Friday, October 29, 2010

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: MORE CROSSES TO BEAR

There are more Catholics in the world than Roman Catholics. There are a number of Churches of the east in full union with Rome one of which being the Maronites. St. Maron lived the ascetic life and others came to follow his way of life. They were persecuted and took refuge in the mountains of Lebanon. The association with Lebanon remains to this day and in fact there are a few Maronite parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland with at least a good portion of their congregations of Lebanese background. This cross is most associated with this part of the Church.

The three cross bars represent the “INRI” proclamation, the cross bar on which our Savior’s hands were nailed, and even though it is squished up high and is proportionately unusually long is the “foot rest.” Other symbolism suggests that they represent the Trinity as well as the union of bishops, patriarchs, and the pope.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

KNOWING WHAT IT IS MAKES IT EASIER TO LIVE

Here is a quick lesson in humility:

Three men each have $10. The first man brags about how much money he has. The second man says, “Oh, I am so broke! I barely have two nickels to rub together.” The third man is very blunt. “I have $10. $2 are accounted for so I have $8 to spend.”

The three men each went out with friends. The man who bragged how much money he had got himself into a scrape. He and his friends spent more than they had and they were mad at him for making it sound like they need not worry. “He who exalts Himself shall be humbled.”

The second man went out with his friends. They drank water and ordered the cheapest things they could because they knew they would have to pay for him also since he claimed to be broke. When they found out he was flush they were mad at him for being a cheap skate and bumming off of them.

The man who was humble about his finances, humility meaning living in truth, always enjoyed the company of good friends even if he was a bit blunt at times because he was trustworthy, always fulfilled what he promised, didn’t offer more than he could do nor did he hide anything forcing others to take on more responsibility. He was happier too for he did not need to work in order to maintain a false fa├žade of greatness or lowliness.

Humility is nothing more than living truth.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HOME SWEET OFFICE

It’s been hard trying to figure out a way to write this post without sounding like I am whining.

Probably because I am whining.

During the priestly convocation at one of the breakout sessions it was stated that, according to a recent survey of priests in the United States, if given a choice, 73% of all priests would like a change in their living situation.

That’s a high number. Almost 3 out 4 priests have some sort of qualm with where they are living.

One of the reasons is rectories often feel like train stations. Built in the earlier part of the last century they fit the needs of the day. There was an office for the secretary, and office for the pastor, and often a shared office for the remaining clergy to use when necessary.

Then things got complicated. Ministries got complicated. Money matters got complicated. Now there needs to be an office for a business manager, a director of religious education, a youth minister, a deacon or two, an assistant office manager, a bookkeeper, and depending where you are the list can go on a bit longer not to mention that now every priest in the house needs an office – their jobs becoming more complicated and needing such a space in which to work.

The problem is that as staffs grew, by and large buildings stayed the same. At one time just past the customary three offices there was a sign that said, ‘PRIVATE.” Past that door were the living quarters of the priests. In many places, perhaps most, the “PRIVATE” sign has been taken down and offices have moved well into the heart of the house.

At my first assignment (they have since made other arrangements) down the main corridor of the house, one side of the hallway was offices and the other side living space. It made having a “day off” extremely difficult. At the end of my first year as a priest I realized that I had forgotten to take a vacation. Being a priest was rather exciting I did not feel a need to be away. But if you do not use the time it disappears and so I decided just to take some time off one week and catch up on reading, not care too much about my appearance, and relax. It was impossible. First of all from early in the morning until late at night there are people in your house, in your kitchen (which they need to be!) and generally walking about. After two days of people saying, “I know it’s your week off but since you are here . . .” I gave up on the idea, cleaned up and went back to work. This is one reason priests disappear for days off and vacations. They are escaping their house. It is also why many buy second houses together. Where else can you relax? I remember coming home at 9PM and seeing the DRE’s light on and the car in the parking lot and thinking, “Would you PLEASE go to your own home!”

My first pastor told me one morning that he was moving an office up across from room on the second floor. We were tight on office space. That would mean the only privacy I could be sure of was if I kept my door shut and locked. So I calmly told the pastor, “You are the pastor. We will do whatever you want and I will back you. But I want you to know that if you move an office upstairs I will be moving out of the house.” It was a hollow threat but he didn’t know it.

