Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"If I were president, it would be a different country. We wouldn't be torturing people..."

...but you would still be killing infants in the womb and supporting non-existant rights to die.

While I must confess a fascination for politics and political history, it is a fascination akin to watching spiders eat captured insects or feral children running filthy through broken streets. I want to turn away, but I can't.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Book Review: The DaVinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code

As most of you know I write another blog with all of my musing of an apologetic nature at Apologize and Don't Be Sorry. You can find it in the side bar of this blog under "Monkey Like Spin-Offs!" The reason for that blog's existence is my over weening ego. That and I need a place to post my columns that I write for the archdiocesan newspaper. The column consists in my largely inept answers to burning questions that thoughtful people of the same archdiocese (and other places who read such things). After all, as GKC would say, "That which is worth doing, is worth doing poorly," meaning better to get an imperfect product out there that you and others can later tweak than to sit upon your thumbs and do nothing when action is called for.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been surprised by the absence of questions related to the runaway best seller, The Da Vinci Code. I did receive one question related to a TV program related to the book, but that doesn't quite count in my book as I have received a pair or more of questions related to the Left Behind series. The reason for this lack of shocked questions I think stems from two sources: 1.) people are used to blasphemy and 2.) Catholics want to seem unmoved by scurrilous lies about our beloved Lord and Master so as not to be "too religious" or "too unsophisticated." Well, allow me to play a thought experiment with youse guys. Say for a moment a book was written in which the Holocaust was dismissed as a fantasy organized by a powerful Jewish cabal. Now, what do you think the odds of that book's being published are? Kudos to those who said "Zilch" or some variant thereof.

It is observations like this - taken from the end of their work - which allow me to heartily and pointedly encourage all readers to get and read Sandra Miesel's and Carl Olson's marvelous debunking extraveganza, The Da Vinci Hoax. With the movie coming out in April 2006, all serious Catholics need to be up on what is wrong with the way the book portrays history. This book is the first rung in a well-stocked arsenal.

The authors do an excellent job in showing how deficient Dan Brown's and others' understanding the Church truly is. For one instance, Brown contends via the DVC that the early Church didn't believe that Jesus was actually God but this doctrine was made up at the Council of Nicea under the influence of Constantine. Apart from logical fallacies being ripped to shreds, the authors, Miesel and Olson, provide 10 pages of evidence from the New Testament and from Ante Nicene Fathers of the Church which show that Brown's contention is totally bogus.

Further, Miesel and Olson are not just literate in presenting the truth about Christ and His Church, they do a more that fair job presenting what neo-Gnostics and other pro-DVC folks think and say. This shows, to my mind, a startling respect for not only the truth of the Catholic claim but also the dignity of their opponents. Without being hyper pious, this sort of "respect for one's enemies" bespeaks a charity and a desire to win souls for Christ, and not just to score points in a debate. Additionally, respect for the truth demonstrates not only a well-grounded faith but a comprehensively engaged sense of hope. Hope is the virtue that relates to trusting in God's promises and His power to fulfill them. These authors show that they know and believe that "the Truth will set you free" that is if you let it.

Let me also praise an abundance of documentation. I just completed my first read through. The first read through means "Ignore the footnotes; finish the book." But the sheer volume of good and lengthy footnotes suggests the second read through is going to take some time. Add in a comprehensive bibliography and the book isn't just good. It becomes a continuing resource for self-education.

Last, let me further compliment the authors' on a consistently readable writing style and clarity. Throughout the course of the read, I was amazed at how logical and obvious the response to the DVC's ridiculous claims could be with really only a consultation of an encyclopedia. This is a particularly good feature as it encourages Catholics not to be afraid of their common history. If anything careful reading of all sorts of literature helps us to see how God has used the Church to promote the Truth of Christ and to grant eternal life to all generations.

In conclusion (don't you hate it when someone writes that), I think that the DVC is a loving example of providence. God permits this sort of hatred to fall upon the Church so that we can better learn to appreciate what God has given to us and to actively practice charity for those who hate us. A book like The Da Vinci Hoax is a singular opportunity for Catholics at all points of catechesis and formation to learn the back story to their own faith, to see themselves as part of the living tradition as it hands down the saving truth of Christ, and Him Crucified. In this way, hoax-sters and snake oil salesmen might find themselves turned away from darkness and error back to the wonderful light.

