Monday, December 27, 2004

Graffiti implosion
Several months ago Fr. Tharp commented to me about some graffiti on a building in his mission town of Cherokee, Oklahoma. At the time, he told me he was going to post on it. Well, he never did. Today, he and I went to Cherokee and he showed me the graffiti. He still hasn't posted on it and so I am going to share his witty observation. The graffiti reads as follows:

Listen to yourself, not others!
OH, masterful town rebels, I am trying to follow your advice/command, except that YOU told me to do that, not me, and I'm supposed to listen to myself and not others! It just all comes crashing down.
Today at Wal-Mart Fr. Tharp purchased the 1990's Trivial Pursuit version (emphasis on "trivial") and we played it tonight after dinner. I was not only defeated but resoundingly so -- I never even got one pie piece. In fact, I only ever answered one question correctly. The really obnoxious aspect was that (1) Fr. Tharp has all of this obscure knowledge of the 90's, but he kept getting some rather easy questions that I actually could have answered for points had they fallen to me; and, (2) He got one question about Oklahoma City! Why couldn't I have gotten that one? Board games are not my friends.
The parish office is closed today in honor of the Christmas Holy Day (just today, not the whole Octave), so it was reasonably quiet in the office, especially after the madness of the phones this weekend. I think it started around 5 a.m. (so 3 hours after I got to bed from Midnight Mass), the phones ringing with "What time are your Christmas Masses?" Of course we have an automatic recording of the Mass times, but the phone still rings once before it kicks in, and if someone is on that line when another call comes the second call is switched to our "emergency line" which rings throughout the rectory until someone picks up. I answered the call of one "genius" who said that he could not figure out our bulletin because it said we had Mass at both 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. I pointed out that while it is true we have a daily Mass, Mondays - Saturdays, at 8 a.m. he should follow the times given in the BIG, BOLD FACE, BOXED NOTICE LABELED "CHRISTMAS MASS SCHEDULE." But one of my brother priests here at the parish got an even better call, "Uh, Father, being its Christmas, you wouldn't have any Masses scheduled for today, would you?" No, we closed for the day in honor of our Lord's birth (read the sacrasm).

As I was saying, today things have been rather quiet. I have been in my office because I had a couple, whom I am preparing for marriage and who live out of State, stopping by for a meeting. As I waited for them I decided to knock off a little task which the Diocese asks all of us priests to do, but which probably 95% have not done (Fr. Tharp, kind of like those "P.I.P.s" we were suppose to write in the seminary) -- I planned my funeral. Yep, in the middle of the Octave celebrating the Birth of our Lord, I sat at my computer figuring out what readings I want at my funeral, which hymns, who would do what, etc. I know, it sounds a bit morbid, but I'm suppose to have it filed with the Diocese within one year of my ordination, and truth be told, it really isn't that terrible of a task. Now I just have to write my will, and finish inventorying all my possessions (the time comsuming part of that is the inventory of my books). But now that my marriage couple has come and gone it is time to go to my room, pray Daytime Prayer and then nap.

Felix Dies Natalis Christi ad Omnibus. ("Happy Day of Christ's Birth to All")
On my road trip to Fr. Tharp's place this morning I stopped to get some caffeine. On a whim, as I entered the store, I thought, "Hey, I'll see if they still have that Pepsi Holiday Spice stuff and, if they do, I'll try it." They had it. Being a bit skeptical about whether soda companies can really satisfy me, I decided to also by a cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper, in the event that I didn't like the Holiday Spice Pepsi.

Man, am I glad I did that! The Holiday Spice is worthless! It's not so much that it even tasted bad, just that it didn't taste like anything and certainly nothing that I would describe as "holiday spice". I suppose it could have been worse, in that the Pepsi company could have attained its "holiday spice" claim by grinding up Santa's little elves and mixing them with Pepsi formula. I don't need that. I get enough of that in Girl Scout cookies!
Recovering the Satellites

My sister, through a little prompting, has gotten me the one Christmas gift every rural, lineman-of-the-county, pastor needs: a satellite radio. She even had the good sense to purchase one that can go from car to the house, instead of having one installed in the car.

In case you are wondering, it is an XM radio, so no Howard Stern but also no EWTN. I will let you know how it all works out.
Christmas by the Numbers

Numbers play significant, symbolic roles in the Jewish and Christian Faiths. For example, 7 is significant as it represents the number of creation and of perfection in general. 12 is also significant for both Faiths as it stands for the 12 tribes or 12 apostles. But what about 8?

For the Christian, the number "8" is important because it points to the Resurrection. On the first day of the week, Our Lord rose from the dead, thus extending the 7-day work of creation into the 8-day work of Redemption. In some sense, we await the Eighth Day of our own Resurrection and the Return of Christ in Glory.

For the world, Christmas is already over because the day is past and eggnog drunk. For the Catholic, Christmas is just starting. For eight days, the Church celebrates the mystery of Christmas as the day of our Lord's birth was just starting to dawn. We will encounter saints along the way, but it doesn't change the fundamental cause for our joy. If anything, it puts the saints' feastdays in proper context, that of incarnating afresh Him who died and rose for our sake, the one whom the universe could not contain, deigned to be "contained" in His mother's womb. Even after this octave of days is over, the season of Christmas is not ended. The Season concludes with the Baptism of the Lord.

So, do not take down the Christmas tree, although you can extinquish your Advent wreath. Bask in the Light which has barged into the world in the guise of a little child.
There's no place like home, there's no place....
I am taking off today after the morning Mass to drive over to Fr. Tharp's parish, Alva, Oklahoma. There will be the typical hijinks at his place this afternoon, including attempts to publicly embarrass him if we manage to go out anywhere. But the real news (and the reason for the trip) comes the following day. On Tuesday, Fr. Tharp and I will hop into his car (affectionately referred to as "The Batmobile") with superhero-like agility (well, on second thought, maybe we'll just get in the car like normal since we'll probably have a nice cup of java in our hands, and it would be sinful to waste precious coffee) to drive up to KANSAS for the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-designate Paul Coakley.

Folks, I am taking my digital camera, so I might have some pictures to share once I return. I am sure there will be hilarity to share too. I confess that this trip is a bit of an etiquette conflict. You see, neither Fr. Tharp or I was invited to the Ordination; we are inviting ourselves. I think my excuse for the personal invite is a bit more convincing than Fr. Tharp's, however. Bishop-designate Coakley was my spiritual director for some time in 2002-2003. Will we crash any wacky-wild Ordination parties? Will I be able to past a photo of me standing next to the newly ordained bishop? Will I catch a glimpse of Fr. Tharp schmoozing with folks, or worse yet, setting up a table at party entrances where he offers signed copies of his apologetics column from our diocesan newspaper? I would be satisfied, however, if I could just get a picture of one of us standing next to a reception ice sculpture of Sts. Peter or Paul, or maybe one of some Kansas sunflowers.

Reports to follow....
I had the morning TV news on (mistake #1) as I was eating my cereal just a few minutes ago. They did a report on the top grossing films of 2004. The story began with a focus on the #1 grossing film, "The Passion", bringing in $609 million (I think). After speaking about how Mel Gibson defied Hollywood and "redefined" what a filmmaker can do, the story moved on stating, "The only other film to get as much attention was Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

WHAT!??? Am I really supposed to believe that Moore's little "Whine-Fest" gained "AS MUCH ATTENTION" as Gibson's "The Passion"???!!! Give me a break! The story conveniently didn't mention the revenue totals from Moore's nonsense (so that we could, I don't know, actually make a comparison based on dollar amount). But, I am sorry (NO, I'm NOT sorry!), there is no way that "Fahrenheit 9/11" got as much attention as "The Passion." NO WAY! Considering the pre-release hype and media blitz, the commercials for weeks on end featuring "The Passion," and the continued interest in tracking its box office results, this is simply an entirely ridiculous comparison which inflates the value of Moore's lies or, worse, undercuts the real impact of "The Passion." Perhaps someone here can provide that missing box office total for "Fahrenheit 9/11" so that we have some data to go on rather than the word of the liberal talking heads.

Here is what I could find reported on the web for the top, all-time, highest grossing movies worldwide. Check out film #24 and film #226. Am I missing something here?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Crunching the numbers
... and some Christmas snacks! Okay, let's crunch the Christmas attendance numbers.

First, to set the scene, the normal weekend attendance (read: non-Christmas). This parish has four weekend Masses: Two Saturday Vigils (one English; one Spanish) and two Masses on Sunday (one English; one Spanish). On average, about 376 people attend English Masses over the course of a weekend; about 520 for Spanish Masses. Weekend total is 896 people. That's a normal weekend (I didn't use figures from the Our Lady of Guadalupe weekend, which were off the charts!).

