Sunday, January 30, 2005

Man of culture
Bacteria culture, that is! Between the two Masses I had this morning, I rushed over to the emergency room of the local hospital to have a doctor look at the inflamation in my throat. I had checked myself with a flashlight this morning and I was pretty sure it was strep throat. The doctor agreed. I got professional, courteous, and very rapid service at the ER this morning (in and out in probably 15 minutes) so that I could make it back for the next Mass. So, the doctor has told me to cancel activities in public for the next few days. We'll see if that means more blogging than I have done the past few days.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Liturgical Footnote #3
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

The Mass is for everyone. To try to exclude anyone from the Mass would be to deny that the Church is really Catholic. We should never try to form close-knit, closed “worshipping community,” made up of only like-minded people. We also have think beyond just “my parish” for each parish is part of the Universal Church, forming the One Mystical Body of Christ. Even though we come to church each week as a large number of individuals, we need to come together in prayer. One of the most effective ways to do this is with music.

Once the people have gathered, as the priest and other liturgical ministers enter, the gathered community begins the Introit, better known as the Entrance Hymn. The Introit sets the tone for the Mass and states the theme of the celebration. We express our willingness to come together, in love and acceptance of all those around us, for the celebration of Mass. Closed mouths and crossed arms suggest hearts and minds that are close to the love God is offering us and calling us to participate in. In others words – SING! God does not care how well you sing, He just wants us to give all of ourselves to the praise of His Name, just as He gave all of Himself in the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.

Believe it or not, there is a proper Introit for each Mass. In the United States there are four options (generally considered in this order of preference) for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon, taken from the Roman Missal, or the Psalm of the Roman Gradual is set to music (all things being equal, place of pride and preference is given to Gregorian Chant accompanied by the organ); (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm from the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Bishops’ Conference or the local bishop; (4) a suitable liturgical song approved by the Bishop’s Conference or the local bishop. If options (3) or (4) is used, the song should reflect the theme for the Mass.

If the Introit is not sung, as is often done during the daily Mass, the antiphon for that day’s Mass is to be recited either by the congregation, the lector, or the priest.
The Day of the Jackal!
FINALLY...FINALLY...FINALLY!!!!! Folks, it has been joked about so many times on this blog, but today the new bishop of Wichita was announced by the Vatican. He is Bishop-designate Michael Owen Jackels. Since he is a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and up-to-now an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), I can hear certain naysayers comparing his motives to this. Actually, though, Wichita is blessedly free such high profile dissent. From his biography on the Vatican web site, it appears he came to Rome to work in the CDF while I was there as a student. I don't ever remember meeting him or even hearing of him. Oh well. We here at CRM congratulate the Diocese of Wichita. We congratulate Bishop-designate Jackels and we encourage him to continue the good work already begun in the Church of Wichita!

Looking at the stats, I see something rather interesting:
Bishop Paul Coakley:
1978-1979 attended St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Kentucky
1979-1983 attended Mt. St. Mary in Emmitsburg, Maryland
Ordained priest 1983
1985-1987 Licentiate degree in Rome

Bishop-designate Michael Jackels:
1974-1977 attended St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Kentucky
1977-1981 attended Mt. St. Mary in Emmitsburg, Maryland
Ordained priest 1981
1985-1989 Doctorate degree in Rome

Notice any overlap there? I am sure both St. Pius X and Mt. St. Mary are proud to have another alumnus-son named bishop only a few months since the last nomination.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wednesday I went for my radiation treatment for my thyroid cancer. The body scan I had just prior was interesting, it looks like I have a star right at the top, middle of my chest -- kind of like ET's glowing heart. This treatment is unlike what most cancer patients go through. They are zapped, in other words, irradiated. I actually swallowed a pill containing I-131, radioactive iodine; 102 mCi worth. This means that I am not only being irradiated, but am contaminated. If I vomit, they need to call a HazMat team to come clean it up. When a geiger counter is held up to me, I pin it. In other words I am RADIOACTIVE PRIEST!!!!

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission made me sign papers which allows me to leave the hospital (I had to certify that I have my own bedroom and bathroom, and that I can keep myself isolated from other people for 3-4 days). As I sit here in front of my computer, which is trying its best to irradiate me, I am irradiating it right back. Turn-about is fair play.

The housekeeper is a little afraid of me, and she will not do my laundry now that it is "radioactive." I keep telling her it only needs to be double washed. Oh well, I am stuck in my suite, finally having the time to watch "Band of Brothers." Saturday I will be back in action. Another body scan tomorrow, and hopefully next week I will see my endocrinologist and get on synthyroid so that I can start to feel like normal again.
More than one person has accused me of being crazy, and some have even called me stupid, but something just happened to me which made me ask, "Do you really think me that soft in the head?"

My parents have a Toyota Prius, first generation. I actually talked them into it, and they love it -- especially the navigation system. This past summer, now being a recently ordained priest, I decided to order a Prius for myself. Since my little Hyundai Accent is operating just fine, thus I am not in an immediate need for a car, it did not matter to me that there was more than a year's wait for the car. One of the priests I live with is friends with the sales manager of a Toyota dealership and said he could help me get the best deal possible. Of all the various options, the one I really wanted was the navigation system; which unfortunately only comes in the top option package, and at the time I ordered it, you could not add it solo. So I placed the order, with no obligation to buy, and I was told that the price (before negotiations) would be $26,400 (before taxes & tags).

Today I was shuffling the papers on my desk and noticed my Prius brochure and decide to call to see how far down the waiting list I was. While they told me that it would still be 5-6 months, the salesman asked if I would be interested in a pre-owned (I still think of it as "used") 2004. I said maybe, asking the price and whether it has the navigation system. He told me that the price was $24,000 and that while it did not have the navigation system, they are now able to add that option by itself for $3,000. OK, do the math. I can get a brand new, fully loaded Prius for $26,400 or a "pre-owned," not as loaded one for $27,000. Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts?

The good news, however, is that now I do not need to hold out for the fully loaded Prius; I can get one of the lower, middle option packages (still brand new) which is cheaper and add the navigation for $3000 and it would still be cheaper than $26,400. Even more exciting, these lower, middle option packages they get in faster -- in fact he might have two right now for me, so I could be getting a new car soon. YIPEEE!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

XM and Sirius Merger?

Just when I thought my luck couldn't get any better.
Why I love and hate logic

Logic allows one to give structure to their thought. But the content is as equally important. Allow me to demonstrate.

1. Beans = good for your heart (cf. convential wisdom)
2. Viagra = good for your heart (apparently, V can help those with enlarged hearts. No comments on other possible enlargements.)
3. Therefore, Viagra is made of beans.

The real goal is to make a catchy jingle. Just don't publish that here.
I guess it's a vacation after all...

So, I am sitting here at St. Monica's parish in Edmond, OK, preparing to wow or bore to tears the kids of the parish with a presentation upon apologetics. Hopefully, I can create a proper sense of excitement for the Faith in the process.

To think, that for a priest, just getting away from the parish for a couple of days and offering some presentations passes for least it does in my book.

Pray that I don't sound like a total knob.

