Monday, December 29, 2008

Dec. 29 - Feast of St. Thomas Becket

Perfect for today's feast, YouTube has the original movie trailer for the Burton/O'Toole classic.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Trifecta in the Knestout family!

Now that the mad rush of Christmas is over, the clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, is getting ready for the Episcopal Ordination of Msgr. Barry Knestout.  He'll serve as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese.

I first met him years ago in my seminary days, when he was secretary to James Cardinal Hickey.  The Cardinal had a love for the Mount, and would visit from time to time, almost always with the then-Father Knestout at the wheel (the fact that he is a Mount alumnus also meant he could probably drive up routes 270 and 15 blindfolded).

The greatest gift he ever gave me was when I was one of the house Masters of Ceremonies.  At the time, the seminary scheduled one MC for service each day.  The rector decided to have a Eucharistic Day on a day I had been scheduled to be the "MC of the day", and Cardinal Hickey was coming to celebrate Mass, lead Exposition and Adoration, take part in a Eucharistic procession, and then conclude with Vespers and Benediction.  I knew he had a secretary, so I wasn't in much of a panic (that didn't come until I found out the seminary visit from my diocese's vocations director would coincide with the Eucharistic Day), and I had enlisted the help of the other house MCs.  Then they arrived and I found out that he was letting me do it all.  What a blast that was!  Me MC-ing for a Cardinal!  Not only that, but a Cardinal who loved wearing all the trappings.  My interaction with Cardinal Hickey will be saved for another blog entry.

But back to the Bishop-Elect.

The Episcopal ordination of Msgr. Knestout will make for an interesting "trifecta" in the Church.  Knestout's father had been a Permanent Deacon before his death.  His brother, Mark, is also a Priest of the Washington Archdiocese.  It means the family will have had members in all grades of Holy Orders: Deacon, Priest, and now Bishop. Before some nit-picker writes me and says that both priests in the family had been ordained deacons, you know what I'm trying to get at.

The new Bishop's coat of arms will reflect his ecclesial career: In the bottom part of the shield is both a lion from the coat of arms of Cardinal Hickey, as well as a tower from the coat of arms of Archbishop Donald Wuerl (for whom he has served in various positions and committees).   His episcopal motto was the theme of Pope Benedict's visit to the United States (a major part of which was his visit to Washington, DC), for which the bishop-elect was co-chair of the committee handling the arrangements.

Congratulations to another Mountie entering the College of Bishops!  I suppose we know who'll be the main celebrant of the homecoming Mass in '09.

Friday, December 26, 2008

YF in the Washington Times!

Thanks to a Priest-friend of mine from the Cornhusker state for giving me a "heads up" that my humble little blog was quoted in the "Culture Briefs" section of the Washington Times' December 18 issue.

Click HERE to see it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pope's Christmas Stuff

Click HERE for the Holy Father's homily from Midnight Mass (scroll down for the English translation).

Click HERE for the Holy Father's Urbi et Orbi address.

Blessed Christmas to all!

My all-time favorite Christmas song (complete with lyrics):

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Vigil of Christmas

It's now about noon on December 24, a time I call the "quiet before the storm".

Right now, Priests everywhere are tweaking their homilies or doing some last minute decorating in the church.  In about three hours, the church parking lot will be full of cars parked in assorted and creative ways.  The church and our hall will be bursting at the seam with all sorts of people.  Christmas Eve in a parish is like a hurricane: an intense storm that you know is coming well in advance, lasts a pretty predictable amount of time, and then suddenly there's quiet and an aftermath of misplaced chairs, tossed bulletins, tipped over poinsettias, and the feeling of "Did that just happen?".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caption Contest?

(Thanks to Pilino Lepri/AP for the photo)

From the day the Holy Father merged
the Swiss Guards with the Jedi Knights,
 he never lost a zucchetto again.

Any other captions?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mount St. Mary's in the Washington Times

The Mount, my alma mater, had a Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and I just found an article in the Washington Times which was written about it.

I attended the Mount from 1994-98, and certainly in those days the Mount had the reputation of being "conservative" (I always thought "traditional" was a better choice of words, but that's for another blog entry).  But even then, while other seminaries labeled the Mount "archconservative",  it was unthinkable that Mass in the Extraordinary Form would be celebrated in the college chapel as a mandatory event for the seminary and with an open invitation to the University community.  My contemporaries in the seminary remember the "smackdown" that took place when the Saturday morning private Masses of faculty priests (done in the Ordinary Form, in Latin, and ad orientem) began to attract more than a few seminarians.  Any Mounties out there remember the "I will win and you will lose" conference?

The gang at New Liturgical Movement had these photographs taken by attendees.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Father Cantalamessa's Advent sermons

Thanks to the Zenit News Service, here are this year's Advent sermons preached in the presence of Pope Benedict and the Papal Household by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.

