Friday, July 30, 2004

(Half)Baked Beans: Part III
Hmmm.  Let's see.  If the first post was "half baked" and then there was another post that was "half baked," it would be fully baked, right?  And now a third post...  I guess we almost have refried beans!

Okay, I jetted home from the movie theater last night from viewing Spiderman 2 (Very cool!) and only missed the first few minutes of John Kerry's speech.  Here is my commentary.  Overall, I thought it was a very strong, well-crafted, and well-executed speech.  That is not agreement with content, folks.  However, as I watched Mr. Kerry, I couldn't help but think of the oft-studied Nixon-Kennedy debate when Nixon looked dark and tired, an impression, I guess, that remained with voters.  Kerry, though he perked up in a few places, looked tired and half dead.  I think it is something about his eyes and the bone structure of his face.  Just my impression.

Now to some of the specific things Kerry mentioned.  I will offer quotes where I am able, but I warn readers that I may have the exact words slightly off even where I use quotation marks.  Here's a moment I loved: Kerry speaking about being in Scouts.  "...that Den Mother taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature...blah, blah...and so we can and must march to the day of full equality for all women."  I have no problem with equality for women, but the comment seemed like a political force or sleight of hand.  One moment he was speaking about nature lessons in Scouts and the next he pulled out some awkward reference to equality.  I failed to see the connection.  Given the way the sentence began, I expected a comment on environmental policy.  I was left scratching my head in confusion instead.

Kerry, and several convention speakers, mentioned restoring trust and credibility to the White House.  Uh, excuse me, folks, that's what W had to do following your last party official.  Perhaps I am out to lunch, but I don't get the sense that the White House's current occupant is lacking in the trust and credibility department.  I think the use of that slogan by democrats is a red herring.

Feeding us some optimism, Kerry said we can do great things "but only if we stick to our ideals, and that begins by telling the truth to the American people."  What?  Does that mean someone is lying?  And if so, lying about what?  Fill me in, Senator, please.  Or could Kerry have been referring to Ron Reagan's lies about what embryonic stem cell research really entails?  In that case, I get the remark and, yes, I would like the truth.  Another truth moment would be telling us just how much money the rollback of the tax cut for the wealthy is going to provide.  Because as I listened to the platform, full of many great ideas, I hear lots more dollars and cents required than the tax cut rollback will provide.  Also, could we get the truth about the humanity and the distinct life of the unborn?  That would be nice.  Because the last time I checked, Senator Kerry, you weren't surprised when your wife gave birth to a human being instead of a puppy.  Yet you still support the government sanctioned availability of abortion.

Kerry said, "I will appoint an Attorney General who upholds the Constitution."  What is he talking about?  How has Ashcroft not done that?  And if he really hasn't upheld the Constitution, do any of us really believe he would still occupy his position?  Give me a break!

He claimed that this is "the most important election of our lifetime."  Was he using the royal "we" there?  Maybe this is the most important election of HIS lifetime, for obvious reasons, but I really don't believe that 2004's is the most important election of our lifetime.  That's a slogan that really means nothing.

Another moment that left me laughing was this, "On my first day in office I will send a message to every man and woman in the service telling them, 'You will never be asked to fight a war again without a plan to keep the peace'."  Now, I think sending a message of support is a great idea, but that?  Is that supposed to make them feel better?  I mean, if I am in Iraq, sucking down sand, brushing off flies and sand fleas, eating nasty, already prepared meals, sleeping in tents and fox holes, and hoping I make it through THIS war, the last thing on my mind is the NEXT war!  Support them in THIS war, Senator, don't use their position as a political tool to talk about the possible future war-time policy of a Kerry Administration.

Kerry called for an America where "everyone has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential."  Okay, let me get this straight.  Suddenly, someone's potential is protected and God-given when it refers to health and education, but not when it refers to life itself.  Where is the respect for "potential" when the discussion turns to abortion?  See, because the last time I checked, the Democratic platform rejects "potential" arguments in that arena, and certainly doesn't recognize that potential as "God-given," only "man-given" if we "want" it (the baby) to realize its potential.

Towards the conclusion of the speech, Kerry said, "Faith has given me values..."  As it should.  But as far as I know (and I give credit to a dear college seminary friend for this statement) the faith that God desires from us does not require abortion in any of the three trimesters.  So, Senator, when you speak of God's will, what does that ultimately mean?  He went on, "I want to pray humbly that we are on GOD'S side."  Senator, I don't presume to be the Eternal Judge or to know what the outcome of your particular judgment will be, however I can judge public, visible actions in this world.  With that said, it can be stated quite accurately and fairly, that some of your public actions, positions, and statements on the quite serious matter of innocent human life are taking you down a path that, if not changed, will not bode well on Judgment Day.  You may have wonderful ideas, programs, and plans, which seem to promote a basic equality for all people, but if all of that is dependent on whether or not someone gets out of the womb, whether or not someone is "wanted", then your proposed equality is no equality at all.  Rather, it will be another example of privilege for the few.  As for praying humbly that we are on God's side: Better get praying, because I can tell you now in all certainty that abortion-on-demand has absolutely nothing to do with God.

And finally, as a U2 fan, the last insult was "Beautiful Day" cranked up in the convention hall when Kerry finished his speech!

Homage to the Human Intellect
Francis Crick, the scientist who, along with James Watson, discovered the double helix shape of DNA died on Wednesday at the age of 88.  What an incredible discovery that opens so many doors for doing good, and holds so much responsibility because of the danger of abuse!  So, here's to Francis Crick and Deoxyribonucleic acid.  May God look kindly upon Dr. Crick and forgive him whatever sins he may have committed.  May he rest in peace!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I need a hero...
Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for my reflections on John Kerry's speech at the Democratic National Convention.  Yes, it will be cynical and jaded.  Perhaps my take on it was strongly influenced by the fact that I was hyped up on heroism (watch it, folks, that's heroism!) from having gone directly from the movie theater (seeing Spiderman 2) to my home television to watch and listen to Kerry.  Lots of comments are coming...

