Tuesday, April 27, 2004

FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY!

For all those in Oklahoma who read this blog, I want to tell you about a great opportunity. Fr. Mark Mason of St. Joseph's in Hennessey is hosting a two-day conference on Marriage and Family Life. It will start this Friday evening and run all day Saturday. If that is not incentive enough, would it help make up your mind to come if I told you that both Ragemonkeys will be there to speak? I am presenting a lecture on marriage in the Sacred Scripture and I can't recall what Fr. Hamilton is presenting on, but of course, it will be rage-licious.

Call the parish for more information: 405-853-4425.
I want to know...
how people find us. I can assume a lot of it is word of mouth. But occasionally I will see posts on other blogs that refer to the search parameters that brought people to that site. Now I will find out how many simian maniacs are stumbling across our blog oasis. Stay tuned.
It's Done. Check it Out!
Thanks for everyone's prayers. The article isn't up to my usual standards but it is adequate I think. I decided to write it in two parts. The first part dealt with the Church's teaching office and the second will deal with Contraception. See it here.
If you have a thought to spare...

would you mind praying for me? If you stop by in the next three hours or so (10:00 a.m. -- 1:00 p.m. CDT), fire a little dart prayer for me. In my column for the newspaper, I am treating the subject of the bishop's teaching office and how the office is not lost simply because bishops do something bad . Essentially, the question is "Because the bishops did something bad, they can change the teaching on contraception." Mainly, I don't want to be condescending but it is a talent of mine. So a little extra grace is needed to override my fallen human nature.
Examples of Courage as a Virtue

Courage is neither foolhardiness nor recklessness. It is the virture that permits one to enter a conflict with charity and resolve. It is the melding, IMHO, of the virtues of Faith, Love, Prudence and Fortitude.

I was meaning to blog on last weekend's March for Abortion. I refuse to use the euphemistic title for it. But these people who are with Silent No More said everything I wanted to say and better. I will add links as I find them. Please support these men and women in their healing and leading others to healing.

Links:
Against The Grain
Martin Sheen Backs Out [This is well timed as I was getting to the point where I couldn't even look at Martin without my BP shooting up. Via Mark Shea]
"Not So Quiet" Catholic Corner [Note: The permalink acted strangely when I pulled it, so you may have to scroll to find it.]
I'm Not a Good Person, But I Play One on TV
Times Against Humanity

Monday, April 26, 2004

Friday Five on a Priest's Friday, that is, on Monday

1. if you could be a color, which one would you be? --> Indigo
2. if you could be a scent, which one would you be? --> Vanilla with a hint of cinnamon goodness
3. if you could be a flavor, which one would you be? --> Ethiopian Coffee
4. if you could be a sound, which one would you be? --> The Cascade of a grand piano
5. if you could be a texture, which one would you be? --> T-Shirt Cotton

Liturgical Idol

Here is the top five pieces of liturgical music our readers have deemed worthy of destruction.

5. (tie) "Anthem," "Seeds, Scattered and Sown," and "Sing a New Church"
4. "Gift of Finest Wheat"
3. "Gather Us In"
2. "Let There Be Peace On Earth"

and the number one most hated song was

1. "Ashes"

Not to dispute the accuracy of my own polling techniques, but could the recent use in the season of Lent of the song "Ashes" led to its high number of mentions. Are there Advent/Christmas diddies that raise folks' hackles?

Thanks to everyone who contributed comments and votes.
Even More on Mark Shea: Separated at Birth?

After the encounter with Mark, not a few people commented on the striking resemblance of myself to himself. Terms like Father/Son and Twin/Evil Twin were thrown around by those in the know. As to Father/Son, anyone who read my post on my conversion should easily guess my feelings about having Mark as my dad. As to Twin/Evil Twin, when I figure out who is whose evil twin, I will comment further.

But is this comparison true? You be the judge.

Here's what I look like:
Here's what Mark looks like:
Creepy isn't it. However, once the beard is gone, the resemblance vanishes as well.


By the way, as a piece of friendly advice, I would suggest that Mark get on that show "Extreme Makeover" (or is that "Extreme Markover") and have a complete job done. By persisting in this resemblance to yours truly, you run the risk of being accosted by the legions of folks I drive nuts.
More on Mark Shea

I was thinking yesterday of how hard it is for someone like me to appreciate the difficulty that someone like Mark or Scott Hahn had in entering the Catholic Church. For me, the only baggage I brought and had to sort through was the baggage of being a unconscious neo-pagan moron. As a Christian, I was a tabula rasa. It was relatively easy to learn how to be a Catholic because the programming didn't have to be overwritten. But for the evangelical, the questions must run far more deeply. It must run them through with hot swords to discover that much if not all that they knew about the Church proves to be erroronous. And then to become Catholic must seem a profound betrayal of everyone who loves them and whom they love.

