Saturday, January 31, 2004

The weather outside is frightful ... ... or soon will be, according to various meteorologists. I must say, it has been harder to get used to winter living at this latitude than when I lived in Virginia. It seemed like Brittany and I had a lot more snow to play in the prior winter in Iowa. Maybe a foot of snow by Monday noon? I could try out my new lime green "saucer" and race my daughter and her purple sled down the hill. Meanwhile, after church tonight, it will be a trip to the store on the way home for some "essentials," especially with a game coming up tomorrow and a whole afternoon to plan and prepare some kicked-up snacks.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Teachers Peace, all. It's the week for it. Especially for Catholics. I wonder about my daughter (first grade) looking back on her teachers at this stage in her life: which will she love and appreciate the most? I spent my first five school years at PS #39. I loved each one of my teachers. I went into each new year with dread, but somehow up through grade 4, each new teacher rested comfortably in my mental hall of fame with the others. Then I went to the parish grade school for three years. I remember getting buried in homework from the outset. I didn't have the same affection for this stage of teachers, but I remember them with fondness. Which for a pre-pubescent, must be saying something. By the time I hit high school, I was pretty sour on most of my teachers. The horror stories were not too horrid, at least for me. But I viewed many of my high school instructors as incompetents or hypocrites, as I saw favorites favored, and unfairness faring well. I had Mr Smith for physical science in the ninth grade. He marked me off on a lab report for having a nearly identical sheet as my neighbor. What if the other guy copied me? Nope. I handed mine in last (I tried to check my work and routinely delayed until the last possible minute in case I forgot something.) When I got him for chemistry two years later, I found I really enjoyed him and came to appreciate his skill as a teacher and his love for science. I nearly forgot the unfairness of freshman year. Loved my Latin teacher. She was cool. Had us do silly plays to remember things like prepositions with the ablative (which I still remember). My history teachers rated A, A, and F. Religion was a near waste of time, and I won't embarass my church or state by mentioning details of how bad. The one good religion teacher was undercut by the administration when he took his subject seriously. Looooooooooooved Physics. Really. The one teacher I wished I had been more appreciative of later was Sister Mary Ignatius, who taught Advanced Placement English senior year. To give you an example of how clueless I was drifting through this class, I had entered an essay contest through her, and nearly forgot about it until I received an invitation to the award dinner. She pulled me aside after class the day of and told me to be confident and not to speak too long. I had no idea what she was talking about and promptly forgot useful her advice. Forgot, that is, until they called my name and I realized that not only had I won, but that they wanted me to make a small speech. Huh? Me? The best thing about Sister's class was the reading list. It was considerable. I probably read more for that class than I did for every other high school class put together. I remember most clearly the seventeen plays we had to read for our unit on dramatic literature. It has since been my goal to see all of these in live production, and I think the only two I've yet to encounter are Man and Superman and Hamlet. By the time I made it to high school, I was truly too much of an idiot to appreciate most of my teachers, let alone tell them to their faces. I certainly did not have any qualms about expressing sullenness at those who failed my grade. Don't neglect an expression of appreciation for your teachers, my friends. And if they're mostly dead or gone, you can keep your own children's teachers in mind when doling out needful gratitude.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Peace, all. Why I'm not sure singling out politicians will work: two observations 1. Is it enough to not vote in favor of pro-abortion legislation? Doesn't a Catholic also have an obligation to actively promote the good of society by introducing legislation? And if so, who decides how much activity is enough? Also if so, don't Republican Catholic legislators have a similar duty? Even if it splits their party? 2. People fuss about judicial activism. Aren't judges the real legal front lines? Have the bishops in question written to judges as well? And if not, why not?
