Tuesday, April 13, 2004

My Kind of People!

I am becoming more and more troubled by the oncoming conflict with and because of John Kerry's dubious Catholicism. These people agree. Continue checking the site for more stuff. I will have more to say on this matter in the weeks to come.
Atmospheric Formation Environment

Call to Action got an earful from the priests of Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The story is here. It does my heart good to hear such things. It suggests that one's formation as a seminarian can be positively reinforced by the presence of priests who actually =shocking= practice the Catholic Faith themselves. People of Philadelphia, hope this makes you feel better.

I would be curious to find out what the results were for my diocese...
Stories from the Easter Vigil, Part One

The family of the four Mexican children threw a big party in advance of the Vigil to celebrate the sacraments the kids were going to receive. Apparently, one of the traditional party foods served in Mexican households is chicerones, better known as pork rinds. These were different in that bigger and fresher and had pieces of meat still attached. How did I know that they were fresh? The bristles of the hog were still in evidence.

After staring at these hairs for so long, I had to slip out. They just turned my stomach.
New Post in the Apologetics Frontier

Check out the new post on Apologize and Don't Be Sorry! A little reflection upon the Creed seemed in order in this season of conversion and renewal of Baptismal Promises.
A priestly first
Holy Week was oh, so, busy! The week before Holy Week I had spent some days off in Oklahoma City and also attending the seminary visitation trip as well as assisting at a Senior Class day of reflection for one of our Catholic high schools. I returned to my parish for Passion Sunday and then was back on the road for the Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week. I came back to my parish on Wednesday. Then, the very next day, I packed up some things and drove to our mission an hour away. I stayed there Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, celebrating the whole Sacred Triduum. Since this particular mission parish is so isolated, the associate pastor (that's me) typically goes there and does the whole Triduum.

It was so beautiful! And it was a priestly first for me to be responsible for all three sacred liturgies on those holy days. Up until now, the Good Friday Service of the Lord's Passion was the only one at which I was principal celebrant. As associate pastor, you typically concelebrate with the pastor on Holy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil. All the ceremonies went very well. The servers responded well to my training sessions. I also managed to make some parochial visits to a few homes while I was in that town. And, most importantly, the ceremonies were solemn and grace filled. I pulled out all sorts of old candelabra and candle holders, putting them in the oven to melt the wax off and cleaning them up a bit. Our Holy Thursday procession at the transfer of the Holy Eucharist went outside and around one side of the church. And we had candles everywhere for the Easter Vigil. And it was my pleasure to receive three people into the Catholic Church. We have two more awaiting some marriage cases before they can fully enter and we have another who actually completed his initiation before the Easter Vigil due to a hospital visit in which it was feared he might die. A great group for a small mission church! May it continue.
"Pleased to meet you...hope you guess my name"
This corny reference to Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" is my way of saying I feel as if I should reintroduce myself to the blog after my long silence. I have been away from any serious blogging for some time. Part of it is that I have been away from my computer for days at a time and part of it is that I have been rather preoccupied with many things of late. I have also been struggling to learn how to use my new Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) more effectively. So, that is where my technological energies have been focused. Also, nightly rehearsals for the "Sound of Music" have begun and I am at our local theatre trying to lend support and waiting for my brief appearance. Tonight was the first night in costume: I wore cassock, surplice, stole, cope, and biretta. People were in awe. I had non-Catholics just stunned at the liturgical elegance and even some of the high school guys wanted to try the biretta and cope on. I told them all they needed to do was become Catholic and then become priests.

Much like Kindergarten finger paint wars, I see someone has commandeered all the colors on the blog in a unilateral show of force. Oh, well, no matter what the color, with my return readers can again enjoy the balance, insight, and pastoral sensitivity you have come to expect from my posts!

Monday, April 12, 2004

A Rare Privilege

I had the most interesting experience that went past me because I was distracted. There is a marvelous irony when a convert (edited by me, thanks Karl for the note) priest places his hand on a candidate's shoulder and says, "The Lord receives you into the Catholic Church." You can sense their fear melting, the joy coming into their eyes, and the realization that everything they hoped for is now happening. My head was swimming when I was initiated into the Catholic Faith, and it moved me to tears that night. God so loved the world that He did not forget one sad little fellow in Oklahoma. I hope that is what they came to know. My parish in Alva is stronger by 6. And I hope those in attendance got the message too. It is time to change and take all this very seriously.

It is the logical conclusion of my own conversion that I would be bringing people to the font and making new Christians or perfecting the conversion of other Christians, through my sacramental ministry. Even if I had not been called to the priesthood, I know that I would be working to help people become Catholic. How I am not sure? I also know though that my soul would be in jeopardy if God had not called me to the priesthood. While the sacrament of Holy Order is to build up communion in the Church, it can result in salvation for the one ordained if he gives himself freely in loving service.

I think I know what St. Paul experienced. He too went from darkness to light and then spent the rest of his life doing the same. I did that for the first time at the Easter Vigil 2004. In the past, I have been closely involved with RCIA but this was the first year I administered all of the aspects of initiation. From start to finish, these people were guided by the Holy Spirit and enlightened by Christ. It is an awesome responsibility to assist in this. And terrifying. And I am already working on improving next year's programming.

And to think, I missed the event because I was fighting to remember what came next!
Renewal of Literature

Via Musing on Muses. There has been some discussion about how certain genres need some reworking because they have become cliche. So far we have folks working to fix fantasy, horror, spiritual thrillers, and romance. I'll throw my hat in for science fiction.

Science fiction uses a speculative future to examine the things that make us truly human. It is analysis by comparison. By contrasting the things that changed we see the things that have remained the same within ourselves. When the average person thinks of sci-fi, two things come to mind: Star Trek and Star Wars. Nothing wrong with that if a little limited. This sort of sci-fi thinking leaves out people like Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Turtledove, Dick, and many others.

Religion is a rarely treated subject. For me, the question of what religion will look like in the future opens my thinking about what is happening around me now. What if we discover aliens? Are they persons? Are they fallen? If so, how would you evangelize? If the speed of light is the maximum matter can move, then would you assign a bishop and a few priests to care for the needs of a generation ship (a ship that can sustain a society aboard it)? Would that ship be its own diocese? Would you limit how often people can go to communion because you might run out hosts or wine? And don't get me started on what the seminary would be like?
New Posts in the New Season

With the theme of newness in play, I searched for some new links. Here's what I found:

Domenico Bettinelli, Jr.
Ecclesia et Mundus
Empire Builder Fan
From the Anchor Hold
Mirabilis.ca (where are you posting from anyway?)
Open Book (I have been enjoying this blog several weeks. Thanks Ms. Wellborn for the link)
Recta Ratio
Res et Rationes
Summa Mamas (I think I linked these lovely ladies earlier, but now I am letting you know it's here.)

Thanks for all the continued linkage. If I have missed anyone, let me know.

The Easter Homily

This year marks the fourth time I have preached on the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ. The last three years have been nice homilies, in that they were meant to stress the comforting aspect of the feast day. But this year I changed my homily. I started with the "standard" nice homily but then I threw in the punchline. The punchline is if you really believe that Christ is risen from the dead, then you must change. If you believe He is a corpse, then don't change a thing. I wonder what kind of impact it will have.

So many people visit a church on Easter Sunday and somehow they think that this is enough to maintain the relationship with Christ. Or perhaps it is because they are simply doing what they think the common expectation is, namely, you are supposed to go to church on Easter. I am not trying to make a judgment. I am trying to see things the way these visitors might see things.

In years past, I have thought that to bring these people back you must coax them. I am starting to change my mind. For someone to return to Faith, I think you have "sour the milk." Just as in animals, the pastor must encourage gently the movement toward maturity of Faith. Screaming at them is not going to be effective and I understand that. At the same turn, coddling and acting like this is an ideal situation does no good either.

The Resurrection opens a new horizon, a vertical horizon. It causes us to lift our eyes and hope that the death of now is only a coda in the symphony of life. In the Resurrection, that's all death would be. A pause before the music swells and fully comes to its revelation.
Change the Surroundings

I made a few small changes to the site. What do you think?
Resurrexit Sicut Dixit

Awake, my friends! The Glory of the Lord radiates around us! With greatest joy may the Lord bless and strengthen you.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Opening Post on the Book Club

For those who were wondering if I would get started with the book club, here it is. Come and settle down in my Dusty, Sunny Corner and read my thoughts on the first section of Meditations Before Mass. I will put up notices and new posts every Friday, but if a thread or idea gets really going a mid-week post may be in order.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Friday Five

1. What do you do for a living?
I am a Catholic priest and pastor.

2. What do you like most about your job?
Showing folks that there are reasons to hope and continue to seek Christ.

3. What do you like least about your job?
All the freaking paperwork!

4. When you have a bad day at work its usually because _____...
I reacted badly to an awkward situation.

5. What other career(s) are you interested in?
Something in entertainment, musical theater or writing. I have a half way decent voice. What I really want to do is direct. Or criminal investigations e.g. medical examiner. Or teaching professionally at the college level where students in theory want to be in that class with you.
Ecce Homo!