Now, unfortunately I don't have an exact count of attendance at Midnight Mass, but I estimate that there were about 300 in attendance. Christmas Day Mass had 149 in attendance. That's a total of 449 for the Solemnity of Christmas, a shortage of 447 people, basically half of the normal attendance. Now, I realize using these figures exactly is tough since there are many guests at Christmas, out-of-towners, and the infamous Christmas/Easter Catholics. I know many people were traveling.

Now, attendance for today, Sunday, December 26th -- this is where it gets interesting. We had 213 people in attendance for English Mass and 438 for Spanish Mass. If you compare normal average attendance at English Mass with attendance at English Mass today, you notice that the figure is down by 163 people. If you do the same comparison with the attendance at Spanish Mass today, the figure is only down by a bit less than 100. In other words, attendance today at English Mass was down by about 43%; attendance at Spanish Mass only by about 16%. The English-attending crowd both by real numbers and by proportion were much more absent today. However, their absence remained fairly consistent over the course of Christmas and today (since those in attendance at either of the Christmas Masses were largely English speaking). That would lead me to believe that such folk probably were away traveling. Taking into consideration the English attendance today, the presumed number of English speakers at Christmas Masses was a bit inflated, but that can be explained by the many guests we had in town or passing through. I am surprised by the numbers at Spanish Mass today, which were totally inconsistent with what I saw at Christmas Masses. I thought many, many of them returned to Mexico. Lack of attendance at a Christmas Mass seemed to confirm that suspicion. However, the packed house today at the Spanish Mass, seems to point to something else (that is, unless everyone mysteriously drove back from Mexico on Christmas Day and made it to Mass early this afternoon).

It is a very curious situation. I don't remember there being such a disparity between Christmas attendance and average normal attendance last year at Spanish-speaking Masses. I might need to do some catechesis regarding Holy Days of Obligation.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Day
Well, Christmas Day has been survived rather nicely. I had a Vigil Mass last night at one mission church, then the Midnight Mass back here in Guymon. My Associate had the Christmas Day Mass. I was present at it, seeing that things got off to a good start, micromanaging things like the annual second collection for seminarians and vocations, and greeting people after Mass. Then my Mom and Stepdad arrived and we have just concluded several nice hours together. Since I wasn't able to come home for Thanksgiving, and I also couldn't come home for Christmas, Mom decided to bring a bit of home up here. I made a nice Christmas meal, the highlights being: Sugar-and-macadamia-nut-glazed baked brie cheese (appetizer), homemade stuffing and pork tenderloin with a red wine reduction sauce that included dried plums, dried cherries, and golden raisins (main course), a Brunello wine (capital B out of respect, please), and bananas foster (dessert). Oh, yeah, and there were the presents that Santa, err, I mean, Mom and Stepdad brought.

I was very pleased by how the Christmas Masses proceeded. However, I was very disappointed by the attendance. A normal weekend attendance in this parish is anywhere from 800-900 people. For the Midnight Mass I estimate there were about 300 people and there were only 140 at the Christmas Day Mass. That's 440 total. I guess a full half of my congregation was traveling. Could that be? I don't know. It is true that there were almost no Hispanics at any of the Masses (even though we do them bilingually), and I don't say that to be mean, just to state what seems to be going on.

We had a seminarian at the Masses and that was nice because someone else was in the sanctuary who knew what was going on and he handled all the incense, including incensing the Blessed Sacrament at the two elevations! I think the people were really pleased with how the sanctuary looks for these holy days. I will be interested to see how attendance is at the Sunday Masses tomorrow. Will it be more of the same? Or will Christmas absentees show up? Stay tuned, folks...
A Christmas Message from the Holy Father...

but not the one you are expecting. This comes from Pope St. Leo the Great:

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's kingdom.
Through the sacrament of baptism, you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

The current Holy Father's Urbe et Orbe Message is also worth the read.
2:30 a.m. ... Woooohhh
My first Christmas as a pastor. I have finished the Midnight Mass, with incense, chanted Proclamation of the Birth of Christ, chanted prayers, and chanted Gospel and I doubt I will be able to go immediately to sleep, so I am blogging. Later this morning there is one more Mass (but the Associate has it) so I can relax a bit (before the weekend picks up tomorrow). My Mom and Stepdad are coming into town, so after shaking hands at the morning Mass, blessing the food at the Christmas Dinner at our Parish Hall, I need to get cooking in the rectory for the family dinner. We'll have sort of a Thanksgiving menu, except that the turkey will be replaced by pork tenderloin. It should be fun! Merry Christmas to all our faithful readers and to your families. May you be filled with God's grace in this holy celebration of Christ's Nativity!
Off to bed...

Friday, December 24, 2004

Gonna find out who's naughty and nice
Apparently, a Houston-area father decided his children (three of them) were being naughty and so he has decided to auciton off their Nintendo game systems on ebay! Ouch! Maybe he can find some coal to buy on ebay too!
Alternative History Fiction

I have three older siblings, two sisters and one brother. They are all substantively older than I, with my brother being 7 years my senior and my sisters being 10 and 14 years my senior. So, when I was a lad, I spent a lot (please note the correct spelling) of time looking for playmates outside my family.

Today, Fr. Hamilton called to confab about homily ideas and structure and of course, given his superior piety, wishing me an anticipated "Merry Christmas." In the course of the conversation, Fr. Hamilton started giving me a hard time about some thing or the other, and mentioned that he was providing this service so that I could know, experientially, what it was like to have a younger brother. (Fr. H is 3 months younger than I which explains many of the immature pranks in the past.)

This led me to imagine what that would be like. Of course, even in neonatal I would be already keeping a diary of my life.

"Day One: Not much to report. Exhausted after the move.
If the kid next door doesn't stop screaming, I am going to request a private room."

But it doesn't stop there.

"Day 15: The one called Mother keeps interrupting me while I am sleeping. Must find way to end her merciless gynocracy. VICTORY IS MINE!"

I think it is better than Fr. H and I are fraternal twins. After all, that would mean he would have had to stay in utero for an additional three months. On the other hand, that does seem to fit his temperment.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

When it's time to change...
Fr. J.C. said his voice is cracking, so here's a little reminder about just how memorable a cracking voice can be!
In omaggio di Steph
This post is in homage to Techmonkey Buddy Stephanie. She responded to my e-mail request for help with information about how to post pictures I have taken with my digital camera. She provided a link to download some software that cooperates with Blogger so that you can post your own digital photos. Folks, I am really excited that I was able to download the necessary software and that I could get it to work so that I can post photos. This leads to my second reason for excitement -- that I can share with you pictures I took this afternoon of my parish church decorated for Christmas. I think the photos below give a fairly good idea of what it looks like. Enjoy. I am amazed this all worked!

Here is a shot of the sanctuary standing in the back of church in the main aisle. The lighting wasn't great from so far away. On the left of this image (just out of view) is the pulpit and Nativity scene. On the right (again, just out of view) is the priest/deacons chairs. There are seven Christmas trees in the sanctuary (you can sort of make out the white lights on them). Posted by Hello

Here is a closer view of the altar. I think the color is better in this one. You can see the tabernacle in the center of the back wall. You can also see the arrangement of the poinsettias in front of the altar. The bottom row are red poinsettias; the middle row is a white one at center flanked by two that are a lighter red with white edged leaves; the top one is red again. You can see we have plenty of candlesticks. Posted by Hello

Finally, here is a shot (a bit blurry) standing in front of the sanctuary, on the left side, looking into the sanctuary at an angle. The Nativity scene is set up in front of the pulpit and goes down the steps a bit. You can see a side view of the altar with poinsettias in front of it, as well as the tabernacle in the center and many Christmas trees. Also in this photo you can see a section of poinsettias near the side of the Nativity scene. There is a matching grouping on the opposite side of the sanctuary for symmetry. You can also sort of make out many more poinsettias way in the back on the floor, masking the "hardware" of tree stands and electrical cords. Posted by Hello

While I am at it with this new technology, here is a shot from this past Easter at one of my mission churches, Good Shepherd Church, in Boise City, Oklahoma. If you know the Sacred Triduum ceremonies, it won't shock you that the tabernacle is empty before the start of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening. Posted by Hello

It has been some time since I have shared much information about, Edgar, the young boy in my parish who was diagnosed with brain cancer back in the spring. During the summer, while he had to be in Oklahoma City for days at a time for radiation treatments, I took him and his parents to the Oklahoma State Fair. I figured it would give them a welcome distraction from their daily trips to and from radiation therapy. Much to my surprise, little Edgar walked the whole evening and claimed he wasn't tired when it was time to leave. I thought it would knock him out. Actually, his mom reported to me that he did sleep ALOT the next day. I cropped this photo so that you can also see the nasty State Fair Indian Taco I was eating, having placed it on the brick ledge in order to take this photo. Currently, little Edgar is undergoing chemotherapy. He has to make one trip per week to Oklahoma City for the treatment, but since, unlike the radiation, it is not a daily treatment he is able to spend much more time at home and that pleases him. He is still ashen and weak, but he seems to be doing okay. Please continue to pray for him and his family. Posted by Hello
Pastoral Neurosis
Okay, I admit it, I am walking over to the church about every hour, convinced that since the time I last walked through the church, all of the Christmas trees and poinsettias have suddenly died, turning our beautiful decorations for the Solemnity of Christmas into a depressing display of death and destruction. Such is the world of a new, young pastor.