Peace, all. I wasn't expecting it, but I've been infected with a mild strain. Politics. Missouri primary is next Tuesday and for some reason, now that I've seen their faces in print (you can't see much else in the Kansas City Star) I actually feel energized to vote in my first primary. There's no party line registration for Missouri voters, so I'm toying with the notion of voting for one of W's opponents. Thank goodness I'm not in St Louis, or I'd probably be excommunicated for voting for any democrat at all. I've still managed to avoid watching CNN or C-SPAN at all, so it has been a surprise to see what these guys actually look like. The only ones I would have recognized before yesterday were Liebermann, Sharpton, and Moseley-Braun. And I hear she's out of the race now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Peace, all. In my younger days, I had hopes that the prolife movement was going somewhere. Naively, I thought it had the makings of another civil rights struggle. In the 80's, I wasn't surprised the issue remain stalled despite an allegedly sympathetic president. (I never thought the Republicans were or are anything more than the political opportunists the Democrats are.) But I was surprised the seamless garment notion didn't take root more strongly. In retrospect, I see my wishful thinking at work: a hope that a sensible abortion policy could be raised up across the ideological spread. And today I wonder if my hopes have been betrayed by conservative Catholic sensibilities as much as by a liberal apathy toward the issue. Thirty-one years later and it is as if a 1973 Supreme Court decision happened, and then afterward, nothing. No budging off the point in any significant way. Even the uncivil discourse in the aftermath of Roe v Wade has affected the bottom line not one bit. One friend did suggest that if not for the prolife movement, the circumstances today could be far worse that they are. He might have had something there, but deep down, I still feel deeply disappointed that 31 years of lobbying, bishop-politician scuffles, mid-January homilies, and Knights of Columbus roses are responsible for only treading water. Forget about climbing into the boat and rowing somewhere. Two sides yelling across a great divide. And the yelling just gets louder. About a year or two ago, I began to reconsider some cherished notions. I suggested to a few friends that money spent lobbying prolife is perhaps money down the toilet. If we believe people are really being run through the mill on abortion, and the state is unmoveable (even toward the middle ground most Americans support and have supported for thirty years) maybe we should dry up the political gravy train and channel the money to Birthright and other organizations that do the front line work with women in trouble. Maybe some cherished notions need to get reexamined and possibly junked. Quite honestly, I can't imagine such a course of action being harmful. Any takers?
The athletics and church thing One poster took me to task for being overly gleeful at a coach's expense when three of his players really wanted to participate in children's choir this past Saturday. I did feel badly that a few kids were put in the position of making a very tough call of basketball or singing at church. In a parish where, for this particular age group, athletes outnumber choristers at least 100 to 15, I don't think my surprise registers much more on the Richter scale than a BCS team giving up a touchdown to a I-AA team while leading 42-0. In an ideal situation, the parish athletic director, coaches, school music and drama teachers, and parish liturgist would compare the year's schedules, clear up potential conflicts and relieve young kids of difficult decisions -- or at least as many as possible. Sport is still King in the American culture, and I don't kid myself that if I wanted to get "competitive" over it, I'm going to lose 63-7 just about every time. I never took advantage of the opportunities I had to join an organized team, try out for band or a play, or things like that when I was a boy. Between my mom being terrified of sports, and my own stage fright sensibility, I kept to myself and never stretched myself into daring things until my college days. But I think it's a good thing for a kid to be balanced if the schedule is not too demanding. A dancer who happens to play hockey, a wide receiver who toots a mean trumpet, a musical lead running track: these are good ways to raise children. And if musicians were to ever get a media spectacular like this coming Sunday, I wouldn't complain.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

