Sunday, December 31, 2006

Justification for Saddam's execution

The whole world's attention was riveted Friday and Saturday on the news -- and then images -- of the execution of Saddam Hussein.

I was at a party of fellow rightwingers, and someone raised a glass in toast. I chose not to join that gesture, although I share the celebration of justice being done on a murderous tyrant, I can't celebrate anyone's death.

There has followed, of course, a debate about the propriety of the death penalty, and we know the Vatican issued a statement deploring it.

All that said, it occurs to me this situation may well fit the circumstances in which Catholic teaching considers the death penalty a legitimate option.

I had more to say, but then I saw Publius at Res Publica et Cetera already said it.

A Literal Fact (Holy Family Homily)

We use language a lot of ways.

Sometimes use “figures of speech.”
I might say of a football player, “he’s an ox!”

Or we speak abstractly—heady, “up there” stuff.
Then again, we often use language very literally.
However much we can appreciate the poetry
and all that heady stuff, it’s the language of hard,
physical facts we respect most.

So it was for Hannah and Elkanah in our first reading.

The priest Eli told them over and over
that God loved them and heard their prayers—
But Hannah needed love she should touch and hold.
“Up there” language is nice;
But she needed hard, physical facts.

That’s everyone’s story.
God tells us he loves us, but he knows we need more;
We need hard, physical facts.

So God didn’t just “call” us his family.
He made it literally true.

God the Son took human flesh,
being conceived in Mary’s womb.

People still need this—and God still provides it!
You and I see, hear and touch God in his Church.

While God took flesh
in the fullest sense in Jesus Christ,
it is true to say that the Church
is the Body of Christ;
like God taking flesh in Jesus,
The Holy Spirit is “enfleshed” in the Church.
You may say, “wait a minute,
now you’re back to speaking figuratively.”

No, I’m not!

God becoming human—that’s a physical, hard fact.
Our Catholic Faith is built on that Fact.

By the way, this is why if you go into a bookstore,
as I did Saturday,
you will see lots of books undermining this Fact:
Was Jesus really God?
Are the Scriptures reliable?
Did he even exist?

You know what all this is? It’s an attack—
An attack on Jesus—on our Catholic Church,
and on our Faith.

If you undermine that one Fact:
God became man, Jesus;
Then everything, the entire Christian Faith, collapses.

On the other hand, because we know who Jesus is,
we can have confidence in the Church that He sent,
in the sacraments he gives us through his Church;
in His Voice that speaks through his Church,
which he guides with his Holy Spirit.

This is something we, as Catholics,
emphasize very strongly, and we take very literally:
God is in our midst!

This isn’t just about “Church”—
it’s about all of life; it’s all of a piece.
So we reverence human life in every form,
From earliest beginning to most fragile ending.

We wrestle with problems of poverty and race relations,
because we are our brother’s keeper,
and absolutely everyone is our brother!

We feel obligations even to criminals—
somehow to bring them to redemption—
and we resist the death penalty—because
the reverence due a human being cannot be undone,
no matter what crimes they commit.

We speculate, and try to understand
some of the mysteries of our faith:
How can baptism change us?
How come we still struggle with sin?
How can the Eucharist be turned from
ordinary bread and wine, into God himself?

We may not have all the answers,
but we have this Fact: God became man!
And the God-man, Jesus Christ, told us:
“This is my Body!” and “I am with you always!”

Today is the feast of the Holy Family.

When God calls us his Family, it is literally true.
God literally became a member of the human family,
so that we would be part of a Divine Family.
The Church—and our parish—is our Divine Family.

We understand that a family
is a place where we learn essential life-lessons:
how to get along with others, how to grow up;
how to make it in life, how to have dreams,
and be people who achieve and share those dreams.

That’s all true of the Divine Family, the Church:
Here, we are schooled and prepared for life eternal;
to grow up into the full stature of Christ;
to live with God, and his people, forever.

God calls us his Family—it’s not a figure of speech;
it’s a literal, physical Fact.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

'Traditionalists' v. 'Reform of the Reform'

A follow up on my post below.

One of the reasons I get animated about this is that I do want to pursue the "reform of the reform," and I, too, don't want the abuses.

More than that, I believe there are questions of reorienting the celebration of the liturgy to where it is meant to be, but isn't; this is where the issue of music comes in -- and why it's more than bare questions of orthodoxy, but also simply what music.

And all this takes tremendous effort, and patience, both because of ordinary inertia at work in moving any organization, but also because so many of our fellow Catholics are used to what's not adequate, they are attached to it, and so, there will be resistance from other than ideologues.

. . . And you see, this is where a pastor needs help -- and he sure could use the help of anyone of a "traditional" bent.

And guess what? He won't get it from a lot of so-called "traditionalists" -- at least, not as they are (mis)represented online.

There is a set of self-described "tradionalists" who can't and won't be bothered; they're happy in an enclave somewhere, or they prefer to nurse their grievances, or they don't want to get into the mess of struggle.

And that's fine; but if things don't get better the way you want them to, this may be part of the story. (And please don't post horror stories about pastors or others in control going the wrong direction or protecting the status quo. I'm not talking about those situations. I'm talking about where the pastor wants to do good things.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

It's official . . .

I'm a greybeard.

Between shaving early on Sunday, and not shaving till I went out again on Wednesday afternoon, I sprouted whiskers a little thicker than usual. (Someday, when I really don't care, I'm going to let it all grow.) And, try as I did to explain what I saw as "a trick of light," I have to admit--some of 'em are grey and even white!.

Meanwhile, the hair of my head remains brown-blond; but it keeps getting thinner.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Old Mass Motu Proprio will mean parting of the ways

I've been reading various blogs and webpages where the discussion is fast and furious about the expected decision by Pope Benedict to allow a wider use of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962. There are folks who are eager for it and who have a lot to say about it.

Surfing the 'net is a great way to keep abreast of many more subjects than one could otherwise do by subscribing to journals; and a lot cheaper. It's entertaining, too. And you do meet lots of friendly, intelligent people.

You also meet a lot of dyspeptic people who have heaped up grievances the way some, in deep financial trouble, pile up debt. Folks who are angry about any number of things, including Catholic things, especially liturgy.

So a lot of that boils over on various blogs; and woe betide the blogmeister who tries to pour oil on troubled waters! Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement made a modest proposal in that direction the other day concerning some of the sarcastic, vitriolic polemics tossed around by those more traditional or conservative, and it drew umbrage from some bloggers.

It amazes me that anyone thinks this is an effective way to persuade anyone not already convinced -- but then, I suspect we have at least part of the reason some of these folks bitterly complain of their pastors and parishes not giving them the time of day. Funny how that works -- like shooting fish in a barrel.

There's something else I'm picking up on, more concerning.

Mr. Tribe's excellent site is deeply interested in a "reform of the reform" -- he and his collaborators are advocating a reverent, traditional celebration of the Mass as promulgated by the Council. There are many who are interested in this -- this is a growing movement -- and it's central thesis is, I think, unassailable: we didn't get the mandates of the Council right; and they want to get it right. Of course, many of the folks who visit his site, and others like it, are very dedicated to the celebration of the Missal of 1962 -- the so-called "Tridentine Mass" or Pian Rite.

