Sunday, May 28, 2006

Monkey on the loose...
I'll be away this week with our graduating 8th Grade class, our Principal, and some parents on the class graduation trip. Though I will be back in town for Masses next weekend (Pentecost), I will be away the following week too due to a continuing education meeting of the priests of our Archdiocese along with the priests of the Tulsa diocese. So, there won't be blog posting to speak of and there probably won't even be blog reading -- I guess I am simply going to have to trust that Fr. Tharp will behave himself on the blog in my absence. I'll be back to offer apologies and to pick up the pieces later...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sad News
I received word today of the tragic death of a young priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Fr. Todd Reitmeyer. Fr. Reitmeyer was a few years behind me at the North American College. He was ordained just shy of three years ago this June. He was a dedicated, young, and zealous priest. He died yesterday in a jet ski accident while vacationing near his family home in Texas. What a tragic loss for his parishes, his diocese and, the entire Body of Christ that is the Church. May he rest in peace!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Silverback alpha-ragemonkey beware: Or, Fr. Hamilton to speak on Relevant Radio!
The folks at Relevant Radio tell me that I will be interviewed to share some of my vocation story tomorrow morning just after the top of the 6:00 a.m. hour (Central time). For those who have made the mistake of not already listening to Relevant Radio over the internet, you can link to it on our sidebar, scroll past all of the links to other blogs. Relevant Radio broadcasts Fr. Tharp each Friday morning. Some time ago, Fr. Tharp apparently told them they should try to get me on the air. So, here we go. It is exciting, but I am also a bit nervous about this. Why? Well, all joking from this post's title aside, when I compare Fr. Tharp's segments and the laughter it usually brings, I don't really consider myself all that funny or witty -- well, at least not when I am by myself. I mean, I can "play off" of someone else (as, no doubt, you have noticed Fr. Tharp and I do almost daily on this blog), but alone ... well ... Who knows? Of course, Relevant Radio isn't exactly looking for a comedy routine either. I suppose I should just let me be me and share my path to the priesthood.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The "House" Finale

Prologue and First Segment
First, House is a total monster. I love it. Only the most curmudegonly human being could torture a patient while taking the history. Of course, the commercial advertising the special surprise sweeps moment of the episode totally defanged the episode. I guess I will have to be satisfied with the excellent acting of Hugh Laurie.

It's interesting how House can both be so in control and so completely full of denial and self-loathing. What's also a really interesting side of this story is how different it is when the doctor is forced to be the patient. Adding that there is someone who hates him enough to try to kill him (more to the point, maim House) and that he has to share ICU with the gunman adds to the suspense? So why did the gunman shoot House? Okay, now we know; the gunman's wife committed suicide after discovering the gunman had an affair.

The main disease story line is interesting. A guy comes in with a severly swollen tongue and they don't know why. Of course, there has been the requisite poking and prodding. Now, we find out he has a very attractive wife and the hubby is not particularly attractive. Surprise twist: the patient is bleeding into his eye... Ooooh, the eye just popped out. And House has collapsed...

Second Segment
What an amazing scene! House and the gunman had an argument about whose fault it was that the gunman's wife committed suicide. Hey, that gunman made a point I am constantly making: you have to choose a moral worldview, even if that world view absolute solipism, you still have to choose something to operate out of.

And of course, House has been miraculously healed of his limp, but no one is sure why the limp is gone. Part of the problem includes how this might have happened, that Cuddy may have experimented on him using a brain re-boot technique involving coma.

The patient's condition still continues to baffle. It is isn't cancer. It's causing a high fever and increasing intercranial pressure which sounds like an infection, but antibotics didn't help. Uh Oh, I think the patient's testicle just exploded. (That's a sentence you didn't think you would ever read on this blog...)

Third Segment
Uh oh, House is losing his edge. He's afraid -- and that is new for him. But here comes the betrayal. His best friend, Wilson, helped do the surgery. Except that it turns out to be a hallucination. Crud, this is getting good. And now he is losing his short term memory (but don't worry: it can't be that serious because the show's name after him.) And he is really scared -- and still hallucinating. Eeek, creepy, the gunman is just sitting there staring at him.

The patient's case gets weirder and weirder by the moment. No solution as of yet.

Please don't make this a two part episode that will have to wait all summer...I can't take it!

Fourth Segment
Okay, so now the hallucinations have gotten really interested. House is working it out in his mind, using the gunman as a symbol of rational function. But I suspect that the gunman is actually the wounded part of him, the part that is hard and cruel, the part that comes from the leg injury which had jaded.

