Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Monday, June 27, 2011

Call me a big ol' meany, but ...

I read the following Scripture passage from 2 Thessalonians from today's Divine Office:

Do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat. My brothers, never grow tired of doing what is right.
My question is this: If Scripture is divinely inspired and thus true and free from error, then why have so many in the Catholic justice field worked for the exact opposite? I know there are some who can't work, and there are widows and orphans, the working poor, and the like, but what of those who won't work, for whom social assistance has become social dependence?

Indeed, the high tax rates needed to support such assistance have become confiscatory. With how many women have I spoken who would gladly give up their jobs in favor of the homes were they not needed to simply support their families? In 1948, the average federal tax rate for a family of four was $0.02 per dollar. Look at your stub now and see the federal income tax. Does it even come close to two cents?

Think of what that extra income would do for families. Mothers could stay home. Families could save. They could more easily afford major purchases like when the dryer goes on the blink and they need a new one. Or when the car broke down, it wouldn't thus be a need to have recourse to the almighty credit card.

When, however, did you hear Sr. Pat of the Greater Tri-County Area Committee on Social Justice or Tim Anonymous from the USCCB or state bishops conference make such an argument. You haven't, you won't today, and you probably never will. These people all still belong to the Democrat Party at Prayer and the Society of Our Lady of the Great Society, and such thinking is anathema to them.

Meanwhile, schlubs like me toil and think, "Man, I am never going to get ahead," for after the tax man cometh, there ain't much left. Praise God we're getting by. But do the people supposedly dedicated to a more just society have to actively work to make that fact less likely? Where's the justice in that?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hip hip hooray! Good news just learned on this Feast of Corpus Christi

Until the bishops made standing as the norm, I used to kneel to receive Communion. This was never a problem anywhere. I didn't have a priest come charging up to me after Mass, screaming, "Don't you know it's just a SYMBOL?!?!?!" He may as well have called that person "Raca."

However, after a while, since I preached fidelity to bishops, I figured I ought to practice it, so I began standing to receive and offering up the suppression of my inclinations, beliefs (this is, after all, GOD Whom we are receiving), and instincts as a penance.

Now I read this from Fr. Zuhlsdorf (if you don't read him, please start. He is the  best).

What Does GIRM 160 for the USA Really Say?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Apres le deluge in New York following last's night SSM vote

Well, it’s happened. When I worked in the California Legislature, I could see it was bound to. Now all it will take is US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with the Court’s liberals for it to become like Roe v. Wade, a perpetual battle royale. And I bet he will indeed side with the liberals.

In the past, I have staunchly agreed with the argument that our reasons for supporting traditional marriage had to be secular or at least non-sectarian. Given that we live in a post-Christian world where few care about the Bible or the Catechism or Church authority, this seemed to make the most sense.

I still think there is merit to that argument. However, I now also believe we have done ourselves a disservice by restating the classical – and I mean “classical” – arguments, arguments from antiquity against homosexuality, for that is the root, isn’t it? After all, if there is nothing wrong with homosexual genital acts and by extension contraception (which renders the normal sex act homosexual by its virtue of making it fruitless), then what could possibly be wrong with same sex unions (SSUs)? In that event, opposition to SSUs is truly bigotry.

As former Democrat politician David Carlin recently wrote:

“If, on the other hand, we argue that homosexual behavior is unnatural, we are arguing from ancient philosophical premises derived from Aristotle and Stoicism. According to Aristotle, those tendencies are natural that are common to all, or almost all, members of a species; if some individual members of a species deviate from these tendencies, these deviations are considered unnatural. According to Stoicism, nature is a manifestation of God; the study of nature, therefore, will uncover the will of God. Combine those philosophies, and homosexual behavior is seen as unnatural and contrary to the will of God.”

Here is what the bishops said in a statement after the vote:

The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn was just a tad more forceful:

Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have deconstructed the single most important institution in human history. Republicans and Democrats alike succumbed to powerful political elites and have passed legislation that will undermine our families and as a consequence, our society.

With this vote, Governor Cuomo has opened a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation....

In light of these disturbing developments and in protest for this decision, I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.

The above request is intended as a protest of the corrupt political process in New York State. More than half of all New Yorkers oppose this legislation. Yet, the governor and the state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced, and voted in favor of same-sex “marriage.” It is mystifying that this bill would be passed on the last day of an extended session under the cover of darkness.

This issue has been framed as upholding marriage equality. This is not the case since one of the principal purposes of marriage is to bring new life into the world. This cannot happen in same-sex marriage. It is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue upholding the age-old understanding of marriage. Our political leaders do not believe their own rhetoric. If they did, how in good conscience could they carve out any exemption for institutions that would be proponents of bigotry and prejudice?

Republicans and Democrats equally share responsibility for this ruinous legislation and we as Catholics should hold all accountable for their actions.

Of course, this is only the most recent effort of a society increasingly in enthralled by its own hubris and even more intolerant, embarrassed by, and contemptuous of its Christian foundations and roots. As proof, we can look to how left-wing groups have petitioned President Obama to “rescind an amendment to an Executive Order that allows faith-based programs to limit hiring to people of their own faith.”

The great Archbishop Charles Chaput echoes the Catholic League (or is it vice versa?) when he recently said, “And if the state refuses to allow those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying, then as a matter of integrity, they should end their services.”

When Catholic University of America recently announced it would begin to segregate sexes by gender—not as a means of denying rights to students but to encourage virtue and thus promote the school’s mission—a local lawyer filed a gender discrimination suit.

·         In Massachusetts, it has led to indoctrination in schools (to whit, a December 2003 school assembly was held “to celebrate same-sex ‘marriage’ [and] how it is now a normal part of society.” See the previous link for more examples.).
·         It has led to an increase of HIV/AIDS cases and an increase in an already bloated state budget to deal with the burgeoning health problem. Spending on domestic violence issues (known to be much higher in homosexual couples than normal relationships) has gone up by $250,000. It has led to increased costs for businesses, who are now required to provide health insurance benefits to employees in such unions, even those with HIV/AIDS.
·         It has led to the erosion of the ability of Christians to maintain their morality in their businesses. As such, a Christian bed-and-breakfast owner must allow a couple they do not consider married to sleep and copulate under their roof. A Christian wedding photographer cannot refuse to take photos at these sham weddings. The list is endless. And it often leads to frivolous lawsuits against businesses whom homosexual activists target to see how well they are complying with the new regime of laws. Catholic Charities no longer participates in the adoption process in the state because it refuses to compromise its principles and beliefs by allowing same sex couples to adopt. Justices of the Peace cannot abide by their conscience and refuse to marry same sex couples without losing their jobs.

This is what’s coming to all of America now that the card of New York has fallen and the card of California is likely to do so, as well.

It is also proof positive that the American Catholic Church—progressively emasculated by gender politics, moral relativism, and the priestly ephebophilia scandals—holds absolutely no sway over the majority of her professed adherents. After all, two of the deciding votes were from “Catholic” Republicans who both made it very clear that Church teaching meant nothing to them.