What is coming clear, now, is that a parting of the ways is coming: I predict the pope's expected Motu Proprio will expose a fault-line -- between those who genuinely want to pursue the "reform of the reform," and those who really couldn't care less about that, but rather are focused on the restoration of the old rite. Many of these self-styled "traditionalists" are being very plain: entirely scrap the Rite of Vatican II they derisively call Novus Ordo, a title they claim the Church herself gives the Mass (true in the barest technical sense: Paul VI used the expression, in a speech, once). A number of these folks, with little prodding, will proceed to tell you how heretical and evil the current rite of Mass is. And they don't stop there.

I said before I wondered if this new permission will not end up hindering the "reform of the reform"; because it would shift energy from improvements in the current rite of the Mass, to more celebrations of the classical rite. As I've said before, I'm neutral--I have neither any particular attachment to the old rite, nor any animus to it. But I don't know it -- you don't just pick up the old missal and start offering Mass that way.

But I think we're about to see folks who thought they were pulling in the same direction, part ways or even actively disagreeing. I predict: as soon as the permission comes, a lot of these folks are going to insist priests drop their "reform of the reform" efforts as a waste of time and simply pursue the Pian Rite.

Does this mean the proposed permission is the wrong move? No, of course not. The holy father is obviously thinking far bigger. We have to wait and actually find out what he says his reasons are for the "freeing" of the old rite, but the assumption is that he's doing it to be pastoral to those attached to it, to aid reconciliation with the breakaway "traditionalists" of the Society of St. Pius X, to foster ecumenism with the Orthodox, as well as aid the reform of the reform.

The interesting hypothesis some offer is that the pope aims, way down the road, to see the normative Roman Rite become something that could be described, oversimply, as an amalgam of the old and current rite. Something, in fact, that was, I recall, promulgated briefly at the time of the Council along the way to the current Missal. And one wonders if those most dedicated to Missal of 1962 will have the slightest openness to that? Just as I wonder if there will ever be an openness from 1962-Missal folks for revisions in the calendar and lectionary, indeed, any revision at all. You only need note the occasional complaint about Pius XII for revising the Holy Week rites to see why I wonder.

Anyway, we'll see what the New Year brings.

A light day of work

During Christmas Week, one parish habitually closed its office; when the two parishes combined offices, it made sense to extend that to both parishes. After what is always a very busy Advent and end-of-year, everyone needs and deserves a break, including the pastor.

But I still had work to do. Yesterday I had an appointment at 4, confessions at 5, Mass at six, Bible study at 7. Today at 10:30 I had Mass at one of the nursing homes, then I met the parishioner who is coordinating the work on the rectory at St. Mary, where the vicar lives now, and -- after the work is done, I will too. Then to the hospital, then to the office for a couple of hours. And home before six!

Tomorrow, after an early Mass, I'll drive down to Cincinnati to visit some friends, and come back on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And now, another exciting episode of, As the Stomach Turns

...Actually, I'm feeling much better today. Thanks to all for prayers and good wishes.

I was actually able to eat something yesterday--a couple of biscuits and some soup, plus some liquids -- that's it, all day. Hmmm . . . could be a diet . . . I don't recommend it.

A parishioner who had invited me to dinner brought by a care package of some prime rib and potatoes, but I didn't touch it, I saved it for today. By the end of the day yesterday, I was getting bored, a very good sign.

When I went to bed, I turned off my alarm; naturally, of course, I woke up at 6:30 am! Oh well! I did sleep pretty well.

My stomach does feel a little delicate still, so no feasting yet. But I'm glad to be back almost to normal (or as I near as I ever get).

Monday, December 25, 2006

No ornaments on the tree yet . . .

Merry Christmas!

This wasn't the Christmas I anticipated.

Yesterday, after 10:30 am Mass, I expected to help get everything ready for Christmas -- and I did help -- but to my surprise, my energy level started dropping; I was so tired. So we populated the manger (sans il Bambino), got all the flowers and candles in place -- it looks beautiful. Finished around 1 -- I had a few hours before 4 pm Mass.

Well, I went home to eat something and rest. I didn't feel a lot better when 3 pm rolled around, but I went over to church to make sure all was well. This was the first year for a 4 pm Mass -- in years past, the two parishes had simultaneous 6 pm Masses. So the question was, how many people would come to this, the first Mass of Christmas?

As the 4 o'clock hour approached, I felt terrible. I sat in the corner of the sacristy and relied on others to do everything. I am very grateful for all the help. I wondered if I'd have to call one of the other priests, but one is 88, and the other is in ill health himself, so I'm the healthy one. We started Mass, which included a trip, first, to the manger scene, which I blessed; then to the altar. Incense of course!

I sat down during the Gloria, rose again for the opening prayer. During the first reading, I knew I had to exit, so I ducked into the north, "work" sacristy. Let us say this much; there is a sink there -- and I left the sacristy a few minutes later, feeling a lot better. But I had the server shut the door...

Well, I proclaimed the Gospel (I was going to chant it, along with most of the Mass), I gave my homily, thought, "the worst is over." Unfortunately, that drained my batteries down very low. I sat as much as I could after that -- kept sending a server to get me water -- and I had to lean against the altar during the incredibly long time it seemed I was there. I am sorry to say I used the shortest Eucharistic Prayer, but the reason should be obvious. I was almost to the point where I was going to say, "I'm going to offer Mass sotto voce, please follow along or pray silently as I do" -- but not quite. Right around the Lamb of God, I explained the obvious -- that I was feeling a bit light-headed -- and would another extraordinary minister come forward to distribute the Eucharist? I distributed the Body and Blood to the servers and extraordinary ministers, and sat down.

At the conclusion of Mass, I reassured everyone it was just a stomach thing, just bad timing, and I was sorry not to give them my best. God bless the servers, they did everything just right, including the incensation at the elevations.

I had someone drive me the two blocks home, and I got a real Coke out of the fridge -- that always helps a sour stomach. Well, it didn't. Nothing did any good, and around 10 pm, I realized Midnight Mass was out of the question. I called the other priests, asking the retired priest to take Midnight, and the vicar -- who is battling cancer -- to take the 7 am Mass the retired priest already had. I hoped to be fit for 9 am Mass. By the time I went to bed, I was able to drink a little ice water.

Despite not sleeping well, I did feel a lot better this morning, but still weak. I made it over to the other parish for 9 am Mass, again doing the minimum. I proclaimed the Gospel sitting and my homily as well, and asked someone extra to help distribute. No incense, and again, EP II. A parishioner, who owns a grocery store, brought me some Gatorade, which is supposed to help. I'm drinking it now.

I never thought I'd be so grateful for saltines! But I have been able to eat a few of those, and then a biscuit, and some coffee. I just prayed the first part of my office, at 1:30 pm! I didn't pray evening prayer or night prayer at all last night.

