Monday, May 31, 2004

Ice hockey in Australia Hard to believe, but true. If I ever achieve my life's dream of spending several months visiting Australia, I can rely on a little touch of the north.
Reconciliation, one of a liturgist's favorite topics On her excellent blog, Karen Marie Knapp comments on Elena Curti's piece in the 29 May 2004 Tablet. Here's the full article. A friend of mine suggests that Pius X, not Vatican II, instigated the most substantial liturgical reform of the last century. This article suggests that frequent confession was a byproduct of weekly Communion. To the degree this is true, are we only seeing a settling back to a "traditional" Catholic approach: people going once a year? Was frequent confession the same kind of blip that the clergy wave of 1930-70 was? Lots of people say frequent confession is good, even without committing mortal sin. But is that the real reason for the sacrament? Without weighing in definitively yes or no, let's extend the thought. If one of the purposes of the sacrament is to strengthen moral character, would further reform be needed to expedite this in the process? A traditionalist-leaning priest suggested, "The confessional is not a place for counselling or a general chat. People have to clearly understand that the sacrament is for the forgiveness of sins. If somebody wanted to talk generally about their life, we would need to go somewhere else." Liturgically speaking, I generally agree with this, but part of me wonders. Is morality so divorced from the other aspects of life that sins can be easily separated from their context? An extreme example: is it important for a confessor to know that when a penitent confesses killing someone, the circumstances could vary: a soldier on duty, a home intruder, a fetus, a robbery, or a careless accident. I imagine, of course, a competent confessor will ferret out the truth of the grave sins. But consider that so many routine sins are also hooked up with circumstances. Maybe the notion of confession for forgiveness only is a better liturgical fit. If so, I wonder if the so-called "devotional" confession is hanging out in the breeze. Can we really say that one of the purposes of the sacrament is to toughen one's moral fiber if all that's getting communicated is a laundry list? Fr Allen Morris, of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, criticizes the approach of pure listing, "That is a travesty of what the sacrament is about. We have got away from reciting a formula like an automaton and that is a good thing." A St Blog's priest criticized me for saying something similar, that some Catholics still approach the sacrament as something magical. Say the correct incantation (the exact number and kind of sins) and one is forgiven. The penitent conveniently controls both priest and God. I think back to that Australian priest who admitted he confessed hundreds of instances of molesting children. What was confession for him? A release valve for guilt that served to maintain a persistent and grave sin. Another good quote from Curti, "Fr Christopher McCoy ... says students may go to confession less frequently but the quality of it can be better. 'It often starts as a conversation for 45 minutes or half an hour, then turns into confession. It can come out of a ‘let’s look at my life and where I am going’ sort of conversation. It is a more fluid kind of relationship.'" McCoy recounts the openness many people feel when they are involved in a "special" spiritual experience: a pilgrimage or retreat. This resonates with both my own experience as well as what I've seen in ministry over the years. Liminal experiences, planned and unplanned, can be a profound means of drawing out the desire for the sacrament. Is it enough, I wonder, for parishes to just offer more hours, or the usual Lent and Advent "extras?" In a Catholic culture in which people were accustomed to frequent confession, that might have worked. Will it gain anything today? The article mentions lay advocacy for the sacrament, a good development I think. Sarah Lindsell of Caritas Social Action is quoted "... many priests leave the seminary ill-equipped to address the social needs of their parishioners. In her view, the range and complexity of problems today make such knowledge vital." Is this true? Does a good confessor also need counselling skills? I'm glad today's confessors have the flexibility to operate in different ways with various penitents. The best of them probably have the savvy to discern the interface of forgiveness of sin and human psychology, and are able to direct penitents accordingly. What do you think?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Speculation I've enjoyed the last four episodes of Enterprise this month. But the end of this episode is a bit twisted. Questions: Did Archer's decision not to send Malcolm to disable the planet-killing weapon (and thereby not being present at the beginning of the Federation) somehow sabotage Kirk's birthline, which prevented him from ensuring Joan Collins died in 1930's New York, giving rise to a pacifism-delayed Nazi world takeover? The alternate history Nazi thing has already been touched twice by classic Trek and unless you're Philip K. Dick or David Brin, you're better off trying a more original idea. Are Star Trek's writers watching too many bad sf movies (like Ice Pirates) instead of reading good sf books? The Xindi are lamenting the waste of water for the Aquatics. What? Are you kidding? Just drill a hole in Europa and dive in -- the water's fine. Need some ice cubes? Just grab a comet. Voyager's maiden episode was a howler also for the premise that water is presumably such a precious commodity in the universe. Sheesh. Early 21st century planetary geologists can tell you there's water everywhere, assuming you have interplanetary transport capability. I still say the Star Trek franchise would be better served by two or three made-for-TV movies every year. Different casts and topics. The curiosity factor would net the audience before the doldrums of poor writing chased away half the fandom.
Survey says ... Recent American war policy has been a disaster. Let's look at the scorecard over the past sixty years. We fought Iraq in 1991 (after supporting Saddam all through the 80's) and a tinpot dictator outlasts his adversary, our president Bush I. Current status? Iraq is still a violent cesspool. We fought in Vietnam, and what is the current status of the government there? Huh? Couldn't hear that. We've been at Cuba's throat for the past forty-plus years and almost traded nukes over it. What kind of government does Cuba have? Hmm. Say it a bit louder, would you? We fought in Korea and MacArthur considered making a run on China. Last time I looked North Korea is still a problem, and China's government is still ... huh? What was that? Say it louder, please. The only communist dictatorships left in the world are the countries we struggled actively with over the past several decades, China an exception. (But a case could be made for their getting nervous being circled by Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.) Have the world's dictator wanna-be's learned their lesson? Want longevity past your relevance? Just go to war with the US. Keep under our radar and what's likely to happen? You'll get invited into the EU instead. Prediction: If the Bush Administration policy in the Middle East continues as it has, we'll still be in a struggle of some kind with these guys fifty years hence. When will they ever learn?
