Monday, January 30, 2012

A political rant

I don't care who Iowans voted for, nor do I care about whom the Republicans of New Hampshire or South Carolina chose.  I don't care whom Floridians choose tomorrow.  They live where they live, and I live where I live.  These different primary dates may have been necessary before instant communication technology, when candidates had to physically be in a state to be an effective campaigner.  But we don't need them anymore.

Let's have just one primary date in America, when all 50 states go to the polls to choose their parties' nominees for elected offices ranging from the President of the United States to local dog catcher and everything in between.  Boards of Education and Fire Commissioner elections usually have not only candidates on the ballot, but also the approval of their respective annual budgets; let's get a bigger turnout at those!

Please save me from hours and hours of pundits sucking up all the TV time telling me how a candidate did at a rally in Iowa and how it is supposed to affect me (I really don't care what they think, either).  He or she will likely be out of race before New Jersey has their primary.  Finally, I don't care how rich candidates are, how many speeding tickets their children have, or what they thought, said, or wrote any time before 2005.  I don't care if they're too fat or too skinny, how they dress, or what kind of pets they have.

Again I say, save me from the TV pundits.  They make me hate politics.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Great quote

Again, from the Schonborn book:
The priest puts on liturgical vestments "so as to distinguish himself from himself" -
Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852)

"Who is the greatest?"

When I'm not hearing confessions, I'm reading a book.  Currently, it's The Joy of Being a Priest made of the talks of a retreat for Priests given by Cardinal Schönborn in Ars, France.  I'm about two-thirds through it, and so far it had been full of the usuals: prayer is important, reading Scripture is important, etc.

But yesterday, it got "real".  He is talking about the institution narrative in Luke's Gospel, and I quote:
"But the fact that Luke places one of these rather ignoble discussions right after the institution of the Eucharist gives us pause.  How is this possible?  Jesus has just entrusted to them the most precious treasure, his testament, his life given and delivered up for the salvation of the world.  And a few minutes later they are preoccupied with precedence, a rivalry about who is greater, the all-too-human and all-too-clerical game of making one's importance felt, of claiming the spotlight, of vying for success, popularity, and worldly greatness.  How shocking!  A clerical tiff, an 'argument in the sacristy' in the Upper Room, the evening before Jesus' Passion, on the night he was betrayed, when he freely gave himself up to his Passion!  How many times have we left the church after Mass only to start up our rivalries immediately - if it had not already happened, surreptitiously, during the Mass itself!"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Religion in the Modern World

For all those who've had to sit through seminars and workshops like this. This one's for you.

Mark 3:21

Snow finally caught up to us overnight.  Like others (especially Pastors), I had held out vain hopes that we'd get through a winter without any snow.  Don't get me wrong, it's pretty, it's scenic, it makes for great pictures (parents, get your kids out of bed, throw on their winter coats and send them outside, and go take your Christmas card picture for 2012!!!  You laugh now but you'll thank me next December).  Yes, an ontological change happens upon ordination to the Priesthood, we're all on the same page for that.  But something happens when you're a Pastor, a Rector, or anyone who has to keep to a budget. In the words of Ricky Ricardo, "Lemme 'splain":
You're a child and it snows = "Yay! No school"
You're a teen and it snows = "Cool, no school"
You're in college and it snows = "Wait, it snowed?"
You're a seminarian and it snows = Doesn't matter.  You still have classes.
You're a Priest and it snows = "Isn't it pretty?"
You're a Pastor and it snows = "How much will this cost to plow?"
OK, back to here.  I went over for the 8am Mass, not really knowing how many would be coming.  Only once in my time here have I had a Mass with no one present.  In all, 5 guys showed up (no, not the burger and fries people, though that would have been cool), including a seminarian who took it upon himself to shovel the front steps of church and lay down some salt - I love the zeal.

So what was the Gospel passage on the first snowy morning of winter?  Being the Feast of St. Agnes, I had the choice of the propers for her Feast Day, or the readings of the day.  When I saw the latter, I couldn't resist.  Mark 3:21 "...they said, 'He is out of his mind.'"  Your families, I told them, might have said the very things as you left in the snow this morning to come to Mass.  Certainly there must have been a few who thought young Agnes was out of her mind for not saving her own life by simply marrying the Roman Proconsul's son.  But there were undoubtedly those who saw her witness and became curious about Christianity.  Maybe they became Christians themselves, or maybe they just gained a new respect for Christians and their willingness to suffer for their beliefs.  Just like there may have been those in cars passing the church this morning, seeing the lights on inside (and maybe a person or two walking through the snow to Mass) and wondering why you'd do that?  We never know who we'll affect in life.  We never know who will see us in a random drive past.  But we do know God sees everything.  He saw Agnes give her life, and he saw you leave a warm house to come to Mass.

[I wonder how many people God is going to watch say, "It's too dangerous to drive to Mass", after watching the same folks spend the day driving their children to karate, dance, or go to the diner, the mall, or the movies?]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A football pitch, public land, and an interesting pro-life message

Here's the story: The London Telegraph has an article about an interesting situation involving a football [soccer] team's place to play.  The team has played on land which was donated to the soccer club in 1922 by a wealthy woman as a tribute to the bravery of the men of the village who fought in the 1st World War.

Here's where it gets interesting: The gift of the land came with the condition that, twenty-one years after the death of King Edward VII's last living descendent (a boy whose mother was Edward & Alexandra's daughter, Maud, and who would later become King Olav V of Norway), the land would change ownership and be owned by the town.  King Olav died in 1991, and so since then the town has been waiting for 2012, when the codicil would kick in and the ownership of the land would change.

