Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned..."

Question of the Day

Why is it that the same "purists" who have no trouble coming to Midnight Mass at Christmas complain when an Easter Vigil might start at, say, 9 p.m.?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How ya feelin' today, Laurie?

I really haven't been writing about the articles that have been coming from the New York Times. I figured, "It's Holy Week, and this is what they do: come up with something to write that, if read, puts a bad taste in your mouth about the Roman Catholic Church." Do I make light of it? Absolutely not. But like the rainstorm that is hitting the window next to me as I type this, there's very little I can do about it. Michael Deaver, former media guru to Ronald Reagan, once gave the advice, "Never argue with anyone who buys ink by the barrel!".

In a way, you have to pity the Times. Subscriptions are dwindling. Their company now has layoffs upon layoffs about as often as I get e-mailed coupons from Borders. Maybe Laurie Goodstein is just trying to make herself "necessary" to her bosses before the next round of layoffs. Maybe this is retribution for the Catholic Church's objections to the Democratic party's push for their healthcare agenda (the timing seems about right). Maybe this is just something that gives the enlightened ones the giggles as they watch Manhattan Catholics make their last minute visits to Church for Holy Week, searching for some Priest to hear their confession? My personal opinion is that, as Pope Benedict leads the the events of Holy Week, they simply want the caption underneath the video footage to read, "Pope leads services amid allegations" [add ominous organ music here - or dramatic chipmunk].

Today an article is out and about the blogosphere from the man who was Judicial Vicar (the chief canon law expert) for the Milwaukee Archdiocese when the whole question of bringing ecclesiastical charges against Fr. Murphy came up. It's a long article, much longer than our sound bite mentality, attention deficit inflicted minds can normally take in one reading. But, if you're genuinely interested in knowing where a professional journalist for one of, what was, one of the most respected newspapers in the world got it WRONG, then read the article. This is bad research, approved by bad editing, confirmed by bad publishers. I think the "old grey lady" has a touch of Dementia.

Now, on a supernatural level (I am a Priest, after all), let's look at this in the context of Holy Week. For the last week or so, roughly about the time this story has been out there, we've been reading at Mass the stories about how it is getting more dangerous for Jesus to be out and about. The Scribes & Pharisees don't want him to make them irrelevant. The Herodians like things the way they are. The Romans just want peace and quiet. None of them have been able to sway his followers away from supporting him using the truth, so they're resorting to lies.

If they did this to Jesus Christ, should we be shocked that it's happening to his Vicar?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Solemnity of the Annunciation

"The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence. It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace. We feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with another kind of birth. ... We find the answer when we open the Old Testament and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life, became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people. The process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from God - from an act of his grace."

Joseph Ratzinger, 1977

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prayer over the gifts today

From the Sacramentary:

"Lord, as we come with joy to celebrate the mystery of the eucharist, may we offer you hearts purified by bodily penance. Grant this through Christ our Lord."

A better translation of the Latin:

"Lord, as we prepare to celebrate your sacred mysteries, please grant that, as a result of our bodily penance, we may display a purity of heart that will be pleasing to you. We ask this through Christ our Lord."

Whoa Nelly, "bodily penance" for Lent? How often do you hear talk of THAT anymore? You mean Lent isn't just about giving up cookies or saying naughty words?

Now, on that topic, I'm off to the gym for an hour of bodily penance (to make up for the St. Joseph's pastries last Friday).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sometimes a father has to take his kids to the woodshed

"You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders ..."

Passion Sunday, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010


My pal Father Guy, over at Shouts in the Piazza, has a blog entry about an ecclesial eclipse that is set to take place tomorrow.

On March 19 each year (unless it's a Sunday, but that's for another blog entry), the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph. The Church ranks this as a Solemnity, the highest ranking for a feast day. The effects of a Solemnity will be noticeable: white vestments will be worn (and not Lenten purple), the Gloria will be sung or recited (which we lost during Lent), the Creed will be recited at a weekday Mass, and prayers proper for the feast day itself will be used (compared to the Lenten propers). This will give us, as it were, a day to "step out of Lent".

Where it gets interesting comes in the fact that, this year, the Feast falls on a Friday of Lent, which us normally a day of abstinence. As Fr. Guy points out in his blog, Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law says that when a Solemnity-ranked feast day falls on a Day of Abstinence, the Solemnity wins.

This means that, tomorrow, one does not have to abstain from meat, in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. In addition, if you have given up sweets as a Lenten sacrifice, you could indulge yourself a little bit tomorrow. As Fr. Guy's blog entry says, one may still choose to abstain, but one is not required to do so.

"But what about St. Patrick?", some of you ask. "Is this why we can eat corned beef on a Friday of Lent?" In a word, "no". The feast day of St. Patrick (like Sts. Casimir, Frances of Rome, John of God, today's Cyril of Jerusalem, et al.) does not rank as a Solemnity (for most places - I'm thinking that there are exceptions like New York and Harrisburg - whose Cathedrals are named for St. Patrick). Even the weekdays of Lent take precedence over the feast days of Saints, and this technically "downgrades" them from memorials to commemorations. This is why you rarely see anything outside of purple vestments during Lent (compared to Ordinary Time, when you see all the liturgical colors). It means that in the case of our American obsession with corned beef in honor of Ireland's own, a dispensation should be asked for and received by the local Bishop. Universal law does not allow you to do it, so it needs a relaxing of the law by the one who is able to do so for his flock. You're fine with the cabbage and potatoes.

So, yes, enjoy this moment when the Solemnity of St. Joseph (the
moon) blocks the Lenten
abstinence rules (the sunlight) from Catholics worldwide (the earth). Eclipses only come around once in a while, but they're worth checking out when they happen.