Can your wings, O angels, veil you from the torments of your mighty king and Lord?
Michael, for this you stood against the ancient foe. His words, "I will not serve", reveal the brutal blow.
Tremble, O wretched men here below, the one you so light respected, has turned his face to go.
His heart's blood poured out and neglected, by the children of all ages; prophets, fools, martyrs, sages has hated this great truth to know.
It was not armies that brought him low. It was not necessity.
It was reckless love that held him fast upon the wounding tree.
And now, my friends, who look upon this scene, open your hearts and weep for His humble majesty.
A Double Helping on a Fast Day

In the mail today, I received my May Magnificat. I received two of them. Has this happened to anyone else?

If this is not a mix up, to whom should I give the extra. Someone nearby so no mailing is involved.
Expanding my Palette
I have had the worst time trying to figure out how to change the colors of this and my other blogs. Can anyone direct me to a good resource for codes and coding for a blog? Also, I want to change the font. It persecutes me in my sleep and every time I download the page.
Good Friday by Goethe


ON Petrarch's heart, all other days before,

In flaming letters written, was impress'd

GOOD FRIDAY. And on mine, be it confess'd,

Is this year's ADVENT, as it passeth o'er.

I do not now begin,--I still adore

Her whom I early cherish'd in my breast;,

Then once again with prudence dispossess'd,

And to whose heart I'm driven back once more.

The love of Petrarch, that all-glorious love,

Was unrequited, and, alas, full sad;

One long Good Friday 'twas, one heartache drear

But may my mistress' Advent ever prove,

With its palm-jubilee, so sweet and glad,

One endless Mayday, through the livelong year!
Good Friday in Other Necks of the Woods

I am still searching for a good piece of poetry to post concerning Good Friday. Amazing how this event generates sublime insights and maudlin rubbish. In my search I came upon a few sites that relate the traditions and attitudes that surround Good Friday around the world. They are listed below.

Chaldean Catholics: Good Friday in Persia

Central European Catholics: Good Friday among the Czechs

Filipino Catholics: From a Canadian Diocesan Newspaper

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Flattery will get you everywhere, assuming it was flattering...

A friend recently compared me to Jimmy Akin, saying that I reminded them of him. Now, two questions.

1. Is this an accurate comparision?
2. Is this a flattering comparision? For me or for him?
Lessons From Lent 2004

Since Lent is officially over after the celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, it is opportune to reflect upon what I learned from my Lenten observances this year.

1. No TV for the duration of Lent: I have come to realize that TV is not just evil, it is tragically unoriginal. It is peerlessly average. It aims at the lowest common denominator and beats the living tar out of it. I also realize how much power the TV wields. The power of image is greater for the modern mind than it was for our ancient ancestor.

2. Daily Holy Hour using the Letter to the Romans: This one was particularly hard. When you are the "boss" so to speak, you get to determine your daily schedule in large part. It taught me how little I rely on God and how much more I need to rely upon Him alone. The work will be better done if with the Trinity at its heart. The Lord is my boss. I had better start acting more like it. The Letter to the Romans deserves more consideration. I will probably return to it several more times in the next year.

3. Give forgiveness for past hurts.: This one was hard for a different reason. Without a concrete thing or event to attach this to, I often forgot to do it. If I make one of these abstraction resolutions next year I will be sure to add when and how I am going to do this.

4. Improve recitation of the Office: This was an overall success. I think that I will include it every year. And bring a hymnal so I have more tunes to choose from for various hours.

5. No Fast Food: My comments about TV apply with almost no alteration to this issue as well.

I hope everyone's Lent was profitably. May we all see the glory of Heaven.
Not my words, but good ones nonetheless

by William Blake

Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful land, -
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine,
And their fields are bleak and bare,
And their ways are filled with thorns,
It is eternal winter there.

For where'er the sun does shine,
And where'er the rain does fall,
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appal.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Lenten Reflection...apologies
My apologies to any and all who come to this site to link to the Lenten Reflection series. I was in Oklahoma City yesterday for the Chrism Mass. It was my plan to drive back to my parish today (a four-plus hour drive) and to arrive back here in time to type today's reflection. Well, God had other plans. Is that a sign the reflections are really bad? Seriously, I had some unexpected developments this morning that prevented my early departure from Oklahoma City. So, I was still on the road at the normal hour for reflection posting. Please accept my apologies.

Also, I realize now that I will be unable to post a reflection on Good Friday. I will be celebrating the entire Sacred Triduum at our mission an hour away from here. That means I will be spending the night there and will not have computer access in order to post that final reflection. So, that's 0 and 2 for Holy Week. That was not my original plan and I am sorry if I have disappointed you.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Overheard at Techmonkey Dave's Pad i.e. The Alternate Rectory of Solitude

Fr. T: That's the problem. My humor relies on the assumption that I am better than everyone else.
Dave: Was there some doubt?
Fr. T: It has to be proved. I am through a large part of the Z's.
A Little Rumor Mongering
Well, it's not technically rumor mongering if I am trying to run down the real story. A friend in NJ mentioned to me on the phone that NEA (the educator's union) commissioned a study like the one the U.S. Bishops did. Apparently, this friend reports, the report was so outrageous that it could mean the end of public education (his words, not mine). Anyone heard about this or have some links or info. on this?
Overheard at the Chrism Mass

Fr. X: You sound awful. Is there something wrong with your sinuses?
Fr. T: Yes. I think it's a sinus infection coming on.
Fr. X: Man, you need to take something for that, you know, that allergy pill, Zoloft.
Fr. T: Ah...Zoloft is for mood disorders. I think you mean, Zytrek.
Fr. X: Oh, wow. Talk about a Freudian slip.
Fr. T: How so?
Fr. X: A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but you meant your mother.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Novi Panem et Circeonem

I was watching "The Price is Right" with the sound off. It struck me funny because it reminded me of the Hollywood depictions of the Roman Colosseum in its hey day. The brightly colored shirts, the intense competition, there is even a Master of the Games, Bob Barker. The bread is metaphorical but wonderful prizes will count. The only thing missing is no one gets thrown to the lions and Bob doesn't hold their fate in his hands. Perhaps, next season...

(P.S. The phrase above means the New Bread and Circus Games. I tried to remember the phrase exactly but it's been years since I cracked a Latin textbook. Help me if I am off. Also, does anyone know of a sleek CD-ROM that teaches ecclesiastical Latin.)
Thoughts on Specified Ministry
In the Archdiocese, an important conversation is going on amongst the priests concerning the future of Hispanic ministry in the diocese. Now, I admit that ministry to Hispanics is an integral part of the life of Oklahoma City. We are the recipient of many immigrants coming to the U.S. for a theoretically better life. But there are some wrinkles to Hispanic ministry that most folks don't appreciate. First, unlike previous waves of immigration which bolstered our native amber waves, these immigrants can go back to their native country, especially the wealthier ones. Even those of modest income can still more readily return to Mexico than could their predessors. In some sense the population fluxuates during given times and seasons. Second, while the older members of this immigration do not speak English adequately to outwardly participate in the Liturgy or sacramental formation, just to give two examples, their children do. This impacts then the question of for whom are we providing Hispanic ministry. Third, there is the question of pan-Hispanism. Anyone who had visited Mexico, Central America, South America, and Spain, or any combination thereof, recognizes that language and custom and culture are not exactly the same. In some sense, it could actually complicate ministerial interactions if a South American brings anti-Mexico biases to the table. Therefore, it becomes a question of whether similarity of language is sufficient. Fourth, and related to this previous point, Hispanic ministry has to be more than a language issue. If you are going to integrate Hispanics into the parish, you must provide cultural expressions of the devotional life of these people, and there will be variation between certain groups.

But here's my problem. There is a contingent of priests who assume the only thing we are to do is provide Hispanic ministry. Or that's what their behavior seems to suggest. And I don't want to get into that here. What I guess bothers me is that this group of priests is suggesting that every parish will have the same sort of Hispanic ministry, a plug-and-play matter. It seems to me every parish in the metro OKC area will need to have at least one Mass celebrated in Spanish, some Hispanic devotions, and Hispanic baptismal formation. (BTW, providing Novus Ordo Masses in Latin would assist this as well.) After that, I am not sure what they will need, and that needs to be assessed on a parish by parish case. Also, not every parish is going to have the same concentration of Hispanic folks that others are, and that has to be factored in. It's like they want to exchange the biretta for the somberero. Further, just because there are Hispanics present doesn't mean that all other ministries have to be put on hold. Again, I don't think that they are proposing this, but from the rhetoric that gets thrown around, it does sound that way.