I'm also very grateful to be able to sit awhile, and look at my tree, with lights but no ornaments, and the nativity scene. I had an invitation for dinner later with parishioners, and they're going to call to see if I'm up for it. We'll see.

No, not the Christmas I anticipated. I really hated to miss Midnight Mass, the music was wonderful I am told--and I'm sure it was. But I'm sitting here, it's very quiet, I'm safe and warm, I've offered the Mass, and I'm on the mend.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Your place on the Tree (Vigil of Christmas)

I’m going to talk to you about the Christmas Tree.

In Genesis, the first book of the Bible,
we have the story of the Garden,
and two, particular trees:
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad,
and the Tree of Life.

We recall that Adam and Eve disobeyed God,
and ate from the wrong tree:
for them, the Tree of Knowledge
became the Tree of Death,
and they were not allowed to eat
from the Tree of Life.

This story, and these ideas,
have always fired the imagination of Christians.
Priests and bishops have talked about them,
at Mass, from early on.

One reason is that the Bible tells us
about yet another Tree—the Cross!
The Cross was made of wood; and they called it a tree.

The connection is this:
because Adam and Eve made a sinful choice,
Jesus came as the second Adam,
and he chose the Cross—the Tree of Death—
and he made it, for us, the Tree of Life.

Do you know when Christians would hear about this?
At Mass…on Christmas Day!

What’s more, over the years,
Christians made artwork
that depicted Adam and Eve, and the Tree,
with its colorful fruit!

Around the year 1000, people in Germany
began putting on religious plays.
And on December 24th, they would have a play
about Adam and Eve.

The main prop on stage was a tree—
a fir tree, the only tree still green in December.

There is another story about this,
and that is the story of St. Boniface.

St. Boniface went to Germany in the 600s
to proclaim Christ, and he found people
whose worship of false gods was connected to trees.

To demonstrate their gods were false,
Boniface cut down a great Oak tree
that they considered sacred.
The oak knocked down many other trees—
but a small sapling of a fir tree remained.

It’s not clear what time of year this happened,
but some claim it happened…in December.

Now, where did the decorations come from?
Remember the play I mentioned?
They decorated the tree with fruit: apples.

But because they were not only recalling
the Tree of Death—with it’s forbidden fruit—
they were also thinking of the Tree of Life—
whose fruit gave eternal life.
But they only had one tree,
because Jesus, dying on the Cross,
made the Tree of Death into the Tree of Life.

So you know what else
they decorated the tree with?
Bread! Round wafers of bread…
that looked just like what we receive at Mass:
The Holy Eucharist!

The Eucharist is the “fruit” of the Cross—
the Eucharist is the “fruit” Jesus gives us,
that enables us to live forever!

Can you picture that “Paradise Tree,” now?
Decorated with apples—
red, and maybe green and yellow?
Also decorated with round,
white circles of bread?

Many years later, the plays went in the wrong direction,
and in the 1400s, the Church put a stop to them.

But, people loved the Paradise Tree;
so they started putting them up in their homes.
Over time, they added other decorations:
other fruit, nuts and candies,
and the wafers of bread became pastries.

Much later, someone invented glass ornaments,
and we still use them.
But notice even now,
we still have ornaments shaped like…fruit!

You still find food on the Tree: candy, chocolate,
garland made of popcorn and berries.

There’s one more connection to a tree
mentioned in Scripture—
we heard about it in the Gospel:
a family Tree!

We just heard a long list of names—
the family tree that connects Abraham to Jesus.

Why do we hear that Gospel on Christmas Eve?
Because in becoming human, becoming a baby,
Jesus did two things at the same time:
He became part of our, human, family tree;
and he made it possible for us
to become part of his, supernatural family!

Through faith in Jesus Christ,
when we are baptized,
we are “born again”—into a new family.

That family tree in the Gospel seemed long—
but imagine trying to list all the people
who are part of God’s Family,
because they believe in Jesus?
The list would go on…forever!

By accepting Jesus, and following Jesus,
you and I become part of that Family Tree.
God has a Tree, too—and he decorates his Tree
with all that is precious to him: each one of us!

Together with all the angels and saints,
you and I are the priceless treasures,
which Jesus gained by his dying and rising,
to give to his Father in heaven,
to decorate the heavenly Christmas Tree!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Tree has lights on it...

Not My Tree

The Tree came in from the front porch a few days ago; tonight, after Mass, after dinner and a rest (and a load of laundry), I put the lights on it. It's all colored lights; it needs some white ones, so if I get a chance, I'll run over to Wal-Mart tmorrow and get some. God willing, I'll get the ornaments on tomorrow night.

Never Say Never (Sunday homily)

“Never say never.”

My mother used to say that.

In the first reading,
Micah says of Bethlehem,
You are “too small.”

A lot of us may think we are “too small,”
or too ordinary, or too whatever,
to make a difference.

In the Gospel, Elizabeth says “I am too old”…

But God had other plans.

Bethlehem became the birthplace
of the King of Kings;
Elizabeth gave birth to a son—and what a son!

If we think, “Who, me?”
Remember Mary said that!

Do you think you are too far away—
or too set in your ways, to change?
Too much sin to forgive; too much busy-ness
or too many problems?

Don’t shut the door on what God might do!

This time of year can be difficult for many,
when someone you love is sick, or dying,
or you lost someone special.
Joy can seem impossible.
The Lord has his own way
of bringing light and assurance
in the worst darkness.

Jesus is coming—
He wants to lift our hearts
and pour his Divine Life into each of us.

No matter who you are,
how young or old you are,
How up, how down, no matter what…
you might be surprised what the Lord can do.

Never say never.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another crazy week

This was supposed to be an "easier" week. Haha!

Actually, it has been, somewhat.

On Monday (my day off), I didn't really have to do anything until the evening, when I checked in with RCIA and we had a brief liturgy in which I anointed the catechumens. But the Altar Society of St. Mary Parish had a meeting, and I hadn't yet been with them, so I joined them for lunch. But I did get to sleep late -- which is why I woke up at 6 am...

Tuesday, I had the school Mass, then briefly in the office, spent opening lots of mail and directing it hither and thither. Then quickly write some remarks to share with the Rotary Club (I talked about the date of Christmas, and how it might be more valid than previously thought -- thanks to Mark Shea, who I did credit in my talk), then back to the office, a little office work (the pile on my desk is pretty heavy right now), then a rehearsal for servers for Christmas.

This morning, I worked on my homily for Christmas Eve; I still need to write a homily for Sunday, and for Christmas Midnight Mass. I will probably use the same homily from midnight, for 9 am.

One of the things pastors have to do is be supervisors: I have a number of employees, and this is the time of year when I meet with them, give them an annual review. Each of these should be written, and we meet and talk. If a supervisor does his job, this isn't scary, because there should be no surprises. Rather, it should be very positive. Of course, this should be happening in various ways throughout the year. But keeping track of information, and following up (i.e., I look back at past reviews) help make it time-consuming. I really should have had this done by now, as I'm now racing to get it done before Christmas.

