Saturday, October 30, 2004

GLB's and GLG's I used to be one of the former, in the sense that I believed that doing the right thing in cooperation with legitimate authority was an important and a moral way to live. It was my Catholic high school experience that disabused me of that notion. It was in those years when I found some few authority figures were even more saintly than I had thought: these were people I admired enough to imitate. But for the most part, I found that many adults were very much like, if not far worse than the bullies, thieves, and slackers I knew among my peers. These I found beneath contempt. So the die was cast, and ever since, I have been a doubter when it came to authority. I found if I looked far enough into what authorities were saying, I could easily see the cracks in the machine. What's the line from the psalm? "Put no trust in princes." I saw it in high school, in college, in the Church, and if I dared to look, even in the people I befriended or loved. Some of my brothers and sisters in Catholicism are still "Good" in the sense of these acronyms. They want to remain faithful to the Vatican, the bishops, their parish priest, or their EWTN or St Blog's guru. It is part of their moral skeleton: a loyalty which has far, far fewer questions than I have. It is the reason I think some of them are, in part, more upset with the bishops' mishandling of sexual predators than the sexual predation itself (except perhaps for those who are victims or have a victim as a loved one). A single sex predator can be dismissed. (Even forgiven and rallied around if said predator was a pastor or admired figure.) But dozens, if not hundreds of bishops being stripped morally naked and paraded through the public square is just too much to ignore. I was struck by a comment on another blog, a person who told me it was pretty much my moral duty to vote to reelect the president next week because we need to "begin" to turn the tide against abortion. Excuse me? Begin? You mean we haven't started yet? Except for two of the last twenty-four years, the Republicans have pretty much controlled most of the federal government. The Democrats who have surfaced in those years have hardly been raving liberals: mostly moderate southern guys who enjoy the gravy train of corporate campaign money. And power, of course. If we haven't seen a beginning under Mr Reagan who started the new conservative morning in America, or with the Contract on America, or with the neocons of Bush II, then I think the anti-abortion cause's best hope on All Soul's Day is to maintain the status quo: the most radical approach to ending pregnancies pretty much anywhere in the world with no shift in sight, not from comfortable Republicans in suburban gated enclaves. We're told we have to follow the wisdom of Chaput, Burke, seminarians who protest but don't get arrested, Hudson (oops, no, not Hudson), Balestrieri, and the others who tell us all we have to be is good little boys and girls, do what's right, and those in authority will take care of the rest. Sorry. I didn't believe it in high school, and I don't believe it now. I don't think you need to start wearing black leather, drive loud two-wheeled vehicles through school hallways, or smoke non-tobacco angiosperms to make a real stand. I'm not impressed, not in the slightest, with the stories of people who will hold their nose and vote either blue or red on Tuesday and pop a Tums before bed that night. The GLG's and B's, along with Archbishop Chaput, EWTN, and the rest are pretty much like the complaining Israelites on the shore of the sea. Bush or Kerry? The choice might as well be going back to Egyptian slavery or drowning in the sea. I think some people have put so much faith in authority, they have lost their own true sense of faith. God had something other than door number one and door number two up His sleeve in Exodus, and though I can't see it clearly today, my sense is that there's another option -- not just Tuesday, but in the whole effort to promote the Gospel of Christ (or the Gospel of Life, if you will.) I think a good Catholic here and there could possibly come up with a moral reason to vote for one major candidate or the other. Frankly, I don't see it for me. I think pulling the lever to settle for least evil would be probably be a sin against hope. I'm not going to say your vote for Bush or Kerry is a sin. Maybe your insight is better than mine, but I only know I hear and see today what I heard and saw in high school. The motto "Put no trust in princes" seems to ring as clear today as it did in the 70's. I think Tuesday will be a victory for the GLG's and GLB's no matter who wins. But I remain convinced by faith there's a better choice between slavery and drowning.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Parent-Teacher Conferences, time off, and the moons I love these. Our daughter is never quite sure what to expect, but she's had four years of outstanding teachers, especially this year's. I've been working with this teacher on First Communion & First Reconciliation the past two years, so I knew Brittany was getting a fine teacher: no nonsense, lots of positive reinforcement, no homework (except what's not finished during class time), and extremely competent on learning methods and organization. People who go back to school will never be called a slacker in my judgment. Strange to have a day off today instead of Friday. Tomorrow is server training at 8AM after I drop off my wife at school. Diocesan meetings, two, tomorrow, but they provide lunch and stimulating conversation as well. So that will be fine. Missed the lunar eclipse last night. Not that I wasn't standing out in light mist and drizzle for two hours at the parish Trunk or Treat. I didn't dress up. My wife stayed home. Brittany wandered off before dinner. My Jack-0-Lantern (drawn by Brit, carved by me, emptied by Brit) looked great, but my scheme to have molten lava pouring out of its mouth was a washout. Literally. Next year, I gotta get my act together on this. Between some cool chemicals and some joke shop stuff, I could really put on a show. Then they might not miss that I very nearly ran out of candy.