Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ordination and Marriage

Today, May 31st, is the Feast of the Visitation. But nine years ago May 31st was Pentecost Sunday. Yesterday was the anniversary of my ordination, and today is the ninth anniversary of my first Mass as the main celebrant (technically, of course, my "first Mass" as a Priest was at the Cathedral, concelebrating with my Bishop at the ordination Mass itself). What's a newly ordained Priest's first Mass like? It's our wedding night. Let me explain.

Making the decision to ask to be accepted as a seminarian is kind of like getting up the courage asking someone out on a date. The Church accepts the candidate (the girl says "yes"), and we spend years in the seminary (in my case six years) deciding if this life is for us (in other words, deciding if this girl is "the one").
Here the smartalecks amongst you are dying to challenge me, saying the seminarian is, so to speak, "living with his girlfriend". This is not the case. While at the seminary, the seminarian is not pretending to be something he's not. He's not acting like he's ordained when he knows he's not. Every day I went to Mass and sat in the pews as a layman; I didn't presume to walk into the sacristy and put on Mass vestments, saying that I've already made enough of a commitment and that I plan on getting ordained eventually, so I might as well get used to saying Mass. Cohabitation is when a couple acts like their married even when they know they aren't. But I digressed a bit.
All the while, we can decide this isn't for us and walk away, and hopefully remain "friends". I've got more than a few friends who were seminarians with me who made such a decision and are very content living their Catholic faith as lay persons.

But if we persevere (and both the dater -the seminarian- and the datee -the Church- consent) and the relationship continues, then it's time to take it to the next level. That's our ordination to Diaconate. In my analogy, that would be akin to the proposal of marriage, the giving of the ring, etc. After that, everything points to ordination in a more urgent sense. Invitations are sent out. A party is planned.

Ordination to the Priesthood is the wedding day. Though I didn't literally say, "I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life", to a physical bride, I conveyed those same feelings to my supernatural bride (the Church) in answering "I am" to the questions asked to me by my Bishop: Will I care for my bride (God's flock) as a conscientious co-worker of the bishops?; Will I celebrate the mysteries of Christ religiously and faithfully as they have been handed down by the Church for the glory of God and the sanctification of my bride?; Will I preach the Gospel and teach my bride worthily and wisely?; Will I consecrate my life to God for the salvation of my bride? Though I hadn't met them yet, I said it to my future parishioners: not only the ones I've already met in my nine years of Priestly service, but the ones I still have yet to meet.

A Priest's "first Mass"? That, my friends, brings us back to my original point: It's the wedding night. It's what he's been waiting years to do with anticipation. It's when he gets to say "This is my body, given for you" to his spouse, the Church. He's spent more than a few hours worried about his "performance", and he's probably asked for some advice from more than a few "bridegrooms" who've gone through the wedding-night jitters years before. The only difference is that a Priest's wedding night is done in the presence of his family and friends. Talk about "performance anxiety"!!! Any married couples out there had their parents watching their wedding night from front-row seats, and with a photographer and videographer looming about???

And that brings me to where I am today, nine years later. After the wedding day, the reception, and even the honeymoon, comes the tough part: actually living the vocation day-in and day-out. The same dangers are there for Priests as for married couples: We can stop communicating with our spouse (lack of prayer). We can complain we don't have enough "me-time". We can become strangers to each other. We can sometimes find our spouse asks us for things we don't necessarily want to do. And, yes, even the nuptuals can creep into routine. In either vocations, Holy Orders or Matrimony, it takes work and deliberate will to keep it new. Those can only be fed by love. Not a fleeting lust that goes away when the bride & bridegroom aren't skinny & beautiful anymore. But a deep love, like a bank account, that continually gets deposited into so that it can be withdrawn from when the need presents itself, all the while growing while gaining interest.

OK, enough rambling. Go back to your lives.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nine Years

Nine years ago today, on May 30, 1998, I was ordained to the Priesthood. There's plenty of cliches out there such as, "Where did the time go?", and, "The time has flown by", but it is absolutely true. 3287 days? Amazing. I know nine years is hardly a significant milestone in the greater picture of things (my diocese has a retired Priest who was ordained in 1939 as well as a retired Bishop who is celebrating 60 years of Priesthood tomorrow!). After all, I've got T-shirts in my drawer that are older than 9 years! Still I'm grateful for the years God has given me so far.

This morning, today being a day of Ordinary Time, I was able to use the proper Mass prayers for a Priest on the anniversary of his ordination. For the readings, though, I used the readings of the day. I loved the Gospel today, which was Mark 10:32-45. Here's some parts of that passage:

"The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them." Jesus led, and they followed. Easy enough, no? How many times Jesus has been walking ahead of me and all I have to do is keep my eyes on him, but something inside of me wants to break off and go another direction. How many times I thought I knew a shortcut or a better way of doing things!

"Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him." Jesus never promised that every day would be perfect for his Priests. Today is also the seventh anniversary of my father's death. Two years to the day I became a spiritual father I lost my natural father. Joys, sorrows, moments of illumination, and glories. It's all there.

"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.'" In other words, "Jesus, I want this." How many times I've prefaced my prayers that way! Most times for very good and legitimate reasons, but sometimes with purely selfish intentions. Whatever happened to, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"?

For the Penitential Rite at the Mass, I used the invocations, "Lord Jesus, you raise us to new life", " forgive us our sins", and " feed us with your body and blood." In these nine years, I hope God is satisfied with how I've tried to raise His people to new life through my preaching and teaching, how I've counseled His people and forgiven their sins in Confession, and how I've fed His people through celebrating the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I've had this business card staring at me next to my computer for some time now. A few months ago I was asked to perform a wedding ceremony at a non-denominational chapel on a college campus in my diocese. On the day of the wedding I went into the chapel's sacristy in order to find matches to light some candles. As I opened up a desk drawer, I found a stack of cards like you see above. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of "Rent-a-Priests".

Rent-a-Priests are, almost always, Roman Catholic Priests who have left the Priesthood on not-so-good terms. They hold to the argument that, since their ordination was validly done and the Church teaches that Holy Orders is a Sacrament that confers a permanent ontological change on the ordained, they are still able to celebrate the Sacraments. What they're not saying is that, besides possessing valid ordination, a Priest must also have the permission of the local Bishop (technically called "faculties") to perform those Sacraments in a diocese. In laymen's terms, look at it like this: It is not enough that your doctor graduated medical school having passed all of the classes; in order to practice medicine he/she needs to be licensed by a higher authority and have been granted privileges by a local hospital to practice medicine and treat patients. Or, in the case of a lawyer, it is not enough to have gone through law school; they need to pass the Bar Exam of the state in which they intend to practice law before they can represent any clients in that geographic territory. In short, the education is not enough; what is also needed is a licensing or sanctioning by a higher authority. In that case, it is the same for Catholic clergy (except the Cardinals of the world and the Pope, who have universal faculties according to Canon law).

Spring is upon us and this is the season for weddings. It's one thing to find a loose business card somewhere in a chapel that hosts hundreds of weddings a year. It's another thing to find a stack of these business cards, presumably to be handed out to anyone wanting the "look" of a Catholic wedding without the inquiry into past marriage(s) or marriage preparation. Ultimately, while a wedding ceremony from a "rental" may fool grandma, it doesn't fool God. Neither does it fool the Church, because it is not recorded in the wedding register of any Catholic Church. If you know someone who has had such a wedding, have them make an appointment with their local parish priest to see what can be done about reconciling any previous marriage(s) and a convalidation of the current marriage.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Good News, Bad News

First, the bad news. While sitting in the Reconciliation Room today, not one person came for Confession. This could be interpreted as either a great thing ("Yay, all the Catholics around here are sinless, woo-hoo!") or a sad thing ("C'mon, Father, 'penance' is such a Lenten thing. We've moved on."). While I'm hoping for the former, I'm banking on the latter. The good news, though, is that I had the chance to read more than half of Good News, Bad News, the new book by Fr. C. John McCloskey and Russell Shaw published by Ignatius Press. A few weeks ago, I interviewed Mr. Shaw about the book for my radio show, but like most things in my life when pressed for time, I had scanned the book for the interview, rather than actually reading the book.

First things first: it is an extremely quick read. In an hour, I covered about 80 of the book's 127 pages, and that was whilst underlining passages and writing keywords in the margins so I can find certain parts of the book quickly in the future.

One of the best things this book accomplishes (so far in my reading, anyway) is that it brings home the idea that the task of bringing people from other religions to the Catholic Church, as well as those raised Roman Catholic but who have lapsed in the practice of their faith back the the Church ("converts" and "reverts", as the authors name them), is something primarily meant to be done by the Laity. This doesn't mean, however, that the clergy are "off the hook". Again using simple terms, Fr. McCloskey says that Priests are "formers" and "closers". We are "formers", in that it is our task to properly form the Laity so that they not only are educated enough in their faith to answer questions, but also see the need to live their faith in the world. Priests are "closers" in that, once someone comes to us wanting to become a Catholic or return to their Catholic faith, we can provide the Sacraments that "close the deal", whether it be Baptism or Confession. In the book, Fr. McCloskey gives the reader a "dream-homily", one which he would love to see Catholic Priests stand up in their pulpits and deliver which would convey that idea. Here it is:

"My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

I want you to understand that my associates and I are here above all to preach, to administer the Sacraments, and to catechize. We do these things for you, our parishioners, so that you can do a better job of bringing Christ - and being Christ - to your families and your neighborhoods, to the people where you work and go to school, to your community, your nation, your culture, your world.