Some advice please (for the future): What is the least confusing way to list the Christmas Midnight Mass? Should it be listed together with the Friday, December 24th, Christmas Vigil Masses? Or should it be listed with the Saturday, December 25th, Christmas Masses? I chose to list it as December 25th. Here is how I did it in the bulletin:

Christmas Masses:
Christmas is a Holyday of Obligation
Friday, December 24th
Hooker, OK: Vigil Mass at 7:00 p.m.
Boise City, OK: Vigil Mass at 7:00 p.m.
(Midnight Mass: See below)
Saturday, December 25th
Guymon, OK: Midnight Mass at 12:00 a.m.
Guymon, OK: Morning Mass at 10:00 a.m.
Are people inclined to think they should come Saturday evening, for the Mass at Midnight? In other words, a Mass at midnight technically means a new day has begun. Or should I have listed it as December 24th, Midnight Mass? Oh, I just don't know! If only I could guarantee that parishioners would read the bulletin and hear the Mass schedule announcements with Spock-like logic, I wouldn't have to worry about these things.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Defrocked priest
December 24, 2004: Update: I provided a different link for those who were having trouble with the AOL version. It must only let you read it if you are an AOL member.
I am assuming that there are CRM readers who have watched the Brady Bunch. Remember the episode when, just before the Brady kids sang in some competition, Peter's voice started to squeak and crack? Well, this morning, while I was hearing Confessions, my voice was squeaking and cracking so much it just reminded me of that episode.

No, I'm not going through puberty a bit late (I'm 40) . . . well, not exactly. My last surgery was to remove all of my thyroid, so right now I have nothing to produce the hormone that the thyroid does, and since they are preparing my body for Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment, they will not allow me to take the artificial hormone medication. Since the thyroid is the "thermostat" of the body, in a manner of speaking, as my body becomes more "starved" for the hormone the more fatigued I will feel. A more amusing side-effect is going through the "adolescent" voice change again. Most of the time I just sound very hoarse, but then there are the ocassional "Peter Brady" outbursts. I guess it is God's way to keep me smiling through all this. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I just got back from leading our parish Penance Service. I heard two people's confession, the other associates heard 3 and 4 respectively. I do not know how many the pastor heard, but I think there was only a dozen people in the church so he probably heard 2-4. Now I know that my fellow CRM bloggers would be rather discouraged by such a "poor" turn out, but honestly, I am not. The reason? Because I did not think it was necessary in the first place. Now don't get me wrong; I think the Sacrament of Penance is VERY necessary, and that is a crying shame that at so many parishes it has been allowed to nearly completely die out (and I fear it will be a millstone around the neck of too many priests for allowing to die out in their parishes).

However, here at St. James we take the Sacrament of Penance very seriously. We offer it for a half hour, after the 8 a.m. Mass, Monday through Friday. Two of us are in the Confessionals on Saturdays; from 11:30 a.m. to noon, and then from 4 p.m until 5 p.m., and then our visiting OFM has his "ear-regulars" Saturday evening after the 7:30 p.m. Mass for at least a half hour(which of course one of us covers when he cannot be here). In other words we have at least 6 "priest"-hours of Confession scheduled every week. Our people have an excellent sense of sin, which leads to an excellent sense of God's merciful love, and an increased commitment to not only be free of sin but to become SAINTS -- not that I am saying we have an abundance of those around, but we're working on it.

I have gone to several neighboring parishes to assist at their Penance Services (either for prior to Confirmation or First Penance; I've been too ill to go to any Advent ones), and when I mention how often we offer the Sacrament of Penance at St. James I am amazed, in a sad way, at the number of priests who scoff at the fact as being "ridiculous." God's mercy and love "ridiculous"? One priest, a member of a religous order, was trying to get the host pastor at one of these Services to "do as they do at the parish he is at": After an opening song, reading from Scripture, and communal Examination of Conscience, all the kids (it was for a First Penance) are given the same "penance" and they recite in common an Act of Contrition. Then all the kids are INSTRUCTED to go to one of the priests and only tell him ONE of their sins. That's right, not ALL of their sins. When it was suggested that such a "confession" was hardly an integral confession (number, kind, circumstance of ALL mortal sins) he just brushed it off as being "fine because these kids can't really commit mortal sins," and that you really only have to confess one sin. What absolute sadness I felt for these children; the only thing keeping them from being guilty (personal culpability-wise) of the sin of sacrilege is their ignorance that they were not doing it correctly (unless they had better religion teachers than this priest). This priest thought it funny that one of our more respected pastors (hardly a "conservative" but not a crazy "liberal") used to call him a "borderline heretic." Based on his other opinions expressed that evening, I think that is a very charitable description; I would have just called him a heretic. Most upsetting was learning later that such "penance" services, where people are told to only confess one sin, is somewhat common. Jesus continues to weep.
Computer trouble again
Something is not right. Again now my applications take exceedingly long to open after I click on them. Again now I cannot open my e-mail or the comment box on the blog. So, it is driving me crazy to not be able to read the comments left on my earlier posts today. Hopefully this will resolve itself just as mysteriously as last time. Until then I can only wait.
You down with O.P.P.?
This post is, in general, in homage to the Dominicans and, in particular, in homage to Fr. Tharp, a member of the Third Order Dominicans. Yeah, you know the beat and the song, whitebooeey! You down with Other People's Preachers? Yeah, you know me!
Must restrain urge...
... to kill. Picture the scene with me, folks. A young, rabidly Catholic priest is enjoying a coffee and looking through a selection of what passes for Christmas cards while perfectly secular music plays in the background. And barging into this idyllic scene comes a chaotic message that demands to be heard: !redruM !redruM

Monday, December 20, 2004

Public Notice on Godparents
Folks, my friend Fr. Tucker at Dappled Things is on a roll, and we seem to be on a similar pastoral wavelength these past few days. I linked to his article on Quinceañeras because my similar experiences with this Latino custom impelled me to draft some new policies in this parish. Today, Fr. Tucker treats the role of Godparents for Baptism. This is a subject about which, I have discovered, there exists not a little confusion. For this reason, I also have begun working on a brief catechesis on the role of Godparent, which I intend to print as a bulletin insert some day soon. Fr. Tucker's post is cause for me to share my own thoughts.

I think the following real story is the example from my experience that best illustrates the confusion about Godparents. A young father came to see me in my office and informed me that he wanted to have his child baptized. The father himself does not regularly attend Mass and I had never seen him before. He came to me with this question (folks, this is exactly how he raised the topic with me): "I want my brother to be the Godfather, but he doesn't go to Mass. Can he be the Godfather?" I said, "Well, no, he can't be. If he is not practicing the Faith, he is ineligible to serve as a Godparent." The man responded, "But he's my brother and this is a big honor for him!" At this point, I realized without a doubt that we were not speaking about the same thing.

"Hold it," I said, "Tell me what it is that a Godparent does? What is the role of a Godparent." The man replied: "The Godparent is supposed to be there for the kid and if I die he steps in and raises him." Yes, with that total misunderstanding and failure to even mention the primary role of the Godparent, I knew we had trouble. I responded, "No, actually the role of the Godparent has nothing to do with who gets custody of the children in the event of your untimely death. That is often an additional role that parents request of a Godparent, but it is by no means the primary role/duty. Likewise, the role is not about honoring your brother with a title, but about a real responsibility and a real promise made to God to raise a child in the Faith. The Godparent is to assist the parent in seeing that the gift of Faith, given to the child in Baptism, is kept alive and burning brightly until the Lord returns in glory. Someone who is not practicing the Faith is not eligible to model the Faith for someone else."

I then went on with this analogy (this is what I have been working on for the bulletin). "What does a parent do? A parent imparts life to his offspring. Most obviously, a parent imparts physical/natural life to a child, but a parent is also responsible for the raising of the children. This requires imparting emotional, intellectual, social, moral, spiritual, and affective life as well. Quite simply, in order to impart physical life, a parent must meet certain qualifications, certain "things" (yes, I am referencing reproduction here) must be in working order or the parent is quite simply not able to impart such life.

