Sunday, April 30, 2006

Argh! I lost your links!

I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to delete your links...

But I did.

If you were linked here, please let me know, and I'll fix it.

If you link me, and want a reciprocal link, let me know.


My blog, my rules

The other day, I deleted someone's post; the first time I did that, I believe.

I did it because I believed he rather aggressively impugned someone's character -- in this case, a bishop and cardinal. In that case, I invited the poster to come back and rewrite his post, but after a day with no response, I deleted it. Criticism is one thing; calling someone a criminal is another.

Several times in recent days, I visited another site, and offered some comments in a discussion "thread" that, to my judgment, turned ugly; I expressed my distaste, and shook the dust from my sandals on my way out.

Occasionally, someone will be a little rude in comments, and I think I've responded; someone directed an ad hominem at me the other day, which I found amusing. But, generally, all posters here deport themselves decorously, for which I thank you.

Making Jesus Known in the Breaking of the Bread (Sunday homily)

Today we mark the end
of our religious education program
until the fall.

It’s an opportunity to thank our catechists,
who give a lot time, and heart,
to help our young people deepen their faith.

In the first reading,
St. Peter says to the crowd,
you didn’t realize who Jesus is—
so Peter makes Jesus known to them.

That’s the purpose
of our religious education program.

But I must tell you that what we attempt to do,
about an hour a week,
for 30-35 weeks a year, is just not enough!

I trust you understand that, parents.
But if any parent expects
this to carry the weight
of your child’s religious education,
I must tell you—it doesn’t! It won’t!

During the week,
our children learn
arithmetic, science, history,
and they get several hours’ instruction
in these subjects, every week!
We don’t come anywhere close
to that on Sunday morning!

Our Sunday morning program presupposes
parents are providing the "meat"
of that religious instruction at home.

Now, maybe we wonder if our kids
need as much religious instruction,
as with vocabulary
or mathematics, or reading.

Look at the world around us.
Does it look like an easy place to navigate,
in terms of moral choices?

I went to a bookstore Monday;
you’ve seen, or heard about,
what’s out there:
books that claim
Jesus and Mary Magdalene hooked up,
that Jesus didn’t really die on the Cross,
or if he did, he wasn’t resurrected;
Judas wasn’t a villain,
the whole thing was made up.

And you know what?
A lot of our Catholics
don’t know how to respond!

When folks from other religions come knocking,
do you feel confident in responding?

And if we can’t explain why we believe,
how can we ever do as Christ commanded,
in today’s Gospel,
to lead others to salvation?

So, yes, religious instruction is important;
and what the parish provides
is not nearly enough.

Down the road,
we’ll talk further about this:
I welcome any thoughts you may have.

In the Gospel,
the disciples recognized Jesus
"in the breaking of the bread"—
This was on that first, Easter Sunday:
Luke, who wrote this Gospel,
is teaching us about the importance
of gathering, every Sunday, at Mass;
where we have the same encounter
with the Risen Lord.

And, we’re doing that right now!
I want to encourage and thank you
for bringing your children to Mass.

I know when they’re infants,
they don’t always do well at Mass—
as one parent put it, they have "meltdowns"!

Sometimes, other sets of eyes
turn like laser beams!

But let me say this to anyone
who is distracted:
If you’re distracted at Mass,
it’s not the baby’s fault—
it’s not the parent’s fault.
It’s your fault!

We do our best;
yes, it’s considerate
to turn our phones to silent;
but we can’t turn off babies!

But, if you want Mass without these things?
Don’t come!
Only when this church is empty
of people will that happen!

So, instead, here’s some practical advice.
You’re at Mass, and there’s a noise;
Don’t look: don’t think about it;
just go right back to praying.
I guarantee you’ll forget about it.

You know what the true distraction is?
Not what happens over there,
but here, in our heads!
It’s what we start thinking right afterward.

So, parents, don’t hold back
from bringing the little ones.

If you feel you can’t do both—Mass, and CCD?
Then skip CCD and bring them here!

They don’t have to get it here—
with their heads;
they will get it in their hearts.

When your children were newborns,
did you talk to them? Or, did you wait
until they would understand the words?
I’m sure you didn’t wait!

They "get" it before they "get" it.

Your children are never "too young"
to be with you;
how can they be "too young"
to be with Jesus at Mass?

An infant in her father’s arms
feels the heartbeat, hears a familiar voice,
singing or speaking:
that child connects, apart from intellect.

And all of us are no more than infants
in God’s arms, in our understanding
of the reality that happens at Mass!

See, our identity as Christians:
it’s more than as individuals
who believe something about Christ:
we are a family.

And Sunday Mass
is when the family comes together—
the whole family.
And Jesus is made known to us
in the breaking of the Bread.

Friday, April 28, 2006

GOP on Oil: Shameless, stupid, unprincipled

Back when I worked in politics for the National Right to Work Committee, we'd have new hires who were usually new to D.C., idealistic, full of fire, but often not that familiar with the messier reality of politics. "Here in Washington, you see politicians in their natural habitat -- it's not pretty," I'd tell them. We'd have bull sessions, either in the office, or over beers after work, and I made sure I set them straight about the true nature of partisan politics.

I'd say something like this:

"You guys have heard the one about the 'Stupid Party and the Evil Party'?"*

After they'd nod, I'd say,

"Well, here's how it really is: there are two parties in Washington: one with principles, and one without. And, unfortunately, gentlemen, we conservatives are allied with the party without principles!"

At that, someone would protest this description, particularly suggesting the Democratic Party has principles. But I would continue: "They have bad principles--but they have principles! And be very clear--the Democrats, like it or not, do a far better job sticking to their principles, than the GOP."

The embarrassingly pathetic conduct of the GOP, the last few days, on the subject of Big Oil and gas prices, etc., confirms that. Indeed, if there was one principle to which the GOP remained somewhat faithful, it was that it is the party of business; indeed, Big Business. But, as we can see, sometimes even that principle gets thrown to the wolves.

Oh, where to begin?

First, the whole thing about "record profits." Compared to what? Lots of big industries are making lots of money. Citing dollar figures makes me very suspicious. Are these figures adjusted for inflation? How do they rate as a percentage of sales? Etc. Just saying, breathlessly, "Chevron earned umptiump billion dollars last year, more than ever!" doesn't mean much. They sell a lot of oil and gasoline, and related products. The price is at its highest in nominal dollars (I don't know what they are in inflation-adjusted dollars, but it's obvious that if you adjust for inflation, the current prices are not record prices; another evidence this is flapdoodle).

Second, Big Oil doesn't set the price of oil and gasoline. The marketplace does. And the problem is very simple: supply and demand. The economies of two huge countries, India and Red China -- representing between them about 1/3 of the world's population, are growing by leaps and bounds. That happens to be very good news for the people there, and the world. But it means they are gulping down oil, cutting into the supply we used to count on. There's the demand side.

On the supply side, the hurricanes had their effect last year, other troubles in Nigeria, Iraq and elsewhere have their effect; meanwhile, for good or ill, our country chooses not to drill in places where probably have oil, or know for sure that we do: in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Pacific Coast, on the north coast of Alaska. Apparently, we haven't even managed to increase our refinery capacity in recent years.

Well, what do you think happens when demand grows but supply doesn't keep up? You in the back? "Uh, prices go up?" Right! You go to the head of the class!

But, but, the oil companies are making lots of money! Yes, they are. Do you really think it would be better if they weren't?

By the way, who do you think gets all that money?

Yes, I know, one of the high muckymucks got a lot of press for a platinum-plated, diamond-encrusted "golden parachute": a $400 million dollar retirement package. OK; Big Oil ain't winning the PR Award anytime soon.

But I ask again: where do you think all the profits end up?

After taxes, it either goes to the owners of the companies -- the shareholders, people like you and me, and pension and mutual fund holders -- or back into the business, or invested somewhere else.

I don't care how much they get; I care more about where it goes. I hope a lot goes into exploration, new refining capacity and research. But if it doesn't, the only reason is because those are promising. And for that, you can blame government. Right or wrong, government limits options for exploration and new refining capacity.

Now, as far as research goes? Well, the federal government has been pouring tons of greenbacks into "alternative energy" projects since President Carter's days. Lots and lots of money. The hard reality is that it hasn't really paid off. The idea that Big Oil doesn't want these other things to work is truly silly. Capitalists love making money; they aren't fussy about how.

Meanwhile, the shameless Stupid-and-Unprincipled Party promises to send out $100 checks -- to everyone!, and ride around in hydrogen cars for show (they drive around in gas-hogs for real). It's all humbug.

* I don't know who originated this description of our two-party system, but I heard it from Morton Blackwell, and if memory serves, it goes something like this: "There are two parties in this country, the Stupid Party and the Evil Party: the Republicans are the Stupid Party, the Democrats the Evil Party. Now, every once in a while, they get together and come up with something that's both stupid and evil: and that's called bipartisanship."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What does it mean...

when you reach into the fridge, and pull out a package of sliced American cheese, from the deli, that is dated a month ago, yet it shows no sign of decay?

Maybe this is why we're living so long -- whatever is preserving our food, is preserving us, as well!