I hope to decorate my Christmas Tree this weekend.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rejoice! (Homily for Gaudete Sunday)

Today is Gaudete Sunday—
"Gaudete" is Latin for "Rejoice";
but it’s not a request—it’s a command!

That might sound odd, because nowadays,
by this point in December,
our "rejoicing" and celebrating has gone on
for two or three weeks, nonstop!

This Sunday is a reminder of a time
when that wasn’t the case—
when Advent was more penitential,
and when people didn’t have the abundance
we might take for granted.

A command to rejoice will sound odd
to some for another reason:
For many, this is far from a happy time of year.
If your life is in turmoil, or your family is torn apart,
or someone you love is far away,
perhaps in the military;

or if you lost someone you love,
particularly at this time of year—
you may not feel like rejoicing.

So what does a command to rejoice mean?
Well, it all hinges on what you think joy is.

The prophet Zephaniah, in the first reading, tells us.
He’s addressing his people, who are—like us!—
worried about the economy and the world situation;
and he reminds them the one reason they have joy:
the Lord in your midst!

You realize there are two Christmases,
two Christmas seasons?

Let’s call them "Christmas-for-everybody,"
and the original Christmas.

As we all know,
the Christmas-for-everybody Season

began weeks ago—
and it ends on or near December 25th—

which is when the Christmas you and I celebrate,
as Christians, is just beginning.

You and I usually celebrate both—and that’s fine.
But we might want to ask ourselves—
which one do we celebrate more?

I predict there are folks who will say
they don’t have time

to attend Mass for Sunday—the 24th—
as well as for Christmas, the 25th.
For some, that’s beyond their control, I understand.

But some who won’t have time for the Lord,
will have time to get the mall, or watch football games.
What does that say about our priorities?
As I say, there’s nothing wrong
with celebrating both Christmas seasons—
unless the hoopla of the one crowds out
the holiness of the other.

Another point about what true joy is:
If you’re grieving or in trouble,
"’tis the season to be jolly" doesn’t do it for you.

But there is a different kind of joy:
God is in our midst!
"The Lord has removed the judgment against you"—
and he is coming to save us!

That joy—knowing the closeness of the Lord—
is even more real in times of trouble.
You experience it deep inside,
and you may not be able to explain it;
but it’s a Fire that sustains you
when everything else is cold and dark.

I highlight this so that those of us
who are in a mood to celebrate,
can be more aware of those who aren’t.
Give those who are suffering a gift they can use—
not happy talk, but encouragement
from the Lord who comes to be in our midst.

And if we haven’t known the Lord in our midst,
John the Baptist, in the Gospel,
invites us to know him.

If there are people around us, friends or family,
who don’t know the Lord who is in their midst—
then God is sending you to share his Presence!

John the Baptist reminds us the Gift
the Lord came to give us: the Holy Spirit!
In baptism, we’ve received the Holy Spirit:
His Fire to transform us;
His Mercy to forgive us;
and his Power to help us become
the people we long to be.

If you missed the Penance Service last week,
there’s still time—see the bulletin for opportunities.

This is why what John announced was Good News:
God is near to us; God’s Spirit is poured into us!
He will help us become the people he calls us to be!

Like John, you and I are sent to share
the same Good News with everyone around us.

That’s the Reason for the Season;
that is what makes us rejoice.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pope Benedict about to make his mark on the liturgy?

Some new things are coming for the Catholic liturgy--and what that might be is beginning to become clear.

Those attuned to such matters have expected this for some time; but a large number of Catholics, busy about other things, have little or no idea of what is at work. Many of them may be in for quite a shock, as will many of the clergy, for that matter.

I haven't written much about this because too much of it tends toward speculation, and one thing I try to avoid is making predictions -- because I'm lousy at it, and I see no value in either getting folks' hopes up, or getting people's teeth grinding.

But the combination of what is definite, and what seems well attested, but not actually confirmed, seems enough for me to write this post:

1. The U.S. bishops, together with other English-speaking bishops, are preparing a new translation of all the prayers for Mass -- those that are the same, every time, and the prayers that change throughout the year. This will show up in the parish maybe, maybe toward the end of 2007, more likely 2008, and could even be further out.

2. The bishops are also working on a revision of the Lectionary -- I know of no ETA (estimated time of arrival); perhaps a commenter can provide further info.

3. It has been reported that the holy father specifies that the words of consecration pertaining to the Precious Blood be translated, "which will be shed for you and for many" (or some variant) rather than current, "for all."

4. Recently, the U.S. Bishops approved a document that calls for a common repetoire of music for all parishes. This is offered to tighten up on what can and will be used in the liturgy; however, I haven't seen the text of this document, so I don't have much to say about it. If you know where I can find it, let me know...

5. Some time back, the pope--then a cardinal, of course--wrote a book called The Spirit of the Liturgy in which he discussed all these matters, as well as others he considered serious concerns about the liturgy in the life of the Church. No one familiar with the holy father's prior writings on the liturgy is surprised to learn he is gravely concerned about the quality of liturgy, and about a right understanding of its meaning and implementation, under many aspects: how it affects the holiness and faith of individual believers and the Church, how it succeeds or fails in connecting us to our origin and tradition, how it fosters or hinders the unity of Christians, and finally, how it orients us to our true hope.

6. Now comes a report at Catholic News Agency as follows:

Rome, Dec. 15, 2006 (CNA) - Sources close to the Vatican have told Catholic News Agency that the Motu Propio by which Pope Benedict XVI would allow for the universal use of the Missal of St. Pius V may be published after Christmas, while the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist could come in mid-January 2007.

Sources confirmed the recent statements to reporters by Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, who told them after participating in a meeting of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, where the text of the Motu Propio was reviewed, that the document would come soon.

The declaration would allow the Mass of St. Pius V—often called the Tridentine Mass—to be celebrated freely and do away with the current requirement to have the explicit permission of the local bishop. The Motu Propio does not address the canonical status of the Society of St. Pius X, the schismatic organization founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, according to the same sources, has already been finished by Pope Benedict XVI and is being translated into the different languages in which it will be presented.

The document, which sources say will be issued after January 15, reaffirms the Church’s commitment to a celibate priesthood, encourages the use of Latin in liturgical celebrations, and even requests that seminarians learn the language as part of their formation.

It will also promote the recovery of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphonic music as a replacement to modern music, which would result in a gradual elimination of musical instruments that are “inappropriate” for the solemnity and reverence of the Eucharistic celebration. (Emphasis added.)

There are other indicators, such as the ending of permission for non-clergy to purify vessels, some statements by various higher-ups, and some notable choices made by the pope in the way he has celebrated the liturgy, or had it celebrated. Perhaps commenters will care to specify these; but I've tried to give the major ones, at least as I know them.

Now: what is the sum of all this?

1. As stated--change is coming.

2. I expect more than has been explicated.

This is not a prediction, but: a tantalizing question concerns ad orientem celebration of the liturgy. (Ad orientem is Latin for "toward the East" -- and it refers to the posture of the priest and people during parts of the liturgy, facing the same way. This is polemically described as the priest having "his back to the people." Contrary to common perception, Vatican II did not abolish it; rather, the council opened the door to versus populum -- facing the people -- which has become all but universal.)