Assigning blame for bad church music Scattered discussions around St Blog's about who's at fault. The nuns. The liberals. The microphone sales staff. The publishers. The bishops. The egotistical musicians. On Fr Jeff Keyes' blog someone asked me if I was joking for saying the progressives aren't to blame for over-use of microphones. Sorry, no. We're not. Progressive church design excludes any amount of carpet use, a known killer of natural acoustics. We would tend to advise you against hiring a three-in-one consultant for all your sound system needs. One parish I know hired some guys to tell tham they needed to upgrade their sound system to the tune of $20,000, then spend $50,000 on padding the walls. These guys do arenas, evangelical mega-churches, and conference centers. They want to make a dollar, too. But the last time I checked material from LTP (their fine series on architecture, Meeting House Essays) or Form/Reform (their conferences on architecture and art) and other progressive liturgy outlets, they're all saying: natural acoustics not carpet, pipe organs not synthesizers, less mics not more. This is a party line, people. Instead of necessarily criticizing progressives or traditionalists, I prefer to scapegoat the ignorant. There are lots of musicians, pastors, architects, and other kindly folks who are very good at what they do. But in matters of good church music, perhaps there is less competence than there should be. If you think carpeting and seat pads are a good idea for your church because people should be comfortable, well enough. But don't blame Vatican II when your acoustics go to hell in a handbasket over your choice. Maybe your bottom line would be greener by getting a Hammond FunMachine instead of a pipe organ and a grand piano. But who's going to want to get involved in a parish that warbles its music so economically so as to stifle all spirit in song? I suggest a challenge. Find me a progressive liturgist or periodical or book from the past twenty years that suggests mic'ing the cantor like a strangler fig. I dare you.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Road Trip! Small Catholic parish of 3500 families seeks an organist/cantor/music director. Qualifications: Must accept the whims of the pastor as being of primary importance. As for weddings, the organist must be guided by the bride's favorite CD of the Three Tenors; forget that nonsense about musical "integrity." Duties: The organist plays the following masses: Saturdays 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, 6:00 PM, and 7:00 PM.; and Sundays 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, Latin Mass at 10:00 AM, Spanish Mass at 11:00 AM, Polish Mass at 12:00 noon, Gaelic Mass at 1:00 PM, and the 3:00 PM Hootenanny Mass. The 8:00 PM Bingo Mass is optional. Weekday Masses, Novenas, devotions, and rosaries from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM expected. The organist is responsible for all holy days, weddings, funerals, baptisms, confessions, etc. (without extra compensation, of course). The organist will also be responsible for teaching music in the parish school and accepting the liturgical plans of the teachers for weekly school Masses. The organist also directs the Palestrina Choir (five old ladies and one old man) and the Schola Guitarorum. Organ: four-manual, 135-rank, 1925 E. M. Skinner organ. This instrument has needed re-leathering since 1954 and will be operable once we get the funds. The organ maintenance fund, begun in 1957, now has $16.59. Until the remaining $249,933.41 is raised, the organist can utilize the Baldwin FunMachine in the rear gallery. Compensation: Based on education, experience, and the success of the parish car raffle. It was sixteen years ago this month when I went on my first interview trek. Thankfully not for the job listing above (mostly courtesy of Charles May of Atlanta GA). With a newly minted MA in Systematic theology, I had focused on applying at parishes seeking a liturgist without "organist" included in the job title or description. Looking back, it seems rather funny. Since my bicycle wasn't going to get me far, and my mother wasn't keen on my plan to bus to Chicago, then rent a car there, she persuaded Dad to loan me his second car (the one with an oil leak that needed refilling every 600 miles). So I headed out west on I-90 bound for Chicago. When I called home, Mom told me she took a call from a Chicago parish that wanted to see me later in the week. Okay. I had planned after the Chicago-Twin Cities jaunt to drive home via the Upper Peninsula, visit a school friend in Michigan, and return via Canada. Guess sightseeing would wait for my first vacation next summer. The first interview went well; the pastor actually auditioned me in church on voice, guitar, and piano. Out of ten or so interviews that season, that was the only one which included an audition. That's typical, sad to say. Drove to Minneapolis for three interesting encounters. In the first, the associate pastor sat with his arms folded and a glum look on his face while the liturgy committee asked all the questions. Number two was Jeanne Cotter's parish she was leaving to get married to David Haas. Only spoke to the priest there; no committee formed yet. That would have been big shoes to fill. Then I had an excellent interview on the other end of the metro area. Had the people eating out of my hand. I felt they were almost going to offer the job to me right there. Then the small matter of playing the organ came up. Their ad said "Parish Director of Liturgy," and actually mentioned directing the choirs, not accompanying them too. I felt embarassed for them, not being more accurate in their publicity. Returned to Chicago the next day to visit a city parish on the southside. Went home. Got no offers. None from any place I wanted to work. I applied for one job in my hometown, and rather than hire me, they decided to leave the position vacant. So you understand I felt little loyalty to my own diocese of Rochester. By the end of June, I was pretty discouraged, but I had a plan B. Spoke to my thesis advisor about getting into the MDiv program at St Bernard's. That would be cool. I could keep my job at WXXI and maybe this certain promising relationship I had would not be ending after all. Then out of the blue, Fr. Audition called to offer me the job. It was the 26th of June. Could I start in five days? Eep. I had signed on for extra holiday shifts at the station to spell the regular announcers. I had no car. After a night of prayer, I called the priest back. "Could you give me two weeks to take care of business," I asked. And so the pilgrimage began.