I'm sure the venerable J.R.R. Tolkien would think ill of this; but this doesn't bother me -- not when I consider how many people around the world would love their food to be preserved, only a little more . . .

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This, despite the fact that Ah live deep in Yankeeland...

Displaced Southerner
You are 72% true Southern!
You're pretty Southern, but something is keeping you from being a true Southern Belle or Gentleman. Maybe you've moved, or maybe your parents were Yankees and brought you up without ever taking you fishing or hunting or to Memaw's for chicken and black-eyed peas. You know your Southern facts and culture, but that literature still escapes you. And when you order tea at a restaurant, you expect it to come "unsweet." Yikes. Next time you have the chance, visit a classic Southern downtown area and spend an afternoon just soaking it in... Montgomery, Birmingham, Jackson, Natchez, Memphis, Charleston, Atlanta, or even New Orleans!

(Biretta tip to Don Jim at Dappled Things; take the test here

Sunday, April 23, 2006

OK, I'm fried

I'm officially fried.

As our wonderful retired priest called me this morning (at 6:30!) to say he had a stomach bug, I took all four Masses; not complaining, but it is taxing. Partly my fault; I was up rather late last night, watching first The Godfather, then, when Godfather II followed, I said, "oh, just until such-and-such scene..." which ended up coming over an hour later.

It is really fascinating to see all the Masses from my vantage-point. Each Mass has its own peculiarities. The 7 am Mass crowd isn't used to singing (we don't have accompaniment at that Mass), but I make 'em sing, at least some: several sung "amens," the preface dialogue, and the "Holy, Holy." Today, I made 'em sing an opening hymn, too. Some say they like it, but it's really funny to see some of the resistance to singing at that Mass! (Oh, and I made them sing the "Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia"!)

The 10 and 11:30 Masses are a blur; I hate to think what condition my chasuble is in! Because I hadn't planned to take 11:30 Mass, I had made an appointment for that time; so just before 10 am Mass, I went and found my coordinator of religious ed, and said -- "you need to call that family; I'm sorry, but I can't do it, I have to go have Mass." Unfornately, he didn't reach them, so there they were, waiting at the door of the rectory, just as I was about to begin Mass! (I was standing outside the front doors, because that's the quietest option!) So, I ran over, quickly explained and apologized, and raced back as the bells rang. The candles never got extinguished after 10 -- and some of them burnt out during 11:30.

After I greeted everyone following the last Mass, I saw the candles still burning! I thought, oh, the servers forgot! So I went forward, started putting out candles. Well, a parishioner who takes a lot of picture came by, and sheepishly said, "Oh, I was going to take some pictures!" Turns out, I was the third person who started putting out the candles!

So, I'm out on the street around 1 -- I discover my coordinator of religious ed, and his wife, scarfing down a sandwich in their car; they have to help with the "Spirit Day" for the children preparing for first reception of the Eucharist, at 1:30. Well, we talk a little, and I think, okay, I'll just hang around to greet everyone. (I'd forgotten about it; thank heaven I hadn't had anything to prepare!)

So, I'm back home around 1:45. Time enough for a (Diet) Coke, and, I confess, some Easter candy. Because at 3, we have Divine Mercy prayers in our chapel. So I'm back over to the church around 2:40, to get things ready. I decided to try to sing the chaplet, but wasn't entirely on the mark, but people did their best! Our chapel is small, and it was full! It got a little warm (I was wearing a cope, big surprise!), and I went light on the incense for Benediction.

After that, I walked over to Bingo, to greet the "early birds." Then, realizing I had very little available to fix for dinner, I ran over to the store for a few items. Amazing how many parishioners I saw there! One guilty pleasure: I got a bag of "red pepper lime" Tostitos (never tried 'em, but they sounded good), which I'm eating with a "Hop Pocket Ale" (which pretty much only Virginians have ever heard of); I confess the bag is almost gone! And, alas, so am I!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

'Love is for life' (Sunday homily)

A few months ago,
our Holy Father, Pope Benedict,
issued his first encyclical, or letter.
He called it Deus Caritas Est—

“God is Love.”
And I want to talk about what he wrote.

Somehow, we’ve gotten the idea
that love is something soft and gooey.

But I would point out
we just commemorated Good Friday:
and there is nothing soft or easy

about the Cross.

What is love?
First, love is a relationship.

Pope Benedict reminds us,
“Being Christian is not the result
of an ethical choice or a lofty idea,
but the encounter with an event, a person…”
That is, Jesus Christ!

You and I have “encounters” all the time.
Walking, driving, at the store—

maybe friendly, or not.
The point is,

those aren’t real relationships, are they?
A real relationship is demanding.

Second, love is a commitment—
it’s a lot more than a feeling!
And this is where we discover the cost,
the sacrifice involved in love.

Every one of us, at some point,
makes a commitment,

or pays a price, because of love:

* A friend trusts you with a secret,
and you commit to keeping that secret;

* A teacher wakes up feeling awful,
but still comes to class.

* An employer keeps a business going,
even though he’s losing money.

* A woman takes vows as a nun;

a man as a priest.

* A man and woman tell each other,
“for better or for worse.”

Commitment—and eventually, sacrifice:
Love always involves this.

Too often our society tells us
that love is something that “happens” to us—
it comes, it goes—and when it goes, we move on.

Na, baby na!
Every city in America,

including Piqua, has poverty.
Did you know that most poor people

in our country
are single mothers or children?
There’s one price of broken commitments.

In our families,

many of our children
see their parents “moving on”
from each other to new relationships;
they see their parents use them,

their children,
as weapons against each other!

Yes, these things are complicated,
and we have compassion.

But let us acknowledge, as a society,
how much damage is done to children
because adults fail to love:
adults who fail to pay the price of commitment.

And I will point the finger my way:
some priests and bishops failed
to keep their commitments.

Grownups: there are so many ways
we’re failing to love genuinely.
I mentioned broken family life and poverty.

I would also highlight the many false values
coming through TV, music, the internet:
Look at what’s socially acceptable:
MTV, Abercrombie, Gangsta Rap.

They target and exploit young people;
But it is adults who produce it,

who profit from it.
It is adults who let it happen.

One result? Children are losing their innocence
at younger and younger ages!

And what do the adults do?
We give them pills and so-called “protection.”

But the promise of “protection” is false;
babies are still conceived by counterfeit love,
and often, destroyed by “choice”;

Even more, these “solutions” don’t protect
against the emptiness of being used,

of a broken heart.

Teenagers: do not let

our messed up, adult world
sell you a lot false ideas about what love is!

For one: love is not some vague feeling;
true love does not even exist

until it takes shape
in specific choices and commitments!

Look at the physical “grammar” of love.
The body is designed to love—
and that love, to be genuine,

is totally self-emptying;
that love, to be authentic,

lasts more than a moment;
it’s not solitary,

because it’s not about the self at all!

So, “I’ll love you tonight”

or “I’ll love you, if”—
That’s not love…at all!

And this physical “grammar” of love,
reaches beyond our physical reality—
it touches the very core of our being.
That’s its power!

So, the beauty and power

of these physical acts I’m talking about
only have meaning
with true love in them.
So, true love waits—
until ready for commitment and total self-gift.

So, this physical love

finds it meaning in marriage!
And because true love is other-oriented,
true love is fruitful.

So, the Church has always taught
that marital acts of love must always be open
to the possibility of new life.

True love does not need “protection”!
We can summarize all this in four words:
“Love . . . is . . . for . . . life! ”

Someone said to me:

Father, give us an “action item!”
OK: your action item is to share this message:
Love is for life!

True love is faithful—for life;
It is open to new life.
And true love waits—
until it is ready to commit—for life.

And parents, I know your job is hard.
Every year, I appreciate a little more
just what it cost my father, and my mother,
to keep their commitments to each other,
and to the children they brought into the world.

A lifetime of commitment: that’s love!
And just as I learned that

from watching my parents,
your children will learn it

from watching you!

So when we talk about love,

both beautiful, and costly,
How fitting that God revealed

the fullness of his love through the Cross!

Every decision Jesus made

led him to the Cross;
he had choices that could have spared him.
He could have used his power,

to dazzle or coerce;
He could have pandered to them,

or destroyed them;
or, he could simply have walked away!

But none of those would have been love!

The Cross is the inevitable price of love—
for God, and for us.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.
The mercy of God is wonderful

and powerful;
but it is not simplistic.

It is freely offered, an endless fountain,
flowing from the Cross!
It is powerful; it is life-changing!

But: because it is love, it is not soft and gooey;
It is costly; it is demanding.
It will change us.

Immigration: not enough hands

The graphic above has shown up here and there; I saw it at Father Jim Tucker's Dappled Things. I agree with the value expressed in the slogan: human beings aren't "illegal" -- but I have qualms about some of the advocacy around the issue of immigrants illegally in this country.

Oh, where to start?

On the one hand, national sovereignty and national identity. This is important; and many associated with Cardinal Mahoney's position on this seem dismissive of the concerns here.

As a priest, I will do whatever necessary to provide for the needs of people who come to me: I don't ask their legal status, I try to communicate in whatever language (hablo solo pecueno Espanol), and I want to be an advocate for those who need a voice.

