Rooney is suppressing Mel's free speech. He is permitted to publicly make fun of and deride the artistic expression of another with no penalty. However, if anyone of us raises a stink about urine-soaked crucifixes or plays where Jesus is portrayed as having an active homosexual relationship with one of the Twelve, then we are just backward cro-magnons. Lesson? If you are bashing Christianity, you are a champion of the arts and free speech. If you are endorsing Christianity, you are a troll and a throw back.

2.) For the last two days, the Daily Oklahoman, the daily that passes for a newspaper in central Oklahoma, has had two articles about Ash Wednesday. Commendable, right? Wrong! In neither article was a single Catholic priest featured or mentioned. There are 15 parishes, at least, in the metro area, and each of these places, on average, probably had 2 masses each. So the two Lutheran ecclesial communities are mentioned but the 30+ opportunities for Catholics to be featured are ignored. Heck, I would take a bare mention. After all it's our rite and they are co-opting it. (Interesting how Protestantism takes the parts of Catholic practice it wants and jettisons the rest. It's like a theological Luby's Cafeteria.)

It's rough waters ahead, kids.
After 20 years a soul is reconciled to God and to His Church! Man, is Lent off to a good start. This is what priesthood is all about! Deo gratias!
Is Catholic Blogging A Sign of the New Spring Time of Evangelization?

I have noticed the overall excellent quality of all the Catholic Blogs. Could it be the case that the Holy Spirit is using modern technology to help evangelize the world? Look at the clues.

All of these blogs:
1.) Embrace Catholic Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy, especially in regards to the Sacred Liturgy and most centrally the Holy Mass. Gone are the aging goats who hailed the revision of the Church's teaching, wrongly assumed mandated by the Second Vatican Council. Gone too are the aging, wrinkly gargoyles who clamored from the rafters, "The Liturgy is about us realizing who we are. Draw your eyes down and look at your own loveliness." That line was used long ago by another more subtle serpent...but I digress. Rather these new blogs concentrate on the "going back to the sources" of Revelation and attempt to understand the big picture and the underlying logic of the teaching. From there, it is a short hop to people who are committed to the Faith they profess and equipped to explain, defend, and even develop the lines of inquiry.

2.) Embrace Catholic Culture and Piety.Another consistent factor is all of these sites are interested in practicing a public faith. No one subscribes to the notion that we need to knock on doors in order to share the Faith. Everyone agrees that if we let the cat out of the bag, the Faith does a darn fine job of converting others for us. Stare at Chartes for a long enough period of time and you will see the lines of the Creed cast in flying buttresses. We attempt to permit the realities the Faith professes to penetrate the inmost walls of our thoughts and actions. From within this garrison of the human person, the beautiful flowering (again with the hippie images) of Grace is manifested, demands to be expressed in our prayers and devotions, and attracts others to follow Christ.

3.) Embrace taking the Faith very seriously, ourselves less so...i.e. we have a good sense of humor. Catholics are not Puritans. I will admit there are times when I see smiling Jesus playing soccer that I want to retch. Humor and joy are very serious matters. (Interesting paradox!) Humor comes from the virtue of humility. Humor that is neither mean spirited nor cruel comes from the moments when the mud has splashed in our faces, because of our own folly, and we recognize our weakness. And then the grandness of our plans collapse and we laugh. When humor becomes cruel and unfeeling, then it ceases to be humor. It is merely a joke. Therefore when really funny things appear on our blogs, it is because there is a spirit of humility behind them.
Joy comes from the knowledge of being loved. If one knows that they are loved any cross can be joy without having a goofy grin on one's face.

4.) Embrace a Vibrant, Zealous Love for Christ and His Work. Lastly, none of the blogs' authors are waiting for someone else to do it for them. All of us recognize, proper to our station and vocation in life, the obligation to serve and spread the Gospel. So, the blogs written by priests often lament that the laity are often badly formed or just plain ignorant. That could be grousing and being smug. It could express the frustration of wanting to form others but not knowing how. Other blogs demonstrate the biting analysis the Public Square needs, if the others in the game don't succeed in marginalizing our position. This group is restless to the extreme!

So, my friends, Blog On! Give your very best for the sake of the Christ who suffered and died for us. Pour out your lives as He poured out His for us. For no greater love is there than to lay down our lives for our friends. And whether or not the world recognizes it, they are, or perhaps will become, our friends.

Lastly, has anyone heard of someone converted by or been converted by the influence of a Catholic Blog?
A Literary Inspiration for the Holy Fast

I encountered T.S. Eliot in high school and studied his writing in some detail in college. He was and remains a favorite poet whose words hint at the reality he saw but could scarce communicate.

Sadly, Mr. Eliot, while possessing the sensibilities of a Catholic, never entered into full communion with the Church he obviously understood.

Swing over to Otto-Da-Fe, a glorious funny site, and read Eliot's masterwork, "Ash Wednesday". If you can't sympathize with the crushing pain and the fledging glory the poet feels, I don't think you are practicing Lent correctly.
Approximately 24 Hours Remain...

to get in on round two of "Name That Heresy." The name of the game is identifying the theological error based on the description of the bar scene given.

Missed it? Nah...Check here. Then leave your answers in the comments box. The next round starts Saturday.

In an effort to "reward" those who link us, we have included a few more blogs and stops along the information highway worth, we think, your consideration. Scan the list and sample and few. We aren't going to tell you which ones are have to figure that out...
From the Why Don't People Think files
Distributing Holy Communion in our little daily Mass chapel is always awkward. It quite clearly was never designed to be a chapel and so the faithful must perform gnostic movements to guarantee proper flow of "traffic" -- a flow that, by one improper step to the left or right, can be so tragically altered (ha!) that it sets off a falling domino-like chain reaction. And, so it didn't take much today for my observant eye to catch a movement out of the ordinary.

An older woman who has been ill the last few days, first in line to receive the Sacred Host today, hung behind in what I can only describe as a liturgical shuffle or line dance. After everyone had received the Sacred Host, she jumped behind the last person in the line for the Precious Blood. In the midst of being so considerate for the health of her fellow parishioners, I guess it never dawned on her that I was the one who would have to consume what remained after she had received.
The ashes are a blessing? Part two
I have appreciated the comments left on my original post. And I agree with their observations. They reinforce the need for me to carefully explain my point, which I failed to do. I was rather imprecise in my original post. I wasn't trying to deny that the ashes, which are blessed, are a sacramental or that they do impart the blessing of grace. What I had hoped to communicate, though, is that it seems to me the focus needs to be on a reminder of mortality, sinfulness, and penance. My original wording was a reaction, and perhaps a dose of isigesis!, to the full quote from Pastor Dawn regarding the significance of ashes, which reads "It's a laying on of hands, a blessing."

