Friday, July 29, 2005

Ready to go Fristicuffs!
Read the headline again. The last word is not what your brain may have originally supplied. Not fisticuffs; Fristicuffs. As in Senator Bill Frist who reportedly invoked his status as a physician to call for a re-examination of Bush Administration policy on embyronic stem cell research. Now, Bush Administration policy on this matter is not perfect to begin with. However, it seems that the "re-examination" Senator Frist has called for would not move in the morally correct direction of outlawing all research on embryonic stem cells in favor of research on adult stem cells. I'm ready to go Fristicuffs!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Light At the End of the Tunnel

Is it too much to expect a change in status in the near future? Has the hibernating, cryogenically frozen Master awakened from darkened sleep? Cthulu calls -- the Sleeper awakes.

Well, perhaps that puts too much of an apocalyptic twist on this news but why not I say? If the modern media can turn molehills into mountains...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oklahoma Abortion Notification Law Survives Appeals Court Rulings

Score one for the good guys!
In tribute to 200,000 Hits

Initially, the temptation was to create an all-new song parody for the benefit of all our readers. The more I thought on it, and frankly, no good ideas came, I decided to take a new take. So, in lieu of a spin on Shaft, I offer you a short reflection on what 200,000 hits mean.

First, 200,000 hits means that we have earned a certain loyalty from the readership. Why we have earned this I am not sure. Granted, lots of times, it's a rant that greets a reader, or a news link, or a homily, or just a bit of madness that escaped from the medulla oblongata before I could stop it. Nonetheless, loyalty and people coming back for more says quite a bit.

Second, 200,000 hits means that we have achieved a certain amount of stability. Between the three of us, now back to two, three degrees of Catholic living have been presented. And even when things seemed lean to comment on, because Christ is everything, the comments and ideas rolled on. Therefore, you came back because you knew that we would be waiting.

Third, 200,000 hits means that we have said something that caught your attention. While Fr. Hamilton accuses yours truly of being a narcissist, it makes me wonder what you, the constant reader, found so interesting. It's like I mined the lint from my navel, after an extended exploration and afternoon of gazing, only to have you all turn it into a lovely sweater.

Fourth, 200,000 hits means lots of people look in but don't necessarily comment. I learned that dimension when I would receive comments from my brother priests or that the blog received a mention on both CNN and MSNBC. Hopefully, what we are dealing with is the new generation of guerilla evangelization. Folks see the title, expecting one type of content, only to find something quite unexpected.

So, there it is. 200,000 hits later, and I can't say that I am the wiser for the working. It is a hefty achievement that places us among some of the most read and most excellent. But that's to the readers creedit. As for myself, I'll just go back to scrying the future from my internet portal. If I see anything of note, you'll be the first to hear of it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Oh, my goodness!
Over 200,000 visitors to our blog! Fr. Tharp may have a wacky tribute to post. Did anyone see Ragemonkey listed in the latest edition of Our Sunday Visitor, in a report on blogging?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Credit card grace
I had an interesting encounter on the phone today as I tried to activate my new credit card. I called the automated service and when I entered the information it requested, it bumped me over to a customer service representative. You see, due to my upcoming move, I had entered my new address via the internet yet I am still living at my current Guymon address. Therefore, the computer wouldn't recognize my phone number and mailing address as my home. Days ago when I made the address change update, I had no idea I would be getting a replacement card in the mail and so I didn't foresee this problem.

During my conversation with the service representative he asked for my employer, which prompted me to reveal that I am a Catholic priest. Instantaneously the representative began referring to me as "Father". At the end of our conversation, the man revealed that he had considered entering seminary, but that he and the vocation director he knows had decided the priesthood was probably not his vocation. I asked if he felt comfortable with that decision. He said, "Well, Father, I don't know what the Lord has in store for me, but I am reasonably certain it is not the vocation of the priesthood." I thanked him for at least giving priesthood thought and said that was a valuable thing for any man to do. He thanked me for my ministry and we concluded with a "God bless you." Now, I only hope that conversation was recorded for customer service monitoring, because it was a rather unique credit card exchange.

Grace in the seemingly most unlikely of places, huh? Don't be surprised if it can be found in your work place too!

Friday, July 22, 2005

OK, one last post...

First, thank you for all your kind comments, and continued support. While I still think I will be too busy to do much blogging, I will probably continue to lurk around CRM as a commentor.

However, since I have not been removed from CRM yet, one more post. The new priest assigned to St. James, Fr. Mike, has been a friend of mine since we were both seminarians (we went to different seminaries, though). It is great to share an assignment with a friend. We pray together often, and watch movies, especially now that he has hooked up a surround sound system (before seminary he sold audio electronics) to our common room TV. It has actually brought all of us in the rectory a bit closer in the sense we will sit and relax together.