The English translation of sermon three has not been posted yet.  Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cardinal Dulles' funeral

Photo: Damon Winter/NYT

The New York Times has an article this morning about yesterday's funeral of Avery Card. Dulles at St. Patrick's Cathedral. So far, nothing in the Daily News or the NY Post.

A news story from the Fordham U. website gives some more information about yesterday's funeral.

I'm hoping that the website for the Archdiocese will post Cardinal Egan's homily.  In the meantime, there are some articles posted on the website for New York's Archdiocesan newspaper.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh my, it's time for the Advent O's

Maybe you caught it when you went to Mass this morning, or maybe you didn't.

With the arrival of December 17, Advent took a turn towards home.  To paraphrase the words I love to hear whenever I'm on a plane, "Folks, we have begun our initial descent into Christmas".

The Church's liturgy shows it a few ways:
  1. For the rest of Advent, the readings are proper to the date (Dec. 17, etc.) compared to before when it was generic (Tuesday of the 3rd week).
  2. The Mass propers at Mass also get date specific (see above).
  3. The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer changes from Advent I ("When he humbled himself to come among us as a man...  Now we watch for the day...") to Advent II ("The Virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling.  John the Baptist was his herald...").
  4. The classic difference (and your parish gets extra credit if they do it, and you get extra credit if your parish does it AND you go to it!) is that, at the recitation of Vespers (the Church's evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours), each day of the Late Days of Advent has an antiphon before the Magnificat ("My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord...") that begins with an "O" and a messianic title of Jesus.  You can read an article that It's explains it well by clicking here.
If you're a daily Mass-goer, did anything happen at Mass this morning that differed from the day before?  I'm just wondering if anything was done at your parish to make you aware that we've hit the "late days" of Advent (plus, I'm always looking for good ideas to steal).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Avery Cardinal Dulles - R.I.P.

Word came late last week about the death of Cardinal Dulles, one of the true giants of American theologians.

Back in September of 2005, I interviewed His Eminence for my diocese's radio show.  We spoke about a book he had written on then history of apologetics.  If you'd like to hear the interview, click HERE.

"Presents" or "Presence"?

Today's celebration of Gaudete Sunday on the third Sunday of Advent is the Church giving us a chance to "come up for a breath" in our celebration of this season.

"Why do we need a breath?"  That's a good question, because if you have to ask that, then chances are good that you've bought into the cultural mentality that it's already Christmas time.  Do we act like it's Christmas already, and then stop occasionally when we step inside a church?

So what should we be doing?  The readings today give the recipe:
  • The First Reading tells us how we can do it: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;"  At our Baptism and at our Confirmation (and for the YF Priests reading this, at our Ordination), the Holy Spirit has prepared us for this task.
  • The Responsorial Psalm tells us that "my soul rejoices in my God".  Can we honestly say that?  Do we have a soul that rejoices?  Do we have a joyful soul?  If the answer is "no", why not?  A joyful soul is the "default setting" that our soul was set on.  If not, what did we do to our soul to make it the way it is?  What has gotten into our soul to prevent it from being joyful?
  • The Second Reading is St. Paul telling us what to do, like he told the Thessalonians: "Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil."  Does that little voice in us say, "You mean every kind of evil?"  "If I do 5 of the 6, isn't that still a good percentage?"  I dunno, ask yourself whether you'd fly on an airline that proudly announced, "Our flights land safely 84% of the time"?
  • The Gospel today jumps from Mark to John.  Long before John McCain, there was another John who gave "straight talk" without any remorse.  John the Baptist gets approached by representatives of the muckety-mucks of Jerusalem: the Levitical Priests and the Pharisees, who want to know who he is.  He humbly answers with the words of Isaiah: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord."  There it is.  There is the goal.  Do we prepare the way for Jesus Christ?  Do I live my life trying to make Jesus Christ known, which doesn't necessarily mean making myself known.  Remember that there were very few straight roads in biblical times, roads were bumpy, curved, steep, etc.  A straight road was a luxury.  A straight road was appreciated.  That's what we're called to do, make an easy road for the Lord to travel upon.
This is what the Church wants us to be doing in the Advent season: to bring Jesus Christ's presence into the world.  The world has told us that we can best do this if we shower our family and friends with expensive gifts.  The world says it's all about the presents, while the Church says it's all about His presence (hence the title of this blog entry).  Presents make us feel good for a while, but even the present we begged for, or heavily hinted that we wanted, will eventually get old and we'll get used to having it.  In short, presents have a "shelf life".  But presence never grows old.  As I'm getting older, my memories of Christmases past have little to do with what I got, and more and more about the family members who were there (of which some are now gone).