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Passing Titan Big day tomorrow for space buffs: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press-releases-04/20041025-pr-a.cfm. Be sure to catch the action on NASA tv. In 1980, they had a choice of targeting Voyager 1 past Titan or Pluto. The expectation was high they'd find something at Titan, so Pluto remains a near total mystery. Sad thing was, Titan's orange haze rendered nearly zero visible light findings on the solar system's second largest moon. "It's orange," is about all that could be said. Scientists talk about the building blocks of life, but I'm far more interested in the geology and weathering of methane and ice.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Unable to give credit... This quote from John Allen online: "The American model of the parish as a ministerial beehive, with youth ministries, Bible study groups, RCIA programs, Marriage Encounter, and so on, is striking in comparison. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles tells the story of a meeting with John Paul II on one of his ad limina visits, when Mahony asked the pope why he favored the new movements. John Paul responded that in Europe, parishes too often don't evangelize effectively, especially with the young, while the movements do. The pope went on to say that he believed the United States was among a handful of countries where the vision of the Second Vatican Council for parish life was fully realized." Started a tasty discussion on Amy's blog here: http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2004/10/word_from_rome_3.html. The essence (correct me if I'm wrong) is that this story infuriates some Catholics who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the good fruits of Vatican II listed above. Is there any doubt we're better off having liturgical readings in the vernacular, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo and its offshoots, youth ministries, Bible studies, etc.? Is there any doubt these were indeed the fruits of Vatican II, and not Trent? The inability to acknowledge one's opponents' good traits would be a fatal strategic flaw in a contest of any kind. But among brothers and sisters in Christ, it is simply an act of unfaithfulness.
What is necessary catechesis anyway? Talmida asks a good question, and I'll tackle it from the standpoint of a liturgist. I don't pretend to have a full plate for Catholics, but ... - Every Catholic needs to know to pray in various ways and how to pray: at Mass and other liturgies, communally and individually, as well as spontaneously. - Every Catholic needs to know the Creed, especially what it says about God, and not just memorize it. - Every Catholic needs to know the sacraments. - Every Catholic needs to have a well-formed conscience, reinforced by positive example of parents, extended family, parish, school, and peers. This conscience would be inclusive of a strong sense of social justice as well as personal morality. Everything else: saints, eschatology, church history, etc. proceeds from these.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Catechetical responsibility: taking it, not paying someone else to do it It's kind of weird blogging about catechesis in the context of touting a "conservative" value like personal responsibility. But here goes. I blame Catholic parents--that's where the buck stops--for faults in child catechesis. I have seen it among my peers when I was in Catholic school thirty years ago, and I have seen it rampant among Catholic parents of my own generation in sixteen-plus years of parish ministry. From the outset, let's be clear. Catholic parents have always had good intentions when it comes to raising their children in the faith. But good intentions do not always lead to effectively formed Catholic youth heading into their young adulthood. Elena seems to think I've insulted her forebears. The truth is that parents have always been those primarily responsible for catechizing children. The second line of support is the entire parish community: older generations, peers, and parish events, especially liturgy, and most especially Sunday Mass. After that would come children's religious education. The rites of initiation (both Baptism of Children and RCIA) outline these priorities, namely that formation in the faith takes place in the Christian community, both in the domestic church and in the parish church. It is a sad fact that many Catholic school parents have believed that because they fork over large amounts of tuition, this money will be a sort of religious safety net against any weaknesses in the family or parish. It's not true. The single most influential thing parents can do to ensure their children will be practicing the faith and will be active in it when they leave the nest is weekly Sunday worship as a family. Number two would be involvement in the other prayer events and in the social activities of the parish. Does this mean I'm anti-Catholic school? No. Far from it. I'm happy that my daughter has the oportunity to go to a parish school, as I did in grades 6-7-8. My wife and I support the school, and I'm involved as the chess coach and as a parent volunteer. But saying they're number three is not an insult. It reflects my wife's and my commitment to ensuring our daughter has every advantage we can provide to grow up as a fully involved person of the Catholic faith. What does it mean then? I'm critical of people who think they can simply outlay money for someone else to do a job they're better off doing themselves. These are the same parents and grandparents who opt for other activities when a handful of intrepid parishioners show up for adult ed, evening prayer, sacred music concerts, benediction, stations, the food