Anyway, last night Fr. Mike and I were watching "Ladder 49." As we were watching it I realized another reason for opposing the construction of new, modern "churches" (sorry, I have to use the quotation marks because many of them hardly seem like a sacred space). What will Hollywood do when they shoot a wedding or funeral scene? I mean, I can only think of one instance when I have seen a scene in a church in which the architecture was "modern." Hollywood seems to always use, especially for Catholic churches, churches with a High Altar, with the Tabernacle in the center, lots of statues of saints, and often times they have the priest saying things in, {gasp}, Latin -- definitely more so than in a typical American Catholic parish church. So maybe Hollywood doesn't have everything screwed up.
A good suggestion
The Shrine of the Holy Whapping has a good suggestion for some Catholic action following the nomination of Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court. Let's do it, boys and girls!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Do I get salary with my celery?
Okay, I simply must ask. What is this obnoxious trend that the customer has to do what used to be part of the cashier's job? Several years ago, stores crossed the line, in my opinion, when they installed those credit/debit card machines on the customer's side of the check-out lane. For a long time I simply continued to hand my credit/debit card to the cashier, refusing to acknowledge the "do-it-yourself" machine. I guess the cashier's union has decided to crack down on this injustice, because more recently I have been told to swipe the card myself and I have dutifully complied. Okay, so I have finally gotten to a point where it no longer takes me three to four swipes to finally get the card on the right side, in the right direction, in order for the machine to work. Can anyone else sympathize?

Then I began noticing "self check-out" lanes at some grocery stores. I had three items to purchase one day, so I thought I would try out this novelty. Guess what? It didn't work. One of my three items threw the Big Brother machine into confusion and shut down my transaction. Who would have guessed that sausage is so powerful?! The Overseer of the Self Check-out Lanes came to investigate, walked ever-so-slowly back to the meat department, and returned with updated information which allowed me to complete the transaction. I have vowed to never use those lanes again.

And, then, just last night, I saw another new development (new for me, anyway): I was at a large market store in Oklahoma City. The plastic bags at each check-out lane are suspended on those metal frames, but attached (and this is the new thing) to a triangle structure on a swivel platform (sort of like a Lazy Susan). The cashier placed my items in a bag on her side of the platform and then turned it, swiveling it to my side. Well, folks, I missed that swift action as I was closing my wallet. She handed me my receipt and turned back to her register to do other business. I was standing there, wondering where my bag of merchandise was. It wasn't on the little table at the end of the lane. The cashier didn't have it in her hand. Then I realized the triangle structure and I quickly thought to myself, now what would be the point of having all those bags on the customer's side of the aisle. I slowly peered into the sea of bags dangling from the metal frames. The outermost bag on side number one of the triangle was empty. Side number two was a jackpot as I found my bag.

Now, why, why do I have to take on more and more of the cashier's duties? What is going on here? I mean pretty soon are we to expect no longer a cashier at the check-out, but simply a chunk of cerebral cortex in a mason jar hooked up to the cash register? Lord knows the cerebellum wouldn't need to be hooked up to the register, since fewer and fewer motor functions are being executed by the cashier! I am beginning to wonder if I should ask for a share of salary the next time I buy my groceries at one of these stores. Do I get salary with my celery?!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My Final Post

It was about a year ago when Fr. Tharp invited me to join this Blog as the "East Coast Correspondent." It has been difficult for me to keep up with the frequency of posting that Frs. Tharp and Hamilton do, not because they have less to do, but because (A) I am greener as a priest, so it takes me longer to figure out how to do things, and (B) as most of you know, I have been being treated for cancer since November. While the treatment is going well, I am still very tired all the time. With my parish duties I just will not be able to post much any more.

Apparently this news will be a cause of cheer for a good number of readers. Of late I have been receiving a lot of "flaming". I have been accused of "hating women," and promoting violence against them. For a final time: I do not advocate, support, or defend violence against anyone (except when absolutely needed for self-defense). I thought that the general "tone" of CRM was witty, leaning towards the sarcastic, commentary. And while I think most of our readers do take my posts in that way, some have not. Rather they focus on small details, often a figure of speech, and fail to see the real point of the post. Then those few relentlessly harass me; it is one thing to voice one's disagreement by leaving a comment on the blog where the post was, but then to send email, comments on my more "spiritual" blog (which are then completely out of context for the readers of that blog and only results in detraction against me), and contacting my diocese (again, without the complete context). It is difficult enough to be a priest and have cancer; this other stuff just isn't worth it.

For the many readers who I have been able to chuckle with, and who have been so supportive with their prayers during the worse of my illness, I will be eternally grateful. May God Bless you all.
I'm a Lineman for the County...