This is why God's grace is astounding to me. While it is resistable, it is a powerful dynamic force which recreates as it destroys, like a Genesis Wave for the soul.
Evil!

Like Hecubus on a movie-ending revealing jag, Yahoo! has taken over as the current representation of pure evil. Yes, John Kerry has competition.

I opened my mail account with them yesterday only to find that for some reason, Yahoo! had purged my inbox. I was well below my limit of emails and was working through about 40 mails trying to get responses to folks when this little set back occurred. So if you are waiting for a reply, you will have to resend the message.

Also, thanks to all the fanmail that has come in over the last weeks. We appreciate the well wishes and the words of encouragement. Especially grateful are we to know that Rep. Cole's office in the U.S. Congress is keeping tabs on the activity of two Catholic Priests from the home state, even if we aren't in his district. Is anyone from Rep. Frank Lucas's office doing the same for his constituents?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Sensing dollar signs
This post is probably NOT headed where you might think. I received the official letter Friday that, effective May 3, I am appointed pastor of the parish where I currently serve as associate pastor. This new office comes four years and ten months after my priestly ordination. And with the impending reality of the responsibilities of being pastor, a new and strange phenomenon is happening in my brain. As people come forward with little suggestions, ideas, and observations, suddenly all the input is being interpreted as dollar signs! As in, this is all going to cost money and the buck will soon stop here! Yikes!

The new contacts in the local community I made participating in The Sound of Music will bode me well and I hope they will continue to increase. I don't have a formal pastoral plan decided yet -- I do have lots of ideas which I need to prioritize -- however, I know that increasing the visibility of the parish in the local community is a goal. And it can be easily accomplished at first with simple matters like having our sacramental schedule published in the paper where all the other ecclesial communities have theirs printed. I am also going to call or visit the local hotels because a parishioner told me last night that the Catholic schedule isn't provided at those places. I suppose I should also begin attending the Ministerial Alliance meetings, a monthly meeting of the local denominational clergy.

This pastorate will be a significant challenge. This parish is certainly larger than the typical parish given a first time pastor in this diocese. We have 823 registered families, I am told. In addition, we have countless Hispanic families not registered. I will be responsible for an associate pastor who is a priest from India ordained longer than I have been. We have two mission parishes, one an hour away and one twenty minutes away. And the biggest challenge of all -- the one that really worries me in the midst of my excitement -- is the need of the Hispanic peoples who make up the majority of the parish. I am by no means fluent in Spanish and a good number of the majority speak no English at all. I need to verify, but I fear that the Indian priest speaks even less Spanish than I do. The moral weight of this challenge is brought to my attention considering that as a pastor I must now sign once again the Oath of Fidelity and the Profession of Faith. I first signed these, as all clerics do, before my ordination as a transitional deacon. Now, in assuming an office to be exercised in the name of the Church, Canon Law requires that I sign them again. I do so willingly and with joy, but with an awareness of a certain gravity. It will come as no surprise that future posts will turn to my early experiences as an inexperienced pastor!
Mark Shea gave me his pineapple!

Perhaps I should explain. On Friday last, I received the rare treat of meeting and listening to Mr. Mark Shea. It was a presentation so full of wit and Catholicity that to hear one better would involve the harvest some white dwarf matter, the application of a graviton generator, and a Evac Suit from the Space Shuttle, so that I could go back in time and visit with G.K. Chesterton. Yes, it was that good.

At the dinner following the first lecture, Mark sat next to me and we had a marvelous conversation. We both did our level best to include others in the conversation, but probably failed more than succeeded. Anyway, when the main course was brought out, a thoroughly leathery piece of chicken with adequate rice and vegetables, I deduced correctly that Mark must have children at home. How, you ask?

The chicken in question was adorned with a ring of pineapple that would have made the Dole packing company proud. It was a perfect circle like only a jigsaw can make. Without missing a beat, Mark turned to me and asked, "Father, do you like pineapple?" Being the occasionally cultured and sophisticated Ragemonkey, I proffered my plate and let him deposit the iridescent fruit object. Only the parent of small children knows that it is better to pass the grub than let it go to waste. And I am certain, given my experience with my niece, he has salvaged many meals which might have descended into a wail of incoherent fury due to an offending food substance by offering up his plate as a dietary landfill. It was only right to return the favor.

So that's how I got Mark Shea's pineapple. Of course, if I had been prepared and had known I would be the recipient of this heirloom, I would have dried it and had him sign it. I had to settle for a signed copy of By What Authority?.
Catholic culture
There is a theatre tradition of keeping old posters from past shows and painting memories of past shows on the unseen side walls of the backstage area. That is a tradition kept here at Guymon's community theatre. As I milled around backstage, befriending the cast and crew, I noticed that this theatre's 25 year tradition is peppered with many "nun" shows. The theatre has performed every Nunsense produced, and this Christmas they will do yet another. (Apparently, word on the stage is I may find myself type-cast whenever the theatre needs a priest.) I found myself asking, What's the fascination with nuns in this largely Protestant state?