drives, or the trips to the Catholic Worker house. Faith in God is not an intellectual exercise that can be learned 100% from a book. It's like reading a manual on plumbing and saying you're a plumber without ever getting your hands dirty under a sink or in a toilet. It's like learning to read musical notes on a page and saying you're a musician without ever sitting down to play the instrument. All a catechist can do for your child is provide the glue that connects the various experiences of the life of faith. maybe an outstanding catechist will engage children in activities that involve faith or service or prayer on a deeper level. And perhaps catechists of today (or even 60 years ago) are better equipped for that. But sending your kids to a catechist and thinking that's enough is like trying to build a wall with just mortar. Parents provide the brick. You can't get away from it. Maybe an exceptional child will get her or his own bricks. Lucky save in that case, but the parents are still irresponsible. So when people like Elena get angry about how the church and schools and catechists have let them down, I'm unsympathetic. The parents who raised my peers in the 70's were themselves products of the pre-conciliar Church. When the ball was dropped, they dropped it too. It seems more likely to me that catechesis probably wasn't all that great in a lot of places before the Council. The close-knit families and ethnic communities of Catholicism that existed before WWII probably were doing the bulk of the work. Maybe it was an illusion that catechesis was doing its job, when in fact, the groundwork of faith was being laid very well in homes and churches. It's more likely a fuller implementation of and enthusiasm for Vatican II saved many American parishes from a worse situation, the one we see in much of Europe where people have long fled the Catholic Church. For the record, my Catholic education experience was a mixed bag. A religious brother in high school once tried to tell us he could forgive our sins in a general absolution liturgy. I didn't believe him. A lay teacher took religion seriously as a graded course, but the administration didn't like it when only three kids passed the final exam (I was one of them) so they raised everybody's grades. On the other hand, I remember great experiences with the seminarians on the annual Scout retreats, a very difficult unit on the Stations in 6th grade (before I became Catholic), an associate pastor who did a series on Old Testament prophets in 7th grade, a high school homeroom teacher who insisted each student take a turn researching a Scripture passage for morning prayer, and other similar events. Catholics could take far more initiative with their faith lives. And I believe children should be encouraged to take such initiative. The drawback of the conservative approach of relying solely on the experts is that the element of personal experience is downplayed too much. Do I believe the religious brother who says he can forgive my sins? Or do I pay attention to my formed conscience saying, "Nooooooo, this is wrong."? The pendulum can swing too far the other way, of course, but that's why parental and community involvement in the formation of children is so vital. You learn a good balance without the laziness of relying on others.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Anger in the blogosphere Many comments in a thread below about anger. Some say it's a St Blog's trait. Some think liberals do it more than conservatives. Some believe the opposite. As a person who struggles with anger, I think I have a familiarity with it: I see it inside and outside of myself. I think I was worse in dealing with it when I was younger. I hope I get better as time rolls on. I think a lot of Catholic bloggers bring their anger to the table with them. It's often justified. Personally, I'm still mad at the bishops collectively for their administrative blundering with predator clergy. But at some point you have to get past what you normally see on talk shows and in the movies. People letting out their anger have only tackled the first step toward wholeness. People continually on an anger high aren't liberated; they're impossible to deal with. Elena wrote below and on her own blog about her reaction to poor catechesis growing up. I suppose I don't share that experience, though we did share the same generation, pretty much. I started Catholic school in grade 6, and after instructions from the pastor, I became a Catholic just before the start of seventh grade. They gave me a first grade religion text book to read, which I did. But the time with the pastor meant the most, though I can't recall specifically what he taught my sister and me. I wasn't impressed with high school catechesis, but then again, I wasn't impressed with a lot of things in high school. When I was in college, I began going on retreats, and to talks. We have excellent homilists at the Newman Center. I suppose I figured what the catechists and my non-Catholic parents couldn't teach me, I could read about on my own. I wasn't happy the year our pastor decided to give up the Sign of Peace for Lent, but instead of getting ticked off about it, I started reading about liturgy. I guess people upset about their ignorance can blame their parents if they're teens, and maybe only themselves if they're adults. In St Blog's, I find some web pages more anger-driven than others. Some let on in their titles it's all about rage. Others seem to keep it more under wraps and remain just vociferous or dyspeptic. Commenters can be all over the place, and I though I think there are rather more non-progressives, I think the percentage of angry posters might be around the same. I think St Blog's anger is generally ugly, and something of a discredit to all of us. But reflecting on it this week has sparked me to take a closer look at my own printed attitudes here and on other blogs. That's the only anger I have a prayer of controlling.
