Thursday, June 29, 2006

A detour to an empty field in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, as I considered my route back home to Ohio from Washington, D.C., I remembered: there was a special site, somewhere in Pennsylvania--was it near I-70? I checked, and indeed it was: Shanksville, Pennsylvania, not too far off the path I would take home.

Do you recall that name? Does it sound vaguely familiar? I wager so: that is where United Airlines Flight 93 plummeted to earth, as a group of "hell, no, we're not going to take it anymore" Americans rose up against the terrorists on September 11 (yes, that September 11) and fought back.

So, as I departed northern Virginia, I dithered about whether I would get off the Pennsylvania Turnpike for this visit. "It will take too long," I thought; "I can do it the next time through," I rationalized. Then came a firm response: "No, I may never do it. This is the time; I am in no hurry; I am not due back for another it now!"

So, I got off the exit before, and made the turns necessary, going from an interstate, to an old, bypassed federal route, to a sudden turnoff onto a county road, through the heart of Shanksville, a small town--it looked to be a pleasant place to live, one of at least 100,000 such towns across this country that makes one remember how decent and sturdy our people really are; and a town that no one ever would have heard of but for this--a "fame" that I suspect hangs uneasily on the good people of this town.

Through the town, I headed up another road--there were signs directing me to the "temporary memorial." One sign was hand-made; I suspect the locals grew weary of the questions from visitors like me, I don't blame them. Another turn, down a simple road, with broad fields on either side.

The fields had once been hills, full of coal--this was strip-mining country. Whatever one thinks of that, the land seemed healed and peaceful, devoted to farming now.

Then I found the site. Hastily paved parking suggested a steady stream, which I saw as I lingered there. A bus full of "plain folks"--Amish, or Mennonites, I mean--pulled up after me. I confess I spent part of my time studying them, too. "It is rude to stare," the voice of my mother echoed in my head; but it was no insult.

There is a large "wall" erected: a section of fence, really,where people have left personal articles and tributes. Plaques, notes, small rocks with messages painted, sat at the base; articles of clothing (!), especially golf hats, with messages written on them. Also, a good representation of rosaries, medals, images of Mary and the saints, and also angels. And, of course, many flags.

On the periphery were a number of stone plaques, which seemed to be sent in from folks--one was from Guatemala!

Most interesting was the graffiti! A section of guardrail stood to one side; and folks had covered it with the most reverent graffiti I've ever seen: prayers and good wishes from visitors, honoring those who died in Flight 93, their families, and our nation. Reading these messages, and examining all that people had left--seemingly everywhere!--was strangely compelling. This was the cumulative tribute of an untold, unregulated number of people, mostly Americans, who passed this way. It said so much about those people.

One thing it said was that we are a Christian people. Very little would have been left if all the tributes involving Christian symbols or belief were removed. A large, simple cross had been erected there.

After I had surveyed all this, I scanned the surrounding fields--where had these brave men and women met their end?

About this time, the group of Mennonites sat down on benches inscribed with the names of the fallen, and, I guess I'd call her--stepped out front and gave a simple explanation of all we saw. She pointed out the location, in the fields in front of us, where the airplane slammed into the ground, at over 500 miles per hour, igniting a fire consuming many of the trees. The guide pointed out a grass-covered mound. The government had mulched the trees destroyed by the crash, placed that mound where the plane had crashed. All the debris from the crash had been removed; no one was allowed to walk on the site but the family of those who died.

A more permanent memorial is in the works, with all the trees and walks and suchlike that you would expect. It will be very pleasant, and expansive. It is slated for completion by 2011.

I don't know when, or if, I will pass that way again; but I was deeply moved by my visit to the memorial I found there.

Habeo Internetum

I arrived home last night around 6:30, and figured I'd get caught up on email; only no Internet at home. I checked the modem -- it had but one light showing, the bottom one. I unplugged and replugged it; it would light up properly, then as I sat down, all the lights would go out again, except for the bottom one. "Oh no," I thought; "a storm fried my modem while I was away."

So, this morning, I called the cable company. The tech asked, "which light is it?" Now in daylight, I got down on the floor, and read it: "standby." "Oh, that's easy," she said--there's a button on top--press that button." Everything light up properly! Turns out "standby" is there if I want to shut down access, or something like that. "Someone must have hit that button accidentally." (Probably me!)

Maybe I really have killed too many brain cells drinking beer all these years...

Verdict is in...the pig will die!

What a heartless bunch you are! "Kill the the bacon!" was the message over and over.

Acceding to the vox populi, great Caesar likewise gives a thumbs down. The pig will be dispatched, with due ceremony (i.e., none) at noon, unless I get bored and do it early.

The "last meal" will be apples for the pig; bacon and eggs for me!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Living la Vida Starbucks

Anyone who travels--particularly on business--knows one often has time to kill; back when I worked in politics, I would check out of my hotel, have a meeting or two, but have time either before or after the meeting, before I needed to arrive at the airport. And as business travelers know, the airport is seldom a pleasant place to wait. Sometimes there isn't time for sightseeing or a movie; so one finds a comfortable place to relax, do work, or simply reflect.

Again, back in the day, I found bookstores that helpfully provide comfortable chairs, as well as coffee shops such as Starbucks, suitable for this. Especially on weekdays, the upholstered chairs tend to be available, and the environment is not too noisy.

And, of course, I do like to visit a bookstore and browse and read (basically, I can read a good deal for free!), and to get a really good cup of coffee, albeit rather pricey.

One of the amusing things about Starbucks is listening to the patter as the barrista calls out the completed "drink order" (I want to say, "no, I don't want a 'drink'--I want a coffee."): "no-room double-chai half-soy, half-decaf iced venti Cappuchino" and suchlike. Every once in a while, when there isn't a line of impatient commuters behind me, I enjoy the bemused reaction when I follow the lead of the "menu board" and use Italian: "Vorrei venti Americano, negro, per favore!"; "si, grazie!" "prego!"

Well, as you must have guessed by now, that is where I am at present, enjoying the last of an iced coffee--oh, sorry: "iced venti no-room Americano!" As you may have heard, we've had heavy rain in D.C. the past few days, with cloudbursts coming suddenly; so walking about sightseeing holds little attraction.

Some may accuse me of "going over to the Dark Side," by frequenting Starbucks; "you should go to a local, independent place!" Well, two problems; first, one never knows what one will get at those local places, and I've found that while the coffee is usually as good, sometimes it's even higher-priced! Second, there is the problem of finding those places. As it is, visiting northern Virginia involves quite enough driving when I know where I'm going; I don't relish more. It's the same thing that propelled McDonalds to world-supremacy: travelers who want to find a familiar place, with consistent quality, wherever they go.

When you get a Starbucks and a bookstore together, all you really need is a dormitory somewhere in the back, and one could just move in!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Will the pig live or die?

Well, I'm still in the D.C. area; after finishing up the colloquium at Catholic University, with a marvelous Mass at the Franciscan Monastery, I drove one of the participants over to Reagan National Airport, then hung out in northern Virginia; I'm staying with some priests here till Wednesday morning.

Free hotspots are hard to find here; as it is, last night, I was at what must be the only place in NoVa where I couldn't get a cell phone signal! So I'm at La Madaleine in Bailey's Crossroads, using a tmobile "day pass." By the way, La Madaleine is, in my opinion, the best place for breakfast; unless you must have either pancakes, biscuits or huevos rancheros; because you can get either very good breads and pastries, or a good "American breakfast": scrambled eggs, bacon, and a croissant(!). The coffee is very good, and the cup is bottomless; plus they put out free bread, butter and jam! Also, here at Bailey's Crossroads, there is a Border's Books next store (that's where the tmobile signal is coming from, actually). In nice weather, one can sit outside.

So anyway, I'm here for a few more days, to catch up with some friends, then back home.

I checked my "sitemeter" to see what traffic has been like here the past few days; apparently, I'm boring you.

So I have a surefire gimmick--a reader survey! (But a low-tech one; I have no idea how to set up something fancy.)