UPDATE: The talk went off well. The game served its purpose of reminding the kids of how much they actually need to learn. The youth leaders thought it was well-received, and I must agree. Also, bumped into a fellow Okie blogger whose name has already eluded me. Songbird, don't take offense -- my brain hurts...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nerd Quiz
I saw this quiz via Fr. Sibley's A Saintly Salmagundi and I just had to take it. I have to share a story that helps explain why I had to take this quiz. Growing up, when "nerd" was a word in vogue, my dad got an idea to pull a prank on some friends from our parish. Having observed plenty of "nerdy" activity among me and my friends, he decided to send out a letter alerting the neighborhood to the presence of disturbing nerd activity in the area. He called it a "Nerd Alert." We even had a stamp made that we stamped on letterhead and envelopes. We wrote the letter and included all sorts of things observed in the Catholic ghetto, the neighborhood surrounding our parish. One of the highlights or evidence of nerd activity was the gathering of me and my friends in various front yards, breakdancing on large pieces of cardboard. (Yes, we all have embarrassing pasts!) Anyway, so we sent the letter out from our fake "Nerd Alert" Office (i.e., we didn't put our family name on it) and many people got a good laugh out of it. However, it quickly came to our attention that one mother mistook the letter. From the evidence provided in the letter, it had clearly been written by someone who had been observing kids in the neighborhood. She thought a stalker or a child abductor had been canvassing the area and had written a letter before "striking"! No kidding! Luckily, we put that fire out before legal authorities became involved. Anyway, we followed the letter up with "Nerd-O-Grams," trite little poems, rhymes and statements to send to nerd friends. It was sort of the Hallmark of nerd greetings. Yes, we had a stamp printed for that one too. Anyway, that being said, you can see why I had to test my own nerdiness. It seems I survived. Luckily, the quiz didn't have any questions about how often you check to see if Wichita has a bishop and how often you post about that subject. If that had been asked, I can only imagine how "nerdy" my score would have been!
I am nerdier than 28% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Well New Jersey got hit with its first real snow of the winter. And it kind of shows how interesting people can be. Now, it was not only the 12+ inches of snow (I've lived in the Midwest, so I know that's not huge), but it was the high winds, up to 50 mph gusts, which made things very dangerous. The Governor of NJ issued a Snow Emergency, which basically means, "only emergency vehicles and plows are allowed on the road, so if we see anyone else we will give you a big fine." Just as he issued it last night the hospital called saying that they had someone who was dying and the family wanted them anointed. Yours truly was on duty. There was no way I was going to drive in the mess (I have a puny Hyundai Accent, but even with my big bulk, I feared it would be blown all over the road), so I started to dress up like Commodore Perry to walk the 6 blocks to the hospital, hoping I could get there and back in time to celebrate the 7:30 pm Mass (it really does not pay, at least not in an urban parish, to cancel Mass because there will always be a few people who will come anyway and then complain, "well we made it. You priests live right next door, so come say the Mass."). My pastor told me, "No way." He suggested that I get our maintenance guy, who was ploughing our parking lot in his 4x4 to drive me, but then he said we would not make any more hospital runs because of the weather. As I was walking into the hospital the beeper went off again, with another call (this was more irksome because the hospital had given the beeper number to a family member in FL, so they could plead with Father to go anoint their father despite the blizzard. Giving the beeper number away is a BIG NO-NO). So I did both and rushed back to say Mass. Eight people showed up. For the first four Masses this morning we had less than 50 people combined. This was really low, given we are a parish of 4000 families. However, given the horrendous weather, it was most understandable. One lady, who came into my 10:45am Mass right at the beginning of the Our Father, stopped me after Mass to explain that it took her (and her 9 year-old daughter) longer to walk to church then she expected, and wanted to know if it would still count for their Sunday obligation. I told her that in normal circumstances it wouldn't, but given the most unusually weather I thought it would because their intention was good. I told her to take a Missalette home and read the Readings to her daughter and talk about them if she was really worried about it, but to get home safe and enjoy some hot chocolate. See, another sign that I am not the heartless, rubricist that some accuse me of being.
What is that in "ape" years?
Today we mark Fr. Tharp's thirty-second birthday. He's on some well-deserved time off. Happy Birthday, Fr. Tharp! This means that I am currently the only priest in our archdiocese who is 31.
Johnny Carson, R.I.P.
I am saddened to hear of the news of Johnny Carson's death today. May he rest in peace.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Don't get in my way or I'll run ya down!

Officially, the vacation begins today. It begins with a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat in OKC, and then some presentations around the city and metro, an auction dinner, and then some time to sleep, read, and pray.

In short, don't go looking for me around these parts. The other two will have to pull their own weight for awhile.
Liturgical Footnote #2
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

Mass, especially Sunday Mass, is not something that one should “just show up at.” Rather, it is important for the person to be prepared to enter into the celebration of the Mass. So how does one get ready for Mass?

It begins with recognizing that Sunday is not like the other days of the week. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and therefore the Lord should be our central focus for Sundays. The Sabbath rest is God’s gift to us because He knows that we can be prone to overwhelm ourselves with busyness. He wants us to rest, to be renewed, and to spend time with Him who is the source of our lives and the goal of our lives. This means that we should not “fit Mass” into our Sunday schedule, but rather Sunday Mass should be our first priority, and anything else is arranged around it.

Next we should make ourselves hunger for the Lord. In the “good old days” this meant that we had to fast from food and drink (except water) from Midnight (Sunday) until we went to Mass on Sunday morning. This extended period of going without physical food helped us really hunger for the Food from Heaven, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. While the Church has relaxed this extended fast before Mass, it did not eliminate it. All Catholics, especially those who plan to receive Holy Communion, are suppose to fast for one hour prior to Mass. This means one hour before the start of Mass, not when you think you will be receiving Communion. Obviously those who, due to age or medical condition, are excused from fasting in general are also excused from the Sunday fast as well.

Another thing that we should do to prepare ourselves for Mass is to make an examination of conscience. The Holy Father, in his 2003 Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church), and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in its 2004 Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum (The Eucharist, the Sacrament of Redemption) both says that just attending Mass is not sufficient reason for receiving Holy Communion. Rather all Catholics are to make a conscious, deliberate examination of conscience to be sure that they are in a State of Grace (have not committed a mortal sin), and to beware of their venial sins so to ask forgiveness for them in their prayer at Mass. Such a deliberate examination of conscience before Mass helps prevent developing a too casual attitude towards the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our lives.

Finally each Catholic should bring their intentions, their spiritual sacrifices, to the altar at Mass. In our baptism we were all made “Priest, Prophet and King,” and while the Ministerial Priesthood is distinct from the Priesthood of the Baptized, both, in their proper ways, are a participation in the One Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Just as the priest makes a specific intention before each Mass he celebrates, each member of the congregation should also make a specific intention for the Mass they are attending. They can bring a special need of their family, their friends, community, or workplace to the Altar, lifting them up in prayer to our one Mediator, Jesus Christ. The reason why it is important to arrive at church early is so that we can take some time for quiet prayer to examine our consciences, ask the Lord of Mercy for forgiveness, and to form our personal Mass intention. With this done, we are ready to begin the celebration of God’s love for us.
(happily posted on behalf of Fr. Garrett. due topreviously mentioned Blogger vs. Mac issues)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Let's take a vote!

Okay, kids. Get ready to exercise your democratic powers. Is this consciousness raising or extreme bad taste? You be the judge! And yes, we will take comments from Simon Cowell wannabes.
Woman Gives Birth to Giant Baby

Okay, so let's think this through. The child was born in Brazil so that eliminates the frost giants. Given the sultry wealthy down there, it could be a fire giant, except that the mother didn't burst into flames, so they're out. Hmmm, cloud giants don't normally fraternize in areas not surrounded by mountains. So, I guess we have to go with stone giants.

Okay, so this is the evidence of long-term brain damage rendered by Dungeons and Dragons. Beg your pardon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Are you ready, kiddos?!
I believe tomorrow, Wednesday, is the day when Wichita will get its new bishop!

Update: Or maybe not. But it was fun to be excited for them, wasn't it?
Grotesque Self-Promotion

Doesn't it make you want to subscribe?
Liturgical Footnote #1
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

As we mentioned when we told you about the “changes” in the Mass as we implement the Third Edition of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM), this is an opportunity for all of us to reflect more deeply on the liturgy so that we can have a better understanding of the various signs and gestures used during the Mass. The hope of this little column is to go step by step through the liturgy of the Mass, explaining why we do what we do.

The proper celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is central to our lives as Catholics. In fact, the first document issued by the Second Vatican Council was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. One of the key phrases from that document is that all the people attending the Mass should have a “full, conscious, active participation” in the liturgy, each according to their proper order (as an aside, this English translation is a little inaccurate, for in the official Latin the word “actuoso” is used which is more correctly translated as “actual” not “active”. This is important because we Americans often take the word “active” to mean to be doing something, but the Church considers being attentively silent, say in reflecting on God’s Word, as “doing something.”).

For all of us to participate in the Mass as the Church wants us to we need to have an understanding of the gestures, the symbols, even the environment that makes up the Liturgy. This understanding allows us to join ourselves more fully with all that is happening during the Mass. And what, you might ask, is happening at Mass? Fr. Francis Randolph, in his guide to the Mass entitled, Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread, beautifully puts it, “Here in the Mass we meet our Lord Jesus Christ; we share in his birth, death, and Resurrection; we are nourished with his Body so that we may become the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Be aware of that, and whether the Mass is in the new rite or the old or another yet to come will not matter.”

(poster's note: Fr. Garrett has Blogger vs. Mac issues so I will be posting these Liturgical Footnotes for him weekly. - Steph)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Collateral Damage

This is the problem with war in general. Eventually someone decides that there are no innocent parties; everyone is a viable target.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Rising Anxieties and Preparations

This is going to be one of those weeks. A lot to arrange before I slip away for a couple 10 days of R & R in the Oklahoma City arena. On top of that, it is getting to be time that I heard back from Our Sunday Visitor about my submission of the Borromeo Project for publication. So, what I am going about in a circle to say is, "Don't expect much from me in the way of blogging."