And really, once the Vatican forced Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle to rescind his censure of Fr. Charles Curran and the other theologians who protested Humanae Vitae—indeed, once the Vatican allowed the encyclical to be treated by the entire Canadian bishops conference and the American theological elite as a dead letter—the game was over. Dissent was allowed to rule the day, the Spirit of Vatican II became supreme, and all that was once thought to be wholly Catholic, including obedience to one’s bishop, washed away with the tide. Were it not for a handful of faithful theologians, bishops, and the pontificates of Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church itself would be a dead letter today. It would be a prettier version of the Anglican Church. Truly, “the gates of death” have not prevailed.

We cannot compromise with this legislation. We cannot retreat from that which has always been true about marriage and will always be true. We must stand firm in our convictions and still loudly proclaim our principles.

That, however, my friends, will come at a cost. You and I are now the enemy. Twenty years ago, such a development would have seemed preposterous. Today, it has happened because it has become amongst our leaders and too many of our citizens the common wisdom. So because of this, we become the bigots, we become the scourge of society. We are beneath contempt and seen as no different than neo-Nazis hiding in the darkness of the wooded Pacific Northwest. This is the beginning of the very end for the respectability of Christianity. Absent a huge grace from God—and with God, all things are possible—should I live to the normal age people in my family attain, thoughts such as those expressed on this blog will put me in jail or before a judge in a civil suit.

This is quite possibly one of the saddest days of my life, but I have no doubt it will be followed by many more of a similar hue.

And on that cheery note, what do you think? Agree? Disagree?

Humility and meekness in the face of recent news stories

Given certain recent news stories, I want to talk about four saints, all of whom are either very well known or whose names we at least recognize, so I’m not going to go into their stories so much. Instead, I want to focus on one common thing in their lives and how they dealt with that, namely persecution.

Now think about it. When someone persecutes us or falsely accuses us, there is nothing that gets our dander up more than that, is there? For instance, a spouse accuses another spouse of doing XYZ or being disingenuous. Or the boss passes us over for an opportunity we know should be ours, but instead it goes to a coworker we deem less worthy. You know, during the OJ Simpson case, as convincing as the prosecution’s argument was, I remember thinking, ‘What if? What if he really didn’t do this horrible, heinous crime, and he really is innocent?’ I think of a priest in a New Hampshire prison who both Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Avery Cardinal Dulles both thought was innocent. Because he maintains he’s innocent and refuses to plea bargain, the judge locked him away for 30 years.

So life offers us many opportunities in all shapes and sizes to experience both persecution and unjust accusations. Again, though, how do we deal with that?

For one answer, indeed for the context of all of this, let’s start with Our Lord, and what we see when He is crowned with thorns.

Here He is, being punched, spat upon, having a crown of thorns beat into His head, causing His precious Blood to flow down onto His parched lips. The soldiers mock Him and taunt Him.

Now if that were me, I’d scream in rage at them, “Who are you miserable, cretinous creatures to treat me like this?! I am your CREATOR! I created you! You would not exist other than my divine will! HOW DARE YOU!!!”

But what does Our Lord say, instead?


He says not a word. When He does speak about them, it is only to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Following this example, consider St. John of the Cross, the seventeenth century Spanish Carmelite. You want to talk about being persecuted. This guy, all he wanted to do was reform his order, to bring it back to its original charism of poverty. Because of this, his order not only cruelly mistreated him, but they locked him away for years in a dark cell. He didn’t lash out. He didn’t complain. Instead, he used this period to write one of the most powerful spiritual works of all time, Dark Night of the Soul. We’re still reading that book born of pain today.

Then there was St. Gerard Majella. It’s peculiar that this eighteenth century male religious is the patron saint of those who are pregnant, right? I mean, he’s a man and was never pregnant, therefore, so why him?

Well, it’s because some very obviously pregnant woman came to his convent one day and accused him of being the father. And you know what he said when they brought the accusation before him? Nothing. Not a word. He refused to defend himself. Absolutely refused. His superiors couldn’t believe the charge. Yes, he was handsome and virile, but he was also dedicated to his vocation and extremely pious. Because he would not defend himself, however, they suspended him from all pastoral activity within the convent and told him to stay away from the Communion rail for months.

The woman later admitted she had lied. When his superior St. Alphonsus Ligouri asked him, “Why didn’t you defend yourself?” he replied that silence was what he thought was necessary and required in situations where there were unjust accusations.

St. Dominic Savio was once falsely accused of committing a practical joke. “Why did you do this?” he was angrily asked by his teacher. He refused to defend himself, knowing full well he was innocent. And in time, his teacher learned the truth of the matter. Like St. Alphonsus with St. Gerard, the teacher asked why he hadn’t defended himself against these unjust accusations. St. Gerard simply said, “I thought of our Lord when He was unjustly accused. He didn’t say a word either.”

Finally, there is Padre Pio. In the book, I recount the following about him:

At one point, St. Pio was ordered to stop the public celebration of the sacraments. These commands came from his archbishop, who, unlike Padre Pio, was no one’s idea of a saint, and yet he obeyed.[i]

Under Archbishop Gagliardi’s censure, Padre Pio “was stripped of all priestly faculties except celebration of Mass in his friary’s inner chapel…[ii]
Padre Agostino Daniele, Pio’s best friend and confessor for more than fifty years, charged that Gagliardi waged “a veritable satanic war” against Padre Pio, soliciting letters with “accusations, exaggerations, and calumnies” to forward to the Vatican – while it was the archbishop himself who was the center of controversy.
So bad was the situation that a number of priests in the archdiocese petitioned Pope Pius XI to end what they saw as “disorder,” “immorality,” and “clerical degeneracy.”
This was not the case, however, with Padre Pio. He never retaliated against the archbishop, nor even criticized him. In fact the angriest the famous mystical priest was seen to get was with a supporter – a Pio defender – who had attacked the archbishop. Although shattered, Pio was said to have submitted to the bishop’s attacks with what Father Agostino recalled as “holy resignation.”
“God’s will be done,” Pio, a Capuchin monk, is quoted as saying. “The will of the authorities is the will of God.”[iii]

            It was not only the questionable archbishop who restricted the scope of his priesthood but also the Holy Office. This happened in 1922, and he was ordered not to bless crowds or display his stigmata. He could not even discuss them. Correspondence was severely restricted, and authorities forbade him from seeing his spiritual director. When someone expressed disgust over Rome’s restrictions, St. Pio replied, “You did a wicked thing… We must respect the decrees of the Church. We must be silent and suffer.”