The patient's case is reaching a critical moment. The patient is going to have a robot inserted into him so they can get a real sample of what is happening. It demonstrates the logic of one small sample doesn't always give the real picture. But the patient is still

"The only truth that matters is the truth that can be measured,..." so claims the gunman of House. Probably true. The metaphysical criterion of what does it reveal and what does it mean plays heavily in the scene. Even when he is saving a life, House dismisses that life as one more interesting case. And House is finding out that he is miserable "for nothing." And the beginning of the change is here: House apologized for his shortcoming.

Ah, the patient case is .... not real. The patient case is a hallucination or is it? Oh, crap... come on. Come on. Oh how cool. The patient was grasping the bullet which means the patient case was a delusion and the whole episode was a delusion. He hasn't been treated; he was being wheeled into surgery. Interestingly, he asked for the special treatment, that in the delusion cured him of his pain. Oh, and the interesting statement on House's part: "I want meaning." Like so many people, the surface fails to satisfy -- you must go out into the deep water.

Great Episode! I can't wait for the next season. Oh, rocking! All summer they are going to replay the entire season...oooh, I get to play catchup! Woot!
Simon Cowell Better Step Off in Eight Minutes!

I am champing at the bit to see the season finale of "House." The atrocity that is "American Idol" is on. It better be off pretty soon. I mean it...

And there will be live blogging at the commercial for each segment of the House Season Finale.
What the Deuce Is That About?

Okay, here's the story. I can't figure out how this works or why some folks think this sort of thing is a good idea, but it has happened a lot recently. Sorry, I am getting ahead of myself.

Has anyone else noticed the inclusion of stars and actors in kids' fare whose other work is certainly not family friendly? For example, Larry the Cable Guy stars in the new Disney film, Cars, as Mater the Tow Truck. Many people find him funny; I find him vulgar and unnecessarily profane. Here's my problem: doesn't featuring him in that movie send the messagge that he's appropriate listening material for the kids? I know I can be a little hypersensitive on the subject of what kids see and when do they see it, but it seems kinda, well, dumb. Further, if the kids aren't familiar with Larry's work, does he necessarily bring any marketability to the film? It's very perplexing to me.

Then there's the case of Disney's show "Phil of the Future," which stars Craig Anton. You might remember Mr. Anton from his previous work on Mad TV, again, not a show for family viewing, or for that matter anyone else, IMHO. (In the interest of full disclosure, I did enjoy the Marlene McBride segments as well as Ms. Swan.) Again, you want to ask, when did including this guy seem like a good idea?

Not that this is a first for Disney. We all remember Dean Jones with great pleasure as the Shaggy D.A. and the fellow that owned an E.T. feline. Dean had a remarkable run on Broadway, most notably in the original production of "Company." "Company" is hardly family fare so why did Disney chose this guy? Dean is a further interesting example as I think later in life he underwnet a conversion to Christianity of some Evangelical stripe. He used his acting ability to produce a series of biblical stories.

So, here's the point of the post: is there a statute of limitations on holding your previous work against you before you can star in children's programming? Should your other body of work preclude you from working in other genres where your previous work might not be appreciated?
I LOVE IT!!!!!
No more running across the parking lot at 5:55 a.m. to the only computer I have (in my office) in order to listen to Fr. Tharp on Relevant Radio! Okay, so, I have only really managed to do that, oh, three times before. However, you get my point.

Relevant Radio, as Fr. Tharp previously alerted us, now has their radio programs available in archives. So, if you can just wait a few days, you can listen to Fr. Tharp's Friday interviews at a much more amenable time.

That's what I am doing now. I am listening to Fr. Tharp's May 19th interview. At the news that some critics were not giving the Da Vinci Code good ratings, Fr. Tharp is heard to excitedly giggle with delight. I love it!!! And, let me tell you, the Relevant Radio folks were really buttering Fr. Tharp up last Friday, the end of their pledge drive. The radio program host kept stating why he loved speaking with Fr. Tharp so much, why he appreciated Fr. Tharp's remarks which manifest the reality that our faith does intersect our culture, not by accident, but intentionally as is proper. The great thing? The radio host's remarks are all true! Way to go Relevant Radio! Way to go Fr. Tharp!
It's Way Too Hot to Do Anything Else But Sit Inside and Blog

Summer in a parish usually means that things slow down and take it easy. Lots of planning and lots of mulling over ideas, but all in all, the afternoons are quiet and the evenings open. Regularly, I never have a free evening, so having one is, well, pleasant. It won't last, so I intend to enjoy them for as long as they last.

