Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Opinion Journal Today

James taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal's daily "Best of the Web" has this in today's edition:

Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision in which seven men imposed their views on abortion on the entire country. This ruling, which had no basis in the text of the Constitution and only a tenuous connection to then-existing precedents, was supposed to settle the matter once and for all. Instead, it turned the court into a de facto review board for state abortion policies and made abortion--and by extension the court itself--into the most divisive issue in presidential politics.


Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have articles noting, with some surprise, that today's antiabortion movement includes lots of young people. The Post piece includes this delightful bit of Fox Butterfieldesque puzzlement:

Despite the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973 in the case of Roe v. Wade, a new generation of activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication. There are Students for Life chapters on more than 400 college campuses nationwide.

What is the logic of that "despite"? Abortion tends not to be carried down through the generations: If your mother had an abortion when she was pregnant with you, the likelihood of your ever having an abortion is close to zero. The L.A. Times describes a meeting of an anti-abortion group called Generation Life, which sheds some further light on the subject:

"I feel like we're all survivors of abortion," Claire said. She has five sisters and a brother; most of her classmates, she said, come from much smaller families. The way Claire sees it, they're missing out on much joy--and she blames abortion. "I look at my friends," she said, "and I wonder, 'Where are your siblings?' "

They're not out marching for legal abortion, that's for sure!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What? No mint jelly?

Yesterday's Feast of St. Agnes meant another tradition took place. On this day each year, the Holy Father blesses two lambs whose wool will be used to make the pallia presented to newly appointed metropolitan Archbishops on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Despite the looks of the faces of Archbishop Harvey and Msgr. Gänswein in the background (who probably haven't had lunch yet), these guys aren't really destined for lamb chops (though one wonders what'd happen if we had a Pope of Greek descent?).

A musing on Daniel 3:67

"Cold and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever."

I just got back from the cemetery committal of a funeral I had this morning. It never fails that, at least once every winter, there's one of those cemetery services on a bitterly cold day. You know what kind of days those are by the telltale signs: First, you really don't walk on the grass as much as you walk on top of the grass (since the ground is so frozen that you don't sink into it). Second, your ears get so cold that they hurt. Third, the wind outside makes trying to manage the ritual book a challenge.

It gave me a whole new respect for the Giants, the Packers, and along with them, the fans who packed Lambeau and the rest of the people who had to work that game in the freezing cold (who gave new meaning to the words "working stiffs")

I know, "Cold and chill, bless the Lord", but, c'mon!!!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Example #432 of "How we shoot ourselves in the foot":

Sent to me by a parent whose child recently made their "first penance". This was part of a note that was sent to parents of the first penitents:

"Due to the large number of children, we ask all parents and guests to refrain from going to Confession today so the priests will have more time with your children on their special day."

I wonder whether, in a few months when these children receive their First Holy Communion, a note will be sent home politely urging parents and guests not to receive the Eucharist on that day, so that the priests can spend more time with the children on their special day?

Experience has taught me that, without fail, on days when you're hearing the first Confessions of little guppies, you'll also going to catch a Marlin or two who haven't been to the Sacrament in years. To send a note home like that is the same as saying, "Don't worry, you don't have to feel guilty or emotionally moved while your here. Feel free not to sit there and reflect on your life while these children go to Confession. Instead, please, strike up multiple conversations with the people sitting all around you, so that the children experiencing God's mercy for the first time get used to the lack of reverence that they'll encounter in sacred spaces.

You want to allow the children to go first, that's perfectly reasonable. But to then "close up shop" after the last child is absolved loses a great opportunity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back in Black