I will be away until Friday p.m. and therefore expect no comments from me. I will be away on retreat and would appreciate any and all prayers for me and my fellow retreatants.
He doesn't "play well" with others
At various times other blogs come up with games or something like 20 questions to complete and the blogger will "tag" another blogger, requesting that another blogger complete the same game/list. I have been tagged a few times before, but have often failed to respond. The problem is if I don't respond to the tag when I first see it, I will usually forget about it and when I return to the blog whence came the "tag," the original post has moved down and is off the visible screen and .... well, you get the story. I see that recently Kat over at Finding God in All Things has tagged me with two of these games. I figured before I get a bad reputation for not being "fun" or cooperative or, worse still, being accused of a kindergarten infraction ("Little Stephen doesn't play well with others"), I had better respond to the tag. I have two tags from Kat needing response. Here goes:

List #1:
Number of movies I own: Zero
Last movie purchased: The Passion of the Christ (a gift to a friend)
Five movies that mean a lot to me*: (in no particular order)
1. The Passion of the Christ
2. Star Wars (any of them: regardless of the movie's "value," it brings back childhood nostalgia)
3. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Sooooo funny)
4. The Shoes of the Fisherman

* "mean a lot to me" is a fairly fluid term and, of course, highly subjective. I don't really get too attached to movies. In fact, I often can't even remember movies I have seen. The above list is simply five movies I enjoyed and would be happy to watch again. That's what "mean" means to me!

List #2
What's in your wallet right now?
1. $29
2. 3 credit cards
3. 1 debit card
4. 3 business cards: one is my own, one is my barber's, one is my stepdad's.
5. Clergy pass for Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School: 2004-05 academic year. This gets me into games for free.
6. Courtesy card for Guymon Public Schools: 2004-05 year. Also for athletic events.
7. Celebret: This is a card that officially identifies me as a validly ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
8. Photo of my dog Max (since deceased) with Santa (taken at Pet's Mart).
9. Driver's License.
10. Health Insurance card.
11. Dental Insurance card.
12. American Airlines AAdvantage card (frequent flier program)
13. Voter Identification card.
14. Knights of Columbus membership card.
15. Delta Airlines Sky Miles card.
16. Blockbuster video membership card (sort of seems a bit ironic given some of my answers or inability to answer above at list #1.)

There you go. And, no, I am not going to tag anyone else because I just can't think of who to tag.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Wal-Mart Ground Zero
Well, some time ago a comment left by a Suzanne indicated some news in my life. I chose to not give attention to the comment because it was not time for me to blog about the news, since I wanted first to inform my parish staff and then the parish at large. Things were being kept under wraps nicely until Fr. Tharp, in a tactless move, posted a blog about some news I had to share, all but saying the matter of the news. Again, I had not yet had the opportunity to announce things in my parishes ... until now.

I learned late last week from the Archbishop that effective August 23, I will be the new Pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Kingfisher and the mission church of St. Rose of Lima in Watonga. So, I will be moving in the coming weeks to being new pastoral work elsewhere. Moving is always a mixed bag for me. I don't say goodbye well (read: it does a number on me emotionally) and I get rather anxious just about packing for vacation, all the more when it is packing up my life and moving to a new location. There is sadness at departing people I have come to know here; there is excitement about the new work to come. And there is plenty of anxiety about the time of transition. None of this should be taken as a reflection on either my current parishes or the parishes to come; it simply what I experience when being told I will be moving irrespective of the good things that have been and the good things that will, no doubt, be.

So, keep me in prayer, please. I don't like packing or saying goodbye, but a hefty dose of that will be occupying my life in the coming weeks. With all of that said, I look forward to my new assignment and to eventually getting to know the new parish, and to settling in to the new place for however long I am given.

God bless you all! Oh, the title of the post is because Kingfisher, Oklahoma, is the birthplace of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. You would think that would guarantee the town a Super Center, but not yet. I will have to see what I can do about that!

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Revenge of the Rattling Marble

Every now and again, I get something stuck in my craw. And what's worse is even after talking it out with someone else I know the following: 1.) I had no power, I hope, over how this situation arose, 2.) I have no power over how this situation can be reversed, 3.) and I don't know what, if anything, to do. It just leaves me shaking my head. On the flip side, it does leave me strangely grateful for the way I grew up, i.e. without the Catholic Faith.

Now, yes, I do know that, objectively speaking, it would have been better to have been baptized as a cute little baby and lived in the bosom of Sancta Mater Ecclesia rather than being crash-coursed (my euphamism) as a gawky, ackward teenager. And yes, objectively speaking, it would have been dandy to have gone to parochial schools, especially high school. I even recall feeling jipped when I discovered there was a Catholic High School and couldn't go because I was a senior when I made this discovery. And then I deal with the products of these institutions and I am struck by how much of the equation is not determined institutionally but rather personally. The work of conversion, the work of assent to the Truth happens not because of an institution but rather because the person sees things as they actually are for the first time. The Church is not an "it"; the Church is "she", she to whom all the wealth of Christ's teaching and grace has been handed over. Because the Church is our mother, giving birth to us in the virginal font, we should love her and see how in the various eras, she has held on so that each man, woman, and child can know the certainity of having found Christ and thus are set upon the path to salvation.