"So apply this to a Godparent. As does a parent, a Godparent gives life to a child. Godparents are to assist in giving spiritual, moral, and faith life to their children. Just as a parent needs certain functioning physical parts, the Godparent must have a healthy, functioning spiritual life if he is to be able to impart the same life to a child. If a person is not fully initiated and living Catholic Faith, he cannot serve as a Godparent to another person. A person who is not living the life of grace and especially who is himself ineligible to receive the Sacraments, cannot stand in a role of offering an example to follow in the same spiritual life. For such a person, the functioning "parts" quite simply are not there in order to accomplish the task set before a Godparent. Being a Godparent is about far more than honoring a family member. It is far more than a social gathering, an excuse for pictures and a party (as much a part of the Baptism as those should be). It is a solemn oath made to God, made in the Church, gathered with fellow believers, in the presence of the Church's minister (representing Christ the Head of the Body). As such a solemn oath it carries serious consequences for the eventual entrance into the Heavenly kingdom for both the parents and the Godparents."

That's my frontal attack on the ignorance and malformation of the flock. It all comes back to that old maxim: Nemo dat quod non habet. No one gives what he does not have.
Rose petals and God's wonderful people
You should have seen the church on December 12, the Third Sunday of Advent, coinciding with the date for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Now, liturgically it was the Third Sunday of Advent, but we had all the cultural celebrations surrounding Our Lady's celebration on that day. By means of a one day reprieve from the liturgically-mandated moderation in decoration for Advent (appropriately so because it was Gaudete Sunday), the place was totally decked out with roses, everywhere! There was a large arrangment of rose-colored roses in front of the altar to match with this one of only two opportunities in the liturgical year to wear rose-colored vestments. There were arrangements in front of the pulpit, smaller ones near the tabernacle, and roses cascading all over the place in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe (included at this spot was a large arrangment of roses of various colors to symbolize that she is the mother of all nations). Anyway, we returned to the required moderation for this past final Sunday of Advent.

And then something else happened this morning that made me say to myself, "Wow, that's neat!" After morning Mass, a lady in the parish was walking out with a large bag of rose petals from all the now dying roses. She had asked us to yank off the petals before throwing the roses away. What is she doing with them? She is making her own rose petal rosaries! Apparently, you boil the rose petals down and form them into little beads, placing a pin in them to create the whole needed to eventually join one bead to another by means of metal links, and there you have it! I had no idea one could do that at home. Just a reminder of God's wonderful people!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Fr. Tucker of Dappled Things posted on an article in a Houston newspaper about quinceañeras (the 15th birthday celebration for Latino girls). I share his lament of this custom for many reasons. It really is a bizarre thing. It harkens back to when a girl was presented to society as being of marriageable age. Thus, in days past, it was more significant that, as she turned 15, the girl wear the attire of a woman, that she have formal shoes, make-up, a ring, and that she dance not only with her father, but with another young man. Now, however, many girls are already dating by the time they reach their 15th birthday and have long since stopped dressing like little girls.

The amount of money spent on these affairs is truly scandalous. Add to that, that it is very rare that any gift be made to the parish, even though outrageous sums of money are spent on everything else. There is more to-do made about these quinceañeras than some weddings. As the newspaper article reported, the girl may be escorted by a court made up of 14 couples. That is larger than any wedding I have ever seen. And, I'm sorry to sound pessimistic, but almost all of the Latino weddings I have done have been "blessings" of civil marriages outside of the Church or situations where the couple cohabits. Maybe that is a contemporary explanation for why the quinceañera is so big in our own time -- because there may not be much "to-do" about the wedding, but rather an attempt to regularize an irregular situation as quickly as possible. I don't know.

I routinely see kids attend these events as participants in the court whom I almost never see at Mass. They come dressed very inappropriately for Church (I even had to turn two young men away from the Mass because they came to serve as escorts wearing jeans and white undershirts). Many times, the girls themselves, do not participate in RE, are not in preparation for the Sacraments, but make darn sure they take the required quinceañera classes for that special day.

All of this has caused me to implement some new policies. I don't know if I am doing the right thing, but I do know that something needed to change about the way the Church is used for quinceañeras around here. I will highlight only a few of the new rules.

1. We do not do quinceañeras for people who are not parishioners. Since I live in an area where it is possible to cross the state line to get to another parish, it is not uncommon that girls come to our door, wanting to avoid the rules in their own parishes. I don't play that game.

2. Before a girl is eligible to take the required quinceañera classes, she must have been enrolled in Religious Education for at least one year and must have at least begun preparation for Confirmation. It is not uncommon for girls to show up for the quinceañera classes but never attend religious formation. Somehow the quinceañera gets more attention than a Sacrament (Confirmation).

3. If a girl has not received all her Sacraments, we do not perform a quinceañera. Routinely, families arrive hoping that I will engage in a marathon Sacrament and sacramental ceremony to catch them up for lost years on the one occasion they decide to darken the doors of the church. Recently I had to tell a family (that never attends Mass) that since their 14-year old daughter had only been baptized, had never received other Sacraments, and had never attended RE, that I would not allow a quinceañera at this time. I told them they needed to enroll her in RE next year and we would get her caught up and then, after that, she could have the quinceañera. The mother objected that the daughter would be 16 by then. I explained that it was their duty to see that their children are raised in the faith; that such was not accomplished in this case was not my fault. I know some places will do the marathon catch-up ceremonies. In our diocese we are told that Confirmation should not be done in the same ceremony in which a person to be confirmed is also to be married. This is so that the nature of the Sacraments of initiation are not lost. Due to that advice, I don't see it as a wise pastoral move to jam all the Sacraments into one mega ceremony.

4. In this parish, quinceañeras are done as ceremonies outside of Mass. I noticed that the large crowd that would attend a quinceañera Mass (before I changed the policy) on Saturday morning, would not attend any Sunday Mass. In addition, since many girls who come to us are not regularly practicing the faith, having a Mass seems counterintuitive to me. As I evaluated this problem, my first idea was to allow quinceañera Masses for groups of girls only four times a year, instead of on an individual basis. This would be a happy compromise. However, in my town, there is only one hall to rent for the party and so we would run into major problems with several quinceañeras and only one hall. Since people in my area seemed to desire more that each girl have her own individual celebration, I decided the only other option was to not have Mass as part of the ceremony. We still have readings from Scripture, the girl renews her baptismal vows, there are songs, a flower homage to the Virgin Mary, and a special blessing, but no Mass. This also allows our deacons to take some of the ceremonies, thus relieving the pressure on the priests on an already busy Saturday morning.

5. We also charge for the use of the church facility. The rental fee for the one hall in town (not associated with the church) is $1800.00! I was shocked when I heard that, knowing that it was the very rare occasion that a quinceañera family would give even one cent to the parish church. I decided that since so much was being spent, and if the church ceremony was truly important, it is not unreasonable to charge for the use of the church facility. This is money that goes to the parish and does not line my pockets (so calm down).

Anyway, all in all, I think the quinceañera practice is very ridiculous and basically pagan. Whatever meaning it may have once had in the Church, and as an event of faith, seems almost entirely lost on most of the people who show up in the parish office wanting a quinceañera. The one and only good thing I will say about this custom is that just about every kid who participates in the court (about 29 kids) makes sure to go to confession beforehand.
One thing that is really nice about rural America is that it is often largely untouched by modern, secular, political correctness. For example, at one of my missions, the county courthouse has a large Nativity scene outside on the courthouse lawn. Schools around here still refer to Christmas (in contrast, while in Oklahoma City yesterday I passed by a mega high school whose sign out front read: "Holiday Break: December 18 - January 2."

Occasionally I check the local high school website (and the high school web sites at my mission towns) because it is a great way to be aware of goings on in the local community, you can sometimes catch photos of young parishioners in various school events, and you can really impress the kids by making some reference to an event at the school. As I checked the web site for the school today, I noticed something I almost hesitate to share (because some wacko out there who might happen upon this blog might decide to file a lawsuit against the local school district). I guess whoever runs the web site meant to type, "Have a Great Christmas." However, either they got to hurried or the text field ran out of space because what shows on the site is, "Have a Great Christ." It must be a happy coincidence.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Auto-diagnostic auto
I think one of the most useless features of modern automobiles is the supposed ability to diagnose itself. You know the experience. You are driving along and suddenly the dashboard lights up with the message: "Service engine soon." And it won't turn off. Almost every time I have tried to take my car to a professional due to one of these self-diagnostic alerts, the mechanic tells me something like "Oh, just ignore it. Those things usually light up because of some electrical quirk."