A couple of weeks back, I offered to make biscuits for the parish breakfast buffet on Palm Sunday. Of course, I realized that it would take about 10 dozen to cover the spread and I began cursing my loose lips. Then, I had a moment of clarity. What I needed was a stand mixer. You know the device I am thinking of. Something like this:

That device is a dream. It has changed the way I cook and I shop. I haven't purchased a loaf of bread from the store for over a month. In the meantime, I have made three wheat loafs, 4 honey oatmeal loafs, 2 loaves of pumpernickel, about 4 dozen chocolate chip jelly bean cookies, and a tasty lemon cake. But that is not where the dietary joys end. The bread has translated into several presents and became the bases of a couple of other dishes, namely french toast and homemade croutons. Next on the agenda? Candy, namely divinity (seems fitting, doesn't it?).

Also, the garden is off and rolling. Today, gave the plants a little food and a midday water. In the garden, I have planted tomatoes (Roma, Brandywine, and Lemon Boy), green peppers, parsley, and rosemary. There are a cluster of little tomato-lings. I am looking forward to harvesting those tasty globes. We will keep you posted.

Lastly, I am ready to destroy Wal-Mart because of their absolute evil. I stopped by the great oppressor of my desires in order to pick up some soda for the rectory. I went in search of Peach Fresca, only to discover that they weren't carrying Fresca (at all)! I was looking forward to that grapefruit-licious spiked with the summer time taste of peach. But also, it was not to be.

Okay, enough from me, but that is all that fills the exciting schedule right now. I need to work up a shopping list. The larder is lean.
Grocery shopping fun
I went to our (only) local grocer to shop yesterday evening. I hear many people remark that the prices are rather high at our local option. Some people even make the 35 minute drive into Oklahoma City to get better bargains. The one thing I would say about our store, is that the produce could be much better. I like to buy red leaf or green leaf lettuce for salads and sandwiches; quite often the lettuce, especially the red leaf, appears half-wilted, brown on the edges, and just about to turn for the worse. In such cases, usually the green leaf, which seems to be a more course leaf, is more acceptable. I got a chuckle last evening as I approached the produce section and began looking over the lettuce. At that very moment, the song on the store speaker system was "California Dreaming." So the disappointing sight of the lettuce offerings coincided with the lyrics: "All the leaves are brown..."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, It's Yours!

Well, kids, it's official. I signed the contract today for the first year of the Borromeo Project. I am a little numb and/or surprised. It's really exciting to think that my little innovation will actually have a broader audience than my three little parishes in the prairie.

This is a major life goal of mine. I should say, "was." As a little boy, I would be enraptured by the wonderful scent of a freshly cracked book. The snap of a new binding would stoke my desire to get to the next page. What lies just beyond that trimmed edge?

So, my thanks to Saint Catherine of Siena Press for having confidence in the little project that could. Check out their other offerings while work my fingers to the bone trying to find all the quotes so that I can ask permission to use it in the book. Oh, goody.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Over the Hedge
Well, I just got back from the movie theatre where I saw Over the Hedge. It was my little way to participate in the "give your movie going dollars to another film on the opening weekend of the Da Vinci Code" boycott. And I have to say, the movie was family friendly, clever, and enjoyable. It even managed to offer some pointed critique of our modern society and it concluded with a reasonable message about family, sacrifice, and mutual support. I'm glad I went to see it and I hope I continue to hear poor remarks about DVC.
Blogrolling again
Okay, I do not intend to update the blogroll again for some time. I have done several installments of this, which I don't mind, however, each update brings a few latecomers with more requests to be linked. One must close the request line at some point. We will, of course, update things from time to time. As always this is an ongoing project. This post is simply to notify our readers that a few more links have been added because other bloggers successfully pleaded enough. For now, however, I am done updating the blogroll. Until next time, America!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Not that I am one to gloat or anything...

When I heard about the line up for the movie version of DVC, I inwardly (okay and outwardly) groaned because I thought to myself, "Regardless of how badly the book is written, this group should be able to straighten it up into something more appealing." Well, apparently there isn't enough makeup to put on this particular pig so that you can take it to the dance. The word from Cannes is "Yaaaaaawwwwwnnnnn!"

For instance from Yahoo News we have this story. Reuters report doesn't sound much better. I especially liked what Daily Variety, the entertainment industry gold standard, had to say: "Sitting through all the verbose explanations and speculations about symbols, codes, secret cults, religious history and covert messages in art, it is impossible to believe that, had the novel never existed, such a script would ever have been considered by a Hollywood studio. It's esoteric, heady stuff, made compelling only by the fact that what it's proposing undermines the fundamental tenants of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, and, by extension, Western Civilization for the past 2,000 years." The second sentence is particularly telling. The only reason to see this movie, it sounds like, is to run down the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ad Multos Annos!