I now live in a fantastic house. (For full disclosure - a VERY nice house.) It is riddled with offices and it makes living difficult sometimes. Today is my day away. I realized that the dog needed breakfast and so I got up, put on a bathrobe, crept down the hall, peeked around the corner, didn’t see anyone, ran to his feeding place hoping that no one would start a conversation at the stairs and block my retreat, and snuck back.

I do love it here. But the priests that visit always comment, “Nice place but I bet it’s difficult to live here.” Our bishop made mention that younger men are being sent as pastors to places because no one is applying to many places. The living situation may be one reason why. (And why I am so fortunate to be at Saint Sebastian.) Not that I would change it. For me, for now, it is Okay. If I had enough money it would not go to offices but parking lots, roofs, fixing pews, doors, sidewalks, etc., etc., etc. There is always something else needed.

So back to the thought this is a long whine. It is. Walking through Snyder Park with the dog I was told today that it used to be an Asylum for the lost; people with mental disorders, sick, dying, people with no place to go and no family – all huddled together. Bet they would have liked a change. There are bridges and woods on the other side of town that one does not go through because people LIVE there.

Kind of puts things into perspective.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK: CLXLVI

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Unless you change and obtain the heart of a child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” St. Matthew (sort of.)

QUOTE II: “I have the heart of a child – in a jar on my desk.” Stephen King (Happy almost Halloween)

IN OTHER NEWS:

Patrick writes in, "You do not want to miss one of the largest Catholic events ever on The University of Akron Campus! We cannot stress enough how important it is to support these young Catholic students on a secular University. Emmaus will be giving seven talks in two nights to reveal the Truth of the Catholic Church. In order to make this an annual event we need your full support. These kids are drastically outnumbered and belittled on a regular basis for being Catholic." For more information go here.

Yesterday this was sent in. It is an hour video of a talk given by Archbishop Raymond Burke. The Email states, "He talks about the philosophy of the Church, natural law, the dignity of man, and the times we are living in. It is a clear cut dissertation of what Catholics believe and how we are to live our faith in the world."

The Diocese of Cleveland Enewletter reports about a new exhibit at the Clevelad Museum of Art. "Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe offers visitors a unique glimpse of the Middle Ages, a time when art mediated between heaven and earth and wondrous objects filled churches and monastic treasuries. Relics - the physical remains of holy men and women, and things associated with them - were especially important to the development of Christianity, which emerged as a powerful new religion in the Late Roman world." For more information look here.

From the same source: "In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue. The responsibility to make political choices rests with each person and his or her properly formed conscience." For more on this look here.

The Society of the Divine Word USA has some games for you to play. WARNING: Addiction level LOW.
Just for Halloween: 8 minutes


Monday, October 25, 2010

MONDAY DIARY: DESIGNED TO SAVE YOU TIME AND MONEY

This past week from Tuesday to Friday the priests (most of them anyway) of the Diocese of Cleveland got together for their semiannual convocation. Priests converge from all over the diocese to a large hotel for presentations, workshops, meetings with the bishop, and camaraderie, the last part probably being the most valuable. If left to our own devices we would see each other at an appallingly rare rate save for confession or Mass help. Therefore I find the social, the card game, or the swim as valuable as the workshop. As it was there was a mass exodus

You know what else is pretty cool? A couple of hundred priests getting together to celebrate Mass and hearing a tidal wave of men’s voices singing and making the responses. At the seminary it is a daily occurrence but one that is not often had elsewhere.

The talks were pretty good. They basically made the case that we need to do more if we want people to be excited about the faith. In a very rough one of the speakers as said, “It is not a matter of having two or three more ministries, but 50 or 60!”

That thought came back to me today when after the morning Mass a person stopped me and asked if I could hear his confession. My mind raced through the morning schedule – I have a half an hour to eat breakfast and walk the dog, then my first appointment will be here leading right into a meeting with a person from the diocese, and since our secretary is on vacation my letter for the bulletin must be written by noon. So I say, “Okay – but it has to be quick!”

What a rotten answer. What are we here for but to be dispensers of God’s mercy? But I say, “I’m sorry but I am busy” with my response. “What – do you have a breakfast appointment?” Well – sort of yes. I swear that if I hear of one more program that is going to save priests time and money I’ll boot the person out of the rectory – because they always take more time and more money – evidenced by the fact that I am giving the person 45 minutes of my time for him to tell me how he is going to save me time.