That being the case, I'm here to tell you not to worry about it if you don't have time to get so heavily involved doing things in the parish - lay ministries, committees, all that. Those things are good, and we priests welcome the participation of those among you who are able to lend a hand in that way. But doing things in the parish isn't your first and most important job as Catholic lay people.

Your job is to go out and change the world - to do what it takes to place Christ at the summit of all human activity and to help more and more people know him and accept him and love and serve him.

That's what it's all about. Please let us priests know how we can help you laity do it better."

A Pentecost "Cheat Sheet"

In anticipation of Pentecost, I thought we could all use a refresher on the Holy Spirit (which is found in the Catechism's Compendium):

136. What does the Church mean when she confesses: “I believe in the Holy Spirit”?

To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess faith in the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity who proceeds from the Father and the Son and “is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son”. The Spirit is “sent into our hearts” (Galatians 4:6) so that we might receive new life as sons of God.

137. Why are the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit inseparable?

In the indivisible Trinity, the Son and the Spirit are distinct but inseparable. From the very beginning until the end of time, when the Father sends his Son he also sends his Spirit who unites us to Christ in faith so that as adopted sons we can call God “Father” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit is invisible but we know him through his actions, when he reveals the Word to us and when he acts in the Church.

138. What are the names of the Holy Spirit?

“The Holy Spirit” is the proper name of the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus also called him the Paraclete (Consoler or Advocate) and the Spirit of Truth. The New Testament also refers to him as the Spirit of Christ, of the Lord, of God - the Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of the Promise.

139. What symbols are used to represent the Holy Spirit?

There are many symbols of the Holy Spirit: living water which springs from the wounded Heart of Christ and which quenches the thirst of the baptized; anointing with oil, which is the sacramental sign of Confirmation; fire which transforms what it touches; the cloud, dark or luminous, in which the divine glory is revealed; the imposition of hands by which the Holy Spirit is given; the dove which descended on Christ at his baptism and remained with him.

140. What does it mean that the Spirit “has spoken through the prophets”?

The term “prophets” means those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak in the name of God. The Spirit brings the prophecies of the Old Testament to their complete fulfillment in Christ whose mystery he reveals in the New Testament.

141. What did the Holy Spirit accomplish in John the Baptist?

The Spirit filled John the Baptist, who was the last prophet of the Old Testament. Under his inspiration John was sent to “prepare for the Lord a people well disposed” (Luke 1:17). He was to proclaim the coming of Christ, the Son of God, upon whom he saw the Spirit descend and remain, the one who “baptizes with the Spirit” (John 1:33).

142. What is the work of the Spirit in Mary?

The Holy Spirit brought to fulfillment in Mary all the waiting and the preparation of the Old Testament for the coming of Christ. In a singular way he filled her with grace and made her virginity fruitful so that she could give birth to the Son of God made flesh. He made her the Mother of the “whole Christ”, that is, of Jesus the Head and of the Church his body. Mary was present with the twelve on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit inaugurated the “last days” with the manifestation of the Church.

143. What is the relationship between the Spirit and Christ Jesus in his earthly mission?

Beginning with his Incarnation, the Son of God was consecrated in his humanity as the Messiah by means of the anointing of the Spirit. He revealed the Spirit in his teaching, fulfilled the promises made to the Fathers, and bestowed him upon the Church at its birth when he breathed on the apostles after the Resurrection.

144. What happened at Pentecost?

Fifty days after the Resurrection at Pentecost the glorified Jesus Christ poured out the Spirit in abundance and revealed him as a divine Person so that the Holy Trinity was fully manifest. The mission of Christ and of the Spirit became the mission of the Church which is sent to proclaim and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity.

“We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.” (Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion of Vespers of Pentecost)

145. What does the Spirit do in the Church?

The Spirit builds, animates and sanctifies the Church. As the Spirit of Love, he restores to the baptized the divine likeness that was lost through sin and causes them to live in Christ the very life of the Holy Trinity. He sends them forth to bear witness to the Truth of Christ and he organizes them in their respective functions so that all might bear “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).

146. How do Christ and his Spirit act in the hearts of the faithful?

Christ communicates his Spirit and the grace of God through the sacraments to all the members of the Church, who thus bear the fruits of the new life of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also the Master of prayer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ein anderes Buch fűr Sommerzeitlesen

Please pardon the German (Polish is sooooooo "last pontificate), but I thought you might like a suggestion for another book for summertime reading.