But before we can "be" Christ's presence, we need to "feel" Christ's presence.  At Mass.  In the Tabernacle.  In the Confessional.  In our prayer life.  Then we'll feel the joy the Church wants us to feel.  Otherwise, we're just a walking Christmas decoration: bright and cheery on the outside, but perhaps a bit of a mess on the inside.  God wants us to be prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ on the inside as well as the outside.  When it comes to Christmas, we decorate our houses with lights, we decorate trees with tinsel and ornaments, we decorate gifts with wrapping paper and bows, we decorate cookies and dining room tables and fireplace mantles.

When was the last time you decorated your soul?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The week that was

Another week has gone by, and I didn't write a word.  I apologize to those who are kind (and maybe crazy) enough to make this a stop on your wandering through the World Wide Web.  Like the plane captain says, "I know you have a choice when you make your blog reading plans, and I thank you for choosing Young Fogeys."

Advent is a season that most people don't get a chance to really dive into; there's really no "big start" to it.  I mean, Lent has Ash Wednesday, Christmas has Christmas Eve, Easter has the Easter Vigil, the Triduum has Holy Thursday, but Advent just has the 1st Sunday of Advent, usually at the tail end of Thanksgiving weekend.  Christ the King is celebrated a week before, and Advent comes like a swimmer trying to swim against the current: the world wants to jump into Christmas, and the swimmer keeps saying "not yet".  OK, this wasn't what I intended to write about, but the bottom line is that in this season of "waiting", I've been doing some waiting of my own.  I know I could've been more productive during that time, but I wasn't.  And, as an old boss of mine used to say, "You can't put the 'ding' back in the bell".  So what'd I miss writing about?

Monday was the Solemnity of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception.  I just love the reading we got in the breviary yesterday (Friday), which comes from Saint Irenaeus:
"... the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.  As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word.  As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; this the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve."
There were four Masses scheduled at my parish, and I had the 10am, the one which our school kids attend.  How do you explain the Immaculate Conception to Kindergarteners?  Verrry slowly.  How do you do it in a homily that will give the rest of the school and the other people attending that Mass something to ponder and take home with them?  Let's just say I tried.  I spoke about "plans":  some kids make plans for what to do after school.  Teachers make plans about what to teach their students.  Parents make plans about summer vacations.  I then said that everyone makes plans, even God.  Then I went into how, after the fall of Adam and Eve that we heard in the 1st reading, God planned to send Jesus into the world, and he wanted to do it in a special way.  The 2nd reading said that God chose us, in [Jesus], before the world began.  We didn't just show up; we were planned.  God planned you and me, just like he prepared Mary to be a part of his bigger plan to bring Jesus into the world.  The kids seemed to "get it", or at least they didn't have that "huh?" look on their faces.

At night (after a wake service) I had my monthly "Q and A with Father Jay" class.  It was movie night, and in keeping with the Marian theme of the day, we watched the episode of Steve Ray's "Footprints of God" series that dealt with Mary.  It's a great series, not only on a visual level but also from an apologetic level.  Definitely worth having in a parish library.  They got to see the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Church of the Nativity, what traveling to the hill country meant, the Church of the Dormition, the House of Mary in Ephesus, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a bunch more, all from the comfort of the parish center.

Tuesday morning was the funeral for the woman whose wake service I went to on Monday night before my Adult Ed.  Then, Tuesday night was a meeting of our parish's St. Vincent DePaul Society, which is our outreach to assist the poor (and of which I am the moderator).

Wednesday was my day off and I was gone most of the day, spending it with my mother.  Though I did get to watch on TV, as the Devils beat the Penguins.

Thursday morning we heard the confessions of 2 grades in our school.  This was the third week we've been doing it, so now the kiddies are all spiritually "clean and fresh" (or at least they were on Thursday morning).  On Thursday night I had our 7pm daily Mass.

Friday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I started off with the 7am mass (I love to tell the story and explain the details about the Guadalupe image), and eventually had to go to K-Mart with the head of our Vincent DePaul Society.  We get gift cards for those who need them for Christmas gifts, clothes, etc, and he tells me they give a better discount if a Priest is there buying the cards.  At night I had the last batch of new altar servers in for an orientation.

That brings me to this morning.  We had about 160 of our 2nd graders make their first penance.  Then I heard some more confessions at our regularly scheduled 12:30 time, and here I am!  Nothing going on until the meet and greet after the 4pm Mass, and then I have the 5:30pm Mass tonight.

So how's your week been?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A fart tax?

From Yahoo News:
For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.
See the whole article by clicking here.

(By the way, if this law passes, I know a couple of rectories where the government would make a bundle)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Table 14, lunchtime, The Olive Garden

"Can I get this without anchovies?"

