Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ad Multos Annos!

We, here at Catholic Ragemonkey, try to keep an eye on the nomination of bishops not because of any efforts at reading the future but rather to show encouragement for our brother priests who are elevated to the office of Bishop. There's is not an easy task. We can apply in an parallel way the words of Luke 22:31-32 to our bishops. Their leadership provides the encouragement of the faith of all those who under their guidance and authority. Hence, we keep track of these assignments because Satan wants to scatter the flock and he is most effective at that when he attacks the shepherd.

With that in mind, congratulations go out Monsignor Paul Joseph Swain of the Diocese of Madison, WI. He has been named Bishop of Sioux Falls, SD. Thankfully, the Bishop-Elect already is familiar with cold winters and hot summers. Ad Multos Annos, Your Excellency! Lead the people of God well!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Official: Save the Date!

I can announce here, after my meeting last night in Edmond, news of great joy and excitement. Come this summer, Oklahoma is going to have its own Catholic Family Life Conference. You read that right: a group of interested Catholics have met and begun planning for a great weekend for formation for and with families. We are tentatively calling it "The Holy Family Catholic Family Conference." I know it is a little wordy but as I recall the meeting, we felt that even though it's a little unwieldy it is important to get the word "family" in the title and then let folks call it what they will.
The plan right now, and this could change, is to hold our Conference at the Cox Center in Oklahoma City on July 22-24, 2007. Right now, and again this could change, the shape of the conference is going be heavily focused upon issues related to Catholic Family Life. For instance, at the meeting, the committee surfaced five or six big issues we want to see addressed such as NFP, How to make the home a domestic church, surviving the first five years of marriage, proper financial stewardship, and a couple of others. My mobile keyboard wouldn't obey my commands so I didn't get them written down.
At this point, what we need are your prayers. Pray that the committee and the sub-committees can accomplish what lies ahead. Pray that we only work to glorify God. Pray that we can create the proper atmosphere to lead folks to conversion.
If you want to show your support for the sake of the rest of the committee, you could send me an encouraging note or email and then I could make sure it gets to the group. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Go ahead, husbands, nudge away
If you are a Catholic who went to Mass this weekend at a church that used the readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, and if you listened to the readings, you heard in the second reading from the fifth chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (verses 21 and forward). It is a reading that sounds odd in our modern ears, as if we somehow know so much more than those poor, backward ancients who believed wives should be subordinate to their husbands in all things, as to the Lord.

Our politically correct ears risk hearing a message which we think gives husbands the easier task because St. Paul says to husbands only "love your wives" as opposed to "be subordinate." Some may even think St. Paul's text is some misogynistic attempt to control wives. Don't husbands get off easy in this letter?

Nope! You see, it is first important to recall that St. Paul opens this section of the letter (verse 21) to the Ephesians by instructing all believers to "be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ". How is this done in particular in the relationship between husband and wife? Well, first believers are to recognize the Scriptural description of Christ's relationship to his Church, namely that he is Bridegroom and the Church is Bride. Likewise then, husbands occupy the role of bridegroom and head of the body, as wives occupy the corresponding role of bride or rest of the body. So, St. Paul says, wives should be subordinate to their husbands.

Yeah, but don't husbands get off easy. After all, St. Paul only directs them to love their wives. That sounds a great deal easier than being subordinate. Oh, really?!

You see, St. Paul actually wrote to husbands: Love your wives even as Christ loved the church! And how did Christ love the Church? Take a look at the nearest crucifix! Christ's style of love for his Bride was a love that suffered, a love unto death! If that isn't an equal image of subordination for husbands, I don't know what is! Sure, the English translation of St. Paul's words may use "subordination" in one place (for wives) and "love" in another (for husbands), but the whole reading hinges on all believers being subordinate to one another "out of reverence for Christ."

Too often when this reading is proclaimed we latch onto the meaning our modern, advanced ears think is in St. Paul's words. There is uncomfortable shifting in the pews of our churches and husbands nudge their wives, as if to say, "Listen up, Honey, you're supposed to be subordinate to me." I'm afraid we often miss the depth, the beauty, and full import of what St. Paul is actually communicating.

