Thursday, May 31, 2007

A rare event: I cooked!

Tonight, we had a nice dinner at the priests' house in Piqua.

It has become a bit of a joke that I never cook, and in the main, that's true. Going back some years, I got out of the habit of cooking.

But I do know how.

A bit of background. As those of you who spend way too much time online know, I moved recently to the priests' house at St. Mary; meaning, now the vicar and I are sharing quarters. (For the prior year-and-a-half, I lived by myself.) Also, since Mothers' Day, we have had two seminarians staying here. So, that means four men--a full house (very different from living alone).

So...more emphasis, all of a sudden, on common meals, and that sort of thing.

Well, the seminarians happen to be handy in the kitchen, and they have turned out nice meals. So, of course, the pastor wants to do his part (the vicar, who is a few years older than I, is smart enough not to care either way, so he is happy when anyone cooks).

So I said, last week: "I'll cook dinner next Tuesday." And, I said, I would cook rabbit.

I've never cooked rabbit, but a family that raises them, gave me one, and I promptly popped it in the freezer (it was already dead, have no fear, and skinned). And I have been wanting to fix it.

Well...turns out Tuesday wouldn't work; we had a Mass for the 8th graders. Wednesday wouldn't work, because of confessions-Mass-Bible-study. Normally Thursday wouldn't work, because Thursday is normally meeting night...

Ah, but this month, it was the fifth Thursday! (That means, no meeting! Eureka!)

So, tonight, I cooked dinner:

Rabbit braised and baked with onion and butter
Rabbit gravy (no one else touched it, but it was good!)
Peas and carrots
Baked potatoes

(And, in the event anyone didn't like rabbit, I also cooked some pork chops, that looked really good, but we never touched!)

Well, it was rather good; only two little legs of poor Bugs is left, but all four pork chops are, as I say, untouched. The vicar, who is a fine man and priest, and the two seminarians and I, had a nice discussion around the table, which is always so nice, too.

We finished off with some dessert: we had a pie someone gave us, some of us had that; I had ice cream, and one of the seminarians -- a dedicated fellow -- went for a run.

This is the blessing of the fifth week of a month: no meetings! Deo gratias!

* I know what you're thinking--shouldn't it have been red or rose? Well, I rather thought so, too; but that is what we had.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sorry, Pentecost is done, Easter Season is over, move along now...

...So the color switches to green, which signifies growing.

Pentecost in Piqua

In a bit, the Easter Season will be rung to a close (when the pastor leads -- or prays on his own -- Second Vespers). Of course, the various decorations will be attended to tomorrow or Tuesday. I am reminded I have to dig out my ordinary-time breviary, which -- since I moved recently, and have packed things up -- may be hard to do. The Latin Sanctus will, as planned, take a rest -- we used it from the first Sunday of Lent until Pentecost. Overall there was good participation, clearly more at some Masses than others. If there was anyone still saying, "we don't know this," all I can reply is, that's because all this time you refused to participate in a good spirit, and that's a shame. The Easter Candle moves, and we'll reduce the number of candles.

Oh, and of course I did the fancy dismissal, but not at the Vigil, I think it's only called for on the day.

If you click on the link to your right, indicating our music ministry, you can see the music that was planned. Our fine music director made some last-minute changes, at least at the Masses I celebrated, so I don't know what became to the opening hymn he had in mind. I am sure he has a good reason. The choir did do a nice setting of Veni Creator Spiritus -- not the entire prayer, but a repetition of that theme. Not the Taize chant either.

We sang the sequence at most Masses. The Adult Faith Formation committee did invite folks to wear red, so a number did so. Both churches wore red -- a bit more at St. Boniface (the martyr). Both churches had plenty of tongues of fire (candles). When I saw an item online about the dropping of red rose petals into the Pantheon (now Sta Maria ad Matyres), I was a bit envious, and also thinking, hmmm, could we do that?

Thanks to the seminarians, we had incense at all "my" Masses. And I was -- as I like to tell the kids, a "sing-a-saurus." I chanted the Gospel, and at one Mass, chanted the entire Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon of course, given the day), and parts of at another Mass.

The challenge, of course, with Pentecost is that it is a longer Mass, but I'm not sure folks expect that and are mentally prepared for it. On the other hand, Pentecost ranks as one of the three or four most significant feasts (along with Christmas, Epiphany and Easter), so should be treated as such, I think.

We also had prayer cards to give to folks, each one having a gift of the Spirit--everyone got a different "gift."

At St. Boniface, the major components of the new sound system were in place, for their first full use. It seemed they needed some fine-tuning, especially at the 10:30 Mass, when there was very high-pitched feedback happening somewhere. I said the new system was so good, it picks up the angels!

I am sorry to say we missed out on the plenary-indulgenced singing of the Veni Creator Spiritus, but I didn't get with our music director in time, that was my fault.

But there's always next year, along with the rose petals!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

'Lord send out your Spirit'--yes we mean it! (Pentecost homily)

When I meet with 8th-graders, preparing for confirmation,
I quiz them a little.
Well, now it’s your turn, get ready!

Think about the images of the Holy Spirit—
the various symbols or signs associated with the Spirit.

Who thought of the image of the dove?
How about the image of water?
How about Fire?
The image of Wind, or Breath?

Another one is the image or symbol of anointing—
Anointing with oil, anointing with the Spirit.

Well, there are more—but let’s stick with these.

Fire, Water, Wind…

Recall that in the ancient world,
people saw the world made up of four elements:
Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire.
And note: three of those are symbols of the Holy Spirit;
The last one, earth? That is a symbol of us.

Remember how God formed Adam…
from the dust of the earth.
But then, God breathed into Adam the breath of life.
Also, the dust of the earth, without water,
cannot grow anything. There is no life.