So it was today, as I tried to get a good start from Oklahoma City back to Guymon. I had just left my dad's house when I noticed that annoying "Low tire" light was on. Now this alert is supposed to tell you when one or more of the tires looses some tire pressure. The light almost always comes on after I have a tire replaced or after I have the tires rotated or aligned, not because there is low pressure, but because the system can't distinguish between low tire pressure and a change in the tire position. When this light has come on in the past, I usually let out an exasperated sigh and drive on, happily ignoring it, until I give in, stop the car, open the fuse panel, and reset the light. Today as I drove on, I thought to myself, "Hhhmm. I didn't have any tire work in the last few days....darn crazy system."

Just before driving out of town for the long, desolate four hour drive, I stopped at a Wal-Mart Supercenter to look for a Christmas gift. As I returned to my car, passing from the passenger side to driver side, I noticed my right rear tire was totally flat. "Well, I'll be," I thought, "the darn light actually did what it is supposed to do this time!"

For the first time in the 107K-lifespan of my car, I had to change a tire. It wasn't an Indy pit stop by any means, but I must say I made pretty good time getting the spare on. And by Providence, since I had stopped just before leaving town, the tire store where I purchased these four new tires back in June was just a few blocks down the road (read: free flat repair!). Had I not stopped I would have been further down the road, further away from the tire store, and may even have damaged the wheel rim in the process. Thanks be to God all got fixed and I even made it back to my parish in time to type up this weekend's announcements before the first Mass this evening!
Traditions of men
It is amazing how I post on that sign from the Lutheran church back in October and almost immediately I see that ridiculous commercial currently showing from the United Church of Christ (UCC). Have you seen it? It begins with a glorious facade of a gothic church in the background (are we supposed to believe that is a UCC church?) as two guys dressed like concert stage hands or bouncers are telling certain people outside of the church that they cannot enter. The ones they deny seem to all be non-Caucasian or otherwise handicapped.

Then the screen goes black and in white letters we read: "Jesus didn't turn people away. We don't either." Next, cut to what looks like a large family photo in the sanctuary of a church. The camera pans across the group to catch just how "like" Jesus the UCC is (I suppose that must be the lesson). We see a young Asian and a young Caucasian girl embrace. We see a Black woman, an Hispanic young man, an old man and an old woman, and then, oh so briefly, we see two twenty- or thirty-something women put their arms around one another. Are these supposed to be a gay couple? The narration that is almost timed directly with that image makes some reference to lifestyle and journey. I don't think it is too much of a stretch to believe they are trying to make a comment about gay couples.

Anyway, that is certainly the impression that I and many others have gotten from that commercial. Yes, my dear friends at UCC, Jesus didn't turn people away, but he did turn them away from sin, as he made it clear that turning to him and remaining in sin do not mix. Any church that clearly proclaims moral truth does not do so to "turn people away" from entering its doors, but to turn them more authentically to Jesus.

Get it right, UCC, before the politically correct, misguided traditions of men leave you flat lining in ICU!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Miracle!

Put down that Santa tumbler and check this out.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

For those of surreal bend of mind...

...I offer this break from normalacy. It certainly make you forget for a moment how much you hate Santa, or should. Then when you wake up, you can go back to hating Santa. Now, when you get there, click "WATCH THIS MOVIE!" And don't say I didn't warn you.
Holiday sightings
This post will be about two "holidays."

1) What is going on in recent years with all the decorating for Halloween? Has anyone else noticed this? I don't remember near as much effort being put into Halloween house decorating when I was a kid as I see now. I mean it is routine now to see enormous inflatable jack-o-lanterns, ghouls, witches, and spiders in front yards. And I have even seen a "Halloween Tree." I am not kidding here. I saw a home with a Christmas tree in its window back in October. It was decorated with orange and white lights, and the ornaments were the typical scary things associated with Halloween. I guess these folks must take the Halloween ornaments off the tree and put up Thanksgiving ones and then Christmas ones, or else they go directly to Christmas after Halloween. I can't believe they would take the tree down and then put it up again for Christmas. But I guess anything is possible.

2) What is it about Christmas that finds otherwise respectable adults walking around all day, attending to normal daily business and functions, wearing Santa hats? I laughed to myself as I was leaving a store this morning and saw an old man driving his car through the parking lot, looking like an octogenarian elf in Santa hat. Suddenly, my biretta doesn't seem so odd anymore!
October Memory
I'm not sure why I am just now remembering an October event about which I wanted to post, but I am. Toward the end of October as I was driving past the Lutheran Church (yes, I know, "ecclesial community" at best) in town I noticed their outdoor sign board read: "The Reformation: The truth has set you free." I almost veered off the road and drove my car through the church office in a fit of hysteria.

So, let me get this straight. God deems it necessary to prepare His people and the world for the definitive arrival of salvation in His incarnate Son. The Son is born in time and speaks these gospel words: "Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, 'If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (Jn. 8:31-32). And then, oh, some FIFTEEN HUNDRED YEARS LATER HE FINALLY DELIVERS ON THAT PROMISE when Luther prompts what becomes the Reformation????!!!!! And so are we to believe that every other poor disciple of Jesus before Luther's engineering of Scripture was no better off as a follower than were the Jews who found their redemption in the Law??!! Yes, go ahead and believe in me, Jesus was saying, but the truth that you will know and which will set you free is still to come, it's not yet here despite the fact that I, TRUTH ITSELF, am here! And if that were true (that new truth would come later), wouldn't THAT be an inventing of dogma and doctrine, the very thing the Catholic Church is accused of when she searches the depths of Sacred Tradition and finds new ways to express constant teaching received from Jesus and his Apostles?

And this doesn't even touch upon another obvious problem with that ridiculous sign at the Lutheran Church. John's recording of Jesus' words also contains a very important dependent clause, "IF YOU REMAIN IN MY WORD..." And John, throughout his writings, is clear that remaining in Jesus' word, and truly being a disciple is no mere lip service but is DOING and KEEPING his commandments! Something tells me that re-writing Scripture and doctrine to fit one's own theology is not remaining in Jesus' word. Something tells me that destroying the unity of Jesus' Church is not going to measure up well on the day of judgment. That sign made an absolutely ridiculous assertion. If arson weren't punishable as a crime, they would probably be installing a new one about right now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Saints and Sinners Bingo

Surprisingly, this has nothing, no one thing, to do with my take on Calvinist theology.
Delighted with my own Crapulence

I just got off the phone with the travel agent, and a whole new series of evil machinations are in effect. When Mark Shea was touring Northwest Oklahoma, during the stop in Woodward, we chatted up the idea of a tour of England and Ireland, focusing upon Catholic converts or literary figures. We might include even C.S. Lewis depending on how high my ecumenical fervor runs.

Well, step one is underway. I spent some time on the phone today working out travel times and ideas. Right now, the idea is to spend about 12-14 days in the Isles, marching about and seeing the sites, during the month of September 2005. I am a little gun shy given that Fr. J and Mark tried this sort of thing, except going to France, which, in my book, was the dooming feature. =GULP= Excuse me while I choke down some anti-Gallic bile....

So, start saving pennies and get ready for the next evil plan to be hatched. VICTORY IS MINE!
Gotta love 'Bama
Can't have a monument of the Ten Commandments in a judicial building? Well, then, one judge has them embroidered on his robe! Folks, I'm not sure I support the methodology in Alabama (both in this case and the well-publicized Chief Justice Moore case), but I do support the issue (that the judiciary needs to remember the origin of all law and the moral foundation of the laws we rely upon). In any event, these kind of shenanigans just make me laugh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Can't comment, so I'll post
My computer is acting up again. When I logged on today a notice came up saying that updates were ready for my computer. I agreed to install the updates and ever since then my applications don't open quickly and I cannot open the comments box on the blog. So, the only way I can comment is to post. I just want to say that I laughed hysterically upon reading Fr. Tharp's post below regarding the seminary message board. I laughed both because of the situation Fr. Tharp described, but also because I could so perfectly picture the devious scene he presented to us, well aware as I am of the many pranks pulled in the sacred halls of the seminary! His post made me think of so many good memories of wild fun while in seminary.
A Pleasant Christmas Memory

All of this buzz I created when I voiced my disdain for Santa reminded me of a wonderful, terrible thing I did when I was in the seminary.

Every year, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day off from classes would be used to decorate the seminary for the coming feast of Christmas. It was usually a lot of laughs. Anyway, one year, the college division men decorated the common message board like it were a brightly festooned package. Across the top it read "Messages from Santa."

I couldn't resist. Using another seminarian as a lookout, I applied my powerful ability with anagrams and left my mark on the lower side. After I was done, the board claimed that it contained "Messages from Satan." I walked away giggling and enjoying the prank. But that's not the best part.