So, in my homily this weekend, in explaining this Pauline imagery as a reminder that each of us must be subordinate to Christ the Master who teaches and insists that he is the living bread come down from heaven and that the bread is his flesh, what did I say to my people? I mentioned the mutual subordination at the basis of St. Paul's message. I referenced that husbands nudge the ribs of their wife and then I said, but Christ's model to husbands for loving their wives is the example of the crucifix. "So," I said pointing to the large crucifix in church "husbands, you can nudge your wife's ribs just as soon as you are ready for a spear to pierce your own!"

Go ahead, husbands, nudge away...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Universal Man of Mystery: The Priest
Well, I had what I thought was a rather humorous encounter with two ladies in Target. I was on a mission to buy a few things at Target and as I was getting ready to turn down one aisle, two ladies were coming in the opposite direction. They were walking too close to the side I was turning into, so I had to do a quick maneuver to avoid running into them. One of the ladies had a rather confused almost surprised look on her face as I passed by. A few paces beyond them, my ears heard their conversation as they continued in the opposite direction from me. The one said, "Was that for real? Was that a priest?" To which the other responded, "I guess." The first lady added, "I've never seen a priest before."

I glanced back with a smile to let them know I could hear them and I was ready to remove all doubt for them regarding whether they had seen a priest, however they weren't looking in my direction. So, I walked on and did my shopping. These sorts of episodes really are quite rare. At least, if other people have such reactions they do a better job of keeping their voices down so I can't hear their discussion. I thought it was quite humorous and it is a reminder that Oklahoma is not a very Catholic part of the United States.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Archbishop Montalvo, R.I.P.
Only today did I catch news of the death of His Excellency, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, retired Apostolic Nuncio of the Pope to the United States of America. He retired not long ago and moved to Rome. As I was reading today my copy of the National Catholic Register I came across the news story of his death in Rome on August 2. Apparently, he died of lung cancer. As part of his long and distinguished career in the Church involved direct service to the Church in the United States, it seems appropriate to me that we report his death here and ask for prayers for the repose of his soul. May he rest in peace!
I Don't Know Where To File This Story...

...does it belong in the "Go Straight To Hell" file or the "Become Mayor of Hell" file? You be the judge.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My brother came into town from Boulder, Colorado, last week. After a few days at home, he flew to New York for a wedding. While he was away, I agreed to puppysit his six month-old labrador retriever, named Gillian (Gilly, for short). Gilly is, of course, already fairly big and is getting bigger all the time. My brother brought a good sized cage to keep Gilly in while I had to be away from the house, along with dog food and the necessary things like leash, bowl, etc. My brother also gave me a quick course in the various commands Gilly has learned so that I could keep up his training. I have to say, Gilly is a very intelligent and well-behaved dog. He is still a puppy and so our week together was not without some "episodes" and some disobedience. However, all in all, he is very well behaved and it was fun to have him for a time. I don't think I could handle having a dog (especially his breed's size) all the time, but a week was manageable. He went home last night after my last Mass for the Assumption. Below are some photos of the week together. I took him to the lake several times and it was fun to watch him play and go nuts in the water. Enjoy the photos of Gillian below.

Here we are in the kitchen of the rectory. Posted by Picasa

While I was doing homily preparation for last Sunday, Gilly decided to help me by doing some research in my copy of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. He was most interested in this manna substance that came down from heaven and wondered if we might work out a similar deal with dog treats. I told him to stop reading his own cultural framework into the gospel text. Posted by Picasa

He suddenly became interested in Michael Cumbie's story on EWTN's the Journey Home. Could it be a canine conversion story on the next program? Posted by Picasa

But he turned his back on Fr. Groeschel's Sunday Night Live program. Posted by Picasa

On our first trip to a nearby lake, Gilly got right in the water and proceeded to swim, and swim, and swim. I have never dealt with such a dog before and I admit that as I was taking this photo I was running through scenarios in my mind about what to do if the dog never came back or got in trouble out in the water. I couldn't believe how far away he swam before he came back to shore. I was more than a little nervous. Posted by Picasa

Can you say "Happy Dog"? Posted by Picasa

With one hand I threw a stick and with the other hand I snapped this photo as Gilly was diving into the water to retrieve. Posted by Picasa

As he was returning to shore, Gilly's paws unearthed an old beer bottle which popped up next to him. When he noticed the foreign object, which had not been there moments before, Gilly thought it was a danger and proceeded to get out of the water and bark viciously. The bobbing of the bottle only helped confirm for the pup that it was indeed a dangerous creature trying to attack him. Posted by Picasa

That's one handsome dog overseeing the lake. Posted by Picasa

I snapped this as we were leaving the lake after some swimming and fetching. I thought it was sort of cute, almost as if he was looking back and wishing we weren't leaving. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Had a lovely chat with...