These kids just amaze me Ice hits Kansas City today. And here I thought those 750 people were at Mass last night to hear my children's choir sing. I felt a little sorry for the basketball coach -- three of his players left at halftime yesterday to get to church in time to sing in the choir. Tonight at the youth Mass, I met yet another drummer -- our fifth of the year for that Mass. Light touch, good timing, listens well, plays appropriately. Turns out he never took a lesson. Classical piano is his thing. Plays guitar, too. Cool. We'll see if the ice, sleet and snow delay school tomorrow. My daughter had a full weekend: a friend here for a sleepover under a living room tent. Lots of TV and mac & cheese. Plus a "band concert" for mom and dad last night. Who could ask for more?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Liverpool Dreamin' or All You Need Is Love Peace, all. Before the blog gets bogged down in the latest round of liturgy wars, I though I'd share that John Lennon and I had a great conversation (before I woke up the other morning) while cooking breakfast. We talked about 50's rock-n-roll and songwriting. Last month I had a howler of a dream. My wife Anita gave me a birthday present: a trip to one of Emeril's restaurants. Even better, they let me in the kitchen to cook. But it quickly turned into a stresser, as the equipment was unfamiliar, I couldn't find the ingredients, and I wished I was with my younger brother, his family, and my family back in the dining area enjoying good food and good conversation. Heck, if I ever make it to one of Emeril's restaurants (or his show) I'm going to take a lot more pleasure wolfing down great chow than I would bumbling around in a kitchen not my own.
Peace, all. John Allen's piece this week on liturgical language glee fills me with much concern. I'm not worried about the clock getting turned back on Vatican II. Not at all. I just can't see any good coming from a widespread change in liturgical language. If Latin transliterated into 19th century English was really an ideal, it would be the subject of an experiment: redo the Eucharistic Prayers and Prefaces, maybe the rest of the presider's prayers. Fiddling with people's memorized responses at Mass will not be successful. And I say that not with glee, but from my long experience in dealing with Catholics in the pew at Mass. I have a list of reasons. 1. People will not page through missalettes for responses they memorized thirty years ago. 2. Latin to English is one thing, especially when Catholics tended to be more obedient. English to different English is another matter entirely. 3. My medium-conservative graying parish has taken to head-nodding like a cat takes to water. A few swim and frolic in it. I'd say about 60% don't bother, and that percentage has doubled since Advent began. Parishes that have dealt with sex abuse, embezzlement, or even the small stuff will resist this language not because of liberal sensibilities, but because the people who promulgate it have lost so much credibility. 4. Catholics simply aren't obedient to things they see as irrelevant. Big items and small: contraceptives, Sunday Mass attendance, hymns at 7:30 AM Mass, showing up for adult ed -- stuff like that. 5. New language is simply unenforceable. I predict that most Catholics will stumble over any significant number of new responses or they will keep quiet. A few battleground parishes might see dueling phrases. You thought it was bad when people vied to outshout "It is right to give God thanks and praise"? Wait till the whole Mass becomes a tussle. It won't be pretty. I predict the few "faithful" priests who insist on wording will get more crossed arms and silent lips. The point is not language on the page, but praise of God on the tongue. And most priests will be unsympathetic to this. If they don't push the thing, and the people already have the old words memorized, who's going to enforce the changes? This whole affair shows up a curia out of touch with worship sensibilities. But for one reason, I would actually welcome these radical changes. It will give Catholics the opportunity to express the sense of the faithful and reject the entrenchment. And my one reason? A serious one. It will further the marginalization of worship in the lives of more ordinary Catholics. At a time when church leaders should be strategizing on how to get more people in the pews, we will be giving marginal Catholics yet another reason to stay home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I'm not sure this falls into the nightmare category... ... but I dreamed I went to law school. Usually I don't get all weirdo about dreams, but this particular one was so vivid and went on for so long (about my first week of school) I had to wonder. Two friends from college were with me: a person who actually did go to law school, and a buddy who went to work for Westinghouse as an engineer after graduation. By day two, one professor knew me by name, but I had forgotten his. I remember being panicked about the workload. And I had pictures of my daughter, but not my wife. Go figure. A spiritual director I had once told me that dreams could be used in the spiritual life as a tool for discernment. He suggested I put myself into every dream character in turn and pray for guidance. (That seems more sensible than trying to decipher the symbolism of going back to school.) PS: Nobody interested in why I'm afraid of Yellowstone?
I don't worry about global warming Really. I'm not overly concerned about it. I think it's happening, but living several hundred miles away from potentially rising sea levels, I have two other world catastrophe worries instead: ice age and Yellowstone. What about you?