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Reviews, SF and music I'm a sucker for reading reviews. Except for his taste for soft porn, I find I agree most often with Roger Ebert when it comes to cinema. Rick Norwood's bi-monthly column at the sf site is a regular read. I noticed this month he two-stars A Wrinkle In Time, pointing out a few more things I didn't like, but missed in my post a few weeks ago. Missed the season-ending Enterprise last night. I was at the public library, then into my bridge night. Anita forgot to tape it, but I'll probably catch it in replay on Saturday night. I go here for music reviews. I rarely buy a classical cd without checking opinions on the best performance of a particular work. Steve Schwartz is my favorite reviewer on this site. Check it out and see how your music library shapes up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Archbishop Chaput weighs in on receiving Communion "But the Church always expects Catholics who are living in serious sin or who deny the teachings of the Church — whether they're highly visible officials or anonymous parishioners — to have the integrity to respect both the Eucharist and the faithful, and to refrain from receiving Communion." In the debate on worthily receiving Communion, we see the desperation of some of the Church (MaChurch, if you will) to retain the appearances and content of an idealized uniformity. In St Blog's, for example, it is not enough for me to profess being adamantly Pro-Life. I have been taken to task for criticizing lobbying priorities, for suggesting pro-life leadership has been poor, for not volunteering enough, for criticizing hero-bishops, for not criticizing the "spineless," for advocating the seamless garment, for advocating a liberal-pacifist approach, often to the point where people openly question my views. All because I choose not to lock step with the Faithful Majority. I liked some of what I read in Chaput's column. I agree that people should bring more mindfulness and intent to their participation in liturgy. I'm not willing to paint I Corinthians 11:27 on a banner and start a proof-texting crusade. When we talk about unworthy communicants, we should be mindful of the whole thrust of these chapters of Paul's letter, if not the whole document. Paul is not considering the occasional participant in the community's liturgy at Corinth. He is addressing himself to the self-satisfied, the proud, and the in-crowd. First Corinthians was not written to reinforce the feelings of the faithful. He wanted to shake up a self-satisfied, narcissistic church that had lost track of the essentials of charity, inclusion, and love. A person shows up for Easter or Christmas. (Actually tons of them do, but anyway ...) Has this person given scandal by bringing their sinful life unforgiven to the altar? The way I see it, I'm sorry they don't make a regular habit of living a sacramental life. Do I feel scandalized by their non-return on Holy Family Sunday or the Second Sunday of Easter? "Scandalized" isn't the word I would use. I lament the missed opportunity. I think the good Archbishop of Denver has missed the boat in two ways: First, his ministry of evangelization will be impotent if he continues on this tack to the exclusion of other possibilities. St Paul attempted to be "all things to all people" so as to win a few. A bishop who thinks parroting the lock step chant will be enough to convince the doubters (if not win the unchurched) is being naive, if not lazy. A press release is just not enough. Unless, of course, the point is to proclaim, "I have no specks in my eye!" for the world's (and God's) benefit. Second, people are inspired by living example. The scandal generated by the mishandling of sex predators in the clergy did far more harm to the Body than scattered politicians justifying their pro-choice stance while receiving Communion. If a sense of sin and personal contrition are so vital, people might ask why they're not being modelled by their proponents. "Do as I say, not as I do" is being rejected wholeheartedly. As it should be. And when one bishop (Myers) does apologize for seeming to hammer unfairly at a single individual (the governor of New Jersey), he is branded as a traitor whose spine has slithered off into the sunset. Catholics who receive Communion without mindfulness miss a vital opportunity. No doubt about that. But they harm themselves more by their act(s) of omission than by what they have done. Likewise bishops who are satisfied with press releases have also missed opportunities. Their acts of omission: not performing public penances, not being pastors to politicians, not instilling transparency and confidence, not demonstrating Catholic teaching in new and profound ways that will appeal to the doubters (if not the opposition) will continue to harm the Body and frustrate an effort to achieve the goal. It seems to come down to planks and specks. Meanwhile, we wait for a real bishop to step forward and make an appealing case.
Butt Prints in the Sand One night I had a wondrous dream: one set of footprints there were seen. The footprints of my precious Lord, but mine were not along the shore. But then some stranger prints appeared, so I asked the Lord, “What have we here?” “These prints are large and round and neat, but Lord, they are too big for feet.” “My child,” God said in somber tones, “For miles I carried you alone.” “I challenged you to walk in faith, but you refused and made me wait.” “You disobeyed; you would not grow; the walk of faith you would not know.” “So I got tired. I got fed up. And there I dropped you on your butt.” “Because in life there comes a time when one must walk, and one must climb.” “When one must rise and take a stand, or leave their butt prints in the sand.”
On Retreats A friend e-mailed "I'm specifically wondering if you go on retreat with a purpose in mind (e.g., to discern something, to concentrate on a certain aspect of your life, etc.), or with a blank slate to let the Lord write whatever he wants." Br Anthony, the guestmaster at Genesee Abbey told us in college the best attitude to bring to retreat was openness, and not make a habit of bringing an agenda for God to settle for you. At times, I've made retreats at crucial points in my life: as I finished my degree, just after we adopted a daughter, after a serious surgery, etc.. I think those events have been part of my retreat experiences, but I've avoided spending six or eight days praying exclusively for what weighed most heavily on my mind. That said, over the years, a certain pattern has evolved that I look forward to. I tend to catch up on sleep for the first day or two. Every director I've had encourages this. I tend to go to just about every liturgy, especially if I'm retreating with a religious community. I also find that about 2/3rds of the way through, there is one or perhaps two restless nights when the prayer, the distractions, the discomfort reach a climax. By the morning of the last full day, sometimes there is an insight. Sometimes just a sense of relief that the night is finally over. I didn't have a completely blank slate this year. I had hoped to find a spiritual director, which I did. I wanted to go to confession, and wouldn't you know: the monks had their own directed retreat that week including a penance service the last night of my stay. My director put me on a somewhat loose, but intentioned path for prayer. My restlessness was spread out, though, and I found I was still catching up on sleep the weekend after I got home. This was a theme that surfaced often with my last spiritual director: my sense of dissatisfaction. It came to the fore very strongly again last week. Fr Adam reminded me we are all pilgrims in this life. Satisfaction is not the sustaining factor for those who are of Christ. Dissatisfaction is my dangerous virtue. Dangerous, for it is easy to allow it to bleed over negatively in my attitudes and relationships. Virtuous, because it can prevent me from being completely at home in the world. Even this week, I wonder about reconciling the satisfied and sedate (owning a home, parenting a child, paying off debts, settling into a community for a number of years, my various hobbies and diversions, etc.) with the dissatisfied (the Church not reforming fast enough, the debts not getting paid quickly enough, my prayer life not intensifying, etc.) and finding a "balance." Fr Adam would suggest, however, that balance is not a proper position. Balance suggests all is well. A person should have something in life not quite in balance, for balance implies more satisfaction. So my post-retreat life will focus on dissatisfaction and imbalance, and integrating these items, especially the latter, more into my daily prayer and action.