"And those who came / at first to scoff / remained behind to pray..." Ammonia Avenue, Alan Parson Project.

(By the by, I also recommend for those who are reading time challenged or who like yours truly spend more time in a car than is humanly permissible, or should be, get Matt Arnold's masterful tape series on the Da Vinci Code from St. Joseph Communications. The title is, I think, The Da Vinci Code Exposed. It compliments and suppliments the current work in consideration expertly. Pick it up as well)

UPDATE: Mr. Olson got a hold of me today and let me know there was more to love about the The DaVinci Hoax. They have their own website. Find out more here and even download a study guide. I think I just found my study class for the spring, assuming anyone will ever sign up for it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I have seen the mountain top and it's a rabbit warren

Well, boys and girls, I just couldn't stay away. The first week of exploratory planning for taking over the West Coast ... ah, er, I mean, of my vaction has been just peachy. The weather here in Oakland has been positively delightful. I am spending my days at St. Albert's Priory, a Dominican operation of the Western Province, basking in their holiness and dedication to the mission of the Church. It has been a funny refrain as some of the student brothers walk up to me and say, "Oh, YOU'RE the Catholic Ragemonkey?!" I guess my normally placid appearance belies the torrent of hostility and snarking that longs for expression. So far, I did a one day tour of the Wine Country (boy, did the makers of Sideways get that milieu right) and saw some of the historic churches in the area. My favorite thus far is the Dominican stronghold in SF called St. Dominic's. It was badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake, but you wouldn't know it to see it now. I especially appreciated the 8 confessionals which all apparently get used simultaneously as they are all already assigned to particular confessors. But there was one experience which beat them all.

Nestled on the hilltop, on the same block as St. Ignatius Church and the Carmelite Monastery (Christo Rey) you will find a lovely little split level home. There is no sign outside its doors to even direct you to the awesome work happening behind its doors. Yes, kids, I found it. I found my way to Ignatius Press.

For the readers of the blog, this might come as something of a revelation to them but there was a time when I was a particularly average Catholic. While on the Spiritual Year in Northhampton, someone handed around a catalog for Ignatius Press and nothing has ever been the same. I would not be the priest and Catholic I am without Ignatius Press and the throughly peerlessly exceptional books that this humble little publisher puts out there. On a whole variety of topics, I found the very best of the Church's authorative teaching and speculative theology all in one convenient stop. I would go so far as to say that I would recommend ANY book published by IP because I know that they don't publish junk.

So, back to the story, as part of the visit, I got to meet and chat with several people with whom I have cooresponded via email and letter but never in person. Jeff Grace, Roxanne Lum (is it too casual to call you "Roxie"?), Paula, Milo, Nellie, and all the rest. It was a pity that Fr. Fessio wasn't in, but maybe that was a good thing, in that I might still be there chatting it up. Actually, I don't think Fr. Fessio would tolerate my nonsense for all that long. I would have been put back on the streets soon enough. Also, my public thanks for the "lovely parting gifts" Roxanne came up with. I left with several very good books which will get some coverage here in the next few days and weeks.

What I really wanted to comment on is how God generally runs things counter to our expectations. In my mind, Ignatius Press was going to be housed in a largish building with track lighting and Venetian marble accents. Instead, it was set up in a former residence with office space maximized wherever it could be found. I needed a sherpa to get up the back steps to the production and art departments and navigating through the basement to get to Jeff's office required knowing the Elvish word for "friend." I am still winded after all that running from the Balrog. In short, the offices would not impress worldly minded people. For those who strive to see as God sees things, it is a different story. We see them reaching out to educate Catholics and others of good will who want the unvarnished fact of the Christian Faith. They do this to the best of the ability and it shows in every book published and produced by them. In the bat-rectory in Alva, there are so many of the title of IP on my shelves because I simply cannot cotton giving them away. I am convinced that I will need them again. So there they stay with an ever accumulating pile of footnotes, underlines, and highlighter strokes. If you get the chance, swing by the Website and see if they can't get you something worth running your mind through.