The message board remained that way for about 4 days. For 4 days, nobody noticed that the seminarians were in open contact with the Prince of Darkness. Thankfully, none of my messages ended up there; I was getting all of my messages from the P.o.D. via email.
This explains why my emails go unanswered...

Looking forward to the movie, and anxious to hear what readers think of it as well. Check out this very brilliant piece of cross-promotion.
A Most Fitting Convergence: Memorial of St. John of the Cross and Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Many times, I choose not to use the optional readings given for the memorials of saints, mainly because I want my parishioners to hear the semi-continuous reading of a particular book of the Sacred Scripture. Sometimes, it works out that there is a convergence between the readings and the saint, and today, the memorial of St. John of the Cross is one of those examples. Here is the Gospel selection given for today, Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent. I am taking this from the British Missal that sits on my desk:
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people,
'What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first,
"My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today." He said, 'I will not go,'
but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said
the same thing to the second who answered, "Certainly, sir," but did not
go. Which of the two did the father's will?' 'The first,' they said.
Jesus said to them, 'I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are
making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to
you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the
tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to
think better of it and believe in him.
Can you guess what thought immediately crossed my mind when I heard this? I immediately thought of the role of reform in the Carmelite order. In some way, John and Teresa are really taking the role of the first son to heart. Even though they joined the Order, they recognized that the work wasn't done and there were greater heights and depths to reach for.
In my homily at Mass this morning, I quoted from the Spiritual Canticle of St. John, as it is found in the breviary. It reads:
Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite
impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first
entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there
its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses
first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross. Saint Paul
therefore urges the Ephesians 'not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations,'
but to be 'rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the
saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth -- to know what
is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the
fullness of God.' The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom
is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys
that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to
pass through it.
The Passion of Christ doesn't begin in the Garden; it begins in the cradle. In this Adventide, as we await the coming of the Lord, let us hunger for the cross that Christ gives us, so that we may know all that He wishes to communicate.
The Internet: Source of True Self-Knowledge

I love these sorts of internet quizzes because they help confirm my personal preconceived notions. Does this outcome surprise anyone?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have?

I would be interested to see what the outcome for other monkeys would be...
Thanks and a tip of the biretta to Fr. Tucker at Dappled Things

Join me my friends as I lament the apparent death of commonsense. Through a variety of recent experiences I have come to fear that commonsense has abandoned the world.

Example 1: As many of you know, last week I was in the hospital to have surgery to remove my thyroid (I am recovering nicely, thanks to the prayers of many CRM readers). Now, in case you are anatonomically-challenged, the thyroid is in the neck, just below the voice box. On of the common side effects of this kind of surgery is a temporary lose of voice. A less common one, though potentially more serious is a sudden swelling of the neck cutting off the airway; so to be safe they left a "kit" next to my bed in case they needed to cutting into my neck again to allow me to breath. This stay at the hospital was less pleasant, not because of more pain and discomfort (I actually had less), but because of the poor care I received. Now for lunch (two hours after surgery) they gave me chicken -- hardly a "soft" food. But here is where commonsense really took a holiday, in the middle of the night I needed to get up (you can figure it out why) and needed help because I was hooked to an IV. I buzzed for the nurse, she responded through the speaker. I guess I was too hoarsed that she could not hear me. I waited for her to come -- nothing. I buzzed again, and the process repeated. Finally on the third try she came to see what "games" I was playing. Now excuse me, but as my nurse she should have been aware that I had just had THROAT surgery and might not be able to talk. What if my throat had swollen blocking my airway? Playing that "game" might have been fatal.

Example 2: We have reserved parking spaces for the priests of the parish, and they are marked with big signs saying "NO PARKING! Reserved for Clergy." Of course we always have people parking in our spaces, even when there are plenty of other spaces available. Now one of my colleagues had the same car parking in his space for over a week, and he kept leaving a note. Finally he had enough and blocked the person in so that they need to come to the rectory. It was one of our HS students and his first response was "I did not see the sign." When given a puzzled look, he then responded, "Well, I didn't think it meant me." So the sign he did not see he didn't think applied to him. Am I missing something?

Example 3: We provide coverage for the local hospital, thus one of us always is carrying the beeper. Obviously we give the hospital the beep number, and they are told to call the beeper, and ONLY if there is no response to the page to call our "emergency line" since that line rings throughout the entire rectory. At 4am this morning the emergency line rang and rang waking the whole house. When the duty priest answered it was the hospital and the person said, "Hi Father, this is the hospital. The woman in Rm --- would like to see a priest sometime, but it is not an emergency." NOT AN EMERGENCY AND THEY CALL AT 4 AM IN THE MORNING! And to make it worse they did not even try calling the beeper; instead they chose to wake up the whole rectory for a call they could have made 5 hours later during "business" hours.

Let's pray that commonsense returns to our land.
This is what happens when dolphins and Olsen Twins meet.
Well, at least she got that off her chest...

File this under the heading "Why having control on one's emotions is a positive thing."
Just in Time for the Holidays

Personally, I can't stand this movie, although this version works for me. It's just the right length.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Silly Wabbit!
I have made a post similar to this one in the past and it seemed to generate some interest. Today, though it was liturgically the Third Sunday of Advent, we had the various cultural celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day began with a packed church at 6:00 a.m. to sing songs to the Virgin of Guadalupe. It was amazing to see. I am serious; the church was packed at that hour. Many people I had never seen before, and who some of our sisters knew had driven in from 35 minutes away, were here at 6:00 a.m. I don't know why that can't happen more often on a Sunday, but sadly it does not seem to happen. I stopped in next door at the church before driving to one of my missions. As I stood in the back and sang with the people, I noticed a lady standing a few feet away from me with her daughter. She was wearing a grey sweatshirt with an enormous Playboy bunny symbol on it. I do not, and probably cannot, understand how someone who is supposed to be a Christian can reconcile owning such a thing to begin with. Coming to church wearing it is, in my opinion, inexplicable.

So I waited until she looked toward me and I motioned for her to step into the foyer area to speak with me. I told her I was glad she was there, but I did not like at all the symbol on her shirt. I asked her if she knew what it was. She said she did. I told her she needed to change before Mass started (later in the day). She immediately took the sweatshirt off. Later today the same lady was one of the Guadalupe dancers before Mass. It is beyond me to understand how the inappropriateness of her attire could have escaped her. I guess I am going to need to write on the topic in an upcoming pastor's column.
Even though the Feast is surpressed...

...I had to mention it here.

In the Church's liturgical life, Sunday is the center hub around which the entire structure rotates. In it we commemorate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, this year, unless you are in a parish dedicated to her, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not celebrated which is fine. Given all of the perogatives and graces God gave to our Lady, she is still the humble servant.

While many folks associate the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe with Mexico, it must be remembered that the various Popes through the last several pontificates, starting, I think, with Benedict XV, that Our Lady is the empress of the AMERICAS. She is the empress of the U.S.A., Canada, Central America, South America, and Mexico. This truth speaks to the fundamental oneness of the human race and the oneness of the Church. I am not allowed to think of my brother or sister of other extractions as "mud people" who are strangers and aliens in my midst. Instead, they are so loved by God that Mary made an appearance to them for their benefit.

So on this Sunday, where we pause to reflect on the joy the presence of Christ brings when he comes in History, in Mystery, and finally in Glory, let us reflect upon this great servant of the most high God, she who is Daughter Zion, Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Mother of the Church, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Smithers, who is that goat-legged fellow?

I am sitting in the office, writing up the last week of the third part of the Borromeo Project. The last week treats the specific moral injunctions the first and second commandments entails, and I had a radical, malicious, delicious idea for a daily discussion question. Here's the set-up.

Go read paragraphs 2129-2132. Now answer this question: How does the Incarnation of Christ change the Church’s posture toward idols?

What is so cagey in this question?
It's Not Wichita...

but it is interesting nonetheless.

As most readers know, because of my friendship and association with the Diocese of Wichita, I have been daily 1.) taking jabs from a fellow Ragemonkey about my putative status as bishop-elect which no one wants, least of all the Church in Kansas, and 2.) checking the Vatican bulletins for the most recent appointments.

Today, there was no news for Wichita. However, there are two very interesting appointments for other dioceses in the United States. First, Monsignor Michael Bransfield of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, formerly rector of the National Shrine in D.C., cousin to one of the guys I went to seminary with, has been named by the Holy Father as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. I believe this is in West Virginia. Second, and more interestingly, Bishop Wilton Gregory is moving from Belleville, IL to Atlanta, GA. This is interesting because this would be, I think, the second African-American bishop for the diocese.