P.S.: I LOVE IT!  I just ran spell check on this post and the dictionary not only didn't recognize "Kerry", but it suggested "Kerouac" as a replacement.  OH, the justice!
I should hope so!

I wonder if this happened in the Lincoln diocese...
It is Finished!

I'm sorry, folks, but I just can't continue with the book club blog.  I recognize that this is mostly my fault, prinicipally for not being more disciplined and for not conceiving of a better way to make it work.  Thank you to everyone who took part; your insights were most useful.
Thrown Back?

No, this has nothing to do with Fr. Johansen's blog. Rather, for all those wondering whatever happened to simony, here's your modern version. I received this via email, but I can't remember who sent it. Thanks all the same.
Defend Your Vocation!

I am a little behind with my purging of my email box, so sue me. Oh, wait, you can probably do that now...strike that. A dear friend sent me this message concerning a federal amendment concerning marriage. Although the amendment came into the Congress with much bluster and little action, I still think we need to take the step of presenting ourselves to the public square. Even if we suspect that the political activity we engage in might not yield anything, we must remember that we are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful. Take some time today and fill out the survey at the link given above, if you would please.

Also, thanks to Ingrid for the link. There is a delicious irony here as I presided at her wedding. But I must wonder. When will I be invited for dinner?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

(Half)Baked Beans: Part II
Well, I never got around to commenting on Tuesday night's activities at the Democratic National Convention ... until now.

First, Ron Reagan.  His father's death was mourned by a country, and for an honorable length of time.  But now the sympathies are over.  The overriding opinion I have of him,after watching his DNC appearance, is that he is a shameless opportunist.  Yes, I know that his attachment to the stem cell research issue is deeply personal and fueled by a serious loss.  However, it is apparent that Ron has the audacity to act as if anyone who opposes his view wants to see, or worse actually enjoys seeing, people suffer from terrible disease.  He presented the embryonic stem cell issue as if it were a "no brainer", that there is no reasonable objection to it.  It was totally offensive.  Furthermore, he quite literally lied about what happens with embryonic stem cells.  He explained the procedure as beginning with the harvesting of cells from one's own body.  Yes, that is one issue, but that is not in any way an adequate explanation of "embryonic" stem cells, which is what he claimed to be explaining and advocating.  Furthermore, he walked his listeners through what I can only call a "cartoonish" presentation of the science and the reality of embryonic stem cell research.  He put on the hat of biological and philosophical expert by claiming that embryos are not human life and that "we all know it too" because they don't think, or breathe, or have fingers and toes.  The man is an arrogant ass.  And only the most idiotic of modern morons could stand at the podium of a national political party convention to deliver an address and actually claim that his is NOT a political speech.  Give me a break!

Second, Teresa Heinz Kerry.  BORING!  What was she talking about?  I don't think I can tell you.  I did have to scratch my head at the constant reference to women being silenced and longing for the day when women's voices would be heard.  Can anyone tell me which America she is living in?  Women's voices aren't heard?  Still?!  What does she mean?  What does she want?  Please, lady, stick with the ketchup!  Your point is much clearer and quite tasty on that front.

And now tonight.  John Edwards.  He knows how to play a crowd.  He delivered a great speech.  But more and more (and I don't reserve this comment only for Democrats, by the way) I find myself giving that evaluation of a speech based almost purely on its "energy and vitality".  Why?  Because, it seems like these politicians say everything, which is actually saying nothing because you can't pin them down on much of anything.  He rattled off this amazing list of what he and Kerry would do in the White House, the whole time pretending that they will somehow be free of the bureaucratic gridlock that is the modern political landscape.  The message seems to be that when a Republican can't get things done it's because he is lacking morally.  When a Democrat can't get things done, it is someone else's fault.  Oh, they all play that stupid line don't they?  While I enjoyed Edwards' vitality in the speech, I found myself wondering, how are they going to pull all of this great stuff off?  The Tower of Babble in Boston.

And, no, I don't really expect the Republican National Convention to be Babble-free.  I do expect it will make a bit more sense, however.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Signs of Visible Communion

Well, maybe not.  I just added a few more links to our illustrious blog.  The reference page is a huge help in this project as is our evolutionary status.  See the side bar for explanation of the latter point.  Spend some time reducing your stress by sniffing around.  And to those all those who sent links for consideration, there will be some movement on that by the end of the week.  If you see something that needs to be added, just email.
Planning Ahead...

In case you have been wondering, I have been working on the next year's schedule of events here at Sacred Heart and her missions.  Prinicipally, I have had something on my mind that I need some help on and want to elicit the reaction of our readers for some input.

As most, if not all, of you know, starting in October 2004 through October 2005, the Holy Father has declared a "Year of the Holy Eucharist."  The idea is to encourage devotion and stimulate love for the Most August Sacrament of the Altar in this time.  The question I have is how.  If you were my parishioners, what would you want to see done in the parish?

Monday, July 26, 2004

(Half)Baked Beans
I am honestly disturbed by what I see happening in the Democratic party.  I speak of what seems to be a concerted effort to vigorously attach the party platform to the most controversial of life issues.  The heat has really been turned up on the stem cell issue.  I can't count the number of times it has been referenced in the past days and in the first hours of the Democratic National Convention.