Fr. Vincent Twomey is a Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland, and was a doctoral student of Pope Benedict's. He has written a book on his former professor, called Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait) published by Ignatius Press.

Lots of authors have written, and will continue to write, biographies of B16 in which they claim to show you the "real" Papa Ratzinger. I'm looking forward to reading this book, because it's obviously by someone who knew him decades ago. Here's a glimpse of what you'll get:

While at Tubingen, one student asked another to identify the difference between Professor Ratzinger and another equally famous theologian. The reply was: Ratzinger also finds time to play the piano. He is as open to beauty as he is to truth. He lives outside himself. He is not preoccupied with his own self. Put simply, he does not take himself too seriously.

The other anecdote is personal. Once he asked me gently about the progress of my thesis. It was about time, as I had been working on it for some seven years. I told him that I thought there was still some work to be done. He turned to me with those piercing but kindly eyes, saying with a smile: "Nur Mut zur Lücke" (Have the courage to leave some gaps). In other words, be courageous enough to be imperfect.

From Today's Funny Papers

...from the "Mother Goose & Grimm" comic.

Mother's Day Revisited

A friend of mine (a pastor in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska) put this in his bulletin on Mother's Day weekend. I thought it was worth reprinting:

Mother’s Day (taken from Judy Grubaugh)

I recently attended a bridal shower that would have fulfilled the dreams of any young woman. The home was beautiful and the conversation among friends who had watched the bride-to-be grow up was warm and welcoming. Then the hostess asked me to share a few words about marriage. As the room quieted, I shared with this young bride-to-be five things I wish I’d known before I walked down the aisle, hoping she’d learn them quicker than I did.

One: I wish I’d known my husband is human, just like me. From the time we’re little girls, we dream of the day when a knight in shining armor will whisk us away to a life of happiness ever after; but even a prince will have days when nothing goes right and he’s just plain weary. At times like these, you will be a wise wife if you rise to the occasion and encourage your husband. Ask God to give you a tongue that has words to sustain him.

Two: I wish I’d known the value of respecting my husband: In Ephesians 5:33 God’s Word says men need respect. Surveys affirm that the most important thing needed by men is the respect of their wives, even though radical feminists discredit the idea. You can show respect in a million ways, but most important is to remind him often that you believe in him. If you do, you will walk hand in hand even when you don’t see eye to eye.

Three: I wish I’d known to make God my refuge, not my husband. Your husband should be your confidant, but God alone is your refuge. Your husband was not created to understand all your emotional needs; trying to force him to do so will cause turmoil in your relationship. God wants to be your refuge. If you go to Him first with your needs and concerns, your marriage will be richer.

Four: I wish I’d known fulfillment in life comes from God, not from my husband. Expecting to find complete fulfillment from your husband is a mistake. God tells us ultimate fulfillment comes through knowledge of Him. The better you get to know God, the more fulfilled you will be. If we put Him first, He will give us everything else we need. And it is important to develop and cultivate friendships with other women - especially those who can help you grow in the faith, provide wisdom for your marriage, and act as God’s hands in your life. As God meets you through your friends, you have more to offer your marriage and family. The support of other women is invaluable.

Five: I wish I’d known that the best gift I could give my husband is to pray for him. Ask God to pour favor upon this man you love, and ask God to give him an undivided heart - a heart that hungers to know God. The more devoted your husband is to God, the more devotion he will show you. God wants you to excel as a wife. If you know and understand these five things, you will be a contented wife, and your husband will be a better man for having married you.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well, Goo Goo G'joob

From today's Gospel (Jesus Christ, 33ad):

"And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me."

From "I Am The Walrus" (Lennon-McCartney, 1967):

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Where's Jesus?

"Now that Christ is in glory at the right hand of the Father, what does he do there? Has he a work? Certainly: he's a mediator. We might almost say that he's constantly showing his scars to his heavenly Father and he is saying, 'See these, I was wounded in the house of those who love me. I love men. I suffered for them. Forgive them heavenly Father.' He is our sacrifice. He is ever present before the Father. As scripture puts it, 'Ever making intercession for us.'

You see, we often get a wrong understanding of the life of our Lord. We think of him as just living on this earth, preaching the Beatitudes and suffering. No, Jesus did not come down just for that. He is living, making intercession for us, the representative of all who invoke him. Certainly he has finished the work of justice on earth because he paid the debt of sin. But the work of mercy in heaven is unfinished. That goes on and on. The reason it goes on is because we need his intercession."