You are asked to make a life-or-death decision.

Scroll down the page--do you see the pig in the box below?

I put that on my web page maybe a month or so ago, after my youth minister showed me the source of such "pets." Well, I'm bored with "Cincinnatus," and perhaps you are too...

So, you decide: shall the pig live or die?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Making progress at the colloquium

We've been marching through gregorian chant and polyphony this week, with our patient instructors maintaining good cheer at all times; and I can imagine them saying, a la Professor Higgins: "By George, I think they've got it! I think they've really got it!" (Replace a British with a German accent, and you have our consistently humorous choir director.)

I am sorry not to have posted on Friday; however, I somehow posted Thursday's twice, so you'll have to take that as consolation.

As mentioned, each day we've been practicing polyphony--that is, multi-part music--and chant. The polyphonous music has been the ordinary prayers of the Mass: the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. There is some controversy in liturgy-nerd circles about whether one should have such music at Mass, as it means the assembly is not singing these. Well, there is a lot to be said on that, and anyone who wants to can quote relevant documents in the comments.

But I would say this: first, as one of our speakers pointed out, one can have these prayers sung by everyone almost all Sundays, and have these pieces for special occasions. Second, it's not totally true that the assembly can't participate; for one, they participate by being blessed and moved by the beauty and content of the prayer; and two, when what is prayed is a familiar prayer, they can more easily pray along than when it is a one-time piece.

We've also been learning gregorian chant, something I only had an introduction to in the seminary. This is something that can be more accessible, especially simpler chants, and when the same settings are used over and over, folks can learn them. (By the way, does anyone know if there's any progress in setting more English texts to gregorian-style chant? This has all been Latin.)

Well, I missed yesterday morning's practice; I was preparing for Mass, as I rashly volunteered to be celebrant, then realized, "I will hardly have a more discriminating assembly for which to offer Mass! Oh my!" Then, I figured, "it's a win-win: either I'll do well, or they'll never ask me to do it again!"

Anyway, we sung almost everything. The only things we didn't sing were the readings, (which were sung at some of the Masses), the entirety of the petitions (I sang the intro and conclusion of them, and the cantor sang the "we pray to the Lord" and the assembly the response--in four-part harmony!), parts of the Eucharistic prayer (actually, I chant the entire Eucharistic Prayer fairly often, but our leader, Father Skeris, suggested doing it this way)--i.e., from the epiclesis to the end of the "offering" (which comes right after the "memorial acclamation"). And I recited the prayer that begins "Lord Jesus Christ..."; I could have chanted it, but I didn't know a chant for the Peace that follows, so I thought it would be a little clunky. And I recited the "This is the Lamb of God"--actually, I believe its been recited by everyone this week. Maybe next year, I'll come back and really dazzle 'em and sing that!

Meanwhile, I had several parts I sang that I don't usually sing, and I needed to get those right: an intro to a Gloria that was new to me, and the Credo. Both in Latina, of course. Most of what I prayed was in English, with some in Latin.

But I have to say, it was awesome! We had Mass in the Holy Rosary chapel at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and with all it's stone-faced walls, the sound blossomed. One of the attendees stepped out into the main body of the church, and said the music went everywhere.

There was no homily, and one regret was no incense! Probably that was not an option in that situation; too bad, I'd've smoked 'em up!

However, being a pastor, I did make an adaptation: as there was a plenary indulgence associated with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, I thought, I really should enable the folks to receive that. Well, it involves praying an act of reparation. I found the text online, and I started to copy it out, longhand, and then thought, "this is crazy--there's got to be a way to get this printed out." Some folks in the music department helped me out, and we had handouts for immediately after Mass.

Well, once Mass was over, Father was tired; but it was a joy. The rest of the day was more chant practice, a lecture on liturgical theology, and after dinner, a lecture on the nature of chant as it pertains to the sacred liturgy, then a nice wine-and-cheese gathering.

Today, we had briefer rehearsals before Mass at the Franciscan Monastery here in D.C., that is a hidden gem of the U.S. capital. Father Robert Skeris had the Mass, and we did mostly chant; it was very nice. He got incense; that's what you get when you're in charge, I guess! Then a nice lunch, rest of the day free.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A break in the action

Well, we have been so hard at work at the Musica Sacra colloquium that we saw nothing of the comings or goings of the prelates and potentates at the installation/enthronement of the new Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. No, we have had our faces buried in our Liberes Cantualis (correct Latin?) and sheets of polyphony all day, pausing only for a beautiful Missa defunctis tota cantata.

One might wonder, why do we do this? I confess, this is even harder than I thought it would be, and it is tempting to do as many priests do, and say, "I've got so many other things to do, I just won't be any good at this, so why bother?"

But I believe the liturgy deserves our very best. I believe we are constantly tempted to forget, or lose touch with, the transcendent, throughout our lives, including in our worship. My lay brothers and sisters, correct me if I am wrong, but lay folks coming to Mass on Sundays and holy days, are even more hard-pressed to touch heaven. If we do not do all that we reasonably may to foster a truly other-worldly experience of Mass, we who are charged with this duty--meaning clergy, and all those who take special roles in liturgy--are failing the people we claim to serve.

Also, we do this because we have a great treasure, an inaestimabilum donum in the music and prayers and liturgy of the Church, and we must share it! Recall the parable of the man who built great storehouses for his grain, and the Lord said, "thou fool, this very night your life will be required of you!" It is rather presumptuous to say, "oh, they won't want it"; really, how do you know; and further, is it really for you to say?

There is a sobriety to the Roman liturgy, but in recent decades, that has become aridity. People flock to music stores to buy cds of chant--what does that say?

A break in the action

Well, we have been so hard at work at the Musica Sacra colloquium that we saw nothing of the comings or goings of the prelates and potentates at the installation/enthronement of the new Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. No, we have had our faces buried in our Liberes Cantualis (correct Latin?) and sheets of polyphony all day, pausing only for a beautiful Missa defunctis tota cantata.

One might wonder, why do we do this? I confess, this is even harder than I thought it would be, and it is tempting to do as many priests do, and say, "I've got so many other things to do, I just won't be any good at this, so why bother?"

But I believe the liturgy deserves our very best. I believe we are constantly tempted to forget, or lose touch with, the transcendent, throughout our lives, including in our worship. My lay brothers and sisters, correct me if I am wrong, but lay folks coming to Mass on Sundays and holy days, are even more hard-pressed to touch heaven. If we do not do all that we reasonably may to foster a truly other-worldly experience of Mass, we who are charged with this duty--meaning clergy, and all those who take special roles in liturgy--are failing the people we claim to serve.

Also, we do this because we have a great treasure, an inaestimabilum donum in the music and prayers and liturgy of the Church, and we must share it! Recall the parable of the man who built great storehouses for his grain, and the Lord said, "thou fool, this very night your life will be required of you!" It is rather presumptuous to say, "oh, they won't want it"; really, how do you know; and further, is it really for you to say?

There is a sobriety to the Roman liturgy, but in recent decades, that has become aridity. People flock to music stores to buy cds of chant--what does that say?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Singing well is hard work!

Well, another day of the colloquium is nearing an end. We practiced polyphony this morning, had Mass, then after lunch, practiced Gregorian chant. I'm worn out! In a few moments, there will be a lecture by Father Skeris, followed by dinner. However, I confess I will skip out on dinner, and join a friend in attending an O's game. I'm sure they'll be really impressed when I use the Solemnes method to chant the National Anthem.

But the question on everyone's mind is: where's Father Jim Tucker, of Dappled Things? He promoted this event, and lives just across the Potomac in the Arlington Diocese. Surely it is not true that he is overwhelmed by the prodigious talent on display here? We were looking forward to his musical stylings, said to be "unique." Perhaps when he heard this event was in "the nation's capital, he headed south on I-95, and is wandering, confused, about Richmond? If you see him there, please send him on his way back north.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

End of first day of the colloquium

Well, the hallowed halls of Catholic University of America have survived my musical stylings, such as they are. After a very pleasant meal with enjoyable conversation, we retired to a music room and set to work.