I listened as President Clinton spoke this evening.  It was like he never left office: both in his oratory and in the reception he received from the convention (right down to the re-playing of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop").  Did anyone else catch the Messianic overtones of what Bill Clinton claimed was Kerry's lifelong mantra, "Send me"?

And then there was this snippet from Clinton's speech.  Describing the unity that Americans desire, Clinton claimed that Americans want a country where we can "celebrate our racial, religious, ethnic, and tribal differences because our common humanity matters most of all."  Now, I could have that quote a bit wrong, but it sure sounded as if he said "tribal" differences.  I guess I didn't know that we had tribal differences in America.  Oh well.  Furthermore, and the real point of my offering this quote, why can't we celebrate our developmental differences too, by reverencing embryos and the elderly terminally ill?  What was that about common humanity mattering most of all?  But I suppose I am just being divisive again.

Friday, July 23, 2004


Most readers of the blog know of my fawning admiration for Roger Ebert as a film reviewer. But you know something...I have a secret to confess. I don't enjoy his positive reviews. I love it when he hates a movie. Then, Mr. Ebert unloads a fountain of oppobrium upon everyone connected to the movie, and only rarely does anyone escape being spattered with dung. When he likes a movie, he sings its praises and makes connections to film history, and quite frankly, while beautifully written, don't leave me with much to savor.

I have NO intention of seeing "Catwoman." There aren't enough letters in the word "NO" to describe the no-ness of this proposition. But the review, linked above, is classic Ebert. Also, his review of "A Cinderella Story" hovers near pure genius

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Hatchet Man
Well, I have been a bit burned on blogging considering how my last two posts generated some comments that caught me quite off-guard.  I think this is a rather safe post, however.

I have been consumed with money matters lately as a new pastor.  We have been preparing our Annual Financial Report (for all three parishes) to submit to the Archdiocese.  Then there was the marathon budget planning meeting for Fiscal Year 2004-2005.  And today, I have been discovering all sorts of bank accounts the parish has, many that are unused, and several lacking the new pastor's signature on the signature cards.  So, I feel like the hatchet man today: I have closed four accounts in the interest of consolidating our monies into the three remaining accounts.  We had seven separate accounts before I started surgery.  I think the three that remain are safe: the main checking account for parish operations, the building fund account, and a separate checking account we use for social services (when people need assistance with bills, etc.).  We'll see how this all works.  This level of administration is a new lesson for me as a first time pastor.  And I am picking up so many lessons about budgetary matters which, while intimidating to this novice, is actually sort of interesting!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

When Caffiene and Social Justice Meet

Thanks to my former partner-in-crime, Fr. J.C. Garret of the Trenton Diocese, for this link. This is one of those moments where the genius of Catholicism is on display. Who would have thought that my cup of coffee could a sharing in solidarity with the poor of the world? Take that, Starbucks! Actually to be fair to the Coffee Oracle, they have also been a part of the effort to support the small growers throughout the world. I just couldn't find a place for buying this coffee.
When Humor and Religion Meet As Cultural Artifice

I was treated this morn to today's Get Fuzzy which as comic strips go belongs among such luminaries as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.  Here it is:

Not only is this funny, it proves one of my earlier comments.  Religion is written into the fabric of culture.  There are those who are reading this strip this morning going, "Huh, what does that mean?"  But you and I, fair reader, we know the sad history, and at least someone is making hay from it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Missing the Point

Dear Ms. Ronstadt:

As someone who once worked in your profession, I can certainly echo your feelings about how a crowd affects your performance. I know that many times I would be singing or acting on stage and the audience's mojo will fill me with energy.

But, I found this comment odd: "It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know." Funny. I thought I plunked down $50.00 to hear you for my enjoyment. I would think that such an authentic performer as yourself would know that the raison d'etre of your performance is my enjoyment. That is why you are up there? If you are concerned about your enjoyment, might I recommend singing in the shower or in the car? That way you never have to worry about all those nasty, scary, opinionated Republicans and Fundamentalists messing up your vibe.

Sincerely Yours,

Someone with a Clue.
In Honor of Our 50,000 Visitor
To think that in less than 6 months this humble blog has received 50,000 visitors is just, well, shocking to me.  That a simple country parson such as myself could reach out and touch the World without having to invoke the Dallas Charter is simply gratifying and wonderful.  Thank you to everyone who has visited and who has contributed to this blog's awesomeness.
So, to honor all those visits, I thought I would let you in on my secret plan for evangelization.  You see everyone, there is a nostalgia craze for the 1970's sweeping the U.S.  It occurred to me while sitting in my car that maybe there was a way to weave this into a new wave outreach to lapsed Catholics.  Here it is, the first song from my new album, Parochial Schoolhouse Rock, Liturgical Rock: Do a Genuflection!  Enjoy! 

Music: Lynn Ahrens
Lyrics: Fr. Shane Tharp
[based upon the original song, Interjections!, from the Schoolhouse Rock series]

When Father came to his assignment, new (uh huh)
He found a congregation who (uh huh)
Thought the Mass an invention
From their imagination,
so Father taught them all about genuflection!
[spoken in rhythm:]
(Hey!  That's neat!)
(Wow!  I remember that!)
(Whoa! That looks hard!)
Show adoration
or veneration.
They're generally done by the faithful
by bending the right knee
and touching it gently to the floor.
Though the servers knew just what to do (uh huh)
They acted like they hadn't a clue. (uh huh)
With one swift correction
To the servers' intentions,
Father taught them when to make their genuflections!
(Cool! Is Jesus really in the tabernacle?)
(Wow! I'm helping people grow closer to God?!)
(Neat!  I'm part of the universal worship of the Church!)
Repeat Refrain
So when you're happy (Hooray!)
or sad (Aw!)
or frightened (Eeeeek!)
or mad (Rats!)
or excited (Wow!)
or glad (Hey!)
A genuflection starts our worship right!
The parents came to the parish hall. (uh huh)
They thought that they had heard it all. (uh huh)
But before First Communion,
So their kids would be in union,
Father demonstrated genuflection!
(Dude! It's changed my belief!)
(Man!  I love the Mass!)
(Huh!  How do you do that again?)
Repeat Refrain
Repeat Coda
Repeat Refrain
It shows reverence
and veneration
Alleluia! ... Yeah!
(The Mass is ended; Go in peace)

Vatican Names Austrian Seminary Inspector
I just have one question. Can we have one of those too?  Please....
Please with sugar on top....
I'll clean up my bedroom.... I promise....