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Taxes The one thing missing in the abortion/excommunication of abortion providers/excommunication of political supporters of abortion providers/excommunication of voters for political supporters of abortion providers debate. Some of my St Blog's friends are buying banners and popcorn in anticipation of the upcoming debates on excommunication. (I'll admit it will be somewhat fun to watch the fur fly, but is that in itself really a pro-life issue?) Does the cute lil' CINO moniker now also apply to "so-called" pro-life Catholics who willingly pay taxes to support a government that supports abortion providers? I'd really like to know. Is this the next step for excommunication advocates: tax resistance? If so, I would applaud your consistent approach. It might make for a very comely seamless garment indeed. On the other hand, the whole strategy might be unravelling before the tailor is finished. Only 5 1/2 more months. God, in your mercy, deliver us.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Back from retreat My wife was worried four days wasn't going to be enough. Though it was my shortest retreat in nine years, it came just at the right time, and it was just the right length. Everybody on the premises was also on retreat (meaning the monks, of course), so the overall atmosphere was a good one. Interestingly, the monks retreat master, Michael Downey, authored a book I was reading just last week which I had forgotten to bring with me. My own director was quite good. He has a slightly off-beat approach compared to previous directors, is slightly irreverent about spiritual direction trends, and shares my dislike for conformity. So it was a good fit. Blogging may be scarce for a few days, as I have a crashed hard drive at home to deal with. The main priority is to retrieve some files I'd rather not lose if I can avoid it, and to assess if it might be easier just to get a new unit. I can say I'm not going to neglect debugging on future pc's. The real test of retreat-won patience and serenity seems to lie ahead. Cheers to all this weekend.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Celestial Gate Is at present one of my favorite pieces of classical music. It is Hovhaness's 6th symphony. The whole disc, Telarc 80392 is performed by I Fiamminghi and is really fine. As Emeril would say, go out and buy a few hundred copies and distribute them to your neighbors. (I wonder why he says that?)
Seeking His Mind Spiritual Book Associates sent me Basil Pennington's book Seeking His Mind a few years ago. I had set it aside, but then misplaced it in my den. So this will join the Psalms as spiritual reading this coming week. It's been a stressful few months at the parish: uncertainty with a change in pastors, one other priest left last month, and another leaving next. The kids seem especially wild this month -- server training and the last two choir practices were really scattered. Good energy, but draining. I have enough spiritual things for a Thirty Day Retreat, but God will have to help to cram the needful into four.

Friday, May 14, 2004

A light shines in purgation The AP tells me that ... "A Los Angeles-based company plans to invest $50 million to build a new downtown arena, and hopes to bring an NBA or NHL team to Kansas City." Good. So long as they're not taking an NFL team out of Kansas City. The Chargers are as close as you're going to get to the AFC West. "I can assure you that there will be an anchor tenant," Timothy Leiweke, vice president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, said Wednesday. "We have had conversations specifically with those leagues' franchises. I don't think there's a better time to get involved with a National Hockey League team than now." Okay. Let's go over that last point again. "I don't think there's a better time to get involved with a National Hockey League team than now." That's what I thought you said. What?!? The NHL is facing an owner lockdown in a few months. Said owners cry they're hemorrhaging money like a grade B Hollywood gorefest. And they're saying there's no better time to get in on the NHL? What are these people drinking at their corporate lunches? Don't get me wrong. I would love to have a hockey team in the area. I might even cough up for a ticket two or three times a year at present prices. But what are these NHL owners telling poor Mr. Leiweke? After the Anschutz people left the room, I'm sure the hockey guys were snickering in their britches. Another sucker to lay down a $100M expansion fee so we can make up for signing a third-line winger to a few mil over a few years. No wonder the players don't want to cave in to the owners' demands. With sharp characters like these running these teams, I'm sure they think they can beat 75% of revenues. For one more collective bargaining agreement.
Get into the act for next year's synod of bishops I was feeling left out and scooped by those guys who leaked the Ordo Missae draft last month. So I thought I'd leak something of my own. The questions below were sent to the world's bishops in preparation for next October's synod on the Eucharist. No matter that the encyclical has already been written. Don't worry that the curia has already released its document on liturgical abuse. We too can upstage the bishops by reflecting on the following questions and submitting our own opinions to Rome. What do you say? "What are the negative aspects in eucharistic worship, and what is the cause of such a "disorienting situation" for the faithful?" How about changing the entire language of the responses to the liturgy? What about creeping clericalism? "In an attempt to be personal and avant-garde, do priests manifest any attitudes in their celebration of the Mass which are explicitly or implicitly contrary to the liturgical norms?" Ah! More encouragement to rat on the parish priest. Nothing like a good morale killer to encourage clergy to preach and preside better. "Do the faithful display a casual approach to receiving Communion?" Don't laugh. This one is actually worth discussing at your parish liturgy committee. My most random sampling of communicants showed about 6% with a strong head bow, about 20% with a nod, and about 56% made their reverence after receiving, usually by looking at the crucifix, signing themselves, genuflecting, or some combination of the above. A bit more than thirty percent did nothing but receive, but no one in the sample was actively chewing gum. Which in some quarters is an improvement. "Do Catholics adequately understand the difference between the Mass and other liturgies presided over by lay people?" Lenten Mass attendance averaged well over 150 this year at 8:15 Mass. Morning Prayer for the Triduum averaged about 25. Survey says, "Yes!" "Do they distinguish enough between ordained and nonordained ministers?" Would that be in the clothing? "Do some elements in eucharistic liturgies lead to "a diminished regard for the real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist?" The usual suspects, I'd say: poor homilies, careless presiding, too much rushing to get out for the NFL start, etc.. "How are the norms of inter-Communion applied?" Applied, heck; does anybody know them? "How is confusion avoided regarding the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament in ecumenical and interreligious meetings?" Can someone help me on this one? "What steps are taken in inculturation to prevent "peculiar and strange practices" in liturgy?" Must be in reference to those African dancers at those beatification ceremonies at the Vatican last year. Okay, friends. Reflect prayerfully on these. Discuss them with your pals. Submit your comments in writing to your local bishop by November, or if you prefer, send them in directly to Rome. Like some of you aren't doing that already.