A thick package of music with a frightening number of notes was passed out to us, one of which has an even more frightening title: Anima mea liquefacta est -- that sounds like a Latin version of what the Wicked Witch of West said in her final scene; but then, I goofed off in Latin.

Well, we didn't start with that ominous piece, but with something simple, O Sacram Conviviam. And I was all ready for us to practice each part--oh no! We started right in, all four parts! Everyone is singing beautifully, and there I am, "humuna-humuna-humuna." A congenial Dominican sidles up to me, and whispers, "I'll follow you!" Poor man! I'm trying to follow the other basses, and enunciate the Latin, and keep the time (did I mention I'm lousy at keeping time?). So I sang really low; and the Dominican kept scooting closer, and closer. Poor man! Well, he got wise after awhile, and leaned over to the fellow on his right! Well, it's true what they say about Dominicans; they are smart!

Anyway, I wasn't the only one who was in over his head; but I am proud to say I aced the warm-up exercises! Woohoo!

The main thing, for me, is the chant, which we'll begin tomorrow. God willing, I won't embarrass myself too badly then. But everyone is very congenial, and there is a lot of talent here; but I do feel like the country bumpkin when someone asks me about the fourth movement of Stravinsky's Requiem -- I just respond, "Oh, that Stravinsky--the pain in his life really gave depth to his music!" That's really safe in almost any discussion of music you don't know beans about; and then you can shut up as the other person expands on that.

Well, I have to be careful what I say, because at least six people here -- out of, I dunno, 40-50 attendees?--have already told me they read my blog. So I really have to watch it.

No, there's no need; everyone here is very talented, and very passionate about the sacred liturgy, and that is enjoyable. As predicted earlier, I do have any number of bad habits of breathing and intonation, that will be the devil to break, but then, I'm a parish priest -- this is what we do.

Arrival at Musica Sacra Colloquium in D.C.

I had a nice drive up from Va Beach today; took my time, and stopped along the way to pick up a few items at Old Navy.

Was moving along on I-395, expecting to arrive even before check-in began at 2; then I hit a terrible back up on 395, just after the exit to the House of Representatives. All due to construction on New York Avenue. I don't know what a good alternate route would be, but 395 will be a mess as long as that construction goes on.

I had a brief conversation with Fr. Skeris, who directed me toward the check-in location. The irritatingly young-looking but very helpful students there directed me to my accommodations in Reardon Hall, where I am cooling off for a few minutes before I go retreive more stuff from my car.

Now, some folks have the idea that I am "living it up" on my vacation; and I have had a good time. But let me describe my accommodations: I'm in a college dorm. If that doesn't explain everything, let me describe the room. It is 15' x 10' or thereabouts, painted cement-block walls, with nothing on them. The doors are metal, painted a lovely shade of light olive-drab, accented by battleship grey. There are two beds, two small bureaus, two desks, and two chairs. Each room houses two people (although, judging by the quantity of linens left for me, I think I will not have a roommate); and two rooms share a bathroom, although each has a sink.

No complaints; it's clean and I expect it will be very quiet, and the a/c is icey cold. Oh, and they have wi-fi, which is handy.

The plan for this colloquium is for everyone to learn more chant and polyphony; I hope they aren't expecting great things of me, although Father Skeris, full of hope, asked me to be celebrant at Mass later this week, and sing a lot of it. Well, it'll be a win-win: either I'll do well, or they'll never ask me to do it again! But I will make a game effort. (Realize, as a parish priest, you are the only priest at 99% of all Masses you celebrate; and almost never is someone around who can give you helpful tips on your celebrating/singing methods. Result: you can become rather confirmed in bad and sloppy habits, which you don't know about until you come to something such as this.)

So we're supposed to gather for dinner later, then some talk, and I assume some explanation of where we go to participate in our choirs and such. This may end up being quite a bit of work, but that's fine.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Oh I forgot about Fr. Bill!

I really shouldn't try to do posts on two topics; this isn't the first time I got all caught up in the first, and forgot about the second!

After seeing the movie, I came back to where I'm staying, to join the two priests here for dinner. Father Bill was celebrating 45 years a priest! So he invited me, and the other priest, out to dinner. We went to a place called "Mama Rosa's," and I have to say it was the best Vitella Franchese I've had in a while. I was skeptical when it came with mushrooms--I thought, oh no, not Marsala!--but no, it was just what I'd expected, and very good.

Fathers Bill and Jerry and I had a very enjoyable evening. They were intrigued that I had worked in politics, and we talked about my parish, and their work--they belong to an order, and aren't parish priests--and I got a kick out of being "the young guy"--they each had about 30 years on me! They'd spent many years in missionary work, and told me about that.

Fr. Bill, despite the occasion, didn't care to have any wine, but he did have dessert; the waitress brought him a double slice of carrot cake! (And he loved it!) I ordered something called "Creamsicle cake," and was a little doubtful it would be as good as billed, but it was! A triumph of hope over experience!

Now you see why I was going to tack this on to the X-Men review; it isn't that good a story!

X-Men, dinner with Fr. Bill

I forgot to report, for those who hang on every detail of my life (please seek therapy immediately!), that I saw X-Men: The Last Stand on Sunday afternoon. (Memo to self: avoid seeing movies on weekends; that's when parents can bring their little ones. See them during work hours.)

Warning to those who do not want to have their experience of the movie spoiled. Stop reading now.

Ok--you were warned!

The movie was fun to watch--I mean, who goes to a movie like this, not knowing exactly what to expect? A comic book come to life, superheroes and -villains, lots of special effects and car crashes, buildings blowing up,
the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed (don't whine! I told you to stop reading two paragraphs back!)...again: what's not to like?

The key to the plot is, of course, the "cure" to mutation. And the obvious parallel everyone is noticing is with homosexuality. So I can imagine there are folks who point to this movie as a clever story exposing the evil of trying to cure homosexual orientation.

Only that won't work. The movie makes clear that while some mutations are weird, but innocuous, others are frightening for good reason. One particular mutant is so powerful she seems to have the ability to destroy pretty much everything. I mean, everything. Tell me again why the non-mutants are mean and narrow-minded because that frightens them? I think homosexual activists don't want to hitch their wagon to that star.

Meanwhile, there are some other odd parallels with Christianity. There is one great confrontation between Charles Xavier (which he, with astonishing ineptitude, pronounces "X-xavier"--all to get that "X" in there) and Jean Grey. Xavier represents as much good as comes in the movie; Jean, at that point, represents a soul in torment, under the power of something very evil. And to everyone's astonishment and sorrow, Xavier dies, trying to save Jean. Was I the only one who thought it was sort of Christlike?

So one might expect that Jean would come back to the side of light; didn't happen. She walks off with Magneto, the villain.

Later, the everyman, bad-guy hero, Wolverine, has a confrontation with Jean. He's facing death, and she asks, "are you willing to die for them?" "No, for you!" And I thought, "wow, now that's a Christ-echo, isn't it?" Then she says, "Save me!" So you know what's gonna happen, right?

Only that's not what happens; instead, he shoots out his metal spikes and kills her! He didn't die at all!

Shortly thereafter, you see a graveyard, and the grave markers of our heroes who died; and the camera focuses on the symbol at the top: not a cross, as you would usually see, but an "x." (Yes, I am well aware of the Christian meaning of the "x." I can't be sure, but I think that is not the meaning here.) I don't know about you, but that was a little creepy. My thought was not, "that's a 'Christ-echo," but: "that's an antichrist echo!"

Anyone else have a similar reaction?

Now, before folks get all excited, I do not mean to suggest this is all sinister and spooky; five'll-get-you-ten the makers of the movie didn't have all that in mind. or even if they did, they didn't know what they were dealing with.

Mainly, it's a fun movie; and insofar as it really did a good job highlighting the frightening consequences of the mutations, rather than simply go for the cheap, "why can't we all get along" sentiment, it was rather impressive; I don't believe the movie makers really were making a point about homosexuality, because if they were, they'd get run out of Hollywood on a rail if anyone gave a little thought to what they really said, in that case.