Wow – there was a rant I wasn’t expecting. Anyway . . .

In the middle of all this talk of all these new and, quite frankly, wonderful programs they were suggesting that we begin in order to keep Catholics practicing as Catholics should, no one made mention of doing what we do best save for one of our (great ) priests who stood up and said that we should make darn well sure that we are celebrating the sacraments to the best of our ability and being as orthodox as we know how. (Another rough quote taking from what he said more what I wanted to hear than what he actually said.)

I think it a rather mega-Church/Protestant idea that we need to attract people to Sunday services by making sure that we are providing other great services for people. Rather, (and this is subtle) it is the great and proper celebration of the sacraments that gives meaning to all these other groups. Now, it may be that having them will attract people to Mass, but that shouldn’t be our modus aperandi. Our goal is to get people excited about the faith through great homilies and worship so that they wish to express it somehow in a greater fashion in the rest of their lives and therefore these ministries flourish. It is tail wagging the dog that a club meeting should inspire someone to think, “Well, I better go to Mass too.” That will happen – but we shouldn’t count on it. Doing so will cause us to run our limited resources (space, volunteers, materials, time, funds) into a pit as we try to have a meeting for left-handed, shuffleboard playing Catholics over 6’3”.

Well, such were my thoughts as we gathered for a priestly social after the talk and everybody did the, “What did you think” thing.

In happier news: This Sunday was also our Oktoberfest (at the same time as the teen dance and the Chesterton Society and AA) I got out my button box and played with the band for a little bit. Of course I look a bit more Slovenian than German and the polkas we played were all Eastern European, but I don’t think anybody minded. Here is a picture of my get up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CLXLV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “We divorce just as we are on the brink of greater love.” Fr. McNamera

QUOTE II: “The only satisfying desire you have is unsatisfying desire.” Fr. McNamera

QUOTE III: “Love’s like the measles: All the worse when it comes late in life.” Lady Holland

IN OTHER NEWS:

NOTICE: The priests of the Diocese of Cleveland are at a convocation with our bishop this week so I do not know that there will be any more posts until Monday. So if you come back and see nothing but this post for the rest of the week – you know why! If you wouldn’t mind – say a prayer for the priests of Cleveland.

A big, chilled stein of Oktoberfest Adam’s Ale to Vincenzo over at Sancte Pater who saved the Adam’s Ale header! I don’t understand these things but somehow it was damaged and he saved it for me. Thanks!

The next Chesterton meeting will be this coming Sunday. Check out the site to the right for details and readings.

I hope you had the chance to enjoy SCREWTAPE LETTERS. The place was quite packed.

If you are looking for a charity and a way to directly support vocations you might want to check out Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations. There are two trends facing vocations. One is that they are often later vocations than they were traditionally. (I did not go in into I was in my later 20s and I was in the middle of my class.) Secondly is that these later vocations are people who are often saddled with significant student loan debt and must pay them off before an order will accept them. This foundations helps them with that debt. In their last mailer there is a picture of (now) Sister Brigid Ancilla Marie, Sisters of Life, who was a member at my last assignment. She struggled to enter because of her debt. This organization assisted her and now she is a Sister of Life in New York.

Fr. O. sent this in: "I just wanted to give you a little "heads up" about a great little evening of reflection that is coming your way soon. St. Mary's in Hudson is sponsoring an evening entitled "Male and female he created them: What was God thinking?" This will take place on Sunday, October 24. The event begins with Mass at 5:30, followed by a presentation by two speakers at 6:45. My understanding is that the men will go to hear Fr. Larry Richards, and the women will go to hear Dr. Helen Alvare. Then you will come back together for a time of Eucharistic Adoration at 8:30. You can find a flyer for it here"

Frank sent this bowling game in. It's harder than it looks. WARNING: Addiction level MEDIUM.
Craig sent this 2.17 min. video in about the kids in the Newman Ministry at the University of Akron (5 minutes from Saint Sebastian.) "I just thought you might want to see what these kids are hungry for. This is an event they did in September. They begged for it to happen!" You will notice the beautiful interior of Saint Bernard St. Mary parish and a clip from the great preaching of Fr. Damian Ference, a professor at our seminary.