Told you CNS reports on Cardinal Mahony's comments about the Ordo Missae, adding another publicly dissatisfied bishop to the lists from England, Wales, and Australia, who have already shipped their drafts back to the Vatican for more work. Without the Ordo Missae in English, Sacramentary replacements in your parish are on indefinite hold, unless ICEL just gives up on the idea of transliteralism altogether. They do have a translated-and-approved version of the rest of the Missal ready to go. I think there are some problems in the old Ordo Missae which need to be cleaned up. I think a better translation is worth waiting for. I think we're looking at 2007 before anything sees print, and any number of liturgical or non-liturgical events in the meantime could delay things even more. So if you're waiting to see the light on the reform of the reform, in the words of my mother, "Don't hold your breath."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

A Wrinkle in Time Read it when I was in high school, but didn't appreciate it until the 80's when I reread it and discovered the other books in the set. I've known the film version had been wrapped for a year or two, but I could find nothing on the net about it. Then suddenly I see a promo for it last week on tv, which I could easily have missed, since I rarely tune into the networks and my wife favors HGTV. I really liked the film version, which I thought was a respectful update of the book. Good work with the adaptation of the book for fiddling a bit with pacing and dramatic tension. I didn't mind the tinkering, and in a few instances, I thouhgt it an improvement, at least for a film version. The casting was good, and I thought the young actor playing Meg did a very creditable job. Special effects were just right. I objected somewhat to the Happy Medium and Calvin O'Keefe needed red hair, but hey, this is television, not Cannes. Anybody else catch this film? What did you think?
I'm loving these updates from Saturn Did I mention my daughter can tell the difference between the planets? Saturn "looks oval" on low power in the backyard telescope. (Galileo reported it had "ears," and it wasn't until the next half of the 17th century that Cassini determined these were rings.) "Do you see the brown stripe on the planet?" "Yeah, Dad." "That's Jupiter. Now tell me how many little moons are on a line with that stripe." "Three -- no! Four." That's my kid! She's located Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The names haven't stuck yet, but I know that if she's ever trapped in Jovian space, she'll be able to navigate her way around. Spring checklist: Phases of Venus Mars moons and bands of Jupiter rings of Saturn an open cluster (Pleiades) This summer: Lunar maria, especially Tranquility mountains, especially the lunar Apennines (did you know lunar mountain ranges were named for earth's?) craters, especially Tycho and its rays Titan, moon of Saturn Uranus and Neptune a globular cluster Every kid needs a basic curriculum in Astronomy.
Hiding in the back of the boat Don't misread me. I like bishops. I really do. I've met about a half-dozen. (Maybe I'll post some good bishop stories after my retreat.) I've always been impressed with their spirituality, their generally outstanding ability to preside at Mass and preach, their ability to remember my name. (Of course on the last point, I'm sure St Bloggers believe they keep a dossier on us radical types -- of course they remember me; they just read the file before Confirmation last night!) Joe Feuerherd of NCR breaks this news and we've been getting into it the past day at Amy's place. I'd like to take a step back and assess where we are. It's my sense that episcopal cover-up of predator clergy is what has angered Catholics more than any other issue. We've known that some small percentage of priests and religious have abused children for centuries. (What Catholic brought up before the Council doesn't have some horror story about Sister Mary Knuckleslapper or an unkind confessor?) Most often it's a family member that abuses. Abuse is tragic, but it's not news. Liberals and conservatives can quibble about same sex abuse being a crime of pre-Vatican II gender separation opportunity (which I think is an overlooked consideration), a crime of seducing teens into a gay lifestyle (which I doubt is happening in great numbers), or "just a few bad apples" doing it because they can (the power thing is my pet theory) or because they themselves were abused (but the study doesn't find this to be prevalent). It's most likely there are as many reasons as predators themselves. I wouldn't underestimate the complexity of addiction, sex, guilt, and religion getting stirred into the same troubled pot. The fact remains that bishops knew about abuse. The bishops took the easiest advice they could find (rehab the offenders, then reassign). The bishops played the legal game to a minimum financial loss. The bishops hid information and encouraged (sometimes intimidated) people to keep quiet. They compromised their lackeys and consultants to do their dirty work (not an insignificant sin). Now they are trying to convince the Church the problem is in the past. Sorry. It doesn't work that way. About ten years ago or more I think most Catholics would have believed a bishop's ignorance if an offending priest was caught for the first time. One much pilloried bishop I know reassigned a sex offender (whom I also knew) to chancery duty. I think the Catholic regard for the clergy was recently high enough that lay people would have accepted an offending priest serving the Church in a non-ministerial role, or living in a monastery. Ten years ago, I think some laity might have even hoped in the possibility of an offender's reform. Though even then, the best professional advice was telling us sexual addictions are the hardest from which to recover. Tom Doyle brought that to the USCCB in 1985-88. And was ignored. And he was both a priest and an addiction counsellor. With the repeated offenses of a predator priest, a bishop is then implicated in the crimes for being an incompetent shepherd of the innocent. Covering up further deepens the sin by obfuscating a proper and just resolution. Telling us the problem is solved and it's time to move on to other issues is received with skepticism. And bishops are surprised? Lay people probably have no canonical recourse here, but that will harm the bishops as a body far more than it will protect them. It really will. They will find it very, very difficult to recover lost credibility. They've damaged -- and continue to damage -- their authority more than any wild schismatic group ever could. I think it fair to implicate the curia in this as well. In the 1980's, they investigated Archbishop Hunthausen for lax annulment procedures and other irregularities. Whatever one's opinion of Hunthausen was, most anyone will concede the current cover-up crisis is far more grave for the bishops as a body that the Seattle bishop's ever was. I can appreciate the canonical concerns of giving the lay review board "too much power." Fine. Are there bishops or clergy in the house we can trust? What would it take to find them? Has the Congregation for Bishops lifted a finger in this regard? What's that you say? A new document on the ministry of bishop? What makes you think documents like this are read, prayed about, and really worked on? It seems that the "fidelity, fidelity, fidelity" mantra has hit the Vatican like the reality show craze. We're seeing a new wave of conservative/orthodox/faithful bishops in the Mold-of-John-Paul-II (TM). This is going to help? Read Feuerherd's story. Here's a list of bishops who