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Monday, January 31, 2005

Yep--they're mine.

Or, Why Rachel Is Often My Favorite Child.

Yesterday was the family mass at our parish. The central point is the homily, where the younger children gather in front of the altar while Fr. sits with them. Just to prove I'm not the rubrics cop you think I am, I don't complain and my teeth don't grind. They didn't before I had kids, either. The rest of the Mass is handled appropriately and is free from..."creative inculturation," shall we say. I've been told we're the only parish in the area that consistently kneels for consecration, so I'm willing to be indulgent on a few points once a month.

Anyway, Maddie has reached the age where she can go up and sit with her friends without supervision. Unfortunately, that means Dale has to go--the reason being that Big Sister is allowed to do it, why can't I? I held Rachel and Heather rode shotgun on The Boy because of his short attention span and love of wandering the sanctuary when given the slightest chance. Wide open spaces were meant to be raced through, don't you know?

Maddie was pretty well behaved, the slight exception being her decision to do a loop around Father to try to find a place to sit. When that proved fruitless, she returned to her previous seat.

But what of The Boy? you reasonably ask.

Sure enough, two minutes in, after prolonged squirming, The Boy made a break for the sacristy, employing his toddler Waddle-Sprint™ technique. At least he didn't use the happy shriek battle cry as he ran. Heather went charging off behind and caught him eventually, out of the sight of the amused parishioners.

I hunched down slightly. But at least the eldest is behaving well, right?

Madeleine sat primly with the rest of the group for another minute or two. Then she decided to loudly shush those who weren't paying sufficient attention to the homily, complete with hand gestures:

"SHHHHHHH. FATHER'S TRYING TO TALK!"

Three times. To kids who were, for all I could tell, mute.

Father claims not to have noticed any of it.

I've discovered it's impossible to ooze throught the cracks of a pew.

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I have no problem in principle with the idea of raising money from one's blog. I've even contributed to such.

But it's a lot harder to do it yourself, I've learned.

Scroll down a little and you'll see a shiny new Paypal button. The reasons for installation are diverse--"furnace" and "transmission" are a couple of the words over the last two weeks which have driven it. I'll spare you the details.

That, and hey: Over 103,000 visits have happened here in the past 2+ years. Three of the items here became published pieces. In the words of Richard Dreyfuss as he stared at the tower of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters: "This means something."

So, if you'd like to chip in, great! Think of it as green applause for a RenFest busker in cyberspace. If you don't/can't, that's great, too. I have no problem with that a 'tall. It's not like I can stop you...And it's not like the world will end.

Furthermore, I don't intend on calling attention to it--once every two odd years, at the rate I'm going.

Finally, I'd like to close on a Catholic note: think of it as penance for your collective and continuing woeful sin of omission--failing to nominate me for the high-schoolish (but still world-important) popularity contest known as the Catholic Blog Awards.

Not that there's anything wrong with that....

OK--returning you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Pope muses: "Where's Dave Winfield when you need him?"

The perils of working with children and animals.

[Link via Amy Welborn.]

Friday, January 28, 2005

Soldiers of Christ, Arise!

Charles Wesley was the finest hymn writer the English-speaking peoples have ever produced. [This is not open for debate. Dale locuto, causa finita. Dissent on this point will be addressed swiftly, mercilessly and with finality.] It is a source of no small pride from my Methodist upbringing that I can claim CW as a part of my heritage. Amongst the torrent of gems that flowed into the hymnbooks was Soldiers of Christ, Arise. I will reproduce the lyrics here in their entirety (oddly enough, it's not your OCP Breaking Bread missalettes):

Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armor on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
through his eternal Son;

Strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in his mighty power:
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.

Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endured,
and take, to arm you for the fight,
the panoply of God.

From strength to strength go on,
wrestle and fight and pray:
tread all the powers of darkness down,
and win the well-fought day.

That, having all things done,
and all your conflicts past,
ye may obtain, through Christ alone,
a crown of joy at last.

Jesus, eternal Son,
we praise thee and adore,
who art with God the Father one,
and Spirit evermore.

Great stuff--ideal, also, for men's conferences. Permit me a brief aside.

Hint hint. Soldiers of Christ Arise is galaxies better than one of the staggeringly awful ditties of renewal that was inflicted on yours truly at 2004's otherwise superb Catholic Men's Conference here in Detroit. Last year, at Divine Child Parish the presumably well-meaning cantor decided to tamp down the looming threat posed by so many y-chromosome bearers concentrated in one place. As you know, there is an omnipresent threat that Catholic men gathered together will hype themselves into a berserk frenzy chanting Deus lo volt! and will put paid to any heretics they come across. Happens all the time.

I mean, that had to be the cantor's goal--he chose Hosea, by Gregory Norbet, OSB.

Imagine the comfort level of two men sharing a missalette and repeatedly cooing (the song is absolutely immune to "belting") out the refrain:

Long have I waited for
Your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life

If the goal was to turn a healthy exuberant gathering into an awkward, weight-shifting, eye-contact-averse mumblefest--Mission Accomplished.

