Saturday, July 30, 2011

A personal pondering: Is proficiency prevented by pudge?

Last week the Governor of New Jersey had an asthma attack, something he has kept under control for a number of years. Smelling blood (or maybe his breath, I suppose), the national media moved in to dogmatically declare a flaw in a potential Chris Christie run for the Presidency.

Said nicely, he has "health issues". The underlying message which you got, once the media included pictures of the Governor's girth: "He's too fat to be President".

Not a day later, the L.A. Times opined about Governor Christie: "Is America ready for a President who, frankly, doesn't look healthy?" O.K., let's start by getting the sarcastic replies out of the way:
  • "Really, and how did a bodybuilder governor work out for you, California?"
  • "Are we really striving for a President whose waist size matches the unemployment rate?"
  • "Hey, California, 37 million people in your state you could've voted for and you brought back Jerry Brown. Seriously?"
This is just another passive-aggressive tactic of the liberal, democratic biased mainstream media. Their signal to let everyone start to pounce on Governor Christie. Leno, go to work. Conan, do your thing. Piers Morgan, well, no one really watches you anyway. Hey, maybe Tina Fey can put on a fat suit and try to do to Christie what she did to Sarah Palin? Maybe they can just refurbish the fat jokes they used on Ted Kennedy. Oh wait, they left his waistline alone.

Sad but true, the same bias exists in ecclesial circles. From the moment we're seminarians, we learn very quickly there's another evaluation going on besides academic or intellectual ability. I'll say it: Seminarians (and later Priests) are judged on their physical looks. I can remember getting off a bus with other seminarians during the 1996 visit of Pope John Paul to Baltimore. As we stepped off, a Priest pulled some guys out of the line and put them by themselves. We wondered what was happening? We found out: He needed seminarians to be interviewed on TV about the Papal visit, and was picking guys based on their looks (we knew this because the guys chosen looked like a GQ cover shoot; not a zit between the 5 or 6 of them). Nevermind some of these guys had never read any of the Pope's encyclicals; I'd bet some of them couldn't even spell "papal"! It carries through into Priesthood. If you're thin, somehow the judgment is made that you're a good, successful Priest, without anyone ever checking to see if they spend more time worrying about their looks than the parish to which they're assigned. If you're fat, the presumption is made that you've got something wrong with you. Hindsight, though, is always wonderfully honest in this regard. Nothing is less surprising in the Church then when a bella-figura Priest drops off the radar or announces he's leaving, the moment he's not the center of attention anymore. A well known example of this in recent history is the story of a young priest who had to be literally begged by a bishop (now retired) to become his secretary. The young man had a condition: he'd take the job only if, after a few years, he'd be allowed to go for further studies in Rome. The Bishop ok'ed it, and the young priest served as secretary, and then was sent to Rome. When he finished his studies and returned home to his diocese in the northeast, he found he couldn't function. He missed Rome, and in particular, a young Italian man he met while studying theology on his diocese's dime. When last heard from he was living in Europe with his special friend and teaching English to foreigners.

The truth will come as no shock that Governor Christie's brain is separate from his stomach. His ability to make decisions and lead has nothing to do with what he has for lunch... or dinner... or as a snack at 11pm. The same rings true for Priests. This is nothing more than schoolyard bullying modified for grown-ups who never, well, grew up. You want to wish he would lose weight so he can feel healthier? That's fine. But to say he shouldn't be President because he can't say no to Yodels or because Americans don't want to see a President with some meat on him insults both him and all of us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

R.I.P. - Virgilio Cardinal Noë

The Vatican Information Service reported the death of Cardinal Noë yesterday at the age of 89. His Eminence had served as Papal Master of Ceremonies under Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and II, before being made Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica and created a Cardinal in 1991. He retired in 2002.

I first met the Cardinal in 1995, when my home parish made a pilgrimage to Rome. I was able to serve as Master of Ceremonies for a Mass he celebrated for our pilgrimage group at the Altare Alla Tomba. A few times after that initial meeting, I stopped in on him for visits on subsequent trips to Rome. He was always a gentle and kind man, gracious to me and the friends who came with me to visit.

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's it worth?

These crazy days of 100+ degree weather meant that I spent a little more time than normal sitting in my air conditioned room watching TV. When some form of Law & Order was not on, I watched some of this new wave of shows:

Pawn Stars - the story of a family run pawn shop in Las Vegas, and the things that people think are valuable enough to sell.