Certainly, blessing is an aspect of the practice. One comment noted the prayer of blessing of the ashes, which reveals that a blessing upon the persons present is being asked. That blessing, one of two options for the blessing of ashes found in the English translation of the Roman Missal, reads:
Lord, bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness
and bless all those who receive these ashes.
May they keep this lenten season
in preparation for the joy of Easter.

This raises another issue for me; perhaps one about which I should blog separately. I really dislike a good portion of the blessings currently in use in the Roman Ritual. This is no comment on the validity of the above option for blessing. However, where in that prayer are the ASHES blessed? The current blessings in the ritual, so often seem to speak about everything and anything OTHER than the thing for which the blessing has been composed! It drives me crazy. I often opt to use blessings from older rituals (much more poetic, beautiful, and powerful, in my opinion). For Ash Wednesday, I always opt for the second option of ash blessing, which I find more agreeable:
Lord, bless these ashes
by which we show that we are dust.
Pardon our sins
and keep us faithful to the discipline of Lent,
for you do not want sinners to die,
but to live with the risen Christ,
who reigns with you for ever and ever.

By the way, for the second time now in as many days, our local paper has featured a Lutheran ecclesial community in explaining the practice of Ash Wednesday. Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!
What is this all about?
I only glanced at this site but something tells me there is some hysterical stuff in there. I hope there is nothing morally objectionable (doctrinally is taken for granted!). The link will get you to the Home Page; be sure to click on the "Beliefs" page or link here. One of my favorites from that page is the following: "Salvation is a private decision."

My response: "Whose decision is it, my friends?"
"We're Like Frasier But Without All the Smuttiness..."

A little modification to the blog site. I have added direct links to Fr. H's and my new blogs. They are like Rage Suburbs but without all the ennui. Check the right hand side under "Monkey Like Spinoffs." Thanks to Rich, a new reader, for the inspiration for the title.
Apology Accepted!

I received the following email from the editor over at Crisis Magazine. (I edited it for brevity's sake.)
Hi Father Tharp,

First, let me apologize. And I mean, really friggin' apologize. I put your letter in our last promotional mailing because I saw it in the mailing before, and I'd assumed that you'd given permission at an earlier time. We would never knowingly use someone's letter for marketing purposes without getting their go-ahead (besides, I think it's illegal). So, somewhere along the line, we dropped the ball.

Brian Saint-Paul

Apparently someone forwarded my comments to the magazine editors, and Mr. Saint-Paul was gracious enough to reply. This is another reason why I like Crisis. It is obviously run by top-notch folks.

Apology accepted. And this month's issue has a really excellent article on the Second Vatican Council that qualifies as much read material. More on that later...
"[They] rise again from ashes..."
What an infernal song! I wanted to post my own observations regarding faithful coming out of the woodwork for Ash Wednesday. As any priest can tell you, people flock to church on Ash Wednesday. Many think it is a holy day of obligation; it is not. Let's see, we have certain days that are obligatory and you don't come; we have days that aren't and you do come. Aaaahhhh! I don't like it. I don't understand it. At my last parish on Ash Wednesday, as I pastorally shook hands while people left church, a husband and wife walked by, shook my hand, and said, "Welcome, Father! How long have YOU been here?" I responded, "Oh, eight months now!" They didn't say much more after that.

Last night, at one of my mission churches, the place was packed. There was well over two times the ordinary number of people in attendance and chairs were added all the way to the back wall. So, I figured I needed to strike while the iron was hot. I accomplished a rather smooth pastoral move, if I may say so myself. After the post Communion prayer, I had everyone sit down for announcements. Since the majority in attendance do not speak English well, I asked one of the more fluent Hispanic parishioners to come up, stand at the ambo microphone and translate my announcement (I can read Spanish well, but I don't speak it off the top of my head). But first, I had everyone close his eyes. I know it sounds goofy, but I had a delicate announcement to make and I didn't want people watching to see what group of people I might look toward and think I was brutally chastising people. I told everyone, "I am delighted to see so many people. We are happy to have everyone here. There is only one small, small problem [an understatement, I know]: the shepherd doesn't know some of his sheep and, I imagine, some of the sheep don't know the shepherd. We need to see you here on all Sundays and holy days of obligation. We need you here, not just because we're 'needy', but because you, and all of us, are members of the Body of Christ. When you are not here, we are missing some of our members, we are not whole. Please give us this delight and this joy by being with us more often, in other words: every Sunday and holy days of obligation." Then I had them open their eyes. It was brilliant. No one seemed offended. Quite the contrary, everyone seemed pleased and happy. And those who do regularly attend were so excited that something had been said, in the hopes that we can more frequently pack our little church.

Something about yesterday's Masses also made me reflect upon the catholicity of the Church. Unfortunately (as regards faith practice) and fortunately, you see a larger cross section of humanity on Ash Wednesday. So many new faces and everyone can come up and receive the ashes. It is really a blessing to see it. Of course, I still come back to the rectory afterwards, mumbling under my breath about our anonymous parishioners. But it is a neat day. It is much like the first reading we all heard from the Prophet Joel: " an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast;...let the priests...say, 'Spare, O Lord, your people." Obviously the congregation had been notified and young and old, infants, elders, the employed and retired, students and parents, doctors, plumbers, electricians, lawyers, social workers, professors, housewives, nurses, construction workers, homeschool mothers, even an animal control officer had all come together. If only society's leaven would rise up more often! If only society's light would come out from under its basket more regularly! If only society's salt wouldn't lose its flavor so soon. What a great day it is, Ash Wednesday! And it all begins a season of fasting and penance. How could we have gloomy faces like the hypocrites? So, here's to the homeschool moms, the doctors, plumbers, and even the guy who gases our puppies and kittens! Hopefully, we'll see each other again real soon.
New plan for Lenten Reflections
Soon after the posting of Lenten Reflection #1, Fr. Tharp and I realized we needed to adjust our plan. So, I have started my own blog where I will post my promised reflections on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent. Now, we know what you are thinking. I have only been blogging here for one week. In that time, Fr. Tharp has begun his own blog, Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!, and now I have begun my own. You may be tempted to think secularly, smelling blood in the water, as when a member of some musical group goes solo. The egos were bound to collide sooner or later like wreckless, defiant freight trains. We knew it couldn't last long. There's a break-up in the air, you might think, somewhat like these guys.

We assure you nothing like that is happening. We realized that with the frequency of our posting, the Lenten reflections could get lost easily. Also, we enjoy quite a bit of humor, and we feared other posts on this blog might interfere with a reflective mindset. I mean lets face it. You could easily find a day's reflection posted between a photo of a gorilla and Kermit the Frog! We realized we needed a separate place where readers could enjoy the spiritual matters, free from distraction. The link to any given day's reflection will still be provided on this blog.