Well, there was a fair amount of speculation and questioning surrounding the impending retirement and subsequent replacement of the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Today, we hear that Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburg has been nominated to take Cardinal McCarrick's place. Congratulations to Archbishop-Elect Wuerl.

In related news, we have some happy news for our ecclesiatical province. Bishop Sartain of Little Rock is getting a new job as Bishop of Joliet, IL. I have heard good things about his leadership so that bodes well for the folks in Joliet.

Remember to pray for our shepherds.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Catholic Ragemonkey: Me encanta!
Again, the blogroll has been updated. I took the various requests for a link and have placed those new links in the blogroll. However, I will note that some of you who made requests for a link, do not yet have CRM on your own blogroll. Ahem...bad, little monkeys! You must bow to the monolithic force that is CRM. If you want to play in the jungle, you must show that you know who is running the monkey troop!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Moments that warm a Pastor's heart
YES! I have one!

This past Friday something simple happened that turned out to be most helpful for this weekend's homily. As I was walking to my office Friday morning a fairly good sized weed caught my attention, growing right near the back entrance to the Parish Office. You couldn't have missed this weed. It was about 1 1/2 feet tall, it had several blossoms on top, it had several branches and a thick stalk. I pulled the weed up, and being a lazy man, I threw it in the yard, rather than walk a few extra steps to the trash can! Guess what folks? That weed that looked so strong before, that was flourishing, whose presence you couldn't have missed while it was still planted in the ground -- you could walk past it now and never know it was there. You would have to search in the grass to see it. And it is still there. Why is it so hard to see? Because it has shriveled up to about four inches long and looks more like a dead twig now than a strong stalk.

The Gospel of St. John today gave us Jesus' words: "I am the vine, you are the branches." I used the weed story in my homily, telling people that the weed was still there. I told them they could check it out for themselves. And I went on to tell them of the need to stay firmly attached, intimately close to Jesus, lest we become like that weed I pulled up: dried up, shriveled, not even noticeable. Just moments ago, I finished leading the Rosary this afternoon in the church. As I was putting things away in the sacristy, I noticed through the window a family who had been present at the Rosary. They were in the backyard of the Parish Office building, seeming to be looking for something. Then I realized what they were doing. They and their children were looking to see that weed. And they eventually found it as I watched from my sacristy view. And a little prayer went up for them from their Pastor. I guess that sight was just a tidbit of a confirmation that my efforts at preaching, by God's grace, are worth it. May it bear much fruit!
Theater of Cultural Battle
Fr. Tharp's zealous work to form people in knowledge of the faith, especially as a confrontation of the claims of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, has worn off on me. This weekend I included a two page insert in the bulletin about the code, taken from the resources offered on My weekly Pastor's Column also focused largely on the opening of the movie version of the book. I also spoke on the matter for about ten minutes at the end of all the Masses. I am going to share with blog readers what I said to my people. These remarks are a bit long, but, I guess if you are interested, it may be worth it.

As you may know the Da Vinci Code movie is set to open this week on May 19th. To my knowledge, the movie theatre in Kingfisher does not have plans to carry it this week, which I think is great. But I know there will be much interest in seeing it. I invite you to read my bulletin column, to read the bulletin insert, and to make use of resources and web sites I have placed in the bulletin to help gain good information about the problems of this book and movie.

All Christians, especially we Catholics, should be concerned about the ramifications of this book: its claims that Jesus was not God, but was later called so to enhance the political power of the Roman Emperor; that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children with her; that the Catholic Church, especially an insecure, power hungry, male hierarchy has hidden this information; and that Christianity is really just warmed over paganism – these claims ought to disturb us and we ought to recognize them for what they are: at their core they are slanders against Jesus, the Son of God, and his Bride the Church which he established.

I don’t say any of these things out of anger or fear. I think the success of the Da Vinci Code and the confusion it stirs up, is actually a great opportunity for us, who are followers of Jesus, to realize the urgent need to know our faith well and to share the authentic faith with others in the world. We need to be able to confront the claims made in the book and movie and therefore, we need to be interested in learning more about our faith. What we learn in preparation for receiving a Sacrament is not enough. In practice, many Catholic people check out of learning their faith after Confirmation, as if they have no more need of learning, or growth in the living faith placed in them. If such an attitude is going to change, it must start with us adults, who lead the way for the younger generations. We need to avail ourselves of opportunities on the parish and diocesan levels to learn more about our faith as Catholic Christians. There are real challenges in the world that need to be confronted by people of faith. But if our own “well” is dry and empty, we won’t have the hope of responding to blasphemous and false claims, such as those made in the Da Vinci Code. [Here I announced some upcoming opportunities to learn more, one of which is a presentation at my parish to be given by Fr. Tharp.]