And then an observation came to me. Please, I do not mean this as a slap at non-Catholics. It occurred to me that if you want to have a depiction of a Christian religion that truly pervades an art medium (theatre, song, painting, etc.) then it will probably be Catholic. Why is that? I guess it is because Catholicism is also about a culture of lived faith. What would it look like to perform a play, for instance, whose setting was Protestant? Other than a few scenes of a Sunday sermon, perhaps a Bible, and maybe even a scene of someone at prayer, you wouldn't have much more that could inform the movement of the characters and the plot. Again, I mean this as no disrespect, however, considering this observation, what culture do our Protestant brothers and sisters have? But with Catholicism, you have a whole tradition to draw from and which to characterize. There are rich ceremonies, family traditions, history, classes of people, and religious communities to depict. And that adds substance to the plot. It gives something stable on which to hang a scene. Just an observation about Catholicism that came to me in an unexpected way. Just another reason I love being a Catholic.

Along this line, I am also trying to think of some famous work of art that is heavily pervaded by a Protestant Christianity. I am drawing a blank right now. I am sure I am missing some obvious example. If truth be told, I am so worn out right now that I'm not really trying to find the counter example to this post. Can you come up with any examples?
Break a leg!
Well, Guymon Community Theatre's production of The Sound of Music successfully ended moments ago. It ran for two weekends. This Friday, Saturday, and today were played to sold out crowds (mind you, that's only a bit over 160 for our small town's theatre). All ended on an upswing.

I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable to have the small supporting role I had. And there was an added benefit -- one I had not anticipated -- to appearing as the priest in the show: I met so many people in the local community and, it seems, a positive impression of the Catholic Church will be a lasting memory for the many non-Catholic cast, crew, and audience members.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Late Nite Catechism
My mom, stepdad, and I went to see this one woman show a few days ago. For those readers unfamiliar with it, the stage is adorned as a typical Catholic grade school classroom, with one woman playing a sister, and the audience as the class. As you may guess, there is plenty of audience interaction, including both rewards and reprimands from "Sister" when questions are answered correctly or when one misbehaves, respectively. It is very funny and entertaining.

The show also depends significantly on the audience and how they interact with "Sister". So, I would imagine, not every show is the same. Unfortunately, the night I attended, "Sister" used part of Act II for an open Q & A session that went awry. A non-Catholic woman stood up and asked "Sister" about leadership roles for women in the Church. Buzzword. "Sister" proceeded to make off-the-wall comments about John Paul II's Apostolic Letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis," calling it a "Papal Bull" and strongly implying that another four letter word ought to be added to bull.... She said when we get a new pope, women's ordination and married priests could change. She claimed there was no leadership for women in the Church. I guess the obvious example of the superior of a women's religious community must have escaped "Sister". She even said we don't have any leadership in the Church at all (I can almost agree with that remark, at least observing one national episcopal conference). I thought it was sad that Act II took that turn and it made me wonder about the motivation for the whole show. Was it written precisely to further discussion on dissident and controversial issues (women's ordination being dissident, married priests being controversial. Please don't confuse the issues.)? And, how unfortunate that an audience composed largely of Protestants many of whom, I am convinced, thought "Sister" was a real nun and spoke for the Church, was misinformed and misled about Catholicism.

I am thankful that this sad tangent was only a small portion of Act II and I hope that the show doesn't always go in that direction. Perhaps readers who have seen this show can share whether such discussion came up in their viewings of it. After the show I read "Sister's" biography and it was very revealing in light of the skewed interpretation of Catholicism I had just heard:

"Kathy Cogan [w]as most recently seen in the 'Vagina Monologue's' [sic]. When not performing in this 'sister act', Kathy can be heard hosting her own live radio show, The 'NitWit Hour' at www.villageradio.com, Thursdays at 7:00pm EST. Kathy also produced and performed Cooking for Idiots."

Hhhmm, maybe she could write a spinoff of Late Nite Catechism called Nitwit Catholicism for Idiots.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The Road Warrior

No, I am not remaking the classic post-apocalyptic movie with myself in the Mel Gibson role. I am going to be on the road for the next 4 days. Today, down to Norman for the conference. Saturday, return from Conference for weekend celebrations of the Holy Mass. Sunday, more of the same. Monday, in the city for the teeth cleaning and then back to Alva. Wheee...sigh!