Consider it much like the architecture of a church. We regularly set aside things having to do with the spiritual. The sanctuary is set off from the nave of a church. So, consider this blog to be the nave of the church. Consider the link to my new blog like the Communion rail. And consider my new blog to be the sanctuary where you can hopefully profit from the reflections easily and without distraction.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

We're bigger than our blog gives us credit for
Well, not really. We have surpassed the 1,000 hits mark. We are in a new millenium of this blog now. And we are simply egowhelmed, uh, we mean, uh, overwhelmed, overwhelmed at the response to our young blog. And all of this during Lent when not a few people limit internet time. In honor of this blog milestone we would like to offer our visitors a gift that calls to mind the monkeyness of this blog. Oh, and it's also a mind control device.
This is a new one to me...

I had a strange phone call tonight. A young lady called and asked if there was going to be Midnight Mass. I was most confused by this.

Has anyone else heard of the practice of Midnight Ash Wednesday Mass? Would there be any justification to have one?
C.A.P.E. Catholics

No, this is not another lame comic book-related post. It is just a bitter, low-key, screed. If you are not in the mood for one of my screeds, read it later.

Ever notice how many extra folks there are at Ash Wednesday Masses? It can become a literal throng of humanity. But then the first Sunday of Lent rolls around and -poof- the extra folks are gone. Granted, some of these folks might have gone back to their proper parish, but I doubt that all of them are "visitors."

In the seminary, we devised a name for these Catholics. We called them "C.A.P.E. Catholics." C.A.P.E. stands for "Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and Easter." But none of us could figure out why people came to these four Masses and none other. And then an astute friend who has gone on to ordination said, "These are all the times you get something." He hit it on the head: Christmas is presents, Ashes the magical forgiveness totem, Palm Sunday a piece of braidable grass and Easter hollow chocolate bunnies.

Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes at this. Some young punk priest isn't satisfied with people coming to Mass. "They're trying the best," you will say. I say, "Nuts!" to that. The minimum is not where we are asked to aim. Be perfect as Your Father in Heaven is perfect is the goal Christ gives us. Furthermore, if they can make time to make Mass on these other days, what is so all-fired important that they can't slip away FOR ONE HOUR?! [I, of course, am not thinking of those who have jobs in the military, police, medicine, etc. where they have to be away.]

The key I suspect lies with conversion. As a convert, I swiftly recognized my attendance at worship was an obligation born out of love and being responsive to love. If He can give all, and I am a member of His Body, then His Grace makes it possible.
I'll Keep My Proteins, Thank You Very Much

Just when you thought that CRM was just a site for fun and faith information, check this out. We can be good for you, too.

Who is oldest now?
Read here where the oldest man in the United States has died.
This Just In: It isn't just anti-Semitic, it's bad for your Heart.

I copied this text directly from the "front page" of the Drudge Report. I expect there will be a link soon. Not only with the Anti-Defamation League be out against the movie, so will the American Heart Association.

"**Exclusive** KAKE TV in Wichita, Kansas set report to a woman, in her 50s, suffered a heart attack during a morning screening of Mel Gibson's controversial film PASSION OF THE CHRIST. "She later died at the hospital," a station source tells the DRUDGE REPORT. The report is scheduled to be lead story on the station's 5 PM news. "She went into seizure during one of the film's most dramatic moments," a station source explains. The woman attened a 9:30am screening at Warren East Theaters in Wichita... Developing...

The Ebert Review

Roger Ebert, the source for all my opinions on all things movie-related, has placed his review on the web. See it here.

The review is largely positive. I am interested though in his reaction as, I assume from his comments, a fallen-away Catholic. It sounds like the movie crawled under his skin and hasn't let go yet.

So, let's do an informal survey. Brother priests, did your weekend or Ash Wednesday Mass attendance go up? Fellow Christians, did Mass seem more reverent or better attended?
Ragemonkey Red Alert 2: Living in the Age of Disposable People

I was listening to NPR (don't hate me if I like more commentary on the news than the 10-second blown-dry Barbie heads provide) and on "Fresh Air" which comes from one of my favorite cities, Philly, the hour was dedicated to a story that had run in the New York Times Magazine. The story was about sex slavery in the U.S. Apparently young girls and boys from around the world, but mostly for Latin America, are being run into the country for the use in sex trade. It was very sad and very disturbing. Yet another place where we need to secure justice for the less fortunate.

Then on the Drudge Report, there was another article about slavery, but this time is was wage slavery. The article dealt at length with how immigrants, again mostly from south of the Border, were treated as wage slaves, earning well below what is needed to live.

Apart from the slavery angle, these two stories carry a common thread. They both have to do with disposable persons. Think for a moment about that coffee mug that practically flies into your hand each morning. At the end of that delicious cup of java, does it ever, EVER cross your mind to discard the cup. No? Why? Because the cup has value to you. It evokes a pleasant memory, you love the Far Side cartoon on the exterior, whatever. But if the value disappears, say the handle breaks off, guess where that cup is headed. Right into the garbage.

Human persons should be worth more to us than cheap labor or as a fully interactive sex toy. They are created in the image and likeness of God. Because they can fulfill some intermediary good, a good which more valuable than the one providing it, they are as disposable as a Dixie cup.
Reflection #1: Ash Wednesday


Verse: Our help is in the name of the Lord / Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini
Response: Who made heaven and earth / Qui fecit caelum et terram.

Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-7
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God.
"Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?" Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

Almost the first words we hear in the Holy Season of Lent are the traditional formula for the distribution of ashes: “Remember, man, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” These words come from Genesis 3:19. And synonymous with ‘genesis’ is the idea of creation. In a brief quote from Scripture, packed with theology and anthropology, Holy Mother Church reminds us of our creation – that we are creatures and nothing more. We are part of a hierarchy of being; and we are not at its summit! God is Supreme Being; God is Creator. We are His creatures. Furthermore, by calling creation to mind with the distribution of ashes, another message is loud and clear – just as obvious as the smudge on the forehead: We are in need of re-creation! For, you see, those words from Genesis are also closely linked to man’s exile from the garden of Eden and, thus, separation from the way leading to the Tree of Life (cf. Gn. 3:24).

Isaiah speaks of crying out. Most of us cry out when we are born. And soon after, we begin crying out for the things we want, the things that fill us up, the desires that never seem satisfied. And let’s not kid ourselves! We are just as much babies now, crying out for the things of this world. Look around. Hear all the clamor round about you. There is the roar of sirens carrying the message that someone is in trouble, perhaps at another’s hand. The noise of the TV is always in the background and obviously notched up when commercials air. The false zeal of quick tempers screams when we don’t get our way. It is all the cacophony of sin. It must appear, in some ways, from the realms of heaven, as a sad “stock exchange” of humanity.