Yes, I have seen the mountation of the New Evangelization; it's housed in a rabbit warren.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I Didn't Ask To Be Born

I recall uttering those self-same words when I was a young man full of knowledge and vinegar. I was about 12 going on 35 and I was sure my argument would have some sort of force of law. As one would expect, my mother was unmoved; after all, no one had asked her if she wished to be born. Quite frankly, it was something of a conspiracy to be sure.

As the High Court convenes, it finds itself in the same straights but only at the other end of the spectrum. The current law on the books in Oregon permits one to end their lives only under a serious pre-defined circumstances but rest assured, that most doctors are probably working to expand them. You see, medical care is expensive and often times hard to come by. Like many other things, it is a resource and as such it can be quite exotic. The Point is just as no one asked to be born, no one can really ask to die. Certainly, one could ask not to be given a certain medical treatment if the only outcome were mere prologation of the dying process. However, that is a far cry from asking to die or perhaps put more to the point of the Oregon law, asking to be put down (as though your life were the equivalent of an unwanted housepet).

And so it continues. The War For Life continues. The Forces Against the Good of Life begin to move away from the so called right to Abort to the putative Right to Die. I suspect that the move is based on a seeming victory by these anti-life forces in the realms of abortion to newer and greener pastures. The Supreme Court begins to hear deliberations on the matter even as we speak. I pray that the common sense of my mother would prevail in these sorts of matters, that one must live the life they are given no matter how hard or sad it may seem. I can only expect that the sanity of the Saints won't be accomadated.

(N.B. While this does technically violate my oath [sworn like Herod] not to post while on vacation, I thought it too timely and important not to say something.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Uh, oh!
I don't know if this is happening on anyone else's computer, but I am suspicious. As I logged on this morning after Holy Mass and the blessing of the animals, I noticed that Fr. Tharp's name no longer appears before mine in our sidebar area. Is that some fluke on my computer screen or has some bad little monkey been up to his techmonkey tricks now that Fr. Tharp is out of town? Let me know if Fr. Tharp's name appears on your screen.

Monday, October 03, 2005

How odd
If I were more paranoid than I am, I would have thought it was stalking. Today I joined a few priests for lunch at a great Vietnamese restaurant in Oklahoma City. As we were enjoying lunch I caught sight of a young lady sitting at a table by herself, clearly waiting for someone else to join her. She had some rather wild hair (at least as regards its bigness), tightly curled and very bushy. I say it was wild because it didn't at all appear natural, but clearly something she probably chose to do herself. She also had that -- I'm sorry folks, but I don't know how else to say this -- college liberal, front-row-of-some-leftward-leaning-organization-pep-rally look. I'm not saying she is that; I'm just describing the look (and, yes, looks can be deceiving). Anyway, eventually two guys joined her, looking equally non-conformist, but, oh so conformist in their non-conformity. Know what I mean, Dude?

After lunch, I drove several miles to meet up with Fr. Tharp at Starbucks. We enjoyed coffees and some conversation, as well as the normal round of mutual mocking and one-upmanship that tends to mark our relationship. [By the way, a side note here. When I arrived at Starbucks, Fr. Tharp had already been there for a few minutes and was enjoying his coffee. I ordered an espresso and looked over at Fr. Tharp as I said, "Let me guess, you got the pumpkin spice latte?" He confirmed my prediction by adding, "It's a classic, you know." I told him pumpkin spiced coffee was in no sense of the term a classic. He wouldn't even engage the argument. Now, what sort of person thinks pumpkin spiced lattes are classic coffee? I mean the next thing you know they are going to tell us that priests getting in dunk tanks is an insult to the dignity of the sacerdotal office and ... oh, wait a minute ... Nevermind!] So, as I was preparing to reverse out of my parking space in front of Starbucks, I glanced to my right and who is in the car parked next to me but the same lady, whom I had earlier seen in the restaurant. I thought that was rather weird. She managed to pull out ahead of me and drove off.

But that's not all. I pulled out of the shopping center housing Starbucks and got on the turnpike that loops the northern part of the city. I was driving for a few miles when lo and behold, the same young lady passes me on the highway! She had left the parking lot near Starbucks ahead of me, but was now passing me on the highway. I mean, what are the chances of that happening in a city the size of Oklahoma City. I am not trying to say OKC is NYC, but OKC is some 800,000+ people. It just seems rather odd to run into the same stranger that many times in such a brief span of hours.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

So it ain't so?!