So the meaning of Water and Wind
as symbols of the Holy Spirit is that they give Life.

Now, we might think of natural life;
but the Holy Spirit is supernatural life.
Natural life lasts for a time, but ends.
Natural life grows for awhile, gets better and better;
Then peaks and ebbs away.

Not so the Life of the Spirit.
Supernatural life never ends.

There’s another comparison
between natural and supernatural life.

Natural life features its own special joys—
and heartbreak and suffering.
When people we love, die;
When bad things happen to good people;
When we sin, when we are humbled by our faults;
when the trials of life leave their mark on us.

The contrast is not so much that, in the life to come,
we have none of those things.
Because, in a way, we do.

Recall—when our Lord rose from the dead:
Were the wounds he suffered on Calvary gone?
They were not!

He showed his wounds to his disciples.
He still bore his wounds—
But they were no longer wounds of death,
They are wounds that signify life.

When you and I allow the Holy Spirit to govern our lives,
Our wounds, our pains, do not magically disappear,

They remain—but they are transformed,
to be part of his life-giving plan.

Think of how many people have helped us,
when we’re in trouble—
out of their own trials, experience and hope.

And this is a good time to think about the Holy Eucharist.
The ordinary bread and wine that will come to this altar,
represent all the stuff of our ordinary lives,
Including our work, our gifts…
Also our trials and pains…
Also our failures, even our sinfulness.
We give it over to the Lord for him to transform.

Speaking of the Eucharist…
The wheat, has to be crushed…
Then, what do you add to the flour?

And what takes the dough, and makes bread?


In a similar way, we offer our lives to the Lord,
And the Water of Life, the Fire of the Spirit,
Transforms us, into his true Body!

This is what the Holy Spirit does on the altar, at Mass;
And it is what the Holy Spirit
came on Pentecost to do in us!

So that we, made of earth, have life;
Tried by Fire, we become something beautiful.

One more thing.
Recall the psalm we sang; it is a prayer:
“Lord, send out your Spirit,
and renew the face of the earth.”

God doesn’t force his salvation on us.
We can choose to live by the Spirit, or not.

When we asked the Holy Spirit to renew the earth,
that includes, that begins, with us.

Do you mean it?

Are you sure?

Be careful what you ask for!

If you really want the Spirit to renew you, to change you,
to remold and re-make you…

He will do it!

Let’s pray it together:

“Lord, send out your Spirit,
and renew the face of the earth.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Resources on Pastoral Councils

I know many who read my blog are active parishioners, and some are pastors, surely with more experience than I have. So this is, what do folks call it? A "bleg" (a blog-beg, I think that means).

I have two parish pastoral councils, and I think it would be well to provide them with some "how to be a pastoral council" materials. Of course, I want to read and learn from such materials, first.

Any recommendations?

Sadly, some of the goofiness that has crept into parish life -- in liturgy, or catechetics, also finds its way into this sort of thing. This is why I'm seeking input, because I really don't want to waste my time with anything that reflects a problematic agenda or faulty understanding of the governance of the Church.

Feel free to suggest books, pamphlets or websites, and I'll check them out.

If you have actual experience to cite with any materials put into use, that's always helpful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What I'm working on...

Some time back, I mentioned in a homily, and I think also in the parish bulletins, that I'd like to have a series of evenings at which I'd lead an examination and discussion of the holy father's recent exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis.

What makes this even more relevant is not only that some liturgical matters in the parishes here have occasioned some questions and for some, both praise and objection, but also, beyond Piqua, there are liturgical matters being widely discussed, having to do with the Mass, various developments here and there, rumors of change, actual change in process, and thus questions of what all this is about.

So--on my vacation/retreat, I read the holy father's exhortation, and I re-read his Spirit of the Liturgy from AD 2000, and a couple of other works on the Mass that I happened to have, unread, on my shelf.

Yesterday and today I spent several hours fleshing out material for at least the first two talks, which would cover the first third of the exhortation.

The hard part, of course, is going to find time to do this for the rest of it--because I've deliberately been away from the office yesterday and today; that changes tomorrow. But I'm hoping the good start I've made will help me keep going.

The central part of the document may be where we have the most discussion, since it concerns "a mystery to be celebrated" -- i.e., how the Mass is offered and why we do it certain ways. In this context, I plan to touch on all those issues that -- on one level shouldn't be that important -- and yet, end up being subjects of great discussion: why this music? Why chant? Why sing? Why do Mass a certain way? Etc. For that section, I intend not only to draw on the holy father's exhortation, but also on his Spirit of the Liturgy and also the relevant Vatican II documents, and probably the General Instruction.

When all is ready--God knows when that will be!--I will schedule the talks, and then, once they are given, I plan to post the text online, not only for the benefit of my readers, but particularly for those parishioners who can't be present when we have the session. And of course, I have to give my parishioners plenty of notice for when this will all happen, since this is all primarily for their benefit.

But this is far enough along that I'm willing to commit myself to this, publicly -- i.e., by this post! After all, if all else fails, I could still do a presentation on the material without writing up a text suitable for publication, but more preparation will make for better content and discussion, so I'm aiming for that.

At this point, I don't imagine actually beginning the series until late June, and I may decide to wait until the fall. The upside of waiting is that more folks will benefit after summer is over; the downside is that there are more things scheduled starting in the fall, so I'll have more competition on the calendar. I look forward to the advice of parishioners and some of the more active collaborators in parish ministry here to give me their feedback on that issue.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Secret's out...I'm back

I tried to sneak back into town last night. Didn't work. When I stopped by the office to pick up some work to look at this morning, I ran into the couple that cleans the office. "Don't tell anyone you saw me!" (Part of the reason I didn't want to be seen was my scruffy attempt at a beard.)