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Yahoo! News - Monkey Rescued From Being Put on Menu

All I can say is "Whew!"
Austrians Want Bishop's Resignation

Before you think this is another media slapdown campaign, I think the Austrians might have a SERIOUSLY valid case. In other words, I don't think this is another Cardinal Law with better chocolate and sausage. I think it's much worse!
Sad but True!

Sunday Melts Into Just Part of the Week
Friendly Reminders
The next round of comments are available for viewing at A Dusty, Sunny Corner.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2004

No Investigation Needed

CSI proves to me that the possibility of good television programming that emphasizes good characterization and good writing can exist, be popular, and most important in most programmers' minds, be profitable. But there is a demon in the freezer: greed. Once you smell a good thing, there is a compulsive desire to take all you can from it. When you are thirsty for milk, look for a dairy cow.

Well, folks, CBS's teet is dry. Jorja Fox and George Eads, two principal leads from the cast, got FIRED! Why, pray tell? These two good, although not excellent or peerless, actors wanted more green to make the scene. CBS told them to find a new scene.

Is this another case where sin makes you stupid? Were they being well-compensated? I would think so. Do they need more money? As there are no reports of new children or new adoptions or elder parents moving in with them, I would vote again "no." It would follow then that asking for more money is some sort of power play or ego boost or something in that line. It goes without saying that CBS could be, and in fact, are, equally complict in their departures as CBS is making a probable small fortune off the show. I say probable because I don't have access to financials for the company. It wouldn't kill them to up the pay a bit. In other words, in this little melodrama, you get to hiss freely at every one you see.

It seems to me though that this act of theirs is also profoundly selfish. While these two play prominent roles on the show, there are three other main actors. If Fox and Eads want more money, how about acting as an ensemble, or do they think they are that important? Because the show is built around an ensemble, there is a serious risk that the show might founder and be cancelled. Once you get a good chemistry, it is extraordinarily difficult to do it twice, that whole "catching lightning in a bottle" trick. It doesn't cross the viewing public's mind how many people are actually employed by a television series. If CSI goes off the air, then all those folks lose their jobs also.

So while I wish Fox and Eads the best in the future, this current moment leaves me a little peeved.
Stewart Sentenced to 5 Months in Prison

Most of our long time readers know of my disdain for all the attention this case has received. When you compare Stewart piddly $50,000.00 gain from shady exchange practices to the hundreds of millions taken from pensions and retirement funds by the greedy, money-worshipping jerks (that isn't too judgmental, is it?) at places like Tyco or Enron, it is quite possibly the perfect case of the media manufacturing the news. This is not to say that Ms. Stewart doesn't deserve to be arrested, tried, and thrown in prison, if found guilty, for her wrong doing, but let's keep it in perspective.

The news of her arrest and sentencing led to some funny reflections this morning. I am standing in the kitchen working on some homemade salsa and listening to Regis and Kelly with the occasional broken-in aside from CBS news. (The local CBS affliate carries R&K.) I started thinking about how so many celebrities, after moments such as these, find religion. Recently I heard that Stephen Baldwin had become an Evangelical Christian and anyone who has flipped past TBN on his cable box has spotted a parade of musicians, sports heroes, and other celebrity types, weeping and professing how they've changed, they've really changed. (BTW, why don't we hear about these celebrity types becoming Catholic? Is no one trying to reach these folks?) Well, when I thought of Martha Stewart on that one show with the woman with mile-high hair and terrible make-up, I quite nearly lopped off a finger while chopping cilantro. Seriously. I am sure that Martha could help out TBN in the decorating department in ways scarcely imagined by mortal minds...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

It just keeps growing

Since I am mentally only half here, I decided to update the link list on the sidebar. Some new blogs with great names, so of course they are well worth your time and effort. Check them out and if you link us we will link you back.
When will the Madness end?

People who are terribly creative both entertain and frighten me. I simply can't figure out how their minds work that helps them come up with some of this stuff. Case in point: Alien in 30 seconds with bunnies. There is one naughty word, so let the viewer beware.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

So a guy walks up to an ATM...

I don't get the whole StrongBad thing, but because it has They Might Be Giants as its theme song, it must be linked here.

Props to CAEI or whatever the hell they are currently calling it. Please Shea get the name back to normal....
It's in the works...

Okay, folks, things here at CRM Alva is starting to get a little busy. Between trying to get geared up for a potential Mark Shea visit in November and the rest of the details that must be coordinated for next year, the blogging might be light. I think I have lined up the four places for Mark's visit to Northwest Oklahoma so the next step is to drive every one nuts until the comply with my will.
When You Know That You Are a Serious Catholic

When my sister and I took her daughter and our mother to see the movie "Shrek," I didn't expect an opportunity for catechesis. At the end of the movie, as all you who have seen it know, Princess Fiona ends up married to Faraquad. They say "I do" and everything, as opposed to another marriage scenario in a popular movie. I am sitting there in the dark thinking, "Oh, great, another movie in praise of divorce." Instead, the dragon eats Faraquad and clears the way for Shrek. I sat there thumbing through the mental index to make sure the marriage to Shrek would be valid. But that's not the funny part. As we are walking out of the theater, my sister turns to me and says, "That second marriage was valid, wasn't it?"