That's the biggest cross of this assignment here in Alva, all the flipping driving. I swear OPEC should send me a thank you card based on my fuel consumption alone.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Herb-a-palooza!
Seeing Fr. Tharp's post reminds me that I planted some seeds last week for basil and sage. I didn't realize that you can buy the herbs already in plant form and growing. So, today, I purchased two tomato plants (one Roma, one regular), a dill plant, basil plant, sage plant, and rosemary plant. I will be planting them outside tomorrow to see how they survive a Guymon summer. I'm not sure if I should just assume that the outside would be too harsh, thus planting them in a pot and keeping them inside. It will be a learning experience. If I manage to get to use some fresh herbs in the process I will be satisfied until I can perfect the procedure.

There's nothing like fresh herbs.
Why Does My Rectory Smell WONDERFUL?

Because I made pasta with fresh herbs that I am growing in the backyard. The house is scented with garlic, rosemary, and sweet, sweet basil. Man, if they would only make a deodorant in this scent...
Yahoo! News - Spice Substance May Fight Cystic Fibrosis

Well, don't let the Baron Harkonnen find out! He will set out to conquer every Indian restaurant in the quadrant.

Two tasks down, three to go...keep your fingers crossed.
Even More Ratzinger-liciousness

Sorry couldn't resist including this as well. It gives me so much reassurance that I won't be alone when I need to hire orthodox young people for my parish.
Too busy to Blog!

On Friday, I am going down to Norman, OK to see Mark Shea, live and in person. For this to happen the following things have to happen first: 1. finish notes for this week's and next week's Borromeo Project Class, 2. Xerox said notes for the participants, 3. Read the remainder of the section of Meditations Before Mass for the book club, 4. Post the next book with links for the book club, 5. Type up general intercessions and announcements for the weekend, and 6. any other bleeping thing that might turn up.

So, until I get this done, you all are on your own. Stay out of the far end of the pool.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

You Lucky Dogs!

It should go without saying that the degree of jealousy which courses through my body when I see this picture is positively disgusting. Hey, Fr. H, you went to school over there. How do I get hooked up with meeting Smokin' Joe without having to recant anything?
Yahoo! News - Survey Unveils What Happens in Bedroom

I'm sorry...maybe I missed this...but hasn't it been a looooong time since anything happening in people's bedroom was thought as being not fit for public consumption?
Yahoo! News - Mice Created With 2 Genetic Moms, No Dad

Yes, you guessed it. Minnie has two mommies.

Anyone involved in genetic engineering or biomechanics should be forced to sit through Jurassic Park about a thousand times. Then when the genetic monstrosities start running amok, they can say, "Oh, I get it. We shouldn't do these things even if we can do them."
What's on in my ...

CD Player:
Mr. Terfel hails from Wales and this album is a collaboration between himself and Renee Fleming, soprano, also a native of Wales. The Welsh National Orchestra provides the accompaniment. For those who are wondering, there is a certain resemblance between myself and Bryn but it's only in the face. He is a bass/baritone and I am a second tenor. The album is lush and beautiful with only one misstep, namely Terfel's rendition of "Seventy-Six Trombones." It's either that he has got too much voice to sound the part of a con man or that every time I hear this piece my brain channels Robert Preston. Based on this album, I think I am going to get my hands on some Sondheim and Ragtime: The Musical. The last track on the album is a sweeping rendition of "Wheels of A Dream" from "Ragtime." So if this song is any indication, the rest of the musical is interesting indeed.

Tape Deck:
I have taken to listening to a book as I go to sleep at night. As some one who lives on the road, I go through an inordinate number of books on tape/CD. The A&E series turned me on to the stories of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. The voice actor reading this edition is particularly effective, evoking shades of noir and Dashell Hammett.

Car's Multideck:
When I mention that I am listening to a book about the making of Oxford English Dictionary, I can see people's eyes glaze over. Then they start to fear for my sanity. But this book is really excellent. Simon Winchester has written several other books about various aspects of nineteenth and twentieth century history. A bonus feature is the author reads his work. The author knows what he wanted to emphasize when he wrote the book and now he has the opportunity to do that with his voice.

DVD Player:
This series is simply a magnum opus. Rent it, watch it, and watch it again. It is simply that good.

These aren't on all at once mind you...
Worst Songs Ever!

Blender magazine, a branch of Maxim I believe, has compiled the list of the 50 worse songs. Sadly, some of these are still favorites of mine. The link above lets you see the criteria employed when making the list.

I know that I am crossing into dangerous territory, but what about liturgical music? I have noticed the "Society for the Moratorium from Haugen and Haas" mentioned on other blogs. I have a great story concerning someone's disdain for Marty Haugen, but that's for another time. There does seem to be a need to scan through hymnals and metaphorically remove useless music. Before Todd posts it, I am not advocating going back to Gregorian Chant alone. I am dismayed to see the wholesale removal of chant (and the Latin language) from the average parish repertoire given that chant for the most part is not terribly difficult. There are many songs written in the last 40 years that are very good. They are many songs that are very bad, both musically and theologically.