Certainly, things like strong parishes and strong parochial schools and well-formed families make the work easier, but it doesn't provide guarantees. A child raised in the best environment, provided with every opportunity to learn, to grow, to experience the presence of Christ in His Church, can still turn his/her heel and kick you square in the bridge of your nose. And that is what I am feeling right now. I feel as though someone I care about kicked me square in the bridge of the nose, and I can't figure out why they would do this.

Thanks for reading this.
On Personal Mottoes

Someone, I can't recall whom, said that a priest can create his own coat of arms for himself after his ordination. Now, I am a high European, given my lily white tendency to burst into flames if I am in the sun too long, but heraldry is not my thing. However, the comment got me thinking; what if I did have to create a coat of arms? What would the motto be? (For me, it's all about the words.)

So, here it is. The personal motto by which you could identify my coat of arms is "Couragio! Omnia in Bonum!"

Oh, you need a translation...? Fine... The phrase means "Courage! All things tend toward the Good!" In my time as a Catholic and as a priest, this phrase has proved itself true over and over again. Just when I think something is lost, the solution appears. So, there's the motto...

Now for the remainder of the insignia...I guess a can of Diet Coke would be tacky...
Bravo to Fr. H!, pt. 2

Bravo to Fr. H for so courageously taking on the subject of reprehensible images in the media. Permit to explain.

Today, one of the studioes, and don't ask me which one, released a repulsive movie called Wedding Crashers. This movie is about two guys who crash weddings (did you see that coming?) so that they can bed down every one of the bridesmaids. If you need to know more, go to my man Ebert and let him fill you in. I can't stomach the thought of talking about it anymore.

This is where Fr. H deserves so much credit. Anticipating this film's release, Fr. H crashed the ordination of the new Bishop of Fort Worth, TX. Oh, yes, he will make some sort of claim that he knows the bishop-elect (actually, bishop by now) but don't let that fool you. He is actually researching how to crash events that one is not invited to. You guessed it; Fr. H is pitching a script in the next few weeks called Ordination Crashers. In this film, unlike the smarmy concoction that spawned it, a priest and his best friend go around the country and crash various episcopal and sacerdotal ordinations. While there he makes every effort to draw that diocese's seminarians over to his home diocese. His buddy works at enticing various religious orders to come into his home diocese. (No word if this second part is written for me -- I'll check with my agent.) Via this script, Fr. H is working to show the lighter side of priesthood and the joys of making a life-long commitment to serve Christ and His Church.

My, isn't he clever!
Bravo to Fr. H!, Pt. 1

I was going to post some information about a serious change that is coming up in Fr. H's life, but now I realize that I really can't. No, you won't get this information from me...although the Sooner Catholic would be a really good place to look. Ooop! I told you too much already. I can't really divulge this because he should get the chance...but it's killing me until the news is out.

Bravo to Fr. H for this mysterious piece of news which will remain secret because certain people haven't been told yet...dang! End transmission!

You Are Incredibly Logical

(You got 88% of the questions right)

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic

You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.

A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Take a Small Step For Evangelization

I have a small request to make of all readers regardless of your owning a satellite radio. Using the above link, would you mind contacting XM Radio and encourage them to add Catholic Programming to their line-up. They did a really good job covering the death of John Paul and the election of Benedict. Also, it would make my drive time more enjoyable. I especially encourage all XM subscribers to write in. On second thought, all non-subscribers should mention how much it would motivate them away from Sirius (XM's major competitor) if XM would have live Catholic Radio. It's just one small step toward evangelizing the country.
Kicking my Feet in the Air with Glee

You know, I became a Catholic after John Paul became Pope and had been writing at the pace of Warp Six. But now, I can catch the wave before it swamps us all. Biretta tip to Amy Wellborn at Open Book.
Letting the Cat Out Of the Bag!

Because the readership has been so responsive to my initial post about the top five books, I will tell you, one day early, why I asked for your input.

In my parishes, thus far, my parishioners have studied the Catechism, two comprehensive Bible Studies (one focues on OT and one on NT) and in Cherokee, they are finishing an overview of the Church Fathers. So, I was asking myself what else could these folks gain from studying. And that is where the question comes from.

I wanted to know what books were most instructive as spiritual reading in helping to form them into better Catholics. Your selections became the base line option for their reading. If they choose to do the spiritual reading, then they can choose a book to study. I composed a very detailed ballot for each of participants. Now, the rest of the parish will be invited to take part but since they are the faithful who have done all the work, they will be privileged to choose what they are to study. After doing what I think is essential, then the field is wide open.

The following is a copy of the ballot I distributed last night to the participants to make clear, I hope, the madness of the plan I have begun.