Then I pulled in at the priests' house; wondering why so many cars were in the parking lot, I remembered the special Mass for those in the RCIA. I really didn't want them to see me looking so scraggly. Unfortunately, they all came out the door just as I walked by. "Keep my secret!"

Then, this morning, I had a few conversations about parish business, and had a visitation at a funeral home this evening, and a funeral tomorrow.

By the way, I shaved the bush off my face today, and feel much better; I really didn't care for it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Excellent GOP analysis from Instapundit

I seldom link it, but I check Instapundit at least daily. In addition to all his other gifts, Glenn Reynolds is brief (alas, a gift I usually lack). Here's one of his lengthier posts, and it's dead-on:

SAXBY CHAMBLISS was booed at a GOP convention over the immigration bill. The big problem for the GOP leadership is that they've lost their credibility. And they still don't understand it. This was clear a year ago when we talked to then-GOP chair Ken Mehlman, and it's much, much truer now. As a reader emails: "No credibility to fall back on. No reserve of good will to fall back on. No record to fall back on. No successes to fall back on."

And as Dan Riehl said earlier this week, Republicans were given a wakeup call with the 2006 elections, and they opted to hit snooze.

I still don't know enough to know if the bill is good or bad. But if the bill is actually a good bill that the GOP base would accept if they read it . . . then that's an even bigger indictment of the GOP leadership for failing to sell it. At this point, they've either mis-sold a good bill, or produced a bad one.

More retreat reading: Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread

I saw this title mentioned at Rich Leonardi's Ten Reasons some time back as perhaps an accessible book for most Catholics explaining the Mass. So I ordered it, to see if it would be workable to recommend to my parishioners.

I found it a quick read--I went through it in a couple of hours this afternoon on the beach; so, yes, I'd call it "accessible." Still, it covers a fair amount of ground in 200+ pages, not only the Mass from beginning to end, but some about Eucharistic adoration, about using Latin in the Mass, about Vatican II and the changes that came in its wake, and about the Lectionary.

Father Francis Randolph (a pseudonym) begins by describing some problems familiar in this country (he is in the U.K.): declining Mass attendance, folks reporting being "bored" at Mass, and not understanding what it's about.

He describes something amazing to me, from his country: "many Catholic schools have a declared policy of not actually teaching the children anything about the Catholic religion...the school provided religious education, meaning that it could help children to live their existing faith and deepen it, but it was not its task to instill that faith in the first place" (p. 13). He pays the U.S. quite a compliment, saying, "when I hear a young American voice through the confessional grille, it is usually better informed and more conscientious than its English contemporary, though it is not necessarily more successful at living up to its ideals!" (p. 14).

Well, I shan't go through the whole book with you, but it does a good job explaining everything that goes on at Mass, giving a rationale for why we do things as we do, and explaining a number of the changes that came in the wake of the Council -- some of which he regrets or thinks miscarried. For example, he suggests perhaps we have too many readings at Mass, adding to confusion and tiring the faithful.

He rather early "shows his hand" as regarding his own preferences, particularly touching on the issue of which way the priest faces. Of course, this is a perfectly valid option, yes even under the current rite of the Mass--but not many Catholics know that, and unfortunately, the issue of "toward the people" or not is even more a "hot-button" issue than using Latin and chant. So it may be that his offerings on that subject--a brief part of his book--may be enough to put some off. That would be too bad, because there's nothing in this book that is in any way problematic, although obviously some might look at the same information or sources and reach different conclusions.

Perhaps the salient observation, offered specifically in regard to the value of Mass in Latin--even, and especially if you don't understand it!--but generally in regard to the issue of "not understanding everything" or "being distracted," was his point about the different levels of engagement with prayer. This is a common-sense observation, yet many forget about it, and try to engage in prayer mainly at the intellectual level--they try to engage the words and concepts, and apprehend them as one does in a conversation.

Of course this is important; but it is not and should not be the only level on which we pray. Randolph points out that for many people who are much more contemplative, they find trying to do this distracting and difficult, and much prefer to pray without direct engagement with the words; they don't sing, they take in the music; and for them, Mass in Latin is extremely helpful. He makes the very sound point that many people are contemplatives without realizing it, and don't particularly articulate their needs--so they end up saying, simply, "I don't know why, but I like Mass better in Latin."

Father Randolph makes the obvious right point--different strokes for different folks--but a further point, I don't recall him making, is that it might be important for everyone to experience the Mass, and prayer in general, on more levels. I.e., it may be those who object most when Mass doesn't appeal directly to them on an intellectual level, who most need chant, or music, or incense, or symbolism, or--gasp!--Latin; because it may help them discover a real dimension of prayer they'd been unaware of.

I shall provide the title as a resource for parishioners--I guess I am doing that now!

Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread by Father Francis Randolph, Ignatius Press, 1998.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What I've been doing on my retreat

Honestly, this week has been wonderful.

I sleep as much as I want: not that I really am sleeping any more than I usually do, and I can't even say I sleep better. Truth is, I sleep best in my own bed; but there's something about going to sleep without worrying about anything.

While I am a very sociable person, it's been nice not having to be particularly sociable. I mean, I'm here at a retreat center on my own, and there aren't many people around, and no one bothers me. I am alone with my thoughts, with the several books I brought with me, and with the quiet, calm environment around me.

Because the retreat center here has been pretty quiet, they didn't have any meals this week. No problem; I am perfectly capable of running to the store and getting edible things that go with coffee in the morning, that are portable so I can take them with me to the beach around lunch, and in finding places to eat in the evening.