Well, the remaining cinematic question is, shall I go see Nacho Libre?

Eating, Drinking & Blogging in Hampton Virginia

I'm blogging from a friendly restaurant and bar called "Marker 20" in downtown Hampton, Virginia, drinking good beer and eating tasty things: first I had some oysters (raw, of course!); they were good, but the cocktail sauce should be introduced to some horseradish; now I'm having something called "Fiery Tuna bites": chunks of tuna, cooked as you like, coated in a nice pepper sauce, served with bleu cheese dressing and celery -- for Jessica Simpson: Tuna Wings! (I have to say, these are good!

Normally I don't bring my laptop out with me; that sort of thing doesn't appeal to me. But when I'm traveling, this is something I need to do if I want to check my email.

Today was beach day; whenever I go to the beach, it's a huge production: I have to lay on the sunscreen pretty thick. As it was, I forgot to bring a hat, and I'm afraid the hair is getting thin. So as it was, I only spent a couple of hours in the sun; part of the time, I sat under the pier (free!) and watched the world go by, and watched the ocean futilely assault the continent.

Tonight, I was going to see the local minor league Tides, but my friend got delayed on his flight back, and we called it off. Tomorrow, I head up to D.C. for the musicam sacram colloquium.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lauda, Sion

Sorry, no homily today, as I celebrated Mass with the Lord and the saints in eternity only today.

It is restful to be able to celebrate Mass "privately," but I must say, I prefer to have Mass cum populo.

I offered Mass today for the people of my parish, living and deceased.

In lieu of a homily, here's the sequence for this feast, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas. As it is optional, I imagine few have heard it in a celebration of the current rite of the Mass.

Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem,
Lauda ducem et pastorem
In hymnis et canticis.
Quantum poses, tantum aude:
Quia major omni laude
Nec laudare sufficis.

Laudis thema specialis,
Panis vivus et vitalis
Hodie proponitur;
Quem in sacrae mensa coenae
Turbae fratrum duodenae
Datum non ambigitur.

Sit laus plena, sit sonora,
Sit iucunda, sit decora
Mentis iubilatio.
Dies enim solemnis agitur,
In qua mensae prima recolitur
Huius institutio.

In hac mensa novi Regis
Novum Pascha novae legis
Phase vetus terminat.
Vetustatem novitas,
Umbram fugat veritas,
Noctem lux eliminat.

Quod in coena Christus gessit,
Faciendum hoc expressit
In sui memoriam
Docti sacris institutis,
Panem, vinum in salutis
Consecramus hostiam.

Dogma datur Christianis,
Quod in carnem transit panis
Et vinum in sanguinem.
Quod non capis, quod non vides,
Animosa firmat fides
Praeter rerum ordinem.

Sub diversis speciebus,
Signis tantum, et non rebus,
Latent res eximiae:
Caro cibus, sanguis potus;
Manet tamen Christus totus
Sub utraque specie.

A sumente non concisus,
Non confractus, non divisus
Integer accipitur.
Sumit unus, sumunt mille;
Quantum isti, tantum ille:
Nec sumptus consumitur.

Sumunt boni, sumunt mali:
Sorte tamen inaequali,
Vitae vel interitus.
Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide, paris sumptionis
Quam sit dispar exitus.

Fracto demum Sacramento,
Ne vacilles, sed memento,
Tantam esse sub fragmento,
Quantum toto tegitur.
Nulla rei fit scissura,
Signi tantum fit fractura,
Qua nec status nec statura
Signati minuitur.

Ecce panis Angelorum,
Factus cibus viatorum,
Vere panis filiorum,
Non mittendus canibus.
In figuris praesignatur,
Cum Isaac immolatur;
Agnus Paschae deputatur,
Datur manna patribus.

Bone Pastor, panis vere,
Jesu, nostri miserere,
Tu nos pasce, nos tuere,
Tu nos bona fac videre,
In terra viventium.
Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales,
Qui nos pascis hic mortales,
Tuos ibi commensales,
Cohaeredes et sodales,
Fac sanctorum civium.
Amen. Alleluia.

(To hear a MIDI of the tune, and to see an English translation, go to Traditional Catholic Hymns.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wayne Grudem's not-very-Systematic Theology

Due to my misfortune yesterday with my tire, this morning I was back at the car place, getting the tire fixed and having the mechanic redo the lug nuts, which were excessively tight. So I spent another morning lounging at the bookstore, over coffee and a roll (sigh!). This morning, after reading the paper, I picked up a book called Systematic Theology by Dr. Wayne Gruden (click on headline for particulars).

This is a 1994 book, and as I suspected, it serves as a textbook in Protestant seminaries (see reviews at Amazon, where posters say they used it as such). I find it worthwhile to see how Evangelicals "do" theology.

I won't attempt to evaluate how well Dr. Grudem tackles specifically Evangelical and Reformed topics, which clearly was his focus. But of course I was interested in (a) how he handles specifically Catholic matters and (b) how he might tap into Catholic sources for areas of agreement.

I am sorry to report that I found little of the latter; very little mention or citation of specifically Catholic material came except where he found fault with it, although he did make a point to say he would reference, in each chapter where possible, two Catholic treatments of the subjects.

As far as his treatment of areas of disagreement, I think Dr. Grudem should be embarrassed. If he was going to deal with Catholic teachings, he ought to do a better job.

His choices of Catholic sources were curious, although not indefensible. For "traditional," he cited Ludwig Ott; for "since Vatican II," he cited Richard McBrien. Now, I don't recall just when McBrien's Catholicism was deemed unacceptable by the bishops, so Dr. Grudem may not have been aware of that. Only Father McBrien's most extreme critics would say he doesn't get everything right; indeed, it was a couple of key areas where he fell short, suggesting the rest of his work was competent (I don't use McBrien; why should I?). Also, in fairness to Dr. Grudem, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was just then coming out, so he may not have realized what a goldmine that would have been, or had access to it in English.

I won't quarrel with citing Ott, although I am not very familiar with him, I know that he enjoys a good reputation; he wrote his work in German, however, and translations naturally vary.

What is puzzling, of course, for a Catholic is why so slender a selection of Catholic sources? I can sympathize with Dr. Grudem, or anyone in his position, trying to decide what Catholic sources to consult! He wasn't presenting a Catholic systematic theology; but by his own admission, he said the reason he included Catholic sources at all was because of how influential Catholic teaching is! (Now there's an understatement vis-a-vis Christian theology!) For example: Aquinas does not appear in his index!

Then, it dawned on me: each of the "schools" or "traditions" he cited, with sources, represents a movement identified with either one, principal figure, or a handful: Calvinism, Lutheranism, Dispensationalism, Pentecostalism (the possible exception would be Anglicanism, but even there, that's a much narrower movement, in terms of its specifically Anglican content).

But even that isn't the worst of it; Dr. Grudem proceeds to embarrass himself in how he deals with those specifically Catholic issues.

He talks about the questions of the canon of Scripture, without noting the evidence of what the Church in Rome, and the Churches of North Africa, had to say on the subject in the late 300s; nor does he note what J.I. Packer noted in his The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?" -- that the early Church so made the Greek Old Testament (which contained the OT books disputed by Protestants) its own, that the Jews of the time adopted a new canon in distinction from that of the Christians!

His treatment of Catholic understanding of justification and grace isn't too bad; he repeats the canard about the grace of Christ not being sufficient (why can't someone of his learning understand that Catholics teach and believe that anything that happens in a Catholic's life, to help his salvation, is a fruit of Christ's coming, dying, and rising for our salvation? There is no other source but Christ!), and he repeats the canard about the Mass "repeating" Christ's sacrifice, even after he quotes Ott saying the Mass is "identical with" Christ's sacrifice! His most embarrassing error comes in treating venial and mortal sin: he actually claims mortal sins are those which can't be forgiven!