Monday, October 18, 2010

MONDAY DIARY: SOMETIMES LIFE STINKS

In the evening Sebastian is taken for his last airing out before it’s lights out at the rectory. Not only is it his last chance to stretch his legs, it allows the priests to survey the property and make sure lights are off and such. Last night we took our customary stroll and Sebastian took off which he is want to do from time to time – usually chasing a squirrel or a rabbit – when we heard one solitary bark. A single bark is unusual for him unless there are people involved – and he never barks just once.

We continue our turn around the church building and notice that the basements lights were left burning. It unnerves me because I think of Mrs. Magillacutty scraping a couple of dollars together to give to the Church and it is wasted by burning lights that nobody needs. As we head to the church Sebastian comes tearing past. “We should probably head in,” I say to Fr. Pf., “It smells as though there is a skunk in the neighborhood.”

In the basements of the church we start switching off lights when we notice the smell again. “It smells like the skunk is in the building,” we say looking at Sebastian who is sitting happily wagging his tail.

“Oh no.”

Luckily it is not bad at all. He must have just gotten the very edge of the spray and today it is even less noticeable. Hopefully dogs learn.

This past week I also had a chance to go back in time. St. Sebastian is partnering with the Magical Theater Company for a couple of projects. I worked with this company off and on for about 8 or 10 years. I hadn’t been in the theater building proper for about the past decade and half and Dennis and Holly who run the theater gave me a tour of my old stomping grounds.

We walked all through the nooks and crannies of the building that had been a combination job and clubhouse to me for so many years. I’d never experienced nostalgia quite like it before. The weirdest things sparked memories: A piece of sloppy masonry that I used to stare at every time I walked down the steps brought a spark of affection for the old building. Weird.

The building is almost exactly the same as it was all those years ago – and rather not. I searched in vain for something that was connected specifically to me. It is the very nature of theater – its transitory nature – that things evaporate never to be seen again. But still I was yearning to find something.

Then, in the basement, in the electric room, there was a sign, aged, curled, but still sticking to the wall – written in black and red magic marker and in surprisingly good penmanship (for me) – which read, “ATTENTION! Use no broom in this room! Sensitive electrical equipment!” And there it was! Evidence of me and a former life. It was enough! Thank goodness that tape lasted these few decades.

Friday, October 15, 2010

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: HERE'S A STORY ABOUT ONE PATRIARCH AND TWO BARS

Similar to last week’s cross is the patriarchal cross. This cross is seen on the coats of arms of Eastern Rite Catholic patriarchs (bishops) and Orthodox patriarchs. This cross has two cross beams; the traditional one that we associate with the Cross and a shorter one nearer the top. There is actually some controversy about what exactly the upper beam represents.

You might be inclined to think it represents the plaque that Pilate inscribed and had nailed to the Cross. That is certainly one of the options. Others suggest that while the lower beams symbolizes Christ’s first visit to earth the second anticipates His Second Coming.

But it is interesting that this particular Cross was used in a patriarch’s coat of arms. “A third view,” reports the site seiyaku.com, “is that the first beam symbolises secular power and the second beam the ecclesiastic power of Byzantine emperors. In the 9th century, this was a political symbol used by Byzantine clerks and missionaries.” While in the west one would see what we consider a typcial processional cross behind the coat of arms of a bishop, behind the coat of arms of a patriarch one finds this cross.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

ALLOW ME TO UNDER TAKE THAT FOR YOU

This is a short post today in hopes that you read it and remember it (tuck it away somewhere in your memory banks.)

Q: Do you know why undertakers are called undertakers?

A: Because they under take many things for the family so that they do not have to worry about it.

You have plenty to worry about and take care of when a loved one dies. We pay people in this noble profession which is one of the corporal acts of charity to assist us by taking some of the cares out of our hands. Being dead may not be complicated in the least – but being a person responsible for someone who has died is extremely complicated.

I hope this is the case where you are and it is certainly the case in at least every part of the Diocese of Cleveland with which I am familiar. Your undertaker (a name that has unfortunately been dropped but is of infinite value in understanding what this person does) will (or should) contact the parish for you and settle the Mass times and etc. Often they will also have materials on hand to help you make some decisions about the Mass so ask. From that point there might need to be some direct contact with the parish to set an appointment if discussion needs to be had about certain details.