Abp. Fulton J. Sheen

Friday, May 18, 2007

JP2FD Review

A review of JP2 For Dummies appeared in this past week's National Catholic Register. The author of the review, Barry Michaels, misspelled my last name (C'mon, it is on the front cover, after all). As punishment for this error, I'm letting you read the review without having to register (no pun intended) to get it. I corrected the misspelling in my "cut & paste" job, but maybe next time "Barri" will get it right.

John Wiley & Sons, 2006
384 pages, $19.99
Available in bookstores

You can’t spend more than a few minutes in a bookstore without noticing at least a few volumes from the popular For Dummies series. The distinctive black-and-yellow covers are hard to miss. Each book presents important information on a given topic in a way that’s fun to read and easy to understand.

New to the series is John Paul II for Dummies, a testimony to the impact the late Pope had even on popular culture. It is written by a team of three priests — Fathers John Trigilio, Kenneth Brighenti and Jonathan Toborowsky — all of whom are clearly unabashed fans of John Paul.

Sure enough, the book offers no information that’s not in several other well-known biographies, but that’s not the point. Here the Holy Father’s life and teachings are presented in a way that makes it all accessible to everyday readers. You don’t need a degree in theology or history to grasp what makes “JP2” such an important figure.

For example, one of the most daunting aspects of John Paul’s teaching is surely his theology of the body. This long collection of talks is loaded with dense language and heavy philosophical and theological concepts. John Paul II for Dummies admirably summarizes its main ideas in a few engaging pages.

We read: “Like a sacrament, which is an outward sign of divine grace, the human body is the external manifestation of the invisible soul. The person, however, is both body and soul. If I intentionally pull the hair on your head or if you slap my cheek, we’re insulting the person, not just causing the body pain. The dignity offended is in the person. Someone kicks your leg under the table and apologizes, saying, ‘Sorry, I thought it was the table,’ and you respond, ‘No, it was me.’ The me or I is the person, and any part of your body is an extension of your personhood.”

One especially helpful aspect of the book is the authors’ effort to put the events of the Pope’s life into historical context. This helps readers understand the meaning and importance of what goes on. For example, before describing Bishop Karol Wojtyla’s work at the Second Vatican Council, we get a brief history of the council. We find out how it came to be, how it was carried out and what it did and did not do.

“It was clear from day one that the Pope did not intend in any way, shape or form to alter, revise, change, remove or add to the ancient deposit of faith,” we read. “The content of faith (in other words, doctrine) and the celebration of faith (sacraments) would remain intact, while the mode and manner in which they are explained and conducted would adapt to modern expressions and experiences. The what would remain the same, but the how would be another matter.”

In a similar way, the book provides fine explanations that help readers understand Polish culture and history, World War II and Soviet communism. One thing that would have made the book even more of a “go-to” resource is a list of the many teaching documents of John Paul II.

One chapter does impressively explain the “top 10” documents promulgated by him, but he produced so many more that this only begins to scratch the surface of this important teaching pontificate.

We owe thanks to God for the gift of John Paul II and — in a special way on May 18, his birthday — thanks to the authors of this book for helping us understand what a truly great gift he was.

Do You Reeeeeally Wanna Mess With The Guy Who Holds THE Keys?

There's nothing wrong with your ears, folks. The sound you're hearing is probably the spinning that Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy is doing in her grave over the recent statement made by her grandson, Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, attacking the head of the Roman Catholic Church which Mrs. Kennedy loved so much. James Taranto, the author of the daily "Opinion Journal" of the Wall Street Journal, wrote this article yesterday about it:

"A group of 18 Catholic House Democrats publicly disputed Pope Benedict XVI's recent condemnation of politicians who support abortion rights, saying that 'such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment,' " the Religion News Service reports:

On his flight to Brazil last Wednesday (May 9), Benedict said Catholic politicians in Mexico City who recently voted to legalize abortion could consider themselves excommunicated from the church. The Vatican later said the pope was merely restating church policy, which calls for Catholics who participate in abortions to exclude themselves from taking Holy Communion.

On Monday (May 14), Catholic House Democrats said Benedict's comments "do a great disservice to the centuries of good work the church has done."

"The fact is that religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America--it also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution," a statement from the 18 lawmakers said.

What a delightful display of arrogance. These congressmen are essentially accusing the pope of being un-American--that is, they are questioning his patriotism. Or they would be, anyway, if the pope were American. In fact, the pope is a leader of a foreign state, and they are demanding, as Americans, that he come to heel. What are they, a bunch of neocons?

Of course, what they are really doing is defying the pope's authority, as leader of the Catholic Church, to make and enforce pronouncements about the obligations of a Catholic. In no way does this offend American pluralism. Pluralism allows for a variety of views on abortion and other subjects, and American politicians are free to follow or reject the teachings of their church, as they see fit.