It is discouraging to think that many Evangelical pastors' understanding of Catholic teaching relies on something like this. It shouldn't in any case; but I rather suspect it does. After all, the book is called Systematic Theology.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Evangelicals attempt the Eucharist

While at the bookstore, I picked up a book to look at called, In remembrance of Me: A Manual on Observing the Lord's Supper, by Jim Henry. I figured this represented an "Evangelical" take on the subject, and I was curious; although when I realized he was former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, his approach was no surprise.

As a rule, I don't offer much criticism of other Christian bodies; not because I don't see the differences, and their importance, but because I just don't care to do that. Its easy to take shots, and I doubt my critiquing other religious bodies does much to win them to the Catholic Faith. So what follows I do not mean to be criticism, or worse, mockery.

Mr. Henry starts out by acknowledging something interesting -- something I had felt during my years as an Evangelical -- that there is something odd about celebrating the Lord's Supper so infrequently. Now, my guess is that was to cut a wide path away from the Catholics, and the Catholic-like churches, but I really don't know. For whatever reason -- I will put it down to an irenic spirit -- Mr. Henry does not get into all that. And he says, as a pastor, he felt he should have communion more often.

Then he gives a rather brief "theology" of the Lord's Supper; I note the brevity, considering the way he emphasizes the importance of this "symbol." Here again, I note he avoids getting into polemics, although he acknowledges how "some Christians" believe it is a sacrament, but others -- for whom he spoke -- did not. He managed to sneak in a quote by St. Augustine, which takes a certain amount of brass, but I think Mr. Henry meant well! (And in fairness, many Protestants believe Augustine would agree with them on these things, rather than the Catholic Church; of course, I disagree!)

So then he talks about the basics, and describes the standard way Evangelicals usually celebrate communion: with trays of pieces of bread and little cups of grape juice, either passed down the aisles, or at stations where you can go. The point of his book, of course, is to make it easy for other Evangelical pastors to do as he has done, and emphasize communion more.

The latter half of his short book has a series of plans for communion services; and this is what I found interesting: the need (so it appeared), to "jazz up" the communion service, to make it "relevant," if it was going to be offered a lot more frequently. (FYI, his more frequent was to go from quarterly to once a month; when I was in the Assemblies of God, they did it every month.) I sympathize with him; the basic service he described was so sparse (and so it was in my Evangelical days) that it did seem unable to bear the "great" symbolic weight he argues it has.

(I wondered if he'd do any borrowing from Catholic ritual; he did not, which I think was right. He did, however, borrow what I think was something Anglican, although he didn't say so. Actually, each of his plans was submitted by various pastors, so that one was probably from a "low Anglican.")

But here is what I found really interesting: several times, it seemed as if there was a lot of effort, in the plans, to "bring it alive" and "give it meaning": "pass out nails to people," or this one -- this'll have you drop out of your Lazyboy: "have someone dressed as the Lord enter the church, walk around, touch people on the shoulder, and then leave, silently"!*

Did you react as I did? I was thinking, "this guy wants to make Jesus present!"

My other thought, a little more polemical, was: "okay, you want to prepare a 'manual' for celebrating the Eucharist (he used the word) -- why not see if such things already exist? Why not find out how the early Church did it . . ."

Well, I can easily speculate, but I would rather not; by why not look at St. Justin Martyr and the Didache? I don't assume he doesn't know about them; and I assume the man has decided these things are not inconsistent with his Baptist beliefs . . . anyway, it was curious.

*My quotes are from memory, and approximate, to be fair to him.)

A change in plans . . .

I was headed out to get something to eat, and see "X Men III," but alas, one of my tires was flat! So I'm back inside, awaiting AAA to show up.

You may wonder what things I did today: I found a place to get my oil changed; had them rotate the tires and flush the coolant while they were at it; I hung out at the bookstore, prayed my office, had coffee and a roll; got a haircut, and chatted with a couple of boys waiting in the barbershop.

The first boy wanted to know about my breviary: "Is that a Bible book?" I nodded; "you read that whole thing?" Yep; "What are the ribbons for?" for marking my place; and so it went. As this boy's younger brother went to get his haircut, another parent came in, with two more boys; after the second brother went for his haircut, one of the new arrivals decided to chat: "are you ____ (last boy)'s father?" No; "Why not?" This latter boy's father grinned, as I did; "well, um, because I'm not" . . . the boy paused for awhile, then asked, "well, could you be _____'s father?" This boy's father laughed as I said, "um, well, uh . . . I guess it's possible, but not very likely..." And so it went.

After lounging around the afternoon, I was going to head out, as I said, for a movie, but now I must await AAA . . .

Arrived safe in the Old Dominion

Well, I'm sitting at a very pleasant retreat house in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, looking out on a splendid day, the Chesapeake Bay just a few miles away.

I arrived last night around 6:30, driving 620 miles from Piqua, having left at 9. (If you're doing the arithmetic, as I do, that's an average speed of 65 mph, including two stops). Ah, I love West Virginia's enlightened policy about speed limits! Also, a beautiful drive, down U.S. 35 through the heart of Ohio, into Appalachia, through Charleston, the capital of the breakaway counties (does Virginia want them back anymore?), then up along the Blue Ridge, around the nation's capital and down to the Beach.

Unfortunately, all that driving does my lower back no good, and I had to do some stretching; a good night's sleep, and now some walking about today, will do me good.

I always remember, when I arrive, what I couldn't remember to pack: sunscreen and a hat! Both are irritating things to remember, as I have a gigantic bottle of SPF 50 sitting in my bathroom back home, and a couple of hats I never otherwise wear, hanging in the closet.

You will laugh when you learn about two things I plan to do today: get an oil change and a haircut (at two different places, natch). I just ran out of time to do either before I left, and besides, it's not as though I came somewhere they don't do these things!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Off to 'Ole Virginia'

After Mass this morning, I'm headed to Virginia -- first to Virginia Beach, where I'll enjoy a few days of doing very little; then to Washington D.C., for a colloquium on sacred music in the liturgy, at Catholic University of America, which will be work, but also fun, I hope! Along the way, I'll see my friends there in northern Virginia, which they refer to as "Yankee-occupied territory." Finally, back here.

Whether I shall post on my blog remains to be seen; as far as I know, unless I happen upon free wi-fi, my options are to pay for an account to use wi-fi at places like Starbucks; and I don't wish to pay again for something I have already paid for, via Roadrunner. So we'll see.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

About the World Cup...

It's not that I don't care...

It's just that...I don't care.

Salt & Light

In yesterday's Gospel at Mass, Our Lord enjoined us to be salt to preserve the earth, and light to attract others. It was an appropriate way to begin my day, as later that morning, I was on my way to Columbus to appear at a committee hearing concerning House Bill 228, which would outlaw all abortions in Ohio.

Representative Tom Brinkman, who introduced the bill, asked me to testify, and of course I was honored to do so. I asked his legislative aide, "how much time?" She said, "we're looking for 3-5 minutes."

What I came up with appears at the end of this post.

Back in my political days, I used to do a lot of media work, and I get up at Mass every Sunday and attempt to preach the Gospel -- and that's all I came to Columbus to do, really: preach the Gospel.

Rep. Brinkman's aide was helpful in advising me I didn't need to be there at the very beginning, as my turn would come about two hours into the hearing. So I arrived around 11:15, to discover the hearing room was packed, with an overflow area downstairs, where the audio was being broadcast. So I sat, waited, and prayed my office. A few minutes later, I heard my name called, and headed upstairs. While waiting, I prayed my rosary; I always offer it for an end to abortion; that had special meaning this day.

Well, finally they had a "changing of the guard" -- a break while the previous witnesses emerged, and the new witnesses came in. I was pleasantly surprised at so many of the legislators being present; I suspected few would be there, as they have other commitments, and this is a bill that clearly the GOP leadership views as radioactive. One thing the GOP loathes is taking a stand on anything controversial; they want to rally their base while not really doing anything. They hate when someone like Rep. Brinkman proposes something like this, clear-cut, 100% sound on policy, asking simply that everyone say where he stands. Oh, the horror!