How can that have happened? An archaic book that has no relevance for today's audience (mainly because it doesn't support our current lifestyle de jour) could never motivate someone to positive action, could it? Sorry for the snark but I just get tired when the underlying premise of the article is or seems to be "isn't that quaint? He gets inspiration from the Bible..." implying that this is somehow an aberration. I must give props to Ronnie Earle for having a most thrown back approach to politics. What a difference more freedom from monetary influences would make in current political discourse.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Vacation, all I ever wanted, / Vacation, gotta get away.

With Fr. H's return to the blog, I can now safely jump aboard an airplane and head west. Unlike Frodo, from this westerly land, I may return. I am spending 13 days with Dominicans and Vinters and Evangelizers, oh my! I'll be away in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Oh, yes, imagine the pilgrimage to Ignatius Press. Marvel at the tour of St. Joseph's Communications. Tremble at the quantities of wine and seafood I consume.

Remember me in your prayers.

And no, despite all the internet access, no blogging from me while I am away. Have fun.
I'm ba-ack!
You knew it would happen sooner or later. I am still very much trying to get my life organized in a new place, a new house, a new office. It is slow going, but things are going very well in my new parish, even though structural problems with buildings and the money required to repair them plagues me. Oh, well. We'll pull through.

I do have to make a brief post here in response to Fr. Tharp's "In Persona Krusty" post. First of all, he and I spoke on the matter of his post before he posted and we have since discussed it further. Obviously, he and I have a difference of opinion about the issue of a priest getting in a dunk tank and partaking of parish carnival activities. I accept his opinion and he accepts mine. While I understand and accept his point about the care a priest must take not to denigrate the dignity of the priesthood, I do think he makes too much of the matter in regard to my activities at the parish carnival, which he was present to witness. To the degree that his point in the post was that (1) a priest shouldn't feel compelled to get in a dunk tank; and, (2) the priest ought to be "liked" for much more important and ministerial reasons, and not because "he's just like everybody else," then I agree with his post.

However, I am not entirely sure that Fr. Tharp's words necessarily communicated only those points. In particular, I think he made a rather significant assumption when he wrote: "For all of Fr. H's excellent work, for all his training and experience in Rome, for all that Fr. H does to promote and incarnate the Catholic Faith, that his being thrown in a dunk tank and an amazing technocolor hairdo is what makes them "like" Father Hamilton."

I have no reason whatsoever to believe that it was my getting in a dunk tank and having fun at the parish carnival that is what "makes them 'like'" me. In fact, I would have to say that it was quite clear BEFORE the parish carnival that I was being very warmly received in my new parish. I have found nothing but excitement and readiness to welcome a new priest, even among those who regret the absence of my predecessor. If anything, I would say that my participation in the parish carnival was simply an additional factor, among what I hope are many factors, in what helps people come to know me and appreciate me. I would add to support this claim that when I hear comments about how people here appreciate me as their new pastor, not a one of them has offered the dunk tank as evidence. In fact, when people specify what they appreciate it tends to be related to my teaching and involvement in the school and ministerial functions: "He spends time with the school"; "he visited my wife in the nursing home"; "he takes Holy Communion to shut-ins"; "he did such a wonderful job at that funeral and he didn't even know the deceased"; "he showed up at the hospital even though it was a bit of a burden to get there."

These are the things people offer as reasons to appreciate what I have done in my brief time here. I don't think they are at all confused about what they look for in a priest or about the dignity of the priest who incarnates Christ amidst the flock. I agree that a priest must be careful not to pander to hopes that Father be "just like everyone else"; but, I would disagree that parish carnival activities always and everywhere cause such harm. I think it has to be evaluated on a case by case, parish by parish basis. There may be reasons why getting in a dunk tank may not be prudent at Parish X, but I don't find such reasons present in the particular instance of my parish. I had fun and I would do it again, as I have done so at previous parishes. If I sensed something were amiss in another parish, I would have to evaluate that matter more closely.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Laughing at my Mass Kit

When I was ordained to the priesthood, I received a gift that I thought would rarely be dragged out. It was a portable Mass Kit. You can imagine my reasoning. "After all, I don't need it for vacations. And I am not planning on doing too many home Masses (although I could imagine saying Mass in a homebound person's home if needed), so I don't know what this will be good for." Of course, thankfully, God's plans and planning is always better than mine.