This weekend's music at the parish Mass ordinary: Hughes Alleluia, Proulx Community Mass EP acclamations, Joncas Agnus Dei from the Psallite Mass Psalm 34: Foley setting "The Cry of the Poor" Hymns: "Praise to the Lord" "Seek Ye First" (Interesting that it works to the accompaniment of canon in D by Pachelbel) "Blest Are They" "Now Thank We All Our God" Children's choir will substitute "Lead Me Guide Me" at the Saturday Mass for the last choice above. Sing well at your parish this weekend.
Alcohol & sports Catholic Packer Fan blogged about this tragedy: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6300879. Coming from a family that had its share of alcoholics, I know the damage that can come from the quiet and sinister decay of addiction. I remember my two years in East Lansing when townsfolk (mostly students) would just go bananas over a football, basketball, or hockey event. My pastor witnessed a couch dragged out and set ablze in front of the rectory after the football team won. I'm rather sympathetic to the idea of Boston's mayor banning alcohol sales in bars during the World Series games. At least, I'd like to see bars given a choice: televise the game or sell booze, but not both. A college friend of mine once suggested that people under age 25 should be given a choice between a driver's license and a drinking license. I suppose there'd be some entertainment value in watching young people mull over that quandry. The common practice of turning off the brew tap after the seventh inning is not totally effective, in my opinion. Serious drinkers are probably heading for the bar after the game anyway, and are probably tapped out by paying inflated stadium prices. Even an alcoholic can nurse a beer through three innings, even if the wallet has no sense. I'll never see the day, but I wouldn't cry if pro teams stopped selling alcohol at events. Somehow I don't think the mayor of Boston is going to come through with a pinch hit for sensibility at this at-bat either.
My 2 cents worth The first Delaware quarter I found in change was a big surprise to me. I hadn't actively collected coins since high school, and this program: http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/index.cfm?action=50_state_quarters_program flew in completely under my radar. I have trouble finding the Philadelphia minted coins here in Kansas City, but eventually I'll get them all: one quarter from each mint. Coin collecting has returned to at least a back burner as a hobby. If I had the resources, I'd try and assemble a date and mint mark set of all small cents and two-cent pieces (see the latter here: http://www.coinfacts.com/two_cents/two_cents_by_date.html) Collection status: about four-fifths complete, but I doubt I'll ever own one of these beauties: http://www.coinfacts.com/small_cents/indian_head_cents/1877_indian_head_cent__copper.htm My sainted wife gave me a 1985 Canada Proof dollar as a present a few years ago when we lived in Iowa. (Check out the 80's from Canada here: http://www.mint.ca/en/collectors_corner/previous_collection/commemorative/80-89/index_comm80-89.htm; mine was the one with the moose.) That got me started on assembling a collection of commemorative dollars--I have about half of them now. It doesn't look like my daughter will be adopting coin collecting as a hobby, though. She stands with her mom on money matters: shopping is far more preferable.