The pro-aborts were there in force, of course, but also lots of folks who are prolife. Mostly everything was calm and civil, which is a great blessing. One man, passing me in the hall, made a very offensive crack directed at me, as a priest; I said, "God bless you" and moved on. Otherwise, no problems.

As I sat down, a fellow with the Christian Legal Society advised me of something said in prior testimony: a woman who'd had an abortion and regretted it recounted her boyfriend--who was Catholic--claiming the Church wouldn't allow them to get married if she was pregnant. "Please, Father, you need to set the record straight on that," he urged. So, I added a mention of that at the end of my testimony, saying something like, "I wasn't here when the matter came up, but there is some confusion about what the Church teaches about getting married and being pregnant, and if anyone wants to know, please ask." And a legislator did ask the question, and I explained that of course it was nonsense that being pregnant meant someone wouldn't be married in the Church; rather, common sense rules in these situations -- sometimes people are too young, too immature, etc. -- and everyone understands how these things come into play whenever two people are in a situation like that.

The chairman of the committee seemed exasperated at a few points, when other legislators attempted to delve into side issues. A Protestant minister, who appeared with me, is involved with an organization which takes a stance against "excessive taxation," and one legislator asked, "just where did Jesus take a position on that?" The minister was happy to speak to it, but the chairman didn't want to pursue that, or the death penalty, when another legislator complained of "hypocrisy": "where is the outcry against the death penalty?" I was ready to respond, "if you hold a hearing on that, I or another priest will be all too happy to testify against the death penalty." But the chairman's gavel intervened.

After the chairman announced a recess for lunch, they were finished with me, so I was ready to drive back; before I went, a legislator approached me, and another Protestant minister -- who had spoken briefly, but wisely, and didn't seem too concerned about whether he got the mic during the question period -- to ask a question, believe it or not, about Scripture! He said something to the effect of, "wasn't 'Thou shalt not kill' given before King Saul?" I nodded; so what about how God instructed Saul to kill a group of people, and their animals -- and when he failed to do so, God faulted his disobedience. I started to answer the exegetical question, the latter minister responded, more wisely: "why do you ask the question?" And we had a discussion about various things.

One comment, which I anticipated, had to do with "legislating morality." I responded, but every law you enact is grounded in morality--or else it's a power-play." "No," he said. I replied, but they are: every law you enact is in some way about promoting human welfare; even environmental laws are basically about a suitable environment for human beings. I asked if he could cite an example of what he had in mind: a law not grounded in a moral impulse. He cited a law about stop signs; I said, but why have stop signs at all? Isn't it because you don't want people to crash into each other -- i.e., to save human lives? That reflects a moral value! I asked a second time for an example of a non-morality-based law, but he couldn't think of one, and I didn't press him further.

After a few minutes, I excused myself, and headed home.

Here's what I said to the legislators:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Legislature.

In the book of Exodus, the Lord says, "You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry" (Exodus 22:22).

I speak of fundamental human dignity: the premise of nearly every law you enact.

Who will defend human dignity? On one level, all of us. In a particular way, you. As a priest, I just quoted Scripture. As an American, let me quote other words: "All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain, inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Perhaps we forget how bold a Declaration that was—and still is!

Do you believe it? If so, I ask you, do our laws reflect it?

We forget how fragile this idea of human dignity is—especially at the margins. We all operate on the assumption that the law will protect our basic dignity. But why assume this? What gives us this assurance?

Our Constitution? Most of the world does not have our constitution. But even if they did, recall what Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes said:

You may think that the Constitution is your security—it is nothing but a piece of paper. You may think that the statutes are your security—they are nothing but words in a book. You may think that elaborate mechanism of government is your security—it is nothing at all, unless you have sound and uncorrupted public opinion to give life to your Constitution, to give vitality to your statutes, to make efficient your government machinery.

Bad law corrupts public opinion, and good law helps form sound public opinion. It is not enough to wait for public opinion; it must be aroused.

Our current law on abortion does a very powerful job of shaping our social values about human dignity. Do the word games we play—it’s a baby! No, it’s a "choice"—help or hurt our common commitment to the dignity of every human life?

Roe v. Wade…50 million abortions…euthanasia…and now, we are turning human life into a commodity: "surplus" embryos…what shall we use them for? "Research"—and then, let us clone millions more.

If this is "progress," toward what, may I ask?

You may say, "these are subtle questions, and what you ask is difficult." Of course—but that is the job of a legislator! If "Thou shalt not kill" were so obvious, it would never have been said in the first place! Do you think it was easy to abolish slavery? Even that obvious moral insight—that humans shall not enslave others—is too subtle for some, to this very day.

There are so many fronts, many battles, but one great cause: human dignity. I ask you to enact H.B. 228. Safeguard human dignity. And heed the cry of the poor.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Watch out, Lutherans!

Last week, I posted on a pseudo-priest celebrating a pseudo-Mass at a Lutheran seminary in Minnesota; I wrote to the head of the seminary, haven't heard back.

Well, Opus Dei seems to have heard about it. Walking home from 7 am Mass, I saw an albino squirrel lurking outside St. John's Lutheran Church! (I really saw such a squirrel; the photo is from the 'net, courtesy D***funnypictures)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

You Are Chinese Food

Exotic yet ordinary.
People think they've had enough of you, but they're back for more in an hour.

(Biretta tip to: The Discernment Dilemma

'What difference does the Trinity make?' (Sunday Homily)

Today we focus on the "Holy Trinity."

We might wonder,
"what difference does ‘the Trinity’ make?"

This is something only we, Christians, believe:
Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus,
do not believe God is a trinity.

We believe God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit—
Three Persons—and yet, as St. Athanasius said,
God is not three gods, but one God.

Now, when we try to explain this,
we find it hard.

What do we say? "Oh, it’s a mystery"—
meaning, "go away,"
or "ask me something else"!

So, why does this matter?

One reason it matters because we follow Jesus—
and this is what he told us about God.

No, Jesus never used the actual word, "Trinity."
That’s our word for the reality he revealed to us.

But if God is not a Trinity, that means:
While the Father is still God, Jesus is not God.

And if that’s true,
then we have a huge problem:
We can’t trust what Jesus said;
we can’t trust
what we think we know about Jesus.

The New Testament makes clear
that Jesus is God—
Paul believed it,
the Apostles taught it.
So, if he’s not…
toss out the New Testament.

Jesus himself makes clear, he is the Lord—
he calls himself "I AM"—
that’s the name God revealed to Moses.
Jesus accepted worship, as "Lord and God."

So if Jesus is not God,
then set him aside.

In other words, no Trinity? No Jesus!

Many try to say,
"oh, but he was a good man,"
"he was a prophet."

All right, but: he claimed to be God;
he said,
"leave everything behind and follow me";
he said, "lay down your life—for me"…

And if all that wasn’t true…

That makes him a false prophet—
and a very bad man!
Why would you want to follow him then?

So, I’ll say it again:
no Trinity? No Jesus!
Jesus is a fraud, a liar—he can’t save us!
Why follow him?

Here’s another reason it matters:
If God is not a Trinity,
then, there is no Holy Spirit.

Jesus teaches us, as does the Church,
that the 3rd Person of the Trinity,
the Holy Spirit,
is how God gives himself to dwell in us.

When we receive the Holy Spirit,
we’re receiving more than some good feeling.
If you eat chocolate,
a chemical in it makes you feel good.

Religion can do that—
prayer, going to church,
can make you feel good.
Is that all it is?
A kind of spiritual comfort food?

It all depends:
is there really a Holy Spirit?
When you were baptized:
did something change…or not?
are we redeemed from the curse of sin,
to live by the power
of the Holy Spirit—or not?

Does God really come down,
in the confessional,
so that our sins really are forgiven?

Does God really come down,
and through our sharing in the sacraments—
through marriage, confirmation,
especially the Eucharist—
and lift us up to share in God’s own life?

It all depends:
is there a Holy Spirit?