Thank God it's Friday (And a Solemnity)!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Genesis 7:11

"...on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Naaman: tough guy, but great skin!

One night, when I was young, my friends and I decided to go to play Bingo at a local Byzantine church. We had nothing to do (and were still under 21, so Atlantic City was out), we figured it'd be fun.

So there we were. In a church hall. Cigarette smoke hanging like a haze in the air. If you've ever been to Bingo (or worked a Bingo as part of a deal to lower your child's Catholic school tuition), you know the rest of the story:
  • Upon walking into the room, we lowered the average age of the hall by 15 years.
  • We only played like 2 cards each. "Specials? What the heck are specials? You mean they're not included in the price?"
  • We sat in seats that "belonged" to other people. Not that they were there. Not that their names were on the chairs. Not that there was any "Reserved" signs on the tables that we ignored. We were "shoo-ed" away from the first three tables we wanted to sit at, because the same people put their same butts in those same chairs for years.
  • We didn't have the proper Bingo equipment: some sort of craft show produced carry-all. A collection of pictures of children and grandchildren (heck, they could have just been the pictures that come with a new wallet, for all we knew). Nor did we have Bingo chips to mark the cards.
  • We made noise. Evidently you're not supposed to talk to each other during Bingo. To think, we could have gone to the library on a Friday night.
  • We didn't join in the attacks on the Bingo caller: "You're calling the numbers too fast, too slow, with too much of an accent, with food in your mouth, etc.
  • AND THEN THE WORST OFFENSE POSSIBLE: one of us actually won. We acted like he just hit the game winning home run in game 7 of the World Series, high five-ing each other. But then we saw the looks, the stares, the glares. We're not supposed to win. We just showed up tonight. We only played 2 cards. We didn't have the chachkis that invoke the bingo-gods from on high. In short: we were OUTSIDERS who got something.
Understand that, and you get Jesus bringing up Naaman the Syrian in today's Gospel. They thought God needed them more than they needed God, and Jesus let 'em have it, to the point that they wanted to kill him.

Today's First Reading tells the story of Naaman that Jesus alludes to in the Gospel, the story that everyone in that Synagogue in Nazareth knows. Naaman was a non-Jew and the commander of the King of Aram's army, and a leper. Eventually Elisha the prophet will cure him, and there's some interesting lessons we learn from it:
  1. The God of Israel cures a Gentile. God has power over everyone.
  2. Naaman brought loads of treasure, presuming a cure would have a price to it. How many people treat God as if He is a commodity they can "buy" (or "rent") as needed?
  3. Naaman doesn't have to renounce his former faith before God cures him. Nor does he have to go through a catechumenate before getting cured. Nor does he need a "sponsor certificate".
  4. Naaman only finds out about this by a seemingly coincidental chain of events: Naaman's wife's servant girl starts the ball rolling. But then the King of Israel thinks this is just a set-up to provoke a fight between the nations, and his lamenting is what gets Elisha's attention. Naaman then bounces from the King to Elisha. Sometimes the craziest quests bring us the greatest victories.
  5. Naaman's retinue goes from a royal palace to Elisha's simple front door. Sometimes the thing we're looking for can be found in the place we least expect to find it.
  6. Elisha doesn't talk directly to Naaman. Nor does he see him, touch him, or say magic words. Remember, the prophet is only God's mouthpiece. It's God that is curing Naaman.
  7. Naaman is offended that Elisha won't come out to see him, and is ready to go home. If Naaman's servants weren't there to convince him to bathe in the Jordan, he'd still be a leper. How many people don't go to Confession because they don't think God can forgive them?
  8. God doesn't just remove the leprosy and restore his skin to what it was: the skin of a middle aged man. His skin is restored above and beyond, to that of a baby. No need to buy Clinique for Naaman on his birthday! When God gives, He gives in abundance.
Three more weeks until Holy Week begins. Get clean in Confession!

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Caught this headline scrolling on the bottom of one of the cable news channels, while at the gym this morning:

"Shorter skirts better for the economy"

*WTF = What's This Fashion? - what did you think I meant?

Friday, March 05, 2010

a hypothetical

OK, this one goes out the the Priests:

Today is, on the calendar, the first Friday of the month of March.

On the liturgical calendar, it is Friday of the Second Week of Lent.

According to the rules, one must celebrate the Lenten weekday (which takes precedence over any celebration of a Votive Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart, which is an option during Ordinary Time).

Are ya' with me so far?

On First Fridays (theoretically in honor of the First Friday devotion), myself and the Deacons of the parish make Communion calls to homebound parishioners.

But, if there is no First Friday liturgical devotion today, could a pastor, hypothetically, intentionally NOT make Communion calls?

[I know, I know: "But, Father, these people wait for you each week".]

I know what the answer is on the emotional level. I'm asking on the catechetical level. Could this be a "teaching moment" in a penitential season, to show that Lent is different from the rest of the year? Is asking the homebound to make a "Spiritual Communion" as a Lenten sacrifice "over the top"?

For those who have not had a Priest come to your home to bring Holy Communion to a loved one who is either sick or unable to get to Mass, realize that they days seem to be long gone when the house would have a reverential silence from the time the Priest entered the door with the pyx containing Our Lord. Gone are the days of someone in the family meeting you at the door with a lit candle, and a table laid out with a white cloth and candles and a crucifix.

So, anyway, all you clergy out there, ponder my question and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, I'm off to do my Communion Calls.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


From this morning's Gospel:

"There was a ... man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen"

Always a great exercise in self-awareness at 8am as I'm standing in the sanctuary dressed in a linen alb and a purple chasuble. Too bad he ends up dead and in Hell.