What these congressmen--among them Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and Joe Baca of California--are saying is that at least when it comes to abortion, they are liberals first and Catholics second.

Beverage? Magazine? Rosary?

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned that I had heard apocryphal stories about the display of furniture used on past TWA flights which carried Popes (and Servants of God) Paul VI and John Paul II. Well, thanks to a Young Fogeys blog reader, I've received confirmation about that.

The reader, a former TWA employee, tells me that anyone can view the papal cabin appointments during normal business hours in the lobby of the American Airlines Training Center adjacent to the Lambert/St. Louis International Airport (I'm told there's also a gift shop for "all things AA/TWA" in the basement). In addition, if you're near the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, photos of the papal plane arrangement can be seen in the C.R. Smith Museum.

Finally, he gave me a link to a small promotional video produced by TWA that mentions flying the past pontiffs. Once you're on the site, click the links for "multimedia", then "video", then "promotional" to get to the video entitled, "TWA Airline to the Stars".

Monday, May 14, 2007

But Can You Imagine The Music At His Installation?

Today's Vatican news bulletin has this statement:

The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Terrence Thomas Prendergast S.J. of Halifax, Canada, as metropolitan archbishop of Ottawa (area 5,818, population 859,000, Catholics 410,635, priests 239, permanent deacons 67, religious 867), Canada. He succeeds Archbishop Marcel Andre J. Gervais, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

Just to make the distinction, THIS is Archbishop Terry Prendergast...

...not to be confused with this man, R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother Church on Mother's Day

In my homily this morning, I said a lil' summin like this:

Once again, the Holy Spirit has come through, giving us readings that cause us to look beyond today's secular holiday honoring our natural mothers to taking a look at our supernatural mother. No, I'm not talking about the Blessed Mother this time (though that would have been just as poignant a road to go down today). Today we're going to take the other fork in the road, and look at our mother, the Church.

Like natural mothers who give birth to their children, the Church gives supernatural life to her children through Baptism. From conception moms feed their children, first through their own bodies and later on through nursing, and eventually making our lunches for school or even our favorite foods when we're older. So Mother Church feeds us with the Bread of Life (talk about healthy eating!!!). In addition, moms tend to give some pretty good advice on a variety of topics over the course of our lives, and so Mother Church feeds us great advice through the words of Scripture as well as through her teachings. Moms are also the ones we turn to with our bruises, and so Mother Church is here to clean our wounds through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and tell us everything is going to be alright. Occasionally, moms are the ones to say "no", or get out the wooden spoon, and so the Church must, at times, discipline her children for their own good. Moms dealt with our "terrible twos" and our rebellious teen years. They knew how to take it and still love us when we said "I hate you!". They stayed up with us when we were sick. They put our achievements on the refrigerator with a magnet for all to see and said, "I'm proud of you." So Mother Church is right there with us in our great moments as well as those moments we write off as "teenage stupidity", or, "lapses of common sense."

The readings at Mass today give us a glimpse of the early Church. In the first reading, a question has come up amongst Christians in Antioch. Paul & Barnabas have come back to Antioch from their missionary tour through Cyprus to Asia Minor and given them the unthinkable news that not only Jews but non-Jews were coming to embrace Jesus Christ and his teachings. But some Christians in Antioch (perhaps Pharisses, previously) made the argument that before these gentiles could be "official" Christians, they first has to become Jews. This causes a kerfuffle. So what do the Antioch Christians do? They already know that their question should be passed along to the "main office" of the Church, at this time headquartered in Jerusalem. We're told the "institutional" Church convened a Council, deliberated on the question, made a ruling under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and sent the decision as an Apostolic Letter to the Church in Antioch. This could easily describe a situation today, but is, in fact, an event only perhaps a decade or two after the Resurrection! For those who love to say, "I'm spiritual, but I'm not into organized religion", or, "I read in a book that the Catholic Church structure was created in the middle ages", should've paid close attention today. The hierarchical structure of the Church existed from its earliest days to teach and to enlighten.

In the second reading today, we shift from the Church on earth to the Church in Heaven. In Revelation, John gives us a glimpse of something we already knew: Everything in Heaven is perfect: the New Jerusalem is radiant and shines like a precious stone, the walls are high and protective. On earth, things are imperfect. We have questions (which sometimes lead to arguments). We're even dependent on nature for such basic things as light. In Heaven, God will supply everything we need (even light itself). This is our final goal. This is what awaits us.

What's the connection between the Church in heaven and the Church on earth? Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus announces that, while he's still on earth with them for a little while longer, he's on his way to join his Father in Heaven. He tells them not to "let their hearts be troubled or afraid". While he may be unseen to us on earth, it doesn't mean he's not present. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit who empowers the Sacraments and enlightens the Bishops (our Apostles of today) under the direction of the Pope (Peter), our Church continues to "mother us".