As a citizen, I am not sanguine about the prospect that my country would become a different country without the citizens having a say in that. I do not want this to be a bilingual country. I do want our nation to grow, rather than stagnate, as seems to be happening in many advanced nations.

And, I am concerned about our southern border being an easy way for terrorists to get into our nation. Maybe that isn't something we can fully fix in any case.

So, my general position is that we should welcome immigration, legally, but be tougher about illegal immigration. Perhaps we need more legal slots; perhaps we need a guest worker program. But the Cardinal Mahoney position seems to be -- seems, I stress -- to be dismissive of the "tougher on illegal immigration" component.

Now, what do I mean by "tougher"? Well, let's face it (and this is to my more conservative friends), we're not going to deport 10-12 million folks who have entered illegally. It won't happen. So doesn't that mean we should have a path to citizenship for them?

By "tougher," I mean less porous borders, and quick action on recent interlopers.

And, I think, as a nation we have every right -- and a great need -- to emphasize assimilation into our culture.

Having said that . . . time for another hand: as a Catholic and a Christian, there are aspects of our culture I'd dread the folks coming up from the south assimilating! Secularizing, MTV-izing, Planned Parenthood-izing, pornographizing these folks is not my agenda!

But there's enough on particular public policy; now, for another hand . . . the bigger, historical and human question . . .

Property rights, and even national rights, are not absolute. No, I don't want a reconquista, don't have any interest in facilitating it; but in terms of "right" and "wrong," in the broad context? Let's be honest -- the U.S. stole it!

My point is, there are larger tides of history -- perhaps we can redirect them, perhaps not. I'm not saying we the people of these united States have no right to try, but history rolls on.

So, aside from all the big, political questions, we have the specific human needs of people who are here, in our midst. They are not abstractions. The command to treat them as we would treat Christ stands. We, as Christians, should be concerned if the law impedes our obeying Christ in this matter. This is a legitimate point raised by Mahoney, if only to observe some proposals in law need to be clarified. I, for one, have no interest in a "trust me" explanation from Big Brother.

OK, time for another hand . . . we still have the question of what's going on in Mexico -- and what duty do we have to facilitate positive change there?

All the advocacy for the needs and rights of those who entered this country illegally seems to omit this point: that our nation being an easy destination for citizens of nations south of us lets the politicians of those nations off the hook for the change needed there to foster opportunity! Isn't that a social justice question? Yet the folks talking the most about social justice, in this debate, seem only to talk about acquiescing in more immigration to this country.

Final point: one of the uglier charges being made is that the Catholic Church is pro-immigrant because we want to fill our pews in the wake of the Scandal. Some on the right are making this argument, including Tucker Carlson of MSNBC and radio host Michael Savage. Funny, I didn't know the Know Nothing Party was still around.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The FDA's ridiculous argument against pot

While I wouldn't say there isn't an argument against allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes, the FDA's arguments in its release (read the whole thing here), are ridiculous.

The FDA's fundamental argument is over whether marijuana is "safe and effective medication": marijuana "has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision" and there is "sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful."

Gee, I guess if you're dying of AIDS--or cancer! you really need to worry about the harm a joint might do to your health!

As for the "effective" argument, I repeat: if a sick person says it helps, IT HELPS! If a nauseous person says a joint makes him feel better, that is, by my definition, "effective" -- regardless of what any large-scale study might find. Even if marijuana advocates' claims are grandiose, which for all I know they may be, the basic claim -- that marijuana can alleviate discomfort -- is valid if real, suffering people say it helps.

"But it has a placebo effect--they only think they feel better!" OK -- and your point is? Because my point is, "feeling better" IS THE POINT.

The Church should be pro-pot*

The New York Times has a news item today about the federal government's judgment of the medical benefits of smoking marijuana. That judgment, as you can see, was negative.

My question: so what?

The issue of "medical marijuana" is a serious moral one. Here's why.

It is a fundamental Catholic principle that those who are ill are entitled to receive palliative care and pain relief. Of course, if the patient can be helped to recover, that is the primary goal; but if that isn't at issue -- if a patient is still dying, either of a specific condition, or simply because of old age -- then the goal is to sustain life in a human way; we don't hasten death, but it can be allowed to come naturally. So someone facing a terminal cancer need not pursue further treatment whose prospects are uncertain; but neither should that person's death be "sped up," either; and ordinary care, such as food, water, bathing, comfort, pain relief, should continue as long as they can do some good, and don't do any harm.

But along the way, a suffering person should be helped to deal with suffering, and when the condition is terminal, certain common-sense things come into play.

For example: if someone is dying, and smoking cigarettes provides comfort, who cares about the health risks of tobacco, at that point?

Or, if someone is in pain, you give morphine; the patient can have more of it, even where it has other negative effects, so long as the intent is pain relief, not inducing death. Thus, you don't say to a patient, in pain -- "Sorry, but if we give you more morphine, that will inhibit breathing, and you might die. Keeping you alive is more important than relieving pain." No, the Church's answer is, intention is key: if the intent of another shot of pain-killer is to hasten death, or deny someone consciousness, that's immoral; but if the purpose is to provide comfort and ease; that's moral.

So, what's this have to do with "medical marijuana"?

Well, there are folks who say that marijuana provides comfort care. Are they all liars?

But, you say, experts tell us it doesn't help.

My response is, the expertise that matters most is the patient. If a patient says, smoking pot makes me feel better, on what moral basis should we deny that patient a joint? Is smoking marijuana immoral in a way that morphine, or, say, heroin, is not?

A legitimate response would be, the marijuana is unnecessary--as, apparently, heroin is. That's a legitimate response, if true -- i.e., we know that we can provide pain relief through other drugs, so yes, we don't use heroin for it (but recall, that's why heroin was invented).

But my concern is that the government has, in all this, seemed dismissive of this part of the question. The federal government's argument has been, we say marijuana is illegal, and our law must be upheld. Go find a substitute for marijuana!

That's not a position I can support from Catholic moral teaching.

Consider: when someone is facing this sort of terminal illness, here's what happens. A patient is wracked by a combination of pain, nausea, and inability to eat properly. In such situations, you try to find anything that helps, and you don't get clinical or "scientific" about it. "The only thing mom can hold down is such-and-such brand of ice cream--no other." You don't care why that's true, or if clinical trials can substantiate a special quality to brand-A ice cream; you just go buy all you can of it, and give it to mom as long as it works.

So the government says, "there's no reason why marijuana should help!" Yes there is, one reason, and it's enough -- the sick person says it helps!

Am I saying the government has no legitimate authority to regulate drugs? Not at all.

But I would say this -- it is the government that must prove why something must be illegal; not the citizen who must prove why something must be legal. I.e., I reject the present situation, requiring individual citizens having to battle the federal leviathan (note: states have attempted to deal with this, and the federal apparatus -- legislative, executive and judicial -- have acted as one to thwart that), to prove why different behaviors should be treated differently -- why using marijuana for relieving the suffering of dying people might be justifiably exempt from the "Drug War." I reject the idea that such suffering is an acceptable price to be paid for some larger purpose, which is . . . what?

So my point is, the federal government needs to accept these distinctions, and accommodate them. Will that make fighting drugs harder? Assume it would -- so what? Our Bill of Rights makes it (significantly) harder to punish rapists, murderers, even terrorists. Is it immoral to keep the Bill of Rights? Would it be more moral to scrap it, so less impedes our pursuit of criminals?

You tell me: if someone you loved is in misery, and said, "I wonder if a little pot would help?" -- what would you do? Would you:

a) Download the latest FDA study, and cite it to explain why expecting marijuana to help is illusory.

b) Explain the need for following the federal government's lead in the "Drug War".

c) Go figure out how to buy some pot?

* Update: it occurs to me some might fail to realize my headline is meant to be provocative, as in: feel free to discuss, herein, the proposition represented by the headline. Yes, I do tend to favor that position; but my purpose here is to discuss that proposition.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Habemus Papam!

Deo gratias!

Ad multos annos!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sampling the Easter candy

Last evening, before celebrating the Vigil, I got over to the store to get some Easter candy to share with others -- and myself!

This morning, I felt it my duty to make sure it was all fit to eat. Here's how they stack up...

* Reeses Peanut Butter eggs -- always good! But this year, Reeses has little eggs, too.

* Nestle's Crunch eggs. Mighty tasty!

* Snicker's Eggs -- these are bigger.

* Smucker's jelly beans -- they have both some that are sweeter, and some that are more sour.

* Here's a Cincinnati specialty: Papa's chocolate covered eggs. I found coconut, mint, cherry, french cream, opera cream; I think they have pineapple too, but I didn't see it.

* No Peeps! I looked and looked! Who'd've thought they'd be in short supply. Also no chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs! Apparently, there's a marshmallow shortage, and the mainstream media can't be bothered to report it! (Y'all who have Peeps: you do know about the microwave thing, don't you?)

* They did have chocolate bunnies, but I don't really care for those. They also have chocolate crosses, which is a nice idea.

* And the final indignity: no robin's eggs! (I.e., chocolate covered malted milk eggs, with a candy coating!) These are my favorites! O, tempora! O, mores!

What candy did you find waiting for you this morning?