Moving along.

JenB at the Totally Catholic Youth Ministers' Lounge blog related a recent experience in the Disapproving Schoolmarm vein. Jen called her charges "soldiers of Christ."

Uh oh.

Naturally, she was confronted by a most scandalized mom:

"I have a problem with the phrase 'Soldier for Christ'. That is such an emotionally charged word and brings up images of violence and war. Christ wasn't about war he was about peace. No where in scripture does it talk about this being a war. These are children for gosh's sakes-not soldiers!"

To my Protestant brothers and sisters who frequent this blog--yes, I admit it: Your average Catholic knows precisely squat about that leather-bound heavy book that collects dust on the shelf below the pictures of Fido and Fluffy.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication."

Then there's that whole first-three-quarters-of-the-book-thing commonly referred to as "the Old Testament." Even putting that aside--and you shouldn't--her picture of Jesus is incomplete--and therefore wrong. The willingness to ignore the complete picture of Christ proffered by the whole New Testament in favor of a toned-down version of the Alpha and the Omega says more about the would-be Lion tamer than it does about the Lord.

Call it wimpy dispensationalism.

You can also call dangerously naive. Whether Disapproving Mom likes it or not, the Christian life is one of struggle: internally against our own sin and also an external one, facing all the world throws at one who bears His name, from temptation to scorn to open persecution.

Moreover, it's not a strictly defensive struggle. We are supposed to, by virtue of our baptism, bring the Gospel to an increasingly unbelieving, uncomprehending, and hostile world. A spirituality that tries to pretend this is not a battle--one that strenuously denies even the very vocabulary and examples of battle contained in revelation and the lives of the saints--is one doomed to destruction. And deservedly so.

I'll take Wesley's vision. It's the one grounded in reality.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Around the blogs.

Lee Anne Millinger could use your prayers. Not so BTW, I really like her blog--it's one of the peaceful zones in the blogiverse.

As opposed to places that seem more like an Irish pub brawl, complete with the broken Guiness bottles and flying bar stools. You know, like this one.

William Luse's daughter, Bernadette, is on the official rookies' list for the LPGA. You can feel Papa's deserved pride from here. Congratulations!

Alicia the Midwife beautifully reminds us what home is.

Mike Inman is a braver man than I am. Two words: no way.

And finally, wholly appropriate to the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, is that fine Saint's admonition to people Just. Like. Me., courtesy of the Old Oligarch (who also is to be congratulated on the birth of his first child):

You will find others who must always be hearing and seeing something new. To attract attention they collect innumerable books and create libraries that are wonders to behold. 'Poor creatures, what is the purpose in all that?' They will respond: 'Oh, we are practicing foresight in anticipating our future needs. When older, we can make good use of them.' 'Oh God! do you not realize that Our Lord strongly desired to remove such avarice and anxiety from His disciples' hearts and commanded them to live from hand to mouth and to have no anxiety about tomorrow (Mt 6:34)?" Indeed, among the ordinances which God imposed on the children of Israel was the command to collect only a certain measure of manna [Ex 16:16]..."

Um, I can explain...

I think St. Francis just entered Heather's Top Five list--with a bullet.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

From the mouths of babes.

We took our biggest winter wallop in about four years Saturday. Even with temperatures in the teens, ice forms in the sunlight.

In order to keep the kids from going stir crazy, we went to a McDonald's Playplace tonight. Along with the genius who thought of minivans, whoever came up with the Playplace concept deserves time off in Purgatory as far as I'm concerned. If not immediate canonization. Unfortunately, it was too cold to stay long, but the children still had fun.

As we were leaving, Madeleine noticed the array of stalactites forming off the south part of the restaurant's roof. Her comment?

"Look at the ice nipples, Daddy."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Thirty Two Years.

[Two scatological references below. You have been warned.]

And counting.

Roe v. Wade turned thirty two today.

The difference between those who support life and those beholden to ideology can be seen in this story concerning a dispute over a Colorado Catholic parish's burial of the cremated remains of the unborn--done with the full knowledge and consent of the mortuary and its parent company. But the abortionist is miffed:

The Sacred Heart of Mary Church obtained the ashes from a local mortuary that has a contract to cremate remains from the Boulder Abortion Clinic. But the clinic said it didn't know the ashes were being given to the church. "They have taken it upon themselves to make a macabre ritual out of this, inflicting pain on everyone," said clinic director Dr. Warren Hern.

Well, not "everyone," obviously. Starting with the unborn themselves. That was Dr. Hern's job.

For a significant fee. Yes, he does third trimester abortions--and the early stuff, too. A "five-tool" man, as they say in baseball. Don't let the "specializing" tag fool you.

And "macabre" is a funny word for someone who wants the remains chucked into the garbage. Funnier still--in the blackest sense of the word--was his alternate description of the church's activity, stated for the cameras of CNN:

"Sacrilege."