However, to give you all something to do, I thought I might share a sample of the Borromeo Project's goodness. It's just a little something to ponder on.

Step One: Read paragraphs 2168-2231 in your Catechism. Then consider the following questions.
1. Based upon what you read about the Sabbath, why would we want to say that the Sabbath is the high point of the act of Creation? What does that say about Sunday in relation?
2. Many Catholics think that once they have attended Sunday or Holy Day Mass, their job as Catholics is complete. How are they both correct and incorrect? What can be done to allow Sunday to reach its intended purpose?
3. Complaints are often made about how much our society has declined in recent years. Explain how failure to observe the Fourth Commandment has played into this and how observance of the Fourth Commandment can lead us out of these problems.
4. Describe, in concrete ways, how the Christian home should reflect its nature as a domestic church.

Have you been made a "fresh wineskin"?
There is an integral continuity from the Old Covenant to the New. We do not artificially compartmentalize them or dispose of the Old as if it had no value. Nonetheless, there is definitely something new with the onset of the Incarnation and ministry of Jesus. He himself makes this clear. The gospel at today's Mass highlights this tension between old and new: "Jesus answered them, ...'Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins'."

Ask yourself today, How new and fresh is my skin? Is it up to the task of containing the new wine of God's revelation, Jesus the Christ? This is no dermatological inquiry, rather, a look at how new, clean, and fresh the soul is! Do I make a good confession frequently enough? Do I have serious sin on my soul that needs the grace of the confessional? Consider these questions before the next reception of Holy Communion. These were the thoughts running through my mind as I peered down into the chalice this morning during the consecration. I only wish I had had these thoughts to share at the homily!
Yes, Pat, I'd like to buy an "I"
Last night I typed a post using "irks," but spelling it "urkes". This morning, I misused the same word in a comment on the same post. And, for some reason, the instant I posted the comment, my brain suddenly recalled, "Wait a minute! Urk is spelled irk." Maybe I was too tired last night and my brain finally woke up this morning, I don't know. Pat, I'd like to buy a vowel. An "I"....

Sunday, January 16, 2005

That's precisely the point
I had an odd happening at Holy Mass this morning during the distribution of Holy Communion. A lady I did not recognize as a parishioner approached in the line and had that slightly uncertain look on her face that is usually a sign that the person is not Catholic and so ought not be coming forward in the line for Holy Communion. That uncertain look on the face, however, is no certain guarantee and is in no way sufficient evidence for denying Holy Communion. So, I presented the Sacred Host and said, "The Body of Christ." At this point, she reached out her hand as if to grab the Host with her thumb and forefinger. When this happens I always draw the Host back a bit and say, "No. Open your hand flat or stick out your tongue" [to briefly teach the two acceptable modes of reception]. After I told her this, she opened her hand flat and I again presented her the Host, placing it on her hand. This time after I said, "The Body of Christ," she responded, "Thank you." At this point, I put my hand back on the Host in her hand and asked, "Are you Catholic." "No," she said. I said, "Okay, please move on. You have to be Catholic to receive Holy Communion," and I removed the Host from her hand. She stepped to my side and continued the conversation, responding to my previous question ("Are you Catholic?"), by adding, "Does it matter? [Pause] It is still Holy Communion." With this going on in my ear as I had moved on to other communicants, I wanted to stop again, look at her, and say "Yes, it is still Holy Communion and that's precisely the point."

Keep in mind, none of the quotes I report above had a nasty, ugly tone about them. There was nothing vindictive about the exchange, but it was something that needed further explanation. It really irks me when things like this happen in the midst of Mass because there is no time at such points for finesse. I have to be direct and to the point. In the line for Holy Communion is not the time to enter a discussion and I cannot explain the finer points of Church teaching. I am certain that this lady probably left the church feeling hurt and rejected and will forever associate this episode (though it wasn't particularly ugly) with her notion of Catholicism. Was she considering learning more about Catholicism, perhaps to join? If so, will this dissuade her? Or, if so, will this awkward episode reinforce for her that there is something different about Holy Communion in the Catholic Church -- perhaps this will be a catalyst for further conversion and study. However, given the "I'm okay; you're okay" sentimentalism of our modern times, I bet she leaves with a bad taste in her mouth about Catholicism.

As I greeted people after Mass, I made a point to search for this woman (and she was still there as I recessed out of Mass), however, she must have exited through a side door. I really wanted to offer to spend some time with her explaining what had happened in the line and why I couldn't give her Holy Communion. Alas, I didn't get that opportunity. I suppose the only way to avoid such things (though I am sure it won't be fullproof) is to inform my parishioners and to put signs in the back of church that declare that the line for Holy Communion is only for those actually receiving Holy Communion (together with an explanation of who may receive Holy Communion). In other words, the line for Holy Communion is not for blessings of kids or RCIA people or non-Catholic visitors, but only for the reception of Holy Communion.

I promised some photos from this year's class reunion. We meet up every first week of January at a tree farm in Alabama. It seems an unlikely place for a group of priests to gather. Our connection to it is that it is owned by the parents of one classmate. It has plenty of lodge space and a chapel. (Here is a link to earlier posts with photos from last year's reunion.) It is perfect for our time together. We truly get away from modernity and simply enjoy some good ol' outdoors time. I hope nobody is scandalized that we are not in Roman collars. By the way, I'm in the back group, fourth from the left. There were fourteen of us in attendance this year, out of a class of thirty-three.Posted by Hello

Here is a wonderful example of why I love my class so much. This priest holds a Ph.D. from Yale in neuroscience. Of course, he also holds advanced degrees in theology and bioethics. He is currently the Director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center. And here he is shooting a rifle. The rifle range slopes downward some and he is aiming for some targets (beer & soda cans - is this backwoods Alabama or what?!) near the ground. That's why he appears to be aiming too low. Posted by Hello

Here is another classmate. Is this a classic "priest on vacation" look or what?! This priest was getting ready to go out on a hike; he only had black socks! I have cropped the photo to protect his identity: I don't want him ending up on a "worst dressed list" and given that he is a formator in a seminary, I don't want any seminarians from his place getting undo ammo to use against him! Oh, and to any wise guys who think they have figured out this priest's identity: No, it is not the guy in the yellow shirt from the first photo (above), though that priest, too, is a seminary formator. Oh, and let me take a pre-emptive strike from Fr. Tharp's cheap shots: I'm not the priest in this photo either. I mean, give me a break, my skin is much more sickeningly white than that! Posted by Hello

Here is the deer stand that I climbed into, patiently waiting for Bambi. Posted by Hello

I'm not sure if this will show up well, but here is the field where I hunted the first evening. I was using the outdoor setting on my camera -- it may be too dark for you to see much. Posted by Hello

Here is the view of the same field from inside the deer stand's slit for a window. Since no deer showed up this evening, there was no need to put a rifle in the window. Instead I put my camera near it, thinking of you dear readers and how you might like to see photos! Posted by Hello

I only saw one deer in the field the entire three evenings of hunting (and I didn't take the shot). Other than that one deer, these turkeys were the only things that crossed my path. I didn't have the right gun to bag a turkey (at least not if the goal was to have anything left to actually eat). Posted by Hello

The workers at the tree farm were doing controlled burns near the houses where we all stay. It was neat to watch the method for the burn. Due to the consistent drumbeat of Smokey the Bear during my childhood, every fiber of my being wanted to run sreaming "Fire" as I watched the forest ground go up in flames. But this really is a necessary practice to prevent worse catastrophes; also, after the grass pops up again, it makes the forest ground look really neat and clean. You can see the burned area is the black part in the center of the photo. Posted by Hello
Too Perky at Any Network

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Hitler's Pope?

Ah, I love the sweet smell of paranoid historio-fictions being slowly turned under. I so hope that it is in God's plan to have Pius XII publically acknowledged by the Church as a saint.
There has been some ecclesiastical activity in Kansas today: The Pope has accepted Archbishop Keleher's (until now the Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas) resignation. His Co-Adjutor Archbishop (Archbishop Naumann) immediately succeeds him as the new Ordinary of the Archdiocese. Could Wichita be next?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Faith and the Fitness to Serve

I was puttering around the rectory tonight, and I kept thinking that there was something that I wanted to blog about. For the life of me, I could not figure out what it was. Then I flipped the channel past ABC, saw Barbara Walters, and instantly remembered.

A few days back, there was an article featured on the Drudge Report concerning the president and his faith. Now, I must admit, I might have been reading something into this article, but really, is this even newsworthy? Has the state of affairs sunk so low that people need to be informed that a public official strives to live a consistent life, one of faith both in the confines of home, office, and the sanctuary? After all, news needs, by definition, to be something unusual or unknown, something out of the ordinary.

