Sunday, October 31, 2010

T. on L.'s article (thanks to Z). Sounds like a James Bond plot.

Father Z's blog turned me on an essay written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker (whose blog I don't read as often as I should) on the topic of celebrating Mass ad orientem (here's the test: "ad orientem" to the optimist means, "the Priest, together with the community, facing God together". To the pessimist, "ad orientem" means, "the Priest turning his back on the people in a malicious return to the evil, wicked, Pre-Vatican II days").

The last two paragraphs jumped out at me, personally, because I've seen it in myself and in others.

"...when everyone has to look at the priest all the time I am not surprised that so many of our church liturgies have become entertainment oriented and the priest is burdened to be the main entertainer. Why do so many Catholic parishes now take on the personality of their priest? Maybe because the priests are too much the center of attention. Why do so many priests seem to revel in all this attention? Maybe because every time they go to the altar they are the center attraction. Maybe this has also contributed to the narcissism and showy-ness of so many of our priests.

When I pray the Mass in the same direction of the people it is amazing how I don't have to worry about myself and what I look like and whether I'm putting enough 'feeling' into the words. Instead I merge into the people behind me who are praying with me. I feel caught up in a wave of their prayers as their prayers and mine are offered to the Lord who is up and beyond both of us. I feel no alienation at all in 'turning my back to them.' On the contrary, I feel closer to them and more one with them as we all pray in the same direction. I am no longer 'up there' with them all looking at me. Instead I am with them and one with them as together we turn toward the Lord."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hey Jude (and Simon)

Today's feast day gives us 2 great lessons:

Simon the Zealot: What does society get zealous over? Sports teams? Charlie Sheen being found naked and passed out in a hotel room? Conan O'Brian coming back? Glee? Why do we accept a high level of devotion to a person, team, or cause, but not religion? Parents will clutter the back window of their cars with stickers, magnets, and even paint jobs that essentially say, "I'm proud of my athlete/graduate/ honor student", but when have you ever seen, "I'm proud my daughter/son was Confirmed", or, "I'm proud my child went to World Youth Day", or, "I'm proud my daughter doesn't dress like a pole dancer when she goes to the mall"?

Jude Thaddeus: Ah, the "Jimmy Carter" of the Apostles: more revered for what he did after being in office than while in it. The patron of the impossible cause. The cause of countless copies of novenas being made and randomly left in pews of churches. A money maker for newspapers, who take money from the persons who wish to publicly thank the Saint for a favor granted. The beauty of acknowledging the power of St. Jude as an intercessor for the lost cause is that this also acknowledges that, for God, no cause is lost, no happening is impossible.

Also, two great martyrdoms: St. Simon sawn alive, St. Jude speared. If you live in a parish that wants the kids to dress in Saint costumes this Sunday, let your kids make a Halloween costume out of that!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Question of the Day: Oct. 26

The first reading at Mass today is that ever-maligned Ephesians 5:21-33.

If you're a Priest, did you preach on it?
If you're anyone else who attended Mass today, did you hear anything about it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is that so wrong?

Sandro Magister has a great story, fresh off of Pope Benedict's announcement of his intention to create new Cardinals. You can e-subscribe to Chiesa, and get told when new articles are posted. But I digress. In his article, Magister floats an idea in the last paragraph:
Next Monday, October 25, in the academic hall of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Piazza Sant'Agostino in Rome, Maestro Bartolucci will also receive an award from the Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra, together with Benedict XVI's brother, Georg Ratzinger, another great proponent of liturgical music.

And it will be as if the purple given to the former is also honoring the latter. Something not entirely bizarre, if one remembers that Leo XIII, at his first consistory in 1879, made a cardinal of his brother Giuseppe Pecci, a Jesuit and the deputy librarian of the Vatican library.
An interesting "what if?" I'm afraid of how the media would react, but still there should be something to being the Pope's brother. Could anyone, other than the Holy Father himself, ever really know the influence or counsel Msgr. Georg has been during their lifetime?