There has been a rash of people of late who seem to understand this less and less and burying someone you love is (hopefully) a rare occurrence so I hope that this helps.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WORKING TITLE

Poor Fr. Pf. When I read the morning paper and see an editorial about the Church that is misleading, misinformed, or downright wrong, he had to hear about it. So in order to spare him my AM grumblings I thought to start a new occasional feature that will correct or broaden the view of editorials concerning the Church when they appear. The problem is finding the right name for this feature:

Ecclesial Editorial Editing?

Contra Imbicilos?

Rant: Counter Rant?

Any ideas?

Les Johnson writes in the Akron Beacon Journal about the closings of parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland. His hurt and disappointment at the closings are more than evident and understandable and there are many points in his letter that are worth debating.

That being said this is the second time in as many weeks that the word infallibility has been attached to the name of the bishop. There is no teaching whatsoever that a bishop can exercise infallibility. In fact, it is only on the rarest of occasions that the pope speaks infallibly. Readers of this blog may know and understand that but others more ignorant of Catholic culture and teaching may not get it and that only make the discussion more difficult. I think what Mr. Johnson wants to say that we have a bishop with a strong belief that what he is doing for the diocese is for the best of the diocese and in that he does not bend easily from the determined course of action. He would like it otherwise.

Further he says that our bishop comes from a different state to impose himself on us. It is almost always the case that a bishop comes from “someplace else.” There are just as many problems but of a different category when you have bishop ordained from within the local presbyterate. Where a bishop comes from is not an issue, it is rather can this particular man come to know, understand, love and lead this people and do what is best for them?

The good point in his article and one of grave concern is what happens when you are in your 80s and your local parish closes? It is one thing to say, “Well, go to the next church.” It is quite another to be elderly, of poor health, and not only having to go to the next parish (if you can) but also registering, getting to know different people and schedules, and learning the ropes of a new place. (That’s MY pew!)This can be quite difficult and intimidating even for a younger person in good health.

On the other hand, when should a parish close? Some group of persons will always be in the twilight of their years when a church closes. It will always be difficult for someone.

So, the constructive aspects of Mr. Johnson’s letter are, 1) Is the process we have in place too inflexible or not? 2) Does our leadership really understand what is best for the diocese? And 3) What should be done to help those who have difficulties leaving their home let alone finding a new parish and registering etc?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CLXLIV

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “Persecutions always strengthen the Church. Ex-Catholics in the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War were vicious enemies of the Church. Even Hitler had been baptized a Catholic. Yet they hated the Church and tried to destroy her. They are gone; the Church has survived.

“Like the Nazis and Bolsheviks and all the others, the present gaggle of anti-Catholic writers will fade away. They will go over the waterfall of history and the Church will still be there – and praying for them.” Benedict Groeschel C.F.R. in Priest Magazine

QUOTE II: “As one Protestant minister, now a convert, once said, any theological problem he ever thought of as a Protestant trying to grind it out by reading the Bible, he found out, when he became Catholic, that the Pope had been well aware of that problem and had answered it centuries ago.......” Anon.

IN OTHER NEWS:

2 minute video:



Among others here is a picture of St. Sebastian folks participating in Life Chain.

The Ruth Institute has this one question "quiz" about teens and sexting. It is obviously a way for them to get your Email address but that might not be so bad. If you are interesed here it is.

C.K. has put together an extremely intresting blog called, "Dear Penn." - though it is not quite finished yet - there are a couple of things she wishes to tighten up. But I highly recommend it just the same! Go here to see it.

M.B. sent this 9 minute video in. Very interesting indeed!

SCREWTAPE UPDATE: Sorry this is getting to you so late. I know some of you will be attending on Friday but Fr. Pf. and I have a previous engagement. We will be attending on Saturday and getting there just in a nick of time! If you are going to be there on Saturday please send a note and we will try to say he afterwards.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MONDAY DIARY: HOSPITLVISITORITIS

There was a time I loathed visiting people in the hospital. Part of it was because of the unrealistic training that I receive in the seminary. Of course you could not dress like a priest and we were sent into people’s rooms without warning to offer prayer or conversation or whatever. Once there was a lady who had just had a total mastectomy. I walked in and said hello and tried to explain who I was when she started yelling at me to get out - shouting something about shiftless men who did this to her. That is where I got this case of fear of going to hospitals. Unless I had every bit of information including which bed the patient was in and was sure that the person wanted to see a priest I would go in shaking.