Pope Benedict has many times addressed this subject, prior to his election. He believes it's an important issue. I can't believe he isn't reflecting on the question, and what his duty might not be, as Successor to Peter.

3. We all need to re-visit our liturgical education and formation--it's going to be a bumpy ride.

An awful lot of regular folks are under many false impressions, some of which must be blamed on what they've been told, seen practiced or allowed by, the hierarchy and those acting in their name. They think Latin is somehow an "intrusion" into the Mass, that the things we're talking about are somehow "pre Vatican II," and that somehow this is "going backward" (whatever that means).

For my part, I have been encouraging more Latin, more chant, less of the very contemporary-style music; we no longer use texts at the responsory psalm that aren't a proper translation (many in the hymnals are, regrettably, paraphrases); and I've set a somewhat different tone in liturgy. All this has been deliberate, both because of what I believed was coming, but also because all this is clearly called for in the liturgy already!

Think back: we've had some "tightening up" in the liturgy for several years now--it is continuing.

Unfortunately, too much discussion of this is simply off-base: this is not in the slightest contrary to Vatican II! Yet be advised, that is what you will hear, including from many pastors.

Rather, it is contrary to what has been the prevailing view of what Vatican II called for. But you may be in for a shock if you consult the actual documents of the Council, and also what has flowed from the council -- you will find that much of what you were told was "called for" was never called for; and much that was called for is only now being implemented: i.e., keeping Latin in the liturgy and giving Gregorian chant "pride of place"!

So it's really kind of odd -- sad, in many ways -- to hear folks complain against what's happening on the basis of Vatican II! Particularly when you recall that our holy father, and his immediate predecessor, were part of the council and supportive of its mandates! Oh, but they don't know the true "spirit" of the Council? Puh-leeze!

The Latin handbook we use for some of the prayers, at daily Mass at St. Boniface, was issued by Pope Paul VI -- after the Council -- in the name of what the Council called for. How can this booklet's use be contrary to Vatican II? Please explain that one to me...

A number of parishes are going to take this badly -- and I have to point the finger at those who have seen this coming, and resisted it or ignored it. When people tell me, "how come no one told us about this," what am I supposed to say?

If I may send an appeal to those bishops, priests and active laity: no one will be well-served by complaints and hostile characterizations of what this is about. If you poor-mouth these changes, you will only inspire that many more parishioners to be negative as well.

This isn't about who wins or loses. It is about being faithful. At different times, we are sorry to find out that our own judgments were mistaken. That happens to everyone. The test of character comes in how we handle that.

Finally, going all dramatic-catastrophic about this is just too much.

The Barque of Peter zigs and zags, but the Church sails on, nonetheless. If you believe, as I do, that the Holy Spirit was in charge of Vatican II, then why be fearful? The Holy Spirit's purposes in that council will be accomplished; and if the Holy Spirit could act through an ecumenical council, why can you not believe that the same Spirit is at work in Pope Benedict, and those who are collaborating with him?

This is a course-correction. Relax. Trust. Learn.

(I intend to add to this some comments for the more traditional folks. But I have to run just now...)

Update @ 9 pm...

I just got back; when I left off, I had to head to the other parish for a wedding rehearsal. I was unsure if they expected me at the dinner, as I hadn't gotten any word about it. That happens; but usually, they extend an invitation at the rehearsal. Tonight, no such invitation, so I headed back to the other parish, where we have a concert by Tatiana tonight -- it's still going on. I stayed for several songs, but was too tired to stay any longer. I was very impressed, and very pleased to have a crowd of at least 300 show up. Now I'm sitting down to have some Hunan Beef which I ordered a couple nights ago, and a cold beer. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is on...

I want to say more about what seems about to happen in the liturgy. It sure seems to me that the "reform of the reform" -- whatever shape that will take -- is about to unfold. What remains to be seen -- note this -- is how far or how fast it will proceed. Both those whose teeth want to gnash, and those beginning to salivate, should take a few breaths. Remember, Rome -- and, as it happens, God -- never feels compelled to haste, particularly when we expect it.

That said, I think at some point, it will be time for many of those deeming themselves "traditional" to become participants rather than protesters. (Some will say it's past time, but let that pass.) Many of the most emphatic of the self-described traditionalists have loudly protested, criticized, and lamented the liturgical state of affairs -- frequently with justice and received but scorn for it. But many have also been obnoxious about it, and refused to accept any responsibility for that, pointing always to what they endured as justification.

All right then . . . at some point, you stop licking your wounds, remembering your past hurts, and you become a constructive part of the future. That time may be nigh.

But one of the tests will be: whose will do you wish be done? Will you insist that it must be thine? Or will you allow the successor of Peter and the Church, in mysterious cooperation with Divine Providence, to take us forward?

Update, 12/16, 7 pm: I cleaned up some of the above -- some grammatical errors and two duplicative paragraphs. My blog; I get to do that.

Also, I want to be crystal-clear in something. I neither advocate for, nor am resistant to, the celebration of the old rite. I am a Vatican II-baby: I was born during the Council, and I have attended a "Tridentine" liturgy, I think twice. (They were authorized; no way I'd go to a liturgy not celebrated under the bishop's authority. Ecclesiology matters as well as liturgical theology.) I have no idea how to offer the Mass in the old rite, and to be very honest, I am not particularly eager to have anything more to add to my schedule -- such as having to learn how to offer the Pian Rite. On the other hand, I am very committed to the liturgy as currently promulgated, for two reasons: one, it is what I know; two, I can't help recalling Chesterton's great comment about Christianity: it's not that it's been tried and found wanting, but rather, wanted, but not tried.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Message to Episcopalians in Newark

An Episcopal/Anglican church in Newark, New Jersey has decided to proselytize Catholics (see here).

Here's my message to the helpful folks of this congregation who have decided to attack the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church:

If you want to be part of the Church Jesus Christ founded, feel free to check out either the Catholic Church, in her various rites (or the Polish National Catholic Church, which is not a "rite" of the Catholic Church, but--it's sui generis identity notwithstanding, preserves apostolic succession and the Depositum Fidei such that Rome has no problem with intercommunion with the PNCC)*, or the Orthodox Church, in her various rites, or one of the Ancient Churches of the East. These originate in the Apostles chosen and empowered by the Incarnate Lord, and you will be assured of true sacraments, because you can be sure they have valid, sacramental orders. In the Catholic Church, you are in union with the successor of Peter, to whom our Lord said, "You are Rock, and upon this Rock I will build my Church."

Of course, if questions of truth don't matter very much, if you aren't too concerned about belonging to the Church the Lord founded, but you do value aesthetics and a good show of music and liturgy, regardless of whether the sacraments are valid; if you want a church which affirms you right where you are, always jettisoning unwelcome truths when they become incompatible with the secular culture -- but at least you can feel churchy . . .