Lastly, I think it is a good idea for all priests who are in dioceses like mine, when they are parochial vicars, to get away from a month of intensive language studies focusing upon sacramental ministry needs. While in the seminary, they should be able to take at least a year of Spanish to familiarize themselves with basic vocabulary and grammar. If they show ability and interest, then the powers that be can encourage and help them develop this obvious gift for language and ministry to a specific culture.

Just to answer your question, yes, I took Spanish in college and spent a month in Guadalajara, Mexico. I can celebrate Mass but not really effectively hear confessions. I really have trouble assimilating language. My interest in language is more like a scholar. I want to know the language so I can read a book, not so that I can talk to folks.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A Liturgical First
Priests routinely joke about the liturgical days when you "get stuff" (like palms today). But, today, I had a "liturgical" first that I could only incredulously laugh about as I walked back to the rectory. Actually, the event was, at most, a "paraliturgical" first since it happened after the last Mass.

As I walked back to the rectory, I heard a voice call out, "Uh, sir!" I stopped, and looked into the covered drive at the church's entrance. There was an older woman, probably in her sixties, in a blue Oldsmobile that has seen better days. I responded, "Yes?" She said, "Can I get a palm?" (Here the questions began flooding my mind!) I said, "Well, did you go to Mass?" "No," she admitted with a bit of a chuckle, adding "it is sort of hard for me to get to church." I replied, "Well, you got in the car." She gave a conciliatory laugh as she said, "Well, that's a good point. I suppose you're right." So, I went back inside the church and retrieved a palm, delivering it to her through the open window of her running car. She said, "I guess I didn't tell you this is for my sister. She is homebound and can't get to church." The woman claimed that she herself is not a parishioner, and so I would not see her at Mass anyway. She simply wanted to get a palm because it would mean a great deal to her sister. I told her that was great and that she herself was also always welcome here. We got a good laugh over the confusion.

At any rate, I now can honestly claim to have had a Palm Sunday "Drive Thru Visitor"!

Friday, April 02, 2004

Learning to Ask All the Right Questions

Since I am in the process of engaging in a bit of narcissitic autobiography for Crisis, and what is a blog but a live action autobiography, I will sharpen my writing skills here and tell you how I became a Catholic. How I became a priest comes later.

I guess the first person we have to talk about is my mother. My parents divorced when I was very young, somewhere in the neighbor of one or two years old. It wasn't an acrimonious split but it was splitsville. I saw my father probably no more than 2 or 3 times a year. I can still remember vividly the afghan I would sit on in the backroom of the Dairy Queen. My mother was the manager. I would sit in the back and watch Sesame Street on a portable television. This was in the early 70's where the concept of day care was a decade away. For now, this would have to suffice. If it had not been for those times, I don't think I would have seen my mother at all. It taught me to be still. I couldn't run around in my backyard. I had no backyard. In the course of my childhood years, I moved to a new home or apartment every 2 years on average.

As I grew, my mother's job would change and she would begin to work as a certified medical aide in the local nursing homes. I spent many of my formative years in the presence of medicine and the elderly. Even now, I really can't tell the age of most people by looking at them. It is these places where many families placed their loved ones because they could not care for them or, more often the case, the families dumped a person they could not be bothered with. I know that sounds harsh. You have to see a 90 year old woman wail continuously on a visitor's day, "Where are they?, Why didn't they come?," to understand why that harshness is present. I am sure that if the family knew the sorrow they inflicted on their mothers and fathers they would have put in an appearance. But they never stopped in to find out.

From my mother I learned some of the first important questions that must be asked. First question: is that right or wrong? My mother was and is a very moral person. It tinges every aspect of our conversations. She will get upset about something or the other and say, "That's not right." Now, I am not claiming my mother always got the moral analysis on target, but that she asked those sorts of questions taught me to ask what is right and wrong. Questions of morality are the doorway to the questions concerning divinity. Morality rests upon the meaning of the act and the actor. Only God reveals the full meaning of the human person. Therefore, I was knocking on heaven's door with these questions.

Second question: What can I give/do? My mother for most of my life was absent. I raised myself in large part. I am lucky that I am not a drug dealer or anything else that can happen because of minimal parental involvement. My mother was absent though not because she didn't want to be there. My mother for about 10 years worked 16 hours a day to keep the family afloat. In the 70's and early 80's, no one had heard of dead beat dads. As I recall it, and memory is faulty, my dad was not always forthcoming with the child support. So my mother worked. And worked. And worked. This taught me that if you love someone, you will do anything to keep them alive and happy. Happiness was present, but I really only recall a lot of silence. And a lot of wishing...I wish I had my mom. I wish I had a dad. But I had neither. Both were taken away from me.

Third question: Is that all there is? Because I watched my mother suffer, and I felt in the depths of my person the sorrow and confusion her suffering caused, I was led to that question. Is that all there is? You work like a dog, you stumble through life only to get up in the morning and do it again. Compounding this was the experience of death. I often spent the night with my mother as she worked the night shift at the nursing home. Often I would go looking for one of my surrogate grandparents, I never got to know my biological ones, and find the room empty, swept clean. My mother had to explain to me that the person had died. It was sobering for a fourth grader to deal with death repeatedly. It taught the most valuable lesson. Life is short. Everyone, I mean everyone, has to die. Nobody gets out alive. If you are going to go looking for God, this is one of the realities that will make you get up and look.

Like I said, my childhood had its deprivations, but it was a happy childhood more or less. I was a reasonably bright child and therefore did well in school. Boy, school was happy in lots of ways. Because I mastered lessons very quickly, I bonded quickly with my teachers, excepting one. They nurtured my gifts and talents and encouraged me to live up to my potentials. My God, when I think on all the dedicated and excellent educators I had the pleasure of knowing, providence takes on a human face. Every one of my teachers were people who loved children and genuinely wanted them to succeed. If anyone of you are reading this tonight, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Now, school had its hard spots as well. Because I had experienced all these things because of my parents' divorce, I was different than the other children. The experiences aged me. They could smell the difference on me, probably literally. One time I got asked by my enrichment teacher if I had been smoking. I had to take my older brother's hand-me-down jacket because I had out grown mine. And my brother was and is a nicotine fiend. So the ferocious exposure to smoke had permanently stained the jacket with that smell. When I got to school, you would have thought I belonged in a biker bar from the aroma around me.

But the search for God began in earnest in the 8th grade. When I was in the 6th grade, I had a teacher for science who was aces, Mrs. Joswick. One day when we talking about photosynthesis, she made this observation. Notice how in tune plants and we are. They put forth oxygen and take up carbon dioxide. We do it just the other way around. And yet this action doesn't get out of whack. And then she dropped the bomb. She said, "This must mean that there is a god." Now folks, this was PUBLIC SCHOOL. And it was a throw away line. She didn't develop it any further but moved on into the lesson. But that was the open door. The Existence of God could be demonstrated from human reason. That was the notion that wedged itself into the linkages of my brain and never came free.

In the 8th grade, I really hit the bottom. Puberty by itself is hell. But also I was really feeling on the fringe. And all of the turmoil of those years, I think I was starting to feel the pain of my childhood then, started coming to the surface. Compounded by the poor living conditions, it led to suicidal thoughts. One night, I had really reached the end. I had made the plans. I had picked the means. The only thing left was executing the plan. As I lay in bed weeping I cried out, "God, if you do exist, you better say or do something. Otherwise, I am not going on." And in that moment God spoke to me. I mean this as literally as I am sitting here at my keyboard typing this, God spoke to me. "If you do that, then they will have won and you will have proved them right. If you kill yourself, your life really is meaningless." And then silence. But the words burned in my soul. They rang through the cathedral heights of the inner world of myself. They rang true. I put away the means of my own destruction that night. And things started to change.

Now, in the background of this story, the other members of my family are searching for God as well. I have three living siblings. My mother lost several children to miscarriage. The conservative estimate she gives is two children between each living sibling. So that means I have six brothers or sisters waiting to see me in heaven. If they are worth their salt they better be praying for me as well. My older sister was in the process of church hopping and she often took me along. First was the United Methodist Church. Then it was the Evangelical Church of Christ. Finally she went to the Mormons where she remains today. But I escaped. The capper to the Mormon experience was when I told them that the Book of Mormon was a rehash of Babylonian mythology. That didn't go over well.

It wasn't until I was in high school that my introduction to the Catholic Church began. My oldest sister, after a bad divorce, returned to the Church. You see, my family was Catholic except yours truly. After my parents' divorce, there were literally no opportunities for church. I was never baptized. I was never catechized, although given what passed for catechesis in the 70's and 80's, I was spared a lot of nonsense.

And my oldest sister deserves some mention as well. She nurtured my intellect in subtle and not so subtle ways. I was the only fifth grader on intimate terms with Pink Floyd's The Wall as well as Alan Parsons Project and The Beatles' Abbey Road. She would always sit me down to watch Nova and 60 Minutes with her. Watching those shows sharpened my mind to be inquisitive and examining of all sides of an issue. Of course she would be the catalyst for my becoming Catholic.