I s**t you not. The good doctor actually called the respectful burial of the unborn a sacrilege.

A most revealing insight into what he regards as holy.

"I have women calling me who are very upset over this. These fanatics simply cannot leave other people alone with their most intimate sorrow."

I'm sure he's had such calls--then again, Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling are pretty easily wound up and have long since mastered the fine art of speed dialing.

So what is Dr. Compa$$ion trying to say--better the remains were dumped in some landfill and forgotten?

Come to think of it, that's precisely what he's saying.

But, mirabile dictu, the mortuary is being backed to the hilt by the home office (headquartered in Texas):

The owners of the mortuary defended its actions.
"First of all, Crist Mortuary obviously cremated these fetal remains at the request of the clinic, and the church had a site and was willing to take them," said Terry Hemeyer, managing director of Service Corporations International in Houston, which operates Crist. "There was no intent of the mortuary to make any political or religious statement at all. They were trying to do the right thing, which I think they are doing."


You might want to think about dropping a line to SCI in appreciation.

And just what are the heartless fanatics doing with the unwanted products of conception?

The church began getting ashes from the mortuary in 1996 and quietly has been doing burial services since 2001. Parishioners went public this year to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
"We never meant this as a political statement, we wanted to give dignity to the unborn child and dignity to the pain and sorrow a woman who has had an abortion feels," said Susan LaVelle, a parish volunteer organizing the service.
The church cemetery has a Memorial Wall for the Unborn, with tiny plaques put there by women who have had abortions. Each one has a message:
"I'm sorry."
"Forgive Me"
"No less real, No less loved"
The remains of 3,000 fetuses are buried near the wall. On Sunday, between 600 and 1,000 small boxes of ashes will be emptied into a tomb and covered.


And just how did SHM become the repository of the remains? Why, through the transparent honesty of Dr. Hern's clinic:

LaVelle said Chuck Myers, a Crist employee, contacted the church in 1996 after discovering human remains in material received from the abortion clinic.
"The clinic said it was just tissue, but when he opened it up he and his staff were traumatized," she said. "He asked the church what he should do, and our priest offered to bury it."


"Just tissue." Merciful Jesus--we're talking abortions past the twenty-sixth week, and the "caring" Dr. Hern is fobbing it off as "just tissue."

Right up there with "other debris" in the ol' lexicon.

Well, you have to award points for consistency--especially when you consider that the abortion industry grew to the billion dollar business it is today by lying out its collective ass.

On a happier note, the parish is located in the Archdiocese of Denver:

LaVelle said she was baffled by the controversy.

"If we had not buried these ashes, they would have been thrown away in the trash," she said. "Why would they be upset that we are treating the remains of unborn children with dignity?"

The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver has expressed support for what the church is doing.
"This parish and other parishes have done this for years," Sergio Gutierrez, the diocese spokesman, said Friday. "This discussion clarifies the distinction between people who believe in the sanctity of life and those who don't. What is their view? To discard unborn children and then worry where they end up."


Sergio Gutierrez just became my favorite Catholic diocesan spokesman ever. Not that he's got a lot of competition, but hey--this was nothing short of brilliant. Good stuff.

Even the State of Colorado is fine with it:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that neither the church nor mortuary has done anything against the law.
"It's all legal," said Glenn Mallory, a solid waste disposal specialist with the department.

But for those who regard suction tubes as sacramentals, there is only incoherent fury:

Legal perhaps, but some groups say it's a violation of privacy.
"It's sad the church would take it upon itself to violate the doctor-patient relationship," said Kate Horle, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. "These women went to the doctor in confidence and made a difficult, personal decision. And now it's been dragged all over the media."


Amongst my three wishes would be a worldwide requirement that anyone who speaks for attribution on moral and political issues would be required to take and pass an Introduction to Logic course with at least a B+. Failure to do so--on the first try--would lead to a permanent disqualification from doing so. On the basis of her quote, it's pretty clear that Ms. Horle would have to forever hold her peace.

HOW THE HELL IS THE DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP VIOLATED WHEN WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO THE PATIENT IS? NAME A SINGLE PATIENT WHO HAS BEEN "DRAGGED ALL OVER THE MEDIA", MS. HORLE.

I'll wait.

Brain donor.

Hern said he terminates many wanted pregnancies due to serious fetal anomalies or because the pregnancy may harm or kill the mother.

OK. I mean, if you can't trust an abortionist who lies to a mortuary about what he's shipping over to them, who can you trust?

Fine--I'll accept that this does happen. But I don't buy the word "many."

In some cases, he has participated in Jewish and American Indian funeral rituals after the abortion, along with the family members.

And Jews and Indians are cool with landfill burials? I did not know that. File under "Huh." Some might even see that as a "macabre ritual," too. But no--you're a good guy.

"Anti-abortion zealots, Catholic or otherwise, have shown that they will stop at nothing to inflict guilt and to compound the grief, sadness and sense of loss that these women experience," he said.

While the good doctor stops at nothing to minimize it.