But God sees more. And through the prophet Isaiah’s crying out, we are told to seek repentance, forgiveness, and authenticity. By our Lenten disciplines we seek to empty our greedy hands and greedy hearts from the things with which we become so easily obsessed. Why? Not to remain empty; but to be able to grasp the hand of the Lord more firmly, to be able to love the Lord more fully. And to more fully receive His love! Isaiah, and the readings of today’s Holy Mass, reminds us of the goal of our disciplines. The ashes we wear and the disciplines we take up are not for show, but should lead us to the life God desires: to be re-created by His grace and to bear that life to the world, to the imprisoned, to the burdened and oppressed, to the hungry, to the homeless, to the naked, brothers and sisters all (cf. reading above)! And one day this will lead us to THE Angel of God, His Son, Who will not block our entry to the garden, but will usher us to the good things of the Tree of Life!

V. You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
Spare, O Lord, spare your people; and do not be angry with us forever.
V. You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
V. You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

Our Father.
Hail Mary.
Glory be.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen. / Dominus nos benedicat, et ab omni malo defendat, et ad vitam perducat aeternam. Amen.
Anonymous Christians?

I've got a little question for everyone. As you know, I have a column to which people can submit questions. I kid you not, but every single submission in the last week has asked not to have their name and home city used?

What's up with that? Any thoughts?
The ashes are a blessing?
I don't think that's what's going on when the Catholic Church distributes ashes on this day. Rather, it is a powerful reminder in sensible sign of precisely what is uttered at the distribution: "Remember, man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return." But I just finished reading a local newspaper article on Ash Wednesday that featured Pastor Dawn and her Lord of Life Lutheran Church. With all due respect to the members of other Christian communities, it is an injustice and, it seems to me, sloppy journalism that the article didn't feature a Catholic church. But I digress. Apparently, at Lord of Life, the ash distribution is a blessing. So says Pastor Dawn. I guess outside of the visible confines of the sheepfold, it can take on whatever meaning one wants.
Our influence on culture
I'm always reminded at this time of year just how much of an influence Catholicism has on our culture, even that of the present day United States. It never fails. Always around this time of year, McDonald's ads pick a rather unlikely menu item to advertise: the McFish Fillet Sandwich, or whatever they call it. I remember at my last parish that Long John Silver's suddenly mailed the parish a flyer announcing family meal deals. Last year I saw Chile's even had little table placards that advertised their "Lent Menu". I kid you not. I couldn't believe they actually used the word. Examples abound. The wider society may not understand us and so much of the year is a reminder of how disgusted we are by their trite treatment of faith, Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular. But today, simply smile that our Church does have an enormous impact on the culture around us. And the next time you hear a McDonald's commercial, say, "Yes, indeed, I am lovin' it!"
A St. Blog's Parish First?
As a novice here I'm not sure if anyone has done this before. But I want to try something. How about a blogosphere Lenten spiritual conference series? Or would that be called a spiritual e-conference? Here is my plan. On Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent I will post a short spiritual reflection for anyone who cares to read and take a few moments for the soul. I will plan to have each reflection posted by the Mercy hour on those respective days. In other words, check here around 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent (and Good Friday) for a spiritual reflection. I hope it will be worthwhile for our readers. First post will be up later today by 3:00 p.m. (CST). Let us pray for one another!
Wichita Orphaned: Day 93
We are on the 93rd day of Wichita's orphan status as a sede vacante (no, not the pejorative meaning). As of my check of the Vatican website daily news bulletin this morning, Fr. Tharp has still not been named Bishop of Wichita! But don't put your home up there on the market yet, Father, we will continue to monitor the situation.

(Hey, I am the youngest priest of the Archdiocese. Can't I ACT like a little brother!)
Alternate Universe
How is it possible we have seen the same film? Check out this wacky review of "The Passion".
Absit Omen!

When people would sneeze in ancient Rome, the above phrase was invoked to drive away the sign of illness, meaning usually an outbreak of plague. (Lit. Let the sign of illness be absent.)

Lent has its own omens of ill fortune as well. I set my alarm clock last night in the hope of saying part of the Divine Office before my Ash Wednesday Mass at 7:00 a.m. When the radio alarm started ringing and playing music, I looked at the clock. It read "6:30." That's when the fuzzzzzy thinking started. "Wait, that's not right...if it's 6:30, OH, NO..." I leapt out of bed, a sight to behold, skipped shower and tooth brushing (yes, the distribution of ashes was extra penitential this morning), and booked it over for Mass. Of course, everything went off fine.

Here's hoping that your Lent is already better than mine has been. I'm off for a shower.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Ragemonkey Red Alert 1:
The Consequences of Free Love or That Burning Sensation is not Passion

If there is anything that gets me really going it is inconsistent logic. So, let me get this straight, modern media. If you talk to kids about smoking, drugs, drinking, staying in school, or internet music piracy, they will probably choose to not do the bad things or do the right thing when the time comes. But the instant you suspect your darling cherub might be sexually active then its time to outfit them with condoms, birth control, and whatever else passes as necessary "for safe sex." Funny, I didn't think sex was so dangerous I had to be protected from it. The message is clear. You can stop smoking but if little Jimmy doesn't get "to shake his moneymaker," then he will be an incomplete person.

Well, folks, here's where that logic leads. Right to the free clinic. Check out this link. Is anyone surprised? If you play with nuclear waste, you get radiation poisoning. If you are promiscuous, then you are GOING to catch a charming STD. And that is a gift that keeps on giving.

When I heard about Fr. H's way of helping the kids observe Lent, I thought that might be a good way for regular readers of the blog. Now, this won't have a cute punishment stunt attached because one, we can prove whether or not we succeeded and two, I think we are all grown-ups here. I suggest that part of our works for Lent is to make a commitment to support each other in our good resolutions and commitments.

So, without violating anyone's conscience, what are you giving up for Lent? I am giving up TV [mind-fast], making a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament [body-prayer], and making acts of forgiveness to specific people [spirit-give alms]. I also have made the minor resolutions of improving how I celebrate the Divine Office [mind-prayer] and read two spiritual books [mind-give alms]. If you don't understand the stuff in the brackets, please see my earlier post (Making the Most of the Holy Fast, Mon Feb 23, 06:06:14 PM )
Sundays in Lent: Yes or No?
Having just completed making my batch of Cream of Mushroom Soup (for tomorrow), finishing off my last turtle chocolate candy, and heating up the iron to rid a few wrinkles from my nobly simple Lenten violet chasuble, I want to respond to a question I hear every year. My mother brought the question from her parish prayer group: Regarding Lenten practices/sacrifices/observances, do Sundays "count"? Are we supposed to observe our Lenten practices on Sundays too or can we take those as a break?