I am looking at my Mass Kit as it sits in the hallway. This has been its second excursion from the rectory this week. Each week I say Mass at two prisons: one in Helena and the other here in town. If we were all being honest here, I would tell that I never look forward to loading that case and pulling out some vestments and taking them to a prison to say Mass. The prison officials dig through your things (although I must confess that every guard I have dealt with has been very cordial and professional), then you have to carry everything to the chapel, unload and do all that in reverse when you are done. But whenever I feel crappy and tired on my way there, I rarely feel that way coming back. I never thought I would enjoy working with prisoners as much as I do. I did have to take a little hiatus here and there but I am back to full speed.

I know I have to be careful about giving away too many details but I want you to know what I see when I deal with a prisoner. I see someone who because of one decision different from my own resides behind iron bars and razor wire. I see someone who did not bounce back from sadness or mistreatment the way I might have or you might have. In other words, I see someone who is different than me only by the narrowest of margins.

These prisoners tonight at the local prison are also so hungry for the Truth of the Gospel. One gentleman said to me, "I have been in the system many years and you are the first priest I have seen." I don't doubt it. Going to the prison is unpleasant, in that you deal with people after a series of disastrous life choices. Further, when it comes to the Faith, you can count on a generally low level. It reminds me of working with teenagers -- for many of them they haven't heard the Good News since boyhood. Another gentleman apologized for being late and then added, "I haven't been to Mass since I was 8." I told him the only thing that mattered at this point, "I'm glad you are home." We'll work on confessions next week.

And maybe that's why prison ministry is so hard and so essential. You, who visit the prisoner, are reminding them to look for their true home. The decisions that they thought would lead to happiness led to a prison cell. You and I get the privilege and showing them that true happiness, the following of Christ, loving His Mother and the Church, serving God and neighbor in the perfection of charity, this kind of happiness is available now and is waiting for us in the life to come.
BBR: Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles

When I was in OKC on Monday, I stopped by the ultra evil Barnes and Noble. It is ultra evil because I can never escape without $50.00 worth of books under arm. So along with my DC Comics graphic novel (that's a comic book to you) and Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies (can you say "addiction" boys and girls? I knew you could), I snapped up a copy of Raymond Arroyo's biography of Mother Angelica.

Now, I must confess that I have some back history with the friars connected to EWTN. Several of the men went to school with me at Saint Charles. Fr. Anthony Stelten is one I am proud to consider my classmate even when he changed seminaries, but that is a WHOLE OTHER story. I have generally thought that a work like EWTN was needed in the Church and while I wasn't a fan of everything on the channel, I thought it was a good idea nonetheless. So when I heard about this biography, it lead me to want to find out more about the foundress. After all, the foundation tells you something of the shape of the future.

To be blunt, I could not put the book down. It was a lively and engaging read throughout. Arroyo's familiarity with Mother's life and story allows him to weave together event and meaning into a seamless quilt of a life. It was very edifying to hear of Mother's hardships, and how with God's grace, she was able to overcome. If I had to criticize the book, it would be on the point that it was a bit too in love with the subject. While Mother would not overlook her own faults, and called strong attention to them, Arroyo would on occasion tend not to get past the surface appearance. A good example of this would be the recounting of the conflicts she had had with Bishop Foley of Birmingham, AL. Looking at the events, you could see how the conflict was really two-sided in a way, but Arroyo's presentation came off, I don't know if intentionally, as though everything was the bishop's fault. But again, it's a minor flaw. It doesn't discredit the book; it is the flaw of a friend telling the story of a friend. We naturally tend to take their side.

On recommending this book to the blog readers, I want you to get from it what I got from it. Mother Angelica's life looks at how suffering and lowliness are not obstacles to the holiness God calls us to. Suffering and lowliness are its seedbed. I found myself encouraged and emboldened to "get back to work!" Maybe this explains why I blogged so much today. I would strongly recommend this book also to anyone who struggles with family of origin issues or self-esteem problems. I could easily see how many things in the book spoke to this.
We have the greatest readers!