So, here's the idea. Name the songs that belong on the list and why. Then when a week or so is up, essentially right before this archives, I will list the most frequent mentioned winners, maybe a first, second, third place thing. Please limit submissions to three per comment.

P.S. When I ran the spell checker, the computer offered the word "hemlock" as a substitution for the word "hymnal." Does Blogger know something we don't?
I hated to do, but...

I really hate banning folks and erasing their comments. I would like this blog to be a place where folks can ask questions and seek the teaching of the Church. But when folks use profane language or demonstrate a hostility to open dialogue, there is no reason why others should have to endure their nonsense. Sorry if that seems harsh, but that is the way things go. Also, if a series of comments is too far off topic of a serious post, then it might become necessary to remove posts, but this seems less likely to me.

So, if you have been banned, I would love to continue the conversation but let's use email. My address is available above.
Sacrament of Matrimony
Today is the 59th Wedding Anniversary of my maternal grandparents. Unfortunately, Grandpa died five years ago. But all the same, here's a tribute to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and a prayer for God's blessings of grace and perseverance on all married couples. May the social support for marriage be strengthened in our day so that Christian couples may be encouraged to model the faithful, life-giving love of God!

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Subtle...like a chainsaw

via Disputations. John at Disputations gives us fruitful meditation in preparation for the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. They are retreat materials. I think that you will get a great kick out of them.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Portrait of a Ragemonkey as a Young Man

Due to a personal disaster as a child, most of the record of my childhood is lost. I found a good picture and am going to host it here.

Enjoy.
My Apologies

I got wrapped up in many other things and forgot to post the next block of our book discussion at the book club blog. It's up now! Also, I think I have the next book for the club...
Holy Crow!

I don't believe it! Apparantly, a site in the U.K. ranks the top news sites and blogs. Guess what? CRM ranks third! I only have to take out Amy Wellborn and Catholic Tradition to get to the top. =wink!=

On top of that, apparently CRM was the subject of the conversation at the 2nd Annual BloggerCon. Man, I knew the world was watching but this is a bit much.
This Bodes Well

Get Fuzzy is one of my favorite cartoon strips. The art style is reminiscent of R. Crumb and the writing is funny and inspired on a consistent basis. Having been a Siamese owner and an owner of a dim bulb dog, Satchel and Bucky are the avatars of what cat and dog persons would be like.

So, when today's email cartoon arrived, this is what I received.



As you can see, the strip is about to take a very serious arc for the next several days or weeks. I applaud Darby Conley's bravery and artistic vision in bringing serious subject matter into the comics world view. I am anxious to see how he treats this subject of war in Iraq.
To Stir the Pot Further

I have very mixed feelings about the use of graphic pictures of abortions. When I say "graphic pictures," I mean those pictures of the after effects of abortion where all that remains of the child is pieces of debris. Pictures that show the child in the womb or in the development stages are not meant here. Now back to my point. For example, I think that they can be very effective in settings like lectures, conferences and hearings where the goal is to educate and to enlighten. I don't think that they are very effective in sidewalk counseling because they promote fear and disgust. It seems to me, that at that moment, the goal is leading the woman to embrace the child she is carrying and see the pregnancy through. Many women are already whipped into a frenzy and these pictures, IMHO, serve only to traumatize the woman further. Even if someone walks away from the clinic this doesn't justify tormenting or berating someone in this fashion. Please see "The Error of Ends Justifying the Means."

Many women end up at abortion clinics for reasons other than inconvenience of a failed contraceptive. In my work with Rachel's Vineyard, I have heard stories that would curl your hair. There was the account of one woman whose parents were very pro-life until she ended up pregnant outside of wedlock. Then her father drove her to the clinic. One woman told the story of how a boyfriend threatened to have her beaten if she didn't get the abortion. Also, there is the reality of women who are repeating and reliving the grief of the first abortion by going back and submitting to another one. None of these stories justify the taking of another life, but I think explains the complexity of what is happening in that moment.

But this story has got me intrigued. The BBC is going to broadcast footage of an abortion taking place. This is very unlike Moloch to tip his hand this way. Normally, he likes to play from the shadows and let others take the fall. By taking us into the inner sanctuary of abortion, we will see hopefully some of the horror that is involved. But I suspect that there will be very good sedatives handed out and that we will get a very specific patient on the table. TV being such as it is, the situation will be heavily sanitized.

If your cable provider has BBC America, see if they are going to show this and then fill the rest of us in.
I was just coming down from...

a major biotech/bioweapons jag. Now I have to get back on.

I read several, okay 7 or 8, books on bioterrorism in the last several months. It was fascinating and scary and informative all at once. I wanted to take a course at the university in virology, but that's not offered here. All of the priests cringe when I come near for fear that the conversation will turn to wily viruses. I also love weird insects with odd attacks and defenses e.g. the Tarantula Hawk wasp or the Human Botfly. Now, we have one more to consider.