Assignments for bishoprics tend to move in national/continental groups. It looks like we are moving back to the U.S. for the moment. Can Wichita be far behind?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Getting the Boot

Maybe it's the cynical frame of mind I possess, but as I was driving around, when the thought crossed my mind, "What would a priest have to do to get moved from the parish he is currently assigned, but at the same time not get his faculties suspended?" I ask this as an abstract question of interest and not to express any dissatisfaction with my current assignment.

Back to the question at hand. What would it take? And I think I came up with the winner. Those who have small children and weak stomachs should not read any further. You are warned.

Imagine that it is the Christmas vigil Mass. At the homily time, the priest invites all those precocious youngsters around him so that he can give them a very special homily. He begins, "Kids, I wanted to tell you a very special secret, a secret that your parents haven't told you. Boys and girls, there is no Santa. Nope, no one at all. All those guys you see at the mall are fakes meant to trick you. Your mommy and daddy put out all the presents after you get sleepy and go to bed. Then they cruelly eat the cookies you left for him. On Christmas morning, you come bounding down the stairs and you are filled with happiness and bliss, but it is all based on a lie."

He pauses dramatically, and then continues, "Now, I know your mommies and daddies are good mommies and daddies, and I hear them tell you that they love you very much. But how do you know that's true? After all, they lied about Santa; how do you know that they aren't lying about loving you? If I were you, I would stay up all night just to make sure that mommy and daddy aren't doing or saying other things to you/about you when you are asleep. Merry Christmas, all you delightful moppets."

Yeah, clearly, I was not meant to have children...
Eggs Tharp-edict
It's eggs Benedict with a Fr. Tharp twist. You see, it is rarely good enough for Fr. Tharp to simply make a well-known recipe as it is known or to follow convention in cooking, rather he likes to add a twist or introduce a variation into popular food dishes. For example, the dessert at the dinner before his Penance Rite was a variation of German Chocolate Cake. Rather than frosting the cake as normal, he made a caramel, toasted coconut, and toasted almond sauce (thick like a frosting) which he drizzled on moist chocolate cake. Well, the following morning, before I departed Alva to return to my pastoral field, Fr. Tharp made a variation on Eggs Benedict. I had never had eggs Benedict before (and I guess I technically still haven't, given the variation on the theme). Rather than use Canadian bacon (which I really don't care for anyway), Fr. Tharp used regular bacon together with the toasted English muffin, poached eggs (cooked with taragon), and bearnaisse sauce. It was delicious. I came up with the name eggs Tharp-edict. Now that name is appropriate for at least two reasons: (1) It is Fr. Tharp's variation on the theme and so his name is a natural to use; and, (2) Fr. Tharp's dogmatic nature and tendency to make definitive statements reveals another layer of meaning on the "-edict" part of the name!
In Honor of the Immaculate Conception

Check back throughout the day as I will put up some reflections as soon as I find one I like.
A Bit of Original Humor

With Fr. H's computer on the fritz, this is perfect opportunity to tell everyone about the shenanigans here at Sacred Heart that took place after the Advent Penance Rite on Monday, December 6.

I was laying on the couch talking to Fr. H when I mentioned that I had heard a couple of new "knock-knock" jokes. I started with the one from Cursillo:
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Obcessive-compulsive control freak...okay, now you say, Obcessive-compulsive control freak.

Then there was one my niece loved:
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Rude, interupting cow.
Rude, interrupting..

Once his defenses were down, I moved in for the kill.

Fr. T: Knock, knock...
Fr. H: Who's there?
Fr. T: Pious fraud.
Fr. H: Pious fraud who?
Fr. T: Fr. Hamilton.

I knew I was safe from reprisal, as Fr. H couldn't stop laughing and gasping for breath for several seconds.
Will It Have Enough Foreign Language Footnotes?

Well, folks, Mark's book is still not finished and so we are inflicted with more silence from His Shea-ness. To top it off, there won't be nearly enough foreign language reference for my taste. (That's a quasi-inside joke between he and many others.)

I was reflecting happily upon his brief visit. I thought I would mention here just a few of the funnier moments. There was the time at Fr. H's rectory that he was trying to stand up after sitting on the floor and ended up walking around on his hands and knees saying, "Sorry, I'm right; you are wrong." There was the stop at the Love's Country Store in Woodward for a beverage and bathroom break where he turned to me and said, "You need both a bottle of water and a liter of Diet Coke?!" I responded, "I have very specific hydration needs. What's up with the three bottles of milk?" He replied, "If it's much further to Guymon, I'm going to make some butter to sustain us." There was also the terrible tweaking I took at both Enid and Guymon over my alleged love for C.S. Lewis. (For the record, I am ambivalent at best about Lewis but that's another post.)

When will he be done with the blasted book? When, I ask you? Of course, after my encouters with the publishing world, I am surprised anyone gets anything published.
Ten Feet from Furious

Last night, I drove to one of my two mission parishes which are "attached" canonically to my assignment at Alva, OK to celebrate the vigil of the Immaculate Conception. The drive is about 26 miles one way, which is a vast improvement over my previous assignment at Woodward where one mission parish was 86 miles away, one way. I arrived about 20 minutes before Holy Mass and set everything up.

As the time for Mass approached, I noticed that no one was there. I could feel my anxiety creep up. Then I felt my anger rise. I began to compose a little diatribe to the parish. The gist of the message would be something like: "I was talking to some people just the other day who asked how the Archbishop decides which parishes would stay open and which ones would close if there were a shortage of priests. My response was, 'It's based upon how well they practice the Catholic Faith.' By not showing up for the Holy Day, you just moved yourselves to the short list." There would be some mollification for those who attended either there or one of the other nearby parishes, but it wouldn't have been pretty.

After Mass, I zipped over to the local gas station for a soda and spotted one of my parishioners there. We were chatting about the situation, and as she doesn't attend that mission, but rather the larger parish in Alva, she remarked, "That wasn't a very good turnout, was it?" I smiled and said, "You should have seen me fifteen minutes before Mass. No one was there, and I was ten feet from furious."

You have to understand that for a priest to go to a parish on a HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION and get poor attendance is very disheartening. I mean, it's not like you are being asked to found a leper colony; you are making the bare minimum response to God's goodness by fulfilling this obligation. Have a lovely feast day.
I Should Think So...

It's moments like this, that allow me to both vent my anger and take a strange modicum of comfort. I am angry, of course, because this scurriluous attack upon the Blessed Virgin Mary soils her, her Son, and the Church. At the same instant, I am comforted to know that the Catholic Faith is the true Faith; notice they aren't making signs deriding Protestantism with signs like "Use Wittenburg Contraceptions" or condoms with the seal of the Anglican Church.

Hoping to post
I returned yesterday from Fr. Tharp's Advent Penance Rite only to find that my computer was acting up and may have a virus. I couldn't get online yesterday. For some reason, I can get on today, but I have no idea how long this will last. So, given the silence from Fr. J.C. (for entirely understandable reasons), given my shaky computer status, and given that Fr. Tharp is preparing to be away so he can attend the Clay Aiken Christmas Special (the rest of us will have to watch it on TV -- yeah, right!) I fear that posting may be infrequent. It is a bad sign when you seem to be doing all the posting of late and then your computer is acting up. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Didn't get caught in the mud
I think the reason I only got about two hours of sleep last night is that I have been fretting all week about this weekend. You see, this weekend marked the beginning of a sorely needed registration drive in my parish. When I tried mailing out copies of my Pastoral Letter back in October, I soon stopped when I was daily watching envelope after envelope return to the parish because the address we had for a parishioner was wrong. So much postage was wasted. I knew we somehow needed to update our mailing list. In addition, far too many of our contribution envelopes for last year were never picked up by the people to whom they belong, and still many other boxes never had an owner to begin with. This is should not be taken as a stereotype, but I knew the real challenge of this registration drive would be with my sizeable Hispanic congregation. The notion of registration in a parish is such a clean, (Puritanical?), American idea that the value of registration just doesn't get into the Hispanic consciousness. Still further, many of my parishioners are illegal and quite afraid of putting their real, or even assumed, names anywhere, fearing that the government might come and seize the parish registration list. And as if registration isn't a tough enough idea to sell to the Hispanics, I don't even need to mention the idea of contribution envelopes and their weekly use!

Well, this first weekend of the three week drive went unbelievably smoothly. I was afraid it would all wreck and get caught in the mud, so to speak. The parish orders about 300 boxes of contribution envelopes (pretty telling, considering that the parish is at least 815 families!) each year. As of the start of the drive, we had about 210 boxes labeled with the names of those who regularly use them. That left about 90 boxes with no owner. As of this moment, after all the Masses, there are only 22 of those 90 unclaimed boxes. We registered 54 new families who took contribution boxes. Fourteen previously registered families, who had not used envelopes, took a box. We registered a few new families who did not want a box. And of the 210 boxes that go to regular contributors, only 80 remain in the back of church after this first weekend. Hopefully the rest will be picked up soon.