Tell me, precisely, how the burial does all that, Doc? Sounds like you went to the same college as Ms. Horle.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Food for thought.

"Nor is this the first time in history that a specialized class or elite or bureacracy has broken loose from the authority structure over it and tried to go it alone, charting it's own distinctive path. It is a consistent feature of modern revolutions from 1789 on, as a matter of fact, that a segment of the elite or knowledge class revolts against, declares its independence from, and tries to usurp the functions of those in authority. The well-known expression, trahison des clercs, which we have employed, vividly describes the recurring reality of what happens in this kind of revolutionary situation.

Moreover, this same sort of thing has occurred before in ecclesiastical settings. Dramatic examples of it can precisely be seen in the evolution of some modern mainline Protestant churches from orthodoxy to Modernism in recent times. Lacking an episcopacy or papacy, the leadership of some of these churches has sometimes been unable to resist the influence of liberalizing and modernizing elements.

A common feature in such Modernist revolutions (or takeovers) has been launching a crusade against perceived "fundamentalists" in the name of the latest scholarship. These "fundamentalists," meanwhile, have usually included anybody continuing to hold to the communion's orthodox rule of faith. Nor have the "moderates" in these controversies ever proved very helpful by going around counseling moderation and even appeasement lest irreconcilable positions permanently damage the communion; such moderate positions have usually facilitated the liberal takeover.

The typical result of victories by the Modernists and the liberalizers in such contests has generally been the evacuation of any real meaning from and truth from the basic Christian revelation preserved in sacred Scripture."

Flawed Expectations, by Msgr. Michael Wrenn and John Whitehead, Ignatius Press 1996, pp. 346-47.

Sure the analysis is a little flawed--one can argue that the episcopacy actually facilitates the auto-demolition of the Episcopalians and Methodists. Overall, though, it is certainly something to remember the next time you hear your local Catholic theologian or educator railing against Catholic "fundamentalists." Take a look at the mainline canary (almost at room temperature) and see the future some self-identified Catholics are rushing to embrace--and impose on the rest of us.

[Thanks to Bill Cork for the last link, and SAM for the next-to-last.]

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Nika!

Anybody else beginning to wonder if this whole Red-Blue meme is going to turn into the 21st Century American equivalent of Byzantine chariot racing?



Update on the AoSF Blessing/Prayer/Thing.

SAM notes that they've taken out the "Spirit/Great Spirit" references (scroll down).

Which makes it ahistorical (no such thing was ever used).

Not to mention even less coherent. E.g., who or what (God? Elvis? Mother Nature? Mr. Whipple? Joan Chittister? The President of Briggs and Stratton?) is being addressed?

Frankly, the A0SF version wasn't Wiccan enough to be really compelling and interesting. Shorn of even those elements, the remainder has a high school poetry anthology(1)/open-mike-night-at-Caffeinhaus badness to it that demands it be sent the memory hole, posthaste.

Watch it not happen.

-----------------
Footnote:

(1) I speak here with some authority, as someone who had a sonnet published in such a book back in 1987. No, there's not a chance in Hell you're ever going to see it. Let's just say it was reflective of a mentality oversaturated with D&D and Molly Hatchet album covers, and leave it at that.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Mass of the Ages, Part II.

We made it to St. Josaphat on time and piled into the great old Church--built in 1888, in the heart of Detroit's Polonia District. We didn't have time to get over to Sweetest Heart of Mary, but next time, next time. The crowd was disappointing, I have to admit.

But I picked up on more this time, with more of the Mass being prayerfully sung by the celebrant, Auxilliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton. It's starting to percolate a little more.

Beg pardon? Oops. My mistake--the celebrant was indeed a Detroit auxilliary bishop--big kudos to the AoD for that--but it was Bishop Earl Boyea.

I keed, I keed.

Sorry about the coffee on the monitor and keyboard.

Moving forward. It is indeed starting to make more sense and is becoming easier to follow, and would have been even more so had my eldest two developed a more Tridentine spirituality since October. My daughter was too distracted by the surroundings and kneelers and my son...

I have termed Dale's ideal form of worship as "charismatic." Upon further reflection, this is inaccurate. It is more properly described as "Norse."

As in a preference for howling and hacking things with a war axe. He punctuated the bishop's homily on Cana with a long, consonant-impaired bellow on nothing in particular. He also reappeared in the row of pews in front of us after worming his way past the deployed kneelers. He also needed a diaper change.

Maddie was also less than angelic, finding the food selection inadequate.

At the end of it all, a lovely old woman two rows behind us said "What well-behaved children you have!" Ooookaaay. Well, I have to admit they didn't set anything on fire.

No--she was serious, and spent five minutes talking with Heather.

I spent the same time preventing The Boy™ from ascending the high altar.

We met a pleasant young couple afterwards--they have five and one due in May. What is it with Catholics and the legal profession, anyway? Dad was a lawyer, too. They were also ex-SSPX, and had nothing good to say about the experience. I didn't press. A good experience--genuinely nice people, and it's nice to occasionally know you aren't virtually alone in the world.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Yet another Tridentine Revanchist.