What have I been reading? I re-read the holy father's Spirit of the Liturgy, written before he became pope; then I read his recent exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. I am preparing a series of talks on the latter, and thought re-reading the former would be helpful. The youth minister was a little surprised to learn these were my plans for this week--"you shouldn't do work!"--but the thing is, this is stuff I never find time to do at the parish, and it's enjoyable, and it involves a different part of the brain. That is a kind of recuperative work that we all like to do.

This is a self-directed retreat, which is pretty low-key. There are many ways to do a retreat, and this is one of them; but the other forms are very valuable.

What's the difference between this and a vacation? I guess in some ways, not much, if you consider a week of praying, reading, reflecting, to be normal vacation activity.

It hasn't been all praying and reflecting, I confess--yesterday, it was rainy all day, so I drove into Wilmington, visited the battleship U.S.S. North Carolina, which was pretty cool; at one point, I was in the turret of the big guns (and they really are--they were capable of lobbing shells 22 miles!) and lo and behold, I was able to target a Coast Guard ship just across the Cape Fear River.

Then I went to see a movie, Spiderman 3. Go see it, it's great fun, just like the comic books, which I loved when I was a kid. I don't know if Spiderman comics are the same as they were, but they used to be all about good and evil, with Peter Parker/Spiderman faced with human dilemmas about doing what's right, even when no one knew or seemed to care and it would have been a lot easier to do the wrong thing. That's pretty good stuff for any kid to be reading, and it says something that that sort of thing was taken for granted 30 years ago. The three movies all take exactly the same approach, so kudos to the filmmaker.

Eating out has had its adventures. I took a book with me, and twice was asked, "what are you reading?" "It's called The Spirit of the Liturgy." (Blank look.) The first time, the guy said, "are you going into the seminary?" And of course I explained I already had, and he figured out that meant I was a priest. He turned out to be a soldier -- a Marine -- and as far as I could tell, something of an Evangelical Protestant. Nice guy, but when he started going on about the "Book of Revelations,"* and recent world events, I politely excused myself.

Then there was the barbeque joint in Wilmington, called "Sticky Fingers"...pretty good food. Two construction workers came in, both from South Carolina, and it was the very first time in my entire life that I met fellow Americans, native English speakers, with no apparent speech impediment, who I could not understand. They were friendly and pleasant enough, but I only got about every third word they said, and I felt awkward about saying, "I'm sorry" (I caught myself saying "please?"), and felt fake in simply nodding pleasantly when they'd say something and I had no idea what it was. I usually can do a fair job mimicking these accents, but that one just escaped me. It's nice to know our country hasn't been completely homogenized yet.

Finally, it may amuse or interest some of my readers to know that currently, I look even less like my picture up in the corner. Since no one here knows me, it seemed a good opportunity to let my beard grow, although I did trim it up so I didn't look too forlorn. The bad memories of what it was like growing a beard, from 25 years ago when last I made the attempt, are all coming back. My beard comes out in several colors (back in college, the resulting effect was red), and every possible angle. The best way I can explain it is to say that the hair on my face grows like what we used to call an "afro." The only change, from 25 years ago, is a new color--a few strands are white. So I guess that makes me officially a "greybeard."

Well, don't expect to see it; it's a pretty rotten beard. Growing a beard is one of those dumb, pretty-much- meaningless things guys do once in a while, and I figure I can do it for a few more days, then shave it all off.

* It's the Book of Revelation--no 's'--and this is important, insofar as I've noticed those who make it plural always seem to see the book as a collection, a grab-bag, of confusing stuff; as opposed to a singular revelation that--however challenged we may be to interpret it--is, nonetheless, a unified message, and not something you can reach into and pull out whatever verse or statement suits your theories at the moment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Some reactions to the GOP Debate

I didn't see the debate (no TV), but late last night, I did read a fair amount of coverage online, and see some clips. So perhaps someone who actually saw the debate in context can challenge these conclusions--which go beyond the debate, to some of the coverage...

National Review seems to have decided backing a winner is the main thing--so they seem to be soft-soaping all the ways Giuliani is a liberal, and will take this country in a liberal direction, and hyping the few, slender things about him that count as "conservative." It's all about the war. Too bad about the unborn babies...

And marriage...

And gun rights...

It's all about the why shouldn't we torture? Rep. Tom Tancredo said that anything goes if you're saving Western Civilization. Who cares about torture? No, he wasn't exactly that explicit, but he did say do whatever, do anything, to get information. This in response to a hypothetical about nukes exploded on U.S. territory, and do you countenance torture? I don't much care for McCain, but he had the right answer, from what I gather -- we don't do that because it's wrong. He also had the right answer to Romney -- "I don't change my position based on it being an even-numbered year, or what office I'm running for next" or words to that effect. Too bad he's so terribly wrong on the First Amendment, and shows every sign of wanting to whack away further at free speech (his followup to his execrable "McCain-Feingold" law is to complain it doesn't go far enough).

Where was Sam Brownback? I know he was there, and I know he spoke, but that his answers show up almost nowhere in the coverage -- including conservative-wonks' coverage -- tells me he offered little that was memorable or decisive. Too bad. Huckabee may steal his rationale for running -- i.e., being a full-package conservative, proving that you don't have to opt for a different flavor of sell-out ("Rudy McRomney").

What Ron Paul said deserves more reflective consideration, rather than merely being dismissed as "blame America" and "moonbat."

What he said is deeply unsettling--he challenged over 60 years of American foreign policy--and the response, beyond Giuliani, has been to treat his words as if he'd uttered obscenities in polite company, and everyone moves on.

And yet, let's consider. Is it truly unspeakable to say that bad decisions or policy on the part of the U.S. can have terrible consequences? Isn't that what Reagan said about Jimmy Carter in 1980? Was that "blame America"?