Saturday, January 17, 2004

A bit more on geometry in worship Some guests took exception to my preference for antiphonal seating, or seating "in the round" as ideal for Catholic worship. Ad orientam seating places everyone, including the priest, toward "liturgical East," facing the rising sun. Theoretically, the priest is not "on stage" so much as at the head of the procession of the Pilgrim Church on earth, moving toward God. A vital and important image, I won't deny. As a student of geometry, I would suggest that antiphonal or seating-in-the-round also orients the entire assembly in one direction, namely toward the Real Presence on the altar, at the center of the church. The principle was used in explaining the placement of saints' representations in windows, namely that the "S"aints, as it were, surround the "s"aints who are then focused on Christ. God is not an external force to be aimed at (and missed, perhaps). God is, as the 139th Psalmist describes (5-10), close at hand no matter where we go, not far off in the distance, as Bette Midler's songwriters would have us think: Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach. Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast." I admit there is much to be said for the orientation of a pilgrim Church, which we certainly are, and which ad orientam liturgy celebrates. But I would advocate the use of processions to reinforce this reality. Processions accurately image the Church on the way, but not there yet. Mass is more a reflection of the heavenly reality: angels and saints joining the faithful in praise and worship of God. We have paused the journey, as it were, to celebrate Mass. So why would an orientation that clearly is processional and underscores the God Beyond be more suitable? The only good reason I can think of is: we've always done it that way. But history shows otherwise. I did use the provision that a "mature" worshipping community would better handle my preferences than an unprepared or unwilling parish. Either of my worship scenarios places more pressure on the priest, the musicians, other public ministries to set aside the staging of sanctuaries. Ideally, there is no performance. And one of the drawbacks to ad orientam is that ritual is staged in a stage area, even if the priest doesn't show his face. If the distraction of people sitting across the way were really a prime consideration, Catholics in traditionally rendered seating patterns would all strive to sit at the front or as close to the front as they could so they wouldn't see the backs of any heads. And we all know how common that sensibility is.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

What prayer is, what it is not I read with a little amusement and a lot of dismay of the use of the Rosary to shout down representatives of the Arlington diocese trying to explain themselves at an open meeting to explain why some anti-abuse program was going to be helpful. Or as the shouters were suggesting, why it would herald the arrival of the antichrist. While the Left is not always a paragon of perfection when it comes to public protest, I think these folks could have used some pointers: - The Rosary is prayer, duh. Not authorized for use in drowning out speakers. Catcalls and boos work better, especially when you project "boo" like an opera singer. - Rival Eucharistic processions in the Middle Ages often led to street brawls. Really thought we had put that kind of thing behind us. - You can't have a real protest without placards. Put slogans on them or pictures of what you're pro ... wait, never mind on that last idea. Just stick to the slogans. - If you're going to shout someone down, use some chant that rhymes, so you can walk to the beat. March in a circle or something like that, too. Stamping feet can be great indoors. I suppose we should all be glad the diocesan representatives didn't get beaten by rosary beads or some such. That would have been truly ugly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A bone to pick with Bob Bob Batastini's column in the Winter 2004 issue of GIA Quarterly left me a bit sour. "Regrettably small choirs" titles an editorial that suggests "small choirs often just don't sound good." Admittedly, Bob makes good points about appearances (a small choir in a big parish doesn't look good) and about amateurs finding (musical) safety in numbers. He makes a great suggestion that choir directors will do better to recruit recruiters rather than singers. However, I can't abide by the notion that bigger is necessarily better. In the best of times, I've been able to field a choir at every parish Mass but the early Sunday one. Unlike BMMD's (Big Mass Music Directors), I've always felt a priority to ensure good music at all the Masses, not just the best-attended one. So I'm not ashamed to take a noon Mass or an early morning Mass under my wing. Often that means choirs sized from a handful to about 20. And I've found that even a few good non-pros can make a terrific sound. I don't think that our parish's 9am ensemble of 14 is necessarily better than a single cantor or two, nor worse than my children's choir of 22 or the big parish choir of 30-plus. I think Bob is trying to encourage quality music ministry. And while numbers can be an important factor there, it's not the guiding force of my music ministry. Instead of "regrettably small choirs," I can get on board with better hopes for "regrettably poor choirs."