Auction Hunters - two guys who travel around, bidding low on abandoned storage units and hoping to find treasures inside to sell high.

American Pickers - two more guys who travel around to meet people who've amassed all sorts of stuff, hoping to buy some of it from them to sell others at a higher price.

The Gospel this weekend fit right into these shows, as Jesus gave 3 parables about treasure. The first two parables compliment each other: the first guy finds the treasure by accident; he wasn't expecting it and suddenly there it is. The second guy knows what treasure he's looking for, and has spent his life looking for perfection before he finally finds it. In both cases, Jesus says the same thing: each guy "sells all that he has" to purchase their respective treasures. A great question for us. Would we be so bold to make that kind of commitment to gain a treasure?

What about the treasure of our faith? The opening prayer of today's Mass has the great line, "God our Father and protector, without you nothing is holy, nothing has value"(the better translation is nothing is "worthwhile", but "value" works better for my train of thought). It makes sense; we'll pay more for something that we want more (that's why air conditioners cost more this time of year than snow blowers!). So, I suppose, the first question to be asked is, "Is our faith a 'treasure' in our eyes?" Is it precious? valuable? something to be protected and guarded?

What are we willing to pay (or give up) for our treasure? Will we give our time for it? This should be easy, our time costs relatively nothing. Will we give time to God each day? Do I give God time in mental prayer? Do I give God time each week by my Mass attendance? As a Priest, do I freely give the Church my time with the Breviary? Do I see it as something I have to do or as something I have to "get over with" so I can do something else? The same with Mass; Do I celebrate/participate at Mass because I "have" to, or because I "want" to? Is Mass an encounter with God to be treasured, or some kind of spiritual jury duty I want to get out of as soon as possible? Too many of the laity, most particularly this time of year, simply blow off Mass. Mass is unimportant to them, and therefore not really a treasure. It's sad, really, the way they don't see any need to give God part of their time, and yet when their life falls apart they expect the Church to give of her time telling them they did nothing wrong. No, God didn't care that you missed Mass because your children play summer baseball, soccer, or compete in martial arts or cheerleading. You just keep on reinforcing these twisted priorities in your child's head; they'll come in handy later on when you're in a nursing home desperate for visitors and little Bobby or Betty have Yankee tickets.

So what is our faith worth to us? If you had to have your faith appraised, what would you be able to show the appraiser to get him to up the value? This week's Gospel (along with the past 2 weekends) asked us to consider God's presence in the world and our response to Him.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Week in the Life of a Priest

YouTube has this great video produced by the Archdiocese of Sydney (and featuring their Vocation Director).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sandro Magister on "how it happened"

Italian Vaticanista journalist Sandro Magister, writing about today's appointment of Archbishop Chaput on his Chiesa blog, seems to give the backstory of who else was in consideration. An interesting read, check it out HERE.

Abp. Chaput to Philadelphia

This morning's appointment of Archbishop Chaput to the See of Philadelphia has been announced by every Catholic journalist and blogger... AND NOW is finally official because of the announcement by Rome.

John Allen has what may be the first interview with the Archbishop about the move east. It's available by following this LINK to the website of the National Catholic Reporter.

(See, I can link to the NCR and not get the cooties! By the way, the picture was taken in 2000)

Friday, July 15, 2011


Today I received in the mail an advance copy ofThe Word Among Us' Advent edition. Last Advent I bought copies for parishioners so they could have something extra for their Advent preparations.

Besides the daily meditations, the booklet also has an insert with the daily Mass readings, as well as the Mass parts. This year it means the new translation, and it's odd to see it in print in something so familiar as The Word Among Us.

I read through the 2nd Eucharistic Prayer, and all I could say was "Whoa!".

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Big posters on the wall of the Mount

Two weeks ago, I was on retreat at my alma mater, Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The seminary organizes this annual retreat for alumni (though any Priest is welcome), which gives us the chance to roam the halls, campus, and vicinity as we did when we were students.

On a bulletin board in the hallway which contains faculty offices, two large posters were on a bulletin board. I took pictures of them, and I think you can click to enlarge them.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Gospel of Matthew 11:25-30

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. ...
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (1883)

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"