Fr. Philip, O.P. Thanks to all the electronic pilgrims who contributed in getting him in touch with me. It looks like excellent things are in the offing.
This is perfect evidence of why I am inviting this priest to conduct a parish mission in Alva.

Of course, I will need to pick him up in OKC. After crossing the Red River wilds, he will be in no shape to cover the rest of the way.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Preparing to Unleash the Power of the Blog...

I am trying to track down Fr. Philip, O.P., the resident homilist at Domine, da mihi hanc aquam! and am having zippo success. If anyone out there knows how to conjure him up, would you mind let me in on the mojo? Thanks. In case of the curious, I am interested in inviting to Alva for a parish mission.
Notes from the Field: A Choice Encounter

Another highlight from the Midwest Family Life Conference was my encounter with Steve Ray. I have been using his "Footprints of God" video series as the inquiry material for my RCIA classes so I was looking forward to seeing him in person. As it turns out, he is just as pleasant and charming in person as he is in recorded form. We had a good time for chatting and his wife is an absolute delight.

You might consult the link above for more happy information concerning his work. You might also give him a little hard-earned cash by purchasing some of his books, tapes, and videos.
It shows me the whole good news/bad news issue about the United Nations

As usual, the U.N. is doing good work when it works to promote peace; as usual the U.N. is doing bad work when it promotes an anti-life agenda. Why can't we just get the idea through our heads that existence is a good thing?!
The Man Who Stepped out of Line

I have plans to organize a parish consecration to the Blessed Virgin using St. Maximilian's method. I need to get in touch with Marytown and see if they have any practical materials and suggestions.
Given the Sunday Gospels for the next couple of weeks, this is appropriate reading for all.
As was mentioned in the general intercessions at Sacred Heart and its missions this weekend,we give thanks to you, O Lord, for the beginning overtures of peace in the Holy Lord. May these beginnings be blessed with reconciliation and restoration.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Free Hand Theological Reflection

What follows is a rough sketch of an idea that I mentioned on Relevant Radio this morning. I have courted controversy here before by suggesting that the single state is not properly speaking a vocation in the same way that being a consecrated religious, a priest, or a married person is. Further, in case someone thinks to ask, I have given some thought to what the vocation to the permanent diaconate, but those notes are still largely inchoate somewhere in my brain stem. At any rate, like so many things in the life of faith, these three vocations -- priesthood, religious life, and marriage -- exist as three modes of the same reality and as such point and refer back and forth to each other. Lastly, I would assert that the health of one vocation in a parish or diocese (depending on how you want to examine it) reflects and measures the health of the other two. But why would this be?

First, let's ask the essential question. What do all three ecclesial vocations point to? The three point to the self-giving love of the Trinity. Each in a way proper to them reflect and derive from the base point that God exists as a communion of persons. There is a danger of misunderstanding here though. Although they are intrinsically related, they are not the same as each other. The vital epicenter resides with the Trinity; how they relate to each person of the Trinity permits the proper distinction to appear. We can clearly see this as it relates to an icon for each.

For marriage, the primary icon is Christ's self-giving love to redeem the Church and the reciprocal gift of love which the Church, empowered by grace, returns to the Son. The secondary icon is the interpentrating and life-giving love of the Holy Trinity. For priesthood, the primary icon is Christ the Bridegroom, who goes out into the world to deliver the Bridal Church to her wedding feast. The secondary icon is Christ the High Priest who consecrates all of reality to the Father through His priestly ministry. For the consecrated religious, the three vows, basic to all consecration, reflect the inner life of the Trinity itself. This is the line of reasoning found within John Paul the Great's Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata. The secondary icon is the receptive bride, the Church. Only from the purification which arises from consecration is the consecrated religious able to embody the chaste, virginal bride. Now, did you catch the really interesting observation? I would contend that both male and female consecrated religious embody this bridal dimension. For the men, it is the chaste bride who seeks to be pure and for the women, it is the fruitful virgin they present. I don't want you to misunderstand; both identities are present, but it is in the nature of the sexuality of men and women that this distinction is played up.

The three vocations are interrelated to each other. The priest and the consecrated religious learn the lessons of self-giving from the parents' marital consent. But the married couple finds the courage and strength to sacrifice fully because the priest and the religious show them what the fuller gift might look like. So, try it yourself. Write them down in any order: priest => religious => married person; religious => priest => married person; etc. And then reflect upon each of the connections.