Adult Catechesis Series (Cherokee – Tuesday P.M. Series)

1. What general field would you like the series to cover? (Please select only ONE)
Sacred Scripture
(Go to Question 2)

Catholic Doctrine and History
(Go to Question 5 on the back)

2. In our Scripture Study, I would like to study:
Just One Book
(Go to Question 3)

A Group of Books
(Go to Question 4)

3. In our Scripture Study, I would like to study (choose 3)
Old Testament: Genesis / Exodus / Leviticus / Numbers / Deuteronomy / Joshua / Judges / Ruth / I and II Samuel / I and II Kings / I and II Chronicles / Ezra / Nehemiah / Tobit / Judith / Esther / I and II Maccabees / Job / Psalms / Proverbs / Ecclesiastes / The Song of Songs / Wisdom / Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) / Isaiah / Jeremiah / Lamentations / Ezekiel / Daniel / Baruch / Hosea / Joel / Amos / Obadiah / Jonah / Micah / Nahum / Habakkuk / Zephaniah / Haggai / Zechariah / Malachi

New Testament: Matthew / Mark / Luke / John / The Acts of the Apostles / Romans / I and II Corinthians / Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / I and II Thessalonians / I and II Timothy / Titus / Hebrews / James / I and II Peter / I, II, and III John / Jude / Revelation

4. In our Scripture Study, I would like to study the following set of books (choose 2)
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 History of the Church [The Acts of the Apostles and Revelation]
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]

5. Please choose only one from the following list

The Footprints of God (15 week Study) In this Study, participants will delve more deeply into the Christian Faith by studying the life and work of five key figures from Salvation History. Cost: none.

The Borromeo Project, Year Two (40 week Study) In this Study, participants will continue the work begun in the first year of the project. Participants will have a choice of studying either the Vatican II documents or the Encyclicals of John Paul II. Cost: The Cost of Books or Xeroxing.

Catholic Faith Explorers Series (7 week Study) This exciting series from Sapientia Press allows participants to make a close study of a particular aspect of the Christian Faith. Topics include: Baptism, Authority in the Church, The Mass, The Essential Role of the Laity in the Church, and Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Cost: $10.00

Beginning Spiritual Reading (13 week Study) In this Study, participants will read and discuss various classic writings concerning the Spiritual Life. Participants may choose from any of the five following books: Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, Confessions by St. Augustine, Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, The Story of a Soul by St. Terese of Liseux, or Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila. Cost: The Cost of Books and Xeroxing.

The Theology of the Body (14-16 week Study) In this Study, participants will read and discuss John Paul II’s groundbreaking study of the role human love plays in the divine plan of salvation. An alternative version of this program might also use the works of Christopher West to build upon what is read. Cost: The Cost of Books Plus Incidentals.

Eucharistic Themed Reading (14-16 week Study) In this study, participants would read and discuss a work of Catholic Theology focusing upon the Most Blessed Sacrament. This would be done in honor of the Year of the Holy Eucharist. Participants may choose from the following texts: The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, The Spirit of the Liturgy by Benedict XVI, Meditations Before Mass by Romano Guardini, Ecclesia de Eucharistia by John Paul II, or Worthy is the Lamb by Thomas Nash.

I hope you all aren't envious...
He Must Have Received Very Good Service To Keep Coming Back...
Hmm, I think I Feel an "I told you so!" Coming On

I seem to recall that I got quite a bit of crap because of my opposition to Harry Potter. And just when I was getting tempted to drop my opposition, I find myself renewed in my opposition. Yeah for our German Shepherd!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Doctrinal! And yummy!
The Angry Twins have found a link they posted on their blog of the Seven Deadly Sins demonstrated by Gummi Bears! I think this is hilarious and dovetails nicely with the way I celebrated the election of Pope Benedict XVI -- buy purchasing and enjoying Black Forest brand Gummi Bears. I don't know if this is any indication that the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will require the usage of Gummi Bears in all catechesis. We shall see!

Some People Just Need a Good Slap

I have no idea what planet, or what drugs, this Canadian senator is on, but someone needs to slap her so she returns to reality. We do not need to ask, "What would Jesus do?" in regards to same-sex "marriages." Scripture is VERY clear in stating that homosexuality is a disorder attraction. IT IS NOT GOD'S WILL for Adam and Steve, or Eve and Aida to have sex together, let alone call their relationship marriage. It is a tragic consequence of Original Sin that there is disorder in Creation. While baptism restores our friendship with God, even giving us Sanctifying Grace which is the Divine Life (as long as we do not lose it again through mortal sin), not all the effects of Original Sin are canceled out. Within the human person, our emotions are often chaotic, our intellects dimmed, and our wills weakened. We call this concupiscience. While not sinful in and of itself, it can lead us into sin. That is why God offers us Actual Grace, however we must "fully rely on God," (F.R.O.G.).

Fr. Tharp, what do you call that form of marshal arts you are developing to deal with heresy? Isn't there something you call the "holy, spin kick to the head"? I think some people need a demonstration.

Friday, July 08, 2005

That Poor Kid!