I just finished a good and reader friendly book entitled the Da Vinci Deception. I would highly recommend it. That book made a point I want to share with you: Think of what would have happened had the book and movie been about Judaism instead of Christianity. What if someone wrote a book about the “real” Moses and the hidden origins of Judaism, claiming that the Jewish faith was based on lies? What if such a book claimed that Moses really believed in many gods, that he did not lead the people out of Egypt, that he did not give the Ten Commandments, performed no miracles and gave no moral rules? Suppose the book claimed that centuries later, power hungry followers of Moses “upgraded” his status, turning him into a prophet who saw and spoke with the one true God, who defeated Pharaoh, who was a divinely appointed moral leader, and who established a covenant with God. What if the book claimed that Moses’ followers gave him this upgrade to secure their own status so that they would be recognized as divinely appointed leaders of the people just like Moses? So, in the end, core Jewish beliefs are really based on lies and people have been duped into believing the “legend of Moses” ever since. Such a book would be widely condemned as being anti-Semitic and a direct attack against Judaism. Why is it that such claims are okay when they are directed against Christianity? When Christians complain, about the Da Vinci Code, we are told, “Oh, it’s just a story.” In my mind, we need to be much more up in arms about the way the media and various segments of our culture view Christianity and our Catholic faith. A response can only begin with each of us taking responsibility to be educated and ready to defend the faith. We cannot wait for someone else to do this for us. Each of us must take personal responsibility to learn, know, and share the truth of our Catholic faith. And I think the present moment is a wonderful opportunity, even a blessing, if we respond in faith.

My suggestion for us all is that we engage in a unique boycott of the movie. Opening weekends are critically important for measuring a movie’s success. So, on this upcoming weekend, go to the movies and simply see a different movie. If you must see the Code, make yourself wait a couple of weeks to see it – it is bound to be around for quite a while. And, if you will spend the time and the money to see the movie, then also commit yourself to spending the time and the money to buy, read, and study a book exposing the errors of the Code.

After one of the Masses, a lady told me: "Father, thank you for waking me up from my apathy as a Catholic. Those words you spoke were directed right at me. I'm going to check into these resources and learn more." I thanked her and went on to assure her that my own words were really directed at me, since I think I have waited too long to do anything about this. But the theater of battle is up and running now. And there will be more to come.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The day the squirrel went berserk...
Yesterday was the end of the formal "Teacher Appreciation Week" at our parish school. To cap it all off, we had an after school teacher party in the rectory backyard with some snacks and drinks. It was a pleasant afternoon to be sitting in the backyard at patio tables and enjoying the nice day. At one point, a baby squirrel crawled down a tree and stepped onto the rock-lined ledge of the backyard garden pond. We were all watching it. I don't know what happened, but something must have startled the little thing because it suddenly jumped up in the air and sort of twisted its body and landed right into the pond with a big splash. We all howled with laughter. Luckily I didn't have to fish it out because it came to the surface and crawled back onto the rock ledge, and then scurried back up the tree. It gave us all a good laugh. And who knows, maybe the little thing likes to take a swim and it jumped in not due to being startled.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Point About the Gnostic Gospels

Let me ask you a question. Who could write a better biography about the man, Abraham Lincoln: me or his wife? His wife would certainly have the asset of knowing him personally, of sharing his life with him, and perhaps even knowing his deepest fears and concerns. What do I have? I know something of him, Abraham Lincoln, but it is all second hand. At best, I might get my hands on a diary or journal and hopefully I could glean something more from this. At the end however, I really don't know him as well as a contemporary of Lincoln's would actually know him.

What does this have to do with the Gnostic Gospels? The Gnostic Gospels are a series of writing proporting to tell the real story of Christianity, re-cast as a Gnostic cult. These are the works the DVC would like us to take seriously as competitors to the Canonical Gospels. Small problem, there, however: the earliest Gnostic Gospel dates from a hundred or more (give or take a decade) from the time of events it tries to describe. It would be like my writing a biography of Lincoln and claim that mine is more authoritative that the ones who knew and worked with the man. The time frame is about the same. I am as distant from Lincoln's time (about 140 years) as the Christian Gnostic was from Christ and the Apostles. Why would I find their material more credible?
Would Someone Please Page Alanis Morissette? I found something truly ironic

Mr. Hanks doesn't get it. Dialogue is about communication. Would anyone accept a romping treasure hunt movie that proved that slavery was never really abolished and that this was all a lie perpetrated to destroy caucasian culture? What would we say if Indiana Jones showed up to tell us that everything you know about Orthodox Jewry was about power and suppressing the sacred feminine of Zipporah? Regards of what the genre of the movie, you must take responsibility for what is said and communicated.