Eyewitnesses (Easter Sunday)

If you witnessed a man die…

A man who changed your life;
an extraordinary man,
something much more than a man—
how can it be possible?
The Son of God!

You saw that man die—you witnessed it;
and then, you saw him come back from the dead—
I don’t mean 20 minutes later,
after the paramedics show up;
On the third day—
after he had been in the tomb—
you saw him come back from the dead.

If you saw that, what would be different?

Peter and others saw that.

If you wonder how convinced Peter was,
Recall, he died rather
than deny what he witnessed.

Oh, we know Peter denied the Lord
before the crucifixion;
But after seeing the empty tomb;
after seeing the risen Lord with his own eyes?
Peter died on his own cross,
rather than deny Jesus!

And he was far from the only one.

Our faith is founded on certain facts:
Jesus lived, Jesus taught, Jesus changed lives;
Jesus was arrested,
Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered, died and was buried.

And he rose from the dead!

In a moment, we’ll declare again
that we believe that.

How do we know these are facts?
Because there were witnesses—
and they preserved their witness.

Our New Testament is their testimony.

The Gospels were written
only shortly after these events.
Matthew, Mark and Luke were all written
close to the time Peter died.
John’s Gospel might have come
as late as 20 years later.

All the documents of the New Testament
were complete by AD 100.
What wasn’t contributed by the Apostles themselves,
was completed by those who, like Luke and Mark,
accompanied the Apostles.

Contrast that with these stories
of other "gospels"—
supposedly "hidden,"
and recently "discovered."

They weren’t "hidden";
scholars and historians knew all about them.
They were forgotten;
they were written 100, 200
and more years afterward.
They contradict each other;
they paint a very strange portrait of Jesus—
one I think you would not like much
if you looked closely.

Their version of Jesus
hates the body, and the world—
he didn’t come to save it, but to escape it!
Their version of Jesus faked the crucifixion;
their Jesus thinks women should become men!

In their version, Judas the betrayer is a hero!

This is not the testimony of eyewitnesses!
That’s why the Church,
long ago, set them aside.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

You have to choose to believe—
but know that we believe this
because people were witnesses;
and they, in turn,
died rather than deny what they saw.

And that depth of conviction,
that transformation of their lives—
Peter, James, John, and the rest—
is what convinced the next generation,
and the next, and the next…
down to the present.

Why do you believe it?

More importantly,
why should anyone believe you?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

One Light (Easter Vigil)

Recall the opening of our first reading.
Recall how it began:

"In the beginning,
when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland,
and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters."

What is this Mighty Wind?
Let’s wait and see…

The final, crowning glory of God’s creation:
"Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness…
male and female he created them."

That came on the sixth day.
"Evening came, and morning followed"—remember?
And then, on the seventh day, God rested.
Did you notice,
it does not say the seventh day ended?!
The seventh day,
the day of God’s "rest," didn’t end!

When did the seventh day end?

Let’s wait and see!

Next, we fast-forward many centuries;
We skip over Abraham, and his journeys.
We next meet God’s People at the Red Sea—
Moses has led them out of slavery in Egypt.
And here come the war-chariots
of the superpower, Egypt:
Pharaoh wants his slaves back!
Have you noticed
that everything that enslaves us
works just the same way?

A fiery pillar of cloud
stood in the gap between them,
as God’s People marched dry-shod through the sea!
They were saved through the water;
but what had held them bondage was destroyed!

What does this mean?

Wait and see . . .

Our next reading is from Isaiah:
the prophet is speaking comfort and hope
to a people who are in exile.
A lot has happened since the Exodus:
God’s People found their way
to the land of promise;
but then they lost their way,
they turned from God!

But God’s sends a word:
"Your husband, your maker, calls you back!"

How will God be our husband?

Wait and see . . .
Next is the Prophet Baruch,
promises "treasures of Wisdom"—

The Prophet Ezekiel sees something different:
a new heart and a new spirit.

The Wind that passed over the waters?
Ezekiel says it will be within us!

We had a lot of questions left unanswered;
Listen as St. Paul answers them.

What is that sea, we pass through safely,
yet destroys Pharaoh and his armies?

It is baptism,
which destroys all that oppresses us.
Through baptism we depart one way of life,
and enter another. We are born again!

And yet we stray;
we don’t need the prophets to tell us
how easily and how often we lose our way.

There is no way but through the Sea,
the waters of baptism.
There is no way,
but to seek God’s deliverance.

But who is our Moses,
to lead us safely through?

Jesus Christ!
He went down, into death—
but he came up on the other side,
passing safely through!

Jesus Christ is the Pillar of Fire
who stands between us and the forces of oppression.

Pharaoh’s armies can come charging down upon us;
but they will not conquer us!

Pain and death will come—
but they will not conquer us!

As God’s People passed through a wilderness,
and all was dark and fearful around them,
so you and I know
that as good as this world is,
there are also many fearful things—
many Pharaohs that twist,
and corrupt and enslave.
Wrath; lust; greed; power; pride; sloth; envy.

But when we pass through
the waters with Christ,
we leave them all behind!
When we stand with the Pillar of His Light,
there is no darkness to fear!

I pointed out, a moment ago,
that the seventh day,
the day of God’s rest,
didn’t have an ending.
The seventh day continued, age after age.
Until the day God decided to create anew!

When God came into the world,
when he became part of our world—one of us,
a new creation had begun.

When he came to the moment of crisis,
the night before he died,
he wrestled with the decision;
and just as he said, once before,
"Let us make man
in our image and likeness,"
now he said,
"let us remake man,
in the likeness of Jesus Christ"—

God became man—so that men might become God!
Tonight marks the end of the seventh day,
and the beginning of the eighth—
the new creation!

Tonight is when Christ,
having gone down into death,
returned, safely,
having conquered death and hell!

Tonight is when Christ,
our God, our husband,
came back from the dead,
to claim his Church, his Bride!

And the treasuries of heaven are ours!
The treasuries of his Wisdom and grace,
poured into our lives, through the Holy Spirit:
the Wind of God, that fashioned the world,
pours into us, refashioning, recreating us!

You and I are still on our journey.
We have not yet reached the Promised Land;
we have heard what God promises—
and we have seen that Christ,
rising from the dead,
is good to his word!

And so we journey still,
in the wilderness.
Only one Light can be trusted—
that light is Christ!

Tonight, two pilgrims desire to join our company.
One to be baptized, both to be confirmed,
and to taste the Bread of Heaven, the Blood outpoured.

They have been drawn by the Light of Christ,
the light we lift up.
We welcome them, as we continue our journey,
lifting up Christ, till all the world knows.

'A great silence and stillness today'

The headline quote comes from the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, for today. It is the second reading, a ancient homily on Holy Saturday. I don't know the history of it; I find it striking that it found its way into the breviary even though it is anonymous. Somehow, it was treasured down through the ages, although its origin is unclear.

I gathered this morning with our catechumen, and our candidate for full commmunion, their sponsors, and their guides in the RCIA. We prayed Morning Prayer together, low-key, as I only found time to photocopy the pages from the breviary! But it was nice, all the same. Amidst the church barren of all adornment, there was a great silence and stillness.

After that, the rehearsal for the Great Vigil. For the catechuman and candidate, it was extremely brief: the catechuman tried on an alb to wear later; then I sent them on their way to pray and reflect.

My approach is that the ones receiving the sacraments do not need to rehearse; they simply have to be there, open to God's grace. It's the sponsors' (and RCIA leaders, and by extension, the whole community's) job to lead them through it.

So, after our catechuman and candidate left, I rehearsed things with the sponsors and team. Then, after they left, I went over things with the servers. They're gonna work!

Then, we got things mostly in order for tonight; some folks are coming this afternoon with flowers. God willing, no one will undo what I did! (The pastor at my former parish used to go ballistic when he'd set everything up how he wanted it, only to come back 15 minutes before a big liturgy, and it was all undone. I should have left some notes, "don't touch!" but I forgot. We'll see what happens!)

So, now I'm back home, just ate lunch (leftover pizza from last night -- anchovies and vegetables!), and now to work on my homily for tonight. I really need two, one for tomorrow. I'll take 'em one at a time.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How we did the Tre Ore

For Good Friday here, I tried to provide, in addition to the Solemn Liturgy provided for today, some other opportunities for observing the Three Hours.

So at noon, we began the liturgy, conducted in the usual fashion. We did not have anyone to sing the reproaches, however. About 15 minutes after the liturgy concluded around 1:15, I led the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. At 2, I led the Stations of the Cross. Then, at 3 pm, I led the Divine Mercy chaplet, beginning the Divine Mercy novena.

What did your parish do? Anything different, unusual?

(I did think about offering confessions; however, as this was new to me, I tried to avoid planning to many new things; besides, the other parish in town had confessions. Next year.)

I do have other ideas for next year, or some future year. The Church encourages celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours; the Seven Last Words also come to mind.

God is crucified with us (Good Friday)

With the exception of Easter Sunday,
this is the day of all days.

This is the day we must face—
must look at something truly horrible:
Look at it!

We see the Cross, and we ask “Why?”
Be very clear: No one made Jesus do this.
The Father did not make his Son do this.