Michelle Malkin rightly points out that his answer ignores the long history and deep roots of jihadism at work here. Yes, but: the jihadists, the folks who want to subdue everyone in the name of Islam, didn't attack us until relatively recently. Why? What moved the U.S. up the list?

One problem with Congressman Paul's answer is the suggestion that we should reconsider our relationship with Israel in this light. As with the torture question: our relations with Israel should be based on what's right; not fear of what an enemy may do to us for it.

Another problem is that I have a hard time conceiving of how the U.S. operates in the world as he seems to envision. He seemed to question whether we should have belonged to NATO! I.e., it seems to me that our engagement with Europe, post-World War II, and the resulting stance against the Soviet empire, seems to be one of the singular accomplishments of American foreign policy. Calling it a big mistake seems a pretty tough sell.

Is he suggesting we should return to a contemporary version of "Fortress America"? I suppose it would be do-able: very secure borders, full missile-defense systems, including space-based weapons, and the long reach of our military where we can identify something brewing that is clearly aimed at us. But can our economy work very well if our long borders with Canada and Mexico are not highly porous--let alone our air- and seaports? One of our problems is we are a trading nation. That means lots and lots of people and things come and go across our borders.

So Paul suggests we withdraw from "their area" -- meaning wherever Osama bin Laden et al. call "theirs." That means out of the Middle East, where our oil comes from--and not just ours, but much of the world's. The mistake many make, left and right, is to think that its just about "our" oil. No it's not. I.e., suppose, tomorrow, we discovered vast oil fields, in, say, Piqua--enough to make the U.S. oil-independent. Do we then no longer care what happens to the oil fields in the Middle East?

Yes--unless those Piqua fields are big enough to supply much of the world--because the U.S. has a stake in the stability of the rest of the world, too. Think of it this way: you and your neighbors are in the middle of a very dry area. You have your own source of water, and your neighbors have theirs. What happens if theirs stops supplying water? You really think it won't affect you?

All that said, Rep. Paul raised a valid question, too little discussed. He said something like "They (meaning bin Ladin et al.) didn't hit us because we're rich and we're free, but because of what we're doing over there." We were rich and free for a long time before it was all-important to them to hit us.

And I will say what Rep. Paul didn't say: some of the "freedoms" we push on the world, that the Islamists do hate, they are right to hate: contraception, abortion, obscenity, the radical deconstruction of marriage, family and the human person, the manipulation of life, etc. Which is to say that when President Bush and Mayor Giuliani say, "they hate us for our freedoms," I only half-cheer, because I'd rather be without some of them.

Which is all to say that Paul may be right, that we're fighting a war we needn't; or he may be wrong, that we are fighting a war we do need to fight--but we're fighting it for the wrong reasons, meaning his GOP critics are wrong, too.

...Which suggests that for all the flaws one can find in what Rep. Paul said, there's more fruitful responses to it than are being offered in much of the discussion.

Update: here's a thouhtful response to Rep. Paul's statements last night, at National Review Online. Further update: And here's more from NRO...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On the Carolina Coast

It is sunny, about 80 degrees, and I just had a walk on the beach, and some breakfast. It felt like I slept away the morning, because the sun comes up so early here, but I actually got up around 8:30 am.

I'm getting caught up on some reading today and trying not to get sun-burnt (which is super easy for me).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Where's the Holy Spirit? (Sunday homily)

Where’s the Holy Spirit?

In the Gospel, the Lord promises “the Advocate,”
who “will teach you everything.”
Doesn’t that sound like what our moms do for us?
Never doubt the Holy Spirit often speaks through mom!

In the Book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit
working through the Apostles, as they build the Church.

In Revelation—the final book of Scripture—
we see the Spirit has completed his work:
A glorious City, full of God’s Light.

So, what about us?
How, in our time, is the Spirit at work?

Consider things we usually think are important:

· How many nuclear bombs do you have?
· How did your stock do this week?
· Which actress is Brad Pitt going out with these days?
· How is your favorite sports team doing?
· What’s on sale, and where can I buy it?

In other words, if we don’t see the Spirit at work,
could we be looking at the wrong things?

So let’s look again. And let me tell you,
this is where being a priest is so great.
I get a ring-side seat!

Someone comes to confession,
someone comes to our 24-hour chapel—
what draws them there?

When people forgive—what power enables them to do it?

You visit someone in prison—and he tells you,
he’s never felt freer, or more at peace, in his life.
Because he has nothing left…except the Holy Spirit.

So, where do you see the Holy Spirit at work?
May I suggest, you see him in surprises.
When what happens is what no one expects.

A lot of us remember the Cold War.
Conflict between freedom and communism? No surprise.
That the Cold War eventually ended,
or that the Free World won, was also, no surprise.

But how it ended—that, no one expected.
One day, someone knocked a hole in the wall,
and everybody poured through—
and nobody fired a shot!

Is the Holy Spirit at work today…in the Church?

If you look for what’s wrong, you will always find it.
If you look for what’s right, I think you’ll find a lot more.
Yes, we had some bad priests and weak bishops,
and they did a lot of harm. But we’re cleaning that up.

One result is not only that the whole Church
expects more from her priests and bishops;
but also, we expect it from each other.

One of the things the Second Vatican Council
emphasized was a universal call to holiness—
so it’s not just priests calling the people to holiness,
but the people calling their priests to the same thing!

One final thought.
Discovering what the Holy Spirit is doing might be
as easy as turning off some things:
The TV and the Internet.
Take off your watch, and forget about
where you think you need to be next.