In response to those who find GWB's reliance upon his Christian faith surprising or even backward, this little bit of sarcasm is just for you. Beware, it's a little rough.

"Yes, yes, of course, you're right. How benighted of him to allow his personal private religious predilections to influence and shape his's positively barbaric. Ah, for those halcyon days under that Southern gentlemen's administration. You know whom I mean...the fellow that thought it was a perfectly acceptable matter to accept oral genital stimulation from a woman over whom he exercised considerable power and influence who was the approximate same age as his daughter. Not that there is anything wrong with that..."
Indulgence for the Year of the Holy Eucharist
I read today in the daily Vatican news bulletin that the Holy Father has approved an indulgence for the Year of the Holy Eucharist. The announcement and explanation of the conditions of the indulgence do not appear in English, so I am in the process of making a rough translation from the Italian text. When I get that done, I will share it with readers.

Update: I just discovered the announcement in English, so that will save me the work of translation. Normally when I check Vatican news I click on the "bolletino," the daily bulletin. That sometimes does not provide every news item in every major language. I discovered that before clicking on "bolletino," there is a link to the Vatican Information Service, from which link you can click on English and, it appears, get many notices in English (or another language as the case may be). Here is the English text:

VATICAN CITY, JAN 14, 2005 (VIS) - A Decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary, dated December 25, 2004 and published today, states that during an audience granted on December 17, 2004 to Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Fr. John Francis Girotti, OFM.Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, "the Holy Father wished to enrich with indulgences several determined acts of worship and devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament, which are indicated below. ... The Decree will be in force during the Eucharistic Year, starting with the day of its publication in the L'Osservatore Romano. Notwithstanding any disposition to the contrary." Following are excerpts:
"A Plenary Indulgence is granted to all faithful and to each individual faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin), each and every time they participate attentively and piously in a sacred function or a devotional exercise undertaken in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, solemnly exposed and conserved in the tabernacle.
"A Plenary Indulgence is also granted, under the aforesaid conditions, to the clergy, to members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and to other faithful who are by law obliged to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as to those who customarily recite the Divine Office out of pure devotion, each and every time they recite - at the end of the day, in company or in private - Vespers and Night Prayers before the Lord present in the tabernacle.
"The faithful who, through illness or other just cause, are unable to visit the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist in a church or oratory, may obtain a Plenary Indulgence in their own homes, or wherever they may be because of their ailment, if, ... with the intention of observing the three usual conditions as soon as possible, they make the visit spiritually and with the heart's desire, ... and recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a pious invocation to Jesus in the Sacrament.
"If they are unable to do even this, they will receive a Plenary Indulgence if they unite themselves with interior desire to those who practice the normal conditions laid down for Indulgences, and offer the merciful God the illnesses and discomforts of their lives."
The Decree asks that priests, especially pastors, inform the faithful "in the most convenient manner" of these dispositions, prepare, "with generous and ready spirit," to hear confessions and to lead the faithful "in solemn public recitation of prayers to Jesus in the Sacrament." The faithful are likewise exhorted "to give open witness of faith and veneration for the Blessed Sacrament" as proposed in such acts as Eucharistic procession and adoration, and Eucharistic and spiritual communion."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Kiss My Ring, Baby!

Mystery of the zen hex - The truth that is pulled over your eyes to blind you from the world: "Take the quiz: 'What Monarch Are You?'

Edward IV
You are loyal and down to earth. More than that, you are a hard-headed realist. You take the facts, and you go with them. You don't try to change what is, just like Edward IV, who never lost a battle, even when greatly outnumbered. You excel on your own mind and on your own heart. Keep your level head, and keep being aware. You rock!"

I wonder how hard it would be to make a quiz like this for the Popes. Oooooo, how evilicious would that be?
Threatening to Unleash My Fury

As most in-the-know blog readers (we need a neologism for frequent blog readers) are aware, Mark Shea has taken a little break from blogging to finish his latest book. We wish him the best in his endeavors.

However, with this post, he officially moves to the skating-on-thin-ice column of my book. Does he know what is doing? Has he forgotten about my vast cosmic powers that I wield? Given that I am in my parish boundaries as I write this, there could be a mighty reckoning.

Just kidding although I am confused as to how he could forget about his parallel-universe-generated, separated-at-birth, spaco-temporally-displaced evil twin, i.e. yours truly. Actually, this post was an exercise in both narcissism and the abusive use of hyphens. Enjoy.
Birthday Poetry

After slaving away on a presentation about the life and work of St. Thomas Aquinas (more on that in another post), I was desparate, but not a housewife, to find something LIGHT to read. I picked up a copy of The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lillian Jackson Braun. Her early novels were very enjoyable. Now, they have descended into gimmick, but the novel in question accomplished its purpose -- throwing ice on a fevered brain.

In the course of the narrative, one of the characters remarks about the custom of reading a particular poem on your birthday. It should be emblematic of the person in some way. As my birthday is rapidly approaching, I thought it might be kind of fun to pick one for myself. But I need some time to think.

I invite readers to leave behind their choices for their personal birthday poems. Given the snark factor associated with this blog, I don't need any suggestions ... unless they are really flattering.
From Bad to Worse

Just when you thought things might improve, down comes the other boot. I know I have impinged on your intentions today, in particular, but please, please, please pray for the survivors and this new round of victims. Also, if you haven't coughed up some bucks, break the piggy bank.
Unexpected Assets

I was working on the next term, the last term of this year, of the Borromeo Project while listening to Greg and Lisa Popchak on Relevant Radio. They were talking about an email they received concerning baptism sponsors, a topic near and dear to my heart. So, because I am a buttinski, I called and gave more ammo for their points namely the relevant canons from the Code. It was really fun.

Afterwards, when the show resumed, and my work resumed, Greg mentioned the blog by name. Yes, I even called back to let him know that he had recalled correctly. Thanks to Greg and Lisa for their great work in promoting the Gospel and for the plug, of course!

And no, Fr. H, I didn't call with the express intention of getting a plug for the blog or a radio program. You can just put that out of your mind. I doubted that Greg would remember who the heck I am or that I wrote a blog. Perhaps, the reason these thoughts and accusation come to mind is because they are yours.
Off on a Tangent...

...that we hope will take on reality. Yesterday, I am went to the local Wellness Center and started a membership. Today, I am headed out the door for the first work out. It will be light -- mostly cardiovascular along with setting up circuit training. Ask St. Sebastian to intercede especially that I will be faithful to this resolve. Also, consult paragraphs 2288 and 2289 of the Catechism.

UPDATE: I got back from the center and feel great. I worked the upper body and spent 45 minutes on the treadmill. I know it is a long way to go yet, but this was a good beginning. As a reward, diet strawberry limeades all around!
Preparations Under Way

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar, who will win?...

Thanks to the folks at Entertainment Weekly, my magazine for gauging cultural trends, you too can look like the entertainment industry maven or the film auteur at your local Oscar party. Here is their must see 25 film list. Asterisks indicate available on DVD/VCR. The list is sorted in descending order of Academy appeal.

1. Sideways (want to see it BADLY!)
2. The Aviator
3. Finding Neverland (the very versatile Johnny Depp at it again)
4. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood directs -- and I love most every aspect of what Eastwood puts on the screen.)
5. Closer
6. Kinsey (remember, this is their list not mine -- I am not responsible for their lack of moral vision.)
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind *
8. Ray
9. Vera Drake (please see #6)
10. Hotel Rwanda (stars Don Cheadle who like several other actors is worth the price of admission and that would include hearing him read from the back of a cereal box.)
11. Maria Full of Grace * (Harrowing and horrifying; see disclaimer point on #6)
12. Before Sunset *
13. Being Julia
14. Collateral *
15. The Incredibles (a slew of good reviews will help but won't bridge the animated label)
16. The Motorcycle Diaries (a fun-loving Che Guevera -- who would have thunk it?)
17. The Door in the Floor *
18. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (cf. number 6)
19. Imaginary Heroes
20. House of Flying Daggers
21. Bad Education
22. A Very Long Engagement
23. The Sea Inside
24. The Woodsman
25. The Phantom of the Opera
Three Ways to Increase The Peace

There was and is a lot of discussion about the moral validity of current involvement in Iraq. I don't really want to get into that here.