Let me end with the one whom Young Fogeys are wrongly stereotyped to dislike, Pope Blessed John XXIII (I know, that sounds wrong, but if we say, "Pope St. Pius X", then the phrasing is correct). I mean, c'mon, how can you say "no" to a face like that? Anyway, he begins his 1961 encyclical, Mater et Magistra, with:

1. Mother and Teacher of all nations—such is the Catholic Church in the mind of her Founder, Jesus Christ; to hold the world in an embrace of love, that men, in every age, should find in her their own completeness in a higher order of living, and their ultimate salvation. She is "the pillar and ground of the truth." (1.Tim 3:15) To her was entrusted by her holy Founder the twofold task of giving life to her children and of teaching them and guiding them—both as individuals and as nations—with maternal care. Great is their dignity, a dignity which she has always guarded most zealously and held in the highest esteem.

2. Christianity is the meeting-point of earth and heaven. It lays claim to the whole man, body and soul, intellect and will, inducing him to raise his mind above the changing conditions of this earthly existence and reach upwards for the eternal life of heaven, where one day he will find his unfailing happiness and peace.

Yes, it's Mother's Day, so be a good son or daughter and tell the Church you love her (and for some of you explain why you haven't called in so long?).

What's Love Got To Do With It

"Love one another, even as I have loved you." These words should be not only a light to us, but also a flame consuming the selfishness which prevents the growth of holiness. Jesus loved us to the end, to the very limit of love, the Cross. Love must come from within - from our union with Christ - an outpouring of our love for God. Loving should be as normal to us as living and breathing, day after day until our death."

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Life's Lessons (as taught by hockey)

This one came to me whilst on the ice last night:

There are times when taking a chance is going to get you on the 'highlights' video, and there are times when taking a chance is going to land you on the 'bloopers' video.
Either way, enjoy it. Whatever happens, being a part of the game is more exciting than watching it from the stands.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Prelatial Paparazzi

"Holy Father, look over here!"

"Hey, it's the Pope! I'll take a picture."

"Ooooh, they've got a Starbuck's!"

Thanks to the AP for the photo

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The New "Church Militant"

Amy Welborn turned me on to a YouTube video of a skit by the Deacons & seminarians of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. If you remember the "Terry Tate: Office Quarterback" ads put out by Reebok a few years ago, it helps make the video funnier. If not, it's still a great synthesis of a Young Fogey's understanding of what "The Church Militant" means.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Do The Headphones Cost 3 Dollars, Anyway?

As Pope Benedict makes his way to Brazil, John Allen has a story today about what life is like when you're travelling on the Pope's plane. The Vatican City-State, of course, owns no aircrafts. The Italian government provides a military helicopter for the Pope when he travels in Italy (much like, during his stays in the U.S., our government provided Pope John Paul with travel in one of the Marine helicopters we typically associate with Presidential travel). For overseas travel, Alitalia provides a jet. For his return trip home, an airline native to the host country usually gives him a lift. I've heard apocryphal stories for years that TWA Airlines has a museum somewhere which exhibits the furniture it placed on a plane whenever they flew JP2 home from America. But with TWA out of business, I'm not sure if the museum still exists.

The American media, assuming that the President's plane has a name, so therefore the Pope's plane must have one as well, has used the term "Shepherd One" from time to time. This is a US media invention, and not something official at all. But once, seven years ago, I was amazed to see how the name had "staying power". In 2000, I was in the airport in St. Louis waiting for a TWA flight and looking out the window by our gate. As I looked down I was shocked to see a plane towing contraption with "SHEPHERD 1" stenciled on it. Pope John Paul had visited St. Louis on the way home from Mexico in 1999, and I guess that was the designated towing thingee (notice my mastery of technical airport lingo) for the papal aircraft.
So, of course, being the good Young Fogey I am, I took a picture of it. It's a bit blurry, but look at the tip of the towbar.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Hat Not Worn

To me, the biggest story of Queen Elizabeth's visit to the United States has been the lack of any signs of life from the Episcopalian Church USA (a.k.a. the Anglican Communion in the United States).

I mean, The British monarch is the "Defender of the Faith" and "Supreme Governor of the Church of England". She's visiting our country; where are the throngs of giddy Episcopalians lining the streets chanting, you know, "Elizabeth Two, we love you!"?

Now, I know some may say that she is here as a Head of State. But the Pope is a head of state as well as a spiritual leader, and when Popes Paul VI and John Paul II visited the U.S. in years past, Roman Catholics went crazy. It'll happen again when Pope Benedict XVI visits America in the near future to speak at the United Nations.