On choirs I was checking my archives from nearly a year ago, noting how I fretted about our initial edition of the parish's Sunday children's choir. What a difference a year makes. I don't fuss much about sports this year, not with our numbers. We're expecting forty kids for Saturday night's Mass. That includes thirteen boys. In my experience, it's unheard of for a children's choir to be 30% male. The energy quality at rehearsal is sure different from last year. I think the lack of cultivation of choirs for young people at Sunday Mass contributes in part to the state of church music being less than most of us would like. The huge advantage of the late 60's and early 70's as I remember them (just one parish) is that teens and young adults were heavily involved--and more of them sing seriously these days than you think. Many folk groups proved to be just as insular as organ choirs. If you can't cultivate for the future, you'll end up sitting in a dust bowl. These days, I see bright things on the horizons: pipe organ experiences for piano students, more children's choirs, and some choirs seem to take seriously the charism of recruiting. I have a great recruiter in the ensemble. Peter seems to just keep bringing good people our way. (He recently tried to recruit the young woman we hired to lead the youth choir into our group.) With a smaller group, there is potential for much upheaval. Three members have moved this past summer, and though all are still active, two are a bit farther away than before. One member might be relocating out of state if things work out. A family member has died. Another singer has been caring for a terminally ill friend. So we had a very small rehearsal last night. The bright side there is that I got to hear a bit more of some people's voices, and we were able to spend some extra time vocalizing and working on technique. (But as I'm an instrumentalist, I pretty much shot my vocal pedagogy wad in one night.) My general parish philosophy is to have a choir at every Sunday and holy day Mass. Every parish needs a big choir. A good age breakdown for non-adults is grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and high school. The minimum rotation for these three choirs would be every third week, so that at least one parish Mass each weekend is led by young people. I've found it's foolish to attempt a high school choir without years of Sunday singing reinforcement on the elementary level. The kids who have danced and played sports all through grade 8 are sure not going to come home one night and say, "Hey dad, guess what? I'm quitting dance to help Todd start a youth choir at church. I'm going to labor in adversity, mediocrity, and anonymity until we can build ourselves up to something to be proud of." Hmm. I've known some heroically faithful kids in my time, but never enough at a single time to fill up a decent-sized choir. Every parish Mass is big enough to recruit some kind of choir. While I have nothing against cantors, I see them as a stopgap until parish music ministry can be built up to the ideal envisioned by the liturgical documents. Meanwhile, I need to find some more singers for 9AM Mass ...
St Dominic and the heretic At a diocesan retreat day last month, this story was related: Dominic was on a journey with his bishop. They stopped at an inn in a part of France that had largely adopted Albigensian beliefs. Dominic and the innkeeper engaged in a discussion. The innkeeper did most of the talking, and through the night, Dominic patiently listened to diatribes against the Church, against the sacraments, and against much of what Dominic held dear. By dawn, the bitter Albigensian had been converted by the peaceable priest who had done more listening than preaching. Dominic did not depart the weeping penitent without being moved himself. Though he remained form against the Albigensians, the incident reportedly sparked a change in his approach to ministry, leading him to the founding of the Dominican Order. The story struck me as something similar to the opportunity present in the domain known as St Blog's. Unlike Dominic, many of us eschew the attitude of listening, fearing perhaps that silence is tantamount to acceptance of what we disagree with. Perhaps we try too hard to reinforce our own faith by our own speech. It is likely (a surety in my own life) that more listening could be happening with respect to both the dialogue with God and with other Christians. I'd appreciate any input from Dominicans out there in the audience on this one.
Eclipse over World Series If you're attending game 4 on Wednesday night, you'll be treated to a lunar eclipse during the game. I wonder how Red Sox fans will interpret this celestial event?
A few updates When I began Catholic Sensibility, I thought I'd take more time with site design. I've added some interesting and favorite links on the sidebar. Maybe I'll get around to posting pictures and other fancy stuff later today: it's my day off. If I know you and you have a blog, I would be happy to link it if you contact me, especially if you've listed mine on yours. I've been working on music a good bit lately, and soon I hope to post some links to the self-published section of the Sibelius web site. Plainsong folks would be shocked, but I have an interesting harmonization for O Come O Come Emmanuel that translated well from an old MIDI file. I'm working on two Christmas pieces, too: an original setting of Richard Wilbur's sublime "A Stable Lamp Is Lighted," though I don't think I can post that one. Sometime in the next month, I'll finish a piece called "Wonder, Wonder, Wonder" which uses an early American melody for an original Christmas text.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Excommunicated First he is, then he's not. Then he is by definition, but those political geeks in the Vatican don't want to admit it. Do you know what I see? A whole lot of whining. What are you going to do if he beats Bush next month? This John Kerry excommunication thing is just pure bogus. According to the half-dozen stories I've read, the instigator Mark Balestrieri misrepresented himself to get an "unofficial" opinion, which he then turns around and makes public. And even if there was any ecclesiastical weight behind this, this particular distraction is hopeless, at least from the pro-life point of view. Here's why: Assume John Kerry comes to his moral senses over this and Mr Balestrieri has miraculously effected a conversion. Are all the anti-abortion Catholics suddenly going to flock from the Bush camp? No. They're not. Will Kerry be seen as a man who can be influenced by a single crusader on a mission from God? Yes. This would make him far less, not more electable. The reality would be that Mr Kerry would keep his trap shut, avoiding any Senate votes on life issues until his election, and then when judicial appointments start zipping off from his February desk, people on both sides would start going, "hmm." Most likely, this endeavor will not convince the candidate to change his stripes. The Church is painted as wishy-washy for anti-abortion hopefuls. Maybe Kerry gets more votes because a few more apathetic feminists are worried about the next candidate after Kerry. It is my opinion that this excommunication effort is not about politics -- it hasn't a prayer of succeeding on election day. It's also not about abortion. It's not about that work of mercy, admonishing the sinner or instructing the ignorant. It's about embarassing a man, and that all. You and I might not like the man's political stance, but I think this whole effort reflects a strategy that the means justifies the ends. More than that, I think it's a sinful action. Sinful, not just because it will likely detract a little bit more from the pro-life cause, but also because it uses people for selfish and short-sighted ends. Was anybody waiting for counselling at Birthright while all this was going on? Sure hope not. I hope Mr Balestrieri enjoyed his evenings sipping some nice Italian wine while waiting for his answer. I think raspberries would be an improvment over grapes in this case.