Times have changed. First, because of the hippo laws (if that is how the word is spelled, I hear about it all the time but don’t remember seeing it spelled) I cannot go into someone’s room unless I have been invited. In fact, the hospital cannot even tell me that you are in their facility without your expressed consent.

Secondly the situation from the seminary was a bit of a false taste of the ministry. One of the great things about being a priest in a parish is that you get to know people. I am not dropping in on a stranger but someone I see on a regular basis and with whom I have some kind of relationship. And more than likely they want to see me. Many times they are waiting to see me (or at least “a priest.”)

To that last point here is a common scenario from an event this past week. A call came in that somebody needs to be anointed. The information is taken down and jump in the priestmobile head out to Akron City. Parking at Akron City is now so complicated that I park a block away and just walk there.

I go up to the room and there is a lady in bed surrounded by her family. I chat with her husband and it turns out that he is not Catholic. I invite them all to pray with me and we anoint her and give her the apostolic pardon. She is, compared to how she had been, unusually responsive, opening her eyes and feebly trying to make the responses and gestures. Almost by the time I make it home she has passed. “She must have been waiting for that,” I was informed. And that is not unusual. Some people wait for certain relatives, some to be alone, some for a date, and some to be anointed. And it is a blessing to be able to be the one who brings Christ to someone at this important moment.

Friday, October 8, 2010

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: AS OPPOSED TO UNORTHODOX CROSSES

The Eastern Orthodox Cross (a.k.a. the Byzantine, Greek Orthodox, Macedonian, Russian, Slavic, Slavonic or Ukraine Cross) is a cross with what appear to be three cross beams on them. Starting from the top we encounter a short cross beam that is in reality a representation of the proclamation attached to the top of Christ’s Cross often symbolized by the initials INRI; IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM, or Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews. The middle beam is crossbeam upon which Jesus’ arms were nailed.

The bottom beam is the one that is the most exotic I suppose for people only used to western depictions of the Cross. Though there is no reliable historical support for the practice, many of our depictions of Christ upon the Cross show a small pedestal upon which His feet were nailed. This would help support the weight of the body extending the agony on the cross. If you ever noticed John Paul II’s cross there is no depiction of this “step” which causes His legs to splay outward unlike more popular depictions of the crucifixion.

What makes this cross beam unusual however is that it most often appears at a slant. There are a number of explanations for this. One is a tradition that when Jesus took His last breath this cross bar broke thus slanting it. Another says that it acts as a kind of scale of justice. The repentant thief that was crucified with Jesus went to heaven while the unrepentant went to hell. The Cross then stands as the scale of judgment by which all will be judged at the end times. Lastly it might (or also) represent part of St. Andrew’s Cross (talked about last week) who introduced the faith to the areas from which this cross comes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

THIS IS WHY THIS IS NOT A BLOG ABOUT ASTROPHYSICS

There have been a lot of letters to the editor concerning the Catholic Church in the two local, major newspapers. I have no problem with people having even severe disagreements with the Church but I so get my liturgical underwear in a bunch when their dislike prompts them to make untrue and misleading statements. I wonder if papers print such things just to try to get people’s dander up and spawn some interest in the newspaper despite how much it might obscure the story.

One of the great movements in education of the few past decades (thanks goodness it seems to be passing) is the “group discussion” technique. The class or meeting breaks into small groups in order to talk about a given topic which usually means someone talking about how they feel about a given topic and everyone else throwing out ideas about what they hope might be true. In all but a few instances these are not helpful. One professor that I had in the seminary was fond of calling them “Shared Ignorance Sessions.”

So I read the paper and take in people squawking about things they only have the barest grasp on when talking about the Catholic Church. One of the biggest topics in the paper (and radio and blogs . . .) was Bishop Lennon’s comment about the Community of Saint Peter placing their souls at risk by taking the course of action they are taking. Well of course this got misconstrued as “Bishop Lennon told the Saint Peter Community that they are going to hell,” and that, “How can anyone tell anyone else how, when, and where they can pray! People should be able to pray when and where they like!” These comments betray a deep ignorance of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church’s belief in what Christ mandated for His Church.

