Monday, February 28, 2005

Tonight's Pastoral Extravaganza
You may recall that my parish's Advent Penance Rite had to be canceled due to inclement weather. Tonight was our Lenten Penance Rite and weather permitted! So, here's a summary for all CRM readers of tonight's pastoral extravaganza: 9 priests hearing confessions and almost 300 people receiving this Sacrament (including around 80 First Confessions for the kids)! Christ has renewed so many in this parish by reinstating their baptismal dignity!
Hi devoted CRM readers. In case you did not notice, I been away for awhile. I actually tried to post a piece about 10 days ago, but Blogger continues to displays bouts of discrimination against Mac users, and no matter what I did, it would not publish my meanderings from the month of February.

I went away for a week of R&R with a priest friend of mine from the Diocese of Allentown. My parents bought a time-share last year and had a bonus week to use up by March, and they graciously gave it to their loving son. I cashed it in for a week in Williamsburg, VA. I tried to go someplace warmer, but they were all booked. The main goal was just to get away from the ringing phones. A time-share is basically an apartment you rent for a week or so; this one was a nice two bedroom one. Actually they apparently had a lot of activities at this place, but we opted to to rest, did a lot of reading, and explored some of our nation's history.

First let me say, that based on the "off-season" ticket price to get a badge for Colonial Williamsburg, history is not cheap. Wow! it was nearly $30/person for a 1-day pass. We opted to just walk around the "town". What was truly a bargain was the combo ticket for the Jamestown Visitors' Center and Yorktown Victory Center. I highly recommend spending time at both locations. It was $17 for the combo, and you did not have to do both on the same day. In fact, we were not sure if we wanted to do both and they told us to get the pass for just the one (Jamestown) for $11.75, hold on to our receipt, and if we went to Yorktown just show it and ask for the upgrade. Both sites had very nicely organized galleries for looking at artifacts from the respective sites, nice information, a decently done short film -- all before you got to the main attraction. At Jamestown first you go through a reconstructed Powhatan Native American village. There "interpreters" (historical actors) did a fine job explaining some of the basics of Powhatan life, you could even ground corn if you wanted (it was too early to work the fields). Then we went to the replicas of the three ships which brought the settlers in 1607. You could pretty much go all over the ships, and an the interpreters were exceedingly knowledgeable and friendly. Finally we went to the reconstruction of the actually fort; again you could go all over, handle different objects, watch tradesmen work. The actually site of the fort was thought to have sunk into the James River, but has been recently discovered and is about a mile from the reconstructed one. We spent nearly 4 hours there. Yorktown was the same basic format; this time it was a troop camp and a colonial farm.

Today I spent the day finding my desk under a pile of mail, and addressing issues that had been awaiting my return. As we are expecting a snowstorm, and the cook was off, I cooked dinner for the four of us -- hopefully there will still be four of us in the morning. The one thing that nearly brought a tear to my eye from my vacation (besides a visit to the "new" St. Bede's parish in Williamsburg which epitomizes all that is HORRIBLE in modern "worship space" design, but that is another blog piece, to correspond with a marvelously designed new church which my friend is stationed at) was that as we were driving back a stone was kicked up and cracked the windshield of my NEW car (only 4 weeks old today). It is good to be back.
Cognitive dissonance
Sometimes you come across two things which, standing on their own, wouldn't get much notice, but when put together create some cognitive dissonance. Such was the case when I opened the mail a couple of days ago. I read the opening line of one letter:

"The Easter holiday brings with it a time to reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and the tremendous impact that has had on our lives." The use of "holiday" aside, why the dissonance?

Because of the letterhead. Twentieth Century Fox, Beverly Hills, California. I think Fr. Tharp got this promotional letter too.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Jacob's well: Homily Third Sunday of Lent
I don't usually make a post regarding my homilies, simply because I normally don't have a script and I don't want to take the time to type one out. Today, since the gospel was very long, I had some simple thoughts and so I feel that I can manage to share them without getting bogged down in typing. Actually, I will post the ideas and the story of my homily, rather than the homily as it was given.

I chose to focus my thoughts on the rather simple statement at the beginning of the gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent, a statement that set the scene: "Jacob's well was there." This simple sentence, so easy to pass by, struck me because of what I read a few years ago while doing homily preparation as I was reading a scriptural commentary. The commentary mentioned that if John (the gospel's author) was trying to consistently use "Jacob" imagery in this selection from the fourth chapter of his gospel, we can note that the well was a place of courtship in the story of Jacob's life. To understand this you have to go back to the Book of Genesis 29:1-12. It was at a well where Jacob first laid eyes upon Rachel and fell in love with her, rolling back a large stone to release water to relieve the thirst of the flock that Rachel was tending. Jacob kissed Rachel there and sought to marry her.

The well as a place of courtship really struck me. Now, PLEASE, in my application of this notion from Jacob's story to the gospel of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman, I am NOT trying to say that Jesus was courting her in a way that relates to marriage. I'm not writing the Da Vinci Code here! Rather, I think we can make an application that the well is the place where Jesus courts the soul and seeks to give it to drink of his abundance. Jesus (who really is the rock that gushes forth water and, indeed, the very well itself) at the well is an image for us of the love of God in the flesh who courts our souls.

I think most of us have some idea of what it is like to fall in love and to court someone. I think by examining some of what we do when we fall in love and court someone, we can see how we ought to respond to the love of Jesus who courts us. With no intention of giving scandal, I am going to share some sense of love and courtship from my own experience, recognizing that we often don't think of our priests as human, as persons who fall in love. [Note: Let me say in this forum, that the examples I am going to give from my own experience describe, at best, "puppy love" and may seem rather juvenile to many readers. I realize that I could have made all sorts of other examples, more mature examples, of things we do when in love and when courting someone, but the key to my homily examples was that it was my own experience. Since I entered seminary at 19 years of age, I don't have many "more mature" examples, other than the simple ones I gave. In other words, I can only share from my experience and since I wasn't dating in more mature years, I don't have anything to offer from personal experience other than "puppy love" examples. I hope this little note makes sense.]

1. When we fall in love and court someone, we desire to get information about the "other". We ask questions. We see what our friends know about the other person. We learn about the other. I can recall asking, "What are her likes and dislikes?" "Does she like U2?" "Does she like the same kinds of things I like?" We do this quite easily with natural love. What about applying this to our spiritual lives and the love with which we should respond to Jesus who courts us and our faith? Do we seek to get information and to learn about Christ through the Sacred Scriptures? Do we study our faith? Do good books about our faith gather dust at home or do we even own good books that help us learn about the faith? Is our faith taught in the home? I am amazed by the number of misunderstandings I encounter about our faith, even among "life-long" Catholics! If Jesus loves and courts us, shouldn't we respond in love, seeking to know him better, seeking information about him, seeking to know his likes and dislikes?

2. When we fall in love and court someone, we clean ourselves up, we pay attention to hygiene, to how we dress, we use cologne. It is rather embarrassing, but I can remember in high school trying to impress the girls by how I dressed. I would think about what I should wear and, well, if it is this shirt, then the sleeves have to be rolled up, and, oh yeah, the shirt has to be untucked -- that will really attract the girls. I can also remember driving in my car, seeing that I was about to pass a young lady in the other lane ... Suddenly, I was sitting up more straight, and making sure my sunglasses looked just right! We do this quite easily with natural love. What about applying this to our spiritual lives and the love with which we should respond to Jesus who courts us and our faith? Do we take care of what we might call our "spiritual hygiene," seeking to keep our baptismal garment, our baptismal dignity, unstained? We put on cologne to impress others. What about putting on the odor of sanctity as a response to Jesus' love? Recognizing that each and every one of us struggles with temptation and sin, do we get ourselves to confession, to have freedom from sin and to have our baptismal dignity restored?

3. When we fall in love and court someone, we try to be where the other is, near, close by, somewhere where we might catch a glimpse of the other or be seen by the other. "Hey, is she going to be at the party Friday night?" Maybe I wasn't planning on going before, but I will now. And why not go to the mall, and hang out near the pizza stand, because she just might walk out of the movie theatre any second. We do this quite easily with natural love. What about applying this to our spiritual lives and the love with which we should respond to Jesus who courts us and our faith? Do we seek to be where Jesus is, to be near to him, to catch a glimpse of him? What about Sunday Mass? Do we gather where Jesus is present and where his people gather? Do we recognize that we encounter Jesus each and every time we come to Mass and so, we should be here at least every Sunday, not just once in a while, not just regularly (meaning once or twice each month) but each and every Sunday? Do we make visits to the church for adoration? The Lord's Real Presence is here all day and sadly very few people are present. What about Stations of the Cross? Do we come to catch a glimpse of Jesus as he passes by on his way to Calvary, his way to our salvation?