Instead I wanted to offer some practical ideas for increasing the peace. Since none of the readers or the authors of this blog will be asked to serve as ambassadors of the U.S., I say, we embrace our role as ambassadors of Christ. Through sacrifice, prayer, and active apostolates, we can act in the name of the only person who can bring anything like real Peace to our world. Here are the ideas:

Prayer Request
I received this via email this a.m. Tuck it in wherever you can. It is an urgent request. (I did edit it for length; you'll get the gist.)

"As a transportation battalion, my unit will be delivering the voting machines and the ballots to villages and cities throughout Iraq during the upcoming elections (January 30/31). Our convoys are prime targets for the insurgents because they do not want the equipment to arrive at the polling stations nor do they want the local Iraqi citizens to have the chance to vote; timely delivery must occur so that the elections occur. Encourage your friends and family members and those within our churches to pray specifically for the electoral process. Historically, the previous totalitarian regime would not allow individual citizens to vote. Democracy will not be realized in Iraq if intelligent and competent officials are not elected to those strategic leadership positions within the emerging government."
Also, please don't forget to pray for the insurgents and the agents of violence as you are praying for the transporation battalion. It is a concrete way for us to love our enemies and those who persecute us.

Send them your pencils
(via OSV, "How you can bring a measure of peace to the victims of war," December 26, 2004, pg. 2)
"A U.S. military chaplain in Iraq has requested donations of clothing for wounded U.S. soldiers as well as school and medical supplies for Iraqi citizens....injured troops often arrive at the U.S. military hospital in Baghdad with only the clothes they are wearing and must leave behind their personal belongings when transferred to European or American hospitals. Offering these brave men and women a change of clothing boosts morale and shows the love and support of the people back home whom they serve."
I assume what is requested here is new clothing or old clothing in VERY GOOD CONDITION (i.e. clean with no damage or stains). I would guess that most of these military folks are in good shape and therefore large size clothing would be sufficient.

"[The chaplain] is also collecting supplies for six Iraqi schools that educate more than 1,700 children and for area clinics that provide health care to tens of thousands of Iraqis....Supplies can be sent to Lt.Col. Robert Cannon, JASG-C/ Chaplain, APO, AE 09316; his email address is"
I would advise contacting the chaplain for a specific list of things needed. Just for the record, I will be using these two needs as a specific project for my three parishes during the season of Lent. Ooohh, crafty priest...

Heal the Sick
(via the same OSV article as above)
"Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops continue to wage war on terror, a 4-year-old child named Zia Urrahman has gained the sympathy and support of U.S. soldiers who hope to fly the boy to the United States for urgent medical treatment. Zia suffered third-degree burns to his back, right arm, and left elbow last summer when a propane tank used for the family stove exploded. The blast killed two of Zia's siblings, two cousins and two uncles, and caused lesser burns to another brother...."
Members of the 113th battalion have managed to secure medical treatment in the U.S. for the child but they need bucks to transport the child to the U.S. with his family. They are in need of $6,000 to cover travel costs and expenses related to medical travel visas. The course of treatment will take about 6 to 8 weeks.
"To help, send checks marked 'For Afghan Child' to Northeast Indiana Burn Council, Box 11414, Fort Wayne, IN 46858-1414 or phone (260)425-3575."

I would like to conclude this post with the concluding paragraph from this article written by Gerald Korson, editor of OSV: "Small acts of charity such as these won't bring peace to the earth, but they may bring a glimmer of peace, hope, and love to needy individuals who benefit most for our gift." This is in line with the words of our Lord as recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel: "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him"(Matthew 6:1-8).
Unleashing the Spiritual Power of the Blog

I have a quick prayer request for the readers. Four of the elderly priests of the archdiocese are doing poorly due to a combination of things. Please remember the following gentle men of God in your prayers for the next couple of days: Frs. John Scheller, Joseph Burger, James Ross, and Anthony Bao. Also, if you have a moment, also remember their caretaker, Mrs. Alveria Kopp.

Much appreciated!
Debris in the Tea

Until I started drinking loose leaf teas, I never understood what people were referring to when they claimed that you could "read" tea leaves to discern the future. As I gaze into the bottom of the Shakespeare mug my niece gave me for Christmas, there are a few escapees from the tea pot swirling around on the bottom of the mug. Not that I am interesting in learning the occult arts, but does anyone out there have something on the history of this practice?
New Link
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of re-establishing some contact (via e-mail) with a former parishioner from my first parish assignment, Scott Warmka. Actually he and his family are also "formers" at that parish, since they have moved on to a new location. I noticed that his comment on a recent post left a link for a homepage. I was delighted to discover that he has begun his own blog, the Troglodyte. I can't claim to know why he chose the blog name he did, but I suspect that certain circles in the church view me as an ecclesiastical troglodyte, wishing I would just crawl back in the cave and at least be quiet or unobtrusive while the "spirit" of progress drives on! Anyway, I love the blog's title and I hope you will enjoy the read too. He is now linked in our blogroll.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Beyond Resolution

I don't, as a rule, believe in making New Year's Resolutions, principally because I think we condition ourselves to forget about them once the year gets a little tattered around the edges. I do believe in looking backward over the last year and asking, "How can this year be better than last?" This way, you make a conscious decision to work the whole year on the project in question. For myself, that project is my weight.

Contrary to some who have commented here, I do think that weight and waistline say something about one's spiritual life. Granted, you can have a glandular condition or some other physiological explanation for higher than normal body mass, but quite frankly, that is an evasion. Americans are amazing consumers -- we far outstrip other countries in what we use and produce. Quoting now from the Universal Doctor, St. Thomas, we read in the Summa Theologica:
[G]luttony denotes inordinate concupiscence in eating. Now two things are to be considered in eating, namely the food we eat, and the eating thereof. Accordingly, the inordinate concupiscence may be considered in two ways. First, with regard to the food consumed: and thus, as regards the substance or species of food a man seeks "sumptuous"--i.e. costly food; as regards its quality, he seeks food prepared too nicely--i.e. "daintily"; and as regards quantity, he
exceeds by eating "too much." Secondly, the inordinate concupiscence is considered as to the consumption of food: either because one forestalls the proper time for eating, which is to eat "hastily," or one fails to observe the due manner of eating, by eating "greedily."

Then we could look to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives for this capital sin:
Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose or
also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience distinguished following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called "capital" because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia(#1866).

So while we should not assume that someone's obesity is the cause of moral fault, it is equally imprudent to assume that your obesity ISN'T caused by moral fault. Even if you are waif-like, you too might be a glutton based upon what St. Thomas mentions above on the topic. It is easy, especially with the existence of instant food, to live to eat, rather than eating to live. Further, it seems to me that gluttony, which is not the worse sin, by a long shot, can run counter to a spirit of mortification and proper stewardship.

This is the lowdown on me. I am 6'4" tall, large frame (due to drawing strongly on the Germano-Celtic-Welsh genetic heritage I received -- Go, Dead White European Male Hegemony!), and weigh probably in excess of 350 lbs. My family suffers vascular problems, and given that I have a large heart, physically speaking (looking at other posts recently, one can exclude me from the virtue of magnanimamy, but that's an issue for Spiritual Direction), I am probably running the risk of Congestive Heart Failure somewhere down the line. The life of a priest is pretty darn sedentary, so add another strike in the negative column. Something has to be done.

The plan for 2005 is to 100 lbs. lighter by this time next year, January 12, 2006. I intended to do this through spiritual combat against my vices, calorie reduction and diversification of food group, and circuit training at the university's gym. I am also going to keep track of various measurement, e.g. waist, circumferance of upper arm, to offset any distortion in actual weight lost figures that might arise from gains made in muscle mass.

To keep me honest and to provide feedback, thanks to Techmonkey Buddy Steph's assistance and participation, a new blog is being launched. Its name is The Blogger Healthy Living Challenge. I know that Fr. H is looking to tone up, Techmonkey Dave wants to get down, and other commentors are interested in getting on board. Email me at the address above and I will forward the request to Techmonkey Buddy Steph. Please include your goals, how you are going to lose the weight, and what spiritual mortifications, if any, you are going to incorporate into your program. My first official "weigh-in" post will go up on February 1. After that date, or around there, we will close invitations. If you are interested, get with us. I might feature pictures of progress, but rest assured, they won't be anything like "Priests Gone Wild." Probably, just a sideways and front on shot for comparison's sake. An anticipated benefit of this is it will give me an excuse to wear my cassock more after my size 54 pants stop fitting properly.

With all this said, however, I affirm for everyone who reads this that I believe firmly that my life and its terminus are in the hands of God. When He determines that my life is done, it's done. But, since God also created me to be a loving co-operator in the plan of Salvation He is working out with and through me, I know to remain this heavy is to play Russian Roulette with the gifts of life, grace, and vocation, He in His mercy has bestowed on me. To acclerate, potentially, my death is disrespectful of God and disrepectful to the people of the Archdiocese that I serve and will serve in the future.