In short (this will not be an in depth rebuttal) the Church sees Christ’s mission as bringing all into unity through His one Church. "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” John 17 20;23.

The question is not about whether they are praying where they want. I can say a Mass for you on your kitchen table if I should so desire without recourse to the bishop. That is not what is happening here. They are setting up a Church with its own boards and its own finances making decisions apart from the diocese. They are becoming their own church and you can slap the word Catholic on it as much as you wish but that is not what it is heading toward.

The Catholic Church believes that it holds the fullness of truth. Of course we believe this! Why would we exist if we did not believe this? Who wants to believe in a faith that says, “We don’t believe we have truth right exactly, but we serve great donuts afterwards so why not join us?” So ACCORDING TO OUR CATHOLIC THEOLOGY this community is causing a rupture in the unity of the Church to, in essence, do something else on its own. OF COURSE the bishop said that they were placing their souls in jeopardy. He did NOT say that they were going to hell, he said that they were doing something that was contrary to this faith we believe in and ANYONE who does something contrary to the faith places their souls in peril and it is his duty as head of the Catholic community to say, “Hey guys, what you are doing here is serious. It MAY have eternal consequences.” What should be in the newspaper is if he did NOT say anything of the sort. If he had not he should be thrown out on his ear.

So today in the Beacon Journal a Mr. Bill Somody writes in to say, “Doesn’t he realize that a Roman Catholic bishop can do no wrong? If the bishop says the moon is made of green cheese, then so it is. If he orders parishioners to wear their birthday suits to Mass, then they must do so. Read the Baltimore Catechism. Read the Vatican II encyclicals. By all means be a good Catholic, following orders.”

I can certainly understand people being angrY but I ask you how this letter serves the public, either side of the argument, in any way whatsoever? It certainly does aid in making people on both sides of the fence angry, it does not nourish thoughtful conversation, and it espouses false information. Shame on editors for printing it. It is sensationalism at its worst. It explains nothing, it furthers nothing positive; it only serves to inflame. It is worthy of not much more than somebody’s angry blog.

Like this one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WITH THIS RING

At one time I thought I wanted to be carpenter. Then I discovered how much a hate sanding. And I mean hate. Perhaps loathe is a better word. Anyway, I made this box in junior high school. It turned out pretty neat and I’ve kept one thing or another in it all these years and had it proudly displayed on a shelf or table. Then about a year ago a friend of mine came to visit. Wanting to save the finish on a (cheap, tacky, wouldn’t mind if I had to throw it out) table, he set his pop can on top of the box. It left a ring. Now, of course I could SAND the whole thing down and try to re-stain the box, but that would require doing something that I LOATHE.

At this point one has a spiritual matter to consider. Do I want to be bitter every time I look at it? Do I want to DO something about it (such as re-stain the box and never offer my friend a drink when he enters my house again?) Or do I want to be able to look on the stain and think of a nice afternoon we spent together a few years ago that I might have otherwise forgotten. In other words, what will I decide is more important, a thing or a person.
We do have a choice. Unless we have some sort of chemical imbalance or some such thing, we choose to be angry or accepting, we choose things or people, we choose to see something as an absolute tragedy or we go on, we choose, we choose, we choose. And when our first impulse is to get angry we discover something or someone that we are holding onto very tightly and that is the moment to evaluate if we are inordinately attached to whatever it may be or not.

Every time I see that box my first reactions is, “That idiot.” But then an evaluation is made. I could have prevented it so I am partly to blame. (Here’s a coaster you Neanderthal.) But I am remembering a nice afternoon. And he is worth more to me than a box – even a really nice wooden box that I made in junior high school and won an award for and have cared for and protected all THESE YEARS AND NOW KEEP ON A SHELF SO THAT NOBODY SEES HOW LAZY I AM IN NOT FIX . . . – but I digress.

And I choose the friend.

Who will buy breakfast today for reasons he knows not.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CLXLIII

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND: “That’s right – you can’t smoke in a bar in Reno. But you there are still establishments where prostitution is legal. And of course, abortion. The Puritans continue to indulge in righteous indignation about the wrong things while the Pagans continue their devotion to the wrong things.” from “Passing through Reno” by Dale Ahlquist

QUOTE II: “Progress itself cannot progress.” G. K. Chesterton

ON OTHER NEWS:

The NPR show Here and Now posted the Pew Report quiz on religion. Here is a sampler of 5 questions but the full quiz can be found by clicking the link at the top of the article.
How much to you want to bet that this was done by three separate subcommittees?
Lillian Marie is back blogging again. See her here!