4. When we fall in love and court someone, we talk to the other. We pass notes or send e-mails. We have friends deliver messages to the one we love. We do this quite easily with natural love. What about applying this to our spiritual lives and the love with which we should respond to Jesus who courts us and our faith? Do we recognize prayer as our talking with Jesus, as our communication with the one who loves us and who calls us to respond to him in love? Do we spend time communicating with the Lord, in a sense sending him notes? Do we ask saints and friends to pray for us, to send messages to the Lord on our behalf? Prayer is our privileged communication with Jesus. The catechism, using the imagery of today's gospel, gives a beautiful description of prayer: "The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2560).

The well is the place of Jesus' courting of the Samaritan woman's faith. Jesus courts our souls too, seeking our faith. In this season of repentance and conversion we should practice some of these natural responses to love in our relationship with the Lord who loves us, who thirsts for our loving response, and who comes to us as the Savior of the world!
An Open Note to the Priests of My Archdiocese

I certainly accept the fact you and I will not always agree on matters disputable or formulate in forms standard. But I would hope that you would have the nut clusters to say it to my face so that it could actually be...oh, I don't know...fraternal correction. Just don't do what this clue-tard has pulled.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

An Open Note to Lisa M.

The package arrived. The book is delightful as is the somewhat incomprehensible note from the Mark-ster. However, the howling truly erupted from both myself and Fr. H (he was on the phone when I opened it) when "the surprise inside" was revealed. Unfortunately, mine got lost but I have the surprises for Fr. H and Fr. G.

Thank you for your solicitude.
An open post to Michael:
This is a response to Michael who commented on Fr. Tharp's post regarding abortion as a sacrament of death. I began making this response in the comment box, but it became so long and it deals with such a fundamental difference between Catholics and some other Christians that I decided it might serve some purpose as its own post. You may need to go to the original post and read the comment to understand some of the context of this post. Here goes:

Michael: Yours is a rather bizarre response to the issue of Fr. Tharp's post (abortion). Whence comes the apparent anger? But to some of your points... in all charity, you don't understand what the Sacraments are and what the Catholic Church, founded by and having received her faith from Christ, actually believes about them. Sacraments are not a replacement of God's grace, they are the special, though not the only, vehicle through which He has chosen for his grace to be communicated to us. You wrote:

"I find it so amazing that we could be talking about invisible grace two thousand years after grace covered us all. To me grace is very evident and seen in the lives of all of us that are broken, love Him and have personal relationships with Him."

Notice the equivocation you made there. You assume that because grace is invisible (which it is) that Catholics mean it is not "evident". That is a wrong assumption. Something can be invisible in and of itself, but its presence can be quite evident. Sounds like a blossoming angel discussion. Grace is a spiritual reality, not made up of matter, and so as a thing in itself it is invisible. However, invisible does NOT mean, not real or not evident. In fact, your own words recognize what Catholics mean by speaking of invisible grace: We see grace operative through the things of this world. We recognize grace by its effects (like a ripple in water). You yourself made mention of this by stating that grace is evident in so many lives that are broken. Have you ever seen the wind as a thing in and of itself? But you see its effects in swaying trees, clothes on a clothes line, or a windsock at the airport. Can you describe what grace looks like on its own without recourse to its outward signs seen in creation and in lives of faith? I don't think so. Your own language is sacramental, so please don't cast stones at us who take Jesus on his word that he is present and active in ordinary things of creation which he raises to a special dignity (Sacraments).

Furthermore, when you confront Catholicism, you need to recognize a very crucial basic principle: You impose on us what appears to be a "Bible only" appeal to authority. Stating that "sacrament" isn't in the Word, leads me to this conclusion about you. The problem is that a Bible only authority is your belief system and not ours. You can't therefore use that on us to denigrate what we believe. Catholics have always believed that God's Word comes to us in two interrelated ways (as two sides of one coin): Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. These are guarded and interpreted by the authority Jesus left to his Church, what we call the magisterium. Therefore, your appeal to "sacrament" not being in the Word, by which I presume you must mean Bible, does not create any holes whatsoever in a Catholic belief system. Furthermore, many words and ideas are not in the Bible, but I bet you wouldn't hesitate to believe or understand that they are real. But the real issue, taking on the core of your argument, is this: Is the Bible the only source of authority? Does the absence of the word "sacrament" in the Bible (the Word) mean it cannot be true? Michael, show me where the Bible says of itself that it is the ONLY source of authority. Show me where the Bible claims that ONLY those things that appear within its pages are real and to be believed. Furthermore, doesn't Jesus himself state that there are many other things he has to tell his disciples? See John 16:12. And so, since the disciples aren't ready for these many other things, what does Jesus say? He promises to send the Spirit of truth who will guide them into all truth (cf. John 16:13). That would be an awfully strange statement from the Master (the Word in flesh) were there no other truth to be guided into. What would have happened had the disciples, once Jesus ascended into Heaven, adopted a Bible only claim for authority? It seems to me such a claim would have run directly into conflict with the promised Spirit of truth, the very Spirit of God! Furthermore, how would the disciples, the early Church, have even made such a claim since the Bible wasn't compiled and finally put together for many years afterward?

I am glad you have read our blog and I hope these thoughts are helpful to you and others. May all Christians have a more evident, visible unity in the one faith established by Jesus and guarded by so many apostles and disciples!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year A
Readings: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 94; Romans 5:1-8; John 4:5-42

(Please note that this will be most brief as the Gospel is reeeaaalllyyy long this Sunday. Also, this is only the gist; it still needs some work.)

An oft-repeated criticism of Christian faith goes this way. "You Christians don't care about what's happening around you. Because you hope for Heaven, you can put off the things of today." The image conveyed is that Christians exist like Little Orphan Annie -- The sun can come out tomorrow; we don't need it today. Nothing could be further from the truth and our encounter with the Samaritan woman demonstates this.

The encounter begins in confusion and ends with true clarity. That's what's behind the discussion about what to drink. In the ancient world, before pumping stations and purification, water came in two forms. You could get water from a cistern which was drinkable but usually brakish and stale. It was better to get water from a spring, a source of water that is always fresh. The euphamism for spring water is "living water." Hence, she's taking about fresh water; Jesus talks about water that remains always fresh. Because Christ leads her from confusion to see that which her heart has longed for. Jesus leads her though to healing from her sins and thus she is changed. The source of her shame, the multiple husbands issue, becomes the agency for proclaiming the Messiah to her neighbors. "Come see the one who told me everything I had ever done."

Thus transfiguration that we desire is already available: the life of faith and the sacraments of the Church. The life of faith opens the vista of not only one's own existence but also the foundations of reality. The last thing, the very last thing, this woman expected to happen today was stumbling upon her Savior. She encounters him, not in the unusual moment, but in the midst of everyday work. I am willing to bet that all of us want a more profound life of faith. The Samaritan woman shows us that Jesus is waiting, thirsting for our expression of our faith, and He is waiting beside your kitchen sink, your office desk, behind the steering wheel of your car. He is waiting for you to ask, to give you living water to nourish your daily living of the faith.

The life of the Sacraments also allow us to taste living water. Jesus directs her to see that true worship is not locked into a location. Real worship is in spirit and in truth. Each of the sacraments give us grace so that all the dimensions of our lives become consecrated to His purposes. Even if we are separated by time and space, the worship we offer is real because we live a spiritual life rooted in grace and the truth of our faith.

The Rising Sun of the Beatific Vision of Heaven will come out on some tomorrow. Through Faith and the Sacraments however, the finger shafts of dawn dance about the fringes of our horizon. So that we may finish this Lent well, through our penances, let us beg for the living water we need to live.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

They couldn't be more wrong if they tried.

I am referring to the headline that Drudge gave to this report: "Pope Silenced." Sorry to burst your bubble, Matt, but he speaks more eloquently now. The blood of the surgery theater cries out to heaven on our behalf. We should do the same. Offer tomorrow's penances for the sake of the Holy Father.
From Bad to Worse...

Folks, I hate to be the pessimist, but I think this is the final hour for our Holy Father. I cannot think of a better tribute to this man who has guided the Church these years than to say that without him, I would not be the priest I am today. While in the seminary, a Jesuit professor from Fordham, Fr. Joseph Koterski, came and lectured about the Holy Father. This was around the time of the release of Fides et Ratio. Because of that lecture, I spent the next year reading and reflecting on the encyclicals of John Paul II. His breadth of knowledge and profundity of insight changed me, I would hope for the better.

He has weathered many storms. The hour of our captain's passing is here. May God grant him peace and securite, true contrition, and a place in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
You're never fully dressed without...
...a smile! That is the song I sing in the local community theatre production of Annie. I am Bert Healy, the host of the Oxydent Hour of Smiles radio program in the beginning of Act II. It is a very small, but very manageable, role for a busy pastor. Apparently the local theatre usually hurts to find enough men to fill the roles, so they asked if I could pick up this part. The show opens in a week or so.