Please pray for me and for everyone else who participates in this spiritual challenge.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Why do things like this happen?
I was walking through the mall trying to do some Christmas shopping (yes, I am still doing Christmas shopping since I didn't have time to buy items for my family before Christmas and I am far, far away from much selection in the shopping scene) and I caught a glimpse of a t-shirt on a girl who was passing in the opposite direction. It read: "Pimpin' ain't easy."

Why is such a thing even manufactured? Why does anyone buy such nonsense? At what point did this person feel (obviously) totally comfortable wearing such garbage in public? I'm really glad I don't know the person because if I did, I would have to ask her where she got such a shirt, and I have a feeling I would learn it was a gift from a family member!
Bible Study Beginnings

I would have titled this post "Bible Study Genesis," but that's a bit too precious.

I would appreciate your prayers for the beginning of two Bible Studies that will be kicking off this week, assuming the ice doesn't return. At Sacred Heart, the parish will do the Great Adventure series available from St. Joseph Communications. Recently, Jeff Cavins, who created the program, moved the program to Ascension Press, probably to increase the number of associated products, e.g. maps, that could be published in conjunction. While it is more elaborate, a more elaborate price accompanies, hence I'm not using it. Right now, there are 13 signed up. This is the second time to run this program at Sacred Heart (my personal third time through it), and I am anxious to see what the reaction will be.

At St. Cornelius, they are being subjected to a program of our own creation. Allow me to explain. This group has already done the Great Adventure and then I took them through the entire New Testament calling it "Continuing the Adventure." After that, I decided to throw the material decision to the participants. I had a bad experience once with this, but because they all now had a better foothold in the Bible, it seemed a good idea. I prepared a ballot for each participant. It looked something like this:

Question 1: Which part of the Bible would you like to study? (Choose Only ONE)
Old Testament New Testament

Question 2: Would you like to study just one book or a selection of books? (Choose Only ONE)
Just One Book A Selection of Books

Question 3: Which selection of Books would like to study?
(Choose Only ONE from the group you selected in Question 1)

Old Testament Choices
Pentateuch [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]
Historical Books, Part 1 [Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings]
Historical Books, Part 2 [I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, I and II Maccabees]
Wisdom [Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus]
The Major Prophets [Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel]
The Minor Prophets [Baruch, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi]

New Testament Choices
The Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles]
Letters of St. Paul [Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon]
The Catholic Letters [Hebrews, James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III John, Jude]

Question 4: Which book would you like to study?
(Choose any THREE from the List on the Back of the Ballot from the group selected in Question One)

The vote came back that they wanted to cover the Historical Books, Part Two. While Fr. H gave me a hard time for leaving it up to the participants, mainly because he heard my whining about how it is not helpful for planning when people say, "Oh, we don't care, Father. Do whatever you want," I like the strategy because it allows me to stretch myself and study in detail a group of books I haven't looked closely at. There are 5 taking part.

I will keep you posted on what the outcomes are, if any notable ones.
It's Finally Happened

No, I am not going slightly mad. I received one of those bogus emails concerning fortunes squirreled away in foreign countries that they WOULD LOVE TO GIVE ME if I would just give them my vital info. What makes this experience new is the fact that the blog is responsible for my receiving it. Yes, you got it, folks, the email's subject was (I am not kidding) "Urgent Reply Please, Ragemonkey."

I felt, for a moment, like a real-world Obi Wan Kenobe being summoned to save a money-flush Leia... until I remembered that it is an immoral scam. I don't launder my own clothes much less someone else's money.
Yet Another Glimpse Upon the Shadowy World that Lurks Behind My Tortoise Shell Specs

Recalling that encounter I recently had with a parishioner brought to mind another encounter which I could use some insight into. This is one of those things where not only you are so embarassed for the person but also frustrated by the response of the person that it steals any meaningful interaction from you.

Here's the scenario. I was teaching my regular Catechism class at one of my three parishes that I serve as pastor for. I can't recall what exactly it was that the class was discussing this day when one of the people in the class drew a connection to some other aspect of the Church's teaching not on the docket. I commended this response (as I do when anyone shows profound and correct insight because, to my mind, that is God acting clearly in the present moment), saying some like, "You see. Once you master the basics of the Church's teaching, figuring out the other aspects of the Faith is really simple." A different person, in sotto voce, said, (again paraphrasing), "Well, it is not that easy for everyone, Father."

The person in question does struggle in the bible studies and classes I offer. Many times, I cannot even figure out what the person is actually asking or will ask about something that is completely not on topic. Anyone who has attended a class with this person knows that they really struggle, and I often wonder how much is really getting through. I talked to another priest about my concerns and described using the analogy of a parrot. The person parrots the right response but doesn't understand what they are saying.

At that moment, I really didn't say anything, mumbled something, and quickly moved on. After a little reflection, I thought of a response which I think goes to the core of the matter.

[Alternative Scenario]
They: "Well, it is not that easy for everyone, Father."
Me: "Okay, everyone, let's all stop our discussion and pity Person X. Isn't it so terrible that Person X is so dumb? Isn't God mean because He made Person X so ignorant?"

The hostility present in that comment speaks to the level of frustration I feel when interacting with this person. On the other hand, you can't tell someone in a parish that they are not welcome to attend a class merely because they are not as quick as everyone else. After all, that's what the classes are for, eliminating ignorance and building knowledge and wisdom in the Lord. So, clearly, this is a moment of necessary conversion -- although from what specific fault, I am still in the dark.

The person's comment strikes me, upon reflection, as basically an excuse. The comment implies that somehow Person X should not be expected to "measure up" because of some kind of deficiency, instead of aiming as high as one's capacity allows. Before you flood the comments box with hostile comments, I recognize that it is a judgment, but it is a necessary judgment if I am to figure out how to respond appropriately. Given the lack of guile this person seems to possess, I am not sure that this comment of theirs is as deliberately manipulative as my internal indicators sense.

How would you respond both in the moment and maybe in another context?
A Very U.K. Way to Start the Day

This morning, when I finally roused myself from the stupor of sleep, I headed downstairs to whip something to eat and drink before celebrating the Sacred Liturgy.

On the stove I cooked up some Scottish Oatmeal that I dressed up with some chopped figs. The resulting porriage was creamy and lightly sweetened by the dried fruit. Then in my electric kettle, I worked up a pot of Star of India, a tea blend that I picked up at a loose leaf tea shop (or should it be, "shoppe") in Wichita yesterday. It isn't as aromatic or complex, in my opinion, as my usual standard, Earl Grey served hot with a touch of honey, but tasty and satisfying nonetheless.

To think that one can eat reasonably's a magical world out there.

Monday, January 10, 2005

In Tribute to Our 100,000th Visitor
Dear readers, in just less than a year -- actually, just less than 11 months -- Catholic Ragemonkey has tipped the scales at more than 100,000 visitors! This is a major milestone for the blog, and one that requires our thanks to the many readers who have made this day possible. It was February 17, 2004, that Fr. Tharp first generated this blog. Only days later, from the fullness of Fr. Tharp's sharing, the second blogger (yours truly) was begotten. And then, some nine months later, when the blog had gestated, a third blogger (Fr. J.C.) issued forth from the mutual snarking of the first and second persons of the blog. Oh, how sublime a mystery -- 100,000 visitors to CRM! In tribute to our 100,000th visitor and in celebration of this event, the three bloggers would like to dedicate this parody of "Prima Donna" from Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical rendition of The Phantom of the Opera.

"Prima Poster"
[All three priest bloggers in chorus]
Prima poster,
first posting of the day!
Our devotees
are on their keys
to link to us!

[Fr. H]
Can we retreat
when they're reading
our blog?

[Fr. T]
Think of how they all
adore us!

[All three]
Prima poster,
we've reached 100K!

[Fr. T]
Think of the news...

[Fr. J.C.]
And of the queues
round the blogdom!

[All three]
Can we deny them the wisdom
they seek?
Be prima poster once more!
Since no one else seemed to notice...

Last night after Spiritual Direction, which was remarkably productive in that it generated a concrete plan of a sort, I was browsing the old Wichita Eagle newspapers that were stacked near the couch and half-listening to the T.V. Since there was no remote control in sight, I decided to watch what came on, and what came on was the People's Choice Awards. For those not in the know, the PCAs (they don't have a catchy name that I know of) are an award that are given based on the votes of people in general, as opposed to the other awards which are awarded effectively by their peers in the performing art in question. The categories ranged from the sublime to the silly, but the last award caught my ear. The last award to be given was for Best Movie Drama, and one of the contenders was "The Passion of The Christ." To my mild surprise, it actually won. Then, as is my habit, I started thinking about what, if anything, this meant.