Why, then, stay right where you are in a church founded not on the Rock of Peter, but on the monumental ego of a king whose lust and financial problems dictated his invention of a new church headed by . . . himself.

Yes, but isn't it a pretty church!

(Biretta-tip: Open Book.)

* Updated 12/15

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More busy-ness

It's been a busy week . . . wait -- what day is it? Wednesday, okay . . .

Monday: concelebrated a funeral in the morning; heard confessions at the Catholic high school in the afternoon, and at a nearby parish in the evening. Worked in office inbetween (Monday is usually my day off).

Tuesday: Mass in the morning; a penance service for the 3rd graders at one church, another one for 7th and 8th graders at the other; worked in the office for a few hours in the afternoon, confessions at nearby parish last night.

Wednesday: worked on Sunday homily this morning; lunch at city hall concerning a paint-and-clean-up project; worked on a wedding homily for Saturday; helped decorate the office; confessions at 5, Mass at 6; Bible study at 7; visited with cursillistas till about nine, just got home, ordered some Chinese, which I'm enjoying right now.

Tomorrow's agenda: Finance Committee meeting at 7 am; stop by Wal Mart to pick up a check for our gym repainting project; Mass at nursing home; a funeral at a funeral home; visit the hospital; pick up some supplies for the dinner for priests tomorrow night, before Penance Service. (Thankfully, the parochial vicar will preach, so I don't have to prepare a homily.).

Friday: Mass with schoolchildren; confessions afterward with 4th, 5th and 6th graders; a funeral after that (vicar has it; I just have to get confessions done in time); work in the office in the PM, wedding rehearsal in the evening, followed by a parish concert by Tatiana (come by!).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chock full of goodness!

My classmate, Father Larry Gearhart, provides penetrating but too-infrequent reflections at his blog, Eyes of Faith.

Today, I happed upon this beautiful reflection on Our Lady, the Hail Mary prayer so familiar to Catholics, and on Hebrew poetry.

Check it out!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Spiritual Splendor (Sunday homily)

God just spoke to us, right to us, in the readings.
What did we hear?

“Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever”!

“The glory of the Lord”—what does that mean?
Above all, it means the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul spoke to us from the second reading,
encouraging us to persevere;
St. John the Baptist spoke to us, from the Gospel,
Challenging us to repent and be ready for the Lord.

It is the Holy Spirit who does this:
It is the Spirit who, like John the Baptist,
challenges and corrects us if we get off-track.

Even now, St. Paul and St. John the Baptist
are cheering us on, to keep running the race.

They want us to have a truly splendid Christmas!
That means not only ordinary, material splendor,
But far more important, spiritual splendor.

Let me offer two, practical ways to do that.
First: make a good confession.
There’s no good reason not to receive
this sacrament frequently.
Some say, “my sins are that bad.”
When I was a boy, that was the argument I’d use
for why I didn’t really “need” a bath:
I’d say, “I’m not that dirty, dad!”
Dad was never impressed!

If something feels awkward or embarrassing,
that’s even more reason to come:
get it behind you—forever!

The bulletin lists times for confessions;
also, we have a Penance Service this Thursday, 7pm,
at St. Boniface. You come, and bring someone along!

Here’s a second, practical suggestion: do a good turn.

This weekend we take up our annual collection
for the retirement fund
for our religious sisters, brothers and priests.

This isn’t for me, or the parish.
Rather, it’s for those faithful nuns and brothers
who have served the Church so generously,
and now need us to serve them, in their retirement.

You’ve been very generous
in the past—and I know why: Gratitude.
You know how generously the Sisters of Charity
have served our two parishes—and still do.
We need only think of Sister Joan Clare,
Sister Mary Alice, and Sister Ginny.

Sister Joan is my strong, right arm
in our two parishes;
Sister Mary Alice is such a loving, generous presence
in Piqua Catholic School—
If you need a reason to choose Catholic education
for your children, there it is;
same for Sister Ginny, at Lehman.

Today’s special collection will help close the gap
between the needs our retired religious face,
and the resources they have, which aren’t enough.

Bottom line: our dear sisters cared for us;
God asks us, now, to provide for them.

If you throw something in to help them,
you’ll feel a little more “splendid”
as you prepare for Christmas—
that’s a splendor that will last!

All the tinsel and decorations and lights are fun—
but they can’t hold a candle to the splendor
God offers us—namely, the life of the Holy Spirit.

That’s the splendor that Christ
pours down onto you,
when you receive absolution
in confession—it’s wonderful!
That’s the splendor he wants to clothe us with
every day, as we begin and end our days walking with him.

That’s the splendor we share with others,
Whether we share our faith,
or we share the burdens others carry—
such as today’s special collection.

Let’s make this season truly splendid,
with the splendor of the Holy Spirit!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Advent: terribly busy

I realize everyone is busy this time of year; I wish I knew what I could do to help alleviate that, not just for me, but for you, too. But we all get caught up in the cyclone that is December.

If you wonder what keeps priests busy -- at least, this one, I will give you some details.

As we head toward Christmas, all the usual craziness affects the parish: the school has the "Christmas music" program, one for upper grades, and one for lower. (I suggested we try to give it more of an Advent feel; next Wednesday, I'll see what they came up with.) We're also having a concert with Tatiana -- if you're in the neighborhood, stop by St. Boniface next Friday, 7 pm. No charge, only a free-will offering.

Then, there is the matter of Christmas gifts for all the volunteers; and decorating the church, and the office. We were going to do the office on Thursday, but the staff was too busy, so next week.

Then, there's the Christmas flowers -- we put a handout in the bulletin, inviting people to list remembrances, and of course, make a donation toward the flowers. For the bulletin before Christmas, all those remembrances will be listed.

And we have a "Giving Tree" for those homebound, or in need -- and all that involves lots of activity.

Then, there are the envelopes, which have to be labelled, and then sorted alphabetically, and then put out, in church, for folks to pick up. That also requires the pastor to beg, week after week, that people please pick them up!

Now, all this only indirectly affects me. But if it affects my staff, it affects me.

Here are the parts affecting me...

Arranging and scheduling a Christmas party for the staff. I convinced them to do it actually during Christmas season -- i.e., after Christmas Day -- and everyone liked it when we had a nice evening, last year, on the eve of Epiphany. But I still had to send a memo around, soliciting info for dates. We settled on the eve of the Baptism of the Lord, January 12. I'll take them out, with spouses, to a nice restaurant.

Preparing for end-of-year performance reviews. Every employee has a right to evaluation, and that is my job. I will be meeting with everyone, one-on-one, to give them some feedback on the year. Unfortunately, the financial squeeze both parishes face makes it difficult to offer raises, but I will do what I can.

Scheduling penance services, for the parish and the schoolchildren. Next week we'll have four services, one for 3rd graders, one for 7th and 8th graders, one for 4th to 6th graders, and one for everybody, for three parishes, the two I pastor, plus the neighboring parish. This afternoon I prepared the plan for the children's services. For the evening service next week, I'll dust off what we did last year, and use that. (The reason the 3rd graders have one to themselves -- they are at one campus, with k, 1, and 2; after that, we run over to the other campus, and get two grades; the others will be another day.)