Two nights ago at rehearsal I had an interesting conversation with a woman and her teenage son. They attend the local Nazarene ecclesial community. We were chatting along when the woman made mention of Lent and what her son had given up. I paused the conversation and said, "Wait a minute, you all do Lent?" "Oh, yeah," she said, "and all the youth group has to give something up. We do the ashes and everything." I responded, "Wow, that is really interesting. You're just picking up all sorts of Catholic practices." She responded, "Yeah, I asked a few people at our church, isn't this [Lent and ashes] Catholic? But, we do it." Then the son and I proceeded to talk about what he had given up and the nature of what a lenten sacrifice is supposed to be (i.e., we forego a LAWFUL pleasure, not a vice).

I was really fascinated by this. It made me wonder if we aren't on the verge of seeing some Protestants (at least some mainline ones) become more and more Catholic until, who knows, maybe they re-join Mother Church. I pray so.
Your tax dollars at work...
Well, I had to renew my driver's license yesterday. Oklahoma has moved to a very new look for the license. The photos are now digital and scanned onto a credit card type card and your right and left index fingers are scanned and, I guess, put into some electronic bar code on the card itself. Anyway, the lady working at the local Tag Agency couldn't have seemed less interested with my presence and my prompt attention to my duty to have a valid license if she had tried. Even if she wanted to seem less interested, she wouldn't have been able to generate enough energy to pull it off.

She tapped on some photo device as she told me to look "here" for the photo, but she initiated the photo at the very same time as she gave this direction, with the result that I was in the process of looking up and blinking as the camera went off. Folks, my photo on the new license makes it appear as if I am trying to wake up from heavy sedation. It is ridiculous. I have to live with it until 2009. When I saw the photo, I said, "That's a pretty bad picture." I thought the lady might offer to take it again, since the whole thing is digital (it's not like any photo paper would be wasted). Instead, she said, "They all look bad," and she clicked on "process license" to begin the making of the new card.

And to top it all off, you don't even get to keep your old license anymore. You have to surrender it and they turn it into some Department of Public Safety office. That sort of hacks me off. We are basically paying a tax to have a license and then you don't even get to keep the taxed thing you paid for!
Pope readmitted to Rome hospital

Remember the Holy Father in your prayers and sacrifices today. I have been putting off writing a tribute to the Holy Father but I think I will have to start soon. I can't imagine that his body can take much more punishment.

Prayer for the Pope
V. Let us pray for John Paul, the Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him a long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and may the Lord not hand him over to the power of his enemies.

V. May your hand be upon your holy servant.
R. And upon your son whom you have anointed.

V. Let us pray.
O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in your mercy, upon your servant, John Paul, whom you have appointed to preside over your Church; and grant, we beseech you, that both by word and example, he may edify all those under his charge; so that, with the flock entrusted to him, he may arrive at length unto life everlasting.
R. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

That is so cool

I just got off the phone with a reporter from the Miami Herald. She came across the blog and wanted to do a story on it in connection with Lenten observances. She was a real charmer and it was a good chat. As soon as I have an online link I will post it here. Let's hope I didn't make too much of buffoon of myself.

P.S. Just to quell rumors, I did mention other people's blogs and did mention that Fr. H and Fr. G write here as well. So, you can close that comment, Fr. H.
Catholic Answers Weighs In

I received this via email from Harold in PA and from Catholic Answers in CA. Since I write from the midsection, I want to fill in the gap.

A woman is about to be murdered, and you probably already know her name--Terri Schiavo. Please help us rescue Terri from a horrible death by starvation! The moment her feeding tube is removed, Terri will begin a long, slow, painful death by starvation and dehydration.We need your help NOW to rescue Terri from her cruel executioners. They've already tried to kill her once before, and she fought to stay alive. But this may be the last chance Terri gets. Will you help save her life?

If you've heard about Terri only through the news media, you've probably been led to believe things like this: * Terri brain dead. * She is in a coma. * She's a vegetable. * Extraordinary means are being used to keep her alive. * She wants to die but her parents stubbornly won't let it happen. None of these things are true! Terri is NOT brain dead. She is NOT in a coma. She is NOT in a "persistent vegetative state." And she is not on ANY life-support system.

When her parents visit her, Terri laughs, she cries, she moves, and she makes child-like attempts at speech with her mother and father. Sometimes she will say "Mom" or "Dad" or "yeah" when they ask her a question. And when they kiss her hello or goodbye, she looks at them and "puckers up" her lips.She's able to sit in a chair, she loves to listen to her favorite music, and she recognizes her brother and sister when they come to visit.Board-certified neurologist Dr. Jacob Green of Jacksonville, Florida, who examined Terri, said unequivocally: "She is not in a vegetative state." When asked if it would be ethical to remove her feeding tube, he said, "I'd call it murder."Terri receives food and liquid through a feeding tube because she can't swallow. In other words, Terri depends on food and water to stay alive-just like everybody else! But her husband, Michael, wants to disconnect her only means of food so that she will slowly starve to death. Medical experts all agree that death by starvation and dehydration is perhaps the most painful, the most tortuous, and the most agonizing way to die.Yes, Terri's injury left her disabled. But there are tens of thousands of disabled people who depend on gastro feeding tubes every day, and they live otherwise normal lives. Terri can breathe for herself. She is not on a ventilator. Her vital organs are working fine, which means she is not hooked up to a machine. Furthermore, she is NOT dying or being "kept alive" by artificial means. She does not have a terminal disease, and she will be able to feel pain if she is starved to death.And that could start to happen in the next few days.

Time is running out for Terri. Her feeding tube could be removed THIS WEEK!!! There is one last court procedure that is being tried to save Terri's life, but if it fails her feeding tube could be removed Wednesday.If that happens then only thing that may save her might be action by Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Governor Bush has already fought to save Terri's life. The last time her feeding tube was removed he stepped in and snatched her back from the brink of death. The Florida legislature even passed a special law--"Terri's Law"--to give him the authority to keep her alive.But then the law was struck down by a judge, putting Terri's life on the line once again. If the courts continue their anti-life crusade against Terri and others like her, the only thing that may save her would be action by Governor Bush.

The attorneys who are fighting for Terri's life have a few more possible ways to prevent Terri's murder. But these are last-ditch efforts that may or may not work. The courts are decidedly on Michael's side--not Terri's.So that means we have to come to Terri's aid-especially through the amazing power of prayer and sacrifice--but also by sharing this story with everybody you know, and encouraging Governor Jeb Bush to do everything he can to rescue Terri once again.Here's what you can do . . . 1.) First, PRAY for Terri--harder than ever before! Not enough people are praying for Terri right now. And she needs our prayers now more than ever.2.) Second, FAST along with Terri if and when her feeding tube gets removed--and then offer up your sacrifices for her. 3.) Third, please ENCOURAGE Governor Bush to do everything he can to rescue Terri. Since time is of the essence, we recommend that you send him an e-mail by clicking this link: Or, if you prefer, you can call his office at the Florida State Capitol at (850) 488-4441. 4.) And finally, please FORWARD this e-mail to everyone on your e-mail list. The more people who know the true story about Terri Schiavo and how she is in imminent danger of being murdered, the greater our chances of achieving a victory in this life-or-death struggle between good and evil. It's hard to believe, but there are many hard-hearted people out there who believe that, due to Terri's condition, she is "better off dead." Words cannot describe the pain and anger such sentiments cause Terri's family. This is their daughter, their little girl. And even in her disabled condition, she still has the right to life and the right to be loved and cared for by her family.Terri doesn't have to die. If you'll carry out the steps above, we can win this battle and save Terri's life. Please do your part--immediately--because tomorrow may be too late.
The Sacrament of Death

Without being too inflammatory, our culture engages in sacramental thinking without knowing it. After all what is a sacrament? A sacrament is a visible sign instituted by Christ to give invisible grace. The problem for the sacraments of the world is that their institution is from Satan. In abortion, we see the garden of Eden replayed, where prideful man wants to re-write the rules of engagement. Sex is no longer about bonding and babies -- it's just recreation.

With that said, I also want to acknowledge that the second biggest lie involved in abortion, the first is that the baby in the womb is neither a baby or a person, is that of choice. After working with Rachel's Vineyard for the last several years, the stories you hear from women who have had abortions or those who facilitated them, center on the absence of choice. Usually, there is force or fear involved. This doesn't make it any better; it makes it worse. It points up clear the destructive nature of the act is not limited to what happens in the womb. It reaches spiny tentacles out to corrupt relationships, self-identity, and even the very purpose of our human nature.