I know I don't say it enough, so I am going to say it here. You are all the greatest, you referring to our regular readers and commentators. I look back on all the types of things I have written here for my pleasure and hopefully for your edification and enjoyment. Consistently, even when I come up with something hard or challenging or more often, poorly constructed, the readers are there to parse along. In other words, you guys figured out that you are as much part of the blog as the principal authors. You happily challenge us, you make us re-think how we present and not just what we present. In short, if this blog is a success, it is because you guys take part.

So again, thanks for being here. Thanks for being good enough people that I don't have to patrol the comboxes against nastiness. Thanks for working with Fr. H and myself to promote the Gospel through civilized conversation and controlled outbursts.
In honor of Archangels

For those in the know, today is the Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Jewish tradition, I think, says that there are seven, but I don't know names for the others. The big three of today's feasts are major agents in God's plan of salvation. I must admit loving this feast day merely because it demonstrates not only how good creation is (it includes created spirits who are like me) and how much God loves us. The beauty of creation and the wonderous glory of the angels reminds us how much God wants us to be with Him for all eternity. But there is a catch.

The catch is we must say "yes." God will give every help, but we must go along for the ride. To that end, I have linked some thoughts of John da Fiesole at Disputations. I think you find them enlightening. I sure did.
A curious development

I find most interesting the comment from police chief Varon. Does that statement suggest that somehow he knew of a continuing traffic in murdered children. Hmmm... Well, at any rate, it is most sad and distressing. Resquiacat in pace.
Justice Roberts receives Confirmation

No, not that type of confirmation. The senate voted very handily to advance Justice Roberts to the Supreme Court. I do question why he was named as chief justice at the same time, given that he had no experience on the bench, the big bench that is. Any legal scholars out there know if that's happened before where a nominee suddenly moves into the chief chair during the nomination process?

Also, the media now has free rein to begin to speculate who the next nominee will be. The early runners seem to be a set of women about whom I know very little. Keep your ear to the ground, folks. This will be the interesting candidate.
A Point of Clarification

Concerning my last post entitled "In Persona Krusty," I want to make a clarification. That post was not and is not an attack on Fr. H. I have nothing but esteem for him and for his work as a brother priest. I am criticizing whatever it is in our current eccelsiological climate that thinking that putting priests into dunk tanks and other things of the like is appropriate. Furthermore, this is not an attack on the people of Kingfisher. Granted it was there that these thoughts reached the culmination, I have seen this sort of posture presented elsewhere enough that it has been on my mind for years.

On a more practical note, I would like my readers to consider something with me. Let's just say, that for sake of example, I get sent to some parish, St. Wilemina's in Upper Lowerton, OK, where this sort of thing is expected and occurs regularly. The head of the committee comes in and says, "When can I schedule you for the dunk tank, Father?" My response, "I don't participate in things like that." The response back, "Well, Fr. Luetefisk did it. Why don't you?" My reply is "Because I think it is the beneath the dignity of an ordained priest to do such things." Now at this point the argument either ends or it gets heated. But if Fr. Luetefisk hadn't done this, I wouldn't be having this conversation at all. Priests have to be careful with all sorts of novelty in their lives, mainly because when a new pastor shows us, parishioners, rightly or wrongly, assume that they will do the same things. When that happens, it creates tension and confusion unnecessarily.

So there you have it. You can disagree with me, but please stop saying this is some sort of attack on Fr. H. He and I already discussed this in some detail. If he wants, he can tell you about the conversation -- my brain is too low on caffiene to recall.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Open Handed Comes the Gauntlet: In Persona Krusty

Recently, I was privy to Fr. Hamilton's hijinks at his parish's fundraising carnival. Namely, Fr. Hamilton took an extra long turn in the dunk tank to the squeals of delight from child and adult parishioners alike. Then, he permitted himself to have spray-in highlights added to his hair. I believe the colors were electric green, orange, and red. The odor the hair color generated was so foul it made me choke. I am not kidding. It was so bad he had to stand upwind from me.