When everything is silent—including your own thoughts…

What might you see, and hear, then?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What's happening

Preparing for going out of town is so much extra work it really is tempting not to go--I know there will be a pile of things waiting for me, and I had to scramble to get a number of things taken care of before I head off. Thank God for cell phones!

I'm sure everyone is amused by my memos--I often write out memos for the other priests and the staff, because that way I make sure I tell them things that I might otherwise forget about. Thursday and Friday I was writing up lots of memos about various things.

Meanwhile, I was getting things ready at the priest house here. We are having an open house this weekend, so parishioners can see the house the priests live in. This house had been 1/2 office, 1/2 residence until last November, when the two parish offices were consolidated. Then we did some remodeling and repainting, allowing the parochial vicar to have a room on the first floor, and to give the house some much-needed fresh attention. The last few days we've been taking care of various details, such as hanging pictures, and making sure all the beds have pillow.

Last night we had a party for those who helped do all the work, and we had some sandwiches and drinks for them, and showed everyone around. Tonight, after both Saturday Masses, and tomorrow, we are also welcoming all comers. So of course, we had to have snacks, beer, pop (for the evening) and donuts, juice and coffee, for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I had a wedding today--sort of. I wasn't the officiant at the wedding--the bride is Protestant, so they were able to apply for a dispensation, so that her minister would officiate; while in such a situation, I needn't even take part, they wanted me there, and I was happy to be there. So last night, we had the rehearsal dinner; but because of the thank-you reception at the priests' house, I had to duck out before the actual rehearsal. No problem--all I had to do at the wedding was bless the rings.

Then, today, I had to run down to the next town for the wedding, which was in the evening; after the wedding, I headed back to welcome folks to the priest house.

Oh, and we also welcomed two seminarians who will be with us this summer; they arrived around 2 pm, and we got them settled; they assisted at the two Masses, so they could be introduced, and then they met more folks at the Open House.

We would have had more folks tonight, but the Cub Scouts planned a Spagetti Dinner, so no one came from St. Boniface to my Open House tonight. I hope they come tomorrow.

Tomorrow, after two Masses, and the Open House, I am heading off tomorrow afternoon for a retreat.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I had a dream...

Have you noticed that if you wake up during a dream, you can remember it?

Early this morning, before I woke up, I had a dream. I was dreaming of the holy father, having one of those huge Masses he has, when he travels. Just the way you've seen them. And there was the pope!

It was Pope John Paul II. He was doing what the pope does at one of those Masses.

Then I realized I was hearing something was an announcer...on the radio...I was listening to NPR's report on the holy father's visit to Brazil.

And I thought, hmm, can't be two popes...then I woke up and remembered.

'Prolife' supporters of Giuliani strangely silent

Readers and friends know I take a keen interest in politics; the truth is, however, parish life keeps me pretty busy, so I spend far less time on the subject than I might enjoy.

Some time back, when former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani began to be talked about as a presidential candidate in 2008, a lot of his vocal supporters and cheerleaders included folks who claim to be prolife--in this case, they became "prolife, but," as in, "I'm prolife, but I think the need for a strong leader in this time of crisis is of first order, so I back Giuliani." And then came explanations for why someone who had been outspoken for legal abortion, even for tax funding of abortion, would still be someone prolifers could get along with and even make progress with.

Well, there may be other arguments for Giuliani, but that one was patently ridiculous. A far better argument can be made for how Bill Clinton's presidency meant progress for prolifers: because of the resulting activism of prolifers to his election, translating into election of many more prolife politicians to Congress and state legislatures, and that in turn resulting in better policy in many places. That happens to be true. But no one has, to my knowledge, suggested Giuliani will have a similar effect.

No, the argument meant to induce prolifers to accept Giuliani was that he'd mute his pro-abortion position, and he'd advance the prolife cause by naming good justices to the Supreme Court.

Well...then he said in the recent debate that he'd be "okay" with Roe v. Wade being overturned, and he'd be okay with it being upheld--and he saw either outcome as something a strict constructionist justice could do.

In his column today, Charles Krauthammer points out, reasonably, how this might be true--that a "strict constructionist" justice might reason that Roe had been part of the law too long to be repealed. But all that does is highlight that the term "strict constructionist" is deceptive in its meaning in these discussions. To be blunt: politicians trot out the term to soothe and lull people into a false sense of security. Our current president, and also Giuliani (and many others), say "strict constructionist" to prolifers, expecting them to hear, "will overturn Roe." It's code, and everyone knows it.

After all, the centerpiece of the "prolife" argument for Giuliani was his pledge to appoint justices "like Roberts and Alito." (Never mind neither has yet demonstrated he'll cast aside Roe.)

Giuliani's candor on Roe knocked the props out from under these so-called prolifers who backed him. I say so-called, not because I believe a prolifer cannot back Giuliani. I happen to believe that; but I also can understand that not everyone has clarity on that, and I don't care to fight over that question, just now. No, the folks I call "so-called prolifers" are those who, in my judgment, are attempting a fraud--either deliberately, or they simply have deluded themselves. They are trying to claim someone like Giuliani would represent progress, or at worst, no change, when it comes to the prolife cause. It would be far more honest to concede he's terrible on the prolife cause, and would hurt the cause--but some extenuating circumstances make that the least bad alternative. I wouldn't agree with that argument--but it's a more honest one.