Once again, we have madness from the littlest member of the Hegemony. Of course, if he grows up to be a wonderful religious or priest, then it was all my influence. If John becomes a member of banking robber syndicate, then Fr. H is to blame.
Novena To Our Lady of Mount Carmel

I received this from a clandestine member of the CRM Hegemony via email. I would encourage all readers to make this novena and consecration this year. Especially, I would ask that you make your consecration for the benefit of your respective diocese and/or religious community. Even though they are structural elements of the Faith, dioceses and religious orders are composed of Christians who must assent to the Faith. By these acts of consecration, may we look first to ourselves for reform and then our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The novena follows.

This novena begins July 8 and ends on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. When not reciting the prayers in church or in common with others, read both parts, priest and people.

Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Priest: We fly to you, our Lady and our Mother, with entire confidence! Your Son, Jesus, has given you power over His Heart. Take us, your children, and place us in that Divine Heart, so that our souls may be purified of all that is displeasing to Him, that henceforth our hearts may be like yours, in their love of God and neighbor.

People: Mary, be mindful of us as we kneel before you. By your love of God, hear us; by your fidelity to God, intercede for us; by your power over the devil, protect us.

Priest and People: O most beautiful Flower of Mt. Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, singular vessel of the Holy Spirit, hear my prayer as I kneel before you. Mary, Empress of Heaven, from the bottom of my heart I beg you to hear my prayer and grant me the graces and favors I ask...(Here pause while requests are made in silence.) If what I ask is not for the glory of God or the salvation of my soul, then give me peace of mind and what is most conducive to both.

People: Mary, Mother of my Savior, I love you. Mary, delight of the Holy Spirit, I hope in you. Mary, eternal choice of God the Father, be queen of my heart.

Priest: Stretch out, most bountiful Jesus, your pierced hands, which you on the cross have stretched out for all sinners, and bless me in body and soul, as ascending into heaven, you have blessed your apostles, that our enemy terrified at the sign of the cross, may flee from us and not hurt us. Bless me, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Act of Consecration
Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graces and blessings that have come from God to me from your hands. Since you regard those who wear your scapular with special favor, I beg you to strengthen my weakness with your power, to enlighten the darkness of my mind with your wisdom, and to increase within me faith, hope and love.

Keep your eyes of mercy turned toward me and bring me your special protection in the daily struggle to be faithful to your Divine Son and to you. Separate from me all that is sinful in life and remind me constantly of my duty to honor you and imitate your virtues. From this time onward I will strive to live in companionship with you, to offer all to Jesus through you and to make my life the mirror of your humility, love, patience, meekness and prayerfulness.

O Mother, support me with your never-failing love that I, a sinner, may come one day to exchange your scapular for the wedding garment of heaven, and to live with you and the saints of Carmel in the kingdom of God forever. Amen.
A beautiful tribute
I can't get to sleep tonight so I started answering e-mails and doing some searching on the web. I came across this rather beautiful and touching tribute to the late Fr. Michael Labadie. It is written by someone who is, I believe, the principal of the Catholic High School where Fr. Labadie had taught and had intended to return until his suicide.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What? Do You Think All This Entertainment Is Free?!

Okay, I have a request to make of all readers. One week from now I will tell you why I needed this survey.

Clear your mind and then consider this question: "What are the five most essential spiritual reading books so that you can be a well-informed Catholic?"

Don't think it over too much -- go with your gut reaction. Put your answers in the comments box. On the 13th, I will fill in the gap.

UPDATE: I made a mistake when I initially posted this. When you consider these five books, you may omit the Holy Bible and the CCC. I will explain later why you can exclude them. So if you mentioned them, you get two more votes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Who are you callin' a dead language?
Retreat Retread

Several people asked, via the comments box to give an update on the retreat I gave for the religious sisters in Wichita. I will endeavor to be brief.

The general theme of the retreat was a consideration of how the Theology of the Body as envisioned by John Paul the Great can speak to the act of religious consecration. I titled the retreat "Behold, the Bride Comes!" I selected the title because traditionally consecrated women religious are referred to as "Brides of Christ." The question that ran through my mind was is this title a metaphor or something more? In other words, had the Church been making a concessionary line of speech or had been pointing to something deeper?

The five themes the sisters and I explored were 1.) The Body Naked, 2.) The Body Shamed, 3.) The Body Renewed, 4.) The Body Nupital and Consecrated, and 5.) The Body Bridal. The trajectory worked like this. We started from the Garden and moved to the Fall. The Fall's resolution appeared in the Church in which we saw how the term "Body of Christ" is also not a metaphor. From the Church, we considered how the individual member of the Body of Christ embraces their particular vocation. The last presentation discussed the idea that until the consummation of history, the Church is in the middle of the course of history, standing between creation and consummation.

Each day there were reflection questions that I provided that tried to deepen or consider a new angle on the material presented. For example, under the Body Shamed, I had the sisters reflect on Cain and Abel and ask how this sin of the flesh becomes a warning to all who participate in the covenant God enacts.