This is where the irony hits home for me. As I understand it, Mr. Hanks is Greek Orthodox. A few days back the Greek Orthodox patriarch made a fairly loud public statement calling for a boycott. I guess Mr. Hanks will have something to dialogue with his parish priest about come this Sunday.
And just how do you suggest we do that?

Referencing back to a comment left in the boxes under the post on the impending RCIA summit, a reader mentioned the need for instructing catechumen and candidates on the role devotional prayer plays in the Catholic Life. I would agree with the observation; while devotions were mentioned, there wasn't anything done to help integrate them into my formation. Why I think that happened is neither here nor there, and resolutely remains, not the point.

The comment led me back to a basic question I have had as pastor: how do you teach devotion and piety to a parish? Given that devotion to a particular saint or practice is intensely personal, a priest must be cautious not to communicate the message, "if you don't like the devotions I do, you are a bad Catholic." I think there are some devotional prayers, however, which transcend that issue, e.g. The Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, lectio divina. The question remains however, how do you form people in this aspect of prayer so that it become a consistent part of their daily life of Faith.

So, that's the question I want you to answer. Put yourself in my shoes and then come up with some ideas about how do you teach devotion to those who are planning on entering the Church.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What say you?
I would like to hear some ideas and feedback to assist me as a Pastor dealing with a pastoral challenge. Regardless of state in life, I'm sure many of you have some gems to share. Perhaps our married readers -- here is an enormous and slow pitch to the guys at Sirach 40:20 (knock it out of the park, boys!) -- could particularly share their thoughts in response to this post.

As a priest I encounter Catholics who, for whatever reasons, have married outside of the Church. I wonder how to best instruct and catechize such folk about understanding the real and experienced difference between a civil marriage versus a marriage lived as a Sacrament. Please understand these rather narrow parameters and respond to these parameters in the comment box and not other issues. IN PARTICULAR, what sort of instruction and explanation would you give to couples who have been married outside of the church for a number of years, say a decade or more, and who finally get around to having the marriage "blessed" in the Church? How do we best explain how their marriage will be different after the blessing as compared to before? Notice, in my mind, the question seems particularly apt for couples married for a number of years outside of the Church versus couples married only briefly before they seek to regularize the marriage in the Church. Let me hear your responses.
We have really opened up a jar of sea monkeys, so to speak, with the recent post on being linked in CRM's blogroll. Many of you have commented that you have tried in the past and are currently promoting yourself in the hopes of making the blogroll. It is my intention to honor those requests. No, fear of shameless self-promotion. If you requested a link in the past, please don't feel as if you "didn't make the cut". More often than not, a failed attempt to link is simply due to lack of time and attention on our part -- things can tend to distract us away from blogging.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fun at the Ministerial Alliance meeting
Perhaps you have read previous posts referring to the Ministerial Alliance. For those unaware, (and I don't know if this exists outside of Oklahoma or not; I suspect it does) the various ministers and/or Pastors of the ecclesial communities of a given locality gather together to support community wide projects and ministry done in the name of all the ecclesial communities of the town. The meetings of my town's Ministerial Alliance are monthly over lunch and we coordinate activities ranging from food drives, assistance to the poor (we all share the same voucher system for the needy), Lenten prayer services, etc. The various Pastors seem to be kind men and genuinely dedicated to our town, following Christ, and the mission of Christ. Not all Pastors attend the meetings. Often, other duties prevent one or more of us from attendance and some Pastors don't come at all. I'm not sure why some choose not to come, but that is the reality. Anyway, today's meeting was full of plenty of laughter and some pointed remarks delivered with some humor. Remember the humor as you read my account. None of what transpired was said or done with hate or a critical tone.

Here is a brief dialogue I found humorous and which I share with readers. All names are anonymous with the exception of mine:

At one point, discussing things the Alliance could do together, things that bring us together, Pastor A said: "While there is denominationalism, there is a lot more that brings us together. We are united on many beliefs. We all believe that Jesus is God. We ... We ... Uh ... And we all believe a couple of other things."

Pastor B (turning to me): "We all believe in the Apostles' Creed."

Me: "Well, sort of, but I'm not sure we would all agree on that."

Pastor C: "Well, now, we don't have a creed. Our denomination was explicitly founded to be non-creedal. [At this point, I am desperately biting my tongue, wanting to say, "Uh, but that would be a creed, too." I resisted.] I mean, locally I say for my congregation: We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and we seek to serve him in the world. But that isn't the denomination, that's just us locally."