Here's where it gets reeeeeeeally interesting: The club management is challenging the transfer in ownership based on the exact wording of the transfer.  The words technically says that ownership changes twenty-one years after the death of the last grandchild "in being" at the time the agreement was signed.  Taking "in being" literally, the lawyers are arguing, the actual last grandchild was the Earl of Harewood (a boy, George Lascelles, whose mother was Princess Mary, the granddaughter of King Edward and so a direct descendent who would later become the Earl of Harewood).  Lascelles was born on February 7, 1923, only a few months after the land gift was signed, and so was, at the time, in the womb of his mother.  Lawyers for the soccer club contend that he was the last descendent of King Edward "in being" at the time the gift took place.  Lord Harewood died last July, and lawyers argue THAT'S when the 21 year countdown to the transfer of ownership began.

Lawyers for the soccer team and the town, of course, take positions on both sides.  It will be interesting to see if English courts rule that a child in the womb (albeit 89 years ago) counts as "alive"?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Random thoughts

Thank you, Tim Tebow.  If you used to drop on one knee and pray to Jesus Christ, you were some sort of freak.  Tim, you "mainstreamed it".  Thanks.

Thank you, Eli Manning, for reminding us that a "Hail Mary" every now and then won't kill us.  It might even change the course of the game.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Security System

Eager for his privacy, at an audience in the Vatican this morning, Pope Benedict accepted delivery of the first of what are rumored to be hundreds of crocodiles which will fill the newly installed moat at the summer residence of Castelgandolfo. (Thank you, Reuters, for the picture)

Wanna know how my brain works? (Warning: It's a scary place)

This morning's 1st Reading at Mass tells us "all Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the Lord." This got me wondering about Dan and Beersheba.

A map on Wikipedia showed the locations of the cities, Dan in the extreme north and Beersheba in the extreme south.

So there it is: The author was making the point of Samuel's renown from the very north to the very south.  I wondered how to convey that in my homily.  Use the geography of New Jersey?  How about the geography of the United States?  Samuel was recognized in the land from Maine to....

Which in my brain led to me singing this:

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, New Jersey native Charles Addams

The Year of Faith: How to get ready

Ten months before it begins, the CDF today released notes with suggestions on how, on  levels going from the universal Church to local parishes, the Year of Faith should be marked.  Here are the parish suggestions:

IV. At the level of the parish/community/association/movement
1. In preparation for the Year of Faith, all of the faithful are invited to read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei.

2. The Year of Faith "will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist." In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord.

3. Priests should devote greater attention to the study of the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from them resources for the pastoral care of their parishes – catechesis, preaching, Sacramental preparation. They should also offer cycles of homilies on the faith or on certain specific aspects such as, for example, "the encounter with Christ", "the fundamental contents of the Creed", and "faith and the Church."

4. Catechists should hold more firmly to the doctrinal richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, under the direction of their pastors, offer guidance in reading this precious document to groups of faithful, working toward a deeper common understanding thereof, with the goal of creating small communities of faith, and of giving witness to the Lord Jesus.

5. It is hoped that there will be a renewed commitment in parishes to the distribution of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and of other resources appropriate for families, which are true domestic churches and the primary setting for the transmission of the faith. This might be done, for example, during the blessing of homes, the Baptism of adults, Confirmations and Marriages. This can contribute to the deepening of Catholic teaching "in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times."

6. The promotion of missions and other popular programs in parishes and in the workplace can help the faithful to rediscover the gift of Baptismal faith and the task of giving witness, knowing that the Christian vocation "by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate."

7. During this time, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life are asked to work towards the new evangelization with a renewed union to the Lord Jesus, each according to their proper charism, in fidelity to the Holy Father and to sound doctrine.

8. Contemplative communities, during the Year of Faith, should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.

9. Associations and Ecclesial Movements are invited to promote specific initiatives which, through the contribution of their proper charism and in collaboration with their local Pastors, will contribute to the wider experience of the Year of Faith. The new Communities and Ecclesial Movements, in a creative and generous way, will be able to find the most appropriate ways in which to offer their witness to the faith in service to the Church.

10. All of the faithful, called to renew the gift of faith, should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity to their brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. In this way, it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission toward those with whom they live and work, knowing that they "have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man."

Ten months from now, there can be no use of the excuse, "Rome didn't give us enough time to prepare to do these things."  [That's me saying it; it's not in the document.]

Friday, January 06, 2012

Blessed Epiphany, everyone!

Whether you adhere to the traditional January 6th date, or you'll celebrate it on the transferred date this weekend, a blessed Twelfth-night to you all.

I apologize for being out of the blogosphere since Christmas.  Time moves fast, and I joined my fellow clergy in  enjoying a day or two (some considerably more) of "down time" following Christmas Eve and Day Masses.

I promise I'll try to do my best to pay attention to those of you hungry for the opines that come from my brain.  Until the next time, here are three gifts for you to ponder:

  • The translation transition went remarkably well, I think.  The worry about rioting in churches turned out to have the same roots in reality as those who felt coffee makers with electronic timers would stop working on January 1, 2000.
  • New Cardinals were announced today.  Congratulations to (in order of precedence) Archbishops O'Brien and Dolan.  The National Catholic Reporter has a piece in their usual cynical style, showing they either don't know their facts about the Church's Cardinals, or they do know and opted to do an article in "bitchy little nitpicky" style (is that the new Turabian?).  I won't put a link.  If you go to it they'll convince themselves that you reading it means you think like they do.  I've read it, and the people who comment are freakier than the reporter who wrote it.
  • NBC News in New York has been beautifully positive in covering the stories about the announcement of the new Cardinals (including Abp. O'Brien because he is a New York native himself).  I predict that, by the time the Consistory occurs on February, most stories in the secular press will also include the obligatory mention of pedophilia, Cardinal Law, the Crusades, Pope Joan, the Borgias, Pope Pius XII, or something down that road.