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"Get the priest out of my face!" My friend John B returns with a substantial set of comments in the thread on liturgical changes. (For the record, if anyone wants to bother writing a multi-part manifesto in the comment boxes, knock yourself out, but only if you have something real to say.) John speaks of the priest-as-performer mindset and I find myself in agreement with him in principle. Homily: ideally, this is an exposition of the word of God, not a performance by a preacher as much as an attempt to lens the Scriptures for the particular spiritual needs of the parish. While I don't expect John Chrysostom every Sunday, I think substantial preparation is needful. (See my homily formula in the November archives.) I reject either ad orientam or talk-show host presider as an absolute. A spiritually mature parish would do well with antiphonal seating, minimizing the staging of musicians, priest, or others, subjecting them to a central focus of Christ along a church axis (courtyard, doors, font, ambo, altar, perhaps reservation chapel cutting straight through the assembly). A variation of antiphonal seating might put the whole nave in the round, which is another laudable set-up. In either of these formats, the direction the priest faces is irrelevant. People focus on Christ at the center of the church, as it should be. Individuals are transparent in ministry, or they "get out of our faces."
Pressure on the seal of confession I imagine this confession start somewhere in Queensland: "Father forgive me for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession. I'm a serial sexual abuser of children." The abuser may well have chosen to confess sins in number, but if he did not confess he was a serial abuser, he has not confessed in "kind." He has deluded himself: not unlike a promiscuous and scrupulous Catholic who might go to confession after each sexual encounter. His understanding of the sacrament, however colored by the denial of a sex addict, is infantile. For that reason alone, he has no business being a priest. On the mercy front, I would also wonder about his state of grace, since he has deluded himself, if not his confessors, into thinking his sin consists solely of isolated acts of abuse. The question I raise is this: With thirty priests giving 1500-some "magical" absolutions over 22 years, I might question the confessors (at least one of them?) for not pointing out to their friend that his persistence in grave sin was a separate concern apart from particular acts of sex abuse. The bishop of Rockhampton himself said that the sacrament offers the confessor and penitent an opportunity to discern going to the authorities or making some appropriate act of satisfaction. 1500 opportunities lost? With the sacrament of penance being handled in such a matter, it might be pointed out there's not much seal to break in these cases. But I do think that any such law passed to suspend penitent anonymity is doomed to fail. Nearly all priests I know value the sacrament so much they would be willing to go to jail for it. I would support them in resisting such an unjust law. But I would also urge them to adopt better practices. We don't need absolute lists of sins with particular penances, but with such silly magical notions trotting about, it couldn't help to suggest that perhaps serial sex abusers need to confess the whole sin, and that confessors should consider withholding absolution in cases in which the sorrow for sin has been colored by addictive denial. And lastly, perhaps this might encourage us to revisit the traditional vs the innovative order of the sacrament of penance. More on that later.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Listening Ears Heard any interesting music lately? My friend Peter loaned me Beatles Anthology 1, and I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. Hearing the various alternate takes and reading the notes on the band's development is so, so fascinating. Volume 1 takes the listener through to late Fall 1964. What's amazing to me is that these guys were so young -- all early twenties. Also incredible is that they convinced George Martin to record them singing their originals. We forget that no band -- none -- was doing that in pop music in 1963. Looking back it's clear that Martin's choice for release, Mitch Murray's "How Do You Do It" was so clearly inferior to "Please Please Me." At the end of the Christmas season, a few listens of Anonymous 4's cd of music for St Nicholas. (Okay, I'm a month late ...) I also pulled out Sixpence None the Richer's Divine Discontent, a truly sublime cd which my wife said was clearly Beatles influenced. Then as I was channel surfing through one of those interminable commerical breaks during the game today, I caught the last few minutes of a video for John Lennon's "Just Like Starting Over." Next thing you know, I'll be hearing Beatles in all the church music. I suppose I could hear much worse. It brings me to the good feelings I have looking back at helping an Iowa friend with a recording many years ago. I enjoyed greatly working on songs, playing piano on what began as Christian folk songs and taking them places unsuspected. The experience of recording in a studio was one of the coolest things I've ever done, and I don't mean just the hearing of all the parts put together: the rehearsals, the polishing of songs, reworking lyrics, adding new music, hearing the session players play sax, trumpet, or cello. I miss that experience. Anyhow, any good music in your life these days?