These things happen once you start to navigate your life by the true pole of the Catholic Faith. At the same time, it can go a bit overboard.

Recently, after weekday Mass, a well-intentioned, but not well-catechized, woman came up to me and asked me if I knew of a good biography of St. Mary Magdalene. Now, I dropped into the thousand yard stare, not because I was searching my intellect for an appropriate title, but because I was thinking should I mention The DaVinci Code? I told her I would look around, but my suspicion-o-meter was going red line.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The Freshest Posts

Fresh as in recent, not as in cheeky. I just got the first post for this month's book up. I have omitted my omnious and threatening discussion questions so that people will feel more free to respond. So all you have to go on is my comments. Good luck.

See it here.
Notes from a Lazy, Fat Priest's Holiday

I meant to post this weeks ago, but life intervened. One of the true joys of my time in Philly were the restaurants. Bookbinders was the place for a great meal and a perfect martini. The meatballs and sauces at Ralph's rated tops, although the vague Sopranos air did trouble me. The Victor Cafe, however, tops them all.

A wonderful Italian restaurant that features some of the great history of Opera in Philadelphia. But you will need to check out the website for more info.

A good friend from seminary who did not go on to ordination loves sending me things like this. Find out how quickly the average American can last living la vita Kerry! With his very wealthy trial lawyer buddy on the ticket, this only gets more extreme.

And yes, before someone says it, I know that Bush and Cheney are not exactly broke either. But at least, they aren't trying to push the populist angle.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

On the Erstwhile VP Candidate

There is a historical parallel between this upcoming election and the 1900 election between McKinley and Bryan. McKinley, the encumbant, was respected for his policies but in public was a cold fish. One pundit of the time quipped that every hand that touched McKinley's became a Democrat. On the other side, William Jennings Bryan, a political firebrand best known for his "Cross of Gold" speech which called for radical economic reform to relieve the needs of farmers, was able to light up a room, but he sounded too often like a socialist. That simply wasn't going to fly. But the Republican party bosses were a little, okay, more than a little concerned, about Bryan beating McKinley. So what to do? To get rid of another problem in New York State, Thomas Platt, a New York Republican politico, pushed for a well-known local politician to become running mate to McKinley. Who is that erstwhile VP?

Teddy Roosevelt.

The Rough Rider himself was able to help the flagging campaign and bring about the re-election of McKinley, whom he didn't particularly care for. His running as VP was both a condition of Roosevelt's own ambition and the spirit of "taking one for the team." Of course, this all paid off for Teddy when McKinley is assassinated the next year.

It all sounds vaguely like our election with the roles reversed. The candidate challenger is the cold fish who needs a little boost in the public relations department. The encumbant is both liked and not trusted in the same breath. And whether or not, Edwards will help or hurt Kerry's chances remains to be seen. But I think we can put forward the rule: when you drag out the pretty boy, you know you are in trouble. Unless Edwards actually has something to bring to the table apart from good looks.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Liturgical sanity: Part II
Or: Father has discovered some things.

Wow. I was shocked when I returned from one of my missions today to see the explosion of comments on my original post. In 24 hours the comments almost doubled, I think. I can't possibly remember or respond to the many points of view and opinions offered in the comments box, but I do have some additional remarks.

(1) Certainly, I appreciate comments of differing view points. I will admit surprise at how volatile was the expression of some of those points. One person claiming to be a priest left comments which I think are fairly classified as wild accusations. Oh well.

(2) Another commenter reminded us that it was I who was present at the Mass. With all due respect to the many suggestions offered as explanation for why no one initially moved to serve as lector, I certainly would not have been angry if those explanations were truly in the mix. For example, if I knew that none of the 60 people present were comfortable reading or that none of them could read, I certainly wouldn't have used my time to tell you all I was furious about that. That would have been silly. There were people present who can and could have read. As I have said time and again, I was angry because even after I asked for help, no one moved. That's what got me angry.

(3) I have been surprised at the comments that express shock that a priest gets angry. It seems to me that if you are not surprised at other human emotions/reactions from a priest, then you ought not be surprised with anger. Furthermore, anger was something the Lord experienced. If your image of Jesus is just a warm, nice guy who never got angry and let people walk over him all the time, you don't have the complete picture of the Savior who is God-made-man. Now, might I have dealt with, or expressed my anger differently, even a more appropriate way? I suppose so. I am a man and a work in progress on the holiness meter. Of course I need to grow in charity. No doubt, if I were more charitable, I may not have reacted quite so strongly as I did. While I won't pretend that my anger found the best expression (neither during Mass or afterwards in recounting it to you), I still hold that anger is a justified response when no one moved to help, though there were plenty of qualified people present. And by the way, though I admitted being angry during Mass, many comments seemed to make an ENORMOUS leap in assuming that I became some sort of ferocious, drooling dog, staring out angrily at the people with searing eyes even as I held the Body of the Lord in my hands. Come on now.