Before time, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
knew man would sin.

God saw it all,
from the smutty little sins that twist us—
our vanities, our lusts, our self-importance,
our wrath, our gluttony, our indifference—
to the unimaginable horrors
men visit on each other,
from Cain and Abel, to Hitler and Mao,
to Rwanda and Darfur,
and in our own country,
all the neglect and exploitation,
and destruction of the innocent..

God saw it all…
And He chose to go ahead with the world and us;
and he chose to become one of us; God-with-us.

Was there no other way but the Cross?
Of course there was.
God is God. God chose this way.

Remember—God didn’t invent the Cross—we did.

Had God never become man,
man would still have faced a cross, but now alone;
and it would have been all death with no life.

St. Thomas tells us the Cross was “too much”:
“Any suffering of his, however slight,
was enough to redeem the human race…”
The Cross is God’s exclamation mark
on the sheer extravagance of his mercy.

What could be more extreme in generosity
than to give the maximum
when the barest minimum was already generous?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said this:
I tell you that if God had not come down …
and given us the supreme example of sacrifice,
then it would be possible for fathers and mothers,
men and women of countless ages,
to do something greater, it would seem,
than God himself could do, namely,
lay down their lives for a friend.

Why the Cross?
Consider an amazing image
from our late Holy Father,
Pope John Paul the Great:
God came to earth—
so man could put God on trial—
so that man could forgive God.

Our late pope asked,
"Could God have justified himself
before human history, so full of suffering,
without placing Christ’s Cross
at the center of that history?

"Obviously, one response could be
that God does not need to justify himself to man.
It is enough that he is omnipotent.
From this perspective everything he does
or allows must be accepted.

"But God, who besides being Omnipotence
is Wisdom and—to repeat once again—Love,
desires to justify himself to mankind.

"He is not the Absolute that remains outside
of the world, indifferent to human suffering.
He is Emmanuel, God-with-us,
a God who shares man’s lot
and participates in his destiny.

"The crucified Christ is
proof of God’s solidarity
with man in his suffering."

We blame God—God does not argue.
He comes to us—offers himself for trial.
Pilate presides—
and we are all in that court as jury.

We found him guilty—
and sentenced him to death.
The price is paid. God himself atones.
God and man are reconciled.

We see the horror of the Cross;
we see the horror of human evil;
and we wonder—can man be saved?

The Cross is our answer.
It is God saying “Yes.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

This is the Night (Holy Thursday homily)

This week, our elder brothers and sisters
in the Covenant, the Jewish People,
celebrate the Passover of the Lord.

When Jewish families celebrate the Passover,
it is traditional for the youngest son to ask,
“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

The first reading tells us why:
It describes the first Passover.
Celebrated in Egypt, that place of slavery,
on the night before they were delivered by YHWH
out of their long centuries of bondage.

They took a lamb without blemish.
It was “slaughtered
during the evening twilight.
”They took some of its blood
and applied it to the doorposts and lintel.

The blood marked the homes
of those who trusted in YHWH.
And the Lord God promised:
“Seeing the blood,
I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.”

This is the Night.
Tonight begins our Passover.
Why is this night unlike all other nights?
This is the night when Jesus—
YHWH, our Deliverer—
gathered his Apostles,
and celebrated the Passover with them.

We often call it “the Last Supper”—
but that’s misleading!
This is not the last Supper of the Lord,
But the first—and the one and only.

On this night, Jesus—who is the Lord God—
revealed to his Apostles
the New Passover that would unfold:
that night,
Jesus the Lamb would be taken;
the next day,
he would be slaughtered;
His Blood would consecrate
the wood of the Cross!

He allowed the blows to fall on him,
so that no destructive blow
would strike us!

Our Passover begins tonight,
but it won’t be complete tonight.
It continues over
“Three Nights”—the SacredTriduum:
this night,
tomorrow, the “evening twilight”
when the Lamb is slain,
and Saturday night,
which is really the beginning
of Easter Sunday.

Three things are special about this night.
First, we have the washing of feet.

Everyone remembers this
about Holy Thursday!
You see it done
different ways in different places.
I know last year we did a different way;
I want to explain why
we’ll do it the way we will this year.

On that first Holy Thursday night,
Our Lord created his new priesthood,
in his Apostles.

Jesus is the one, true Priest.
He sanctifies his people
through the one Sacrifice—
of himself!—to the Father.

And this is the night
when He gave a share
of his eternal priesthood
to his Apostles.

It would not be long
before they, in turn,
called other men
to share that ministry.
At that next stage is when we began to have
deacons, priests and bishops—
the familiar ordained ministries we recognize.

This is the night when that began.

And that is key to the meaning
of the washing of the feet.

He did this to show his Apostles
how to be his priests.
It is a lesson
we priests never get enough of!

So while it’s admirable
to have you wash each other’s feet,
can you see why it’s so important
that I, your pastor, wash your feet?

If the Lord God got down on his knees
to wash his Apostles’ feet,
Then his priests
must get down on their knees
and wash yours.

There’s a second thing we do tonight.
We celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.
But we do that every day, every Sunday.
Yes—but this is the night when it began.
So, we do it with great solemnity.

As I told you; it was not “the Last Supper,”
But the First Supper—the first of many.

This night, throughout the world,
this Mass is celebrated everywhere.
I watched it earlier today from Rome!

Many celebrate it in full freedom,
and in beautiful churches,
as we do here;
But many do so amidst violence—
we think of Iraq;
Or in secret,
as in Saudi Arabia;
Or in poverty—
we think of so many places.

But it is the same Supper,
the same Sacrifice.
Many places, times, and people—
but truly One.
Indeed, we are all one
with that First Supper.

Christ who presided at that table then,
presides here—
he is truly as present now as then!

They celebrated the Meal,
which Christ revealed was one
with what would happen
the next day: the Cross!
The Lamb was sacrificed,
and the Cross was his altar.

Notice this cross here?
Our Lord is dressed like a priest.
It represents the mystical reality
of the Cross and the Mass—which are one!—
where he is both priest
and the Lamb that is offered.

That’s precisely what this night,
and these Three Nights, are about,
so I incensed that cross at this Mass.

Our sanctuary gives us a perfect summary
of what the Mass is:
Under the high altar,
that First Supper—that’s tonight;
over that, of course, the crucifix—
that’s tomorrow;
the altar—the sacrifice is renewed,
and yet the same;
and the tabernacle:
“I am with you always, until the end of time.”

The Sacrifice begun
at that First Supper,
was accomplished
on that First Good Friday.
In one way, it was certainly complete:
Our Lord said, on the Cross,
“It is finished!”

Yet, in another sense, it is not complete:
year upon year,
our High Priest continues to plead
for each of his brothers and sisters.

The Blood poured out at Calvary
continues to be applied
as our protection and deliverance.

This Eucharist, this Sacrifice
will only be truly complete when,
at the time of his choosing,
Christ returns at last,
and gathers all his Elect,
living and dead,
into the Kingdom:
a new heavens and a new earth!

Only then will the Priest say,
“The Mass is ended!”
But for now, our Mass does not end.

So, the third, special feature of this night
is that tonight,
we don’t end Mass in the usual way.
There is no end;
I won’t say, “the Mass is ended”;
tomorrow’s liturgy for Good Friday
is a continuation of this night’s liturgy;
the Good Friday liturgy doesn’t end, either—
it continues with the Mass on the Vigil.

So, instead,
after we all receive his Body and Blood,
we depart here
and accompany the Lord to the chapel,
just as the Apostles
accompanied Christ to the Garden.

They didn’t know what was happening;
they waited in fear and doubt.

But we know!
We pray with the Lord, this night,
with no fear or doubt.
We know what he did that Friday.
We feel the sorrow
of what our sins cost the Lord;
but we wait in hope, knowing what he did!

So, I invite you to join
the procession from here,
around on Miami, to the chapel.
Of course, we won’t all fit
in the chapel at once,
but as always, the chapel
will remain open all night.

This is the Night:
the Night when our Redemption began.

Why I'm running Google ads

As you may notice, I decided to try allowing Google to place ads on my blog. The deal is, I'm not allowed to click on the ads; but Google hopes you will (and since all revenue will go to my parish, so do I)!

I'll try this for awhile; if you have any concerns about the ads, please let me know. I figure if I can raise a few hundred bucks for the parish, why not?

Blogroll Updated

I try to list in my "blogroll" anyone who links me, and I got caught up, I think, just now. I discovered a regrettable omission, someone I thought was already linked, sorry about that. In one case, I deleted a link, only because it appears the page isn't active anymore.

If you link me, I'll link you. No endorsement is expressed or implied. Let me know.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Solemn Spy Wednesday

We did something a little different at my parish this evening; I wonder if anyone did anything like this. We had a mini-Eucharistic procession, similar to what happens tomorrow, but with no great solemnity.

Here's why--and any "armchair liturgists" as Todd at Catholic Sensibility terms them, feel free to comment.

First datum. At our parish, Mass on Wednesdays is in the evening, at 6 -- we have confessions starting at 5. Our parish is blessed with a perpetual exposition chapel, in the basement under the sanctuary. That also happens to be where daily Mass usually is, and where people come, obviously, for prayer before our Eucharistic Lord.