Cultural Catholic has what appears to be to be the Catholic response to living wills. See here.

Just a site with pictures of Catholic nuns. Thought you might enjoy it.

About four minutes of Tim Hawkins lamenting corporations tapping into the Christian market.


Monday, October 4, 2010

MONDAY DIARY: 31 INCHES

There was a funeral last week of a person whose casket was only 31 inches long. The infant child of one of our parish families died due to complications of an illness. I thank God profusely that we have a rite to follow even in situations such as these. There is comfort in knowing that the greater Church understands this event and has words to be said. But that only goes so far. The Church sets you up, provides words, a wonderful context, ceremonies to perform, but at least at one point says, “You’re on kid,” and pushes you forward to the mike, stands in the wings and says, “Say something!”

Sebastian and I went on a long walk to ponder exactly what that should be. There are things that are true but achieve little good and possibly some negative consequences in the saying. Things such as, “She is in a better place,” or “Its God’s will” bring little comfort, can be way too confusing, and brings little peace to the mourners. The last thing I would want to hear if I lost someone I loved (even Sebastian) is, “Don’t be too upset. It’s God’s will.” As if that explains anything.

That I will never have children may mean that I’ll never know some of the joys and pride of having progeny, but it also means I will never really understand what it would be like to lose an infant. I can only be in awe of the profound sorrow of the parents.

The child occupied my imagination and prayers for days. Prayer time, walks, showers; I think about that little one and wonder what she needs me to say to those still kicking around the parish.

Some difficult things arise when talking to the person at the funeral home. There a technical concerns that hadn’t crossed my mind. There was not a funeral truck small enough to hold the casket. How would we perform the rite? The pallbearers would just have to carry the casket the entire way into church instead of ceremonially walking beside it on the truck. What about a pall? What would be used? Sadly in going through our linens we discovered that we did indeed have a tiny pall and an even smaller one for urns that we did not realize we had.

So it was the day and time of the funeral and Mother Church pushed me up to the microphone in my costume and whispered loudly, “Okay. Talk now!” It would have been an error I think to try to explain anything. There is no explanation for events such as this. Instead we examined what happened, what is, and realize that sometimes things are not God’s will in the way we will to order a cup of coffee. And it may be that sometimes God needs us to cry His tears as we ask Him to do something to bring some good out of a stupid and senseless situation.

On a lighter note, the day before this I celebrated a service for my 96 year old Aunt who passed away. (Well, that certainly didn’t start off sounding light – but give it a chance.) I love my family but they do things at their own pace. The Spetiches show up early and leave on time. The Valenchecks show up late and leave after the lights are shut off. That is partly why I have so many clocks around me. I have this thing about time.

Well, my Aunt was very Valencheck and speaking with her family they talked about how she was always late for everything. And the more important the event, the later she was. So we were to meet at the cemetery for a graveside service and the Valenchecks gathered relatively on time (at least for us) and we got to gabbing – and gabbing – and gabbing out on the cemetery path while the tent with the chairs sat empty. Some time later a four wheeler pulls up to the tent and starts moving things around. “They see that there are so many of us that they are making more room and bringing out chairs” I thought to myself. This was not the case however. Seeing us still standing out by our cars and chatting the workers had assumed we were finished were tearing things down. I had to jog over and exclaim, “Wait! We haven’t started yet!”

Of course they were embarrassed and apologetic as were we. Thank goodness it happened though or we might still be standing on the path taking at this very moment. And true to form, Aunt Mitz was late even getting into her grave – the more important the occasion the later she was – leaving this world the same way she lived it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: X-TRA CROSSES

Survey says: X

Or so it went on Family Feud. (Is that still on?) But aside from wrong answers, making the spot on a map, or substituting for a illiterate’s signature on a deed signing over the farm, the cross in the shape of an X is also known as Saint Andrew’s Cross.

Like Saint Peter, Saint Andrew felt that he was not worthy of being crucified in the same manner as Our Lord and so requested this manner of execution. The “X” shaped cross is a symbol of his martyrdom, his humility, his love of Christ, and his witness to the world.