Lectionary with Children Nan asked: "I serve on the Liturgy Committee of a Catholic School. What do you do when the daily Lectionary readings are too difficult for the children's daily Mass? The Lectionary for Children is fine (at times) for our children in Grades 1-4, but the Lectionary for Weekday Masses sometimes contains readings that are beyond the understanding of the children in Grades 5 & 6. For example, in November there are a series of Readings from Revelation. Is there another approved translation that can be used?" Working these questions in reverse order, I would say first that the approved translations possible for Masses with children are either in the children's Lectionary or the main Lectionary. Staying within bounds, those two translations would be the extent of options. Unless your bishop has decreed specifically, it's up to the pastor to determine the specific age or grade boundary for using one Lectionary or the other. I would agree that boundary falls somewhere between grades 4 and 7, so I think your own practice is a sensible one. It's important to keep in mind that November's Lectionary focuses on the end times and points to both the second coming of Christ as well as liturgical Advent. It is possible to celebrate votive Masses with children and use totally different readings on most ordinary weekdays, but I think a general policy of "sheltering" them from "difficult" Bible stories is counterproductive in the long run. My instinct is that even third and fourth graders would understand on some level Daniel, the Maccabees, and some of the oracles in Revelation. Clearly, these difficult readings would need to be the focus of the homily, rather than the Gospel. And even if you don't have the cooperation of the homilist, I'm not sure it's altogether bad for something at Mass to be less ... intelligible for kids. Most fifth graders I've known to train as altar servers haven't mastered the basic parts of the Mass yet (or at least most seem unable to articulate what happens next without a lot of prompting) but I think the Mass still has spiritual value for them. (I pray it does, anyway.) By the way, if any reader has a specific liturgical or musical (or other) question you want to put me on the hot seat for, just e-mail me and I'll post within a day or two.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Something of a manifesto Over the past week or month, I have gotten into a few stirring discussions on other blogs about what I think are side issues of today's Catholic world. The most recent tussle is over presidential candidate Kerry's latest appearance at Mass. Clearly, it is not enough for me to find Kerry's political positions lacking in light of his professed faith as a Roman Catholic. The so-called "orthodox" majority of St Blog's expects me to take a number to march lockstep with their own findings. But I find it difficult to see what purpose is served by calling the pastor of this parish "heretical." Does it further the pro-life effort? Are people being persuaded? More likely, they look at the cloddish opinions of anti-abortion Catholics and remain confirmed in their belief they inhabit a far more civilized nook in the Modern World. Everybody stands pat and it's another bad day for metanoia. Lest my W-leaning friends think I'm picking on them, let me clue you in on some personal history. I've always been this way. When I was a member of a very progressive Catholic parish in the 80's, I was frequently a thorn for some peoples' ribcages. While I agreed with anti-nuclear, pro-Sanctuary, and other popular opinions, I also tweaked consciences by suggesting the parish wasn't spiritual enough, we had lost touch with our roots of reform, we were hypocritical in our approach to inclusive language and multicultural liturgy ... to name a few issues. I wasn't at ease with conformity then, and since I generally need to be on better behavior as a pastoral minister in my real life, I certainly don't feel I can comply with every particular of what serves as the Gospel of St Blog's. I do welcome the daily challenges to my beliefs. I think (or at least I hope) I've become a better Catholic by my exposure to years of honesty I doubt I would ever find in real face-to-face life in a parish. But I'm not going to turn in my gadfly's wings, not as long as the discussions remain so vibrant.