Second datum. The rubrics say that the tabernacle is empty on Holy Thursday.

So, question: when and how to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle?

I decided to do it following this evening's Mass. I explained what I'd do, and said anyone who wanted to could come along, but it was a simple, practical thing, not a solemn procession as happens tomorrow. (My concern was to confuse people.)

So, here's how I did it. After communion, I kept the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, rather than return the Lord to the tabernacle. After the post-communion prayer, blessing and dismissal, I genuflected to the altar, rather than tabernacle, exited briefly to take off my chasuble, and put on a humeral veil, and returned. The reader and server carried candles ahead of me, and we went outside, around and down to the chapel. I wondered if anyone would sing; no one did. I placed the ciborium on the altar, before opening the special "tabernacle" we have, that contains the monstrance. I removed the monstrance, placed the host in the ciborium, and put the ciborium in the tabernacle. And then departed simply and quietly, putting the monstrance away until after the Vigil.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Palm Sunday (another 'day in the life')

Many visitors really seem to like these "my day" entries, so here you go!

Here's how Palm Sunday went.

Thanks to our retired priest, who took the 7 am Mass, I was able to sleep a little, which helped as I have a head cold. Alas, I lingered too long over coffee, and then under the hot water in the shower, and I arrived to the sacristy just 15 minutes before Mass!

But we got everything ready in time: the thurible for one of the servers -- a third-grader who had never handled incense before, what a trooper! (Unfortunately, he burned his fingers a little bit, which was my fault.)

"Father, which candles do we light?" "Light 'em all -- except that one, big one..." meaning the Easter Candle. (Some of my fellow priests mock me for the terminology I sometimes use with the servers, but when you're in a hurry before Mass, terms like "sacramentary," "lectionary," "thurible," "incense boat," and the blank stares they elicit, are unhelpful. "Big red book," "smoke pot," "powder container" seem to work better. Mock if you like.)

Well, anyway, 10 am Mass started well, with a good number of folks out on the steps of church -- it was a brilliant day -- for a short procession. I was using the wireless mic, which I seldom use, because I can never remember if its off or on; so I think my sotto voce comments to the server got broadcast through the church, oh-well; and in this case, I really couldn't tell if anyone inside heard me. Oh well.

I noted on Saturday (see below if you like) one liturgial-sartorial question: would I wear a cope, then switch to a chasuble in the sanctuary? I decided against it, because I didn't want to have the hymn run out while I was still doing the incensation. However, turns out I goofed on the procession: on this occasion, the priest precedes the people! So in that case, the priest has time to do a switcheroo (another of my special liturgical terms, along with "traveling music," i.e., what I tell our Music Director I need plenty of when I do incensation at the opening of Mass, at the Gospel, and at the preparation of the gifts). Don't kid yourself -- the reason the priest precedes the people in this procession could just be related to such practical concerns. Yesterday, I discovered another one: when the people precede the priest in the procession, they naturally wonder how they are to get back to their seats; or, if they just walked in, finding a seat. Result? I almost collided with some folks who started for one pew, only to double back for another one. So I know what we'll do next year...

Anyway, 10 am Mass went well, but it was race against the clock. (I hear you tsk-tsking; but we had several hundred folks heading for Mass at 11:30, and they have to park somewhere; I can't make them come to Mass, so I might at least not make them very sorry they came.) I resisted the temptation to use Eucharistic Prayer II; I used III, although I wanted to use the Roman Canon. Next year, when a new Mass schedule will take the pressure off.

But with that Mass concluding at 11:15, and my needing to dash over to the office to print out some notes I'd need immediately after 11:30 Mass, it felt like one Mass rolled right into the other. No time to give the servers any instructions for the second Mass, only: "who knows how to do the incense?" One intrepid fifth-grade girl shot her hand up; unfortunately, she forgot a couple of things, such as bringing the incense boat with her in the opening procession--so no smoke going up the aisle! Ah, well...

This was the last Mass, so no time-pressure, right? Wrong. I had an appointment at 1:45 pm; and the best time for a rehearsal for the servers for Holy Thursday was immediately following this 11:30 Mass, meaning I had to squeeze that rehearsal inbetween. Fortunately, lots of servers showed up -- seven, I think!--so we did some sorting of jobs, and we reviewed the three major complications of the liturgy: the foot-washing, the conclusion with its procession around the church to our chapel in the rear, where the Eucharist will be reposed, and the incensing we'll do, including at the elevation. We had to take a trip down to the chapel, so the servers could see the layout and how they'd line up when we arrived.

Fortunately, I had the smarts to recruit an older gentleman, who serves Mass, and he will "shepherd" the younger servers. Big help! But I have one or two other, older boys who said they wanted to serve, but couldn't make this rehearsal. I said okay, not expecting so many to sign up. So now, I have to figure out (a) what jobs to give them and (b) do I want to broach the possibility that they can focus on the Vigil? We'll see...

Well, the young lady who will be thurifer ("smoker") was a little unsure; we'll go over it again on Thursday evening, before Mass. Plus, the new, four-chain thurible chose to jam while she was practicing. (This is why parishes don't use multiple-chain thuribles. But those one-chain thuribles are usually butt-ugly.)

I owe a thanks to some parishioners who stayed for the rehearsal, because they kindly locked things up as I had to race to the next appointment. A couple, moving to the area from where I'd last been assigned, asked me if I'd come bless a piece of land they were trying to sell. After several emails, this was the best time for them to make the trip up; but they had someplace to go shortly thereafter, so they were waiting on me. So I drove out, jumped out of the car, we walked along the property and I offered an extemporaneous prayer while I doused the property with what holy water I had.

Then, back to town. I had time to pick up some lunch, on the go, and eat it back at the office before my next engagement, at 3: a Protestant church was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its "chancel choir," and I had decided to attend. I wasn't expected, but I am going to be working with these other pastors, and I think building good relations makes sense, and I don't like admitting I've never been in these other churches. A nice church, older than ours by 10 years, and a nice program that finished around 4.

Now I headed home to put my feet up for awhile; except that I would head over to St. Mary, our sister parish in town, just before 6, when the youth minister the two parishes share was having a special event. He arranged to show Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, and then have a period of exposition, with opportunities for confession, following. The other pastor and I, along with one of the retired priests, were there. Not a large turnout, but no problem -- it was a good idea, and I like to see our staff thinking that way, and I wanted to see the film again (this must have been the "producer's cut," because it had scenes I am sure I hadn't seen).

We were putting things away a little after 9, and I started thinking about what I'd have for dinner. (I don't mind eating late--please save the tsk-tsking, because you got to do that earlier.) Plus, I needed to pick up something at the store anyway, so I ran by Krogers. One item became four or five; but I didn't see anything I wanted to eat for dinner, so I headed home, and ordered a pizza. I ended up staying up late, as I discovered the Hallmark Channel was replaying one of the films about our late, beloved holy father--and I hadn't seen all of it.

This morning--my off day!--I got to sleep late. Just after 9 am, the phone rang. I groaned: would it be the funeral home? The office?

Because the telephone number at my house led a promiscuous life before I acquired it, with the result that I get calls for "Piqua Exchange" or "Roadway" from time to time. This time it was "Piqua Exchange." Ten minutes later, it rang again: "Roadway." Time to get out of bed!

When I got to the kitchen, I remembered the one thing I needed to get at the! (Fortunately, I had a little!)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Expectations of Priests

Back in November, I posted an entry, "what-do-we-expect-of-our-priests?," which received a number of comments. Some of them took me to task in a friendly way, for perhaps supposing the faithful have more demanding expectations than is really the case.

An email, reacting to some comments I offered (here and here) at The Cafeteria is Closed, brought that post back to me.

In the context of discussing clerical dress, and specifically, wearing a cassock (which I do, some but not all the time), my correspondent accused me of comments "unbecoming an alter Christi, and berated me for the following "embarrassing lapses":

1. I went on vacation.

2. Late on the evening of my return (after midnight), I was in my room at the rectory, still awake, and wearing a golf shirt and shorts; and as I had been traveling, it happened I hadn't shaved that day, so I was a little scruffy. A call came from the nearby hospital. The lay chaplain there was very urgent in asking me to come. "Do I have time to change my clothes," I asked. "It'd be better if you came right away," she responded. So I went right away, as I was. When I arrived, I immediately apologized to the family for my appearance.

My correspondent went on to remonstrate me for saying that, when I visited a nearby Protestant church, for an anniversary celebration, I would go in a clerical suit, rather than a cassock, which I thought would be a little showy. My correspondent called that "ecumenical face-saving."
My correspondent also complained about the presence of a zodiac sign on my profile. I plead guilty; Blogger put it there, and I have no idea how to delete it (if anyone knows, I'd like to know).

Now, my correspondent described his situation as "distraught" over the state of the Church, so I can understand some of these comments as arising from that.

Understand, this is one email; the number of comments such as this I've received, either via the blogosphere, or in my parish, are extremely few. I don't expect to please everyone, and am rather sure I don't! But I thought you might find interesting what expectations some folks do have.

This Most Sacred Week (Passion Sunday Homily)

Every year on Palm Sunday,
we hear two Gospel passages.