Initially I was going to post pictures of this event, captured by his school's principal, but I have decided not to. This is not virtuous (if it had been a matter of virtue, it would have gone unmentioned). It is the matter that I erased the inbound email which contained them. Go figure. I was going to post them to force Fr. Hamilton to return to blogging. As he threatened at a recent meeting, "I am not blogging until you post those pictures." Now, I don't have them so I guess his Herod-like demand will return the blog fully to my influence. Ah, the power mongering.

There was another reason I was going to post these pictures. I eavesdropped on the comments made to Fr. H about this little display and needless to say, it left me depressed. For all of Fr. H's excellent work, for all his training and experience in Rome, for all that Fr. H does to promote and incarnate the Catholic Faith, that his being thrown in a dunk tank and an amazing technocolor hairdo is what makes them "like" Father Hamilton.

From what I gathered, people don't want priests who live and hold themselves to the standard of living "in persona Christi." They want guys who model the life "in persona Krusty."

This is why I steer clear from things like that, dunk tanks and such. My constant battle for virtue, and let's be frank, my frequent failures in the battle, give me more than ample opportunity to denigrate my priestly identity without behaving unnecessarily silly. Granted, most people know that humor and outrage form a large piece of my teaching style, but I would like to believe that is only the icebreaker to getting people to understand the idea, rather than any reflection upon me. If I am wrong, then that is a matter for my spiritual director. While it is perfectly acceptable to have fun and jest and the like, a priest must always aim a little higher. A priest must always ask himself: "Would I accept this behavior from someone who came to confession?" "What if my behavior leads them astray?" "Am I doing something which might suggest that the priesthood is not a holy and honorable vocation given by God?"

A priest has a mighty task to perform, to re-present Christ and to do that faithfully, often in contradiction to what the world might want or expect. And I realize that some of you are going to say that sounds harsh. Fine. It's harsh, but it's a fact. But isn't this sort of higher standard exactly what many pious Catholics complain about when it's not manifested during Mass? Action arises from identity. When one is clear about one's identity, then it changes how one acts. For example, if a married man, even gives the impression of flirting with some other woman, then he has shamed his wife. Again, yes, some of this might be perception; it isn't his intention neither flirt nor shame, but that's the outcome. A priest is able to act in the person of Christ the head, as teacher, governor, and sanctifier, because it is his identity, an identity rooted in a sacramental reality. So, yes, while many people want a priest they can "relate to" and a priest should strive make sure he erects no barriers against members of the Church, especially in parochial ministry, this means that a priest must take care not to pander to a congregation.

Unlike other posts, where I have jested to get Fr. H to post, I am being very serious. I have thought about this for many years now whenever I would see similar scenes played out. While a parish carnival and the parish's Sunday Mass are two different things, there is the danger of forgetting for a moment that there is no vacation from vocation, and what one does with his time reflects upon that.
Where Living for God Will Lead You

The linked column shows something of the proper response to people who cluck their tongues about things like the "Dark Ages" or the "repressive nature of religion."

There is a quote I have read somewhere from Michaelangelo. It goes (pardon inexactitude) "The greatest danger in life is not setting your goals too high and not achieving them. It is setting your goals too low and achieving them." The spiritual life has something of this in it. When we reflect that a participation in grace is a participation in divinity, why do we think there is anything that God cannot do with and for us? Granted, changing takes time, it requires moving in new directions, changing habits etc. But after we accept that, why grow tired? Why stop? I would suspect that we stop and slow because we try to do it without Grace. We begin to slack in prayer, slack at Mass, carefully examining our motives and means. In short we convince ourselves it is all about us.

So here's the paradox. Insofar as we say "yes" to the Lord and his providence, it gets done by His grace. Insofar as we say "no" the Lord is not free to act through us but must find other ways. This is the mystery of free will.
More Shining Happy Readers

I received this email message about a week ago.

"Hello Fr. Shane and Fr. Steve,
I was just in Germany for a month helping out my daughter who has 3 young children and a husband who is deployed. While there, I found Catholic Ragemonkey. Just wanted to share that I am happy to be a "new regular" and look forward to reading and participating. Blessings, Ruth/"

Of course, I always love to hear about new readers. How about we take a little poll? Who are you (you can use fake names), where are you from, when did you start reading the blog? Just chalk it up to my curiousity.
When Will the Evil One Stop?