May eternal light shine upon the woman who died. May the grace of almighty God remove this blight from our lands and from our hearts.
Silent Before the Shearer

In 1973, we had a critical hour for the life of the unborn. It seems, if I may speak so broadly, that we have reached a critical hour yet again in the life of the U.S. This time, we are asked to determine the purpose and value of the suffering and the weak in our society. Terry Schiavo's case has taken a new turn and possibly a turn to life. What I find distressing is the misunderstanding and superficial analysis of the media. For example, just to take one, you may add more in the comments box, that somehow this is a right to die case. Well, first, the only person who is able to tell us Terry's wishes in this case is her husband, and given her husband's behavior, I am not sure if he is reliable. Second, she's not dying; she simply needs assistance in taking in nutrients. Otherwise, the only thing "wrong" with Mrs. Schiavo is severe brain damage. So Terry is not receiving life support in the technical sense. She is simply being fed. What's so wrong about that? Certainly, if Terry reaches a point where she can't assimilate food anymore, then she would be dying, and the feeding tube becomes life support. Third,

What are we going to do about this? Well, most folks would say call your representative or Gov. Bush or those public officials in Florida. The only problem is that this smacks of activism and not Gospel activity. Let's take this instead as a first step. This week, take one day and fast. When I say fast, I mean eat nothing. Unite your hunger pains to the pains of Terry and her family, and for Michael and his conversion as well. We have to show a love for friend, neighbor, stranger, and even the enemy. If you can't fast, then abstain from an extra thing -- not just the meat on Friday. Third, spend extra time in prayer. After you have done these things, then call the people mentioned above.

I have been very remiss in not mentioning this sooner, but I would like to commend my brother priest, Fr. Rob Johansen. From the beginning of this case, he has been working diligently with Terry's parents to bring this case to a positive resolution. He has shown himself a capable and diligent warrior for the gift of life. A tip of the biretta goes out to him. He currently, I think, is in Florida helping the Schiavo family even as you read this. Here you can read his article "Saving Terry's Life" from Catholic World Report. Or you can see his reprint of the Catholic Doctors' Opinion of the Schiavo matter.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bust out the Green M&M's

Well, folks, it's official. Things just got weird for the Alpha Ragemonkey. I was called today by the producer of Morning Air, the morning show hosted by Sean Herriot (author of Meet Joe Convert) and Sally Robb (does she have a blog home?) on Relevant Radio. Apparently, Sean and Sally want to interview me on the air (hopefully with a 5 second delay given my propensity to Tourlette's-like swearing) about my vocation and the blog itself. Yes, I will mention the other bloggers here, nor will I try to act as though I have the only blog in the universe.

It's going to be a phone interview, and that's the depressing part. Because I won't be in studio, I won't be able to make the ludicrous demands that my rock star priest status requires. Oh, it is a small price to pay. I will be on air at 7:30 central Thursday, March 3. You can listen online via the link on our sidebar.

Monday, February 21, 2005

My apologies to Fr. Garrett for the delay in getting this posted. Steph

Liturgical Footnote #5
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

After the opening Sign of the Cross, and the Greeting, the next part of the Mass is the Penitential Rite. Some people often wonder why we have such a “down note” at the beginning of Mass, after all Mass is suppose to be a joyful expression of thanksgiving. But why do we have such joyful thanksgiving? Certainly it is because of the redemption and salvation won for us by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the intention of the Penitential Rite is show our need to break away from sin so to be ready to enter into the real action of the Mass.

The priest introduces the rite by inviting all present to recall their sins, and reminding them of God’s loving mercy. This is followed by a short period of silence so that all present, priest and people, can recall their sins and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Note well that the priest is not merely leading the people in the Penitential Rite; he is participating in it himself. No one is fit to stand before the Lord in righteousness, for all have sinned. Yet Christ Jesus redeems all. In the old Mass this was shown by the priest turning to face the people and confessing his sinfulness first, then the people would respond by confessing their sinfulness. In the New Mass priest and people confess their sinfulness together.

The Penitential Rite has four forms. The most common is the Confiteor (Latin for the first two words, “I confess”). We actually use a shorten form of an ancient prayer in which we confess not only to God but to each other and the angels and saints so that we can all pray for each other. When we get to the words, “through my fault” we should gently strike our breast. The second form is not used often, not for any particular reason, and is very short, being composed of two invocations with a response. The other very common one is also an ancient liturgical form, and combines the Penitential Rite with the Kyrie, and is a troped Kyrie, using the invocations, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” Each verse (“tropes”), which introduces the invocation, expresses faith in Jesus, our appreciation of His work of salvation, and our confidence in being forgiven. Some of the most beautiful pieces of Western music are various Chant forms of the Kyrie, and the preference is still for this to be sung, although it can be recited. Strictly speaking the Kyrie is a separate part of the Opening Rites of Mass, thus it is not omitted when one of the other forms of the Penitential rites, which does not incorporate it, is used. The Kyrie, being Greek, unites us with the Greek foundation of our faith, after all the New Testament was first written in Greek.

The fourth option for the Penitential Rite is the Asperges, or Sprinkling Rite. This is most commonly only used during the Easter season, although it can be used during Ordinary Time as well. We are only baptized once, but the Church wants us to be regularly reminded of our baptismal promises to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel. That is why we use Holy Water so often, to remind us of our baptism, when we first were freed from sin, and became children of God. During the Sprinkling Rite it is appropriate for an appropriate chant to be sung as the priest sprinkles the congregation with Holy Water.

The Penitential Rite concludes with the priest reciting a prayer of absolution. This absolution does NOT have the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance as it only absolves venial sins. Even though many people do so, you should not make the Sign of the Cross as the priest says this prayer of absolution.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A note Concerning a Death in the Family.

I had the pleasure of having a very swanky dinner in NYC with Otto before his tragic demise. He reveled in dragging me all over the Yale Club and it was a wonderful evening. His blog will be missed, I am certain.
I choose you, Priestachu!

I forgot when we got on this subject last but it had to do with the evolution of this blog. If you hook up with The Truth Laid Bare, he will automatically track your popularity and rate it as an animal phyla. I noticed today that we moved to "Large Animal" after many months of floundering as a marsupial. (It would have been too precious to note that we had been a floppy fish.)

In jest, we thought of making Pokemon cards featuring the Ragemonkey staff as various Pokeman beasties. For myself, I am Priestachu because of my electrical powers of making connections and shorting out arguments. I will leave the others to stake their claim. I also enjoy the fact that Priestachu gains even more powers when he evolves into Bishopchu

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Homily for Second Sunday of Lent
Readings: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9

On the First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading called us to re-examine ourselves in the light of Christ, to strive anew against the power of temptation, to resist sin. At this point, although, a pertinent question comes up. Why should we battle against sin and temptation? Certainly, the society outside the Church doesn't quite understand what all the hubbub is about. If anything the message of our society is "Lighten up; it's not that important, is it?" On the Second Sunday of Lent, we are given the answer.

You can unfold the Transfiguration in various layers. They peel back to reveal a deeper reality than the surface might suggest. The first layer concerns the two fellows that appear in the midst of the Transfiguration: Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the fullness of the Law as God revealed it on Mount Sinai. This Law forged the people of Israel into a elected, covenental people of God. Elijah represents the fullness of prophecy, being the most important of all the prophets. While all the prophets enjoyed intimacy with God, only Elijah is swept away at the end of his life in a fiery chariot to be with God. These two pillars, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, speak to the importance of this moment of transfiguration. You could even say, that this was the reason for which the Law and the Prophets existed, to see this moment. This leads to the next layer.

The second layer concerns the one who is transfigured. Jesus in this moment appears other-worldly. His face explodes with the divine radiance that is properly His. His clothing in even changed to that which no hand on earth could render so white. The divinity of Christ is revealed by placing this transfiguration side-by-side with Moses' own faded glories. When Moses stood in the presence of God, his face would glow. This effect so disturbed the people of Israel that they could not look on this reflected and fading glory. From where does the majestic transformation of Jesus derive? It comes from him: it streams out in every direction. Moses had to reflect; Jesus Christ is the Sun of Glory in human guise.

The third layer concerns the witnesses of the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John stand mute, struck dumb before the majesty of God manifested in their humble Master. It is most unexpected. But in this moment, in the presence of this apostolic inner circle, we see the beginnings of what the Church will be. In the light of the Transfiguration, Peter wants to stay, and I don't blame him. What every human heart and mind seeks, Peter sees. This inner circle are getting a little hint of what the Resurrection will be. That is what Peter will have to proclaim, and James live, and John write of. "...We saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14b). The Transfiguration then is not only an insight into the ministry and mission of Jesus, or even into the nature of the Trinity. In the Transfiguration, we see the whole made clear: everything has been arranged from the beginning to work to reveal the person of God and to guide all to salvation. Every event, every tree, every molecule exists so that God's glory made be made clear. And this is where the Transfiguration ensnares us.