want to bury the issue: Cardinal Edward Egan, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop John Myers, Archbishop Elden Curtiss, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz: all Darlings of the New Right. "I do believe that, after such a storm for two years, the bishops need a bit of a break to reflect on all that has happened so that we can move ahead, thoughtfully and prayerfully, instead of rushing in and making a lot of mistakes that we later regret," writes Cheyenne Bishop David Ricken. Bishop Ricken and his colleagues are insufferably naive if they think episcopal authority can calm a storm. Jesus was the last to do that, and too often these days we see little enough of the Lord Jesus in Church leadership. Whether they realize it or not, the bishops continue to fumble over this. They have lost much moral authority to speak on pro-life issues. Their administration of dioceses comes into question. They want the storm to be over, but their actions continue to work at odds with their desire for calm. We could well be seeing one of the biggest crises in Church history. It's easily in the top-five of all time, but if it emerges more in Europe and the Third World, I'd be hard-pressed to consider Arians, Protestants, and the Schism as threats more grave. Remember, the Church kept splitting after these last two failures. Do we have a prayer on this one? And the bishops still don't get it. They're still in the mode of "last Sunday was Mother's Day and now it's time to move on to Vocations Awareness Weekend." The NRB is just last month's garage sale. "We've got your report. Now can we just go play a round of golf?" A ministry of calm and maintenance is fine enough for a country pastor concerned about bake sales, the parish softball team, and VBS. But even the small town churches suffer calamities such as flood, tornado, vacating businesses, and the like. We need bishops who are more than benevolent, beloved country pastors. Are they ready to lead by example and charism and not by authority? Doesn't look like it to me. Feuerherd's column really worries me. It shows our bishops are cowering in the back of the boat, covering up in blankets and hoping the storm will go away.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Changes ... are coming my way. I've known for two years my pastor is retiring. We've all known for months who our new pastor will be. I've met him at our parish reconciliations, and since his present church is getting a facelift, he has been a frequent guest when we've been able to host his parish's funerals. This week the current staff are individually meeting with him, our outgoing pastor and our parish manager. I was the guinea pig in the lead-off position yesterday. I've been through a few pastor changes, so I'm not finding it as uncertain as I used to. Change is good for us all. And given our good conversation yesterday, I'm looking forward to being more active in funerals and weddings. Our new pastor said he believes engaged couples need to work on liturgy planning from the outset. I've always liked working with couples, I must admit. Music tussles have gotten progressively scarce in the past twenty years, and instead of a headache, I look upon young couples as fertile ground for re-engaging in parish life.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

If only I could vote out pro-life leaders I mean, of course, leaders of the movement who seem happy, if not gleefully satisfied, with sniping at supporters and sympathizers. One esteemed group spends a wad of money not on John Kerry, but on bishops who do not attack him strongly enough. The wisdom of this not only escapes me, but has left the gravitational pull of the earth and is now speeding past the orbit of Saturn. Then I notice a Disputations thread getting 83 posts largely centered around an argument of someone being insulted by being compared (unfavorably) to Ono Ekeh. I'd better watch out, I guess. I've never submitted a proposal at my neighborhood honeowner's association against abortion. Does that mean I'm the next target? I can see my face plastered on posters at my parish now with the headline: This Guy Works For You, But He Favors Abortion Rights By Not Toeing Our Party Line And Not Submitting Any Pro-Life Legislation In His Lifetime. Should I be afraid of Deal Hudson or not? I suppose his success at outing a minor USCCB bureaucrat has emboldened the cause. I get it now. Mr Ekeh was just a warm-up for the targeting of bishops. Shoot, and I thought politicians made such juicy targets. Although I know it's hard to get a life when a vital issue of our time confronts us and our seeming impotence, here's some suggestions: - Get a life. - Pray more than you're used to. - Cultivate some compassion for real people. - Cultivate a healthy distrust of authority, even within the movement. - Call a ceasefire on this snipey crap. Abortion Rights advocates aren't scared, really. They go to bed at night laughing that a Catholic cardinal is taking a PR bullet for them.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Abuse blame, this way or that I'd like to offer a few clarifications on my thoughts behind abuse and murder at the Iraqi prisons. I didn't intend to imply modern military culture is solely to blame instead of civilian depravity, as David Morrison suggested in his blog. On the contrary, civilian escapades such as lynch mobs cast an eerie shadow on wrongdoing in Iraq. It also shows that perhaps homosexual outing is not at all the root problem for prisoner abuse. It shows that recent immorality in Western pop culture might have some company. I object to Mr Morrison's approach, and that of others who are so ready to find a single scapegoat and stick with it. From what veterans have told me and from what I've experienced and read, I think I can lay out some principles I see at play here: - Violence in the media (film, tv, sport, and video) reinforces a numbness to actual suffering in others. Without a human connection to suffering, the adversary becomes a receptacle for information extraction or an object of personal anger. I can see why every prison, military and civilian, has incidences of abuse. - Military culture has strong aspects of honor and discipline. But it also contains violence and competition, and in wartime, the extremes of these. It is impossible for a good people to simply shut off their switch of compassion when it comes time to fight and kill. - In this light, Just War is not simply a loophole to justify a battle. It is a moral warning for those engaging in warfare. I suspect a disputed case such as Iraq War II does not barely and entirely fall on one side of the fence or another. Some soldiers enter this war confident in their own participation as a good thing. I would not presume to dispute that. However, their superiors and this administration may not have motives and actions as clean. And it is more than possible that a good person can be corrupted by exposure to evil, be it the evil of the adversary or the sins of individuals of one's own side. Somewhere yesterday, one commenter suggested "original sin" was to blame. But "the devil made me do it" philosophy just doesn't work for a nation that deserves answers, victims that deserve contrition and restitution, and soldiers far from home who are in a bit more danger today because of what some of their comrades did. The US remains in grave danger, but not foremost from a terrorist attack. While this struggle has brought out the best in many Americans, it has also revealed something of our seamy underbelly. There's lots of blame to go around, and I'm inclined to listen best to the person with the longest list.