We hear the crowd greet Jesus with joy;
A few days later, we hear the crowd—

in the same city!
Crying for his blood: “Crucify him!”
Could they be the same people?

You and I are that crowd.

Why did this happen?
Do NOT say the Father

made his Son do this.

God could have saved us any way he wanted.

This is what the Son chose to do.
The Holy Trinity--

Father, Son and Holy Spirit--
chose it before time began;
and he chose it again,

as a man like us,
the night before he died.

Jesus chose this.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said this:

“I tell you that if God

had not come down…and given us
the supreme example of sacrifice,
then it would be possible for fathers and mothers,
men and women of countless ages,
to do something greater, it would seem,
than God himself could do,
namely, lay down their lives for a friend.”

Many people say to me,
“Father, I want to understand

my Catholic Faith better.”

If you give the time, this week—

Holy Week—
to walking with the Lord…

If you set aside time

to attend Mass every day—
or at least on Holy Thursday evening,

when our Lord instituted the priesthood,
and the Mass…

Later today, at St. Mary's,
we will show the movie,
"The Passion of the Christ"--
a very powerful film.

But realize the Passion of Christ
has been "playing" on the altar
for 2,000 years--at every Mass!

From Thursday evening
to Saturday evening,
the Lord will be in the tabernacle,
in our chapel, but it will be closed.

We keep vigil,
standing watch by his tomb, as it were.
So please do come
to adore during those hours.

If you come to church
the one day of the year
there is no Mass—

I mean Good Friday;
on Good Friday we pray,

we honor the Cross,
and have communion,

but there is no Mass…

If you come for Mass

on Saturday evening,
the great Vigil—

I know it’s late, and long;
but if you come all three days:
Holy Thursday, Good Friday,

the Vigil on Saturday?

I guarantee you:

you will understand your faith better!

Know that Father Ang and I

will be praying for you—
for all our parishioners—

in a special way this week.
Please pray for those
entering the Church next week;
and please pray for one another.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Preparing for Holy Week

Many say to me, "I know you're busy during Holy Week!" That's only half-true.

What keeps me busy is gearing up for Holy Week, and -- while I'm still new here -- trying to anticipate everything so nothing important gets forgotten.

So today, a bunch of parishioners showed up for a "spring cleaning" of the church, which was great. I'm nursing a cold, which isn't that big a deal, except I really don't want to get any sicker or lose my voice tomorrow or later this week. So I took it easy yesterday and today.

But I did spend an hour at church, helping get things set up. I went looking for a red altar cloth; the only thing I found was kind of minimal, but it'll do. Then I found some other cloths to put on the side altars, and they looked nice. One of the men of the parish was moving a ladder, and I got an idea -- could he help me drape a cloth on the crucifix? Sure -- so we draped a red cloth around the shoulders of the Lord, which is an option for Palm Sunday.

Back home, I resume my phone calls. I'm still lining up men to have their feet washed for Thursday. I had two turn me down; I didn't ask why. I have several who I'm waiting to call me back.

One of my calls was to a mother and daughter who help with RCIA. The mother volunteered to be sacristan for Holy Thursday, Good Friday evening, and the Vigil (God bless her!). So we talked about what's special, that the sacristan has to attend to. I told her she wouldn't have too many extra things to worry about; the servers might, however! I'm meeting with the servers tomorrow immediately following 11:30 Mass, to prepare for Holy Thursday. But I already know they can't all be there, so this practice is almost irrelevant, as I'll have to go over it again on Thursday evening.

There are many details -- and since these liturgies come up only once a year, this is only my third Triduum as a priest, and my first as a pastor, and in this parish. So I'm still on the shallow part of the learning curve.

I still need to talk to the guys who usually build the Easter Fire -- I will call one of them shortly -- and I was hoping to have some folks bring the new oils forward on Holy Thursday evening, and I haven't figured out who will ring the church bells during the gloria then and on the Vigil.

And, I'm going to try something a little ambitious for the Vigil: having the servers light the candles at various points. You see, the liturgy calls for the candles at the altar to be lit during the Gloria. Well, we have six there; that'll take a bit for the servers to do. But we also have two candles at the ambo, and we have six tall candles on the high altar, on either side of the tabernacle. When should they (as well as the candles on the side altars) be lit?

I was thinking of doing it this way:

1. After the Exsultet, the candles in front of the ambo are lit, in anticipation of the Liturgy of the Word.

2. During the Gloria, the candles at the altar are lit.

3. During the Litany of the Saints, the candles on the side altars, and any other candles I put around the sanctuary, are lit.

4. During communion, the candles on the high altar are lit.

5. When the Eucharist is reposed in the tabernacle, the sanctuary lamp is lit.

I'll let you know if this works!

Of course, we will have incense for Palm Sunday, for Holy Thursday and for Easter; that can be a challenge for servers. I hope to have the servers do the incense throughout -- i.e., including for the Gospel and during the elevation of the Body and Blood.

One question remains -- shall I wear a cope in the Palm Sunday procession? The thing is, if I do that, I have to change into a chasuble when I get to the sanctuary, and I haven't decided if I want to do that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

GOP votes against the First Amendment

Read it here.

Reason number umpty-ump why I am insulted if you call me a Republican.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A day in the life of a parish priest

People seem to enjoy this sort of thing, so I'm happy to write about a day in my life. Yesterday, in particular.

As usually happens, all sorts of things came together to make the weekend "complicated."

It was, of course, the 5th Sunday of Lent; so we had the 3rd scrutiny at one of the Masses. That meant making sure the reader knew to read different readings, and different petitions. It also meant a longer Gospel, and a different (shorter) homily from me.

Also, every weekend we have the battle of the announcements. I call it a "battle" because if I don't keep on them, they grow and expand out of control. This weekend we had five! Let's see if I can recall them...

1. We need signups for servers and other helpers during Holy Week -- especially Palm Sunday. Sign up in the vestibule. Adults can serve (meant both to fill server slots and motivate the kids).

2. Next Saturday, spring cleaning in church.

3. St. Clara Ladies will have their religious goods store open after all Masses.

4. Easter flower memorials -- sheet attached to bulletin.

5. Festival tickets for pick up in vestibule. (Advance sales of our festival tickets generate major revenue.)

Now, that's a lot of announcements. Only we had one more, a lengthy one! Because I am becoming pastor of a neighboring parish, in addition to St. Boniface, we have a "Future Committee" looking at all the relevant issues, and they were at Mass, the last two weekends, to report their recommendation on weekend Mass schedules. They recommended a reduction from eight total (for both parishes) to six, and they gave a brief explanation of the plan. That was a 4-5 minute announcement.

So for that reason, I wanted to be present at all Masses last weekend. So I was of course up early to be available at the end of the 7 am Mass. (It didn't help that we'd "sprung ahead" this past weekend; nor that the bar, across the street from where I live, had a loud band playing past 1 am. I can tell you, I slept very late today to catch up!)

Well, in addition, we had a special event this past Sunday: confirmation for my parish, plus the neighboring parish, plus some children from another parish. That followed at 2:30 pm. As soon as the 11:30 am Mass folks filed out, several of us set to arranging things in church. I was running back and forth from the church, to the school (where the Knights would get dressed for their role in the liturgy), to the rectory, where I'd greet the bishop and the concelebrating priests.

Thank God and the parents we had plenty of servers (none showed up for the rehearsal a week prior, so the youth minister did some serious phoning), and they were on the ball. One boy, God bless him, who I know well and is a good boy but too talkative (it's divine retribution for my childhood, I realize), kept interrupting my conversation with the bishop's master of ceremonies; so I just turned to the boy -- really to all the servers -- and said, "we need SILENCE!" I explained it to the boy later.

So I had to do a quick rehearsal for the servers, assign their jobs, and -- here's the thing with a special liturgy -- I had to explain to them, not what's special but what's the same. I've seen where kids get thrown (adults too!) by something new; they don't draw on their usual "script" for Mass. So I find it helps to explain, "this is a regular Sunday Mass, with a few extra things. And for the few extra things, the MC will guide you." This usually works.

The MC did a good job; but of course he changed some of the things I told the kids. I'm not criticizing, just one more complication, unavoidable.

So . . . well, back to the rectory to explain to the priests how we'll distribute the Eucharist. You'd be surprised how much thought I had to give to choreographing just the movement of the priests to the altar, to receive their communion, and then begin distributing the Eucharist to the servers, to the MC (who I hope received communion -- he often gets left out), and to the two extraordinary ministers who assisted.

The priests didn't do exactly what I asked, but it worked pretty well. The only other glitch was mine: I went to the back, but forgot to tell the ushers I would do that; so they had folks come down from the balcony (I was going up there). Also, I should have made sure I had more hosts; I ran out and from the back, it's hard to get more. (We don't usually distribute the Eucharist from the back, except for a crowd, as in this case.) I looked to the front, and they were finished! So I said to the 5 or so folks who hadn't received -- follow me! I led a little procession to the front, I got a ciborium from the altar, and gave them communion. I fear some slipped back to their pews in the confusion, but what can I do?