That's where this gets fun. I ask you, faithful readers, what does this signal? Anything? Nothing? Is the award, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"? Here is your chance to vent some spleen, but the usual rules apply. Be brief, be intelligent, critique other points of view without vituperation. That is best left to experts like yours truly.
Bambi is still alive
Well, the deer were playing hide-and-go-seek this year at my class reunion. I only saw one deer in three days of hunting and I didn't take the shot (it wasn't a buck and it didn't look any bigger than the deer I shot last year). I will be posting a few photos, perhaps sometime this weekend.

In the meantime, we are rapidly approaching a major landmark for our blog -- our 100,000 visitor! We are currently working on a fitting tribute to our loyal readers and friends who have recommended CRM to other people.
Quality of Life Improvement

Do you want to improve the quality of life while you are in the car? Buy a satellite radio. I live out in outer Azerbajian and therefore, radio reception is limited to catching Rev. Billy's Bible Hour and Top Ten Signs of the Rapture Show. This thing is simply outstanding. I have had it since Christmas and have become more enchanted each day. Here are some of the reasons.

1.) The programming is very diverse and because they are not bound to fitting in commericials they can do unusual and longer format things. For example, on the "On Broadway" channel, the DJ was featuring music from shows that were closing that week. Then he went on to play an excerpt from Sunset Boulevard that featured no singing.

2.) Crystal clear reception everywhere I go. I essentially have to block the antenna from a view of the sky if I want to lose contact.

3.) I can use my model both in the house or in the car.

4.) The price is reasonable only $10.00 a month for XM.

So, take it from me. This satellite radio thing is no fad; it is here to stay.
A View to the Perverse Side of My Personality

What follows is the cavernous, unconverted side of one Ragemonkey, Alpha though he be. It simply reflects the things that roll around behind my eyes.

This Sunday past, one of the parishes held their monthly parish potluck. It is a sweet custom and I like to encourage the parishioners to build up contacts and the like whenever they can. I had just finished my dinner and preparing to hop on the road to go to Wichita for Spiritual Direction when a woman, out of the literal blue of the tablecloth, asked me the following question: "Is there any reason why you don't mentions people's intentions at Mass?"

At this particular parish there is a long yellow pad on which people can place prayer intentions from week to week. Largely, they are repeats. Also, they tend to be unstated what the problem or issue might be. So, when one looks over the list, you see names but have no clue why they need to be prayered for: death, disease, distress, etc. Many times, then, I don't mention them because I don't know where to fit them in. Imagine if you wrote down your son's name because he was looking for a job and I listed him among the dead. You see my problem. It is laudable, and recommended by the way by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, that the general intercessions reflect the needs of the community, but naming individual needs of specific parishioners is stretching. I suspect that the recommendation applies more to mentioning local events, like harvest in a farming community or finding employment when a large company/factory closes, namely those things that affect the whole community.

Not that I want people to go into exscrutiating detail either. The prayer list is not a bulletin board for people to "air out" their laundry. It would suffice to have them write in a parathensis the need in question, e.g. (cancer).

I looked up at her and said, "No reason; I just don't always remember." This didn't satisfy her and she added, "Well, it is an awfully long list and lots of people have special needs." I simply chose not to follow this up. Thinking back on what I had seen on the list, there were two intentions written under Sunday's date -- I suspect that both intentions were hers. The real comment is, assumedly, "you didn't pray for those things because you don't like me." The person in question has demonstrated to me and to others an excessive sensitivity toward what people think of her.

Here is where the perversity leapt up. After I got out to the car and was hooking up my satellite radio, in preparation for my trip, I thought of something I could of said and calculated the reaction it would have garnered. In my mind, this was the revised encounter.

Her: "Is there any reason why you don't mentions people's intentions at Mass?"
Me: "Yes, because I hate your guts, and I hope that God never hears or responds to any of your needs ever!"
Her: (brain runs in chunky rivulet from left ear due to internal meltdown.)
I mentioned that I might start posting the "Liturgical Footnotes" columns which I have been writing for our parish bulletin. A couple CRM readers said that they would be interested in reading them, so here is the first one. Please keep in mind that these are address to a particular parish community; while certainly trying to be faithful to the rubrics, some choices have been made to fit the logistics of this church. Also, as a parochial vicar, I must support the decisions of the pastor. I am not saying that my pastor is wrong in his choices, because he truly tries to implement what the Church says we should do, however I might have chosen differently if it was up to me (and I could, in my inexperience, be just as easily wrong). Now, I am talking about small matters which have no effect on the validity of the Mass, e.g., where to have the Reader and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion sit during Mass. Also, by way of introduction, my Bishop decided that the Diocese would implement the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition (GIRM) on the First Sunday of Advent, 2004. Prior to this we talked about this at all of our Masses to prepare the people for "the changes." In truth the "changes" were very minor. The bigger emphasis from the diocese to us clergy was first, to stop "experimenting" with the liturgy and "do the red, say the black." Secondly, to take this opportunity to instruct the people about the liturgy. So here is "Liturgical Footnote #1":

OK, it did not work. I consulted with Asst. Tech-Monkey Steph and she said the reason I cannot "copy and paste" from MS Word to Blogger is because Blogger does not like Mac (once again the deep seed bigotry against Macs, which is nearly as deep a bias as anti-Catholicism, rears its ugly head). I will be consulting with the two Tech-Monkeys as to how to resolve this technical difficulty. Maybe I can just send the Word file to one of the Tech-Monkeys, who use (Protestant) Windows (instead of Catholic Macs) and they can post them for me. Be patient.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Fr. Tharp's comment about looking like an overweight Wolverine put a grin on my face; remember, I lived next door to him for a year in the seminary. But it also made me grin given my computer.

Thanks to my webcam, and the technical genius of Asst. Tech-Monkey Steph (who I think should be promoted to C0-Tech-Monkey, IMHO), you now have a picture of me on the CRM blog. If you are wondering what's on the top of my head, that got cut off, it is a bald spot and the remnants of red hair.
Standards of Beauty

Many people think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is not exactly true. Studies into human cognition seem to suggest that there are things the brain is hard-wired to look for, such as symmetry in features.

For me, there is a standard by which I know it is time for my haircut. When you roll out of bed, and the person staring at you could pass for a member of the '80s New Wave Band, A Flock of Seagulls or as a very overweight Wolverine from the X-men, it is time for a haircut.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

One of my parishioners told me that they were surfing the Net the other day and stumbled across Catholic Rage Monkey, but they said that the page they got to was last updated in April, so I wanted to see if we are still on the air, web, whatever. I am glad that we are.

Things have been pretty busy here so I know that I have not had a change to wish all of our readers a Happy New Year. So far the new year here in NJ has been wet -- it has been raining I think since the first. While it is tempting to say, "Well, at least it is not snow," since this is the cold, nearly sleet rain which chills you right to you soul, I think I would rather have snow. It would be prettier. The weatherman we should see the sun tomorrow.

The doctors were right about "thyroid hormone starvation" being rather miserable. I am always tired, and my joints hurt. I will admit that I have been feeling a bit irritable, but I have mostly kept it to myself and a few close friends. To my parishioners I have been pretty cheerful; for some reason I find it easier to offer all the fatigue and aches up to the Lord in the midst of my parishioners -- maybe because their presence reminds me that in being configured to Christ in His Headship at my priestly ordination, I was ordained both Priest and Victim. All the little aches (OK, sometimes they are big aches) I try to offer for the People of God whom I am serving. In any case, hopefully I will start feeling better soon. My doctor wants to try to start the radioactive iodine treatment next week, if we can get it scheduled, so that the following week I can start the synthetic thyroid hormone and start feeling more myself.

Fr. Hamilton's photos of his church inspired me to put some pictures of St. James on this blog. Right now we are having the church repainted so it will have to wait until February. We are having daily Mass in our High School chapel, which is really quite nice. Some of the HS chapels I have seen has been models of shag carpeting, wacko "feel good" art & design nightmares. Not Alicia's Chapel (named after one of our students who was tragically killed) -- it has beautiful stations of the Cross, while the stain glass is of a modern type it does what stain glass is suppose to do, teach some aspect of the Faith (in this case the works of Mercy). I'll get some pictures of the chapel too. I'll just need one of the tech-monkey's assistance for publishing them.