"Rate your server.  Hmmm, I'm thinking a  6."

"Can I get another iced tea?"

"They call this a breadstick?"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

parish suggestion follow-up

My last post about my partying senior citizens provoked an e-mail from a confrere (albeit from a different ecclesial communion) who had this to say:
It isn't just that they will stay until the end - people will go to any function, regardless of weather, except church. 
If it is threatening to rain or snow, its a light house, but nothing will stop the tailgate before the Jets game, or the kids soccer or football games, even sitting in the chilly rain.
It's human nature....anywhere but comfortable and safe in the Lord's arms.
This reminded me of an article written almost a decade ago by Bishop Thomas Tobin (now in Providence, but then in Youngstown, Ohio), in which he lamented the state of the Sacrament of Marriage in all its brutal reality.

But I digress.  This e-mail sent to me prompted an impromptu reply, which I've embellished a bit as I've had time to ponder it:
  • If a football coach tells parents their son needs to memorize plays to be on the team, the parents agree.  If a priest tells parents their child needs to memorize prayers or facts about their faith to be a better Catholic, the parents argue.
  • If a soccer coach tells parents they need to get their child to team practices three times a week, the parents change work schedules and arrange carpools.  If a priest tells parents they need to get their child to a practice before a big liturgy, the parents complain.
  • If a cheerleading coach tells parents that they need to raise money so the team can go to a competition at Disney World, the parents sell candy bars and wash cars.  If a priest tells parents that they need to raise money so the altar servers can get new robes, the parents remark that "It's always about money".
  • If a school teacher isn't pushing his/her students to read and do math beyond their grade level, then he/she isn't thought to be doing their job.  If a religious education program pushes students to know and understand their faith beyond their grade level, then the program is thought to be "unrealistic".
Sports parents see the connection between practices and "the game"; they understand that to play better during games, their athlete needs to attend practices in order to reinforce things already learned, as well as to learn new things. Sports parents understand that if their child does not attend the practices, chances are they will not play in the game. Parents will even send their children to special sports camps in order to get them advanced coaching and skills, so that their child can do something on the field that the other players cannot.

A significant amount (but certainly not all) of Catholic parents don't see the connection between their child(ren)'s religious education classes and Sunday Mass. Some think it is sufficient to send their child(ren) to the classes, but not attend Mass regularly.  Religious education is a service they pay for and expect to be done for them but not by them.  Like hiring someone to teach their kids to play the piano, some parents think that religious education programs are there to teach their children to have faith.   But back to kids who attend religious ed. but not Mass:  Can you imagine signing little Johnny or Judy up for soccer, taking them to the practices during the week, and then not taking them to the actual games?  Do we tell them they should just be happy attending the practices?  That's neither fair to the child(ren) nor to the team.  Unlike the goal of youth athletics, which is meant to help the athlete be the best player they can be while still understanding they are a part of a team, the goal in most religious education classes is to know exactly what the other kids know, and no more.  Religious education tests are largely "fill in the blank"; essay questions are a rarity.  We never give a child a topic and see what they can do with it.  Instead we ask them to name the 12 apostles, the 7 sacraments, the 3 Divine Persons, the names of the Pope, the Bishop, and the Pastor (and sadly, if they can do that we're astonished), and they're done.  Ask them what the Apostles did for us, or what the Sacraments do for us, etc., and you get the blank face.  Yet THAT'S what will get them through the "game times" when life experiences have them pressured or down, and they could use their Catholic faith to help them through the storm.  I'm not even getting into the question of the current obsession with "community service hours" that is now been grafted into Confirmation preparation programs.  I mean, isn't community service what the justice system gives to offenders as a punishment?

OK, enough ranting on this.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Suggestion for parishes

Last night my parish's Senior Citizens group had their "Christmas party" (I know, "Christmas on December 1?"  Don't get me started).  They started the party with a cocktail hour at 6pm.  When I left at about 9:15, they were still going strong, with no signs of stopping.

When it comes to social events at a parish, why is it that people will stay until the bitter end of the party, but duck out of Mass after Communion because of some sort of fear of avoiding the push of the crowd?

Maybe if we put a DJ in the church hall that plays the "electric slide" after Mass?

Checking in

I'm sorry that there's been a lack of entries here at "blog central".  On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we had 2 Masses at which about 170 kids from the parish received the Sacrament of Confirmation (we had 2 similar Masses the Saturday before I left).  I was the MC for our retired Bishop, an amazing 88 year old man.  Should I have said, "88 year old person"?  Did I offend anyone?  Sorry.

I don't believe in "blogging for blogging's sake", meaning putting something up like, "OMG, I just had the best bagel in the world!"  I'm here, but a little bit busy in the humdrum of parish life.