Notice that the divine glory that shine forth from Jesus isn't hampered by His human body. It's quite the opposite. The human flesh is akin to a lens by which this light is focused into our world. This means that humanity is not somehow opposed to God. Rather, humanity was made to share in God's very essence. What Jesus Christ is by His nature, God, He wants all of us to share in by adoption and participation in His life. The radical destiny for man is deification, to exist by sharing in what God is by His very nature. Here's the hard part.

In my limited pastoral preaching experience, I have tried a lot of different ways to get this point across to people. I have tried nice ways and sneaky ways and indirect ways, and thus far, nothing's worked. The confessional lines are short; the communion line is long. So, I am left to say this the hard way. Every one of us sins. Sometimes we sin seriously, gravely, mortally. When we sin mortally, we don't just make a boo-boo; we kill the life of Grace in us. There is no Transfiguration for us.

When we sin mortally, we are spiritual zombies. We look alive but we are stone dead, and therefore, we are not eligible to receive the Sacraments. If we receive a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin, we multiply the wrong: we compound our previous sin with the Sin of Sacrilege. It is truly a Sacrilege to receive such a noble thing, like the Most Blessed Sacrament, in such a state -- to be so ... casual, so indifferent to what we are taking into our Hands. There is only one solution to mortal sin, and that is the Sacrament of Penance. The Sacrament of Penance is necessary because our sins affect not only us but others as well. Through the Sacrament of Penance, we can begin again because this Sacrament restores the life of Grace in us.

I am sorry that I have to say this in such a "not nice" manner, but it really isn't nice. But it is real. There is a real absence of Transfiguration in our world. I know that when I get up in the morning, the radiance of God's only begotten Son doesn't radiate from my sleep encrusted eyes. My bathrobe isn't shining white as no fuller could render it. So long as we wallow in sin, refusing to fight it, there can't be Transfiguration, for any of us.

So, here we have the answer to the question posed at the beginning. Why bother with avoiding temptation and sin? We avoid temptation and shun sin because we are made for Transfiguration. We are made sharers in the Divine Nature by the gift of Baptism. Now is the time to clear off the windows of the soul, through our true contrition and celebration of Penance, and let the light of Christ's grace pour forth from us.
Another anniversary
Fr. Tharp, in his remarks about the one year birthday of this blog, threatened unilateral blog format changes. He pulls this every once in a while, making sure not to consult me, in some pathetic move to remind me that he actually started the blog from day one and that at any moment, totally dependent upon his graciousness (or lack thereof), he can do whatever he wants with it without consulting me or others. It is always back to the original battle with Fr. Tharp -- maintaining alpha male ragemonkey status.

So, since I apparently can't control the things above, I thought I would at least remind readers of today's important CRM anniversary (yes, another one!). It was one year ago today that the blest Oklahoma addition to the blog was made: Yours truly began blogging with CRM on this day last year. I choose to focus on this and other happy events rather than Fr. Tharp's power plays.
An apt description of how I feel most days...
Some people think of me as a relentless pessimist because I point out the flaws in things, like, oh say, people's logic. Some people think of me as a restless optimist because I try to see the good in things while not being naive in the process. However, today's Get Fuzzy nailed my sentiments exactly.

An Impetus to Evangelization

Here's the process. First, find your county. Then, figure out what percentage your county is. Third, if the result is less than 100%, get up off your couch and get to it!

Friday, February 18, 2005

I have been rather busy here in the parish, thus the reason for being quieter, even on the comments boards, than usual. Not only have I been catching up on all that I had to postpone due to my illness, but February already had a bunch of stuff.

First there was the "surprise" Catholic Schools' Week Mass for all 1100 students in our High School. Yes, it was a surprise. We had asked the HS campus minister what was planned for Catholic Schools Week, but he never got back to us until the Friday before when he said that he had, without consulting the HS chaplain nor any of the parish priests, planned a Mass in the gym for the entire school for the following Wednesday (both the chaplain's and my day off). He said the time was non-negotiable, so if we could not do it he would just lead a prayer service. I'm not the chaplain, nor the pastor, so I will let them address the inappropriateness of treating the priests as his flunkies who will just jump whenever he calls.

The next day was St. Blaise so I had to be at all three Masses (starting at 6:25 a.m.; yes, THAT IS early), plus bless the students and staff in both schools. While it made for a very long day, I did enjoy going to the pre-school, telling them about St. Blaise, demonstrating the blessing on their teachers, and then watching the young ones come up for a blessing. Some were very excited, others were nervous but you could see them screwing up their courage. They were very cute.

The following Saturday was first Penance. Due to the number of children we had two sessions. I was the celebrant for both. The teachers and parents, and children, really enjoyed it. Yes, enjoyed it. I receive many compliments, and one letter, from parents for how well I put the kids at ease. Several kids asked afterwards if they could come back to Confession again soon. One surprising discoveries since becoming a priest is that I have a gift for working with children. As a psychologist I was not very comfortable doing therapy with children, but I do seem to be able to bring the Faith to a level that children understand, and even can get excited about. And I don't do anything silly. Only for the first Children's Mass did I use one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Masses for Children. They truly are TERRIBLE! Not again! I generally do not even use the Lectionary for Masses for Children because I do not think it is necessary.

Ash Wednesday was another LONG day. Five Masses and four services. I steadfastly would NOT give ashes to people who did not come to a Mass or service, and when I preached at Mass I told them that if they left after receiving ashes, before receiving the Eucharist then they were acting just like the people Jesus criticized in the Gospel. That the ashes were merely a reminder that without God we are nothing, but that the Eucharist IS God. I even made the front page of the local paper.

I started training the new Altar Servers, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, in addition to the typical activities of a priest. I even got paid as a writer for the very first time; for an article I wrote which appeared in the February issue of Homiletics and Pastoral Review. I have been published before, but I was surprised that someone would actually pay me for something I wrote.

Sunday, after the 7 a.m. Mass I am off for some R&R. A week of no phone calls. Of relaxing and reading and sleeping. YEAH!
I sincerely hope someone swabs those chairs with Lysol

Yet another reason to either a.) order in or b.) cook it yourself.
With this wine and with this music,/ how can anything be clear?/ Just wait and see,/ next year may be, the perfect year...
Joe Gillis to Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard (musical)

Fr. Hamilton marked the last day of a Year of Ragemonkey; it's my task to mark the first day of a whole new Year. When I think on how this blog began, it's really quite funny. I didn't want to start it. It was the badgering of Techmonkey Dave that put the idea in my head. It didn't hurt matters that I have multiple opinions and many ways to express said opinions. In other words, I am loud mouth that needed another venue to bark from, or should that be screech from. When the blog was only a few days old, I decided that a stategic inclusion was needed; if I hadn't, my comments boxes would be full of his comments. So, under the rubric of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" I drafted Fr. Hamilton into the troop and I never regretted the decision. (Okay, okay, I occasionally regret it but not for long.) Only recently we added (and here it is the royal "we", meaning me) brought a third into the circle. That gives us our third monkey, Fr. J.C. Garrett, our official east coast corespondant.

This history lesson is for those who were not here in the heady days when the blog began and a readership was formed. Over the last 12 months, there have been squabbles, minor and major. There have been people who read and left, and those who read and stayed. We have strived to cover everything, from the sublime to the ridiculous, with some success I might add. The most rewarding aspect of this work though has been knowing the role that we have played in the Faith formation and Faith support (nay, dare I say, fellowship) of literally thousands of people, about 115,000 at most recent count. Most recently, I received an email from the editor of the diocesan newspaper in Perth, Austrailia concerning an article one of his minions wrote. Without leaving little Alva, nestled against the Kansas border, or a border town in the panhandle of Oklahoma, or the confines of Mercer County, NJ, we have played some small part in the lives of others. For those who have stayed with us, through thick, and my eventual thin, I thank you and you are remembered in my prayers today. Let me also thank our technical staff, Dave and Steph, for their dedication and assistance of the work done. They share in all of the credit for our success; all of the failures are purely on the part of the authors.