I hope to contribute a bit more to this site in this coming year. If my co-Bloggers think it is a good idea maybe I will post a weekly column I am writing in our bulletin explaining the different parts of the Mass. God's blessings on all.

Monday, January 03, 2005

More High-Jinks in the Classroom -- This is a photo of friend of mine who was in the seminary at the same time I was. Sadly, a presider's chair was not in his future. However, it seems that he didn't get his pechant for them out of his system. Looking good, Harold ...
Posted by Hello
You are not going to believe this...

One of my great parishioners is married to a great guy from the Lutheran Church in town. He attends our Catechism class with his wife and it is a really cordial arrangement.

Well, one Sunday after discussing why the Catholic Church practices closed communion, he brought me a copy of the bulletin from his congregation. You can guess how shocked I was to see the following announcement:

In Christian Love and as intended by Christ and practiced by the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic church throughout her history, "Closed Communion" is observed in this Congregation. In accordance with the word of God (Acts 2:42; I Corinthians 10:17; I Corinthians 11:27-30; Romans 16:17) the Lord's supper is distributed only to those who:
(a) Have been baptized
(b) Have been instructed in the truth of Holy Scripture and
the Lutheran Confessions and now confess these doctrines.
(c) Believe Christ's real body and real blood are truly present,
distributed, and orally received for the forgiveness of sins, life, and
(d) Who sincerely repent of all their sins, and desire to receive God's forgiveness in this holy meal.

Guests are asked to affirm these facts with our Pastor (I Corinthians 4:1) or an Elder prior to receiving the sacrament. If you are looking for a church home and would like to know more about the Christian Faith please contact our Pastor about our membership classes.

A few days after reading this, I bumped into the Lutheran pastor at the local Wal-Mart. I stopped and said to him, "I saw what you wrote in your bulletin concerning Holy Communion and I wanted to commend you for that. Thank you for acting like Holy Eucharist matters and is more than a bare symbol. Thank you on behalf of the Catholic Church." The pastor looked like I could have knocked him down with a feather.

Contrary to what some of you might be thinking, this is a positive step for the Lutheran community, if this guy is emblematic of the up and coming pastorate. Granted the statement has some interesting weak point, e.g. what does he understand "apostolic" to mean, it still shows necessary growth toward unity.

So, what's next to do? I plan to have him and his lovely wife over for dinner. After that, I will have to play by ear. Personally, I have this fantasy where I convert him and his entire congregation to the Catholic Faith. Then I could call the bishop and say, "Would you mind coming up here and assisting me with the Easter Vigil. Why? Well, I am going to be initiating the ENTIRE Lutheran congregation in Alva into the Church and without the assistance of someone else to confirm, I am going to be here all night!"

What do you guys think? What hurdles do you anticipate he will have to overcome? And remember him and his congregation in your prayers.
Identifying the Moment When One Becomes a Grown-Up

Lots of folks have lots of standards by which they measure maturity. Mine's really simple.

If you receive a catalogue of office supplies, and you have to fight back the urge to curl up with it like it were War and Peace, or worse a copy of the Toys R Us Christmas Toy Book, then you officially are a grown-up.

I should know. I did the exact thing when the 2005 Big Book of Business Supplies arrived.
For Your Listening Pleasure

I mentioned in an earlier post how the blog got a nod from the folks at Relevant Radio. If you check the sidebar under Kickin' Lay Apostolates, you will find a link for them and for Ave Maria Radio.
What's Your Papa?

There is a certain animus that these sorts of articles generate in me. First, they miss the point of the papal "election" process. The average religion reporter hears the word "election" and snaps into American politic-speak. Notice that the language in the article gravitates to liberal and conservative. There is no such meaningful thing as a liberal Catholic or a conservative Catholic. However, the following creatures do exist: orthodox vs. heterodox Catholic, pious vs. impious Catholic, faithful vs. unfaithful Catholic. The language of conservative and liberal is so offensive to religious conversation because it misses the point entirely because of two factors. One, conservative and liberal are completely subjective. It depends upon where you stand on the chart. Two, because of its subjectivity, it reduces questions of religious truth to the standard of mere opinion. The election process actually allows for the Holy Spirit to work as was demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles and the election of Mathias to succeed Judas (Acts 1).

Second, the "shadow government" of the Church line also interfers with clear understanding. Because of an unstated and assumed bias against the Supernatural origins of the Church, the reporter is forced to assume that political machinations are at work and that they are the sole force driving the action. This is not to say that in the Church's history there haven't been times when, scandalously, the Papacy and other offices have gone to the highest bidder. But why is the selling of Church offices a scandal? It is a scandal because we understand, implicitly, that it is the Holy Spirit, working with, through, and by human agency to appoint the men to the office who should have it. I would go so far as to suggest that, in the mysterious ways of the Spirit of God, that the Bad Popes and lackluster Bishops of history were permitted to afflict the Church so that the scene might be set for great good things to be made manifest. It's only a supposition of mine; I certainly can say that I don't have a direct line to the Man upstairs.

Third, the papacy is not a job; its purpose is not merely functional. Its purpose is to shepherd and to make present the chief shepherd of the flock. Because of a lack of comprehension and respect for the Church's beliefs, the papacy is made equivalent to the CEO of large corporation.

In short, reading discerningly when one reads the secular press is a sine qua non of effective Catholic evangelization in the new millennium.

Credits to Drudge Report for the article.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Looking Ahead, Indeed.

Just when one believes that his little corner of the internet is poorly observed, an email comes over the transomere to dispel that illusion. A few days ago, I received this message:

Recently, on Relevant Radio's "Morning Aire", the virtues of your site and apostolate were extolled. Great work!
A quote from a past Pope was read, apparently posted on your website. unfortunately I can't locate it. I do recall it was a very assertive statement about Christians being made in the image of God, being proud of that fact and fleeing from evil...sound familiar? I hope you might be aware of the quote and could perhaps pass it on to me.
Thanks and may God continue to Bless our endeavors!

For those not in the know, Relevant Radio is yet another burgdeoning Catholic radio apostolate taking root mainly in the Upper Midwest. It is akin to Ave Maria Radio which broadcasts both on the internet and in the Michigan area. You should check both out. Also, if anyone can find the archived broadcast which mentions this blog, I would be grateful.

But faithful readers, what does this mean for the future? What is ahead, indeed? Given that I have a face made for radio, could a lucrative contract be waiting in the wings? Probably not.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Looking ahead
Unfortunately, I can't simply keep my thoughts in the Christmas Season because a pastor must plan ahead for the next thing to come. I am already thinking ahead to Ash Wednesday and I wonder if readers can offer me some help (this may be a request about which only a priest may have experience, but you never know). Instead of buying little vials of ashes (as you can do from Church supply stores), I thought of putting out baskets in the back of church for people to deposit last year's blessed palms. Then we can burn them ourselves and provide both our own ashes and a way for people to properly dispose of their sacramentals. I think I can handle the setting them on fire part (although, what to burn them in?), but is there any trick to making the ashes? In the past I have heard priests mention the addition of something to make the ashes darker (something like a bit of charcoal). Does anyone have any ideas to share? Please comment and let me know.
Invitations to visit
A few days ago I received a nice invite via e-mail to a New Year's Eve party in my hometown. I had to turn it down because I was not going to be in the city at that time, my parish being simply too far away to warrant all the driving. For some reason, that invite got me thinking about other invitations I have received in the past. In particular, I recalled one odd exchange I had regarding an invite to come to a home for dinner. The invitation came at a time when I was swamped with work and did not have time to be away from the office -- I was trying to put too many things together in a short amount of time, plus do laundry and clean up things around the house. The invite also came from someone to whose home I had been on numerous occasions. When I said I couldn't come over because I was too busy, the person pressed even harder, suggesting that I just pop over and come right back and get to work. I held my ground, knowing myself well-enough to realize that were I to do so, I would either (1) stay too long at the home, or (2) never get back in the flow of work. Either way I wouldn't accomplish everything I needed to accomplish in the short time available. To my surprise the person pressed even harder, saying, "You just don't want to come over to my house."

At this point my inner monologue was saying, "I can't believe this person is doing this. I am swamped with work and I have little time and now this person, whose home I have visited numerous times, is claiming that I simply don't want to come over to the house. I don't need this guilt trip and I am about to end this conversation with an accompanying end to the friendship as well!" A cooler head kept these thoughts in the realm of monologue, thanks be to God.

But a thought came to me later, a response I could use when I encounter such bizarre situations in the future. I think it is pretty good. If I ever encounter this again, I think I will say to the person, "Um, excuse me. Help me out here, because I am a little confused. Is this an invitation or an abduction?"