Back to Giuliani's answer on Roe--it is your warning, prolifers, to discount all the talk about "strict constructionist" judges and look for more substantive responses. (I might point out, in passing, that Giuliani, in that recent debate, either erred accidentally, or showed his ignorance of the law, or tried to snow us, when he referred to Roe being upheld, and then it'd be up to the states. The fact is, part of what makes Roe a travesty is that it does not leave it up to the states. The pro-aborts know it, so anything that opens the door, even a crack, to federal or state regulation of abortion represents a backing away from the absolutism of Roe, and its companion case, Doe. And, I might also point out here that this is why it's a little disingenuous to speak of Roe as "settled law" because it has been modified, several times, since 1973.) I'm not saying strict constructionist justices aren't a good thing, nor am I saying that what we should want is justices whose vote on Roe is pre-determined. What I think is that these politicians are trying to play word games with us, and Giuliani's candor on Roe the other day reveals that.

As does the recent silence of those who were claiming prolifers could make progress with Giuliani. They can't point to his promises on justices anymore, and I suspect they are afraid to say anything else in defense of him on the prolife cause, for fear he'll cut 'em off at the knees with the next revelation. For example, he claims to be "personally prolife" (like John Kerry), and yet it turns out he gave money to the world's leading abortion industry, Planned Parenthood. Better to talk about the war on terror.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going on retreat soon...

...Next week, in fact.

Blogging will be sparse, if not non-existent, into the following week.

My only regret is I will miss the presbyteral ordinations for the archdiocese this year, but I had no other time to schedule this, and I better get some time off before I start bouncing off the walls.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blogger Bash: worth a trip to Worthington

Driving from Piqua to Worthington, Ohio was no great trick--U.S. 36 to S.R. 29, and then it's a straight shot along S.R. 161 ("the 161," as they say in California). Who knew Plain City even existed, let alone how nice it is? That was me whizzing through -- twice -- last night. Hope the cows have calmed down.

It was very nice meeting Mr. & Mrs. Darwin. Mrs. Darwin brought along her brother, who is a seminarian -- for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati! -- and who didn't talk as much as the rest of us, meaning he could eat more wings and potato skins. Smart guy! (I'm told he picked the location; it had great food and beer, no surprise a seminarian knew about it.)

The Darwins are every bit as charming as you find them on their website, DarwinCatholic, linked at your right. Both young. I am pretty sure I have some clothes older than they are, but I didn't say that to them. They have three children, what a nice start! We chatted about any number of things, particularly movies and a bit of theology, and a bit of politics. It was fun hearing about "the cockroach who destroyed their bed"; although the actual causation of that incident is not well expressed by that title...

Jay Anderson was slated to join us, but there was something about a poker game...Oh, wait, I wasn't supposed to say that publicly! I hope his wife doesn't see this; I heard she never reads anything online.

But if he had shown up, I'm sure I could have described him as follows. He happens to look just like his picture (I guess I don't, due to needing a haircut, and a few years' service in the parish, and all the free eats that go with, flabbing my appearance), and has quite a few good stories. I won't tell them, because you might meet him someday, and who knows? He may only have that one set of stories, and I don't want to make things difficult for him...

He has quite a bit to say about the Supreme Court, and the Darwins, are terribly polite and made a good show of being interested in Justice Ginsburg's reputed shoe size.

The political discussion was insightful--particularly explaining the real reason Jay was hot to move to a new jurisdiction. Something about elections and "walking around money." But I hear Columbia, Virginia has the best Anti-Terror Nuke Suppression Team in the country, thanks to clever applications with the Homeland Security Administration.

Oh, wait--I wasn't supposed to say anything about that, either.

Of course, all this is speculation, because Jay didn't actually show up--something about the Badda Bing Club a little further down U.S. 23...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It's Palm Sunday again...

...On the local access channel here.

Most weekends, a volunteer tapes Mass at one of the two parish churches here, and that plays on Channel 10. But occasionally, no one does it, so the local access folks pull an old tape off the shelf; so I am watching myself offer Mass on Palm Sunday. The bare patch on the crown of my head keeps getting bigger, alas.

As it happens, even when we get Mass taped, the tape doesn't play for a week; the programming for the weekend is all lined up in the machines when the weekend begins.

The Eucharist brings us to the New Creation (First Communion homily)

A few moments ago, we heard a reading
in which John tells us he saw
“a new heavens and a new earth.”

Our world is beautiful!
Every day, as spring unfolds, it’s more wonderful.
Think of all his wonders to behold:
rivers and meadows, waterfalls and canyons,
snow-caps and rain forests, deserts and oceans—
Think of all the forms of life that fill the earth.

When night falls, look up and behold
the spangled sky, littered with gaudy extravagance.
Imagine what wonders fill the countless galaxies!
You fall asleep, dreaming of them!

What a world—why make a new one?
Because it is damaged.
I left out one part of God’s Creation: US!
Human beings have both the greatest potential—
but we can also do the greatest damage.

So we are the ones who need to be made new;
and a new us means a new heavens and a new earth.

What that might be like?

Well, imagine we could somehow extract from this world,
all the envy, and greed, and pride…
all the anger and apathy and selfishness?
That would be a “new heavens and a new earth”!

That and more is what John saw.
So: how do we get there?

Today we celebrate the Lord rising from the dead,
same as every Sunday.
Ah, but there’s something special today!
Many fellow believers here
will receive the Eucharist for the first time!

So I just asked: how do we get to the new Creation?
The Eucharist is how we get there.

Jesus told us many things.
He said, “I am the Bread of Life”;
He said, “my flesh and my blood are truly food and drink.”
In a few minutes, at this altar,
you’ll hear him say, through me,
“This is my Body” and “This is the Cup of my Blood.”

So all that points to the Eucharist we share.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke of “glory”:
The Father gives glory to the Son;
and the Son shares his glory with us.
That happens through the Eucharist.

Boys and girls, I know that your teachers and parents
have taught you many things about the Eucharist.

We believe that we’re together
with Jesus, Mary, the saints and angels—
all heaven and earth, right here in the Mass!