My eldest is insisting we go to "the Church with the rose." She has been for the past three weeks.

We finally figured out what she meant--she wants to back to St. Josaphat's, which has, amongst its marvellous stained glass, a window with a large rose. When we couldn't last week, Madeleine wept. It looks like we're going to have to get her a T-shirt.

So, tomorrow, it's back to the Mass of Bl. John XXIII we go! [Thanks to Fr. Joseph Wilson for that line.] That sound you don't hear is my arm not being twisted.

As to my daughter's interest, it's surely silly nostalgia inspired by all those Barry Fitzgerald movies the networks keep broadcasting 24/7.



Thursday, January 13, 2005

Modern Apostles.


BLESSING OUR ONENESS

We greet you Spirit of the North.

Teach us to plant our feet securely on the earth and to see things as they really are, that the coming of your Spirit may find us standing firm in integrity. Teach us, Spirit of the North, in the solitude of winter, to wait in darkness with the sleeping earth, believing that we, like the earth, already hold within ourselves the seeds of new life.

ALL: May the deep peace of mercy be on us forgiving us, beckoning us, encouraging us; and may our readiness to forgive calm the fears.


We greet you, O Spirit of the East.
Awaken in us with each day, new hopes, new dreams of colors, loves and joys never before imagined. Fill our bodies with your breath, invigorate us. Carry us to the farthest mountains and beyond. In-spirit us that we might reach out to you boldly to grasp the miracles that are given birth with each new dawn.

ALL: May the deep peace of compassion be on us holding us close when we are weary, hurt and alone; and may we be the warm hands and warm eyes of compassion when people reach out to us in need.


We greet you Spirit of the South.
You bring the winds of summer and breathe on us the warmth of the sun to sooth [sic] and heal our bodies and our spirits. Quicken us, draw us by the urgings of your warm breath to break through the soil of our own barrenness and fear. Teach us to hold sacred the memory of the spring rains that we might have the strength to withstand the heat of the day, and not become parched and narrow in our love. Lead us to accept fatigue with resignation, knowing that life is not to be rushed, that there is no flower of the field that grows from seed to blossom in a single day.

All: May the deep peace of gentleness be on us caressing us with sunlight, rain and wind; may tenderness shine through us to warm all who are hurt and lonely.


We greet you Spirit of the West.
Cool our hot and tired bodies, refresh and bring laughter to our hearts. It is you who usher in the setting sun. Guide our steps at the end of day; keep us safe from evil. Fill us with your peace as you enfold us with your great mystery of night that we might rest securely In your arms until morning call us forth again.

ALL: May the deep blessing of peace be on us stilling our hearts that have fear and doubt and confusion within them; and may peace cover us and all those who are troubled and anxious. May we be peacemakers.


We greet you, Great Spirit of the Earth.
It was from you we came as from a Mother; you nourish us still and give us shelter.
Teach us to walk softly on your lands, to use with care your gifts, to love with tenderness all our brothers and sisters who have been born of your goodness. And when the day comes when you call us back to yourself, help us to return to you as a friend, to find ourselves embraced, encircled and enfolded in your arms.


ALL: May the deep peace of community arise from within us, drawing us ever nearer, speaking to us of unity, true community where distinctions of persons is also oneness in being.


My, those Episcopalians get a little nuttier every day, eh?

BZZZZZT--WRONG!

If the link above is no longer working, take a look at the URL. Yep--the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Of course, the usual Diocesan Smarmmaster™ Explanation, Not Apology, has been offered up. Yeesh. These guys are beginning to defy parody.

First thought? Better--far, far better--to be an honest pagan than a jaded Catholic dabbler pretending to be one. I mean, at some level, I certainly can understand the attraction: believe you me, there's been more than a few occasions where I'd love to have been tasked with bearing a dagger at a Catholic parish.

Hmmm.....

Where was I? Ah, yes--to continue.

But the second thought was this: Have you no faith whatsoever?

Think about it for a moment. The directional prayer was (somehow) part of a ceremony to acknowledge and atone for the sexual abuse of children by priests of the Church.

And this is what they came up with. In the 3500 year storehouse that is the patrimony of Catholicism, they couldn't come up with anything else.

Not something from the Psalms, which reverberate with unjust suffering, the seeming triumphs of the wicked, the rage at injustice and promise the justice and help of God in trials?

Not something from the prophets, which resound with the same themes, promise that God has not and will not abandon us, and assure a greater future?

Nothing from the saints, many of whom suffered at the hands of Church authorities?

Not even, say, a reference to the suffering, consoling Redeemer who shares our agony and outrage, and offers ultimate justice and healing? Nope?

I'd say someone doesn't have the courage of their alleged convictions.

What the prayer tells the victims is this:

"We got nothing. Squat. Bupkis. We don't have the faintest confidence that Christ has anything to offer you, so we have to rip off something from another religion and offer that to you instead. If you actually want help from Catholicism--well, sorry.