On my own, I had looked into various other world religions and Christian denominations, but was never fully satisfied. I shunned the Catholic Church because I believed the common portrayal of the Church by the media and the world. But it was my sister who said, "You should go to the Catholic Church. I think you would like it." And she was right. From the first night in RCIA, when we talked about Revelation, I knew I was home. I realized how all my life I had been a Catholic and not even known it.

Even though he is dead now, Fr. John Petuskey, the pastor of St. John's in Edmond, did me a marvelous good. He saved my life. He saved my soul. When I think of him, the lines from Les Miserables come to mind: It's the story of those who always loved you. Your mother gave her life for you and gave you to my keeping. In some way, my life was in the hands of God and those along the way guided me safely. But he is the one who nurtured the life and gift of faith in me. I am not sure if he ever knew how much I owed him, but he knows now.

For me, being a Catholic was the realization of all the things that had bothered me over the years with Protestant Christianity. You had to lose something to be a Protestant. You gain the fullness by being a Catholic. For me, the Catholic Faith is simply the continuation of what God began with Israel. Without the Church, you would have no worship, no European history, no Bible, no theology, nothing. As a loving Mother who works her fingers to the bone, the Church has preserved the fullness of the Faith as she received it from Christ.

That's how I became a Catholic. It wasn't careful study alone, but that helped. And it wasn't a bolt out of the blue, though there were some near hits. It was the reality of suffering that brought me to the Church. Everything tells you suffering has no meaning. But through the fullness of Faith as transmitted by the Church, love shows itself in suffering. And love is the only solution to suffering. And only the Catholic Church knows what to make of suffering because she has held fast to her master.

Sorry to go on so long. I hope that helps.
Curious Lack of Allies
Since The DaVinci Code has made its appearance on the scene, many good critiques of the book have appeared in recent weeks. But here is what I find curious. Why aren't Protestants up in arms about this book?

The book is not only about the Catholic Church. It also has the goal of "deconstructing" the person of Christ into someone the ancient and venerable Faith would not recognize. If it is true that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a slew of children who then become the leading heads of Europe, then only two conclusions remain. Either A.) Jesus is not God and therefore there is no reason to have any sort of faith in Him (should that be capitalized?) or B.) Jesus might be a god, but he's a swinging god, like Zeus or Bacchus. Despite whatever differences exist between the Catholic Faith and other Protestant faiths, the essential centrality of Jesus Christ should lend allies all over the place in opposition to this book. But it doesn't.

The reason, I suspect, is that they can't see the forest for the trees. They like the "bash the Catholics" part and therefore embrace the book, or at minimum, don't say anything about it. They miss, however, that there will be little credibility for their latter assertions, "No, that book was about the Catholic Jesus. Our Jesus is different." So, in their glee at watching Holy Mother Church get a black eye from Dan Brown's boobery, they fail to apprehend the crowbar being laid against their own ecclesial communities.

For the record, I am planning on publishing somethings on this sooner to the release of the movie whenever that is exactly. I know that people read, but far more hit the movie theaters.
Lenten Reflection #12 is up
You like us...You really like us!

With all due apologies to Sally Field, I add more links to our site from other places in the blogoverse. Remember if we missed you, just send an email.

New this week:
Christus Medicus
De Fidei Oboedientia
Fiat Lux!
Summa Mamas
Catholic Packer Fan (Go Cheeseheads!)
Eve Tushnet

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Props to Crisis!
An outburst of shameless self-promotion!

Just to let everyone know, I heard from the editor over at Crisis Magazine today. I have been asked to compose a 3000 word essay (or tone poem) on what it's like to have three parishes and being a rural pastor. It's supposed to be conversational and full of humor. Essentially the article will be stories about the people who make up the world I live in. Could be fun...could be scary.

I'll keep you posted.
A Little Slice of Heaven!

In case you are wondering, this is what my little church in Alva, OK looks like.

We are in the midst of a light renovation and this is the effects of the first two phases. More when more is done. If you want a mini slideshow of the features of my parish, you can see it here.

Because folks asked, I will explain the three steps to the renovation of my little slice of heaven. First, the Blessed Sacrament was in a little alcove off to the side. I moved it from the alcove where He was ignored to "center stage." Second, the altar had been offcenter to the right as you look at the sanctuary. The altar was disassembled and moved. Then the platform was recut to fit the shape better. Those two steps are done. The next and final step will be to install a confessional where the Blessed Sacrament had been at one time. Ah, those progressive 70's. Also, new hymnals, new vestments, new altar linens. It's going to be AWESOME.
How the time flies!

I looked at the calendar today and realized what had just past. Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of my entrance into the Catholic Church. I was baptized, confirmed, and received first Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil on March 31, 1991. I can't believe how long it has been.

Pray today for all the candidates and catechumen of the Church who will celebrate the Easter Sacraments in a few days.
No Joke! First, a priest, then a super hero, and now...

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Breaking News...in your colon!?
I have the Today Show on as I blog. Apparently, this whole week has had as a theme the raising of awareness regarding colon cancer. Now, I think we need to promote health awareness, especially when so many problems and illnesses can be avoided through early prevention. Per Fr. Tharp's earlier post, we must have compassion for those who suffer from any cancer and pray for them. BUT (ahem!), I'm not sure what I think about the following. Apparently, furthering the theme, Al Rocher, Today Show meteorologist, will get a colonoscopy on tomorrow's show. I guess I never imagined the day would come when our media personalities would bare their butts and send a camera up the chute. Do we really need to see the wall of Al's colon?
Orphaned for 128 days...
...but no longer. Wichita has a bishop! Or should I say the phrase heard ringing in the halls of the Wichita Chancery? Ecclesia Wichitensis habet Episcopum! And though there is great rejoicing, there is some sadness and anxiety here on this blog. Why? Fr. Tharp has been named Bishop of Wichita. This will certainly make his schedule more busy. Will he be able to continue blogging? What will this mean for our blog? Might I become the Alpha male ragemonkey of this blog? Oh, the possibilities!

Of course, I will be away from blogging during Bishop-elect Tharp's Episcopal Ordination and Installation, which is set for May 32, 2004. (If you are still with me on this one you should do two things. (1) Check the date of this post; and, (2) For goodness sake, don't tell anyone you bought this hook, line, and sinker!)

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I have been away from the parish for the past few days, helping with our diocesan trip to Conception Seminary's "Come & See" weekend and, today, with a day of reflection for the Senior Class at one of our high schools. Also, my computer is at the doctor, getting some service and cleaning. So, I have been away from regular blog posting and will be away until the weekend. Infrequent use of mom's computer is the best I can do for now.

The trip to Conception Seminary was great. It was my third time to assist the priests from the Vocations Office as a chaperone. Conception runs a weekend "Come & See" retreat twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Our diocese always attends the Spring one. We try to get enough interest to take one bus load up rather than two smaller trips. I have always enjoyed this trip and the retreatants, almost exclusively high school aged young men, always seem to value the time too. It is certainly my duty as a priest to assist vocations efforts. In addition, while I still retain some youthful appearance, giving "face time" at vocations events is that much more important. I don't know what the measurable return is from this trip, as far as is concerned guys who actually sign up for seminary, but there are always a few who express serious interest in the seminary and, I am sure, the retreat at least gets each guy thinking about God's Will.

Regardless of the vocation chosen, how can that be anything but positive for the Church?
A Latin Term Everyone Should Know

Anyone recognize this term? Furens Simia Catholica

That's right. That's the name that will be used when the Vatican finally gets around to censuring us.
Lenten Reflection #11 is up
I apologize for any confusion on which blog today's reflection would be published. I just returned a bit early from helping at a high school retreat and am now able to publish the reflection on the Lenten blog. Earlier this morning I was not anticipating the ability to be at my computer at the promised hour of reflection posting, so I had noted that today's reflection would post on Ragemonkey. Now that has all changed and all is as it should be...
In Advance of Holy Week

I really love Magnificat magazine. For those who are not yet familiar with this publication, it is a monthly missal that contains fabulous art, excellent articles, and other good stuff in it. One of the most useful things that Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., the editor, puts in the Holy Week issue is an examination of conscience for priests.

For those not in the know, priests every year renew their promise of obedience and respect for their bishop during the Chrism Mass. This is my favorite element of the Mass. It reminds me that as a priest I am not a "Lone Ranger." I am part of a larger whole and am called to remain in communion with the greater reality. In preparation for this renewal, Fr. Cameron has made it easier for priests to make a good, if not a great, confession. In the continuing effort to help my brother priests be greater priests, I reprint the examination here.