Pastor B: "Okay, fine. But that's a creed," he added with laughter. [At this point I wanted to cheer: "Hallelujah! You've got it brother! Keep going! It's starting to make sense!" But I resisted.] He went on, "What I am trying to say is that whether we call them creeds or not, we do all believe the truth communicated by the words of the creed." Pointing to himself he said, "This Christian believes the Apostles' Creed." Then pointing to me he said, "That Christian believes."

Me (raising my shoulders and nodding): "Well, of course, it's our Creed."

Pastor B: "No, it's ours. We did change the part where you say ... uh, ... 'holy, apostolic...'"

Me: "Yes, 'one, holy, catholic, and apostolic'."

Pastor B: "Yes, that part. We changed 'catholic' to 'universal' because people didn't want to think we were saying we are Catholic."

The exchange was all done with some humor, no one left offended or hurt, but it does expose some rather telling gaps and conundrums, doesn't it?
RCIA Summit: Summer 2006
Even if you have not been a CRM follower for very long, you know a few things about this blog and about the bloggers. For instance, you know:
(1) The blog is thoroughly Catholic and it is not motivated by anger toward the Church, despite the name, which sometimes pulls into readership those with anti-Catholic agendas or those with axes to grind;
(2) The bloggers are Catholic priests in Oklahoma;
(3) The blog maintains as a fundamental tenet its voracious desire to take over the Internet; and,
(4) Fr. Tharp has a more voracious desire still to take over catechetical formation on just about every level, especially reminding readers that his adult formation series, The Borromeo Project, seems to be well on its way to being published (hopefully by next year).

Ooops, did I just let that out of the bag!?

Anyway, Fr. Tharp and I have decided that this summer we are going to brainstorm in what we are calling an RCIA Summit. We are going to try to come up with a plan of how to best and systematically approach RCIA, which texts to use, the number of class sessions and the topics upon which to focus. Hopefully we can then each implement a re-vamped RCIA program in our parishes with already developed curricula and session topics. And, no, nobody teaches RCIA for us in our rural parishes; it is generally left up to the Pastor. We each have found that given the pace of life and the demands on our time, we are rushing into RCIA and scrambling to have some sort of a lesson plan for each session. Hopefully, a better developed plan, complete with PowerPoint presentations, will help us keep on topic and cover the necessary material in a limited time. We shall see!

If you see a large mushroom cloud blossoming somewhere over west/central Oklahoma this summer, don't worry, it is just the CRM bloggers' RCIA take over being set in motion!
Convergence: it's what's for Adult Formation

The observations that these Cardinals have made sound much like the same things I have been saying for the last several months. Essentially, parish formation opportunities have to start from scratch, thus providing a new foundation for the life of Faith. Of course, saying this reminds me that I have editing to do on my book so that I can throw my weight behind this effort to evangelize and form Catholics all over the country.
Did I Miss Anyone?

I am finally get around to updating the blogroll and adding the newest of the new blogs who link to us. Thus far, thanks to Technorati, I have added these folks:

Speculative Catholic
My Catholic Blog
Boinkie's Blog
A View from the Sacristy
The Roamin' Roman
50 Days After
The petrina7 MicroUniverse
The Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz Fan Club
A Gentle Fuss
Song of the Suburbs

Monday, May 08, 2006

Fang cleaning
Well, today was my semi-annual visit to have my teeth cleaned at the dentist. All went well. I always like the feel and look of the fangs when they have been recently cleaned. I am happy that there are no major dental events to report. As I was lying in the dentist chair, the hygienist busily scraping away, I began to wonder about what you might call Dental Hygienist Etiquette.

I never know whether I am supposed to try to carry on a conversation with the hygienist as she works or not. It is just all sort of strange. You are there in this person's presence for close to an hour and, if you are like me, you say precious little to her. My take on it is, well, my mouth is wide open and the hygienist has tools and hands shoved in there, how am I supposed to talk? I have always found it curious when a hygienist is working and then proceeds to ask several questions that require a response with words, not just a grunting response to questions such as "Do you need water," or "Is that okay." But I can't get over this feeling that, if I don't say much or try to carry on a conversation, the hygienist may think me rude or anti-social.