I only know of one source who can turn charity and charitible impulses into a fodder for death and destruction. That person is Satan. At the heart of his name is the mission. He is our opponent in the spiritual life. While he doesn't have the power to read our minds or force our wills, without our collaboration that is, he is an angel, which means he's loads smarter than you or I. He knows how to play our greatest weakness like a fiddle of gold.

This is truly sickening and aggrevating. These women who have been throughly traumatized by the loss of everything now will have to content with the loss of their child. My experience with Rachel's Vineyard weekends suggests that this is going to be a truly horrifying time for these women and their children. Today, would every one offer either one Hail Mary or one Memorare for these women: that they will not abort their children. Let's also get some grace headed to this abortion provider as well. Perhaps he will come to see the vileness of what he is proposing to do. Let's include anyone who might be able to favorably influence this moment of turmoil. Thanks, folks.

To think, when I mention hurricane victims, I didn't think of this as part of the victimizing event.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Soooo glad to see she is on the case.

Okay, hey, I guess my respect for Babs went up a notch. Who knew that while she was filming "Yentl" she had the time to get that degree in hydrodynamic climatology. Yep, she sure is something else.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Cattle Call of Truth

Recently, I have been chatting with Fr. H about bringing more Latin back to the celebration of the Holy Mass at my parishes. The reasons why is fodder for another post. But sometimes we all need reminders about working toward the goal.

While on the phone, I was running down the parts of the Eucharistic prayer with him when I stopped and asked, "How does that sound?" He responded, "Yeah, you see, when you speak Latin, it's supposed to sound like this," and repeated the phrase back to me, with quite frankly flawless execution. He continued, "When you say it, it sounds like this, moooooooo." Not exactly helpful correction.

(To all readers: this post is humorous effort to get Fr. H to post again. The above conversation is complete fabrication. Apparently, after becoming a city pastor, he has determined that he has no time for the blog. Perhaps, if we all mention how much he is missed, he will find the time for his virtual parishioners as well.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dreaming of 42nd Street

I have had, for most of my life, a love affair with New York City. You know the place. Manhattan. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. Last night, as I was driving to one of my mission parishes for weekday Mass and class, Joe Jackson's Steppin' Out came on the satellite radio. I listened with a double nostalgia: one for the early days of MTV before it became a cesspool and two for my time in Manhattan.

You see, when I was in seminary in Philly, I got to indulge my love for NYC with occasional visits. Walking the wild streets, visiting St. Patrick's (even assisting with the Holy Mass there), seeing all those things which seemed like a dream for a little boy in the Midwest. In a certain sense, Manhattan is my Oz (think Frank Baum and not a prison series). It is a place where the unexpected and the magical converge as taxicabs wink eyes at you as they pass by.
Supporting the New Evangelization

Last week, Relevant Radio held their annual Reach Out and Respond pledge drive. They had a great response given the outpouring of help for Katrina victims. Sadly, they fell short of their goal. So as one of the very very adjunct staff, I would like to encourage all of your to consider making a pledge this week. All this week generous benefactors will be matching dollar for dollar any pledges made this week. You may make your pledge here. I would ask that you mention that you saw this pledge request via the blog in the additional information section. Tell 'em that Ragemonkey sent you.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Why should I care since I don't get Relevant Radio where I live? Ah, hello. It's called the Internet. I listen daily while I am working at the computer.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Sorry, folks for taking the sudden blogging break, but my brain is empty. Actually, it's not that my brain is empty as much as it's my coffee pot that's empty. Really, it's not so much that no one has made a nicotine patch that laced with caffiene instead. After all, the spice is the life.

However, this is not a cheap pandering effort to get you to send large bags of high quality coffee to my rectory in Alva nor is it an infantile attempt to have you ship coffee ice cream in dry ice cryovac bags. It is a pathetic cry for help from someone who cannot get off his big behind and go to the grocery and buy every bag of coffee in the place.

And before someone suggests it, I don't drink decaf unless it is absolutely necessary for social decorum. Decaf is evil. I am not exaggerating. Coffee by its nature has caffiene. To decaffienate is to remove an essential good, albeit an accidental good, from the coffee. Therefore, decaf is evil because of the lack of good that ought to be present. Now where is my grinder?