First, how is Lent computed? The Holy Season of Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive on Holy Thursday. Though Sundays during Lent are certainly Sundays of the season, the official count of 40 is had by counting from Ash Wednesday to Easter, but excluding Sundays. Thus, comes the question: Do we still do our Lenten things on Sundays?

To my knowledge, the Church has never officially spoken on this. The contrary notwithstanding, then, I offer that I can see the plausibility of both positions, yes and no. Let's look at each position.

Yes. Sundays are still in the season and many people don't want to skimp. This position views the Lenten observances, specifically the sacrifices, as the total deprivation of some good for a spiritual purpose, a deprivation that is not to cease until the day of the Lord's Resurrection is celebrated. That is justifiable and laudable.

No. This position bases itself on two factors. (1) The traditional 40 day count is had by excluding the Sundays; and, (2) A liturgical consideration. All Sundays throughout the Liturgical Year are considered "little Easters", the Lord's Day on which his Resurrection is commemorated. Therefore, it is a day of celebration, not penance. So, this position holds, Sundays may be observed as little breaks during our Lenten practices, free days as it were. Some even add here the two solemnities that fall in Lent (March 19 & 25), because likewise solemnities are liturgical feasts, thus not days of penance. In this scenario there would be 8 "free days" in Lent.

Both positions seem fine to me. I will admit, having more of a liturgical spirituality, I love living my days according to the liturgical calendar, marking Sundays and solemnities as days of special joy and feasting. Thus, for myself, I would tend to lean toward the position that, if one chooses, he may observe Sundays and the two solemnities as free days. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of Lent to go "hog wild" on the free days. Enjoy a little of what has been given up if you wish, but with restraint.

Again, it is important to remember that the Church has not spoken on this. What has been legislated for the universal Church is that Ash Wednesday is a day of Fast and Abstinence. In addition, all Fridays in Lent are days of Abstinence. Good Friday (technically outside of the Lenten season) is also universally legislated as a day of Fast and Abstinence. After that, the answer to the question of this post is left to each individual to discern. I would suggest arriving at your own answer by asking, "What is the sign of my love for the Lord this Lent?" Is that sign something you best express by scenario one or by scenario two? And there is your answer.

And let's remember right now, by the way, ALL Fridays throughout the year are supposed to be observed as days of penance. Outside of Lent (the Church officially establishes the penance for Fridays of Lent) the faithful are asked to choose their own penance. Perhaps it is the customary abstaining from meat. Perhaps it is some form of fasting. Perhaps it is some special observance added to one's routine like a visit to the church or chapel or some work of mercy. The important thing is that Fridays not be forgotten because of that one Friday in human history when mankind's freedom from sin was purchased.
Canonical Status
There has been a great deal made of Mel Gibson's attachment to the Tridentine Rite of the Holy Mass. Not a problem. However, some have claimed that he attends Holy Mass offered by a schismatic priest of the Society of St. Pius X. I have also heard that Mel may have built "his own" chapel where the Holy Mass in the Tridentine Rite is offered. All of this raises questions about Mel's canonical status or ecclesial relationship to a bishop in communion with Rome and, indeed, to Rome itself. Does anyone know -- beyond conjecture (in other words, more definitively) -- what Mel's canonical status is? Is he in schism?

In addition to the above information, I also have a bit of added information through my pastor. My pastor attended seminary in California and a good priest friend of his from there (the grandson of John Wayne -- that's a different story) has come to know Jim Caviezel, who portrays Jesus in Mel's movie. In fact, this priest has become almost a sort of spiritual director to Caviezel. Through that connection my pastor joined a group to Medjugore that included his priest friend and Caviezel. In a brief conversation between my pastor and Caviezel, my pastor asked Jim about Mel, "And Mel? He loves the Pope?" My pastor reports that Caviezel responded a bit sheepishly with, "Pray for him [Mel]." That would seem to support the suspicion of being in schism. However, not even that is definitive proof.

Does anyone out there know what Mel's canonical status is? Let us know. And, please, please don't equate this post with the silliness of trying to get people to stay away from the movie. That is not the intention whatsoever.
Chief Monkey New Blog!

Chief Monkey New Blog! Chief Monkey Gone! Hoo, hoo. Woo, hoo, hoo. Woo, hoo! Woo, hoo! EEEEEE!! We, EEEEEEEE!
Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

I have added a new blog to my life. One just wasn't enough.

Truth be told, since our diocesan newspaper doesn't carry an on-line edition of the paper, I wanted to give access to back articles of mine without cluttering the Ragemonkey site. Initially there will be a lot of activity, but as I run out of back material the level should drop back quite a bit.

So check out the new site: Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!
Wanna See It? Gotta See It!

So I took a little Fat Tuesday surf on the TV to get geared up for Lent. Yes, I am giving up TV for Lent. And of course, all over the news is hostility to The Passion of the Christ. One New York City newspaper reporter (I don't remember which paper) said that it was the most anti-Semitic film since the days of WW II. I love a good hyperbole, but let's not be ridiculous. After all, I doubt that at any time the Jewish people are compared to disease-ridden rats in Mel's movie.

This is a call to arms. To my fellow clerics you have got to get out and see this movie. It is a logical extension of our teaching office. If there is anything off about the picture, and I am not saying there, I haven't seen it yet, we need to have seen it so that we can comment intelligently to it. If there is nothing wrong with it, then it simply becomes fodder for homilies and instructions. To the lay faithful, you have got to go see it. Your non-Catholic fellow employees and friends will be shocked out of their minds potentially by the fact it was made by a Catholic. Also, you will have to be the universal translator for the Catholic sensibility of the movie.
Getting a Media Friendly Face Out There

I was thinking...dangerous I know. There are those of a more liberal stripe amongst the clergy who would suggest engagement with the world on the world's terms. I would a point. I think we have to engage the world, but on the terms of the Gospel. Learning how to speak the lingo of the world is useful but if and only if we are engaged with bringing the Gospel to the world. When the Gospel is received it will require change on the part of the World. If we engage on the world's terms, the Gospel is inevitably the one changed.

So, why aren't these priests and bishops putting their monies where their mouths are?
Might I suggest going on...

Whoever outlasts the others gets to be a Cardinal!

Or if the great outdoors is not their things, a priest could try out for...

Although this really more closely resembles the seminary...
Hamilton's Book Quiz Results

You're Brave New World!

by Aldous Huxley

With an uncanny ability for predicting the future, you are a true
psychic. You can see how the world will change and illuminate the fears of future
generations. In the world to come, you see the influence of the media, genetic
science, drugs, and class warfare. And while all this might make you happy, you
claim the right to be unhappy. While pregnancy might seem painful, test tube
babies scare you most. You are obsessed with the word "pneumatic".

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I think this is the first time I have been accused of being "obsessed with the word 'pneumatic'." I was indeed concerned about it a few weeks ago when I was having the wheel bearing hub unit replaced on my car. You see, using a pneumatic wrench to make the repair can actually damage the part and so you must opt for the impact wrench instead... Sorry! Obsessing again!
Where do we go from here?