Friday, January 09, 2004

Tell me why I should care Please. I'm serious. Peter Nixon asks which Democratic candidate you would support. To tell you honestly, even if I still lived in Iowa, I would be very disinterested in this campaign. For the first time since 1972, I might not be able to name the entire list of candidates. And you know, after my experiences in 2000, I'm not sure I care. My wife and I participated in the Iowa caucuses last time around. She was beside herself at the disorganization of the event in our district: party folk looking up rules in the book, unsure of what to do when Bradley people showed up, etc.. "These people need to get their act together," she said. Little did we know it was the Voice of Prophecy. When I suggested she could whip this bunch into shape, I got hit. "And don't you even think of raising your hand when they ask for delegates," she warned. Al Gore was already anointed by the time I got to the county caucus (thanks honey for letting me go) in March 2000. (I joined the party ONLY to participate in the process.) Then he goes and fritters away his big lead, eventually blaming Nader for his own inability to ride the coattails of peace, economic boom, and separation from Bill into the White House. So I ask the politically minded out there: Should I care? Hasn't it already been decided who's running against Bush? It certainly will be made public by the time the wagon train hits Missouri. Seriously, I think I'd have more fun going over to the Republicans as a covert civic operative. But I would probably get hit again.
The moving van has arrived Peace to all. Getting into a lengthy discussion about the various merits of scapegoating homosexuals in general or sex addict priests in particular on Mark Shea's contentious blog and wishing to state for any transfers (or other observers) the following suggestions: - Clergy sexual abuse is not solely a gay issue; it is about people who use their position of power to dominate, coerce, and destroy young lives. - Having same-sex abusive contact with a child does not necessarily constitute homosexuality. - Bishops who have knowingly sheltered predators are the biggest criminals. A warning: my comment limit is 400 words. Please post consecutive offerings if you must, but try to be concise (as I have learned on more than one occasion).

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Driving or Steering Peace, all. Depending on your own worship sensibility, Rome's forthcoming document on liturgy will be cheered or dreaded. Personally speaking, it could be as horrid as previous reports said it was, and it would remain largely irrelevant. I liken it to the action of a steering wheel in driving a car. Guidelines and crackdowns steer liturgy in a good direction. We hope. But the power and drive comes from human artistry. Good liturgy is a multi-media art form, combining music, preaching, architecture, poetry and prose, and other creative disciplines. Traditionalists can crow all they want on women giving homilies, on lay people distributing communion, or presiders making adaptations. But if the quality of worship is zilch to begin with, it would be like my daughter at the steering wheel of our parked car. You can play with the knobs and the wheel all you want, but it isn't going anywhere. Assuming that the common goal here is better liturgy -- and sometimes I wonder if the curia shares this goal -- there are concrete steps parishes and dioceses can take to kick things up a notch: - Parishes of any size should hire a qualified musician - Dioceses should sponsor annual summer institutes for church musicians, both volunteers and pros, and make it really worthwhile for people to attend. - Bishops should lead (or hire someone to lead) an annual preaching workshop for all priests. Most serious musicians I know practice a lot -- far more than clergy work on homiletic skills. I'm no schlep when it comes to music, but I gladly admit I need practice time to polish old skills and work on new ones. If only some preachers had the same attitude. I go to a good number of concerts. How many clergy listen to other preachers, eh? Certainly, I'm in a situation where I can "get by" with the same ol' same ol' when it comes to music. And I have done this at times. But I'm usually far more effective and creative when I have the stimulation of rehearsal, research, preparation, and the like. This liturgy document is apparently coming soon. Don't expect me to take it too seriously. It's not going to help the parked cars in the lot one whit.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