What would happen if Pope Benedict made Msgr. Georg Ratzinger a Cardinal?
  • At age 86, he's ineligible to vote in a Conclave, should he outlive his younger brother.
  • Within the College of Cardinals, seniority counts. As "Cardinal Ratzinger" [who thought we'd ever say that again?] he'd be there for his brother's funeral, though towards the back because of his low seniority within the Sacred College. Truthfully, he'd probably have a better seat as "the Pope's brother" than as a Cardinal.
  • Cardinals are usually chosen among the world's Bishops, but not always so (and especially amongst the ad honorem ones). Though they may wear the Pontificals (mitre, pectoral cross, and of course the ring), they may ask to not be ordained a Bishop. This was true in the case of Avery Cardinal Dulles. So naming Msgr. Georg a Cardinal would not even necessarily raise him to the episcopacy.
  • Nepotism? C'mon, even today I can rattle off the names of a few Priests who seem to have gotten a little something extra because of a blood relation to a Bishop.
  • Hasn't been done lately? Is that on purpose, or because we've had a drought when it came to a Pope with a sibling who is a Priest? JP2 had no living siblings. Both JP1 and P6 had 2 brothers, neither clergy. I believe Pope John XXIII had a nephew, though I may be wrong.
OK, readers, anything I'm missing?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


No, not the math. This morning's Gospel (and something else going on) has me in a mood to opine about the topic.

At first what Jesus says sounds harsh, I mean, did the Son of God really come to break families apart? But division is a part of the life of a family. A child really can't learn to ride their bicycle until dad or mom lets go of the back of it. Like the ice skating cliché: If you never fall, you'll never learn how to pick yourself up.

Plus, let's remember that Luke the Evangelist is writing for the Christians from pagan areas, something like 50 years after the Ascension. Those who read this Gospel certainly would have known through personal experience that Christianity causes division within families and friendships. In other words: what sounds radical to us probably wasn't so radical to the original readers.

But is it really so radical to us? I can't tell you the number of times I've heard the lament of older parishioners about their children don't go to Mass (except for Christmas and Easter). More than a few times I've had the funeral Mass of a man or woman in the 80's, and looking out in the pews is like looking at the layers of an archaeological dig:
  1. The deceased (let's call her Mary, for example) in the casket, front and center: 88 years old, and a daily Mass/at least monthly Confession goer.
  2. Mary's children in the front pew: in their high 60's in age, come to Mass every Saturday afternoon (Sunday if they had a wedding/graduation/birthday party to go to the night before). They know when to sit and stand at Mass, and the right responses.
  3. Mary's grandchildren in pew #2: in their 40s. Went through CCD, got Confirmed and never came back. They come to Mass on Christmas Eve at 4:15 (Mass started at 4) and if there's a wedding, baptism, or funeral. The postures and responses are familiar, but they're out of practice, so they just watch what the rows ahead of them are doing.
  4. Mary's great-grandchildren in row 4: Teenagers. Went to CCD, but not to Mass. Don't know what to respond, or when to stand or sit. But they really don't care (and worse, they don't care that they don't care). One has her iPod earphones in; the other is playing with his Playstation. They still come up to receive Communion. Can't wait for the funeral to be over because they texted their friends to meet them for lunch.
Sounds like a divided family, no? But the truth is that there's not a lot of division there. The division that is there shows itself between the family and the Church.
  • The division was there when the great-grandchildren were told in CCD that missing Mass on Sunday was an offense to God and a sin, and the parents called the CCD office to complain about what the kids were being told. What with soccer and football and cheering and hockey and apple picking and garage sales, there's just no time for church.
  • The division happened in the grandchildren when they got mad at Father, because he told them that he needs to see them at Sunday Mass for a few weeks before he allows them to serve as Sponsors for their niece or nephew's Confirmation. "This is why people leave the Church!", we're told just before they hang up. [No, this is what people who have already left the Church use as the excuse they've been hunting for.]
This is the world we face, where clergy are no longer expected just to convey the Church's doctrine to the faithful, but to convince them of it, as if the Laity have the right to refuse if Father's argument isn't convincing enough. Priests have to become like Billy Mays, who had a 30 minutes to convince you that your life was meaningless and empty without some gadget, and that you absolutely need the doo-hickey in order for your life to be transformed and euphoric. Hello Billy Mays, goodbye Bing Crosby.

Let me conclude with a story a friend of mine tells. He was invited to the home of parishioners for a get-together, where he gets the line from someone who was angry after being told he couldn't have things the way he wanted for his child's wedding: "Gone are the days when the Priest was always available and willing to go out of his way to help people." He responded (with just as much sarcasm in his voice), "No, gone are the days when the Priest told you 'no', and you listened to him!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Here's to you, Washington, DC

With the creation of Abp. Wuerl as a Cardinal on November 20, the Archdiocese of Washington, DC will, once again, have three living Archbishops who were members of the Sacred College. The last time, while Card. McCarrick was the Ordinary, included James Cardinal Hickey, who died in 2004.