As many of you know, the comprehensive John Jay Study concerning clergy sex abuse will be out at the end of the month. I assume that means next week sometime. And already the confusion and distortion abounds. Check out this article from the Associated Press. Contrast what the article says and the quote from Ratzinger.
AP reporter - "That would mean roughly 4 percent had been accused of abuse, although not all the claims are likely to be deemed credible in the final report, due out next Friday."
Ratzinger - "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican (news - web sites)'s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told Catholic News Service in December 2002, that 'less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type.'"

See the problem. They are talking about two different things. The AP reporter is talking about accusations and his eminence is referring to guilt. But placing the two pieces side by side makes it sound as though the Cardinal is hopelessly in the dark. Or hinting that he might be hiding something.

Thankfully the AP has noted that this is not exclusively a Catholic Issue. Protestant churches frequently run across this issue as well. For example, in Oklahoma City, the same day revelations were coming out of Boston, a Methodist youth minister and a rabbi were both arrested on abuse complaints. Abuse can happen whenever there is power imbalance in the relationship.

More infruriating to me is the use of this by folks to push their agendas. When I say that, many of you are thinking of groups like Voice of the Faithful or We Are Church. But there are groups who are minimally in union with Rome, usually over the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, who are milking this for all its worth. One of these groups is called Roman Catholic Faithful. I recently received their newsletter which leveled lots of accusation without too much subsequent proof. Also, they wanted to make sure they bypassed me, the pastor, when they mailed the newsletter. It was in a plain white envelope addressed to the secretary. Without my dutiful assistant, I would have missed it completely. It was interesting to read in their mission statement that part of this scandal was that priests were not permitted to say the Traditional Tridentine Mass without permission. Of course, I am not permitted to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without permission just as I cannot celebrate the Sarum nor the Anglo-Catholic rites without permission. Membership in a ritual church means following the ritual that is normative for your rite. Then if necessary other rites may be celebrated assuming there is a proper just cause. I don't hear Byzantine Catholic communities clamoring for the older edition of their rite, do you?

You can check out their website but I don't recommend it. I don't think that they are being just; they like Voice of the Faithful want to recast the Church in their ideal image and likeness.

Fr. Johansen over at Thrown Back has a thoughtful post up concerning the sources of the problem. Pop over and take a read. I want to know, where do we go from here? What steps must we be willing to take not just to ensure this doesn't happen again but also address underlying root causes which might be undermining the Church in other ways?

I really do feel for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of my brother priests. But I also don't want virtuous and good priests to be tarred with the same brush. It is like the Catechism points out when talking about the Communion of the Saints. "In this solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion (CCC #953)."

Let no more harm come to the Holy Church or to any of its members.

No, not the abbreviation found throughout historical and modern day Rome (Senatus PopulusQue Romanus). Rather I mean: Silence, Pensiveness, Quiet, and Restraint.

I think I would prefer to practice some Roman sobriety or restraint rather than offering a further critique of "The Passion". I really meant what I wrote last night upon returning from the movie: Silence is in order. I don't hold this position because I want to guard (if only for a day) some special gnosis I have. Rather, I don't want to clutter anyone's experience of the movie with my own critique; at least not before it opens publicly. I fear writing about the movie may reveal too much before others have a chance to experience it themselves. I will withhold comment until a few days after its public opening.

I will say this, however. The movie is in NO way anti-Semitic; no reasonable person could make such a claim if he has seen the movie. It is artistically beautiful. Again, the subtlety of gesture, eyes, face, hands, speaks volumes. The Marian dimension of the film (because it is part of the life of Jesus) is strong and clear. I don't want to reveal scenes, but I came away believing that the movie showed how Jesus himself, in the midst of terrible, unimaginable agony, received strength and firmness of purpose to continue on with the Father's Will, by looking to his mother. Why would that strengthen his resolve? Because she was the first to say "Fiat," "Amen" to the Father's Will. I had never before thought of how Mary's fiat could have been a unique source of Jesus' own resolve to accept and drink from the chalice given to him. As a mamma's boy and a Catholic (read: Marian devotion) the interaction between Jesus and Mary hit me hard. From the start of the movie through its completion, I honestly cannot recall one audible word being uttered by anyone in the theatre. The obvious reaction of everyone present was stunned silence and tears. Bring a heavy duty handkerchief folks!
Scratching my head
I received a nice gift of chocolate from a kind person for St. Valentine's Day together with a card that reads: [card front] "Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a handsome man who appreciated women for their minds. A man who preferred brains and a sense of humor over a roll in the hay. A man in search of commitment...[inside of card]...Thought you might enjoy a good fairy tale this Valentine's Day!"

Now, I'm curious, as a priest, what would your reaction to such a card be? Would you send such a card to a priest?
Ecce Homo, Ecce Pelicula

Please excuse the language mingling. Since our junior ragemonkey was able to see THE MOVIE, I suspect the cat is out of the bag. We can all expect a review from him very soon.

To be fair and balanced (hahahahahahahahaha), I wanted to include the review from the Associated Press. I would call it the normal handwringing concerning violence. (Oh, that reviews would ring their hands over overt sexual exploitation in movies.) The review in general is complimentary, especially to the cinamatography and the detailed screenplay that Gibson put together.

Once you realize the impact the movie might have, then you should start to expect the bitter screeds against them. Case in point: Andy Rooney. Yes, our favorite garden gnome of the news commentary world has weighed with his opinion. And the verdict? GIbson must be "crazy" if he wants to present Christ to the world.

This reaction is to be expected. St. Paul called the Cross a stumbling block for Jews and an absurdity to Greeks/Gentiles. Gibson is a good witness to us as we begin Lent. Many people will think we are odd or overly pessimissitic to deny ourselves things we like for 40 WHOLE DAYS. But I am not living for here alone. I am living to live with Christ, and that leads me right to the Cross.
Shrove Tuesday...Off to IHOP?

The Catholic Faith has influenced so much of the popular culture around us. Sadly, many people are totally unaware of the link between cultural practices and its origin in the Faith. Today, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, makes no sense without relation to the succeeding day -- Ash Wednesday. Without that day in the Catholic liturgical calendar there would be no Mardi Gras, no Shrove Tuesday. What does this "Shrove" mean, anyway? It originates in Middle English from "to shrive". My online dictionary says the following under "shrive": 1: to administer the sacrament of reconciliation to; 2 : to free from guilt; intransitive senses, archaic : to confess one's sins especially to a priest. One must understand that Shrove Tuesday was the completion of a whole period in liturgical calendars of old called Shrovetide. This period before Lent was a time to gradually rid one's house and oneself of the things that would be sacrificed during Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The sense of repentance was already in the air before Lent even began. Rex Olandi Rex Cledendi has a link to an article here for more on the topic.