In her piece on recent news, Secular Carmelite Diane Korzeniewski quotes the Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, SJ on humility and obedience in such instances:

Several times in this post I have used the word, “docility”.  What does this mean in the spiritual life? Let’s look at what Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ has to say.  Yesterday, June 18, marked not only the day of his birth, but of his priestly ordination.  He remarks in an article on virtues concerning “Childlikeness“ about docility thus:

It means therefore to be willing to learn from God and here’s the hard one: the willingness to learn from God not of course as though God will, though of course He might, send us His own divine angelic messenger, normally not. Normally God teaches us through the circumstances of our daily lives. Especially those most painful circumstances called other people. That’s where we tend to be less than docile. Openness then to God’s teaching us especially through all whom He places into our lives. It is great, great wisdom to be so disposed as to be ready to learn from and I mean it, everyone from the youngest child to the oldest speaking to religious golden or diamond jubilarian.

She then asks:

Does this mean we ought never defend ourselves? See the answer below as St. Francis de Sales quotes St. Gregory on this point.

“When any evil befalls you, apply the remedies that may be in your power, agreeably to the will of God; for to act otherwise would be to tempt divine Providence Having done this, wait with resignation for the success it may please God to send; and, should the remedies overcome the evil, return Him thanks with humility, but if, on the contrary, the evils overcome the remedies, bless Him with patience.”

The following advice of St. Gregory is useful: whenever you are ‘justly accused’ of a fault, humble yourself, and candidly confess that you deserve more than the accusation which is brought against you; but, if the charge be false, excuse yourself meekly, denying your guilt, for you owe this respect to truth, and to the edification of your neighbor. But if, after your true and lawful excuse, they should continue to accuse you, trouble not yourself nor strive to have your excuse admitted; for, having discharged your duty to truth, you must also do the same to humility, by which means you neither offend against the care you ought to have of your reputation, nor the love you owe to peace, meekness of heart, and humility.

Humanly speaking, all of this is impossible. It is tough to bite our tongues. I see it when my children feel I’ve unjustly accused them. I absolutely experience this when my wife accuses me of doing something I haven’t or of having reasons for doing something that were never mine.

So it is agonizingly difficult. Still, Our Lord tells us, “Be perfect as Your Father in heaven is perfect.” Since the Father and Son are indivisible, it follows that one way to perfect ourselves in this way is to imitate the Son, as these saints did. This can only happen through much prayer and recourse to the graces found in the sacraments.

In today’s world, we cannot expect this to be a popular option, now, can we? Yet since we are Christians and because we should know better, we should endeavor to make this our most popular option. In doing so, we would help create a more perfect world less focused on self and more focused on God, and that would be good for everyone.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine. Amen.

[i] Padre Pio: The True Story, Bernard Ruffin,
[ii] ibid.
[iii] ibid.

Movie review x2: Confessions of a Shopaholic and City Lights

On such a momentous day, it seems frivolous to start off with this, a movie review. Nonetheless, I was taken with both films I saw this week and wanted to share them.

I'll start with the first I saw, Charlie Chaplin's City Lights. Many of us know of Chaplin and his movies. Until recently, he'd been a household name for about a century. Few of us actually know his work first hand, however, except for the rather becoming biopic ca. 1992, where Robert Downey, Jr. played the title character.

However, in an effort to a) build up my children's cultural literacy (not to mention my own, ahem) and b) provide them with decent films to watch, I've begun taking films from Chaplin's oeuvre via Netflix.

City Lights is a very engaging film. The story concerns a tramp (i.e., homeless vagabond) who sees a beautiful blind girl who sells flowers on the street. She is not only blind but impoverished. Through a series of encounters, she comes to believe Chaplin's character is a rich benefactor and suitor. What follows is much brilliant slapstick, visual foibles (after all, it is a silent film), and touching pathos, although the movie is never maudlin and only rarely manipulative. I liked the ending particularly, because a) it left you wondering and b) it wasn't what most Hollywood films would do today, which would be to go for the easy, sentimental conclusion.

I especially liked the underlying moral. Blind flower girl (she's not given a name; nor is he) is beguiled by her belief that someone of wealth is paying attention to little ol' her. She likes his kindness, yes, and his personality and the things he does for her. But especially given the film's last scene, one gets the sense that she is especially taken -- through pride? insecurity (which is, after all, born of pride)? -- by his imagined wealth, whatever the personal charms with which this man has treated her.

On the other hand, the Little Tramp is motivated by nothing but chaste, chivalric love, the type written about so movingly in the Middle Ages. He is struck by her beauty, her gentleness, her innocence and kindness, her humility, and so many other wonderful qualities. His love for her is truly pure. And because the definition of love is not "It's a powerful feeling we have in our hearts for another person" but rather, "Constantly seeking the good of the other, even at the cost of the good to ourselves," it is a true love. Chaplin's portrayal here is an icon of love properly defined. It is, frankly, a love we see less and less the more and more we become convinced that love is a feeling, and if the feeling dies, well, c'est la vie, so has love. Indeed, it has died by definition, then, hasn't it? So we need more of the sort of portrayal we see in City Lights, and thank God He let Charlie Chaplin leave us a template in this regard.

Bottom line: Good, entertaining, film with a worthy moral. Worth watching before you get Modern Times.

The second film was one that totally surprised me. I often base my rentals of current films on the A-F scores given by Entertainment Weekly. However, while its reviewers are highly intelligent, it is evident we come from two different worldviews. As such, I've ordered films recommended by them as "A" quality that I turned off after 15 minutes or so because they were so atrocious in their world view.

I'm happy to report, however, that Confessions of a Shopaholic lives up to its billing. It's a wonderful film on many levels. The only things I found objectionable were the (admittedly infrequent) abuses of the Holy Name of God and the several scenes showing the lead character's best friend in bed with her boyfriend/fiance. The characters were fully clothed and you never saw anything indecent. Still, why couldn't we have seen them on the couch or at the table or in chairs? Since the characters were simply talking, why this? It seems to back up charges of liberal social engineering.

The story concerns Rebekah (sp?), who is a shopaholic. In an effort to pay off her ever mounting credit card bills (she tallies them to $13,000 at one point) and advance her career ambitions, she takes a job as a writer at a struggling New York financial magazine that has the reputation of "the People magazine of the finance industry." Her handsome editor gives her a shot and helps motivate her to produce something new and fresh, and she becomes something of a hit. However, her past catches up with her, and I'll leave it to you to see how everything washes out in the end.

I liked this movie because it is funny, engaging, and filled wall-to-wall with the incredible vivaciousness of Isla Fisher, who resembles a modern-day Lucille Ball, and not just because of her fetching looks and bright red hair. This movie has an All-Star cast: John Goodman, Joan Cusack, Ed Helms, Fred Armistad, John Lithgow, and Kristin Scott Thomas. However, none of them fill the screen like Fisher. She is amazing.

I especially like the moral of the story: Things can't make you happy, and our use of them to make us happy begins and ends with their purchase. It's like Rebekah says, buying things gives us a warm glow and makes us feel all is right in the world. Anyone knows this who has struggled financially and then gotten enough of a breather to buy something the heart desires.