Have I been diligent in devoting time and energy to preaching the Gospel?
Have I been reverent in offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass?
Have I devoted myself to the Word of God?
Am I faithful in going to confession frequently?
Is my love of God evident in my conversation and actions?
Am I faithful to praying the Liturgy of the Hours?
Do I live in a recollected manner?
Am I faithful to daily private prayer?
Have I been compassionate and merciful in the confessional?
Have I shown pastoral charity to those seeking counsel?
Am I generous with my time?
Have I been present and generous to the hospitalized, the elderly, the imprisoned, and the homebound?
Have I taken the initiative in the religious education of children?
I would add initiatives for adult formation.
Am I generous in showing special concern for the poor?
Have I cultivated deeper love of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
Am I obedient to my Ordinary?
Do I live with missionary zeal?
Am I faithful to Church teaching and to the Magisterium?
Do I witness to the Gospel through a modest lifestyle?
Do I make time for spiritual reading and theological study?
Is commitment to holiness the chief priority behind my pastoral planning?
Is my life one of loving, self-sacrificing service?
Do I welcome the cross in my life and devote myself to Gospel penance?
Have I applied myself to ongoing priestly formation?
Have I made time this past year for a retreat?
Have I been a good listener to those in need?
Have I been open, patient, kind, friendly, caring, and loving to God's people?
Am I committed to giving a good example to other as another Christ?
Do I stoop to wash the feet of others?
Do I live in intimate friendship with Jesus?
Do I live the grace and gift of ministry with a sense of unending thanksgiving?
Am I devoted to becoming more like Jesus Christ in every way?
Have I lived up to the title "Father"?
Have I made visible the love of the heart of Jesus to all those I meet?

I invite any priest reader to add further matters in the comments area.
Where Fr. H gets upset, I get angry!

Well, now is my time to vent about the general lack of knowledge most people possess concerning the Catholic Faith and its practices. Yesterday, I received a phone call from a parishioner who wanted us information concerning her daughter's upcoming wedding put in the bulletin. In the midst of phone call, the parishioner mentioned how the wedding was going to be outside and how difficult it had been to get things arranged, et cetera. Immediately, my Spidey Sense started tingling but I held off, thinking, maybe the daughter was a Protestant. In other words, I was hoping for a good reason.

Well, that failed to materialize. Today, I received in the mail the announcement for the wedding shower. First, the parent noted on the card that the daughter was a parishioner. That is not the case as I have NEVER seen this girl in my 18 months here in Alva and its missions. Also, since membership in a parish is designated by where one lives, unless she is living in that town or near to, she is not my parishioner any more. Second, as of yesterday, this is the first I have heard of this marriage. If the girl is a Catholic and has not formally defected from the Faith, then this marriage will be invalid. Permit me a few choice quotes from the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Can. 1059 Even if only one party is Catholic, the marriage of Catholics is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of civil authority concerning the merely civil effects of the same marriage.

Can. 1066 Before a marriage is celebrated, it must be evident that nothing stands in the way of its valid and licit celebration.

Can. 1096 §1. For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.
§2. This ignorance is not presumed after puberty.

Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. 144, 1112, §1, 1116, and 1127, §§1-2.
§2. The person who assists at a marriage is understood to be only that person who is present, asks for the manifestation of the consent of the contracting parties, and receives it in the name of the Church.

So you can imagine there are some problems with this situation. Furthermore, because of the timeline, the marriage is scheduled for the beginning of May, there is no way I can perform the ceremony without permission of the bishop. They have received no preparation from me as their pastor, so even if I wanted to preside at the nuptials, I couldn't. I would not be certain this is a valid bond. I would lack the moral certainty that the parties in question could assent to the consent being proposed. Third, there is no way on God's little green acre that I will receive permission to do the marriage out of doors which is the plan. Marriages are sacramental celebrations and as such they are to be performed in the parish church unless a serious cause, e.g. they are dying in a hospital, intervenes.

So, I tried to call the parents today so that this issue could be brought to their attention. No big surprise, no answer. But I tell you, right now, I am not advertising the wedding shower in our bulletin. If I had the wherewithal, I would announce AT SUNDAY MASS that none of the parishioners were to go to this sham, but I have some sense. It isn't the eleventh century anymore. =sigh=

This is really aggravating. I can't figure out how this gets past people. I don't accept the idea that "they weren't taught this so how can you blame them?" What? Are people so irrational that they think "Marriage isn't that big a deal, they just have sacramental celebration of them in the church?" I can't accept that. I might not have known the specifics of the law of the Church when it came to marriage when I became a Catholic, but I know I would have asked someone. That this never even crossed their mind is what astounds me.
What to call...

our frequent readers? Star Trek fans are called "Trekkies" or the more acceptable "Trekkers" and Star Wars fans are called "obsessed geeks." (Can anyone guess which side of that debate I come down in favor of?)

So what handle do we give to those who read the blog regularly? I don't like "faithful reader." It sounds to much like what Stephen King calls his readers. Suggestions can be left below.
Update from the Moloch Front

Moloch in every age demands the sacrifice of another human person to be satisfied. This generation has two outlets for this: abortion and euthanasia. As abortion begins to be a more politically difficult position to hold, you can watch for advances in the cause of the unborn. But for the critically ill, that's another story. In the name of efficiency and expediency, many people will be put to death not because of their own choice, which is morally dicey to begin with, but because of the decision of judges and family members with gainful motives in mind.

Case in Point? Terry Schiavo. Yes, Terry's case has taken a southward turn just recently. Fr. Johansen at Thrown Back has been working closely on the case. Check him out.

Also, remember to pray for the judge and all those involved in the case. Of course asking for a miraculous cure for Terry would not be out of place either.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Novena to St. Peregrine

You are invited to list a friend or relative who has cancer or other difficult disease in our comments area. Please remember all who leave the name of a friend or loved one in our comments area when you pray this prayer.

Glorious wonder-worker, St. Peregrine, you answered the divine call with a ready spirit, and forsook all the comforts of a life of ease and all the empty honors of the world to dedicate yourself to God in the Order of His holy Mother. You labored manfully for the salvation of souls. In union with Jesus crucified, you endured painful sufferings with such patience as to deserve to be healed miraculously of an incurable cancer in your leg by a touch of His divine hand. Obtain for me the grace to answer every call of God and to fulfill His will in all the events of life. Enkindle in my heart a consuming zeal for the salvation of all men. Deliver me from the infirmities that afflict the human body. Obtain for me also a perfect resignation to the sufferings it may please God to send me, so that, imitating our crucified Savior and His sorrowful Mother, I may merit eternal glory in heaven.

St. Peregrine, pray for me and for all who invoke your aid.
A POD Notion whose time has come!

I have several parishioners with cancer. It has come literally out of the wood work. I think that as a thanksgiving after Mass and an encouragement for all those with cancer, that after every Mass, we will pray the novena to St. Peregrine. What do you all think?

If you would like, we could continue it here. I will post a novena prayer for all of us to use. If you have someone you would like to have remembered just leave it in the comments area. Then when we pray the novena, our intention will be for all those listed in the comments area. I will try to get this up tonight but it might be tomorrow.
"Pork Caramel"

A brief funny story from last Sunday's penance rite. Because it is such a long drive back to Guymon from Alva, Fr. Hamilton stayed over at my place. To think, double the rage, double the monkeys. Anyway, I was working on cleaning up the kitchen, a project which took a couple of days, and had pulled the cooking liquid from the pork roast to reduce it to a sauce. Well, folks, there was way too much sugar in the solution for sauce. As it reduced the solution thickened and darkened and became...syrupy. It was really delicious, but I had a bad feeling about it. So I poured it off into a storage container. It was incredibly viscous as it cooled. I was beginning to have my doubts.

The next day, I pulled the substance from the refrigerator to find that the compound had set up solid. It was like taffy. Dark and lovely, smelling of apricots and pork seasonings, it had become ... well... caramel. I had created a savory candy which I dubbed "pork caramel." I would not expect the people at Russel Stover's or Godiva to carry the stuff anytime soon. Now, before the naysayers reading here run for a Tums, I would like you to think about potential applications.

For example, smear some apples in this stuff and then roast them with a pork roast over low heat in the oven. Or use it as a cement for pulled pork sandwiches. This was my favored technique with this batch. It held together marvelously. Not a loose scrap of pig meat in the house. I think you could also use it as a potent flavoring agent for stir-fried rice and other dishes where you need a flavor boost.

Anyone want the recipe?

Monday, March 29, 2004

Give me a title!

Got this one via email. What should this picture be called?

Who coined this?

Two simple questions. First, who coined the term "AmChurch?" Second, what exactly does the word mean? Both connotation and denotation.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

A further comment about the Prodigal Son, only a week late

I was on the phone with another priest of my diocese who will be permitted to live if my regime comes to power. He made an interesting observation about the prodigal son parable that I had never noticed.

Notice that each major character is associated with an animal. The prodigal son is associated with the swine. Why this would be is no big surprise. Swine are considered unclean and what better way to suggest the young man's denigration than to associate him with this unclean animal. The father is associated with the fattened calf. In temple worship, the fattened calf was used in communion sacrifices, sacrifices in which part of the sacrifice, the fat and other innards, went back to God, another part went to the priest as his inheritance, and the remaining was shared as the sign of the unity of the offerer to God. The elder son is associated with the goat. The goat, I think, was used only for one sacrifice, the scapegoat.