And what about this trip to IHOP? Shrove Tuesday has also become associated with pancakes, believe it or not. Since this day was the last day to rid the house of fat, butter, and eggs (in older penitential practices) pancakes became the food to make to use up what remained. And so a tall stack (requisite knee slap!) of pancake festivals have sprung up around this day. Perhaps even your parish has an annual pancake feed on this day? For more on pancakes associated with today read articles here and here.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I'm back from Golgotha
I have just viewed "The Passion of the Christ." Almost all I can say is sometimes silence is best. So much of the significance of what the film portrays is told without words, in subtlety, with eyes, face, and hands. I don't know why I didn't expect that given that I knew beforehand the film's language is almost nobody's spoken language. And it is such a CATHOLIC film! I almost wonder if our separated brethren can fully participate in the film; I wonder if they might be likely to miss some of the subtlety of which I write.

The theme that opened the flood gate of my tears time and again, and the one thing I really want to post here, is that the interaction between Jesus and his mother, Mary, is almost unbearable. Odd, given the physical violence displayed all over the screen. And then again, not so odd. Ave Domine Iesu! Ave Crux, Spes Unica! Ave Maria!
And the award for most obsessed fan goes to...

these guys.

I mean I loved the Green Lantern comic books, but seriously...

Gentlemen, it's called human interaction. Yes, I know that the three dimensions are a little scary at first and yes, it is hard to follow a conversation when there isn't a dialogue balloon, but you'll like it. I promise.

I can say things like this because I love comics...just not that much.

You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what
causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they
really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing
with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in
the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but so can

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thanks to Fr. Tucker over at Dappled Things for this really excellent quiz. Blue Pyramid, the origin for this quiz, has some other really interesting looking ones. But the level of self-actualization I am gaining from these it a little excessive. How can I be a book I have never read?
Techmonkey Dave here. There are a couple issues with the comments box.

Issue the first: The last template had a link to a website that had a objectionable word visible when clicked. My bad. I've fixed that.

Issue the second: sometimes, after you've typed your comment and hit the "add comment" box, you'll see a series of error messages. Fear not, your comment has been accepted. Just close that box with the error messages. The website responsible for the comment boxes assures us that this is a temporary problem. We'll see.

I now return you to the erudition, wit and depth of our brave ragemonkeys.
Let him rest peacefully with you, O Lord

I saw in the news that one of the victims of clergy sex abuse died under strange circumstances. His name was Patrick McSorley and was 29 at the time of death.

It was a hard life made more difficult because of the actions of Fr. John Geoghan. May he rest in peace and may all his loved ones know the comfort of Christ.
Nobody asked but it's just cluttering my brain...

I met Fr. Benedict when I was on the spiritual year which would have been 1995 or 1996. I can't recall if it was fall or spring. I had looked forward to his visit for some time. I had heard all sorts of good things about him. I had powered through a couple of his books. As part of the retreat he conducted he offered time for one-on-one conversations. I signed up as soon as I could.

We walked around the spacious grounds of the seminary and I told him about myself and about the struggles I had had thus far in the seminary. He was very compassionate and unlike anyone to that point in the seminary "system," he understood the pain and evil I had experienced. At the same time, did not act as though it couldn't be talked about or was some kind of secret. He called my parents' divorce evil, a deprivation of a good that should have been present. I just cannont express my joy at my encounter with him.

So as our time together neared an end, he looked at me and said, "If you are going to make it through the seminary, it is going to take a lot of courage on your part." Courage was necessary if I could both confront the past and discern what God was calling for. As I progressed through the seminary in Philly, our paths crossed from time to time. He even conducted my retreat in preparation for priestly ordination.

And for all these things, but most especially that commitment to courage, I thank him. I wouldn't be a priest for this one brief encounter. Courage is now one of my watchwords. It takes courage to reform one's life. It takes courage to proclaim the Resurrection. It takes courage to live the Gospel.

I thank God that he has not taken Fr. Benedict back yet. I still want to let Teresa, my sister, spend time with him. She loves Fr. B, I suspect, because of everything he has given to me. I still want to go on a retreat with him again.
It's a full time job...
...reading and then editing Fr. Tharp's posts for grammar and consistency. His "Making the Most of the Holy Fast" post is a good case in point. Under that post, #1 in his list doesn't read clearly and then at #4 he switches into using letters for the numeration. Since he messed around with my barber shop post, placing the bold heading under the bumper sticker, I am going to leave this on the blog until (1) Fr. Tharp edits his aforementioned post; or, (b) Fr. Tharp removes this post of mine himself. Of course, both would be fine too. Unless there is some space wrinkle tonight, I will see "The Passoin" FIRST! And, yes, my errors were intentional.
Where are they now?

Since we are linking to actors who portray characters we are allegedly most like, I thought you might want to know what is happening with them.

Fr. Tharp = Sejanus = Patrick Stewart ("Make It So!")

Fr. Hamilton = Augustus = Brian Blessed ("and you are who?")

This is just my juvenille way to say, "I want to see the Passion of the Christ first."
Making the Most of the Holy Fast
There is one downside to Lent. I can have difficulty 1.) making up my mind what I am giving this up, 2.) why I am giving up a particular thing, 3.) how to remind myself what I committed to give up, and D.) consciously choosing the good from which this attachment has kept me.

But not any more. Using the powerful computer on my desk, I have devised a way to improve Lent for everyone. It’s called the Penance Grid. Here’s how it works.

On a piece of paper, draw a 3 X 3 box. Then above the horizontal line of the top three boxes write Body, Mind, and Spirit. Then next to the line of the vertical, left-side line write Pray, Fast, Give Alms. It will look something like this:
Body Mind Spirit


Give Alms

(Ah, isn’t it cute. It’s like the Hollywood Squares without dealing with Paul Lynde’s comments. Sorry, the computer displays the grid; Blogger doesn't)

Now, look at the first box. How does one pray with one’s body? It might lead you to be more regular about your prayer time and duration. Or look at the intersection of “Mind” and “Give Alms.” Perhaps you could give your mind a break and give up TV for the whole season of Lent. Think about how much solid spiritual reading and just plain interacting with others you would get in.

The point is NOT to fill in every square. The idea is to reflect upon what might be out of whack and attack those places. Then when you are done, tape it up prominently or put it a favorite prayer book/Breviary/Magnificat. Now you can encourage yourself and stay strong the entire season.

Hope this helps.
The Spirit works in mysterious ways?