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Bookshelf and tv screen Little blogging, more reading this week. I'm enjoying China Mieville's The Scar. I had avoided his well-regarded work because it seemed at first glance to be too coarse, cynical, and cruel. And it is that, but it's also the best-written sf I've read in some months. The sf site (always a good read: http://www.sfsite.com/) has some very favorable reviews of his work (see http://www.sfsite.com/07a/sc131.htm). It reminds me somewhat of Mervyn Peake: great world-building, great ugliness and desperation, too. But Mieville is an original, no doubt. The only tv I've caught these past two weeks are the first two episodes of Enterprise. Writer and new producer Manny Coto extricated himself ably out of the silly premise of alien Nazis conquering America. I've been curious, if not optimistic about his regime at the helm of Paramount's space cash cow, which, my friends, has been milked pretty dry these past few years. Coto's writing has been the only highlight of the show, which I pretty much gave up on last season. I thought the build-up of the last handful of episodes, though, was pretty good. The show about Archer's memory loss was just outstanding, though: easily a top-ten Trek of all time, but I think the show overall would place few others (if any) in the top 100 episodes of All Trek. I can't say you will see much blogging here the next month. I have an article or two to get out to an old and possibly a new editor, a column overdue, some music to edit and get out to a publisher, plus the usual household things I haven't had time for since August. I'm taking a day off tomorrow to get a head start on a few things. For now, it's a nice glass of milk, a good book, and a warm bed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Six men in a can Read about it here: http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/10/11/mars.mission/index.html Five hundred days, and the worst of it is: not even any nice scenery of Mars or the stars. I suppose on the plus side, no solar storms to send subatomic particles ripping through your bodily tissues. When I was in Junior High, I read about kids who did simulated space flights. They built their own ships out of boxes, loaded up with a few jars of peanut butter, and off to explore the cosmos from the convenience of their backyard. I talked two buddies of mine into this. Since the moon had already been conquered, I thought we could build two ships in my friend Keenan's attic, put them on wheels to have docking maneuvers. I could just imagine his parents talking, "Honey, I don't know if I can sleep with all the racket up there." "It's just your son and his friends docking in low earth orbit. Be a good earthling and go to sleep." As it turned out, we never got past the frame of the first spacecraft, though Keenan had designed and had begun building a nifty control panel. My job was mission design: two launches, rendezvous, docking, exchange of crews, then a return to earth. Six days, no sweat. But no way would my friend's mom have put up with 500 days in her attic. Especially considering this was the same crew that wanted to use swimming pool electrolysis to inflate a weather balloon into the jet stream. "You're going to bounce a sixteen-foot hydrogen balloon around my backyard?!? In your dreams, guys."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Generations of Faith Somebody asked, about it, so check out their web site: http://www.generationsoffaith.org/ I like the premise: intergenerational parish events focused on community, catechesis, prayer, and justice (the four pillars of Catholicism). Bringing the whole parish together under one roof can't be a bad idea.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Privileged Planet Gonzalez and Richards' book the Privileged Planet (see their web site: http://www.privilegedplanet.com/) is on my bookshelf this week. I began it last night, and so far, it is a good read, though not the great book I was expecting. The premise is this: over the past ten to twenty years, astronomers have been unearthing substantial evidence that suggests that life-bearing planets like Earth may be exceedingly rare in the cosmos. The old hope that we are not alone might be a false hope. The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and science fiction notwithstanding, every deep space discovery of the past few decades points, in fact, to the good chance that we on Earth are all there is as far as intelligent life is concerned. It was extremely fortunate that a Mars-sized body hit the primordial Earth at an oblique angle 4.5 billion years ago to produce the moon. The Earth was rendered molten, which might have caused the iron to settle to the core, which gives us the strong magnetic field, which protects the planet's surface from solar radiation. The moon also stabilizes earth's axial tilt. Without it, the planet's axis would wobble over a much greater range. It's even thought that the precise axial tilt of 23.5 degrees, plus or minus 1.5 is just about ideal. Any less and ocean and air currents might mix less producing wide bands of desert and wet zones, instead of the temperate four seasons and the tropical two seasons. Any more and most of the planet would freeze dry: bake under a six-month sun, then chill in a night just as long. Without Jupiter in just the right place, we would be at the mercy of a comet much more frequently than every 100 million years or so. If Jupiter were closer, our orbit would be unstable, and if Jupiter were farther away, its comet-gobbling defense would be much reduced (like the goalie who wanders too far from the net). We're finding lots of Jupiter-sized