Now follow me on this one...The prodigal son is mired in sin represented by the swine. The father restores the boy to full sonship as represented by the communion sacrifice of a fattened calf. The elder son wants to pass judgment and misses his own role and place in the father's house. He has only one place, associated with the goat. He will either join the celebration or he will be sent into the darkness. The scapegoat is selected from between two goats one to three years old. The scapegoat bears all the sins of the people and is driven out into the darkness. The other goat is used in sacrifice.

The offer is clear then. The scribes and Pharisees are like this elder son. They can enter into their Father's joy and welcome sinners who are reconciled to God through Christ. Or they can go out into the darkness, back to Azazeal.

I am not proposing this as Gospel truth. It still needs a little research. I'll keep you posted on my efforts.
Where in the world is Father Hamilton?

Like the computer game of yesterday, you too can track Fr. Hamilton's movements. If I am not much mistaken, he is accompanying a trip to Conception Seminary College in Missouri for prospective seminarians. I think we gotten a few new candidates from this little project so that's a good thing.

Then he will return to Oklahoma City and assist at a penance rite, but you will have to ask what Barney has to do with it. I'm not telling.

So he is out and about. Don't worry, faithful readers of the Lenten meditations. He has promised that he has squirreled these away on the computer so they will appear on schedule.

Me? I am at home getting ready to either rent a movie or watch the last five episodes of "Band of Brothers." I haven't made up my mind yet.
No sign of HOPE

A week or so ago, I posted a letter that I wrote to a group called HOPE operating here in Oklahoma. I left open the possibility of conversation on the point of celibate priesthood but alas no takers. Here's a link to Fr. Hamilton's comments and a link to mine.

That's what I love about these types of organizations. They are all talk, no action. Although the letter made it pretty clear what I thought of them. If I hear anything, I will let you know.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Just a Point of Silence

Since Athanasius over at Summa Contra Mundum (link below) mentioned that we were ferocious bloggers at CRM, I gave you a little break. However, tomorrow that will change. So tonight, catch up on our archive.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Book Club On!

Okay, I've thought about it and we are going to experiment. Old Oligarch gave some good ideas, but let's just do a test run. Thanks to everyone who commented and gave me some ideas for the long run.

So the new Book Club Blog is: A Dusty, Sunny Corner. Our first book will be announced there and the first post concerning the selected book will go up on April 1st. No Joke. I will also try to give a reading schedule with each new book. Follow that and you will keep up with everything. Then every Friday, I will make a comment about the section we should have read in last week. Comments area will be for agreement, disagreement, and development. If a particularly good thread develops, additional posts may appear during the week.

For now, I will blog alone. But it will be a success if and only if you read and participate. Go there now and get cracking.
The Inscape should not escape us.

I found this image on-line. We had a copy of it hanging up in the parish center of my first assignment.

For today's homily at Mass, I reflected upon the seeming incongruity between the season of Lent and the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Lent stirs up thoughts of penance and sacrifice and struggle. The Annunciation is a moment of exquisite joy because the long-awaited redemption of Israel is announced, is under way. It looks badly matched if one looks no deeper than the surface of the events. But if we pentrate into the inscape (a word coined by Caryl Houselander, a contemporary English theologian), we see the true threads of what is beginning here.

1. The Self-Emptying has begun. Throughout the history of Israel, prophets and visionaries hid their faces when God would be made manifest. To see the face of God is to die. Further, there was no place where God exclusively was. Certainly, God would make it clear that He was with His people through signs and wonders. But those were fleeting moments. And now, that is not true. God reveals that He has a face -- the face of the Son. And this flesh is not a mask or a put-on. It is the humanity of His immaculate Mother he bears. "A tender rose from tender branch has sprung." And now for the moment of the incipient Incarnation we can see that God has pitched His tent amongst us. The God whom the universe dare not contain welcomes to be enclosed in the womb of a mother.

2. Abandonment to the Will of God is manifested. The stage is set in all cases by this willingness to serve another. For the Son who becomes incarnate, He only does what He has been doing, even doing what He is, from all Eternity, submitting to the Father and returning to the Father the very gift of Himself. Because of this surrender to the will of the Father, the woman, the marvelous immaculate woman, both shows how Adam and Eve should have once submitted and shows how we are to submit even now. The particular irony is the exchange of submission between the Mother and the Son. The Son submits to the Father and so is incarnated in the Woman. The Woman must submit before the Incarnation can happen. As the child is raised, even though He is God, she will teach Him all the things a child must learn. He, in His human nature, can grow and develop without suffering ontological change in his divine person. This means, that the Woman teaches the Son through her own work of submission. The Son in turn shows her the depth such a surrender must touch. How much surrender must be motivated by love! And back and forth between them. Their mutual love for the Eternal Father keeps coming out in the phrase, "Your will be done" or "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word."

3. He still waits to be born. Baptism makes us mothers of the Word, one of the early Church Fathers observed. The seal of Baptism marks as though live the life of God through burial in the death of the Lord. Confirmation marks us with the Holy Spirit to bear all things to fulfill the mission Christ gives us. The Holy Eucharist rests upon our innards, weighty as an embryonic child, but waiting, waiting to spring up to life and to be manifested. Yes, we too are made pregnant bearers of the Word, our bellies swollen with his Heart's Blood. But why have we not given birth? Is it because we are not enough like the woman of the Annunciation? We have not given birth because we have not emptied enough of ourselves. We have not given birth because we love not the will of the Father before all things. We have not given birth because we selfishly clutch at the goodness of Christ poured out to us as though it were only for us. It is for all to be distributed by us.
Make a New Headline

In the tradition, and you can imagine how much we like tradition around here, of Fr. Sibley's Make a Caption photos, I thought you would like the chance to have fun with this story about how the Georgia State House of Representatives has moved a bill forward banning piercing, well, ... , you know, ... , down there.

Here's the link. Is there a wittier/funnier but still tasteful way to say this?
I'm not taking any chances...

The media reports connected to health and wellness worry me. The constant waffling, the shifting "Yes/No" of certain debates, quite frankly I am too tired and too busy to sort this stuff out.

Now, if music and exercise boost brainpower, all the better. But what if it doesn't, fair reader? Then I will have exposed the world to my flapping arm fat nodules for nothing.

Decide for yourself. I am grabbing a twinkie and a nap.
Just stealing forty winks!

Well, since it happened in Oklahoma, I guess I should comment on it. Of course, if I comment on it, you might think I was trying to justify his actions. Let's just say, this is the case where drinking and driving and felony robbery intersect.
First a film, then a musical, now a quiz?

I am reasonably certain that this is meant as a compliment. If it isn't...don't tell me.

Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?

What Monty Python Character are you?
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

In Tribute to Number 10,000!: Ragemonkey Superstar

Wow. I mean, really, WoW. I started this blog only a month and a half ago on February 15, 2004. That's an average of 112.36 visitors each day. Thanks to repeat traffic as well as the occasional "lurker." Also, thanks go to Techmonkey Dave for encouraging me to start the blog and Fr. H, my co-monkey in crime and in rage.

So what to do with 10,000 visitors? I say we write a musical. I can see it. It would be the tragic and comic story of two priests who try to spread the Gospel anyway they can. They found a blog and this leads to lots of fun songs containing words that rhyme with "blog" and "post." Along the way, one reader at first finds them unreadable but then is slowly changed. This could work.

We could base the music on "Jesus Christ Superstar" except the name would have to be "Ragemonkey Superstar." Here's a little taste of Ragemonkey Superstar.

"I Don't Know How to Link Him" (sung to the tune "I Don't Know How to Love Him")

I don't know how to link them / What to do, how to comment
I've been changed, yes really changed / In these past few days
When I've read their stuff / I seem like someone else

I don't know why I come back / I don't see why they move me
He's a priest / They're both just priests
And I see my priest / every week
or even every day / They aren’t the same.

Should I load it up? / Should I tell my friends?
Should I comment here and / Let my feelings out?
I never thought I'd come to this / What's it all about?

Don't you think it's rather funny / I should find their blog so winning?
I'm the one / Who's always been
So calm so cool / No Blogspot fool
Running every show / They amuse me so

I never thought I'd come to this / What's it all about?

Yet / If they said they linked me / I'd be thrilled
I'd be giddy / I couldn't cope / Just couldn't cope
my eyes would clog / I'd back away
I'd want everyone to know / they linked me oh
I read them both / I love their blog!
Book Club Blog

I have had this idea stirring my grey cells for the last couple of months. I think there is great potential for an online book club. I am not sure how it would work exactly. Something like this perhaps. Once a week, post my observations and analysis concerning a chapter of a good book. Then the comments area would give people the chance to say that I am full of beans or that I am alreet, alright, alroot. Also, then side discussions could be carried on if they formed big enough threads. Then when the book is finished a post concerning the whole book.