We believe we don’t come to receive the Eucharist,
unless we have faith; unless we turn from our sins;
and unless we are ready to live as part of His Church,
the New People, his chosen Bride.

So the Eucharist is not a gift just for us:
this isn’t a “look at me, I’m special,” day;
Instead, this is a day Jesus chooses us in a new way,
to be givers and sharers of his life, with others.

All this is how we become his new creation.

I wish I could tell you that one time would do it!
But that isn’t how it works.

You were baptized as babies;
then you had to grow up some, before this day.
And far more lies ahead of you.
God wants us to grow into that new Creation.

In some ways, that’s harder;
but it’s also more real for us.

I know how excited you are, today—everyone is!
Aren’t you glad this isn’t the one and only time?

Let me tell you a secret…
The communion that matters the most,
isn’t the first…but the last one!

Remember I said, this Creation is wonderful—
but a new one is coming, far better?
This first communion is wonderful;
but the last one—the one that happens
in that new creation—
that’s the one to get excited about:
because that communion will never end!

Grownups, maybe you’re looking back
on your first communion.
But don’t look back, look forward—
to your next one, and to that last one!

And, if it’s been awhile, do as these young people did:
go to confession, and make another “first” communion,
back on your way to that forever communion!

Boys and girls, I just want to end by saying “Thank you!”
Your eagerness, your joy, is a lesson for everyone here.
I said a moment ago Jesus wants you to share
the new life he gives you in the Eucharist.

You know what? You’re already doing it!
Thank you!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tell me again what a priest does all day?

This week has been a good one, but busy as usual.

The pile on my desk is back down to a manageable mess; I've gotten a bit caught up (that means, I'm behind to a more tolerable degree). I'm making progress unpacking things at my house; yesterday, I hung about a third of my pictures, I'll get the rest next week. (Thankfully I have a parishioner who is helping me.)

Meanwhile, we've been preparing for an Open House at the Parish Offices. We wanted to do it when things were somewhat--but not too--presentable.

Part of my purpose is to make St. Mary parishioners welcome, as the offices moved from St. Mary to combine with St. Boniface. Another part of my purpose is for folks to see how the office staff does its work, what it takes, and that we are trying to be both professional but also frugal.

Yet another part of my purpose is to be open about what is still needed. While we did maintenance and improvements to the priests' house before I moved in, that wasn't practical for the parish offices; so many needed maintenance and repair jobs remain undone. On the interior, a few thousand dollars' worth of painting, plumbing, electrical work, and some plastering. On the outside, tens of thousands of dollars in roof repairs and exterior maintenance.

I am praying we will have a good showing; and that people will be willing to help, in whatever way they can.

So, yesterday and today, a parishioner who is helping me with this went around and posted signs in each room or office, explaining what is needed; and we have a display down in the front room. A bit ago, I was downstairs, putting out some food; I will go back downstairs (I'm in my office) a bit later to put out the cold items. Tonight folks get chips and dip, cheese and crackers, beer, pop and wine. Tomorrow it's coffee, juice and doughnuts.

Meanwhile, today, I had two meetings, and did a little work at my desk. Saturdays are a great time to work at my desk, I'm all alone.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

'Jesus Day,' God and Country

Today is "Jesus Day" in Piqua -- at least, for the Catholics.

Every year, about this time, we have "Jesus Day" for the second-graders who are soon to receive the Eucharist for the first time (i.e., this Sunday). "Jesus Day" is a series of activities, both fun and instructive, designed to prepare for that. Part of it is having the sacrament of reconciliation for the second-graders. I am proud of our community here: our second graders will have received the sacrament of confession several times before their first communion -- meaning, it is more than merely "something you have to do first." Our hope is it becomes a meaningful spiritual habit and source of grace all by itself.

So, in a bit, I'll head over to "shrive" our dear children. Later, we'll also have confessions for the 3rd graders, because we have confessions for all grades about four or five times during the school year, and they are due. We'll get the other grades next week, and the week after that.

Meanwhile, the other churches in town are participating in the "National Day of Prayer." Our parishes here haven't, in recent years, taken much role in that. Nobody asks why, so I'll just say it here, and I'll explain by way of describing the mailing I got, the other day, about it.

The flyer talked about events of the local, "National Day of Prayer" observance, how we'd pray for various worthy needs. But then it said something to this effect: "check here to indicate how many American flags you will need."

American flags?

Why do I need an American flag in order to pray?

I love our country, but I don't understand why so many folks get mixed up on "God and Country." It's not like, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" -- it's more like:



And I have to say -- there is open space between God and country because some values are higher than patriotism. If our nation promotes evil -- such as abortion, contraception, pornography, plays word-games with torture, and so forth -- then while I still love my country, what is true and what is good is a higher loyalty.

But I have been to a number of these "God and Country" rallies, and while I know people mean well, to me they border on idolatry. About 70% country, and 30% God; lots of "God Bless America" when it should be, "America, bless God!" These events give every impression of suggesting God is an American, and favors our cause.

Wrong. God's Providence is vastly beyond our understanding; and if it happens (and it does often seem to be the case) that it serves God's purpose to use the United States or any other nation in pursuit of his purpose, than we ought to be humbled by that, and say, "we are but unworthy servants" and stop there.

There are many good things to say about our nation, and its principles and way of life; I'm not saying we shouldn't lift up those good things, and strengthen them. I think we should; and I think we should continue to be a beacon to the world, as we have been. There's no question we have something remarkable in our constitution and our liberty and free market economy. We have many good reasons to be proud of what our nation has contributed to the welfare of humanity.

But as between "God and Country, rah-rah America--er, I mean, um, God!" and "Jesus Day," I prefer the latter.