Notes from the Field: The Franciscans of Peace

You might think it strange but one of the nicest features of the Midwest Family Life Conference is the presence of consecrated religious. There are usually two or three orders present with vendor booths along with religious who simply attend the conference. Believe it or not, there is an intimate connection between religious life, the ordained priesthood, and married life. But that is a post for another time.

Today, I want to mention a great religious order which I have had the pleasure of working with. Out of the diocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul come the Franciscans of Peace. The order came into existence born from the pro-life movement. And typical of those operations which the Lord is planning to bless, adversity has been the watchword. Early on, the founder, Br. Michael, suffered a traumatic brain injury which lead the order to provide full time care. As Br. Anthony tells the story, many of the brothers asked, "What does this mean? Why is God doing this to us?" That became clearer once Br. Paul began working with the family of Terri Schiavo.

This order is just beginning to take off and very unique to this order, there are no clerics, and as far as I could infer, there aren't going to be any. The role of consecrated religious brother is being renewed by this group of men: they are embodiments of the heart given to the Holy Trinity to reveal the Holy Trinity through the three fold vows of religious consecration. Remember to visit their webpage and if you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, stop by and tell them the Ragemonkey Founder sent you.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"This is the Feast Day of the Lord's True Witness..."

I have tried three times to write this post but my rampaging headache/cold induced by my sister's cats' evil dander I have largely failed. However, since I don't want this day to pass without saying something, it will have to be peerlessly mediocre. Chesterton once said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." We'll see if I can live up to that.

Today is the feast of Saint Dominic. Dominic is one of the saints for whom I feel a great deal of affection and closeness. Dominic and the order he founded arises in a time of great struggle and dis-ease for the Church. You might think of it as the time when the flower was about to fall off the glories of the Middle Ages. The insidious creep and inevitable decline that bears upon any golden age was beginning to be seen, especially in the form of heresies running rampant in the Church.

For Dominic, I don't think that he intended to become the great evangelizer of Europe which he became. He simply put himself at the Lord's disposal and the rest unfolded from there. Dominic's life was tinged with sadness and hardship, growing up in Spain during a time of famine. As a canon regular of Osma, I suspect, he would have been particularly happy to live out his days amongst the brothers in the regularity of the rule. God had further plans.

To confront the heresy of the Albigensians, Diego, the Bishop of Osma, recruited Dominic to go and preach to the heretics in a hope to win them back. The initial sortie was not successful; it however laid the seed for the future endeavor. I could go on and on about Dominic, but I won't. If you want to see more or read more, go to Catholic Encyclopedia at New and read up there.

For me, Dominic is a fascinating fusion. On the one hand, he is very traditional in the sense that he wasn't one to innovate on theology. He wanted to make theology "popular" that is accessible to any person within the Church. On the other hand, he was consistently interested in finding a new way to preach the Gospel. I find a constant source of refreshment when I think on the example Dominic gives the Church. We need to remember that Truth is the source of life and Truth is not a something; at the heart, Truth is a someone: Jesus Christ. To study, to bless, to pray, and to share the fruits of your contemplation leads us into the depths of Christ's loving embrace.

In conclusion, I would like to share a traditional antiphon in honor of Saint Dominic:
"O Light of the Church,
O Teacher of Truth,
Rose of Patience,
Ivory of Chastity,
Freely dispensing waters of wisdom,
O Preacher of Grace, unite us with the blessed."
Totus Tuus Youth Program
In the last week of July, my parish hosted a summer parish-based youth program called Totus Tuus (from the Latin motto of the late Pope John Paul II). The program was first begun in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, and has met with great success and great catechesis of the young. It has now expanded to several other states. This summer was the first time the program came to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. I was delighted to be asked to be one of three host parishes for the program. There was a great response from my parish and even a few kids from neighboring parishes/towns. The program exceeded almost all of my expectations. The link above will take you to the home page of Totus Tuus for the Dicoese of Wichita, Kansas. Our kids and youth received great formation from the week-long program and I am excited to watch the ripple effects of this formation in the years ahead. A couple of photos of the week are below.