January Book Club My wife was book browsing a few months ago, considering something for me. As she tells it, my seven-year old came by and noticing the sunflowers on the cover, suggested I might like it. It turned out to be Henri Nouwen's Sabbatical Journey, which I've been slowly digesting at work these days. I've been finding that a little prayer, a little Henri Nouwen when I begin the day, or when I get stuck midday, is a good spiritual pick-up. Before bedtime, I've been tackling one of Patrick O'Brian's books, the Nutmeg Conspiracy, I think. I like the writing. But I'm having a bit of trouble getting rolling with it. You Jack Aubrey fans out there: did I pick a good one? Not sure I would have the stamina to tackle everything in that series. I also found something called Everything Scrabble at one of our superstores. I had a gift card, so I used it. I had not realized we now have 96 two-letter words. Did you? I remember "aa" from geology. Now, "yo" has joined the language too. Likewise ab, ka, ut, jo, li, xu, mm, and od. Finished some science fiction last week:The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld. Good, but it seems to be fading somewhat from my brain. I also have something by Robert Charles Wilson on my bedstand. I've enjoyed his earlier works, which is why I picked up this book (a more recent one). But I also have Moby Dick under it. Maybe it's a good month to stay in the 19th century. We'll have to see.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Checking in on IGRM changes Peace, all. One particular thing has me curious: yours or your parishioners' reception of head-nodding before receiving Communion. At my parish I find compliance is running about 50% or better, but a few people have gotten really distracted over it, even to the point of forgetting to say "Amen" after they receive. By the way, I still count about 2/3 of my parishioners making their reverence after Communion as well. That seems not to have changed at all. For the record, I think we'd be better off with more mindfulness at liturgy. I'm not sure I see how the new practices contribute to "reverence," and how that could ever be legislated anyway. Any ideas or thoughts?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Peace, all. A word about critique of Church officials. Some have been amused I would single out an allegedly "liberal" bishop for criticism. People who know me shouldn't be surprised. In the 80's when I was a grad student and attended a very progressive parish, I occasionally found myself at odds with the parish powers-that-be on issues such as inclusive language. Though I agreed with the staff in principle, I disagreed with the reasoning that the matter was "too vital" to risk losing a parish-wide vote. This from a parish that spent months studying the sanctuary movement and voting by an enormous margin to break US law and harbor refugees from Central America. The same process of education, negotiation, prayer, and town meetings would have produced a fairly well-formed laity on the language issue. And a satisfactory result, I thought. Instead, we had simmering resentments in liturgy while the parish justice ministry enjoyed universal support, even if some supporters remained uncomfortable. I would be myopic if I suggested that progressives have any less a degree of failure than other Catholics. It's only human, after all, to make bad decisions at bad times for bad reasons. I made them frequently when I was in my 20's, and danged if they don't still plague me today. Usually I hope they don't have catastrophic implications for my spirituality or family or job. Otherwise I just try to hold down the typos here on my site. And since it is my site, and it seems a good chunk of the posters (if not readers) are more progressive-oriented, I feel relatively safe in kicking a bit of sand on a bully, even if the bully tends to be a liberal. That seems the most sensible course, doesn't it?
Coal for Bishop Gossman's stocking Peace, all. Hard to know where exactly to file this one on a diocesan Catholic newspaper editor getting fired just before Christmas. First, you can chalk it up to diocesan newspapers being seen as little more than overblown puff vehicles for the bishop's schedule and the events that would draw single digit turnouts if it weren't for the free food. Or the bishop showing up. Second, even if a lay person -- much less a journalist -- took working for a bishop seriously, you'd have to check the mental health of someone who succeeded Mr. Strange in this position. Who's going to take this job? Really. Third, I'm disappointed I'm not a subscriber. I don't have the pleasure of cancelling my subscription. This story really belongs under the heading of They Still Don't Get It. The bishops got into trouble on sex abuse because they failed the accountability test with the laity. They assumed that because they had the "power" they could use it: lie to victims and their families about the reassignment of predators, lie to other bishops about criminals they were farming out, lie to the criminal justice system. Some of the readers will take me to task on this. Go ahead. A bishop has the power to hire and fire at will. So what? So does God. God can do a lot more than that. God, however, shows divine restraint in dealing with people who don't measure up. It is somehow conceivable that something else inspired Mr. Strange's dismissal. And if this were indeed serious enough to merit termination, I'm afraid to say Bishop Gossman still doesn't get it. The whole episode makes him look like a pouty, immature, brat. Clearly, prudence, patience, and restraint are not virtues cultivated in prelate finishing schools. Does this decision ensure fidelity to the Church? Far from it. A commenter here on Amy Welborn's site summed it up just right: "...in the Catholic Church today, the truth does not set you free. It gets your ass fired"

Thursday, January 01, 2004

A Liturgist's Daughter It's not the helpfulness when I'm the sacrisstan at noon Mass. It's not the attention during the homily (which is pretty good for a seven-year-old). My wife related this comment to me from after Mass today. Second verse of God Rest Ye Merry, organist and cantor cut. Beloved daughter with a slight frown on her face: "Is that all? Only two verses?" May your new year bring you the wisdom of children and many verses on your hymns of joy.

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