I know it's been a while since I've written with any regularity here. I've had a few things going on in my life, both professionally (namely, late Advent and the Christmas season) and personally. As I said in a previous blog entry, there are plenty of places out there to satisfy your hunger for Catholic blogging, many of which I've been reading myself during my hiatus from writing. But regardless of that, I'm back here at the computer, keeping watch for all that's new and exciting in the world of Roman Catholicism. So let me see if I can "catch up" on some things:
  1. Pope Benedict's Choice of Vestments. Much has been opined about the Holy Father's use of vestments and thrones used by his predecessors, as if this is one of the signs of the Apocalypse. People everywhere wear jewelry that belonged to their parents or grandparents. President Bush uses a desk in the Oval Office which was used by Presidents Clinton, Kennedy, et al, all the way back to Rutherford Hayes! So if Pope Benedict uses a cope worn by Pope John XXIII, or a miter worn by Pope John Paul I, what's so bad? Has the Church stopped using copes? Do bishops not wear miters? Where's the gang that loves to criticize the Church's vast wealth? They should be out there praising B16 for recycling old vestments, rather than spending money on new ones. Culturally, we've become a "disposable" society that lives day to day with paper plates, plastic razors, cardboard juiceboxes, and instant furniture that is meant to last about 2 years, and then be thrown away so new, instant furniture can be bought at the local IKEA. So why the wailing and gnashing of teeth? Simply put, some in the Church (both clergy and laity) have an ecclesiology is only "skin deep". They see a vestment and immediately make a judgment. At the sight of an amice or a clerical shirt in any color other than black, their eyes send a message to their brain which causes such a drain of energy and memory space that they "step out" of the moment and lose themselves in their own funk. Yes, they'll give you their opinion about whether they either loved or hated what the Pope wore, but ask them their opinion about what the Pope said in his homily, and they've got no clue because they didn't listen to the homily. This brings me to my next topic...
  2. Pope Benedict's Mass in the Sistine Chapel. Oh, sweet Jesus, get over it; he used an existing altar that is built against the back wall of the chapel. Depending on which blogs you read or with whom you spoke, this was the liturgical equivalent of either 9/11 or Viagra. Yes, his back was to the people (it's ok, I don't think they forgot what he looks like), but it also means that celebrant and congregation were all facing the same direction together (dare we say, "facing God"?). It means he was no longer the center of attention, and for some Priests, therein lies the hangup. For some of my brothers, a Mass in which they don't get to "do their shtick" is a Mass not worth having. This is why many don't believe in or celebrate private Masses; what's the point if there's no one there to impress? Also, for those who think this was an attempt by the Pope to "turn the clock back", you should be mindful of the fact that the Mass was in Italian, not Latin, and Eucharistic Prayer II (the shortest, perhaps with the awareness that babies and toddlers have tiny attention spans) was used.
  3. The Society of Jesus' election of a new Superior General. Though one may ask, "What will the next Jesuit Superior General be like?", the better question is, "Will Jesuits listen to him?".

Saturday, January 05, 2008

LifeTeen Lite

My fellow blogger Jeff Miller over at "The Curt Jester" has the story of Msgr. Dale Fushek and his continued desire to leave the band and go solo. Msgr. Fushek was the founder of the LifeTeen program in the Diocese of Phoenix, and for a while believed to be the "great white hope" in possession of the remedy for the mantra we keep hearing that the Church has nothing to offer to teenagers and that they're not attending Mass and that they'll never be back to the Roman Catholic Church (World Youth Day attendance numbers in the hundreds of thousands notwithstanding).

A while back Msgr. Fushek was accused of activity with minors, and was suspended from publicly exercising his Priestly ministry. But he continues to defiantly dwell in disobedience by leading "non-denominational" prayer services in a convention center.

Hey, speaking of priestly narcissism, check out this article on the topic, which appeared in this past December's issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Musings

A Happy New Year to all.

I didn't intend to take time off from blogging, it just sort of happened. Certainly, after fifteen months of the blog, the initial zeal is over. I never intended it to be a daily journal, and there are plenty of blogs out there to fill that pocket in you.

Here at the parish, we just had an 8am Mass for today's Holy Day. We have one more Mass at 11am, but right now I'm taking some pleasure in looking out my office window at the cars driving by the parish, the passengers wondering why there are no cars in the parking lot at this time? The answer: there is no 9:30am Mass this morning! 8, 9:30, and 11 is our usual Sunday schedule, and despite publishing the Mass times for today in our bulletin and announcing them at every Mass this past weekend, there are (obviously) people who either don't listen that well, or leave after receiving Holy Communion, and so are neither there to hear the announcements nor to grab a copy of the bulletin.

It's hard to believe we've arrived at 2008. This year will be the tenth anniversary of my ordination, so I've had this year dancing around my head for a number of years already. I've been speaking to some classmates of mine (including a great afternoon a few days ago with classmates from the dioceses of Trenton and Wheeling-Charleston), and we're trying to arrange an "anniversary trip to Rome" this coming October. Our class did a trip while we were still seminarians, back during Christmas of 1996. Today is the kind of day that begs you to look back at your life: where you are, where you thought you'd be, friends who you've lost contact with, and friends who you didn't have a decade ago.

But, like Jesus said, no one can plow a straight furrow whilst looking back. New Year's Day is just as much about looking ahead than behind. There's something about today that brings out the optimist in everyone: I will lose that weight. I will contact old friends. I will pray more, read more, study more. There's lots of unknown adventures out there, and lots of things I can't wait to see and read. So, for the new year, I make the words of today's first reading my own wishes for you:

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you!
The Lord lift his countenance upon you and grant you peace!