As for the future, look for some blog format changes, but these will be done without consulting Fr. Hamilton. Also, expect some new outlets and venues for the CRM team. I wish I had a schmaltz line to go out on, but I don't. So, just keep on doing what you have been doing. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The completion of the first year
Well, dear readers, February 17th marks the one year birthday of this blog. Fr. Tharp began blogging one year ago tomorrow with the curious title Catholic Ragemonkey. And then, two days later on February 19th, I was sucked into the raging ego vortex. It is hard to believe that our one year anniversary is here. All of us at CRM are delighted that our first birthday will probably find us with around 115,000 visitors! We have hit so many milestones and have had so much fun with this blog that we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you. Please continue to read and make sure to share CRM with friends!
This guy should have talked to that girl with the Listerine...
More Reasons to Feel HAPPY and WARM all over because you voted for W2
Another Reason to Feel all WARM and HAPPY inside after voting for W2
Another Disappointing Setback

Well, I received yet another rejection letter for the Borromeo Project today, this time from Our Sunday Visitor Press. I am thankful that they took the time to look at the submission at all, but it is disappointing nonetheless. I guess in the last analysis that this program is really just for me -- too idiosyncratic to translate to another venue. I think that it will be a blessing to those who will be exposed to it, but it isn't in the plan of God right now for a bigger audience.

This may be for me another lesson in humility and toning back my ambition. So there is a silver lining in everything.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The drive to relate to others
I promised a report on the Clergy Continuing Education Seminar we have had this week. It has been really excellent. The presenter is very knowledgeable, experienced, balanced, and an engaging speaker. I obviously can't get into all the details and specifics, but the topic has been well-presented. The discussion these days has focused on human sexuality and the priest's commitment to celibacy. The bottom line is that sexuality, far from being reduced to mere genital activity, is that drive within each one of us to relate to others, to share ourselves and our talents with others, to be completed by means of giving ourselves to another. This reality of sexuality is operative in every human life and, if the priest's celibacy is to be truly a gift, healthy, and productive, he needs to integrate the reality of human sexuality without ignoring it or repressing it. Rather, celibacy is a gifted response to human sexuality because it brings about unity and community (life-giving), it serves others (self-gift), and it shares with a profoundly lonely world just how the celibate finds God present in the midst of the loneliness that he encounters within the boundaries of a sexual life lived in celibate fashion.

Well, that was probably too much to try to share in this medium and it was a pretty bad summary of the seminar days. Anyway, it has been a very good continuing education event, especially given that truly authentic talk of human sexuality hasn't always been done well in seminary, not to mention that a veil of silence hangs over the topic in many a person's family upbringing.
He fits right in with the Culture of Death these awards celebrate.

If you don't believe me, think it through. Two movies up for Oscars are positive endorsements of assisted suicide, another is the "abortion-as-sacrament-of-the-heroic", and a third for "Tri-Sexuals United" (tri-sexual because they will try anything once). Ah, for the days when art was about something true, good, and beautiful.
It kills germs without any buzzkill...

Usually when someone is drinking Listerine for the alcohol, they are at the end of a very ugly process.
Ruins Support Myth of Rome's Founding

Isn't interesting how we moderns are so quick dismiss that which came before. Of course, I am still hard pressed to figure out how Mars fathered these children or how they convinced that she-wolf to give up her milk...
A Sorrowful State of Affairs.

It should go without saying that this generates feelings of great sadness for this man and his family. The part that the reality TV monster plays in this bothers me (it buzzes about my head like a hornet). Further, I am preparing not to be surprised when NBC heroically notes that they have decided to go ahead and show the program anyway.

Monday, February 14, 2005

From the Bulletin to You

I started providing CDs of various conversion stories as an effort at evangelization. But then, I realized that most folks don't know what evangelization is, so I tried to boil it down to one paragraph. Enjoy!

From the Pastor’s Desk:
After Sunday Mass, someone stopped and asked me what the word "evangelization" means. Evangelization is nothing other than sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. What is that Good News? That despite sin, suffering, and death, Christ, by His death and Resurrection, has freed us to live eternal life. Evangelization then is the groundwork, the beginning for all the other works of the Church and our parish. The most essential work of evangelization, however, is our good example in practicing the Faith. Our daily striving to be true disciples awakens in others a curiosity about the Catholic Faith and invites them to receive Christ’s gift of eternal life. Unfortunately, people who are strangers to the Faith often turn away because we don't practice what we preach, the logic being, "If you profess it but don't live it, what is it worth?" The CDs the parish has provided are another good way to evangelize your neighbors as are the many magazines and pamphlets that are available. So, get out there and spread the Word!

In Christ, Our True Savior,
Fr. Shane Tharp.
It's another beautiful day here in the Village

Ten points to the first one who knows what I am referring to.
Self-Definitions and Self-Revelations

I was over at Church of the Masses reading Barbara's review of the movie Hitch. Normally, romantic comedies are not my speed, but I might make room for this one. It was something she mentioned in this review that made me think of the following quote for myself. I don't know if I am cribbing (which means making alterations to someone else's work) or out and out stealing (which means well, ... I stole it and don't know who to credit), but here it is.

Barbara mentioned how the film's sensibilities reflected an earlier time, namely that of the 1840's. Then she followed with the question how far back might we indeed go in the movie industry. Now, many of my fellow priests accuse me, usually in jest, of being this "draconian, cro-magnon, retrograde throwback." Thrown back to what I am not entirely certain. Then this quote popped into my mind:

"I might be thrown back. But sometimes being backward looking is exactly what is needed. If you find yourself on a dead-end street, and you realize that you can't go forward for all those pesky houses and fences, there is only one solution: you must turn around and back track to the actual mistake in the directions that you made. Progress is not a dirty word in my vocabulary; it's just not the most important one. It's not even in the top ten. For myself, the first four important words (which in fact are the same word at essence) are: true, beautiful, good, and love. If that's what I am being thrown back to, then sling shot away."

Also, appropos to this post is a quote that Techmonkey Dave and I fashioned to describe me: "Oh, yes, I am a man of the '80s...the 1380s."
Headline: Charles and Camilla wedding 'could be illegal'

Okay, I'll bite. Which law? Natural? Christian Moral? Catholic Moral? Civil? I think it is time for yet another INSIGHT FROM THE CATECHISM! The following is paragraphs 1950-1953:

1950 The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction, God's pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and his love. It is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love.
1951 Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good. the moral law presupposes the rational order, established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator. All law finds its first and ultimate truth in the eternal law. Law is declared and established by reason as a participation in the providence of the living God, Creator and Redeemer of all. "Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law."
Alone among all animate beings, man can boast of having been counted worthy to receive a law from God: as an animal endowed with reason, capable of understanding and discernment, he is to govern his conduct by using his freedom and reason, in obedience to the One who has entrusted everything to him.
1952 There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated: eternal law - the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law, comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws.
1953 The moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ. Jesus Christ is in person the way of perfection. He is the end of the law, for only he teaches and bestows the justice of God: "For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified."

Now the goal for readers is figure out why these paragraphs leapt to my mind as I read this article. Poor Queen Elizabeth must spend d-a-y-s gazing into the finely crafted bone china tea cup, as she sips at her Earl Grey, thinking "Where the deuce did I go wrong with that boy?!"
Bodies in Rest, Bodies in Motion

I never quite know how to feel about the announcement of new translations of the Lectionary and the Missal. On the one hand, I am all for accuracy of translation and beauty of language. If that is what the adaptions are after, then more power to you. On the other hand, new translations mean months of explanation, months of listening to complaints of "I don't like this..." as though one's personal preferences were a valid criterion for the analysis of liturgical language, months of stumbling through the half-remember former text and the currently being assimilated new text. So, you can color me ambivalent.

However, with all that said, and tipping my hand as someone who took 2 years of Latin in high school and 1 semester of Vergil in college, that whatever is produced has got to be an improvement over the banal and superficial translation of the Canons and Collects we currently suffer with.
Did they get the idea from us?

I would hate to think that anyone thought we might support such "opposition" candidates...
Continuing Education Seminar
I can't recall if I have previously mentioned on the blog that I am a member of the Clergy Continuing Education Committee for the diocese. I joined on in, I think, October 2004, so I haven't been on it too long (the meetings are, at most, once a month). Anyway, today through Wednesday is the first continuing education offering for the priests of 2005. I am anxious to see how it turns out. The topic is on human sexuality and priestly celibacy. Many of the priests thought that, since human sexuality and a serious treatment of celibacy were lacking from their seminary formation decades ago, it would be a good topic to offer some continuing education on. I agree and I hope the presenter is good. Reports to follow.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Social Isolation, Guns and a 'Culture of Suicide'

Commentors are free to reflect upon the power of the theological virtues and their relationship to despair.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

This would explain the Valentine's Sale at the Ammo Dump...
Step One: Anger Management Classes
Where and when can I get mine?
It always happens virtually in your own back yard.

For those who like to nuke Terry Schiavo and others like her, please take this article to a comfy chair, read it and reflect. Just because you can't speak, you can't act, you can't respond, it doesn't mean that you ARE DEAD YET! To quote my favorite pro-life philosopher, Dr. Theodore Geisel, (link here for other books), "a person's a person no matter how small."