William Cardinal Baum
Abp. of Washington, DC 1973-1980
Created a Cardinal - May 24, 1976
(at the age of 49!!)

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Abp of Washington DC 2000-2006
Created a Cardinal - Feb. 21, 2001

Blessed John Henry Newman

“God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught…Therefore I will trust Him, whatever I am…He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me—still, He knows what He is about."

Big Shock: Pope names new Cardinals

In what was the worst kept secret, Pope Benedict today announced his intention to create new Cardinals at a November 20 Consistory.

I got up to watch it on the live feed of the Wednesday General Audience. The internet is a pretty amazing thing that we sometimes take for granted. I happened to be in Rome the last two times Pope Benedict announced new Cardinals. At least watching it on the net makes me feel like my streak is still alive.

Two Americans are on the list, Archbishops Raymond Burke of the Apostolic Segnatura and Donald Wuerl of DC. No O'Brien, no Dolan, the unspoken rule against having two "if-there-was-a-Conclave-voting-age" Cardinals still has an effect (Card. Keeler will turn 80 on Mar. 4, 2011; Card. Egan on Apr. 2, 2012).

Neither was there any See named out of left field (as last time's Galveston-Houston). Apparently, the chat seems to have been true that "Detroit's red hat went to Texas". Cardinal Maida turned 80 last March, yet Archbishop Vigneron was not on today's list.

OK, it's 6:30 a.m. Time for my day to start.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pope Benedict through Superman

Remember this scene from Superman: The Movie, how that one green crystal created the Fortress of Solitude?

The London Telegraph has run a story about the parish of St. Peter's in Folkestone, Kent (England), and their decision to "jump the Tiber" and leave the Church of England for the Roman Catholic Church.

Fresh off of Pope Benedict's visit to the UK, I can't help thinking of him as that green crystal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A little culture

When I'm working at my desk, my iTunes shuffles my library, and sure enough today it played a talk by Archbishop Dolan which he gave at Mount St. Mary's Seminary a few years ago (he was Abp. of Milwaukee at the time). In it, he quoted the Italian poet Carlo Coretto:

How much I criticize you, O Church, and yet how much I love you!

You have made me suffer, O Church, and yet how much I owe you more than anyone else.

I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.

You have given me so much scandal, and yet you have helped me understand sanctity.

I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false--and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you because I am you, although not completely.

And where would I go? To start another Church? I could not, without the same defects, because they happen to be my defects. It would then be my church, not yours. And I'm old enough to know better.

B16's letter to seminarians

Just when you thought the Year for Priests was over last June, the Vatican released a letter Pope Benedict has written to the seminarians of the world (in the way they released the letter, they themselves have tied this into the Year for Priests). Click HERE to read the letter.

Yes, written for seminarians, but some things that Priests need to hear again (as the years since our seminary days get farther and farther away). Too many times I've encountered grumpy, angry, unhappy Priests, and I've left thinking to myself, "They couldn't possibly have been this unhappy when they entered the seminary, so what happened to them?" So here are some bits from the letter:

"When the Lord tells us to 'pray constantly', he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God."

"At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist. Celebrating it devoutly, and thus encountering Christ personally, should be the centre of all our days."

"The sacrament of Penance is also important. It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Got God?

Photo by AP

An op-ed piece by Sis Bowman in the Zanesville (Ohio) Times Recorder is definitely worth a read.

Pop quiz time

Clear your desks and take out a piece of paper and a pencil.

A Catholic's obligation to attend Mass on Sunday can be fulfilled by...

a) dropping your offeratory envelope in the rectory mail slot.
b) arriving at church before the Priest processes in and leaving after he's processed out.
c) standing in the back of church talking to someone while Mass goes on.
d) staying until the collection and then walking out.
e) attending the anticipated Mass on Saturday evening.
f) "Sunday obligation? I'm a good Catholic, and I don't believe we have to go to church to be good Catholics."
g) b and e only
h) all of the above

The answer, from what I've seen, is "h". I thought it was "g".
Go figure.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

32 years ago today.

Great site!

Yes, to those who wondered whether I died, left the Priesthood, or just got caught up in the Rapture, I am alive and well. Well, not so well. I bit of a cold has me operating at 75%. But my colds are pretty predictable, and so I'll be back to normal by Tuesday.

But even in my congested state, this blogsite got me laughing. A thanks to Fr. Tim Finnegan for pointing this out.

[cue ominous organ music]

In this season of creepy, scary things, dare to visit the BAD VESTMENTS BLOG.