Participating in penance services for other parishes. I can't expect other priests to come here, if I won't go there. Next week, I'll be at the Catholic high school and two nearby parishes for their services; I was at another parish earlier this week.

Beyond that, there is a general rise in activity this time of year. I get more calls from folks, for all manner of things; I expect I'll hear from folks planning to marry, as some folks come home for Christmas; I'll get inquiries about baptisms and so forth. And, of course, I do get invitations to parties and dinners.

The week after next, of course, we'll have church-decoration issues to deal with. With the "fourth week of advent" lasting only a few hours, I have little choice but to put the creches up before the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Today, I had two Masses; 9:15 with the schoolchildren. It was packed, as all the kids came together, at St. Mary, plus parishioners. That was nice, they sang well and it was a lovely Mass. Then I had 12:10 pm Mass at St. Boniface; not a bad turnout, I'd say. Inbetween, I stopped at the new Tim Horton's for some coffee and doughnuts -- and a parishioner paid for it! How nice! After Mass, I worked on the penance services, made some calls; realized the phone message didn't have the holy day schedule on it (sorry!) so I fixed that, plus added the Christmas schedule; scheduled a funeral next week; handled some emails, and came home early at 4 pm to rest a little before meeting some parishioners for dinner. I hope I can write my Sunday homily tomorrow...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

God always gives more than necessary (Immaculate Conception homily)

A lot of people think today’s feast—
the Immaculate Conception—
is about when Jesus was conceived.

That’s an understandable mistake to make.

But here’s the correct information:
the Immaculate Conception refers to
when Mary’s life began,
long before Jesus was born.

Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim,
loved each other, and in the normal way,
God gave them a daughter.
Mary was conceived—her life began—
in the natural fashion.

So—why is it called “Immaculate”?
“Immaculate” means clean and pure,
without any spot or stain.

That’s what we all want to be:
without a spot or stain.
When I was a boy,
and mom got me ready for Mass,
she wanted me to be “immaculate”—
clean clothes, clean hands, hair combed.

But as we walked to the car,
if there was a puddle,
you know what would happen:
I’d want to jump into it!
And that would ruin my being immaculate.

Our souls are the same way:
God wants them to be immaculate—without stain;
but we keep going for the puddles,
and our souls get stained.

That first reading explains why—
at the beginning of the human race,
the first man and woman “fell into a puddle”—
they sinned.

Their sin was very serious:
they stopped trusting God,
and turned against him.
As a result,
we all have the same tendency,
and it keeps tripping us up.

Well, if that were the end of the story,
it would be a very sad and dark story.

But recall what God said to the serpent—
the one who tripped up Adam and Eve:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

That is a prediction
of what would happen much later:
there come another woman,
a second Eve,
who would undo the mistake.

And there would be a second Adam
who would give that serpent
the beating he so richly deserved!

That second Eve is Mary;
the second Adam is her Son,
Jesus Christ!

When the time was right,
God chose to help Mary—
the second Eve—make the right choice.

That’s why, when her life began
inside her mother, Anna,
God prevented the stain of sin,
which touches all of us,
from touching Mary.
That’s what we celebrate, today.

Notice, this feast day
is not nine months before
Jesus’ birthday—but only 17 days!
But notice, it is nine months before
Mary’s birthday,
which we celebrate on September 8!

Now, some might ask, why did God do this?
What does this have to do with Jesus?

God could have merely given us Jesus—
and that would have been enough.

Jesus is our Savior,
the one who delivers us from evil.
He’s our super-hero,
only he is God as well as man.
He smashes the head of that serpent.

Jesus courageously died on the cross,
and with awesome power, rose from the dead.

You want a big-brother, a friend,
a Mighty Deliverer?
He’s the one to have!

But then, God loves to give us extra gifts,
beyond what we need.
We needed Jesus—he would have been enough.
But he also gave us Mary!

He gave Mary herself the extra gift
of beginning her life immaculately.
He didn’t have to.

That was also a gift to his Son, Jesus—
so he would grow up
with the best of all mothers.
God always gives more than the bare minimum!

So, not only was the best of all mothers
a gift for Jesus;
Jesus shares the gift of his mother with us!

Remember what the first Adam called his wife:
Eve, the mother of all the living.
Mary is the new Eve:
She is the mother of all
who have life in Jesus Christ!

When Mary said “yes” to Gabriel—
and she said “Yes” to Jesus being her Son,
she also said “Yes!”
to each and every one of us.

What God did at the beginning of her life
gave her the freedom to give that “Yes,”
when the time was right!

That was pretty thoughtful of God!
By doing it that way,
it means Mary is a beacon of hope
for each of us.

Jesus is the one who saves us;
Mary is the one who shows us
what that looks like!

Jesus saved her, too—only he did it early.
What God did for Mary,
at the beginning of her life—
preserving her from sin—
he will do for all of us,
if we, like Mary, say “Yes.”

What Mary is now, we hope to be—
and with her powerful prayers,
and the almighty power of Jesus our Savior,
we have reason to know it will happen!

God himself, through his angel,
said: “Hail, Mary!”
And we her joyful children, say the same!

Monday, December 04, 2006

A (pre) Christmas meme

Kasia at The Clam Rampant tagged me to answer this survey...

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Egg Nog, certainly, but only if it is home-made. And I know how to do it. It's not as hard as you may think; and when people taste home-made egg nog, they are astonished -- they never knew what the real thing was like, because all they've ever had was that gooey, wallpaper-paste-like substance sold everywhere.

I cannot just now find a recipe that corresponds to the one I have, somewhere; but the basic method is as follows:

Ingredients: Half-and-half (or pure cream if you like); eggs; sugar (Splenda works too); Bourbon (others like Rum or brandy, but I've never used them); fresh nutmeg.

Method: First separate the eggs. My mother taught me that when you separate eggs, never open the egg over the bowl of separated whites, because if you have a failure -- the yolk breaks -- over the bowl of all your whites, you will spoil them all. Her method was to have a small bowl, separate the whites into that, then after success with that egg (meaning no yolk), toss it into the larger bowl of whites. That way, if you mess up one egg, you don't ruin all the whites. She said it was okay to get white in with the yolks, but not vice-versa.

After separating the eggs, you put the whites in the fridge, to keep them cold; then you whip up the yolks. I can't recall the order just now, but I seem to recall first make the yolks thick and creamy, then you add the bourbon -- slowly -- then the sugar, then the half-and-half. (It all comes back to me when I actually do it, plus I have the recipe somewhere.) Note that the half-and-half or cream is not itself whipped, but merely added in -- this I recall comes after the sugar and whiskey.

This can go in the fridge while the whites come out. These are now whipped up. Again, mom told me to be careful none of the prior mixture is on the mixer's blades. The whites are whipped up fairly stiff, although not too much so. (I often overdo it). I never add anything, such as salt or cream of tartar, such as I seem to recall some might.