Again."

And these are the folks leading the Church into the third millenium? Ah, the thrill of confidence fills me again! Reminds me of the bumper sticker:

Don't follow me--I'm lost, too!

Friday, January 07, 2005

You know, I was thinking just the other day...

"I haven't perused new material from Cult of the Condom Newsletter lately. John Allen's been on hiatus, and Joe Feuerherd's grown a little too Guccione-esque for my tastes. Still, I wonder if there are any freshly-published brain-droppings from a sensitive boomer who breaks out in allergy-induced skin lesions whenever he encounters Christian orthodoxy?"

Thanks to Bill Cork, the answer is yes!

Of course.

This week's hothouse flower is one Tom Jablonski, whose byline threatens the world with a higher-volume spray of his thought, this time bearing the collective, parody-proofed title, Reflections From The Places I Am.

Apparently Too Twee For Words was already taken.

Oh, I can't wait!

During the children’s Mass at my daughters’ school, I sat and listened to the priest’s sermon. It frustrated me.

Rolled off the kids' backs, but appalled the boomer.

Figures.

God allowed his son to be crucified, he said, “to save our souls and then we would have eternal life in heaven.” These words directed at the children troubled me.

The good news is that the priest apparently handled the topic with sensitivity and aplomb. If he hadn't, I suspect that Mr. Jablonski would have told us about it. Loudly. And it would have been front-page material for CotCN.

After they revived the poor dear with a defibrillator.

Actually, the fact Mr. Jablonski was troubled by the crucifixion is a good sign. It should be troubling: it's a topic with eternal consequences. The Scandal of the Cross still confounds today, as his squib demonstrates.

I believe that what is important about Jesus’ life is his teachings, how he lived, and that he died because of how he lived.

The problem with this reasoning--so-called--is this: the exact same thing can be said for the leader of your local chapter of the Hell's Angels or the American Nazi Party, or even Michigan's Best Elvis Impersonator--1976 Vegas Division. What makes Jesus different is Who He is, why He died, and just What Happened after His grim death.

Why do I sense that Mr. Jablonski has at best a nodding acquaintance with the New Testament? How clear does it have to be to get through?

To focus on Christ as a ticket to the afterlife, makes our current life meaningless.

Oh, Lord. This is beyond silly--it's tragic. Just the opposite. Just the opposite, you poor fellow--it invests our daily living with eternal meaning. To focus on Jesus as a mere teacher and Palestinian proto-diversity counsellor who happened to get himself killed makes him no more significant than Buddha or Confucius. Neat guys, I suppose, but neither one is going to get hours of my week in prayer time, much less my money.

What is important is how we live our lives now, not where we go once we die, or why we go where we go.

Re-heee-heee-heee-heeeeely? Three words: Smoking or non-smoking? Yet another near-continual irritant from cutting-edge progressives--denying by word or action that Hell exists.

As the Mass ran on I noticed a box elder beetle walking across the top of the pew in front of me. The beetle walked to the other end of the pew, and then turned around and walked back. When it got directly in front of me it stopped. I wondered what this meant, and concluded that if nothing else, it was a good reminder of the beauty of creation; it was neat to watch this creature walking along the pew.

Be charitable--perhaps Mr. Jablonski had exhausted his cup of Cheerios at this point?

The beetle returned to the other end of the pew, and again turned around and started walking back toward me. I got up and went to Communion, and returned to find that the beetle had again stopped in front of me. I was looking for an excuse to get out of church, so I took this second stopping as a sign that the beetle wanted me to carry it outside.

Or perhaps it was desperately trying to signal you that a Reflections re-write was in order. Or maybe it simply wanted a Cheerio. Beetles are ambiguous that way.

I gently put the beetle in the palm of my hand, curled my fingers around it and got up and walked out of church. Once outside, I opened my hand to let the beetle go. I was disappointed to find that it was gone; I must have dropped it somewhere along the way.

Or maybe it escaped, saving its own life by staying inside the warm church--I've heard tell Minnesota winters can be a little rough on insects.

One would have thought Mr. Jablonski would have, too.

Spiritless messages, spirit-filled creature.

Tedious. Funny how enlightened Catholics find the Holy Spirit everywhere but the inspired Word.

Six legs crawling, long winded drawling.

Awful rhymes, bad as mimes.

Sacramental obligations, enjoyable distractions.

Loss of the understanding of Christ's sacrifice makes worship a drudgery, I imagine--not to mention making Mr. Jablonski a perfect ingrate:

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Meaningless words and an empty hand.

Nah. Too easy.


Monday, January 03, 2005

The Changing of the Guard in Saginaw.

Courtesy of Amy Welborn, I learned that Bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls has been appointed as the new bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw, effective December 29.