It just seems odd that as the rift between the Episcopalian Church USA and the Anglican Communion seems to be getting wider and wider, there has been no "visit of The Queen with Episcopalian Bishops" in an effort to make the gap a bit smaller. It has never failed that, just after the World Youth Days in Denver, Paris, Toronto, or Rome, writers from other religious denominations opine how they wish their communities would have such a similiar visit/pep-rally. For the Anglicans, until Prince William begins solo overseas tours (or gains 100 pounds or disfigures his face in a skiing accident), Queen Elizabeth is your highest profile Anglican with indisputable celebrity appeal. This was the golden opportunity.

Her Majesty is obviously a woman of many hats (along with the occasional crown and more than a few tiaras). But her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith is perhaps the most underworn.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Man And His Bike

White House photo by Joyce Boghosian
I've really got nothing to say about this.
I just thought, isn't this a great picture?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reverend McGreevey?

Word came to me by e-mail from a friend in Maryland about the latest actions of the former Governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey. I met Jim back about 1985, when he was a lobbyist for Merck and a fellow political junkie. We worked on local campaigns together and I was there in 1989 when he won his first elective office to the New Jersey General Assembly. In 1991 we had a falling out, as Jim feared for his political life and allied himself against the man who mentored us both and gave him his shot at statewide politics in the 19th legislative district. Jim went on to other elected offices and I went into the seminary. We've rarely seen each other since, but those few times have been pleasant and civil.

McGreevey was received into the Episcopalian Church on Sunday at a parish in Manhattan. It's a shock to me because in the years I was friends with him it was apparent that his Catholic faith was important to him. It was, at that time, the example of him and a few others that caused me to consider becoming a Roman Catholic. You name it: Knights of Columbus, Catholic Lawyers Guild, Communion Breakfasts, Lector; these were part of Jim's life and identity. Granted, that was sixteen years ago, but still I've been stunned by his repudiation of what he claimed was so much an important part of his formative years.

On one hand, I must give him credit. He dissents from certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and so not only has he said he is no longer a Roman Catholic, but he has also made a formal act of leaving the Roman Catholic Church. Would that other Catholic dissenters had the courage to do so. Am I happy about it? No. But from what I've seen of him lately, am I surprised at how he's treating the Bride of Christ? It's no different than he's treated other brides. Like Dina Matos-McGreevey, and Kari Schutz-McGreevey, the Roman Catholic Church is of no use to him anymore, so he's divorced himself from it.

On the other hand, I don't know what to make of the Episcopalian embrace of him. Separate from his sexuality, you've got a man already divorced once, in the midst of a second divorce, and currently living with another "significant other". Three "spouses" in less than 17 years (four if you count the governorship of New Jersey, which he resigned from as well) to each of whom he's previously pledged fidelity. Is this really someone that has proven himself able to make a lifelong commitment? I mean, if you're looking to fill the shoes of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well, there's your guy. But other than that...

The timing also shows narcissistic tendencies. The announcement is released at the same time his ex-wife's book hits the stands. Can he not allow someone else to have the spotlight without trying his best to pry his way into it? And the press? They're still infatuated with him. Jimmy is on page 1 above the fold. His ex-wife? Bounced to page 4. Way to go, media, feed the beast whydon'tcha?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Scarlet fever in May

While, in other places in the blogosphere, there's whispers about the possibility of a looming announcement by Pope Benedict about a coming consistory at the end of June, this really isn't "earth shattering" news. I wrote about the reasons "for" a late-June Consistory in a previous blog entry back in February. If you don't want to read the whole entry, I'll sum up the factors:
  • The sentimental factor: This June will be the 30th anniversary of the 1977 Consistory held by Pope Paul VI, during which the red biretta was given to the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Joseph Ratzinger.
  • The numbers factor: Between last February's Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and this June's Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo turned 80 (on March 31, to be exact). In addition, 3 more Cardinals will turn 80 before the end of June (Laszlo Paskai of Hungary on May 8, Franciczek Macharski of Poland on May 20, and Varkey Vithayathil of India on May 29) and thus lose their right to vote in any future conclave(s). By holding off the Consistory until June, the Holy Father can name 15 rather than 11 Cardinals, and still keep the number of Cardinal electors at the legal limit of 120.
  • The "it's my prerogative" factor: Canon 351 of the Code of Canon Law basically asserts that the naming of Cardinals is solely the Pope's decision. Not having a consistory last February reminds everyone who's in charge. No one should "assume" he's going to name Cardinals or who is "owed" a red hat. I agree with other bloggers out there; let's see a red hat go somewhere it hasn't gone in a while (or never at all).