Next step is to combine all this. I don't know if anything would be gained by waiting; I always do it right away. Since I don't care to have lots of dirty bowls, nor have any of this goodness go to waste, I try to whip up the yolk/cream mixture in the bowl I'll serve it in, which has to be huge.

When combining the whites with the prior mixture, you do it gently and patiently, because you've just gone to all the trouble to whip up those whites -- why would you want to undo all that work? The result should be mostly even thickness, but not obsessively so -- having some blobs of the fluffy whites is fine. The last thing is to grate the fresh nutmeg over the top, as generously as you like; then carefully place the entire bowl back in the fridge to chill.

When you bring it out, the whites will have risen to the top, but they should be more like a froth than a solid layer (this is where not stiffening them too much is important; but even if you do, it'll still taste very good).

Real egg nog will be kind of messy in the bowl, so I think you do well to use it all up at one go; but you can put it away again, and save the leftovers, and it'll taste just fine. I can't recall ever saving it very long, so I have no idea how long you can save it.

One more thing: you can, of course, use as much or as little liquor as you like; the recipe calls for what seems -- when you pour it in -- to be a significant quantity; but it won't be till after you whip the whites, and put it all together, that you realize just how much volume you have -- then, it's not so much, as a proportion to the whole. It's enough to give it a sharp, whiskey taste (which I like), and it will give a little "lift," but really, unless you stand there and swill it back, there just isn't enough to intoxicate. So don't be timid about the booze; it won't be as much as you think it will.

Yes, you can make it non-alcoholic; I tried it, back in college, when I went through a temperance phase. Trouble was, the egg-sugar-cream mixture didn't have much flavor -- and because this version of egg nog doesn't have as much body as the pasty commercial stuff, the result I found disappointing. One remedy is to load it up with vanilla flavoring (real, of course!), or to try a rum-flavoring. As I recall, that produced pretty good, non-alcoholic egg nog; but I haven't seen a reason to make it that way in awhile.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? All I know is St. Nicholas brings them wrapped; whether he or someone else actually does the wrapping, I don't know. I, on the other hand, am tending toward minimalism.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Whatever's on sale/or I find in the box.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? That would be a little scandalous, don't you think?

5. When do you put your decorations up? As near to Christmas Eve as I can -- unless I never get around to putting them away, as happened with the creche from last year!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? If I have a turkey, my favorite dish is the gravy; but only when it's made the way my mother made it: from the drippings of the pan, with flour, and not too thick; and still hot!

If you want to be a purist, I'd argue that turkey is more for Thanksgiving, and therefore have something else luxurious for Christmas: a big roast, or how about duck or goose? (Not that I've ever cooked a duck or goose!); but on the rare occasions I've fixed a Christmas meal, I have done a big, juicy roast of beef. I guess it all depends on how much you like turkey, and how much is leftover from Thanksgiving. I like turkey, but if I ate it for a week in late November, I like having something else. On the other hand, if no leftovers, then bring on the turkey. As it is, it's been awhile since I played host for either occasion, so I enjoy whatever is set before me.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: coming back from midnight Mass as a family, and waiting in the car as Dad ran in to see if Santa had come -- then coming out and announcing, breathlessly, that he had! Then we'd all rush in, open our presents right then.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? ... um, what do you mean?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sure, and earlier, if it serves courtesy: i.e., someone presents me a gift, and I think my opening it would give that person pleasure, I will do so, whenever.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Ideally: lots and lots of lights, carefully placed, so the thing glows from within; then ornaments placed both on the surface, but also the interior, and on all sides -- yes, even the back! (although this is where the uglier ones go) -- so that anyone who really looks at the tree, will see something those who only glance at it will miss. I'm indifferent to garland and won't use "icicles." Candy canes are nice.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? In the world of my own wishes, snow arrives overnight, but never sticks to sidewalks or roads; and remains only so long as it's pleasing, then goes away swiftly. In that world, I love it; in the real world, I have no use for it, particularly around Christmas. Have you any idea what a headache "threatening weather" is for parishes, their staffs, their volunteers, their plans, their budgets, and their pastors? If it must come, let snow come during the Octave of Christmas -- i.e., on a weekday, when school is out anyway, and the staff all gets time off; I don't mind trudging through it for daily Mass.

12. Can you ice skate? No; but I can fall on my posterior and hurt myself with alacrity.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Yes.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Worshiping the Lord.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? This is true: fruitcake! But it has to be made right, fresh, and properly inebriated.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Midnight Mass.

17. What tops your tree? One of those glass things that has a point on the top, intended to be a kind of star, I think.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Both together.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Hark! The Herald Angels Sing -- unedited by idiot music publishers who Gnosticize it.

20. Candy canes: yuck or yum? They're okay; better on ice cream.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? It's a Wonderful Life.

22. What do you leave for Santa? Nothing -- isn't having Mass on his feast day (December 6) enough?

If you like to participate in this sort of thing, consider yourself tagged . . .

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Sunday of Advent in Piqua

Opening Hymn: "The Lord is Coming" (Antiphon, in English, from Collegeville).
Confiteor in English, spoken
Kyrie, in Greek, chanted
Preparation: Creator of the Stars of Night
Communion: O Come, O Come Immanuel
Closing: O Come, Divine Messiah
Mass settings: Richard Proulx, Community Mass; Agnus Dei, Latin chant.

At five of the six Masses, we are teaching the Angelus by praying it before, or after, Mass--if after, we prayed it after the dismissal, but before the recessional hymn.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ready? (Sunday homily)

Sometimes the message is pretty simple.
The Lord is coming. Get ready. Stay ready.

That can be hard.

When I was a boy, if we were going out,
mom would get me ready:
all dressed up, clean clothes—
then she’d have other things to do.
Her worry, like all moms?
That while she was finishing getting ready,
I’d wander off and quickly get . . . unready!

Most of us are doing a lot of
"getting ready" these days:
parties, decorations, cards, presents, cookies.

This can be a crazy time of year.
Don’t be afraid to say "No" to some things,
so you can get ready in the best way.

For example, we celebrate a holy day this week.
It would be a shame to miss the opportunity
to thank God for the gift of Mary
who is a mother to us all.

The Church calls us to keep these holy days—
as well as the Lord’s Day—
to help us interrupt the tyranny of the ordinary,
and to stay connected to Eternity, our true hope.

Some of us see movies this time of year.
Can you believe Hollywood actually made
a Christmas movie about…Jesus! Imagine that!

That might be a good way to get ready.
If you see it, don’t forget to use SCRIP!

Christmas is three weeks away;
and when will the Lord return
for the final time?
That, no one knows.

So, be ready.
And maybe look around
for others who aren’t ready.

We all know people
who’ve gotten away from their Faith.
Maybe they were never baptized, or taught,
in the first place.
Maybe they just drifted off.
You can help them "drift" back!

I have a Bible study every Wednesday: Invite them!
Invite them to visit the chapel with you…
Invite them…to the Penance Service next week;
you come, and bring them along!
Help them be ready.

The Lord God came once as a child.
He will come the final time at the end of the world.
In the meantime, he comes through his Church—
us, his holy people—to help us and others be ready.