By all standards, the drive went very smoothly and, whether more regular contribution come in or not, I can at least say that less parish money is being wasted on paying for envelopes that remain unclaimed in the parish office. I just can't believe how well it all went. Hopefully, there weren't any holes in the information gathering process, such as a volunteer forgetting to write down the ID number of the envelopes on a person's registration form. I think I may need to take my staff out for lunch this week to celebrate!
Adult formation: tonight!
A few weeks ago I posted on the proposed Bible Study for my parish and how excited I am to have this starting, especially in this Year of the Holy Eucharist. Well, tonight it begins. Apparently, word of mouth, has it that already several people, and even some senior high youth plan to attend. The parishioner who wanted to lead this study and who approached me with this idea is a former Protestant, who was even a minister at one time, who read himself into the Catholic Church. He knows the Bible so well and clearly wants to share his love for it with fellow parishioners to help them claim "ownership" of what is, after all, a Catholic book!

For the first few weeks, we won't even get into a particular book of the Bible. Rather, we will begin with a foundation of what the Sacred Scripture is, how it was formed, authorship, and its relationship to Sacred Tradition. It looks to be wonderful and a great addition to the parish life.

Who wants to bet that not a few people will show up to a "Bible study" without a Bible? Catholics are so darn funny!
Yeah, I know I said that I am going to be silent for awhile, but the operation is not until Thursday, and I have a little time before Baptisms. I have been being tutored in Latin at our high school, and the teacher who has been tutoring me gave me a most amusing book for Christmas, it is entitled, "Lingua Latina Occasionibus Omnibus" (Latin for All Occasions). It is everyday, modern phrases translated into Latin (OK, some are not completely modern). Here are a few just from the back cover, which I found amusing:
  1. Satine caloris tibi est? (Hot enough for you?)
  2. Heu! Tintinnuntius meus sonat! (Darn! There goes my beeper!)
  3. Oportet ministros manus lavare antequam latrinam relinquent. (Employees must wash hands before leaving restroom.)
  4. And my favorite: Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam. (I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.)
Pink Slip
After only a few blessed hours of sleep tonight I suddenly woke up and so here I am before my computer. I suppose it is just as well since blogging on CRM has come to almost a total halt.

So, I ran across this article on AOL News. The principal of a Utah high school had decided that homosexual teenage couples had to have parental permission slips before they could attend social events sponsored by the school as a couple. Apparently that decision has ruffled a few boa feathers. Why? Because that policy was seen as oppressive and, it is suspected by some, that the school is trying to remove itself from responsibility for what might happen to "out" homosexuals -- apparently there is a concern about violence from peers against professed homosexuals.

At first read, at this hour of the day, three things jump right out at me in this article.

(1) The mother of one young "homosexual" boy states how proud she is of her son for protesting the principal's policy. She is quoted, "You can't help who you love." My thought: Oh, my dear, but you can help who you love and you even have a responsibility to help who you love. My suggestion is that you get to work on helping that son of yours.

(2) The father of another young "homosexual" boy states, "As long as I'm paying taxes to support that school, my son deserves every bit of protection, education, whatever that school has to offer." My thought: Okay, how about we sink some tax dollars into providing some true education and some true protection by telling the truth about the design of human sexuality and sexual love. Yeah, I'm sure that would fly like a lead balloon.

And finally, (3) I really hope you got this. The first name of the father in number 2 is "Quovaudis," a one letter difference from the obvious origin of his name "Quo vadis," meaning in Latin "Where are you going?" This is so thick with irony. What if pops took more active responsibility for his son and asked that question of him more directly, instead of expecting the school to bear total responsibility for "protecting" his son? What if someone -- anyone -- in these boys' lives asked that same question, in view of the larger moral framework? Where are you going? In what direction are you taking your life? Where are you going in reference to morality and the Natural Law? And finally, consider the origin itself of that question "Quo vadis" as it is recalled in Catholic tradition.

The most famous use of that question is from St. Peter's encounter with Jesus. Legend has it that later in life, after Jesus had ascended to Heaven, Peter, Bishop of Rome, upon facing the terrible persecution of Christians at the time, was fleeing Rome to avoid execution. He was not too far outside of the city gates of ancient Rome when he is said to have met Jesus passing in the opposite direction, heading into the city. Peter is said to have asked Jesus, "Domine, quo vadis?" (Lord, where are you going?). Jesus' response: "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." At that, Peter got the message, turned around and returned to Rome where he met death by crucifixion. So, this legendary question of Peter to Jesus, is really more of a question we must ask ourselves. Certainly, Peter must have felt that question come right back at himself when he heard Jesus' response of fidelity. Peter must have asked himself: "Where am I going?" He was, according to the legend, abandoning his call, his vocation to be the shepherd of Rome, feeding the lambs and tending the sheep (cf. John 21:15-19). It was precisely in facing what he did not want to face, in doing what he did not want to do, in being led where he did not want to go, that Peter was to find the earthly completion of his mission and the crowning of his sanctity.

What if instead of resigning oneself to the often confusing atmosphere of teenage sexual maturation, someone called these boys to face the truth of human sexuality, supporting them in working hard and suffering, I am sure, to overcome the tendencies they think they have discovered in themselves? Maybe, just maybe, that would be the rough road leading to true happiness!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

"Delighted" doesn't begin to express it
One of the early observations I made as the new pastor of my parish was that the local university's Music Department Chairman, a doctor of music, is a parishioner. In addition, his wife is also quite talented vocally and is working on a degree in music. That my parish does not have a choir, but relies on a small handful of volunteers to do the music, was cause for me to contact this man and his wife to initiate some "talks". Well, so many other details have been in my face since that early observation six months ago, that only today did I manage to meet with these two parishioners.

We went out to lunch and discussed their lives and their backgrounds and the state of things at the university. Then we began discussing music at the parish. I know they are incredibly busy, even having to travel for various music festivals and appearances directing orchestras or ensembles, and so I didn't know what sort of help they could realistically offer the parish in the formation of a choir. So, I told them I think our parish music needs some work. As it is, the few volunteers feel very stressed and imposed upon because they don't feel accomplished enough and they also can't find much help. They agreed that the parish music could use some attention and assistance and even admitted that was one of their own observations when they first came to the parish three years ago. Much to my pleasure, they agreed to coordinate the formation of a parish choir, saying that, though already busy, it was something they needed to do to be more involved in the life of their parish. Imagine my delight when the professor mentioned the importance of working on things like plain chant and simple Latin settings of the Mass (Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). The professor even writes some of his own settings for traditional Latin texts. I told him perhaps the parish would be a place to display those works at Mass.

Then, ala Emeril, I kicked it up ANOTHER NOTCH! I told them another idea I had was to have the parish host things like sacred music concerts and other events. The Church has always had a close association with the arts, sometimes a rather tumultuous relationship, and I told him I wanted the parish to support cultural offerings in our rural area. I wasn't sure of the reaction I would get from these two parishioners. "Delight" doesn't even begin to describe my reaction to their response. They thought the idea was wonderful! They agreed that we should look to future times when the parish can host musical events put on by the university students. It may even be a way to increase recruitment at the university. I am excited to see how this develops!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What A Difference a Nap Makes...

Well, folks, today was a complete waste. I have been in a ferociously bad mood all day long due to forces beyond my control. Yes, I know that many will tell me that my attitude is my responsibility, but frankly, given the day I have had, that happiness is an inside job malarkey, is bull-crackers. When the sky rains feces, there is not an umbrella big enough to shield you.

First, there was a whole assortment of nasty happenings here in the parish which I am going into more detail here. Let's just say I don't want to start swearing during the Holy Hour this evening.

Second, I got yet another rejection slip via telephone for the Borromeo Project. This time it was Ascension Press's turn to say, "Wow, you worked hard on this, but we aren't going to publish it." I can understand that small publishing firms have to be careful not to get over-extended, so it's not like I am suggesting that there is moral fault here. It's just disappointing when you have something on your hands that could be a winner, that will be a winner, and no one responds. Oh, well, in the final analysis, no matter if it ever gets published, I know that my future and current parishioners will benefit from the program. I sent a copy to Our Sunday Visitor and it will be 6 weeks before I hear anything back.

Third, I had to do some light editing to my article for Crisis which is another type of irritation. This is strictly a personal hang-up. When I write essays and articles, they tend to burst out in a fever of writing. I will sit and think for a couple of days, but when it is time to write, it bursts forth completely formed, or so I think. When editors send stuff back, it tends to shatter Athena illusions.

Granted, I took a nap and I feel better, but I am on the short fuse.