Now, the four of you readers not related to me by blood or marriage know that my view of the way Catholicism is practiced in the eleven counties of east-central Lower Michigan is not unmixed: basically, I find it repugnant. Masses there (never called that) are almost-invariably exercises in teeth-grinding on my part that would do a belt sander credit. When vacationing, we've come to actively avoid diocesan parishes unless there's absolutely no alternative (and believe me, on those grim occasions, I've looked with longing at the Missouri Synod Lutheran churches in the vicinity). I will gladly go seventy plus miles round trip to avoid a particularly egregious parish that will remain nameless that is seven miles away. Examples of problems experienced (at a variety of places): Well, when God is not being addressed as "she," the (always) female PA is giving a witless homily on Oprah or the (neuter) Spirit, some explicit biblical doctrine is denied, or biblical authorship chucked aside. Then there's the remarkably cavalier approach to the rest of the rubrics, which can be summarized in this phrase: if I wanted to see a prosperous, middle-aged, ultra-liberal white woman concelebrate, I'd become an Episcopalian, thank you. Masses there are, without exception, exercises in Right Thinking.

[As an aside, I'm a little baffled by the hatred progressive Catholics have toward Protestant fundamentalists. To use the language of the SAT, progressive Catholicism is to fundamentalism as Oppenheimer is to nuclear weapons. They ought to take credit for their offspring a little more often.]

Not that it's all bad there--that would be impossible. One of the finest priests I know is a priest of the Diocese--and yes, he's fairly liberal, but is a fine confessor and a gentle upholder of traditional morality. [Of course, he was transferred from the parish I attended. And replaced by a fellow with a record of sexual abuse of an altar boy. Yes, Bishop Untener knew. Did I mention this parish had a grade school?]

I even had the opportunity to hear the late Bishop Untener preach a homily--and it was truly a fine one (scroll down to September 23, 2002). He was engaging and deftly utilized the scriptures of the day. It was no fluke--nobody can deny he was a fine homilist. Moreover, the late bishop was an undeniably inspiring figure--a very charismatic and likeable man who had overcome a serious physical disability (amputation of his right leg below the knee) and played hockey no less. Very humble and down to earth, his headquarters was a room at St. Mary's Hospital in Saginaw (he sold the eleven room episcopal manse after being appointed bishop), and he travelled ceaselessly throughout the seven thousand square miles of the Dioecesis Saginavensis.
Wait for it...

But for all of his gifts, a generation of the Bishop's leadership failed to inspire men to want to be like him. He averaged about one ordination a year, but Saginaw hasn't seen an ordinand since 2001, and at last check had four (4) seminarians. Some try to pooh-pooh the vocations crisis, but that's irrational. As long as Catholicism is a sacramental religion, and as long as five of the seven sacraments depend upon them, a dwindling number of priests is a front-burner crisis. And any diocese that is unable to produce a significant number of vocations is not "healthy," all other chatter about "lived" or "actualized" faith notwithstanding. The Body of Christ is a unity, and there is no such animal as a "clerical" or "hierarchical Church." After all, nobody would call a dwindling number of laity a good thing, regardless of how "vibrant" or "diverse" the clerics were.
Why the shortage in Saginaw? I think much of the blame falls squarely on the way Mass is celebrated there. Lex orandi, lex credendi. Saginaw is the progressives' dream scenario. The architectural settings are, whereever possible, cookie cutter theatre-in-the-round buildings, tabernacles off to the side, a table in the center and are almost entirely icon-free. In fact, Saginaw is so determined not to permit traditional imagery that it recently ordered Mexican parishioners to stick their precious, generations-old La Guadalupana in...the hall. And if you ever see a crucifix, please contact me (ditto kneelers). I will require irrefutable photographic proof before I believe you, however. Saginaw Catholics are supposed to be an extra-Eastery Easter People.

You want altar rails? Try the Methodists, buddy.

No, seriously. Check the third link above for a personal example.

As to other forms of liturgical diversity--how 'bout Ecclesia Dei? Uh, the folks at the Chancery never got that one. Fax hasn't worked since '87, apparently. Worse luck.

And, as I said, the rubrics are flexible--so long as you never, ever use the Roman Canon, or try to point out the fact that the PA has no business giving a homily while the priest is present. Then, well, if you're lucky, you will be given a copy of Milwaukee Bishop Richard Sklba's Exsurge Domine against the dread heresy of "rubricism" as part of the initial phase of your re-education.

[The Sklba column is indeed ridiculous, but it's perversely comforting to see that Rembert Weakland's right hand man is still capable of using the word "heresy."]

And about that new GIRM thing? Well, we might implement it in 2005 sometime. If we get some English language guidebooks together by then:

As in Detroit, the Diocese of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula will roll out changes this month [November 2003]. Kneelers are no problem there, because all parishes have them, a diocesan spokesperson said.

However, the Diocese of Kalamazoo will wait until the end of 2004 to comply. The Diocese of Gaylord will make changes gradually with no fixed deadline. And the Diocese of Saginaw may wait even longer until the final edition of a complete English-language guidebook to the mass is published, perhaps by 2005.