I suppose in the future, as the dentist's chair is tilted back at the beginning my session I should simply announce to the hygienist, "I don't really know you well and you are about to spend the next hour with your hands in my mouth, thus precluding conversation, so allow me to say at the get go: I'm glad to see you. I'm thankful for your service and I appreciate having my teeth cleaned. I'm doing fine. There are no major health developments since my last visit to which I should alert you. I hope you and yours are all doing well. My silence for the next hour should not be taken as lack of interest in your well-being or personhood. I will probably be rather still with my eyes closed as you work. If something should cause me pain I will wince and grunt. Now, let's have at it!"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Blog Shout out: Sirach 40:20
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! A good friend and the brother of a priest-friend of mine has started his own blog along with another contributor. They consulted CRM for some blogging advice (happily given) and then humbly requested consideration for a plug. I have been lax in a response to that request. It is well worth your time to see what these two young and recently married Catholic men have to say about life and faith in our challenging times. I look forward to their personal stories of how they seek to live faith in the midst of daily life in the world. Take some time and visit their blog. You won't be sorry. Here's to you Jason and Stephen over at Sirach 40:20!
Ragemonkeys: NOT your next Food Network Star!
Last night after I finished teaching RCIA I came home and decided I would use some bell peppers in a recipe, before they turned rotten. I roasted the bell peppers and then proceeded to chop up some garlic to add to olive oil as a sauce for the roasted and sliced peppers. Well, maybe I was too tired or too careless or some combination of both, because I chopped my thumb instead. I basically cut off the very tip of my thumb. It will grow back, but it will take some time. And it was a gusher. I ended up going to the emergency room for some medical assistance. Lydocaine was injected into the wound (not fun -- the rumor I had always heard that before getting stitches they stick a needle into the very source of the problem, is apparently true) and then a hospital grade superglue was put on the wound instead of a stitch. To top it off, and much to my surprise, I had to get a tetanus shot. So, folks, at least one of your ragemonkeys has been recently vaccinated!
Immigrant March
I should probably be more politically informed, but so many pastoral duties don't leave a whole lot of time for much else. And, really, if it means I miss politics, then that's okay by me. However, allow me to weigh in on the Immigrant March or the Day Without Immigrants, whichever it is being called.

I don't support totally fluid or open borders. I think that is a bad idea. We need border controls and precautions. Totally open borders would be very dangerous and we simply can't handle the potential influx of people should the border have no guard or control whatsoever. Immigration is good and it should be allowed within legal parameters.

However, I also don't support deporting those illegal immigrants. I don't think that would be feasible and, quite frankly, if someone is here, albeit illegally, but is leading a good and productive life, supporting the economy, and leading a generally good life -- that is the sort of person we want mixing into our melting pot. In other words, I think more compassion and amnesty needs to be shown those who are of good moral character, even if the one obvious flaw is their illegal presence in this country. So, I say, we need better border control but we also need greater compassion for those immigrants here trying to make a better life for themselves, their families, and their new-found communities.

On Monday, Fr. Tharp and I met up in another Oklahoma town (not our towns of assignment) to spend our day off. We visited that town's "Welcome Center" to pick up pamphlets and see what the town could offer. As we were looking at pamphlets, the elderly volunteer running the welcome desk asked us if we were "Patronizing local businesses and buying gas." I guess we displayed a confused look because she then offered the explanation that someone, in response to the immigrant walk-out, had decided that "real Americans" should buy gas that day to make our presence felt. We basically conceded that we were spending money, but tried to steer clear of the immigrant discussion. I thought to myself: Oh, there was a brilliant idea! Let's all make a statement on the immigrant march day by buying gas and feeding that out of control price market! Why didn't we all decide to have landscaping and roofing done that day or to patronize fast food chains. OH, oops, I guess that's because no one was doing that sort of work that day because immigrants predominantly work in that field! But I digress...

Then this elderly lady proceeded to offer more of her thoughts: "I just think they all need to go home until they learn English. I mean, I think we need to send them all back and tell them "go on to your own country", until they learn how to speak our language. That's all I am saying. That's the only problem I have with them." Her frantic tone seemed to betray that the language barrier was not the real issue at hand in her heart and mind. As she noted that the language issue was her only "problem" with them, I added, "It sort of sounds like it might be more than just language." I don't think she really understood my indictment of her. Fr. Tharp and I both left commenting that we got a clear indication from the Welcome Center just who is welcome in that town.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Proving, once again, G.K. is a modern prophet and visionary

Pardon me if I get the quote wrong, but G.K.C. said something like, "Evil is boring and repititious; the good is always new and alive." Case in point, the action of these religious sisters. I would never have thought of doing that sort of outreach in that context. Granted I would have been cheering for the U.S. or G.B. in the midst of the action.

At any rate, bravo to those who would end the exploitation of women.
I'm anxious to see how this pans out.

Of course it means putting a kitchen timer on my desk so that I can break away from the action occasionally.