Apparently, a very nasty sand fly lives in the Iraqi sands. It lives symbiotically with another critter in its gut. When the sand fly stings it leaves this other critter behind. Then this other critter flourishes in the skin cells and leaves boils and blisters behind. Here's an example of its handiwork.


If people weren't being inconvenienced and injured by it, I would comment on how cool its defense systems work.
Signs it is time to move
Perhaps readers will want to share any wacky stories they have to add to a list of signs that it is time to pack up and move to a new neighborhood.

If you read my earlier post today, you have probably gathered that I am at Mom's house. I have encouraged my mom and stepdad to consider moving to a new home for some time now. Today I saw another sign in this simple and rather quiet neighborhood that renews my opinion it is time to move. As I turned the corner from Mom's house, my peripheral vision caught something on the porch of an elderly neighbor's house. This neighbor has always been a rather colorful character.

I can still recall my first encounter with him when my family moved into our home. I was eight years old and I was introducing my dachshund puppy to his new and rather large backyard. Unbeknownst to any of us, a calico cat had given birth to a litter of kittens in the center of a large iris patch in the yard. As my puppy amused himself by hunting around in the iris patch, I suddenly heard this nasty hissing sound and my pup began barking wildly. After some time, I put the cat and her kittens in a box and let them stay in the garage. My dog was not happy and kept barking and barking. I am sure it was very obnoxious. That's when I met the old man. He came walking across the street and without so much as a word of introduction or a welcome to the new neighbor, he lodged a rather stern complaint and told me to shut the dog up. I can't recall for certain, but I think he may have even made the suggestion that if I didn't find a way to shut the dog up, he would.

After a little while, the man became a bit more friendly. It could even be said that for a few years he sort of looked out for us and was perhaps slightly protective of us.

Sadly, recent events are confirming that he is probably experiencing some senility. After a female neighbor moved, the old man showed up on our porch and said some very unflattering things to my mom about the former neighbor. As my mom recounts that event, you would think from the obscenities that peppered his words, that our porch is a dock where sailors come to and fro. We were all stunned.

And today, another confirmation. What did my peripheral vision capture on that man's porch? I saw a figure. So, I turned to see who it was. There was the old neighbor, standing just outside of his door, trying to collect the mail from his box. He stood there in night shirt from the waist up and from the waist down -- NOTHING! Yep, except for the shirt, buck naked on his front porch, facing a street that is a significant thoroughfare. So, that's my sign that it may be time to consider changing neighborhoods. It also will help us understand any future bizarre encounters we may have with this man. His mental faculties must be seriously diminished.
Hard to believe
Today marks the ninth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Nine years ago the calendar must have been lined up much as it is this year: I had just spent Easter week at home with my family and returned to seminary college. And it was that week after Easter (a Wednesday that year) that the terrible deed was done.

Previous to the bombing I had not known one thing about Oklahoma City's Federal Building. But watching the news coverage of the event from the seminary TV lounge, I realized that just days before the bombing, I had been on the opposite street corner from the Federal Building, returning a passport application to the downtown Post Office.

May healing continue to happen in the lives of the many people traumatized in any way by that horrific event nine years ago. Perhaps the healing needed most now is an emotional and spiritual one: to forgive and to move on. The vengeance desired by many victim families is as palpable as the almost daily local media coverage of the State of Oklahoma's capital murder trial of bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.
Making too much of a "good thing"
I was absolutely exhausted from a whirlwind weekend. Every night last week was consumed with full rehearsals for "The Sound of Music". The show opened on Friday, with another show on Saturday evening, following confessions and Mass. I think I must have been wired because I could not get to sleep Saturday night. I got up and cleaned up my office (it really needed it!) and finally fell asleep around 2:30 a.m. I was up again at 5:30 a.m. for the drive to one of our missions and then back for another Mass. I had a quick lunch and a brief nap before Sunday afternoon's matinee show. After that, I threw several things in a bag and hit the road for the four hour drive to Oklahoma City and my free days for the month. I was exhausted by the time I made it to Mom's house.

So, I slept in until about 10:00 a.m. this morning. As I was eating my late morning cereal, I turned on the TV and found Martha Stewart Living in progress. She gave a demonstration of the various types of work gloves for gardening and household chores. Certain gloves work better for use with tools; gloves made of different material are great for working in the rose garden and dulling the thorns before giving the rose to someone. And in true Martha style, she had an organized box where she keeps all her gloves. The kicker for me was that before showing her audience how to store the gloves in the box, she clipped each pair together with a clothes pin. Now, I am sort of with her (sort of!) when it comes to having different gloves for different chores, though I have only one pair that I keep in my trunk for changing tires and car work. But, come on!, clipping them together? As if when I open the fabled glove container, it is really going to strain me to pick out an UN-clipped pair of gloves? I mean, glove matching, folks! That's a rudimentary Sesame Street exercise! If, by some obsessive-compulsive nightmare, I should accidentally pull out two mismatched gloves, why, I'll just quickly get the match to the pair I desire and throw the other glove back in the box! Though Martha always has some fine observations and household insights, I think her neurosis got the better of her in that segment, such that she made too much of a "good thing".