I just spoke with the Archbishop. In the course of the conversation he mentioned his tough task at this time of year: making priestly assignments. In describing the complications of this task he used the word "monkey-wrench". So soon into the life of this blog, could this be the Spirit's prompting of local ecclesiastical approbation for this site? I guess it could go the other way too. I'm so confused! Whatever it ultimately means, I don't think he meant this. And I hope he wasn't referring to this group of "environmental warriors". Of course, we do have some religious orders in the area with interesting charisms. Hhhmmm.
Perspective from the Barber Shop

With hairs freshly cut, I thought I would share some of the wisdom, perspective, and humor from my barber shop. It is run by two brothers and as tax time approaches their government waste observations are free for the taking! This is the bumper sticker one brother has on his truck.

I just learned that our local movie theatre is having a special showing tonight of "The Passion of the Christ" for ministers!
Preparation for Lent [Part Two]

Nothing like a different author picking up where one left off. Just call us "Scripture-rific" or the "Johannine Community". Here are a couple of my suggestions for the spiritual life.

Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft. I read this a few months ago. It is a good little treatise and not very demanding (as regards length). After so many fine apologetic works, I found it neat to catch a glimpse of the soul of Peter Kreeft.

Prayer Primer: Igniting A Fire Within by Thomas Dubay. I am currently reading this one. As with Dubay's other works I have encountered, it is well done and worth it.
This is a bit ironic

There is no relation between Alexander Hamilton and myself of which I am aware, though I share his last name. Thanks to Bob at Republic of Virtue for the link.
There'll Be No Coups on Captain Picard's Watch!

Yes, Yes, I know he is a talented Shakespearean actor, but he will always be my favorite captain...or Gurney Haleck. It's a toss-up.


You worked as Tiberius'
most trusted advisor, but when that lazy coward fled Rome to shack up
in his house near the beach, you basically took over as ruler. You are
ambitious and righteous, and not above killing to get what you want. But,
as with every other leader in Rome, you must keep an eye out for anyone
who might thwart your plans. Don't trust anyone, no matter who they might

You were portrayed
by Patrick Stewart.

Which I, Claudius Character are You? created by
Shiny Objects

Preparation for Lent [Part One]

Since all or most of us live lives that are busy and loud, a good way to take advantage of Lent is with renewed spiritual reading. There are lots of profitable books and I wanted to suggest just a couple.

One that I have read:
Transformation in Christ by Dietrich Von Hildebrand

This classic of the spiritual life was an unknown to me until I read VH's biography. This book worked on my mind and possibly improved my hearing of confessions. The biggest asset to the book was it helped me to take my actions more consciously and more seriously.

I have provided the link to Amazon for those who would like to order it now. But I would recommend hitting your local Catholic Book Shoppe. That way, the money "stays in the family." Or get a Sophia Institute Catalog. Unfortunately, the website was hard to use.

Two I am reading for Lent:

And You are Christ's by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

I was browsing this book after meeting the author in Wichita at the Family Life Conference. For someone who writes on the spiritual life, this was someone very present to those around him. So this one is to strengthen my commitment to celibacy. No, I don't mean like that. Celibacy and virginity should be a source of spiritual strength and power but usually it sits in the garage of the soul like a tricked out Corvette.

The link will take you directly to Ignatius Press.

The School of Prayer by John Brook
This one is a re-read. And No, it has nothing to do with this bozo. I read it on the Spiritual Year at Saint Charles. It was most helpful and given that a big part of my life as a priest is praying the Divine Office, I would like to pray it better at the end of Lent. It is also a very useful book for those who are starting out praying the office.

My apologies for linking to Amazon again. Please see the suggestion above.

Anyone else got some suggestions?
Blog coup? And National Guard is going to Haiti


You were the adopted
son of Julius Caesar. Destined to become first Emperor of Rome, you are
responsible for laying down the foundations of the most powerful civilization
in history. However, as good as you are in leadership, you aren't so good
at paying attention to your family. You don't pay attention to any mischief
they might get into. When you do find out about the evils of your family,
you're shocked and horrified. You just don't get why they turned out the
way they did.

You were portrayed
by Brian Blessed.

Which I, Claudius Character are You? created by
Shiny Objects

Thanks to Fr. Jim Tucker, whose Dappled Things blog is where I found the link.
Hey, hey...

We look nothing like this. But considering the many kind visits and endorsements of our new blog, we are pursuing the idea of randomly visiting the cities of those who endorse us in this car. Maybe we need a sidebar link entitled "Monkey Like Car"?
It's Not Easy Being Green...So Quit!

From the Delusions of Electability Files, Ralph Nader throws his hat into the ring. This is the guy who ran as a Green Party member the last two elections and got a tiny percentage of the vote. Technically it was a statistical dead heat between Ralph, myself, and the martyrs of the Mexican Revolution.

For this election, Ralph has abandoned his verdant party past and embraced the Independent Party. Typical of American politics. When your personal position doesn't work, dump it! I personally don't think that Nader will make much of a difference in the election now. If he has any support, he lost it the instant he changed affiliation.

Most laughably, he claims that he will be more effective against GWB in the upcoming election. Who is he kidding? This guy wouldn't be effective against an aggressive slice of pizza.
I need a parish school

I have been so fortunate in my first two parish assignments to have a parish school. And I miss that now in my third assignment. At the first school I made sure to be very involved. I would regularly visit the classrooms to check up on the classes and allow them to ask me questions. Man, do the kids have good (and surprising!) questions. I would come and speak to certain classes at a teacher's request, telling the kids about respect and charity toward one another or why their pets probably weren't going to heaven. I would read to the pre-Kindergarten children and enjoy their snack with them (Green Eggs and Ham taken with forced smile and prior arrangement with the teacher for a SMALL portion!). I always made sure to come during Catholic Schools Week and bless each classroom together with the traditional Epiphany inscription over each class door. You want to get kids' attention? Walk into a classroom in cassock, surplice, and cope! And I would preside at the May Crowning. At the second school I continued these practices and I took on an even more formal role. I taught both the seventh and eighth grade religion classes (shameless plug here for the Faith & Life Series by Ignatius Press!). Oh, how I loved that. It was there (and about a year ago today) I developed something I will continue wherever I am blessed enough to have a parish school. I called it "Fr. Hamilton's 2003 Lent Challenge." I invited each student of the school to formally sign an agreement with me listing their lenten practices and/or sacrifices. I became party one to the contract and the students were collectively party two. I challenged them to be faithful to their lenten practices as I would be to mine. If one party was faithful, they then could impose something upon the other party. We agreed ahead of time that if even one child was faithful (I should have thought this one out more!) they would impose on me a flat top haircut; if I was faithful, all student participants had to join me for the four Sunday's after Easter at the parish church to pray the Rosary together. It was wonderful! It got the kids excited and serious about naming some lenten practice and striving to be faithful to it. Of course, it helped me too. So, at the end, I had a flat top and they came to pray the Rosary -- a challenge where we all "won". I hope to have that again some day.