Friday, May 07, 2004

It's a jungle out there And, no I don't mean the Culture of Death. Actually, I mean the culture of life, my back yard's life to be exact. Picked up the lawn mower from the repair shop this morning. After getting home, I started to gather sticks and check out what my yard has done in the past two weeks. (My wife swears it's been three.) I found evidence of a third tree the previous owners cut down, pulling out a root about three feet long from the front yard. If my grass were wheat, there's enough grain out there to stock a bakery for a day or two. The dandelions have grown to Jurassic size. I could make flutes of the flower stalks. They've probably seeded the whole subdivision. (I can see the letter from the neighborhood association now.) The wild strawberries under the pine tree have gone to flower and they might be overtaking dandelion as the plant of choice. That could be good news. I have some subspecies of grass that turns brown (no, Mark Shea, it doesn't wear shirts) in the winter and is finally coming out nice and fluffy green now that the rest of the yard has become a forest. (I hope it has enough sunlight to survive to the All Star break.) As I mowed, I got to thinking. I was mulling over plot twists in last summer's Harry Potter book. I was wondering if the dandelion would be a preferable alternative for my wife's bunnies over cilantro, their pricey favorite. I started to say the rosary, but then got distracted when I ran out of gas. I've concluded I have really wimpy grass, letting dandelion and strawberry take over. What is this, the Detroit Red Wings? A few years ago I videotaped Attenborough's Private Life of Plants documentary when it aired on TBS. Great, great viewing. Grass is supposed to be the Master of the World. Really. The grasses (wheat, rye, etc.) have tricked the human race into cultivating it and spreading it worldwide. We're really being controlled by plants. We're their thralls. In fact, I can hear my lawn sending me a telepathic message right now that I need to ethnically cleanse my yard with weed chemicals so I can ensure the Purity of the Race. Maybe they've already overrun the liberals. It might be no coincidence that the crew that eats whole grains is so Green. As we consume healthy food, those little embryonic buggers reprogram our brains to oppose internal combustion engines, cattle, and fast food. Maybe my grass needs to toughen up. Act a little like fungi. Evolve some roots that strangle thistle and plantain like fungal tendrils. Choke those puny strawberries at ground level with 'em. Stalks with grain? Heck, grow fruiting bodies the size of trees and blast the landscape in seeds two feet deep. Develop something that poisons weeds like those rain forest orange newts that kill the predator seconds after they've been eaten so they can crawl out of the corpse's mouth and go about their merry way without batting an amphibian eye. Oh well. Back to mowing. The grass sabotaged my mower while I was taking a drink a little while ago. Sixty minutes out of the shop and the danged thing has stalled out again. Maybe since they can't get me to use lawn chemicals, the grass has entered into an alliance with the dandelion. If so, I think the strawberries and I are toast.
Prison Abuse Up till now, I've resisted commenting here on the prisoner abuse scandal. Amy Welborn referenced David Morrison's blog and I thought I should set the recoprd straight. Mr. Morrison seems too ready to dismiss this inhumanity as a non-military sin. The Church has long realized the danger of doing violence to other human beings, even for an honorable cause. It wasn't for nothing that theologians came up with silly rules associated with Just War that even Faithful Traditionalists (TM) have set aside. Rules like no fighting on Christian feast days, no fighting with crossbows or other weapons that took you out of contact with your honorable adversary, stuff like that. I've been told the slaughter of 100,000 Iraqi troops retreating from battle in 1991 was a tactical necessity. Perhaps from a military standpoint it was. But isn't it convenient that a fighter pilot is flying too fast and too high to see white flags or the faces of defeated soldiers getting pounded into a pulp of sand and blood? Was this somehow less a torture for the wives and children of these poor saps, losing their men in a hopeless fight? Did the winning pilots high-fiving and celebrating back at the base have a civilian root, too? They got it from Joe Montana and Michael Jordan, so it can't be military, right? This kind of torture is exactly what SOA students brought back to their own countries after their sojourn in Georgia. Perhaps Mr Morrison can read a distinction between "true" military honor and "deviant civilian" behavior. But this is the same military culture than slapped fannies in Tailhook, and every odd-numbered year or so seems that it can't keep its hands off female cadets at the academies. And if some soldiers cannot honor their own comrades (despite being the other gender), how can we be surprised that they will resist the urgings of CIA spooks to have a little fun. I'm glad this incident makes people feel uncomfortable. It should. It shows some people have something more valuable than a spine. It's called a conscience.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

More on authority and the faults of the CDWS Thanks to the many visitors and commenters below. I'd like to continue to rake the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments (CDWS) over the coals a bit. Regarding the draft translation of the Ordo Missae, I think some aspects of it are an improvement over 1967-75 ICEL: the Gloria, to mention one example. But the whole work has problems. Foremost, I have my doubts about an English to English change of the routine dialogues. I think a better focus would be on the presidential prayers, but ICEL had that one covered in the translation of Roman Missal II, and from what I saw, that seemed fine work, despite being deep-sixed by Rome. For better or worse, memorized responses are part of the background hum of worship. Switching from Latin to vernacular was a strenuous and exciting time, and people took years to adjust to it. I think asking people to "and with your spirit" might be asking more than they are willing to give. Conservative Catholics around St Blog's seem to be approaching these alterations with the same glee I remember seeing thirty-five years ago. As those memories fade, the average pew person is only faintly aware of today's liturgy tussles. I wonder how many traditional-leaning Catholics will paint this with the same brush they used in 1970. And if the trad-leaning liturgically naive are resisting, how