No Trinity—no Holy Spirit;
No Trinity—no Jesus;
No Trinity, God is alone…unreachable.

You might say—but Jews, Muslims, others,
believe in life after death. Yes, they do.

But for many of them,
life after death is either,
a lot like this life,
or it’s basically unknowable.

Buddhism says, we become less and less.
Islam says, we are never more than a creature,
groveling at the feet of God.

Judaism—now, that’s complicated.
Judaism promises something more,
but has a hard time explaining what it is,
and how we gain it.

And that is where Jesus fits in:
Jesus answers that question:
I AM the something more!
Jesus says,
my Holy Spirit is how you share it!

So we believe in a Trinity:
what does that change?

It changes whether our decisions,
our choices, matter!
Day by day, we wrestle with choices:
Stand by your family;
be faithful to your commitments;
Stand strong,
even when your friends go another way.
Do we live for today,
or do we live for the future?

That depends on whether we have a future!

Jesus came to show us our future:
Life in God—life in the Holy Trinity!

The reason God the Son became a man like us
is to cross the gulf between God and us—
and to bring us back to God’s side of the gulf!

So we may not be able to understand,
or explain, the Trinity;
but we can understand this:
No Trinity means,
no Jesus, no Spirit, no future:
"we’re on our own."

Trinity means, God for us, God in us:
that's our future--that's our hope.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A long week, but productive

This has been a difficult week, although not all that unusual.

Monday was our feast day, and my day off. However, one of my key staffmembers had taken ill over the weekend, and gone to the hospital. Moreover, she is a key volunteer at our bingo; so I was at bingo both Sunday afternoon and evening, and on Monday evening, to be sure all went well (it did).

I can't say anything exciting or notable happened on Tuesday, just doing the work of a pastor. Managing things in our office, a variety of small things on my desk that I worked on. Wednesday I stay home in the morning and work on my homily. Only this Wednesday, I had several calls. People are tracking me down at home; I don't want to ignore the phone, but I stay home on Wednesdays to work (it can be hard to have any uninterrupted time in the office). Didn't finish my homily.

Wednesday afternoon, I worked on the budget for our Finance Committee Thursday morning at 7 am. That took me right up until I went over for the Bible Study at 7 (I wanted to concelebrate Mass at 6, with the retired priest, but I didn't finish in time). After the Bible study, I went over to the KofC hall around 8:15, and had a beer with them, and some pizza, then walked home. Got to bed around 11 or so, per usual.

Well, that didn't last long. Unfortunately, our parish is in a rougher part of town, and across from the house where I live is a bar. For some reason, when folks leave there, letting out a yelp or a howl is the thing to do -- especially after 10 pm. I've gotten used to that. But around 1:50 am, an argument, below my window, woke me up. "Yeah, and I'll *#$@!ing knock you down, too if you don't !#$%@ing give me the money!" I gave you the @$%@!@ing money!!!"

Police showed up quickly, things calmed down; but I didn't go back to sleep. For some reason, I couldn't. (I've noticed in recent years, I don't fall back asleep as easily.) Wasn't asleep at 3 . . . 3:30 . . . around 4, I got up and lay down in my Lazyboy--maybe I'd fall asleep there? Nope. I was up till dawn.

Thursday was a long day even on a full night's sleep: Finance Committee, Mass, work in the office, a meeting at 10, work in the office, payroll, meeting at 5:30, another meeting at 7 -- really, two -- I was late for the other -- and a post-meeting meeting after that. Home by 9, when I had dinner. In bed by 10:15, which is extremely early for me.

Today I slept late, and stayed home to work (office closed on Fridays during summer). Was going to work on my homily; however, I got some ideas for a fundraising drive I have in mind, so I went with that. That kept me busy for hours. I'll have to finish my homily tomorrow. Tonight, I drove up to Sidney to join a "Sweat and Sanctity" group of young adults there: too late to hear Father James Reutter's talk, but we prayed the rosary and then played ultimate frisbee for awhile. Then home for dinner, and now, surfing the 'net.

There's a lot more, of course, but so much of it is phone calls, talking business (budgets, the school, fundraising, planning) and not very interesting -- and I can't recall it all, now.

Mary's Fiat

Courtesy The Curt Jester

Monday, June 05, 2006

'Plunder the Treasures of the Church'

One of my long-term projects for my parishes here in Piqua is to cultivate as much depth and breadth in our music as I can. We use Gather Comprehensive at St. Boniface; St. Mary uses RitualSong. Gather Comprehensive, by it's own admission, is overwhelmingly "contemporary" -- which means, material published in the last 50 years -- making the title ironic. RitualSong is more like 50/50. (It floored me when I discovered "GIA" -- who publishes these, plus several other hymnals, and is a heavyweight in Catholic hymnals in the U.S. -- stands for . . . "Gregorian Institute of America"!!! I kid you not.) The Gathers are about 10-12 years old, the RitualSong books are 1-2 years old.

Even so, they do have some good resources in them (RS isn't bad, actually), and I am asking our Music Director and our cantors and choirs to go beyond what has been a rather limited repetoire. My advice to my Music Director (who is excellent, and shares my vision): "Plunder the treasures of the Church! It's all ours!"

Here's an example of something nice (I link it for the sound; I hope it works).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

El Gran Deseo del Espiritu Santo Pentecost Homily

(Today's homily was largely similar to that for the Vigil. However, I added these comments at la ultima Missa hoy.)

Today is Pentecost:
the Day the Holy Spirit came down
upon the Church for the first time.

This is also a special day
for one young lady here today.
One of our parishioners, ________,
will be confirmed,
and receive her first holy communion.
Her family is new to our parish—
we’re glad to welcome you,
and to share this day with you!

_______, today the Holy Spirit

will come upon you, with his power,
his boldness, and his assurance,
just as he did for the first Christians,
so many years ago!

Advierta lo que sucederá:
Tendré mis manos sobre Usted,
llamando abajo el Espíritu Santo en Usted.

Entonces, iré al altar,
y llamaré hacia abajo
el Espíritu Santo en el pan y el vino—
y ellos llegarán a ser
el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo:
¡Que Usted recibirá hoy para la primera vez!

¡Atienda a eso!
Los manos del sacerdote sobre Usted,
entonces sobre el pan y vino!
¡Ellos son conectados!
¡El Espíritu Santo desea no sólo transformarse,
el pan y el vino en Cristo,
pero cada uno de nosotros en Cristo!

So, ______,
when you see the bread and wine
placed on the altar,
see yourself—and all of us—there as well!

I started by talking about
those people who tried
to build Babel, a city without God—
it was doomed to fail.

But you and I are invited
to help build a city with God.
The Holy Spirit is primed, ready to go.
How about you?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Not a trickle, but a Flood (Pentecost Vigil)

I usually read this Gospel at a baptism.
When there are other children at a baptism,
I will ask them,
what do you see in the baptismal font?
"Water!" Right.
Does that look like a river of water?
Of course, the answer is no.

Picture rivers of water—
The Great Miami…the Ohio…the Mississippi.

Not during a drought, but at flood stage:
gushing, overflowing torrents!
All that, flowing out from within us!
That’s the image: not a trickle, but a flood!

That font can only hold so much.
When we’re thirsty,
our insides can only so much;
even all the rivers and oceans of the world
can only hold so much water.

The Holy Spirit,
God’s "Living Water," is beyond all that!
That’s what the Lord Jesus is promising us.

Not a trickle—but a flood!
What kind of power could that be?
We can’t begin to imagine!

We think the power of our nation—
our technology, our economy—
it’s all so impressive!
We’re like the folks in the first reading:
they were very impressed
with the city and tower they built:
"to touch the sky."

But notice what it says next:
"The Lord came down to see it!"
You and I have 20/20 vision;
God has 20-gazillion vision!
And yet, to see their great, big city,
God had to lean way down…
"Hmm, I think I see something!"

What a huge difference
between what you and I accomplish on our own—
that so easily impresses us!—
and the truly great things only God can do!

Which do we really want:
A trickle, that we control?
Or a flood, from God, under his control?