Each evening, the presentation focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Theology of the Body Realized Already. On the first point, Mary is the true and lasting virgin not only because her body is intact but so is her heart and it is heart-intactness that constitutes true virginity. On the second night, Mary as Mother who intercedes and directs her children away from the shame of the Fall. Third night, which coincided with a penance rite for the sisters, Mary was seen as the Queen of Peace and Our Lady of Reconciliation. She is given as mother of all those living in Christ so that we may know true restoration of all the broken bonds. Fourth and final Marian presentation, Mary, via the Book of Revelation, is both the Archetype of the Communal and Personal Body, the Church, as in the Assumption, she already knows what we long to see. Mary is the Eschatological Bride.

The schedule was pretty loose. Morning Prayer, Morning Presentation, Holy Mass, restful afternoon, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer with a Evening Presentation. For the most part, the immediate feedback was good and I think that I did a good job. Personally, I have an ambivalent relationship with compliments mainly because if it is something people appreciate, that doesn't mean I presented the truth necessarily. Also, I am just neurotic enough to think that the compliment is not precisely sincere -- that it is offered to "make me feel better." But that's my hang up. Also, a compliment doesn't tell me the really essential piece of information that I want, namely the change of life that this encounter with Christ will bring. In the end though, all of the sisters and the staff of the Spiritual Life Center (who heard my homilies from Holy Mass) were very complimentary and that's a good sign. I am reasonably sure the sisters got a lot out of it or at least that is my hope. The real challenge was to present something these sisters hadn't really heard before. You must recall that these sisters have been professed longer than I have been Catholic or born in some cases.

The more I think on it the more I know needs to be put into the retreat. I also
think that it could be a good retreat to give also to married couples, but I seriously doubt they could get away for five days. I would probably have to focus just on the five basic presentations.

For myself, retreats are radical, in the sense that we make contact with our roots. What rooted us when we began to be disciples sometimes loses its purchase and so we must reset the foundation. Thanks to everyone who prayed and we will wait to see what the fruit of this actually is.
Variation on a previous theme

Around the time of the election, I openly posited that celebrities really needed to keep out of the political posturing unless they were going to limit themselves to the political posturing that every American citizen can engage in. It did and does strike me as a combination of bullying and self-promotion. The implied message is something like "If you want to be cool and successful, then just think/act like me."

Fast forward to the Live 8 Concerts and it's time to re-consider this same sort of issue in a different way. Now, I must give Bob Geldof props for organizing this concert and in some small way bring some of the situations occuring in Africa to light. That's right, readers, it's a partial flip-flop of a sort. While I don't feel the need to be brow beaten about my someone else's political stance, I do think that if you have the information correct and the resources to get it out there, then get to it. Once the information is out, let me decide what to do with it. I would especially point canonical fingers to my Catholic brethren who might be cooling their heels in this regard.

Concerning the questions of Africa, I agree with the linked author that 1.) the Live 8 participants need to drop their ego and self-promotion instinct into, at least, neutral and 2.) money alone is not the solution. Africa is a galling example of how power in fact does not corrupt but draws the corruptible. Add disease, lack of education, social inequities, the reminants of colonialism and I think you see my point. Live 8 was important and helpful in getting the message out, but come on, "the most important event in the history of mankind" as one of the participants opined? I can think of a short list of things more important to the history of man. Let's see: the wheel, fire, printing press, transistors, the Resurrection, the presence of the saints, the Holy Eucharist. One concert, no matter how well intentioned, is ever going to be the most important event in human history.

Somewhere in St. Paul's letters, Paul commends praying for the Emperor. I would add, that for good or ill, the celebrity is a part of a modern democratic power structure and that would, by extension, call me to pray for them and for the nation's leaders.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Oh No! Fr. JC is going to be on the radio again.

It had been a long time, though, since I had been on the radio, when about 2 weeks ago, I was interviewed on the morning show of Relevant Radio about the movie "Batman Begins." Well, Relevant Radio wants to talk with me again about being both a priest and a psychologist. Relevant Radio is a "national" Catholic radio network. I use the quotes because it is still pretty new, and they do not have that many stations throughout the country, yet. However, you can listen to them online at the above link (note in the URL "revelent" is spelled with all "e"s). I will be on this Wednesday, July 6 from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. EST.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fr. Michael Labadie, R.I.P.
I received sad news this past week that a young priest from the Archdiocese of Mobile apparently committed suicide last Tuesday. He was two years behind me at the seminary in Rome and, though we weren't close friends, we were certainly acquaintances and would chat from time to time as seminary life brought us together so many times. He was a good and serious student and had a strong zeal for Christ and Holy Mother Church. He had a strong desire to be a good priest. He did much good work in his brief time as a priest on earth, but he apparently also suffered many personal problems. Ultimately, the problems must have seemed too heavy to bear. It is a tragic loss to so many people and the whole situation simply leaves more questions than any real sense of closure.