That, incidentally, is why some studies show the American poor remain poor. When they gain a windfall, instead of having the ability to deny themselves (and, let's face it, their life is often nothing but denial in all its forms), they spend it by treating themselves. It's totally natural and understandable, but it's also fruitless. But I digress ...

Rebekah begins to become happy when she takes the very difficult step of choosing relationships over things. We love our things. Our things make us feel good. Surrounding ourselves with them gives a sense of comfort and security (although that is mostly an illusion; who are we kidding?).

A thing can't love you back, however. And ultimately, God created us for relationship. Loving relationship with one another here on earth, relationships that imitate the free, faithful, total, and fruitful love we find in the Holy Trinity, and ultimately relationship with Him in heaven for our eternity: This our purpose and the last is our end.

Being chained to things -- to mere material things that will end up in someone's thrift shop, gathering rust, eaten by moths, and ultimately rotting in some landfill somewhere -- is slavery. Being yoked to another person is true liberation, for in it we are free to recognize and become our best selves as givers and not takers. Consumerism and materialism encourage selfishness and everything that serves self. Relationship encourages giving and sacrifice, and it is these things that make us truly, fully human and thus free.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Need your help -- if you can give it -- re: the Fr. Corapi situation

If -- and only if -- you have had personal relations/encounters with Fr. Corapi (and by personal, I mean actually know the man, have broken bread with him, conversed with him in an intimate setting and not just shaken his hand at a conference ... get the picture?), and you would like to offer any insights on him, then please contact me. I am writing a piece for a Catholic news magazine on his recent headline making news situation and I am looking for insights. ALSO, NO OFFENSE, BUT WHAT I DON'T WANT OR NEED ARE THE PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T FIT THE ABOVE BILL. After all, I can get those from the combox of any blog out there, right? I want to give the fairest most accurate assessment of the situation, and since he is evidently not giving interviews (and neither are the other intimates involved in this affair), I beg your assistance.

Explain for me, please, how this makes sense

I normally try to keep away from posting on matters purely political. The purpose of this blog, by and large, is to offer reflections on matters spiritual, and the hope is that others will find these helpful.

This, however, bugs me. More than that, it bewilders me. I can't make sense of it.

If I was relatively new to driving a car, and other, much more experienced drivers whose actual job it was to drive a car gave me suggestions on how to drive better, I would hope I'd listen to them. If I was a medical intern or resident, and a more experienced physician told me a procedure I was planning would do more harm than good, I would hope to high heaven I would pay heed.

How, then, is what the above article describes any different? The men prosecuting this war are experienced. They're tested and reliable, and they are there. They are at Ground Zero. They're not reading reports from the battlefield. They're seeing the casualties, seeing reasons for hope and optimism, seeing areas of concern, and basing their opinion on that. They are not sitting comfortably in an air conditioned office in downtown Washington, DC, making decisions based on what it seems are purely political calculations. Decisions, incidentally, by someone who has never put on a uniform. Someone who, despite kind words about what our men and women in uniform do, seems to have that distaste, disdain, and distrust of all things military.

We have lost over 1,500 men and women servicemen since entering Afghanistan in 2001. That is, indeed, tragic, especially for those left behind. We have spent a ton of money, enough to build many new roads and repair much of our crumbling infrastructure. But how many more lives will we lose, how much will we spend if we do not do the job right the first time?

OK, so he doesn't have military experience. Does not mere life teach him that doing a job right the second time is much more expensive than doing it right the first?

Heaven help us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More thoughts from tilling the garden on Father's Day

So yesterday saw a tremendous amount of work in the yard and garden. I was out with the boys before 08:00 in the morning, and, with the exception of a siesta/riposa from the warm, Wisconsin sun, a short break for lunch, and an equally short break for dinner, I didn't rest until I came in at 9:53 p.m. at night. I was beat (i.e., exhausted), but it was a good beat, a wonderful beat, a satisfying and peaceful beat.

But it also gave me cause for reflection, especially as this is Father's Day.

The first commandment God gives Adam and Eve is, "Go forth, be fruitful, and multiply" (Gen 1:28). Not, "Go forth, be fruitful, but be ecologically responsible by limiting your children to one child per family, or at most two." Not, "Go forth, be fruitful to the extent that you'll be able to give each of your children separate rooms and more or less easily afford their college education." Not, "Go forth, be fruitful, but only to the extent that you can give your kids all the things you didn't have as a child." "Go forth, be fruitful, and multiply." Multiplyyyyyyyyy.

You go into a garden that you have planted, and in doing so, you have endeavored to be fruitful. You want to multiply the seeds you've sown. You want a bounteous harvest. Now it seems that God has other plans, because some seeds don't germinate, some germinate but quickly die, and sometimes weather, soil, or other conditions (e.g., you neglected/forgot to water) take hold. Maybe your yield is only half of what you wanted, maybe it is next to nothing.

God works the same way. With some seeds -- i.e., husbands and wives -- a bountiful crop is created. God be praised. Scripture makes very clear it is He Who opens and closes the womb. Some seeds/couples produce nothing despite their best efforts, even though they be the best potential parents on earth. One thinks of Mr. and Mrs. G.K. Chesterton. God be praised. More locally, I think of a barren couple who has adopted two children. God be praised.

What really struck me yesterday, however, was God's second commandment to humanity, actually to men in particular: Till and keep the garden (Gen 2:15).

A few thoughts flow from this.

First, work was part of God's plan for man from the start.

Second, we have to work. There are weeds, both literal and figurative, that creep in. For instance, in my garden, crab grass and wild blackberry is always attacking its inner reaches with their tentacles. On the property generally, we have this bush that sends out runners and would take over the entire parcel if it could. You can mow it, but heaven forbid you are running in the yard and step on one of the branch stubs. Ouch!

So you have to dig down to remove the root system. The first time I did this yesterday, I couldn't believe the size of this thing. The roots were huge, and they were interlocking. It was about 2' (48 cm?) in diameter. It brought to mind the Gordian Knot. All weeds are like this. If we let them in, they become more and more established and thus harder and harder to eradicate.

The same with sin or just plain bad habits. We slack off at work one day "just a little." Then it becomes habitual, a habit. We sneak a peak at pornography "just out of curiousity," and then we find it's so alluring, we come back for more, then more, then even more, until we become addicted. We send a note to that old hunky flame on Facebook or their work e-mail, "Hi, just thinking of you," and soon, we have a full-blown affair on our hands, even if it's "only" emotional.

In life as in the garden, once we see a weed, we must pounce on it, musn't we? We can't procrastinate and let it go until another day. We can not ignore it. We must take weed killer or our very own hands, and take it up by its roots. If it's not a single root but a network of them, dig away the dirt so you can follow each to its source, pluck it out, and then throw it away for burning or the garbage dump.