That first reading: we might wonder why
God scattered them.

It wasn’t because they made him mad,
and they certainly weren’t any threat to him!

It was because they were closing themselves
into their safe, little city!
And leaving God out!
They did it; we do it.

So God scattered them—
and all their big dreams were dashed.

Is it not true
that the terrible events of our lives
are also the times when you and I go deeper:
we step out into darkness, and
we find out just how strong God is,
precisely when
we have no strength left in ourselves.

Along the way,
you and I become more compassionate,
we become…more human.

That’s why God ran them out
of their snug little city;
and he sometimes does that to us.

So let’s bring it right home,
to our little city of Piqua,
our parish of St. Boniface:
isn’t it just possible that you and I
could be too comfortable,
too snug in what’s familiar to us?

Change is coming.
In a few weeks, for the first time,
the two parishes in Piqua will share a pastor.
No one really knows
all that will mean, including me.
We’re going to find out.

Both parishes are used to going their own way:
that’s going to change.

After this Mass,
I’m headed "over there" for St. Mary’s Festival:
would you like to come with me?

With change comes opportunity.

Opportunity for men and women
to answer the call of leadership
in our two parishes.

Opportunity for men to answer the call
to be deacons and priests!
Men: you want to make a difference?
You want to build something for God?
Here it is! Be a priest!

Look at where God put this parish.
Why did God put us here?

Like it or not,
the future of our school and our parish
is tied directly to the future
of this neighborhood and this city!

You and I can justly
be proud of our school,
our involvement in the Bethany Center,
our 24-hour chapel,
and so many other ways
that many of us, quietly,
make our community better.

But all that is just the beginning
of what God wants to build here!

With the power of the Holy Spirit,
what might you and I do
to change this neighborhood?
About crime, drugs? To help broken families,
and to keep kids in school?

I’m not sure—
I’m just beginning to ask the questions!
And I’m asking you to do the same.

Every Sunday, the Holy Spirit
comes down on us, here.
You and I have a little bit of heaven,
here in our church.
How about we take that
out into our neighborhood,
and share it and spread it, block by block?

I know—it’s not as though
we don’t all have enough to do!
But God put us here:
not to produce a trickle, but a flood.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Taft, GOP: Where are the jobs?

Here are the latest jobs/unemployment statistics:

Nationally: 4.7% unemployment. Pretty nice, huh?

Ohio: 5.5% Hmm . . . not so nice. Worse: that's up from 5% last month.

Miami County (where Piqua is): 5.7% -- by the way, that's up 2/10ths from a year ago!

Montgomery County (where Dayton is, south of here): 5.9% -- fortunately, that's down.

Now, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services cheerfully says,
"The rise in Ohio's unemployment rate in April was the result of more people looking for work as job prospects improved," said ODJFS Director Barbara Riley. "While the unemployment rate increased last month, the increase in the number of people employed was the largest monthly increase since December 1999."

Back in the day, Governor Jim Rhodes (I'm not a fan) would say, the issue is "jobs, jobs, jobs!"

Should the Lutheran Church muck around in Catholic sacraments?

Regardless of whether you are Catholic or Lutheran, or something else; regardless of who you think ought to be ordained, or what you believe about the Eucharist, the Mass, etc. . . .

Do you think one church should host a celebration of the other church's sacraments, that the latter would find offensive?

Here's an example: sometimes Christians get together and celebrate a Seder, which is the Jewish Passover. If you ask our Jewish brothers and sisters, they frequently will say they don't care for that. Should my parish, St. Boniface, host such an event?

Or, should I have someone who claims to be a Lutheran minister -- who the Lutheran Church definitively says is not -- celebrate what is advertised as the Eucharist led by a Lutheran pastor? Or, should the fact that the Lutheran Church is offended by this, and doesn't particularly want this sort of thing to bring confusion about what Lutherans actually believe, lead me to say, "sorry, go rent a hall"?

Because here's an actual case study:

Report Back from Mass at Luther Seminary With Rev. Dagmar Celeste
Last night [I.e., April 24, 2006*] I had the privelege of joining Rev. Dagmar Celeste and Deacon Regina Nicolosi of Roman Catholic Womenpriests for a Mass at Luther Seminary in St Paul. Dagmar's daughter-in-law is a professor at Luther, to make the connection as to why we were holding a Catholic Mass at a Lutheran Seminary. :)

Dagmar and Regina led a beautiful celebration with inclusive language and a model of the discipleship of equals. During the homily, Dagmar invited us to stand and bless the people next to us. I heard the Holy Wind, Wisdom Sophia, move through that upper room as the voices of women whispered blessings upon each other. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

We also learned that Regina, our very own from Minnesota, is in formation for the priesthood and will be ordained this June. Minnesota will also be sending another woman to be ordained a deacon. I'm hoping that this will result in the formation of a feminist church community in Minnesota.

We learned that Victoria Rue's weekly mass at San Jose State has finally drawn the notice and ire of the bishop the the Diocese of San Jose, causing him to release a statement in the bulletins of all the churches in his diocese that Victoria's ordination, masses and administration of the sacrements are "invalid." See the Most recent bulletin from St Victor's Church as an example. (Scroll down to "Religious Scams.")

After Mass, in the coy and faux-innocent style of Regina's humor, she asked of the photo we took, "Are you going to send this to the Catholic Spirit?"

Oh, wouldn't that be fun? Only if the headline can read, "Local Girls Participate in Heresy, Gunning for Excommunication." :) Hopefully, photos will be available soon.

(end of article)

Now, it occurs to me that Luther Seminary may have known nothing about it. I found nothing on its web site. If I get a chance, I'll drop a note to Luther Seminary about this.

And it seems to me, this isn't about whether you're for or against the Catholic Church's position on who can be ordained. As I say, I rather suspect the Lutheran Church wouldn't care for us allowing something like this, concerning their sacraments, in a Catholic seminary.

(For some background, see: Mother Dagmar Re-emerges)

* I erred in the date by a day, and corrected it June 3, 2006.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ever-reasonable Greenpeace

This is too good not to spread all round:

Greenpeace's fill-in-the-blank public relations meltdown

Before President Bush touched down in Pennsylvania Wednesday to promote his nuclear energy policy, the environmental group Greenpeace was mobilizing.

"This volatile and dangerous source of energy" is no answer to the country's energy needs, shouted a Greenpeace fact sheet decrying the "threat" posed by the Limerick reactors Bush visited.

But a factoid or two later, the Greenpeace authors were stumped while searching for the ideal menacing metaphor.

We present it here exactly as it was written, capital letters and all: "In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE]."

(Biretta tip: Redstate)

Men's Rules

Feel free to comment. I have bolded the ones that I think especially important (and I agree with Fr. Jim: these are issues couples bring to a priest!).

(Thanks to Fr. Jim Tucker for calling my attention to them, at Abhijeet 's Blog, original apparently from here.

Men's Rules

Women, learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

Birthdays, Valentines, and Anniversaries are not considered by us to be opportunities to see if we can find the perfect present . . . . again!

Sometimes we are not thinking about you. Live with it.

Sunday = sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

Don't cut your hair. Ever. Long hair is always more attractive than short hair. One of the big reasons guys fear getting married is that married women always cut their hair, and by then you're stuck with her.

Ask for what you want. Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

We don't remember dates. . . .Period!!

Most guys own three pairs of shoes - tops. What makes you think we'd be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?

Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us. We've been tricked before!!

If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

Let us ogle. We are going to look anyway; it's genetic.

You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

Christopher Columbus did not need directions, and neither do we.

The relationship is never going to be like it was the first two months we were going out. Get over it. And quit whining to your girlfriends.

ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

We are not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.

If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as navel lint, the shotgun formation, or monster trucks.

Foreign films are best left to foreigners. (Unless it's Bruce Lee or some war flick where it doesn't really matter what they're saying anyway.)

BEER is as exciting for us as handbags are for you.

Thank you for reading this; Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight, but did you know, it's like camping.
- Howard Daughters