Smallness and weakness are spurned and shunned by a culture that demands big, powerful, and almost necessarily, therefore, impersonal. When we see the weakness of others, we almost never think to share in their suffering. We would happily have empathy, sympathy, or pity but authentic compassion (literally from the Latin, to suffer with another) is awfully hard to come. I should know. I have a hard time coming by it most days. You can only go to the hospital a number of times before the wearying ennui of persistnent pain breaks through.

This is where the Cross comes in. Think through the Stations of the Cross and what do you have? You have the icon of compassion. Jesus willingly suffers every ridiculous element of folly that the human heart can create. He suffers it because all of us will have to suffer it, one way or another. For some, you will walk the Stations dragging a IV cart behind you. For others, you will have your blood circulated out of your body to clean it. For yet others, you will find yourself in a wrecked car with people too stunned or too paralyzed with fear to save you from the wreck. Or you might just walk years of toil, only to lose your memory -- all of your memory.

I would like to believe that those who suffer greatly do great work for the world. Perhaps, they, with weakest hands of all, because they have been conformed to the Passion, and have accepted this conformation, they have held back the justice of God, Abraham begging for Sodom and its residents, for one more day so that you and I may repent. I suspect that in Heaven, we will discover this was the case. And it all happened right under our noses, practically in our own backyards.
Looking for Recommendations

Last night, after the common celebrationi of the Stations of the Cross, I was feeling a little bit dissatisfied with the version we were using. It's not that they are bad editions or goofy meditations. I would hope folks would know me better than that by now. No goofy crap in Alva!

I would be curious to find out which versions other people are using and which ones you all have found the most profitable. Remember, I am looking for editions appropriate for use in a parish. Just because it's in your prayerbook, doesn't mean I can buy 209 copies of that prayerbook and hand it out. Think portable, durable, and cheap.
Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A
(By way of explanation, Amy Wellborn over at Open Book has been sponsoring a sort of Monday Morning Liturgical Quarterback Session. She asked priests to post their homilies and lay people to try to recall what they heard this weekend. In the interest of building up the blogosphere, I thought I would add my hurried thoughts. This is not exactly the homily you will hear in Alva, Waynoka, and Cherokee, because I try to tune it as I go through the weekend. But it is the gist...)

Readings: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

What is the fastest way to ruin a perfectly good tool? Use it in a way that it was not designed to be used. For example, you can swat flies with a flyswatter or with a hammer. You'll get the job. That fly will be dead just in time for you to repair the walls. Or what would happen if you used a kitchen knife to cut 2X4's for a new house? The house will be finished about the third time through a full set of Ginsu ... if you are lucky. It's funny, but this applies to the Spiritual Life as well.

Let's start with the temptation of our first parents. Notice what Satan draws them into. He moves Eve through a minefield of sorts. He starts by introducing doubt through a truthful observation. It is right that God said, "You shall not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." The nasty trick comes when Satan explains why. This stricture is not for your benefit, he claims; it's to guard God's perogatives. Therefore, you can be only what you are meant to be if you turn against God.

When we look at the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert, you will notice that the tempter's tricks haven't changed much from that first encounter. Satan poses each temptation in the form of a truth, "If you are the Son of God,...." Each temptation is meant, not so much to discredit Jesus's claims, as, it seems to me, to disqualify Jesus's work at the outset. Satan wants to guide Jesus into the same trap he took our first parents; being Son of God, as Satan conceives it, is an opportunity to exploit power. Being Son of God, as Jesus conceives it, is the opportunity to be exactly what He is, who He is, as His Father demands.

This is the moment in the Temptation in the Desert when we must resist the tempation to trivialize this moment. Because we accept that Jesus is God, we automatically assume, correctly I might add, that these temptations can't succeed. Nothing Satan can offer will take the place of the Beatific Vision that Jesus enjoys. At the same time though this doesn't detract from the forcefulness of Christ's "no" to temptation and Christ's "yes" to the Father. It is a word, a resounding command, a voice echoing from the deep recesses of Creation and Eternity that demands, "Let my people go! No longer will you hold them bound in slavery." That voice rings to the foundations of human nature calling us to live not as erstwhile slaves of sin, but to live as we were actually made to be, sons of God in the Son of God.

On the First Sunday of Lent, we have to stand in the light of these temptations of Jesus and examine a basic question: How have we lived thus far? We are created for nothing less than to love God, to serve Him, and to live with Him in this life and in the life to come. When we examine our thoughts, our words, our actions, though a different picture appears. Looking at that picture, we see someone who believes that he is created for mere gratification of his senses, his hungers, his passions, in short, something that is far inferior to the grandeur of God. And more damning that that, we are completely satisfied with that which is inferior. Real conversion then would suggest that we must choose again. we must return the vain things which will never satisfy and find our way back to the Father. We have to return to basic issue: what am I made for? The human person is created to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life and in the life to come.

On Monday, most of us will go about the business of exchanging notes and signs of affection. It's called Valentine's Day and has become a veritible orgy of romance. Valentine's Day's origins are actually Christian, and not Hallmark. It was a chance to exchange notes of love and encouragement to live the Christian life in a time of persecution. This is my Valentine then to you. "God loves you so much that you should never be satisfied with loving anything or anyone in such a way that you lose sight of the one who made you and loves you even now."
A few days ago I made a post about background checks and "Safe Environment" training for Confirmation sponsors (which I have since deleted). I had been told that from the perspective of the diocese, Confirmation sponsors had to undergo training just like anyone else who has frequent contact with minors due to Church related functions. The intent of my post was to ask how it would be practically possible for a parish to ensure that Confirmation sponsors (often arriving from out of parish, out of town, and even out of state) would be trained, when they usually simply arrive for the ceremony of Confirmation itself.

I learned today that I had been given incomplete information about the diocesan policy regarding Confirmation sponsors. So, in the interest of truth and clarity, I want to make this post so that readers also won't continue to have incorrect information. Apparently, the original question to the diocese regarding Confirmation sponsors came from a parish where the sponsors are asked and expected to be with the Confirmation candidate throughout the entire preparation process (of 2 years). In that case, the diocesan policy is that, yes, such frequent participation in Church programs with minors would require that sponsors also undergo "Safe Environment" training and background checks. I had only been told previously that all Confirmation sponsors had to undergo training and I didn't see how that was even practically possible. This diocese also agrees with that observation and understands that requiring training and background checks for sponsors who are only involved toward the end of the preparation program, at the ceremony itself, is not practically possible.

I regret that complete information was not passed on to me, but I am pleased that this matter has been clarified. As I mentioned before in the original post, I fully support the necessary measures being taken by the Church to ensure that the terrible sin and crime of sexual abuse of minors by clergy and Church personnel, as well as the scandal of negligent Church leadership, never happens again. I also agree that people, be they paid staff or volunteers, who have frequent contact with minors need to undergo background checks so we are more sure who is near our youth, and need to undergo training to help identity potential problems or spot the signs of abuse.

And, let me preempt the rumors and conspiracy theorists: I deleted the original post and have made this post completely of my own decision and free will. I was in no way commanded to delete it by anyone in the diocese, in fact, there was never a suggestion made that I needed to delete it. Recognizing now that I was not given complete information on this matter, I decided I needed to take these steps in the interest of justice and truth. Please don't waste anyone's time leaving conspiracy theories or remarks about censorship in the comment box.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Best Group Blog 2005
Thank you readers and voters for bestowing upon us the 2005 award for Best Group Blog. We are deeply honored and we have a renewed sense that this past year of furious blogging has all been worth it. Look for more hilarity and award-winning posting from your friends here at CRM! We also cannot neglect the CRM technical staff that have made so much of this blog possible. From setting up the blog and template, to showing us how to link and how to post pictures, to dragging Fr. Hamilton, kicking and screaming, into the 18th century (perhaps next year we can leap into the 20's) -- we thank you so much! This award is as much yours as it ours!
Liturgical Footnote #5
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

After the opening Sign of the Cross, and the Greeting, the next part of the Mass is the Penitential Rite. Some people often wonder why we have such a “down note” at the beginning of Mass, after all Mass is suppose to be a joyful expression of thanksgiving. But why do we have such joyful thanksgiving? Certainly it is because of the redemption and salvation won for us by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the intention of the Penitential Rite is show our need to break away from sin so to be ready to enter into the real action of the Mass.

The priest introduces the rite by inviting all present to recall their sins, and reminding them of God’s loving mercy. This is followed by a short period of silence so that all present, priest and people, can recall their sins and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Note well that the priest is not merely leading the people in the Penitential Rite; he is participating in it himself. No one is fit to stand before the Lord in righteousness, for all have sinned. Yet Christ Jesus redeems all. In the old Mass this was shown by the priest turning to face the people and confessing his sinfulness first, then the people would respond by confessing their sinfulness. In the New Mass priest and people confess their sinfulness together.