That is not enough, though. If you leave a patch of ground bare, weeds will keep coming back. The ground has to be sown with something else. With my ground last night, it was good, "99%!" weed free grass seed. With my spiritual life, it might be a redication to the Rosary, more frequent Mass, not forgetting (ahem) to say the Liturgy of the Hours, more spiritual reading, getting spiritual direction, more frequent confession, more meditation on reading, more contemplative prayer (the most joyful prayer of all), or all of the above.

Finally, the metaphor within the metaphor. We are to till and keep our gardens, right? After all, God said so. So while we have literal gardens and some figurative gardens (e.g., our spiritual lives, etc.), we all have the most metaphorical and important garden of all: Our wives.

It is our seed that the "soil" of our wives accepts. From that seed and God's good grace and blessing comes forth our ability to cooperate with God in the very act of creation, an amazing power when you think of it. So on this Father's Day, ask yourself, "What am I doing to 'till and keep' my garden, my wife? Am I showering her with affection (and not just of the sexual kind, for, like a garden, she will dry up and not produce or bear fruit if neglected)? Am I concerned for her spiritual life, and do I manifestly exhibit this concern in concrete, practical ways? Am I 'keeping' her, as in a castle's keep, as in guarding her? Do I ensure her basic needs are met, and not only material but spiritual and emotional, as well? Am I talking to her in her own particular 'love language'? If not, what must I do to make this garden thrive?"

After all, that's our job as husbands, isn't it? And the best way to be a good father is to be a good husband, is it not?

Keep in mind, I am not lecturing anyone more than I am myself. "Good advice, doctor. Why don't you take it?" is about the long and short of it. I recognize my duty to my spouse and family, and so often I do not choose them but ME. I choose what I want, what makes me feel good, what satisfies my desires and longings, bugger all what the wife and kids want.

Still, I recognize this, and I also know it's a huge problem for so many of my fellow men. And, sadly, some of them patently don't recognize this. We have to work against it, don't we? Or do you want to stand before God and explain why you blew off doing this work?

Have a Happy Father's Day, and let each of us dads use it not to get breakfast in bed or to be pampered, but to recommit ourselves to being better dads. Without this, the world will fail absent the grace and mercy of God.

What do you think?

New York Times article: "My ex-gay friend"

I read the NYT piece this morning with the above title with great interest, and I pray Our Lord uses this fascinating article to prick the hearts of those struggling with this lifestyle.

However, I thought Michael Glatze could have possibly given a fuller, more compelling exposition on why the same-sex choice will only lead to despair for those who make it.

His friend wrote, “I rejected his argument that 'homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within.'”

The answer he implicitly give -- and maybe the quote that follows a paragraph or so later was done without benefit of knowing this sentiment of this -- would have failed to persuade me if I was him. Might I suggest something else, based on the following?

God is not only Love, but He is perfect love. When Genesis 1 tells us He said, "Let Us make them in Our image," He couldn't not have meant an image of a body, as the Father and the Holy Spirit are non-corporeal, and God the Son was not yet incarnate. So it must have meant in an image of total self-giving, as we see in the Trinity. Indeed, we see this implicit in Matthew 22:36-40. And when Our Lord says, "Be perfect as Your Father in heaven is perfect," given that we are sinners, this is practically impossible. However, we can ever perfect ourselves in love, right?

And how do we do that? By becoming holy, sanctified, and we do that by mirroring the image presented to us in the Holy Trinity. And what is that image? It is a love that is free, faithful, total, and fruitful.

Let me give you an example, the most perfect example: Our Lord's salvific act on the cross.

First, it is free. The Gospels all make clear that He was not coerced into the Passion, but went freely. We see this very clearly in John 10:18.

Next, it was faithful, as we see from the the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus says, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt]."

Then it was total. Our Lord held nothing back, did He? If the film The Passion of the Christ is any indicator of just how bad it was, or even if we simply go by what we know from history and Roman execution methods, that is patently clear.

Finally, it was fruitful, because you and I are communicating by virtue of that once, for all sacrifice.

Going even deeper than this, The first commandment in all of Scripture is Genesis 1:28. This same thought is also the first commandment given humanity after Noah and his family emerge from the Ark, which God says twice (cf., Gen 9:1-7). It is implicit in the two commandments of the new covenant (cf. Matt 22:36-40) and His final commandment before the Ascension, which repeats the formula of Genesis, "Go forth," except here we are called not just to a physical fruitfulness, but one that is spiritual, as well.

Homosexual genital acts, however, can never be free, faithful, total, or fruitful.

They are not free because they are not free to do this by virtue of God's law. That may sound, I don't know, whatever you think it sounds like, but that doesn't make it any less true.

It is not faithful, or often is not, given that the average homosexual man, for instance, has (depending on the study) between 50-500+ sexual partners in his lifetime, with some 18-30%+ having over 1,000. Women naturally have far fewer, but they, too, have double digit numbers of relationships.

It is not total, in that 75% of homosexual relationships find that they have to accept the absence of physical monogamy if they want their relationship to survive. How can my love for another man be total if it is not for him alone?

More fundamentally, however, it cannot be total because I can never give another man my fertility nor he give me hisfertility. I can never image the Holy Trinity. The very nature of homosexual genital acts forecludes that from being a possibility.

Finally, and most importantly, it can never, ever, ever be fruitful. No many how many times two women rub their genitals together or use sex toys, no matter how many times two men sodomize or orally copulate one another, it will never -- can never -- bear fruit. Two men could never produce a baby together. Sara and Phyllis could never produce a baby together in the way God intended it. Homosexual love thus goes against God's design from the very beginning (cf., Gen 1:28, Gen 38:3-10, et al).

More fundamentally, however, it does so because it goes against God's very desire in the beginning: "Let us make them in our image" (Gen 1:26). The love between God the Father and God the Son is so total and so fruitful that the Holy Spirit proceeds from it. Similarly, the love between a husband and wife is so total and fruitful that nine months later, you have to give it a name.

Because we are only right in ourselves when we are in right relationship with God ("Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee," St. Augustine, Confessions, 1), a homosexual can "never get out of that cave. We go from guy to guy, looking for someone to love us and make us feel OK." It's not that "God is so much better than all the other masters out there." He is. He is our first beginning, and our last end. He made us to know, love, and serve Him in this life so that we may be happy with Him in the next.

But "[going] from guy to guy, looking for someone to love us and make us feel OK" will never make us happy because we are falling for a pale imitation of the love of the Holy Trinity. We are searching for God (Chesterton says, "Every man who enters a whorehouse is looking for God," i.e., for happiness and freedom from "restlessness" that can only be found in God), and we will never find it in a relationship that cannot be fruitful.

And ultimately, we are falling for the same lie for which Adam and Eve fell. The lure of homosexuality tells us that one love between any two or more persons is just as good as heterosexual love. ("You will not die; you will be as gods.") It is not, it cannot be, and we must work to save people with these attractions from this deception.

This is a talk given on this subject in 2007 or so to the national conference of Exodus, the ministry serving those seeking to be free of homosexual attractions. See what you think: (or see under downloads if you don't trust my giving you this link).