will this go down among progressives who will resent any imposition from Rome? Then throw in those alienated by clergy and bishop scandals and you have three broad groups of people who have little reason to embrace this switch. I can hear it now: "What!? More changes? Why can't they leave my Mass alone?" "Rome is only trying to impose its imperial will." "Don't bishops have better things to do than tinker with the Mass?" I might like the 2004 English Gloria, and I might enjoy composing a few settings of it that people might actually sing. But most people reciting at 7:34AM on Sunday in my parish are not going to grasp the need to change. A few weeks ago, the priest wanted to use the Apostles' Creed at a Mass. He announced it, but began "We believe," which prompted a spirited recitation of the Nicene. One event can be smiled at. But weekly doses of liturgical reindoctrination might wear thin, especially if clergy will need to leave liturgical autopilot at the rectory. I think the CDWS focus on Latin is misplaced. They've already shown their bias for Latin over fidelity by adopting a Latin biblical translation as definitive instead of the original Greek or Hebrew. I can appreciate the sensibility that desires to conserve the well-rendered prayers of the Roman Rite. I cannot abide an appeal for fidelity on one liturgical issue while bypassing it on another. That strikes me as shortsighted at best, and hypocritical at worst. These days, many Catholic laity have no reason to believe anything but the worst where the hierarchy is concerned. Personally, I would have liked to see a broad consultation in all language groups: solicit compositions of prayers and rituals from writers, poets, monastics: sensible and prayerful people. Translate these, if needed, into Latin and move from there. The CDWS is concerned that they lack the expertise in minor languages of the world. I can appreciate their nervousness with German being used as a base for Eastern European translations or English for third world tongues. The simplest solution is to prepare faithfully literal English and German translations to supplement efforts in these languages, but permit second translations to be used for praying the rites in the source languages in question. Even if these were the right changes, this is the wrong time. Catholics would be better served by changes made at the parish priest level: workshops on homiletics, public speaking, and presidential style for clergy. Every Mass at every cathedral should reflect a motch above the best of the wealthy suburban parishes in the diocese and the bishop should lead priests by personal example. More time taken by priests to lead a prayerful Mass by example: this would have an effect, trickling down to the laity. Slavish fidelity to rubrics is not enough to lift liturgy out of the doldrums where it is most often found. A valiant try perhaps, for the CDWS, but thumbs down for timing.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Farewell, Sursum Corda Check the link in the sidebar if you have no idea what I'm talking about. One of my favorite bloggers plans to shut down. I can appreciate the decision, though it saddens and worries me. For the past few years, I've given up blogging and commentary during Lent. But not this past year. I can't say my Lent was really improved over previous years. My best Lents seem to be farther in the past: 1970 (before my baptism), 1986 (a good start in Combermere), 1993 (recovering from back surgery), 1996 maybe (final stages of a planning a parish renovation). So maybe that's not a good guidepost. I frequently ask myself why I bother in the bloggerhood. Do I enjoy getting under peoples' skins? Is it a convenient, semi-anonymous way to be a smart ass like I would never dream of being at the parish? Or maybe I find the challenge of writing short essays and exchanging banter with rather like-minded others a refreshing change from the occasional apathy of real-life Catholicism. Probably these and a few other reasons, maybe most of them not grace-filled. If Peter Nixon is considering giving up blogging, I would have enough respect for him as an authority to consider doing it myself. In two weeks, I'll be on retreat, and though it would be tempting and convenient to access the net at the Conception Library, I think it will be an easy pass. If it weren't, then I'd know I should retire from this medium. And as far as writing is concerned, I could be developing ideas for publishers if I wanted to make a little spare cash. If I wanted more edification, I could decide to hunker down and get to work on my novel. Heaven knows the sf market needs good new work, and there's probably no friendlier place for a first-time novelist. Hmmm.
Authority and its place, a simplified argument, if you will I admit it: I tend to distrust authority. In the case of those with whom I have had a relationship: my parents, my best teachers, most of my employers, I have love, respect, admiration -- whichever is appropriate. I tend to distrust the current liturgical revisionism of the curia because I do not see them as being the sole possessors of the authentic "spin" of the Roman rite. Along with the bishops, theologians, and others, they act in concert with others to (hopefully) improve the celebration of liturgy in the Church. (By the way, a curial bureaucrat has no function as a cardinal, bishop, or priest per se. For an ordained person, such function is dependent on a reference point in ministry. For example: a priest is ordained to preside at the sacraments, and perhaps to pastor a parish. A bishop to oversee a diocese. A person might be in charge of a curial congregation, but orders is not essential to this functioning, essentially a universal version of the head of a diocesan department.) For me to receive certain liturgical documents without a theological justification is an open invitation to question, and question hard. As a spiritual exercise, liturgy cannot be successfully or completely legislated. As such, no single person or fraction of the Church can claim an absolute authority in the sense of a guarantee of God's grace. Good liturgy is not only faithful to the structure and rubrics of the Roman rite, but is also an artistic endeavor. An extreme emphasis on authority deceives people. God alone has the authority to impart grace. Sacraments are a guarantee, not through the action of the minister, but by the Church's tradition and intent. Strict adherence is not necessarily more graceful. And the presumption that Rome has straightened everything out brings an implication that the hard work is done, and all we need do now is ensure the recipe is followed.

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