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Clamoring for Pix!

Since someone has asked for a photo of me, I found one featured on the internet already. See it here.
Cheers!

This one is for Fr. Hamiliton and Otto (of da Fe fame). I initially didn't enjoy scotch. That ended with a taste of Glenmorangie. Its basic permutation is a single malt scotch, 15 years resting in a barrel. Yummy with a little soda water over ice. There are varients flavored with port, madiera, and a 12 year aged variety. In several conversations with other scotch lovers concerning their favorites, I have received many suggestions. So as a public service, I sat down with one ounce of two lovely scotches poured over several very chilly ice cubes. Consider it a special taste test for those returning to the joys of alcohol in the Easter season. Tonight's selections are Pinch Dimple and Laphroiag. I understand that this is a litte unfair in that one is a blended scotch and a single malt scotch.

Here's the Score Card:

1.) Laphroiag
a.) Nose: Spicy and smoky. Reminds me of oak logs burning in a hearth of a chilly room.
b.) First Sip: Bitter with a burst of peat. Smooth with a sense of citrus and nuttiness of the roasted barley.
c.) On the Tongue: Satisfying tingle on the tongue with no lingering flavor. A sense of sweetness as it evaporated. The sweetness suggested vanilla or butter, something rich and silky.
d.) Finish: Clean without residual flavor.

2.) Pinch Dimple
a.) Nose: Mellow and light. A hint of peat.
b.) First Sip: Sharp snap with no peat. A whiff of smoke or oak as it lingered in the mouth.
c.) On the Tongue: Bright, tangy, lingering while maintaining a mild taste. Not overpowering though.
d.) Finish: Clean, no overwhelming contrast.

I would say the Laphroiag is best for the after dinner drink and the Pinch is best as the before dinner cocktail.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Subservient Chicken

This is so creepy. There are not enough letters in the word "creepy" to describe the creepiness of this area. But it is fascinating. Who is this guy?
via DaveTown:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

"Even when behavior remains outwardly controlled, an inner restlessness is clearly evident in the way people sing, listen, respond -- in the their whole bearing."
Fr. Bob Vila?
In the comments section of my "Mirror, mirror, on the wall" post, Cornelius notices that two of the three photos have me placed in an open doorway. He very astutely notes that there may be some spiritual significance to this. Yes, indeed, the spiritual message can certainly be "Knock and the door shall be opened to you". As well, I continue to try to connect my ministry to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the Holy Father's call to "Open Wide the Doors to Christ!"

However, there is a much simpler explanation for the settings of those two photos. On the local cable access station, I host a clerical "This Old House" show. You might call me "Fr. Bob Vila"! You will note that the first photo from the "Mirror" post is clearly soon after my arrival on the scene. I am in ordinary, non-liturgical, attire to survey the scene. Behind me you can see the disastrous state of the house we tackled on that episode. The doorway is unfinished. There is sheet rock missing and insulation is still exposed. One can still see the air ducts and electrical wiring. Oh, Saints, preserve us! Thankfully they called Fr. Vila and his crew of "other suitable ministers" to do the job. After much labor, the third photo shows me in the same doorway after renovation. The doorway is complete, the walls are up and painted and the ugliness of the prior scene is gone. Therefore, with task completed, I have donned festive liturgical garb to both celebrate a job well done and to preside at the formal house blessing.

I hope that explains a few things.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Unbelievable!

I came downstairs this afternoon to answer the door bell. I was expecting someone so this was no surprise. What was a surprise was finding the appointment rifling through my car. That's right, readers. I parked in front of the rectory and apparently didn't hit the door lock button on my key ring. This fellow was in my car picking up the pennies and checking my odometer so that I would rotate my tires. At least, that's what he said. I questioned why he thought he could go rooting about in my car and he started screaming and saying that my attitude was bad, etc., yakkity schmakity. The capper was as he drove away in a rage, he called the rectory on the cell phone and tried to continue to blame me. Thank God for answering machines.

It is crazy people like this that make my life as a priest beastly. Because you are this public person and because of your office in the Church, parishioners act like they can literally barge in anywhere in my private life. I had someone come in a public restroom once and try to carry on a conversation with me while I was otherwise engaged, if you follow my meaning.

And before someone says it, yes, I know he was trying to do something nice for me, but he did it in an offensive way. Would he be thrilled if I just walked into his house to see if the lint needed to be cleared from the dryer? I don't want his house to burn down. But that doesn't justify or rationalize my actions.