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Worried about teen sexuality?

Here's news on the next training session for Theology of the Body for Teens (an effective chastity program for middle schoolers [ages 11-15] and high schoolers [ages 15-18]). Dates are August 12-13 in Chicago. See here for more information:

Let me tell you this: Four years ago, I was very, very skeptical about this program, and that is putting it gently. No longer. I now consider myself a fervent convert. The reason? I have seen too many good fruits coming from this and -- very important -- no bad fruits. If you want your adolescents or teens to know why God created them, why chastity is not a white knuckle experience but a joyful gift, and what it really means to love (per the Church's definition of love), whether a friend, relative, or spouse, get this program implemented in your home, school, or church. Even Protestants are using it, because they recognize it's the best thing out there. And there are adult versions of the program available, too. Truly, this material is life-changing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Farming and God

At long last, after four years of fits and starts, we finally got the garden planted today.

While getting my self absolutely black with dirt, the gardening occasioned some thoughts on God and our relation to Him:

When He said in Genesis 3 that we would have to make our living by the sweat of our brow and have weeds, etc., with which to contend, boy, He wasn't kidding. Although the temperature was quite nice and it was overcast all day, I sweat like I was trying to fill a swimming pool. And weeds. One thing I have done pretty well over the last four years is to keep the garden area pretty free of weeds.

No matter, there they were waiting for me, and I fought a running battle with them for the better part of 4-5 hours. The planting part actually took hardly any time at all. It was quite relaxing and contemplative. The weeding, however, getting down deep to get those shooter roots for crab grasses, clover, and other odd things one doesn't want or need in a garden, if I was anal about it? I could be out there yet.

The thought crossed my mind that God could do all of what it took me hours to do in the blink of an eye. And yet, since we once tried to reach for being gods (cf. Genesis 3), He has made it patently evident we can't do things simply by willing them. As such, He has given us the need to work -- and work very hard -- for the earth to produce what it naturally produced before the Fall. Even so, even amidst this taking us down a peg, He still allows us to participate in the beauty of creating by enabling us to bring fruit from the ground. And there are few things more satisfying than eating that which you helped produce.

And then there were the gnats and odd mosquitoes. One thing I want to ask God if I am blessed to be with Him for eternity (i.e., I have been saved, I am being saved, and I hope to be saved through my running the race, per St. Paul) is, "Why the mosquitoes? Were they like the rock and the weeds, a product of the Fall?"

Before entering the house, I housed myself off, getting all the caked on black dirt rinsed off as much as possible before showering. This necessarily occasioned thoughts on baptism and the washing away of our sins in that sacrament, not to mention what happens every time we enter the confessional.

I'm know there were other thoughts, but frankly, I'm too exhausted to recall them. Exhausted and happy. Content, really.

If you haven't for a while or have never done something like this, plant something this year. It's not too late. Tend it. Water it. Feed it. See what happens. It doesn't have to be a major crop. It could be an already started pot of basil. But see what joy it brings you.

God bless you, and be assured of my prayers.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Several questions for my Green movement friends in Iran

My dear friends in the Green democracy and independence movement in Iran, I have a question. Please know it is not meant to offend you. It is based on what was made patently obvious to me when I observed your brave protests against an autocratic and repressive regime.

من يك سئوال , دوستان عزيز در اين جنبش سبز دموکراسی و استقلال در ايران. لطفا آن است که منظور این نیست که به كسى برنخوره. بر اساس آنچه واضح است که به جلب توجه من شما را مشاهده كردم كه دليرانه خودكامه اعتراض عليه رژيم حاکم است.

Here it is:

When will those in your movement realize that Islam is not incidental to the regime's autocracy, repression, and suppression of human rights and thus dignity but the very cause of it?

وقتي شما حرکت می کنند در درك اتفاقي نيست که اسلام به اين رژيم استبداد و سركوب, و سركوب حقوق بشر و به اين ترتيب عزت اما اين باعث آن?

Again, I don't want to offend or hurt, but I'm afraid -- know -- I definitely will. Still, I would rather take that chance than to stay silent and see you remain in misery. Khomeini, Khameini, Rafjsanjani, Ahmedinajad, Khatami ... change the person, it will not matter. Your dignity will continue to be crushed, your hopes and dreams thwarted, your spirits trampled upon, because these men ... and whoever succeeds them, Moussavi included ... operate from a worldview, a paradigm based on a theology that cannot see or allow any other way.

بار ديگر, من نمی خواهم به كسى برنخوره يا درد ندارد, اما من مى ترسم میدانید من قطعا خواهد شد. هنوز, من ترجيح ميدهم آنرا خاموش بمانند تا فرصت مى بينيد و بدبختي به جا مانده است. خميني (ره), ‌ khameini, ‌ rafjsanjani, ‌ ahmedinajad, خاتمي بود.. تغيير اين شخص, بلكه موضوع.

Don't believe me. Rather, simply ask yourself this question: When has their ever been a stable, democratic Islamic government that upheld the dignity of the human person?

من اعتقاد ندارم. نه, به سادگی از خودتان اين سوال: آیا آنها که وقتی یک نظام باثبات و مردم سالار كه حكومت اسلامي از حمايت از منزلت انساني.

Again, my friends, I apologize for possibly offending you. Look past the hurt, however, and ask yourselves: What is the answer to both of the questions posed here, especially the last one? And what countries have upheld the dignity of the human person, and what been has the primary religious influence on these nations?

بار ديگر, دوستان, پوزش مي‌خواهم زيرا شايد رنجاندن تو. نگاهی به گذشته درد دارد, اما, و از خودتان: آنچه که در پاسخ به اين سوال مطرح است, به ويژه در سال گذشته است? و آنچه که از وقار فرد انساني, و چه مذهبي اوليه است که در اين كشورها نفوذ?

Seize the moment to do something great. Return Persia, Iran to her exalted status, a status that has not been hers for over 1,300 years. How much longer will you wait? Now is the time!

از اين لحظه به كاري بزرگ شد. بازگشت ايران, ايران به جايگاه والاي او, که يک جايگاه تحلق به مدت بيش از 1300 سال است. چقدر ديگر صبر كنيد? حالا وقت آن است!

I used this website for translation. من اين سايت براي ترجمه كرد.

Movie review -- Mamma Mia

I love the music of ABBA. Bjorn and Benny are musical geniuses. So when the movie arrived from Netflix, I was pretty excited.

Boy, silly sentiment and wasted anticipation.

Crass, banal, tedious, predictable: These are only a few of the words that describe "Mamma Mia."

And it's too bad, too, because it constantly showed admittedly entertaining glimmers of promise and potential. But each time I got a little hopeful that the film would ultimately redeem itself, the next turn around the corner would bring those hopes crashing down.

First, the movie's good points: The music is great and not just because they're ABBA songs. I really appreciated how these arrangements made much more clear the brilliance of the chord changes and the genius of the instrumentation. The bass lines, the piano playing, the odd guitar licks shimmer much more brilliantly than they do on any ABBA record. It's also much easier to hear the lyrics. And just like the ABBA records, they are infectious and smile-producing.