Do you think that would work? What should be the first book? Would I need to set up another blog?
Priest bloggers submit to testing
I just read breaking news that a team of biologists at the University of Pennsylvania, together with Children's Hospital, have found what may be the genetic mutation that separates us (at least, in part) from apes.

In a related story, Fr. Tharp and I, after pursuit by animal control officers with dart guns, and consultation with our lawyers (both civil and canon), have agreed to submit to genetic testing to see if we possess said gene or not. This blog's title hangs in the balance!
This came today...

I received this news story today from one of my webgroups. Apparently, they are confused. I am a member of PETA, people eating tasty animals. Except on Fridays.
Weather Mascots

I have added WeatherPixies to our blog. I wanted you to get a sense of what the weather conditions were like in different parts of Oklahoma. Of course, what would be really useful is to have an AllergenPixie. The more congested they get the more their head swells until it explodes.

For your info., I have the purple hair. Fr. H's has a frilly shirt. I couldn't find anyone with a clerical collar.
Lenten Reflection #9 is up
Luke 15:25
"Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music..." Sometimes it is fun to take Scripture out of context for comedic value. I am using this quote from the Prodigal Son account to announce the end of a long drought in my life. I am returning to theatre! No, I am not leaving my day, and night, and anytime someone needs me job. The local town theatre is putting on "The Sound of Music" for two weekends in April. I have already been helping the "nuns" learn their Latin lines, as well as giving an English translation so they know what they are saying. Now, for the brief marriage scene (and thankfully a non-speaking role!) I will play the priest solemnizing the vows! My last role was in Spring of 1999 in the seminary's production of Stalag 17, in which I played Eddie Price. I'm excited.
Sucker for punishment
Well, fresh back from the trail of spin doctoring and a series of blog hall meetings to explain myself regarding the blessing of children, I may be raising another touchy subject now. Capital punishment.

First, what I hope will be the uncontroversial part. Last evening, Oklahoma executed Vietnamese national Hung Thanh Le for the brutal 1992 murder of his business partner. For the moment, lay aside whatever your opinion of capital punishment is. I think that is a fair request for the point I want to make in this paragraph. Mr. Le's execution had been twice delayed. The first time, just days before the execution, the Governor issued a stay to review the case after the Pardon & Parole Board recommended clemency (a rare recommendation in Oklahoma). The second time, the Governor, on request from Vietnam, issued a stay of execution WITHIN AN HOUR of the planned execution. The man had already eaten his "last meal" at that point and was in the cell next to the execution chamber. Now, I think that is cruel. And it is on that point that, I hope, readers will agree with me, regardless of one's opinion of capital punishment. I can't imagine what it must be like to know you are days from death and then to have it stopped. And then to be only minutes from death before it is stopped. I think that is a form of mental and emotional cruelty. Certainly, I am sure Mr. Le was thankful it was stopped, at least on two occasions, however, I can't imagine what such anticipation or anxiety must do to a person. I am not denying the terrible, brutal cruelty Mr. Le's victim experienced.

Now, the perhaps controversial part. Maybe I should post separately on capital punishment. Fr. Tharp can confirm that it is a sort of personal crusade of mine in this Archdiocese to see that the Church's authentic teaching regarding capital punishment is clearly and appropriately presented. What am I getting at? By and large, the doctrine on capital punishment is equated with the doctrine on abortion. One gets the impression, if not the outright misrepresentation of fact, that to be Catholic and in support of capital punishment is just as unallowable as to be Catholic and in support of abortion. The doctrine on capital punishment, complete with its more recent additions by Pope John Paul II, is presented as if capital punishment is never allowable under any circumstance. The entire tradition of 'legitimate defense' is ignored and, in fact, what the Church really and currently teaches regarding capital punishment is misrepresented.

The Church has always and still does recognize (no, Pope John Paul II's recent forceful and laudable addition to this doctrine has not changed this) that the State does indeed possess the right to execute someone convicted of the most heinous crimes. Pope John Paul II's development of this doctrine declares that out of respect for the dynamic reality that is the moral person, to offer time for penance and reconciliation, and to combat the culture of death, that the State ought to limit itself, to refrain from employing capital punishment. Notice what the Pope did not say. He has not denied that execution remains as a right that the State does possess. He has simply encouraged self-restraint. And notice, such wording is not the case with the far more serious issue of abortion. Catholic doctrine on abortion states that it is never allowable under any circumstance. In fact, the penalty of excommunication is attached to those who commit this grave sin with full knowledge and deliberate consent (the usual conditions applying). Such penalty does not exist regarding capital punishment. It remains that the State does have the right to do what it does.

I applaud Pope John Paul II's recent addition to the history of Catholic doctrine on capital punishment. I am encouraged by signs that society is listening and responding in certain sectors. I myself am not in support of the use of capital punishment. But, I do demand that authentic Catholic doctrine be clearly and honestly presented for what it is. I find it bothersome that many Catholic consciences have been placed in bad faith because of the misrepresentation of the doctrine on capital punishment. And I find that bothersome even as I am careful to tell such souls that if their support for capital punishment is motivated by vengeance, hatred, and blood lust, they had indeed better reform because it will not sit well with them on judgment day. But notice why I would tell such persons that -- it's because of what I judge their motivation to be, the intent of their support, not the fact of their support of capital punishment. The bottom line, questions of motivation aside, one can be a Catholic "in good standing" and be in support of capital punishment; one cannot be a Catholic "in good standing" and be in support of abortion.
Behold, I make all things new!

The first year as pastor of Sacred Heart in Alva, OK is drawing to a close. One of my little projects has been updating vestments and equipment for the sacred liturgy. I recently had several bequests come through and decided to put them to good use. Some of the money will go for new vestments and some for new hymnals. In the hymnal department, don't expect anything radical. It's a small community and I can't teach chant. But the vestments are another story.

I purchased these for the parish this morning from Holy Rood Guild. What do you think?

Now, don't panic. I only bought one set of funeral vestments. The picture of the first set of funeral vestments is only very close to the actual vestment I purchased. The purple accented vestments I have already purchased. I actually purchased 8 vestments today, but I couldn't find pictures of everything. If you are looking for gifts for the newly ordained, I heartily recommend Holy Rood Guild
The Strongest Links

Despite my cohort's mocking of Anne Robinson of "Weakest Link" fame, I like the mean English lady. But I believe in bringing out the strongest links. So to that end, I have included the following folks in our links. Check them out today. Also, if you have linked us to your blog and we haven't linked you, just send me an email. And no hints as to content except for one. The rest you just have to go check out.

New Stuff:
Against the Grain
Anti-Socialist Tendencies
A Catholic Horizon
Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director
Random Notes
Real Catholic
Sedes Sapientiae
Summa Contra Mundum
Tinabell (Amazing Artwork Site)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I shouldn't do this during Lent, but...

I received a letter from the local Catholic Charities outpost in Enid, but it wasn't for me. It was for the previous pastor. Now, I have called them, sent the letter back to the place, and sent the letter to the previous pastor. I am still getting his mail.

But this is the funny part. The letter actually says, "As a valued member of the Catholic Charities Advisory Committee for the Enid Regional Office, I would like to invite you to the next quarterly meeting." Aaaaah, WHAT! He is so valuable that they haven't noted his absence. Or is he so valuable that you are wasting a stamp to make sure that he NEVER GETS THE LETTER?

Face it, folks, this kind of incompetence is what my contribution to Catholic Charities goes to. St. Josemaria Escriva used to mention that doing your job well was a step toward introducing the Gospel to others. I guess they didn't get the message.
Impulse buy
The Hallmark store in town recently moved into a larger space, complete with swanky coffee bar. At their old location they are having a 75% off sale. So, after picking up my cappuccino this morning, I stepped in to see what they had. I found a suitable gift for Grandma's birthday. I also found a relatively undamaged plaster Roman column. Previously it sold at $54.50. On sale it became $13.63. So, I bought it to remind myself of days in Rome. Hey, the allergies are kicking up now just like they did in the Eternal City, so I might as well have a column to go along with it, huh?

I think I will place a candle on it. Or perhaps, in true Roman style, I can convince a stray cat to nest on top of it! Not that the column is that big.
Hmmm...what superpower would I want?

Frequent readers here know of my interest in comic books and superheroes, especially the Dark Knight. I found this link on a recent blog crawl.

So, here's the poll question of the day. What superpower would you want? You only get one. I would be torn between flight, super speed, or telepathy.
Thank you, I'll have another

I was feeling badly about having a scotch last night after vespers. Now, it seems I was just looking out for my heart. For more on swiftly tilting world of medicine, where researchers serve up more waffles than an average IHOP on Saturday morning, read about alcohol for your health.

Otto and O.O., this serves as an alert. O.O., be prepared to crack out those crazy martini glasses. Otto, may I recommend a jigger of the Dimple or Glenmorangie. The port variety is exceeeeellent.
The Lord of The Jungle:The Return of the Monkey King!