I am sure the reality of suicide may generate some interesting comments on this post, and I welcome those. Mental suffering and illness is something about which we understand precious little -- the inner sanctum of the mind remains a grand mystery and events such as this serve to remind us of the mystery. May his grieving family, friends, and those he served find peace and comfort. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine! Et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Frs. Benedict Groeschel & J.C. Maximilian

Last week I went on my canonical retreat. What a wonderful gift the Church gives to us priests in saying that we must go on a retreat each year. As my fellow CRM-bloggers can atest (especially both of them as they are pastors already), the "business" of administrating a parish can be maddening at times. There are all kinds of bills (which I know all of you have too), but also the personnel issues, figuring out how to have the parking lot paved without disturbing the "little old ladies" (and might I add, a good number of old men) who don't want to walk too far to get into the church. In the midst of it all, a prayer life can be challenging.

Holy Mother Church, in her loving concern for her ministers, tells them "take some time of intensive prayer EVERY YEAR." A retreat is a time to get away from the phones, email, US Mail, meetings, TV, etc... just to commune with the Lord. All people are called to holiness, but clergy and religious are especially called to live that call to holiness in a public way. The yearly retreat is a time to assess how well one is doing in their spiritual life, how well they are living out the particular call which God has given them in building the Kingdom of God. I still need some time to reflect on what God said to me during this past week, so I am not going to do a lot of spiritual reflecting, or sharing the fruit of my contemplation right now. Besides, that's what I do on my blog, Fr. JC Maximilian (yes, another shameless advertisement for my blog. According to the counter, people are visiting it, but there are few comments).

Fr. Groeschel is doing remarkably well, given the seriousness of his injuries last year (remember he was hit by a car). He has very limited use of his right arm as the bones are pretty much fused, but his right hand is fine. He shuffles more when he walks, and he cannot stand for long periods. Jose, one of the candidates for the CFRs, is a constant companion. Fr. Groeschel still has his wit, charm and remarkable intellect. He is more soft-spoken now, but his words continue to be Spirit filled. And I pray that I can still be as active as he is when I am his age; in addition to 4 conferences to us retreatants (me and 4 other priests), he got out a newsletter, attended an episcopal ordination, has a more than full load of spiritual directees, psychological evaluations for candidates to the CFRs, and Masses at many places. He is a holy man.
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What's in a name?
The e-mail I opened today started out like so many others. It was an update from a woman I haven't seen or even spoken to for some time. She got married a few years ago -- I got an update at that time. She became pregnant with twins about nine months ago -- she updated me on that one too. I have been excited for her new life and have thought of her and prayed for her too. Then today, another e-mail. As I began to read it I realized what the contents would be: "Oh, yeah," I thought, "I'll bet the babies have arrived."

Sure enough they had. Two healthy, baby boys. She mentioned the first one's name and the grandfathers from whom the baby's name came. Then she mentioned the second baby's name and that the "Stephen" came from me, or was in my honor, or ... You know what I mean. She named the baby after me. I was stunned. I just sat there looking at the computer screen and read the sentence again. Something about the fact a baby was named after me, because of priestly ministry I had performed for this woman, well ... it really stopped me in my tracks (in a good way). I am so honored and so stunned. The woman recalled how I had helped her at a time when her life was in serious danger, perhaps even close to ending. And because of that, she wanted to name her baby after me. She had, of course, mentioned to me before how thankful she was for my support and ministry. But I guess the words of thanks sunk in in an entirely new way as I read today's e-mail.

It started out like so many other mundane e-mail updates, but has captivated my thoughts for the rest of the day. And beyond...

Friday, July 01, 2005

And we thought readers bugged out for the weekend
Yes, it has been a while since I have done any blogging. I'll explain that in a moment. But first a big word of THANKS to Dave W. over at Duc in Altum for providing an easy solution to the previous formatting problem on our blog. Several of you offered solutions and we are most appreciative. I went with Dave W.'s solution because he described his as "easy," and not being very technologically savvy, I didn't want to upset the balance of the universe or the sleeping trolls of the information superhighway by muddling deeper into realities that are beyond my comprehension! So, with great fear, I attempted to complete Dave's solution and sat nervously as the template updated, certain that some major glitch was about to occur and, for once, Fr. Tharp's paranoid fears that I am somehow seeking to undermine him would appear to be true! But thankfully, the whole problem cleared up quite easily. Thanks to you all and to Dave W. for his fine and easy solution.

So, I have been away due to some travel and, though I have been back at my parish for a week now, I have been trying to get out from underneath paperwork, schedule appointments, prepare notes on topics for our upcoming parish Pastoral Council meeting, and handle the day-to-day matters of the parish. I still have a mound of papers on my desk, and so blogging has been non-existent. But rest assured, dear readers, the bloggers have not bugged out for good. Fr. Tharp and I have been in daily communication, often by text messages, and he assures me that the retreat he is leading is going exceedingly well. My only fear is that the accolades he is apparently receiving for his retreat work will make him, shall we say, a little more difficult to handle. I am afraid that I may have to pull him aside to explain that Jesus' words from the Cross, "I thirst," had nothing to do with narcissistic desires to be popularly acclaimed Time's Man of the Year!