And Meryl Streep. Wow. Just wow. What a woman. She is incredible. In fact, she is beyond incredible. The woman was almost 60 when she made this film, and she comes across sexier than women 30-40 years younger than she is. Completly so. She has such vivaciousness! As always, her acting is amazing, made even more so by the fact that some of her best acting comes during the musical numbers, which I would think is very hard to do. She gives a very affecting performance that is never not believable (forgive me the double negative). Streep left me constantly amazed and engaged throughout the movie, and if there was a reason I kept with the movie to the end, it was probably her. She is a national treasure, and quite possibly the greatest actress ever known.

Relative newcomer Amanda Seyfried is endearing and has a fine, fine singing voice (and the scene on the beach between her and her on-screen fiance will induce chaste men to avert their eyes if they're wise), and Stellan Skarsgård is, no surprise here, highly watchable. Colin Firth does a good job of, well, playing Colin Firth, and Pierce Brosnan affects his normal suave, debonair, charming man. Indeed, he does this with such ease as to make it look, well, easy. Also, Christine Baranski does her normal fine job of straddling the line between being fun to watch and borderline cringe-inducing. Julie Walters does a good job, as well.

One thing I definitely appreciated about the film is that you get to see the actors doing things to which you're not accustomed to seeing them do: dancing, singing, being silly and goofy, and that sort of thing. The guys dancing on the dock in their flippers was giggle-inducing to the extreme. And the (literally) Greek Chorus: What a hoot! They were so much fun to watch.

OK, enough with the kudos. Did I need to see Ms. Baranski strike a pose with a huge, red tipped phallic symbol between her legs? Give me a break. Is the world really that desperate for even more lowest-common-denominator sexual jokes, double entendres that are more like Beevis & Butthead half entendres, and tidal waves of crass asides in films that we needed to see as many examples of these as we do in "Mamma Mia"? Do we need yet more glorification of the "far out" '60s, the wake of which caused and still causes so much damage? What is so great about everyone giving full throttle to their every base passion with no sign of restraint whatsoever? Why is it so wonderful and gleeful about seeing people getting drunk and a menopausal woman cavorting with a boy who looks like he's still a teen? How is it that self-autonomous individualism of the kind glorified by secular humanists/atheists and this film portrayed as so great when it is wreaking havoc in every crevice of Western culture? And why throw in a gratuitous homosexual relationship at the end? It's so in your face, it's so out of place that it's offensive and just plain stupid. Absolutely pointless. Seriously, I don't understand why mainstream Hollywood feels like a film isn't a film unless it leaves no opportunity to offend the sensibilities of heartland, tradition-minded, conservative Americans unused. Actually, I do, but that's a different post.

Furthermore, beyond all this, while I realize the difficulty of crafting a story around already existing songs, it was just a banal, boring, ultimately uninvolving story. Will Sophie find out which of the three men she lied to in an effort to show up at her wedding is really her dad? Will mom find out what Sophie did? Will her fiance find out what Sophie so connivingly did without telling him and still want to marry her? "Will Sophie find out that one of these three men is actually her dad?" mom frets. Will mom's friends from the past not give in to every stereotype of an aging women absolutely desperate to prove she still has it, baby, and thus retain some degree of her feminine dignity and not look so utterly pathetic and ridiculous? Oh, the suspense of it all.

Uhm, and it's Greece. The whole movie makes patently clear that this is Greece, as in almost completely Greek Orthodox Greece. So who do they have as the clergyman who is to perform the big wedding at the center of all the "drama"? An Anglican vicar. For Pete's sake, guys. What would be so bad about a Greek Orthodox priest? It's just as well with a a marriage that is as secular as this one.

Had this been a movie without ABBA songs, no one would have given it a second's attention. It would have been B movie or Straight-to-DVD if it had ever even been green lighted.

So for all the truly fun things this movie had to offer, I can't recommend it.

Have you seen it? What did you think? What did you agree with in this review? What made you disagree?

Today's feasts

A happy feast of Bl. Edward Poppe, an amazing priest youth catechist (he’s profiled in 39 New Saints You Should Know), and Bl. Eustachius Kugler, a religious who stood up to both the Nazis and the conquering Americans. Pray well!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The frustrations of fatherhood

I hate when the baby is sick. He's miserable and can't tell us what's wrong and he's frustrated, and that just makes me frustrated, because it's a constant guessing game as to what will help him. I want to help him, but more often than not. I guess wrong. We just keep trying until we hit on something, and, praise God, he is comfortable in my arms now.

Bl. Juan de Palafox, pray for us in the name of Jesus that my baby be made well.

And, Lord, through the prayers of Ven. Joseph Menochio, please heal baby James, who has a heart problem of which doctors can't diagnose the cause. In Jesus' powerful name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Prayer request for a very young baby

Please pray for baby James, 4.5 mos. He has congestive heart failure & doctors can't discover why. Pray for the doctors & the family, too.

Oh no! More clergy sex abuse! Oh ... wait ... uhm ... well ...

Click HERE to see the latest case of clergy sex abuse. But wait. It's not a priest ... or any clergy ... or even a catechist ... or a religious. In fact, there's no way to tell whether this person is Catholic at all. (However, if he is -- or even was -- at some point we'll be told how as a young child, he had been an altar boy. Yeah, well, so what? So have probably about 1-5% of all Mass attending boys who have ever been Catholic. Some grow up to be saints, some don't. Why is it relevant?)

However, I digress.

The real point of this is to ask you this question: Before reading this post, had you heard of this story? I only saw it as a side post on Yahoo! News, barely noticed before I clicked away from another story I'd been reading. Why isn't this front page news? Why isn't this at the top of all the network newscasts? FoxNews on its homepage has a story about a black bear crashing into a wall (for the record, I love FoxNews; I'm simply expressing my frustration that not even they consider this a major case; to find it on their site, you have to do a search for "Del. judge to rule in ex-pediatrician's trial"). Other news outlets have run pieces on it, true, and maybe the story has simply been drowned out by "Weinergate" (Lord, help us), more bad economic news, Obamacare, debit card fees, and other items. Or maybe the clergy sex abuse scandal made us inured to outrage?

However, if you've read the story, by now you know this doctor -- a man people trusted with all that was most precious in their lives -- was one sick jerk. I've read many accounts of what priests have done to their victims over the years. None come close to matching what this sick man did to his patients, whose average age was three.

Where is the outrage? Where are the calls for a John Jay-type commission to investigate child sex abuse amongst those in the medical profession (I will guarantee you this man is probably the tip of the iceberg, not that there's any greater incidence amongst doctors than there has been amongst priests -- 2 percent or less)? Where are the outraged editorials and groups of lay people sprouting up like weeds calling for greater accountability and more transparency from the medical community?