Needless to say, my car stays in the garage from now on. The nerve of some people....
Mirror, mirror, on the wall...
...who's the most biretta-ed one of all? Well, it is another blog first. Concerning some of the "Sound of Music" posts, there has been a request for some photos so that readers of the blog can more fully and actively participate in this adventure. So, here they are! There are three photos.
(1) Backstage with my cassock and biretta on, before donning the full attire.

(2) A profile shot of me at the wedding scene in the play, marrying Captain Von Trapp and Maria.

(3) Since the biretta isn't visible in the photo from the show (due to black back drop), a photo of me in my office as I dress for my scene in the show.


It sort of makes you wonder what year it is, no? Well, for all of our Fr. Andrew Greeley and Fr. Richard McBrien-type readers, it is 2004, Baby! In your face! Eat your heart out, false spirit of Vatican II! OH, and did I mention how delighted I am that I beat Fr. Tharp to the punch by posting real photos of myself on the blog first? A huge debt of gratitude goes to Techmonkey Dave who has graciously hosted these photos on his web site!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

New Developments for TV

Since others have suggested revising literature, what about TV? Are there new series or angles to play out?

For example, Star Trek. After four series, one might think the idea is drained but I don't agree. Granted the new series is explosively awful, there are three ideas I have had. First, Star Trek: Border Patrol. In this series, several starships form part of crack unit that protects the boundaries of the Federation from incursion and investigate crimes that deal with other races and species outside the Federation. Second, Star Trek Academy. The only danger I can see with this one is it becomes Dawson's Creek with a phaser. Third, Section 39: Starfleet Intelligence. This series has the asset of being darker and the more unattractive sides of the Federation.

Also, which series deserves a new spin-off, CSI or Law and Order? Right now, L&O leads 2 to 1. And if you spin it off, to where or to what aspect of crime?
Uh, DUH!

I don't want to seem like I am making fun of a serious illness. I am making fun of the news coverage of this story. I couldn't find a link that didn't lead to very adult material so you will have to research this one yourself.

Apparently, there is a major scare flying around the porn industry. A prominent star has tested positive for HIV. I know, I know, some in the media find it surprising that high risk behavior, such as premarital sex, leads to catching and spreading major STD's. =SHOCKING=

More to the point the actors featured in the articles are also surprised. I guess sin does make you dumb. Once you separate the procreation of children from sexual intercourse, then you can separate the bonding needed and promoted. But you can't escape wily viruses no matter how much you delude yourself.

Pray for those involved in the porn industry. It's a very bad gig.
Blame Canada!

When I first read the writing of Michael O'Brien, I found it hard to believe that his words reflected the state of affairs in our placid neighbor to the north. I guess I was due for an education.

First, there is the question of hate speech. While the United States has slowly slid into the morass of materialism and relativistic thinking, Canada has lubed up the slide and gone down face first. Now, I am not one to say that all speech is necessarily protected especially when it is meant to terrorize others. But when the Bible and the Catechism are explicitly mentioned as HATE LITERATURE, you know you have no friends there. Check out Pete Vere at Envoy Encore.

Second, Canada resumes its cottage industry for war deserters. The article is here.

Third, hockey is an evil and unnatural sport. But more on that later...
Busted!

I don't know how, but someone found my picture and posted it on the Web. Go here for more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A clear voice for the future!

Many people have been worried about their votes this November, but I am not. I choose to stand above the mudslinging and name calling to back the candidate who can bring a hopeful, prosperous future. His official website is here.

Granted he is a little hard on rebellious elements in the society, but if blowing up a free world is what it takes to get the job done, then so be it. I will be moving back to Coruscant in the near future.
oooo, fun!

Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says
(Fifth Sunday of Lent)

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
My incredibly cluttered desk

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Murder She Wrote

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Guatamalan Crucifix, Clock ticking loudly, an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and a picture of Saint Therese

What is the last movie you saw?
The Passion of the Christ.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
An end to my debts

Tell me something about you that I don't know.
I find slapstick comedy amusing on a level that is almost inappropriate. At one time, I was considering working for the Disney Corporation.


Via Mixolydian Mode.

Let There Be Music!

This post has nothing to do with Fr. Hamilton's upcoming performance. It has to do with the blogosphere's resident mad genius. Victor Lams was kind enough to honor my request for a blog tone. For those unfamiliar with the concept, think of it as the blog's door bell. You can ring it whenever you show up.

Apparently, he wanted to get us to guinea pig his new double compliant format. So, both Internet Exploder and Flash should operate the link up correctly.

The tone itself is great. It's got overtones of They Might Be Giants with a chipper Imperial March although I doubt these are the only influences present. I love music but don't possess the skills to make my own. Check it out and leave a review below. Thanks Victor for beautifying our little blog.

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

THE EPOCHS.

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

HOLY THURSDAY
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:
Disputations
Christus Medicus
De Fidei Oboedientia
Xavier+
Santificarnos
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

Distracted
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?