This is an especially cheeky piece of obstructionism, coming as it does from the same Diocese that cranks out new Advent and Lent booklets by the thousand every year.

In fact, the liturgy as celebrated in Saginaw got the coveted seal of approval from the 800-lb. gorilla of progressive liturgists (redundant?), Gabe Huck (also a frequent speaker at diocesan liturgy seminars) , who featured a diocesan parish in his video The Roman Catholic Mass Today. That the way Mass is celebrated there has the most tenuous of connections to Catholic tradition is, alas, par for the course.

Anyway, the point is, a deliberate de-emphasis and sidelining of the role of the priest in the most central act of Catholic life is not going to inspire a man to answer the call to the priesthood. Especially when he sees that the hocus-pocus guy isn't even going to get to give a homily. Why bother?

The ultimate comment on this set-up came when we went to a parish in Isabella County. The female PA came up, gave a homily about The Spirit (entirely neuter) and her travels to the West Coast. The priest, in his late 50s, offered the ultimate commentary on the situation. He walked out the back door of the rural church and waited outside until it was over. As bold a protest (and I increasingly think it was just that) as you could hope--I don't need this. And a killing signal to the men in the room: You don't want this.

Received. Loud and clear.

But what about the laity, you ask? What if the leadership and its liturgical principles empower them to take the Gospel into the world? I don't fully agree with the premise (see above), but OK--Fair enough. Let's look at the numbers, shall we? Bishop Untener was consecrated in 1980. In 1980, there were 170,000 Catholics out of a total population of 679,000 people in the region--Catholics comprised 25 percent of the population. What you need to know about the area is that it is pretty diverse, actually--a lot of rural farmsteads and small towns, sure, but also the industrial center of the Tri-Cities (Bay City, Saginaw and Midland). Also, there's a growing Latino presence, as the 11 counties sit at the northern terminus of the migrant worker stream, so there's a steady influx of Hispanic Catholics into the Diocese (and significant numbers do settle and establish homes).

The result? In 2002, the region's population had grown (in fits and starts) somewhat to 724,000, but following 22 years of conscious progressive reform, the number of Catholics had fallen to 140,000. A little over 19% of the total population now. That's eighteen percent of the Catholic population--gone. With one hiccup, a steady decline. It's a sad legacy that the celebration of the Bishop's leadership should have acknowledged, and again, it is not unfair to ask that reformed liturgy share some of the blame. This is the "source and summit of Christian life" we are talking about. Every tool in the progressive kit for making the liturgy more "relevant" has been field-tested--where not actually mandated--in Saginaw. Up to and including allowing the laity a peek at Catholic priestesses.

Result? Saginaw is nearly 20% smaller than it used to be. Yes, numbers can lie, but they can also tell a story.

I mean, Lord knows Curial Panic Syndrome Newsweekly would have trumpeted the growth of the diocese had it occurred. Instead, its appreciation highlighted--of course--the Bishop's defiance of Humanae Vitae. Is progressive liturgy really reaching, retaining and empowering Catholics (let alone drawing in non-Catholics)--as has been promised by its advocates? Twenty four years experience in Saginaw offers significant evidence for "no."

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Open Letter to Jim Hermann, Defensive Coordinator for the University of Michigan Football Team, from A Concerned Fan.

Dear Jim (can I call you Jim? Lord knows I've called you lots worse this season. I've been known to associate you with trucking--mea culpa--if you catch my drift):

There is a story, quite possibly apocryphal, about the Beatles meeting with a record company executive in 1962. Reportedly, after hearing the group's material, he said that the company would not sign them because "Groups with guitars are on the way out." Bad call as it turned out, I think you'd agree.

Watching the struggles of the Michigan defense since the semi-glory year of 1997 smacks of the same miscalculating mindset.

Mobile quarterbacks are not a "fad" or "gimmick." Purdue's offense is a gimmick. Signal callers with 4.4 speed are not. The miserable failure of the Michigan defense to even remotely contain such men over the past eight years has repeatedly led to bitter failure, and threatens to make the block "M" stand for "mediocre" again. Donovan McNabb? Vince Jones? Zak freakin' Kustok? Every one of these guys has destroyed seasons, simply because the defense never, ever has an answer. Never has the ability to make the game-saving stop. Never. EVER.

You might want to think about doing something about that some time.

Before I die, preferably.

Warmest regards,

Dale Price

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and such and such.

Yes, I could have posted such wishes in a more timely fashion, but that would have meant blogging while in the presence of family and friends.

Which seems to be the opposite of the idea. We hosted Christmas again this year, which means that my time is especially limited. Sitting in the living room plinking away on the keyboard is nothing short of dorky under the circumstances.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

New Year's is a little different, but there's a better-than-fifty-percent-chance that I'll be hacked off on New Year's, anyway. As is the case today (long time readers will know why--and while sports-oriented, it has nothing to do with the painful fact that my fantasy football team once again sucks like a bagless Hoover).

Still, the best from my family to yours for the coming year. Happy Epiphany!