The photo here is of the elementary group practicing hymns in preparation for Mass. The elementary program ran all week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The high school youth program ran each evening. The Totus Tuus team member (college-aged students) work very hard during their week in each parish. My parish had 80 elementary kids and 21 high school youth attend the program! That is an unbelievable turnout! People are already expressing hopes we will host Totus Tuus again next summer. Posted by Picasa

Here is the 5th and 6th grade class from Totus Tuus. I sat in on this class and I was especially proud of three young men in the class who attend our parish school -- they were nailing all sorts of answers regarding our faith and the creed. The future looks bright! Posted by Picasa
I am such a bad monkey...

...but this is going to be totally hilarious! Anyone willing to guess who got the first message?
The Last Acceptable Prejudice Volume One

Just to define the term "last acceptable prejudice," that term means a prejudice which no one reacts negatively nor takes any steps to express umbrage at that prejudice statement/posture/policy.

Also, I will post some comments about the Family Life Conference last weekend, but my allergies are literally burning a hole in my sinuses.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Alaska Fishing Adventure
About three weeks ago my Dad and I made a trip to Alaska to fish for King Salmon, which are making their spawning run this time of year. Below are several photos from the trip. We had three great guides and there were a total of six fisherman on this trip. We used fly rods and we floated down the rivers, stopping to wade and fish when we found great holes loaded with fish. We were truly in the backwoods, so we camped out along the six day, five night journey. Enjoy the photos!

This is a shot from day one of the fishing trip. The wilderness is really beautiful and peaceful, and the rivers are some truly magnificent water. Posted by Picasa

We saw four bears along the way, and another one was in our camp one morning. We saw this Black Bear, which seemed mildly curious about us as we floated past. We saw a Grizzly sow with her cub, and then another young Grizzly. Thanks be to God, there were no problematic encounters with the wildlife. Posted by Picasa

We floated down the river in three boats. There was one guide, directing the boat, and two fisherman in each boat. You can see our gear was kept in back. The guide sat on a cooler in the middle as he worked the oars. The fisherman sat in the front. Posted by Picasa

And we camped along the way, setting up camp each evening, and breaking it down each morning. It is daylight 24/7 at this time of year in Alaska, but I was so tired by the end of each day that I had no trouble sleeping. Posted by Picasa

This was my best rainbow trout. It was a fiesty 22 inch fish, and much fun to bring in. With the exception of one day when we kept four small salmon, the entire trip was catch and release. We caught five different kind of fish: King Salmon, Chum Salmon, Rainbow trout, Grayling, and Arctic Char. Posted by Picasa

Here is a young King Salmon, which had not been in the freshwater long. You can tell, because when the salmon leave the ocean's salt water, entering the fresh water river, they begin to blush and eventually turn deep red. You can still see plenty of silver coloring on this one and on its bottom half, you can tell it has begun to blush. Posted by Picasa

Here is a Chum Salmon. There were lots of these in the rivers too. It was amazing to float along or wade through the river and see hundreds of these fish all over the place. In fact, many times we caught one simply by snagging it as the hook was pulled through the water. But there were also many "legitimate" catches with the hook in the mouth. Posted by Picasa

This was my biggest fish of the trip. It is a King Salmon which the guide estimated at about 30 to 35 pounds. It was a great deal of fun to bring this fish in. Afer the photo, I placed the fish back in the water and it swam off to rejoin its pod. Posted by Picasa

Here is the group of us six fisherman on the last day on the river. I am at far left and my dad is next to me. Posted by Picasa

Our fearless guides from the AlaskaQuest river adventure company. They did a great job. The man on the left runs the business and offers many great Alaska adventures. If you want a great guide service, I highly recommend AlaskaQuest. Hit their link above and book your next river adventure! Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 04, 2006

RCIA Summit 2006
Many faithful readers may recall that back in June, Fr. Tharp and I gathered at an undisclosed location for several days of work and prayer on our parish RCIA programs. We called the gathering the RCIA Summit. It was a most fruitful gathering and we are very excited to implement our new ideas for RCIA. The photos below show three moments of the summit.

We began the RCIA Summit, evaluating the current state of RCIA programs as we know them and as we have run them in our various parishes. Here, Fr. Tharp's face shows his clear displeasure upon recognizing some of the deficiencies in the RCIA program which our summit set out to address and rectify. Posted by Picasa

We spent time in prayer, imploring the Lord's presence in our work to provide good parish formation for people desiring to encounter Christ through his Church. Here, Fr. Tharp closes his breviary after one such moment of prayer. Posted by Picasa