Well, everything worked out -- although again, I forgot to get hymnals for the concelebrants, so a quick scramble at the beginning of Mass to get them books. I think we didn't begin on time, which I regret. (Oh, and did I mention the steeple clock was all goofed up because of the time change? Fortunately, the bells still rang the right time--they're on a separate clock!)

Oh, and because church was packed -- what a nice sight! -- the MC had to get some more bread to consecrate during the bishop's homily, but that worked out just fine.

Well, once the Mass was over, auxiliary Bishop Carl Moeddel -- God bless him! -- went back into church for individual pictures. Considering he's still recovering from some very serious health issues, that's very gracious of him. Bishop Moeddel is always gracious and easy-going. I recall in the seminary serving Mass for him, and I was the thurifer -- the "smoker" as I tell the kids. I came to him with the incense, and I couldn't open the thurible! I was mortified, I had no idea what to do (and it's not easy working with something filled with hot coals!). With a word and gesture, he indicated to whack it on the floor (which was terrazo, no carpet). That did it!

After Mass, I headed back to the rectory to assist the bishop, and the concelebrants as needed, then back to church to clean up, more running around, eventually, over to the school for the reception, which was mostly over (but I did get some cookies!); then I locked up most things (the retired priest helped, God bless him!); then I sat and chatted with a priest from a nearby parish about some other issues of concern, then walked home around 5-5:30. Arriving home, I found the message light blinking on my machine. Uh oh...

It was one of the PTO folks. "Father, one of the outside doors to school is unlocked." I'd missed one; so back to the school to lock up.

Finally, around 5:30, I was back, I'd exchanged my cassock for shorts and a golf shirt, feet up in the Lazy boy, and I didn't move much after that! Much later, I fixed myself some dinner and had a beer (well, two).

I'm not complaining; I was pretty happy with how confirmation went. I have some ideas for next year. One idea I had this year was to do a Litany of the Saints, as the general intercessions. Only odd thing was it followed the celebration of the sacrament, but that's where the intercession come in the liturgy. But I think it worked well, otherwise.

Oh, and in all this, some things got neglected.

This past Sunday being the anniversary of our late holy father's death, I'd liked to have made more of that. As it was, I mentioned it in the bulletin, and added a prayer for him at the end of the intercessions, at 4 pm Mass; I didn't, at 10, because of the scrutiny. The retired priest mentioned it at 11:30; I don't know what he did at 7.

I should have had a petition for the confirmandi, although we did that several times in the lead-up to this weekend. And, finally, I'd like to have highlighted the request, emanating from the bishop in Iraq, to fast today and tomorrow for that troubled country. Maybe you can appreciate why I didn't. (Sometimes folks say, "why didn't Father mention... at Mass?" You can see why...)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Don't wait! (3rd Scrutiny)

When Jesus tells Martha,
“everyone who lives
and believes in me will never die,”
He isn’t talking about
whether we experience death,
But about the power it has over us.

Do we fear death?

When my father who died last May at 97,
He had planned his funeral
years in advance.
He wasn’t afraid.

But sometimes I visit people,
they’re very sick,
it’s obvious death isn’t far away—
But no one will talk about it!

That only makes even more frightening.

Talk about this with your family,
before it’s too late.
And if you want my help? Let me know.

Death can frighten us;
but there is a power,
and a peace we can have,
in the face of death,
and it comes from Jesus Christ!

Look at the cross: everyone faces it.
No one escapes death.

But when we see Jesus on the cross—
We know we do not have to be alone.
When Jesus is at the center of our lives,
Why should we be afraid of death?

You heard it say, “Jesus wept.”
The Greek text is a lot stronger:
It says—this’ll surprise you:
He “snorted”—like a horse!

The idea is that he wasn’t just “sad”—
but frustrated,
Frustrated that Mary and Martha
were so focused
on the power of death,
that they didn’t realize His power.

Lazarus remained in the tomb four days.
Sometimes we wait and we grieve;
And we wonder,
“When will the Lord come?
What’s he waiting for?”

He can come and abolish death forever,
whenever he wants. And one day, he will.

We’d like it to be today.
We’d like that very much.

But that means no more chances
for people to recognize Jesus,
to turn to him for salvation.
They’d be out of luck—too late!

So, yes, Jesus waits. And we wait.

But we don’t have to wait to know him—
Not one minute, not one second.

Right now, right now!
you and I can know Jesus
the Source of Life.
I said a moment ago death
comes faster than we expect.

Why wait to know Jesus?
I don’t mean, know his Name—
I mean to know Him.

Why wait?
Invite him into your life;
receive His life into yours.

Let him call you out
of the tomb of your fears,
Let him untie the sins
the bind us hand and foot.

Why wait?
He’s calling you: from the tomb;
from darkness, from sin:
“Lazarus, come out!”

Saturday, April 01, 2006

John Paul II: we miss you!

I wasn't planning to make any comment tonight, but I chanced upon EWTN, and wondered, why is the holy father offering Mass in red? Then I realized -- it was the funeral of our previous holy father. And it all came back.

God willing, God will deign to raise our late, beloved pope to the glory of the altars, and soon we will acclaim him, Saint John Paul!

We miss you holy father!

God bless our pope, Benedict XVI!

(Credit to the photo goes to

The totality of the Eucharist (Sunday homily)

The prophet Jeremiah promises God
"will make a new covenant" with his People.

In the Old Testament,
God showed himself to humanity.
But that wasn’t enough.
God’s people said, "wow!"—
then went back to their old life.

The New Covenant is something a lot more:
Not just, God came near man, but God became man!

This points to what it means to be a Christian;
to become a "little Christ":
Someone in whom God has come to dwell!

Not, "God near" but God in us!

This is what begins with baptism;
this happens in all the sacraments.

This is why we fall to our knees
before the Eucharist:
God—Jesus Christ—
is present in a superlative way.
Notice what happens with the Eucharist:
Jesus Christ, fully present,
yet in the manner of food.

Why? Because of the very next step:
He wants not only to be near us, but in us!
Here’s a truly marvelous thing:
every other food, when we receive it,
is transformed into us.
The Eucharist is the only Food that,
in receiving, transforms us!

That’s what communion means!
Com-munion: "union with."

We Catholics do something
a lot of folks don’t understand:
We’re strict about communion.

Folks will say,
"why can’t I come? I’m a Christian."

I understand, but what kind of Christian?
To be a "little Christ"
is to be His kind of Christian:
Not Luther’s kind, not Willow Creek’s kind,
not Martin Fox’s kind, or yours, but: His kind!

So, how do we know what kind that is?
Christ established a Church,
and he is with His Church,
to show us, and to transform us!
Not God near us, but God in us!

The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity,
with Christ, and with his Church:
It’s a package deal.

Receiving the Eucharist at Mass
presupposes—and commits us to—
a way of believing and a way of living,
in union with his whole Church.

This is why I can’t receive
communion in another church:
it would be a false act of faith.
And it’s why we don’t invite
members of other bodies
to receive at this altar.

Saying this isn’t easy,
but you and I have to explain this
to folks when they come to Mass.
The priest can’t say it every time.

Some say,
"Oh, the differences aren’t so great."
First, that’s not true.
There are real differences.
The Eucharist is the obvious one:
we adore the Eucharist!
That’s not bread, not wine; that’s Christ!

And it’s not really my place to say,
to another Christian,
what’s special about your church is no big deal.
The differences matter;
and until we transcend them,
we aren’t fully one.

Now, some say,
I’m not formally a Catholic,
but I believe it all;
why can’t I receive the Eucharist?

The answer is, you can!
But: do it the right way.
Example: a man and a woman
live together, have a family,
but they never "formally"
commit themselves in marriage.
They say, "what’s the difference?"

The difference is shown
by what holds you back:
Something holds you back
from that final step of commitment.
And you can say its "nothing"—
but then why does it hold you back?

Whatever it is, that’s the difference:
Holding-back is not union-with.

And, by the way, in those six words,
you have the Church’s teaching
on sex before marriage,
and on contraception, in a nutshell:
holding-back is not union-with.
The Eucharist is union-with: total commitment!

That means with Christ, and with his Church.
It’s a package deal!

So this applies to Catholics, too:
If we have a serious sin in our life,
or for some reason, can’t commit ourselves
to everything the Church teaches,
that’s holding-back, not union-with.

The 2nd Vatican Council reminded us that
while Christ’s presence
is greatest in the Eucharist,
that’s not his only presence:
he’s in his Church, too.

And that is the greater leap of faith.

To see Christ in the Eucharist is easy,
compared to seeing Him,
and hearing him, in his Church.

There are teachings
we don’t understand or accept:
respecting life at the beginning and end;
marriage: who can enter it, can we leave it?
who can be ordained . . .

To hear Christ teaching us,
through bishops and priests,
with all our flaws and sins?
That is a far greater act of faith.

But that’s what he said he would do.
It’s a package-deal.

The same Holy Spirit
who acts through a priest,
to turn bread and wine into Jesus Christ,
acts through the Church,
to teach and sanctify us,
to turn us into "little Christs."

This is the new covenant Jeremiah promised.

It’s about total conversion.
The Eucharist is total conversion.
That’s how it becomes the Eucharist,
and that’s the essential reason
to receive the Eucharist:
total conversion. Nothing less will do.