Holy Moley! I didn't realize we had a following in China. And then the Bangladeshis consider the monkey a source of blessing. Of course, breaking and entering is wrong when I do it but the monkeys are a blessing...

Steph, this is my second post concerning sports. Impressed, yet?
Grace dependent on human reason?
Under current practice of the Roman Rite, the eligibility of baptized children for other Sacraments comes later, at such time when it is hoped that their having reached the age of reason will help them cooperate more fully with God's grace -- in no way understood as if God's free gift of grace is dependent on human reason.

There is room both for the Orthodox Church practice and the current practice of the Catholic Church. Is it really problematic to suggest that a better grasp of what one receives in a Sacrament (which we hope comes with age and preparation) is indeed beneficial as regards one's cooperation with God's free gift? That is the point of the Catholic practice. To claim this practice exhibits that children, after baptism, are "excommunicated" for some years is a misapplication of the term "excommunicate." Likewise, the benefit of preparing for the later reception of a Sacrament should not be understood as if God's grace depends on the recipient's rational faculties. It should not be understood that way, because that is not what the Catholic Church means by the practice.

In addition, when someone not eligible (by reason of age) for further Sacraments is in some serious danger of death (either proximate or remote) they can be given the other Sacraments. Furthermore, a pastor, after careful study, may admit certain "under age" persons to the Sacraments if he judges their readiness. In fact, in this very Archdiocese, I know of two cases this year where a pastor petitioned the archbishop for delegation to confirm two young girls, still several years under the typical confirmation age.
Breaking the silence
I have been rather silent about the "issue" we have had with one commentator. In addition, I have been rather surprised at how much seems to have been read into my post on the blessing of children, evidenced by several comments. I am thankful to other commentators who rebutted some of the mistaken assumptions of some readers.

The comment activity has interested me, even worried me. I'm not sure I even want to address the series of comments that seem to me to be both rude and illogical. At least in the case of one person's comments, I don't feel that whatever else I might post by way of rebuttal will be respected and received fairly. I can only assume that what is being revealed in those comments is a sign that something else is "the issue". That's not a game I can play. But, I can and I have taken up Fr. Tharp's excellent exhortation to pray. A bit to my surprise, I even found myself thinking of that intention during my Sunday Masses when we pray "Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world" (Eucharistic Prayer III). Amen. May it be so.
We've Evolved!

Thanks to our ticker on the sidebar, we can figure out where we are on the relative food chain of blogging. We are now a flappy bird. It's so exciting...

Hey, what about Pokemon based on Fr. H and myself? Like Priestachu or Blessasaur. Then they could evolve. Priestachu becomes Episcochu and more "powers." Blessasaur could become Praisaur and finally end up as a Worshipsaur.

Just imagine him in a collar and you have the right idea.

Just be thankful I don't have Photo Shop and be tempted to produce these cards.
A change of policy

I have to thank "filefolder" for bringing many interesting questions to light. However, when I started this blog and invited Fr. H to come along for the ride, I hadn't intended for this to be a running commentary on other folks' comments. So that the blog doesn't become a place to answer one person, I am proposing a change.

I would like to continue the conversation about some of the points he brings up via email. You can find it above. That way other readers don't have to slog though our back and forth. File, rest assured that many of the things you have mentioned have crossed my mind and deserve treatment.

Okay, everyone, back to what you were doing. Nothing to see here...
Alternate Blessing?

In the further controversy concerning if and when to bless folks at Mass, DWB makes this astute comment, He says, "So I guess my question is, would a blessing at another point in the mass for those feeling unworthy to receive communion a valid option to wean people off the assumption that they can go up in the communion procession and receive a blessing from the priest?" Great question but I am not sure it would help. Here's why.

First, blessing people who feel unworthy to go to Holy Communion at any point obscures the real deal: what is causing the "unworthiness?" The problem for me would be the potential for thinking that my blessings is an adequate substitute for Holy Communion. Instead, the source of the unworthiness will have to be addressed. Is it mortal sin? Go to confession and combat that sin. Are you in an invalid marriage? Then get to work on straightening out the matter. Are you a Non-Catholic who is deeply interested in becoming Catholic but are afraid to try? BE NOT AFRAID! Go talk to the priest and begin afresh

Second, no one would take part in it because it would be like advertising the separation.

Third, it would mean introducing yet another innovation where one is not permitted. This reminds me though. Most formal blessings do have a form for use during Mass. I didn't want someone to think I was saying no to the blessing of throats on St. Blase's day.

Thanks for the question, DWB.
But what about...
...other developments of the Roman Rite? A person whose comments are signed DWB has raised some interesting observations. They appear under Fr. Tharp's "I concur" post. I thank that person for commenting and I offer some observations.

DWB raised the issue of kneeling during the Agnus Dei in the United States, which, though not established in Universal Church law, has become a part of law in the Bishops' Conference of the United States. If that practice is acceptable, DWB went on to comment (and I'm assuming meant to type), "then why WOULD blessings...be extinguished from the Roman Rite?" It seems to me the kneeling at the Agnus Dei that has become customary in the US is at least consistent with the liturgical action at that point of the Holy Mass -- adoration, reverence, a posture of humility before the Most Blessed Sacrament. I contend that the blessing of non-communicants introduces a new ritual into the action at hand.

DWB also comments on something witnessed in Hong Kong, where a group was invited up for a blessing. The Church does have rites within the Holy Mass (though usually immediately after the homily) for those who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church at Easter. This group (commonly referred to in the US as the "RCIA") really constitutes two subsets: those who are not yet baptized, and those baptized non-Catholic Christians who desire to enter the Catholic Church. The comment correctly notes that at times this group is invited up, they are prayed for, given a minor exorcism, and blessed, and even sent out of the Mass after the Liturgy of the Word since they are not yet able to fully participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But this ritual (actually intended it seems only for that part of the group not yet baptized) is to prepare them to turn from sin, and to grow in faith SO THAT they may be baptized.

Now, applying this to the blessing of children, in most cases the children in question are already baptized. They have already received the grace of Christ in that first Sacrament. They are already real members of the Church. They receive grace in prayer, from the witness of the community, from (we hope) their parents whose duty it is to evangelize them, from the Sacred Liturgy (though they too are not yet able to fully participate). Their relationship to Christ is truly different (on the level of Sacrament) than that of the non-baptized, and their communion with the Church is truly different than those baptized Christians not yet received into the Catholic fold.

So, could we develop some other rite of blessing for those not receiving Holy Communion, perhaps modeled on the RCIA? I suppose the Church could. If she did, I would gladly follow the directives and employ whatever options exist. However, I do not believe it is anyone's place -- not even a priest's -- to take upon himself the authority to add to, or subtract things from, the Sacred Liturgy. It comes down, once again, to a matter of obedience in my mind. The Church establishes what the Sacred Liturgy is; I do not. I am merely its servant and guardian. I contend that the blessing of non-communicants DURING the distribution of Holy Communion is nowhere envisioned in the Roman Rite and is an unwarranted practice. Furthermore, I think it may even cheapen the anticipation a child should develop because it introduces a distraction into the very purpose of that line -- the reception of the Sacrament of Sacraments! In that sense, I think it can be said that I have even thought of this issue from the child's perspective. Please do not assume I am condemning your local experiences and opinions. I do, however, think that what I have suggested would find agreement in the directives for the Sacred Liturgy. Though I have no animosity toward those who practice or think differently on this matter, I think the burden of proof to demonstrate a positive support of said practice lies with those who have introduced it into the Sacred Liturgy.

Personally, I would not be in favor of further adapting the Sacred Liturgy to make everyone feel catered to. I think too many mistakes, perhaps well-meaning, have been made in the last decades that radically reorient the focus of the Sacred Liturgy to a man centered, rather than God centered, activity. Though we, God's people, certainly occupy an important role in the Sacred Liturgy, it seems to me that the Sacred Liturgy is first and foremost about God, it is His work in sanctifying us. Please read my words very carefully and do not go off on a tangent. I am not denying the importance of man's role in the Sacred Liturgy. But I contend the Sacred Liturgy is first and foremost the work of God, and secondarily our participation in that work. We do not save ourselves. Therefore, it seems to me, the primary work of the Sacred Liturgy must come from the One Who can save us -- God. And so, man's participation in that work (Yes, both are intimately connected, I know) is to direct the focus of worship to God, that His grace may descend to us. But these days, it seems one often encounters a sentimentality that drives liturgical considerations based on feelings. Adaptations are offered and even forced upon the Sacred Liturgy based largely on what is "meaningful to us". I think that is a dangerous practice. How far does one carry the movement to cater liturgy to this and that group? Is the Holy Mass the Mass? Does it unite the whole community in the oneness of Catholic worship of God (a mark of the Church)? Or is it rapidly becoming (is it already?) the stuff of personal whim, priest-ego, and special interest groups?