(4) I have learned some new information that helps me understand how the original problem happened to begin with. The parish has not been accustomed to organization and planning. I however expect it and the transition to my expectations is going to take time. After ranting on the blog and reading many comments, I started doing some homework and discovered, to my surprise, that in fact the parish does not have a schedule of lay ministers for the Spanish Masses. We do for the English, but not the Spanish. Knowing that we had "a schedule" I had presumed that meant a schedule for every Mass. I was unaware of the deficiency. Remember I am only two months here as pastor. I suppose what normally happens is that missing ministers is not usually a problem because our Mexican Sisters find people to fulfill the various roles before I even arrive for Mass (remember I am on the road returning from a mission parish one hour away). However, now the Sisters are back in Mexico for two months and so, guess what? Things are falling through the cracks. So, to those who leveled bizarre accusations presuming my presence as pastor for TWO MONTHS has already had such negative effects as dwindling numbers and absent lay ministers,... please! Now, with more information about some of the practices I have inherited here, I can move forward and try to make some positive changes.

(5) I take responsibility that my ranting elicited some equally strong reactions. But given the information I had at the time and the brief time I have been here as pastor, I think my reaction was reasonable, if not perfect. With the new discoveries I have now made, were I to rant about the same matter again, I would be out of line and guilty of SOME of the things mentioned in the comments box.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Another Reason to Homeschool...

...can be found here. Since Mark Shea is taking some time off from the blog, I thought I might pinch hit for him.

BTW, in his last post, the Shea-meister sounded stressed and tired. Say a short prayer for this great Catholic apologist.
Kerry Says He Believes Life Starts at Conception.

Okay, it's logic time, friends and neighbors. If Kerry holds the proposition that Life Starts at Conception, and if Kerry also supports a pro-abortion stance (and it would be helpful to know if we are talking about a stance that merely condones abortion while not seeking to advance it versus a stance that advocates abortion services available next to the Slurpee machines at the 7-11), then does this make him stupid or crazy. I know. I am being terribly uncatholic by insisting that you chose one or the other.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Man's and Nature's Fireworks
A Happy Independence Day to all of our readers! I stepped outside tonight to watch the fireworks presided over by our local firefighters and got more of a show than I expected. That's because Nature was also lighting up the sky as a storm moved in. West of my location were the colorful flashes of fireworks and to the east some truly brilliant cloud and cloud to ground lightning. Finally, to those interested in American Flag etiquette, tomorrow (July 5) is the final full day of flying the flag at half mast in honor of President Reagan.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Liturgical sanity and ad orientem
I got a huge laugh from Fr. Tharp's personal words of anniversary congratulations to me in our earlier phone conversation today. He said: "Congratulations for making it five years without killing anybody." However, I am not sure I will make it five years and a day. Allow me to explain.

I had one of the most disappointing celebrations of the Holy Mass this evening in recent memory. This weekend finds me with the Spanish Mass rotation. Crowds both at the Saturday evening English and the Saturday evening Spanish Masses have been getting smaller (perhaps a summer phenomenon). Tonight there were about 60 people present. The Spanish Mass is almost always a circus (in my cultural estimation) and quite disappointing for me. Tonight it was even more so. Almost no one sang. I had three little girls serving Mass (I am no fan of altar girls) while at least two young men who never serve sat in the pews . I sat down after the opening prayer and no one moved to come forward to read. From my chair I announced that we needed a reader. And this is where disappointment turned to fury: NO ONE MOVED! People sat there and looked at each other, a few made slight "no" motions of the head, and I sat there looking out at the people. I was just about to stand up and announce that the Mass was canceled, when a nice lady finally stood up way in the back of the church and came forward to read. I am glad she finally jumped in, but I was furious for the remainder of the Mass, as I am even now.

I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but if this nonsense keeps up, I am not going to feel in ANY WAY obliged to offer Mass in these people's tongue so they can sit there and not sing, refuse to enlist their sons for service as altar boys, and refuse to serve as lector EVEN AFTER THE PRIEST ASKS FOR HELP. Am I the only one who finds it ridiculous that I am expected to provide such service to people who show almost no tangible interest in what is being offered (but who would certainly act offended and raise a stink were such service to end)? I mean, I think the mere fact that I, a gringo, am at least trying to sing these Spanish songs ought to shame everyone else in the congregation to at least give it some effort.

Though not a total solution, could I at least enjoy a bit more liturgical sanity by adopting an "ad orientem" liturgical posture? At least by facing liturgical east I wouldn't have to look out at the bored faces, motionless mouths, and the many who say "I will not serve." No, this isn't a recent opinion of mine; just another manifestation or confirmation of the folly of what passes as liturgy these days. I have long held in esteem much of what would be considered "traditional" liturgics. And I am not primarily intending to enter into a "New Mass" vs. "Old Mass" argument here. I refer simply to some of the postures and the order that is normally associated with the Tridentine Rite, but which may also be used in the "New Mass." Don't be surprised if you enter my church and hear English or Spanish but see my back. Heck, don't be surprised if you hear Latin!
The One Aspect of British Humor That I Wish They Had Kept

Face it. Men in drag aren't funny: they are just creepy.
Was This Why He Was Chasing Bueller?

Sad story for a character actor whose work I have enjoyed in the past. Of course, if actors could marry, this wouldn't happen... (Okay, I promise I won't use that line again.)

An opening montage of scenes from The Passion of Christ played over the following voice over...

Lashes at the Pillar 29
Thorns on the Crown 60
Gaining Eternal Redemption for all of humanity (pause) Priceless.

Okay, maybe not. I receive a mountain of junk mail of all types, especially credit card orders. This one is a classic. I received a credit card for small business from Mastercard, hence the labored attempt at humor above. (N.B. Please don't crowd my comments boxes with the observation that the Redemption did have a price. I understand that. It is their silly ad campaign I have to work with.)

The humor comes from the fact that it is computer generated to say "Owner" on the first line and the business's name on the next line. So what does the address label read? I quote, "Owner, St. Cornelius Catholic Church, 627 12th St., Alva, OK 73717-2003."