We haven't seen it, and we won't see it. And you know what? OK. Fine. I get it. The world is unfair. Life is unfair. The Catholic Church and her clergy -- as is only fitting -- are held to a higher standard. And, yes, there is certainly some schadenfreude on the part of others when they learn of Catholic clergy sex abuse. But that's the way it is. I'm glad that, if nothing else, these sordid last 10 years or so have made us aware of the extent of the problem and given us the means to begin dealing with it. Hopefully, this will help prevent further incidences and more victims in the future. That would truly be a sign of God bringing good out of evil.

I only wish we could get the rest of the world to pull the beam out of its eye before dealing with the beam in ours. This problem is endemic across confessional, ethnic, and national lines. The more we concentrate on that rather than "Bad, Catholic Church! Bad! Bad! Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!" the sooner we help all victims, no matter their victimizers, and the more we will, like I said just above, help prevent their being even more victims.

What do you think?

The Korean (and male) Susan Boyle

I saw this on Deacon Greg Kandra's site yesterday, and it's a great story about a young man with an incredible voice.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lessons learned from the Rep. Weiner scandal

My friend Jon Samsel does another great job on analyzing social media in light of the Rep. Weiner scandal:

From my POV,  to read the Facebook convo he has where he reinforces a Jewish sexual stereotype ... boy. If I was Mrs. Weiner, I'd be livid. But here's why I love this scandal: It proves we still want our leaders to be men and women of virtue. Despite how we supposedly "turned a corner" and became "more enlightened" on this sort of thing in the wake of the Clinton scandal, it shows we still want our leaders to emulate the ideal, both in public and in private. Otherwise, who would give a rat's keester about someone's private, consensual life? In a strange, almost obscene way, it gives me hope for this quickly degenerating country of ours that we can turn things around. Because if we care about what our leaders do, it shows we still have standards, no matter how threadbare.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Some thoughts based on recent observation of the traditional Latin Mass

In the past four years, I've seen some things vis-a-vis the traditional Latin Mass that make me think folks who say its return as the Catholic Church's primary liturgy will magically improve things are possibly missing something.

I should start by noting my love for this form of the Divine Liturgy. In 1996, after my first time ever attending this form, my future mother-in-law (God rest her soul) asked me, "So: What did you think?" My response was, "Why did they get rid of so many beautiful prayers?"

When we lived in California for seven years, we lived in a diocese where the previous bishop had not done anything in the slightest to prevent the most egregious liturgical abuses from becoming "tradition." At best, our options for Mass were "not as bad" and "essentially tolerable" and "good, relatively speaking." However, if you wanted truly good liturgy, where the Mass was done as if everything associated with and in it truly mattered (because, given what it is, it does), you had one option: the traditional Latin Mass offered at a parish run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, better known as the FSSP.

The Mass there was magnificent. Beautifully, reverently, and somlemnly celebrated, it also featured gorgeous, soaring, soul-lifting music, and meaty, thought provoking homilies. It was special. How I miss it.

Having experienced that parish, I truly understand those who say the TLM (i.e., traditional Latin Mass, pre-Vatican II Mass, pre-1969 Mass, Tridentine Mass, etc.) is the way to go. If it's done like that, you bet your bottom dollar it is.

However, having had the opportunity since then to assist at TLMs said by non-traditional order priests, my opinion is more tempered. When the TLM is in the hands of someone who's a) doing it simply out of the kindness of their own hearts, i.e., as a service/act of charity for those attached to the TLM or b) who's not capable or equipped to offer a High Mass or c) worst of all, begrudgingly (even angrily) doing it because they have to, it's underwhelming to say the least. One certainly gets no sense of the reverence and awe-inspiring power of the extraordinary form (i.e., TLM) to move souls.

But one could forgive this sort of thing coming from a diocesan priest. After all, he does not exclusively celebrate this manner of the Mass. It's sort of akin to Our Lord's admonition about serving two masters, isn't it?

What is hard to countenance, however, is when the TLM is done badly or in less than an exemplary fashion by a traditional order priest.

On my family's recent vacation, we did some genealogical gold digging in a remote part of a Midwestern state. It turns out the area had a TLM community run by a good traditional order in union with Rome, and so that Saturday morning, we assisted at Mass there.

In my experience, a Low Mass done on a weekday normally takes a good 40-45 minutes to celebrate, even without benefit of the readings being proclaimed in English and a sermon. This Mass, with no readings and no homily, took 23 minutes.

Now, granted, Father got in his car and left very quickly thereafter, so maybe he really had someplace to go, and thus hurried through Mass to attend to that. Maybe someone was dying and holding on for Extreme Unction. Who knows? In other words, I'm willing to cut this reportedly good priest some slack.

However, a friend of mine who runs a state's Catholic conference tells me when he was growing up in the late 1950s-early 1960s, he served at the altar for a priest who took great pride in his ability to say Mass in under 20 minutes on the days he had his tee time (i.e., days he had scheduled to play golf).

My experience at the FSSP parish I mentioned toward the outset of this piece was, I would argue, an anomaly. I'm pretty willing to bet my underwhelming experience of TLMs celebrated by diocesan clergy or the type of priest my friend had as a boy or the traditional order priest we experienced that Saturday morning were the norm in the years leading up to the Council. Not in all places, certainly, but in many places. If not, why were so many so awfully eager to give up the Mass of Ages? If it had uniformly moved the faithful, they never would have countenanced the saccharine counterfeit offered them in the wake of Vatican II. Why was there a liturgical reform movement in the first place? (And, yes, I know this movement was largely driven by theologians, but were there no calls for such change by the laity? Given the impetus for reform at the Council, anticipated in some form by Pius XII's Mediator Dei, I can hardly thing this was the pet project of the ecclesial glitterati alone.) Therefore, what makes us think that returning to the TLM will be the wand that begins to magically cure all that ails Holy Mother Church?

OK, you can't make -- or make as many -- liturgical abuses in the extraordinary form. Granted. But isn't doing this Mass in a sloveny, uneven, or excessively hurried fashion an abuse?

What is needed in both the ordinary and extraordinarly forms are priests who know who they are, who know what being a priest fully means, who are unwaveringly committed to becoming that to the fullest extent possible, and for whom the Mass is the fullest expression and highest calling of being a priest. For goodness' sake, Father, you're bringing us Christ! Jesus' very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity! Act like it! Show us by your reverence, your solemnity, your care, your solicitude, your every movement and expression, by your very bearing that this is the moment heaven and earth meld! We are starving for this in the novus ordo and TLM alike!

Sorry about all the exclamation points, but I'm sorely vexed by this. Bad liturgy is killing the Church just as much as bad catechesis and doctrine are. The only reason we will become the remnant, smaller body the Pope has envisioned many times is because people take the Church and all that makes her as old hat.

It doesn't have to be that way, and with the help of committed TLM and novus ordo priests and faithful alike, it won't be. The choice is ours. What road shall we take?

I don't know, what do you think?