The Penitential Rite has four forms. The most common is the Confiteor (Latin for the first two words, “I confess”). We actually use a shorten form of an ancient prayer in which we confess not only to God but to each other and the angels and saints so that we can all pray for each other. When we get to the words, “through my fault” we should gently strike our breast. The second form is not used often, not for any particular reason, and is very short, being composed of two invocations with a response. The other very common one is also an ancient liturgical form, and combines the Penitential Rite with the Kyrie, and is a troped Kyrie, using the invocations, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” Each verse (“tropes”), which introduces the invocation, expresses faith in Jesus, our appreciation of His work of salvation, and our confidence in being forgiven. Some of the most beautiful pieces of Western music are various Chant forms of the Kyrie, and the preference is still for this to be sung, although it can be recited. Strictly speaking the Kyrie is a separate part of the Opening Rites of Mass, thus it is not omitted when one of the other forms of the Penitential rites, which does not incorporate it, is used. The Kyrie, being Greek, unites us with the Greek foundation of our faith, after all the New Testament was first written in Greek.

The fourth option for the Penitential Rite is the Asperges, or Sprinkling Rite. This is most commonly only used during the Easter season, although it can be used during Ordinary Time as well. We are only baptized once, but the Church wants us to be regularly reminded of our baptismal promises to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel. That is why we use Holy Water so often, to remind us of our baptism, when we first were freed from sin, and became children of God. During the Sprinkling Rite it is appropriate for an appropriate chant to be sung as the priest sprinkles the congregation with Holy Water.

The Penitential Rite concludes with the priest reciting a prayer of absolution. This absolution does NOT have the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance as it only absolves venial sins. Even though many people do so, you should not make the Sign of the Cross as the priest says this prayer of absolution.
Big changes in Paris
I had forgotten that the Archbishop of Paris was approaching retirement age. The Pope has accepted his resignation and has appointed the successor. May God bless Cardinal Lustiger for his faithful work in a very secular city.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Rock the vote!
Just a few hours remain folks for you to vote in the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards. Since we are sure that you want to vote for Catholic Ragemonkey in all of the categories in which it has been nominated, we just thought we'd remind you to vote and tell your friends to vote for us too.

By the way, I think it is a travesty of justice that CRM was not nominated in the "Best New Blog" category -- we came into being after last year's awards and are only one week away from the one year anniversary. So we are still new.

I suppose I should try to look at the bright side of things: I guess we have taken the blogosphere by such storm that no one considers us "new" or "novices" anymore. That is very flattering, but we need ego feeding here folks! Come on! Vote for CRM before time runs out!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

It worked!
A big "thank you" to the many readers who shared their suggestions for how to burn palm branches for today's ashes! I am happy to report that the project produced more than enough ash for my three parishes. And, it is working! They look like ashes and they stick to people's foreheads! Yeah! Sorry, I guess after inhaling quite a bit of the stuff the first two times I burned palms, I am happy to see that it is all worth it and that it works. I think, too, the symbolism is neat that all the people provided something that became the item we use to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. Before the Masses began today, I had a cleaned out Cool Whip container full of ash. NO! I didn't use the Cool Whip container ceremonially -- it was simply a place to keep them until I put some in little dishes for distribution at the Masses.
Food for Thought For Lent

Since most Catholics, those who fall into the proper age category, are restricting their food intake, I thought I would give you something to chew on. Here is the editorial by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. from the Magnificat Lenten Companion, Bread in the Desert.

What is "self-denial"? We presume it means using our will power to
give up things. But that could be deadly. Because such success could
make us proud. This conceit is what God wants us to
renounce. Self-denial means denying the sway of the "false self" in our life. Self-denial means denying the urge to take self-congratulatory
delight in our ego-concocted goodness. Authentic self-denial means denying the lie that I am the source of the happiness I desire. It means denying the delusion that I am the source of the truth in my life. Then we possess the key to self-mastery.

Lots of folks are posting what they are sacrificing for Lent, and I would encourage hearing what has pushed you further than you suspected it would. There might be a good suggestion for one of our readers lurking there. But, based on what we read above, we should pray first for the grace to know what God wants you to sacrifice.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Burn, baby, burn!
I just got back from the hardware store where I bought a dust mask. I have one last batch of palm branches to burn and I have finally learned that I do not need to breathe in any more black dust. The occupational hazards of priesthood!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Huzzah! Alva is moving up in the world!

Today, I bring good news of great rejoicing for the city of Alva. We have a new grocery store. This new store brings the total of grocery stores in Alva to ... 2. But, at least, I have a choice between it and Wal-Mart. I am very hopeful that the store will survive and provide a better selection and better quality foodstuffs for the city.
Please do me a favor

Hey there, Ponca City Readers. Yes, both of you. Would you do me a favor and send my best wishes to Mark Shea at his presentation this evening? I really wanted to be there, but I don't think I can make it work out. Also, if he has a copy of the book of essays on Tolkien with him, may I ask the further favor of your purchasing it for me, getting it signed, and I will re-pay you at the earliest convenience?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Blog Awards in quagmire?
I'm worried anew about the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards. The nominating process ended at 12 noon EST on Friday. A message on the blog indicated that the top 5 nominees in each category would be up "later tonight." There was nothing to be had on Friday evening and again, nothing yesterday. Voting is supposed to begin today at 12 noon EST. Is there a problem? What is the hold up? Did my little post earlier open an investigation into nominating procedures? Is an internal audit being performed? Has Jimmy Carter arrived to oversee procedures?

Oh, the suspense!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

It is usually Fr. Tharp and his theatrical bunnies, but a friend sent me the above link and it got my feet 'a-tapping' and me chuckling. Now, I'm not endorsing this theological tradition, but enjoy. (In case I did not hook the link up right the address is:

Friday, February 04, 2005

Liturgical Footnote #4
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

During the singing of the Entrance Antiphon/Hymn (Introit), the priest and other liturgical ministers process to front of the church. As they reach the Sanctuary, if they are not carrying anything, they make a sign of reverence before entering the Sanctuary. If the Tabernacle, which contains the physical presence of our Eucharistic Lord, is behind the main Altar, as it is here at St. James, all should genuflect (if they are able) before our Lord. If the Tabernacle is at another prominent place besides directly behind the Altar, then all the ministers should reverence the Altar by making a profound bow.

Each person in the congregation should make these same acts of reverence when they enter the church. As we first enter the church, by each of the doors, there are the small Holy Water dishes, which we should use to bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, reminding ourselves of our Baptismal call. As we reach the pew where we will be sitting, again, if the Tabernacle with the Presence of the Lord is behind the main Altar we should genuflect. Genuflection is a sign of reverence and honor that dates to the earliest times. When a person entered the presence of the Roman Emperor they were required to genuflect on their left knee. Recognizing the greater presence of Christ Jesus, the Church adopted this gesture for giving reverence and honor to Christ the King; altering it slightly so that one genuflects on one’s right knee (bending the left knee so that the right knee touches the ground). We should NEVER enter a church without recognizing the personal presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. If the Tabernacle is off to the side (or if we cannot physically genuflect), then we reverence the Altar before entering the pew by a profound bow that is a bow from the waist.

As the priest (and deacon, if one is present) enters the Sanctuary, they further reverence the Altar by kissing it. The Altar, as the place of sacrifice, reminds us of Christ Jesus, and just as we might kiss a photograph of a loved one, the priest kisses the Altar as a sign of his affection for Jesus. However, the Altar does not represent only Jesus; it also represents all of the Church – Militant (those still on earth), Suffering (those in Purgatory), and Triumphant (those in Heaven) – so by kissing the Altar the priest is also showing his love for the Church.

After kissing the Altar, the priest moves to the chair and begins the Mass with the Sign of the Cross, which all the people copy. Then he uses one of three greetings; the shortest is “The Lord be with you,” and the longest invokes the whole Trinity. To the greeting the people respond “And also with you.” This greeting is a sign of the mutual goodwill between the priest and the people, and the desire to build a friendship between them. After all, as we enter into the celebration of the Mass we are entering into the work of salvation done by Jesus so that we can enter into the friendship of the Trinity.
I love it!
Last week Fr. Sibley posted a picture from Austria of some man dressed as a deacon (he may be a real deacon) simulating a "Mass". Let me just go ahead and answer the question for you, folks. No, it certainly wasn't a High Mass! Well, it may have been "high," but that would still present a problem... Anyway, Fr. Sibley now posts that the original photo of liturgical nuttiness has been taken down from the particular parish website in Austria and there may even be a diocesan investigation starting up! I just love this! I mean for how long has this sort of stuff been going on undetected or unresponded to by diocesan authorities and finally, after some attention is given by a blog, someone gets off his keester and appears to be doing something. Oh, the power of blog!