So, do I forward this to the Archbishop? To the Apostolic See? Perhaps if I leave it at the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher, our Lord will send an angel to pick it up. It does beg the question of whether or not the Lord needs a MasterCard, no matter how fitting the name.

I have heard of taking "canonical possession" of an assignment, but this is ridiculous.
Patriarch Invites Pope to Visit Istanbul

Ah...even more Ecumenical goodness...
a Day Late, A Dollar Short

In my unfortunate funk of yesterday, a momenteous event occurred that I forgot to note for the electronic ages, le epoques electroniques. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Fr. Stephen Hamilton's ordination to the Holy Priesthood of Christ. Fr. H has served as an example of good priestly service to his younger brother, although in temporal years I am older, as well as the proper way to host a dinner. I don't think that I can forget the shock and horror of my preparation of a pair of pot roast turning absolute joy as Fr. H swiped the pan with chunks of bread in the hopes of getting the last of the "chunkies."

I wonder now if that was what Fr. H was waiting for when I called last night, a warm congratulations. Well, buddy, if it is any consolation, I arrived at your Mass of Thanksgiving late, so this is just par for the course.

Remember him in your prayers, faithful readers.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Well, I was thinking about voting for him if his name came up...

but I think I changed my mind. Actually, it sounds like a good case of doing what's expected even when you feel like a twit for doing so.
At The Movies: Spider-Man 2

After seeing SP2 at the local theater, I was literally walking on air. I wanted to race right home and blog out a review. But then, I thought, let's sit on this overnight and see what effect it has on my review. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing after the movie and as I came out of the theater, the skies were filled with reds and purples of storm clouds forming over us but headed out of town. It was like coming out of movie into a comic book. That's how weird and vibrant the sky's colors were. So, I went to Wal-Mart for some groceries instead.

Frankly, the sleeping on hasn't changed my impression of the movie. It is quite literally both a great film (in the sense of being well-plotted with excellent character development) and a great translation of comic-to-screen. I have taken to thinking of it as translation when any one art form is carried into another. Comics are literary-visual and film is visual-auditory. What reads correctly can come off stiff on screen, especially if it is necessary exposition.

A caveat before proceeding. I am a huge Spider-Man fan. I read the comic books for years and loved the Television versions, yes, even the cheesy live-action one from the 70's. As a rather large, somewhat clumsy, person, the sheer acrobatic athleticism of Spidey's moves were attractive wish fulfillment as well as the whole subtext of geeky kid gets powers and can stand up for himself. I would be curious to find out what the reaction of someone who was unfamiliar with Spidey would take to the movie.

Why is it so good? [Beware! Spoilers Ahead!] Let's start with the characters. While the action sequences punctuates the movement of the plot, the heart of the film and its plot are the characters. We often are lead down asides and sub plots that allow us to see the humanity of the characters. So, we have a brief scene where Dr. Connors chastises Peter Parker because Peter is obviously a very gifted science student but keeps missing class which the good doctor interprets as laziness but we know better. Also, we see the compassion Peter feels for Dr. Octopus, given that before the accident, which some could argue was in part Spidey's fault, Dr. Otto Octavius was Peter's scientific hero and, given different circumstances, a mentor for Peter. Later in the movie, after Peter decides to give up being Spider-Man, we see the contrast of a young man free from all his burdens and able to be "himself" and excelling in his studies. But when a group of squad cars fly by on the street or in a particularly strongly composed scene, Peter is forced to turn his back on someone in need. You can see, in the eyes of Tobey McGuire, Peter's anguish because he is not true to himself, the hero. Also, every character is well developed and well employed. Aunt May, Harry Osbourne, Mary Jane Watson, all the people of this world, even the minor characters are more fully drawn than the same type of character might be in other movies. There are some excellent scenes which involve the people of New York City that pack a remarkable amount of emotional heft.

As to the action sequences, these seem more integrated into the whole than the first movie. My criticism of Van Helsing that I felt as though I were watching a video game did not apply here. The scenes were well-executed over all. In this same vein, the introduction of several characters have set the stage for further 3 Spider-Man movies without having to hang out a sign that screams in foot-high neon letters "THIS GUY WILL BE BACK." Watch for Spider-Man 3 to feature the return of the Green Goblin, and/or the first appearances of The Moonwolf and The Lizard. Let's all hope that Sam Raimi, the director, doesn't fall prey to the mistake the Batman franchise did and start double teaming Spidey. The only team of super villains I want to see in the movie series is the Sinister Six and two of them are dead anyway.

Atmospheric elements were also well-blended. Danny Elfman gave us a great score that piqued the emotional weight of scenes without overpowering the whole. The city shots were realistic and expansive, as well as sparkling cinematography.

Now, this next part, well, I think that some would say that I am making too much of the movie. So, for what it is worth, there is something muscularly Christian about a hero like Spider-Man, and the movie made a concerted effort to point this out. First, much of the imagery is sacramental imagery. So a major subplot revolves around MJ's wedding to John Jameson. Peter forsakes his love for MJ because ultimately he knows it isn't safe for MJ to be Spidey's squeeze. Villains love exploiting family relationships. But what brings MJ back to Peter's arms, is not so silly emotional kiss that produces a feeling, but her realization of the quality of Peter's love. Another image appears when Dr. Octopus finally is brought back to his senses and tries to stop the havoc he is about to unleash, he arises from water, in a left-handed reference to Baptism. Second, many of the visual images recalled Christian types. One cannot help but notice that when the smart arms that are fused to Dr. Octopus started "talking" to him, they look like serpents, perhaps a throw away comment to the Garden of Eden. In another place, Peter says to MJ, "I always imagined you getting married on a mountain top," to which she replies, "I'm getting married in a church." (I think the scene is shot at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral in NYC.) Third, at the heart of Spider-Man's conflict with himself, is a vocation. Like it or not, Peter has these powers. Now, if he stands up and uses these powers, he becomes a hero. If he ignores these powers, then the world is far worse for it, and he has wasted this precious gift. Yes, to live up to the power's responsibility is poopy at times, but what is lost by neglect of these powers is worse. Now, substitute the word "vocation" where "powers" is used and I think you see my point. Living the Christian life well is HEROIC. It requires heroes to live this kind of life, and the movie makes a point of showing how Spider-Man's overt heroism inspires others to be heroic in proper degree. (And here is where people will start to snark at me...) Spider-Man's struggles are, to me, an excellent metaphor for the struggle to discern a call to priesthood/religious life. Being a hero means taking reality for what it is, working to better what one can with the capacity one possesses, and accepting the sacrifices that comes with it. Being a priest and using well one's time in discernment requires the same analysis. Once someone is a priest, he still has to be a hero because he has received great power to which is attached great responsibility.

In my second year at my first assignment in OKC, I received the greatest compliment of my priesthood thus far. A parishioner, who is a homeschooler and NFP practioner so no slouch himself, came up to me and said, "If I had met you before I married, you would have made me want to be a priest." I have been trying to get back to that ever since. Spider-Man is a great movie for all ages and temperaments as well as carrying a great message as well.

Rating: 5 of out 5 bananas.
A Lovely Prescient Comment

I am reading Joseph Pearce's Literary Converts and found this quote from G.K.C. concerning the two-party system. He writes in The Party System:

The real danger of the two parties is that they unduly limit the outlook of the ordinary citizen. They make him barren instead of creative, because he is never allowed to do anything except prefer one existing policy to another. We have not got real Democracy when the decision depends upon the people. We shall have real Democracy when the problem depends upon the people. The ordinary man will decide not only how he will vote, but what he is going to vote about.

I am finding more and more of myself in this large living convert. Go over to Ignatius Insight if you want some more information. The link is on the list somewhere.
Note to a Friend

Recently, a friend of mine and I were chatting about some business that needed to be tended to. Eventually, the conversation drifted over to what was happening in our respective ends of the universe, and I began to regal him with the account of the difficulties I was having with a pair of students in my catechism classes. Not that they are problem students; it's just that these two women don't quite have the acumen needed sometimes to really understand what we are reading and this leads to circular conversations of varying degrees of frustration. Without missing a beat, my friend asked if I had something of a teacher in me to which I, obviously, agreed. He said, "That sounds right. The teacher type always focuses upon the one or two who don't get while the rest of the class is basking in knowledge and wisdom." He, of course, had pegged me to the wall.

This is all I am going to say to this friend. If you insist on being so wise and helpful and insightful in the future, I might have to let you call me any time that you want to.

This was not just a contender; he was the gold standard for a time. Rest in Peace.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I found this in my re-reading of the few days I had missed in my copy of "In Conversation With God." This following bit is from Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time. Why I am sharing this with you I will explain after.

Scripture often speaks of solidarity in evil, in the sense that the sins of some can cause harm to the whole community. But Abraham turns the terms the other way round; he asks God who esteems the justice of the saints so highly, that it may be the saints who cause blessings to come down upon everyone, even though many are sinners. And God accepts this approach of the Patriarch's.

We can meditate today on God's joy and delight when He sees us struggling to be faithful to Him. We can meditate on the value our actions may have when we do them for God. This is true of even our most inconspicuous actions, deeds that we may think nobody sees and that apparently have little in them of transcendence. God sets great store by those who struggle for sanctity. God's delight is in the saints; it is for their sake that He pours out His mercy and His forgiveness on others who may have done nothing themselves to merit it. It is a wonderful but at the same time a real mystery, that God so delights in those who journey toward sanctity....

Jesus Christ has given full satisfaction to the eternal love of the Father. The Church has always taught this. The love of Christ dying for us on the Cross was more pleasing to God than all the sins of all men together can ever displease Him. Insofar as we identify our will with God's Will, we take upon ourselves the merits of Christ. We offer reparation to God by making our own the love and the merits of His Son! The matchless value that a single holy man or woman has in the sight of God is based on this. Although many sins are committed each day, there are at the same time many souls who in spite of their wretchedness desire only to please God with all their strength....

For the sake of ten I will not destroy it! Ten just men would have been enough! People who are really holy more than make up for all the crimes, the abuse, the envy, lack of loyalty, betrayal, injustice, selfishness...of all the inhabitants of a great city. If we are united with the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God will look with special compassion on our relatives, friends, acquaintances...who have perhaps strayed from the path out of ignorance, or error, or weakness...or because they did not receive the graces that we have received. We should try often to carry on the same kind of friendly and pleasant bargaining with Jesus that Abraham carried on with Yahweh! 'Look, Lord' -- we will say to Him -- 'this person is better than he seems. He has good intentions. Help him!' And Jesus, who nevertheless knows the real situation, will move that person with his grace out of regard for our friendship with Him.

If I ever entered religious life, and the thought has crossed my mind, I think I might take the name "Abraham" as my name in religion because that is all I ever wanted to be, a friend of God. Perhaps, that is what the reform of the Church in our own time needs, more men and women to be the friends of God, those who would bargain for those and strive to be closer themselves to the one they love.
It was only a matter of time before someone dared to call a "spade" a spade. I won't finish the quotation the way my German grandmama used to...
In Case You've Forgotten...

The new book for the book club is Mark Shea's Making Senses Out of Scripture. You can buy it from the man himself, although he includes no shrubbery with it, but he does sign anything you buy there. Isn't that fun. You'll have to surf over to ADSC so that you can see the changes I have made.