planets very close to their stars, many in very irregular orbits. This would have been bad, as our young Earth would long ago have been plunged into the sun or flung out into the cold interstellar void. Gonzalez take philosophy to task. The Copernican Revolution (which displaced Earth from the Center of the Universe) also brought a philosophical paradigm shift, namely that Earth and humanity aren't so important in the Big View. The authors lose me a bit on this one. Copernicus was earth-shaking to the remnants of the Medieval Era establishment, to be sure. I'm not sure that other philosophers weren't more of a threat, but I leave that for the experts in the audience to comment upon. Is it better for human beings to think of themselves as special, as unique, as central to the universe, as the crowning glory of God's creation? Or are we too full of ourselves, and better off pondering ouselves clinging to the Pale Blue Dot in a remote corner of an unexceptional galaxy at the mercy of a rogue comet or a random gamma ray burst? Life on Earth could be extinguished without even a burp from the vastness of space, without a thought or obituary. Which camp are you in?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

This weekend at the parish Sorry for the light blogging this week. It has been rather busy at the parish with some evening meetings plus the usual choir rehearsals. The clergy are into it a bit more heavily this weekend than I: back from clergy renewal at Conception Abbey and full into two weddings and seven Masses. Checked off already: - two new altar servers in training I, one trained server tested and liturgist-approved Still on my to-do list: - Get my Generations of Faith plug tightened up for Mass tonight and organize my music - Play at Saturday 5, Sunday 9, sacristan at Sunday 12, Eucharistic Minister training after noon Mass - Get the hospitalized parishioners on the prayer list for Mass Maybe if I can squeeze an hour between now and 5PM, I can edit some old music into my new Sibelius 3 software. Thankfully, my nine-year old Concertware easily saved hundreds of original songs, and vocal and instrumental arrangements into MIDI, which Sibelius was able to read and produce in its own format. Looking in on my SATB-keyboard-guitar-flute-trumpet arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth, something weird happened: the left hand piano split into two bass clefs. On my setting of Psalm 63, the vocal line and keyboard part were off by two measures plus a beat. Playing it back on Sibelius and suddenly, I'm in Steve Reich territory. This weekend's liturgical music: For service music, see a few Sundays ago Psalmody: 98, All The Ends of the Earth (Haas/Haugen GC 95 or Alstott setting, cantor's preference) Hymnody: GC474 Holy Holy Holy GC 694 Now We Remain GC814 Taste and See (James Moore setting) GC520 All the Ends of the Earth Other: Sending of catechumens: refrain of GC95 I appreciate my planners matching an exact setting of Psalm 98. For a parish using common psalms, my preference would probably be to use Psalm 100 or maybe 95, and leave 98 as an exclusively Christmas piece. Evening Prayer and piano dedication was a great success last weekend. Three young women (approximate ages 11, 15, and 17) each had a nice piece to play in the recital portion. The youngest did a nice short Mozart piece; I was very impressed. Almost 80 showed up, a good bit more than when we do Advent or Lent evening prayer.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Somebody has something sensible to say about the Expos moving Former commissioner Fay Vincent was quoted by the Associated Press: "I'm very sorry about it. I really don't believe teams should move. It's a quick and easy way out. I'd rather see a team stay and succeed.'' The issue of Washington getting a team is separate. But I agree with Vincent: moving the Expos is the easy way out. Regarding the Braves before the Turner Era, "They had 2,000 people in the stands,'' Vincent said. "It looked like Montreal. Now look at the Braves. If a team is good, I think baseball will succeed. If you put a quality team on the field, you'll be successful.'' In addition to quality on the field (which Montreal had for many years) you have to have an owner who is also committed to a community, which Montreal has not had for at least a decade. Jeff Loria's conduct was reprehensible: he deliberately alienated Montreal citizens and baseball fans, hoping for a sweet deal (which he got), and a free pass on the wreckage he left behind in Canada (which he also got). So goodie for DC I guess, but it would be more sporting if they started in the Appalachian League and worked their way up through promotion. (Needless to say, I would have opposed the move of the Senators to Dallas in its day, too.)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

This weekend's music at the parish For service music, see two weeks ago. Psalm 95, "If Today," setting by Haas Hymnody: "All Are Welcome" "We Walk By Faith" or substituted anthem/instrumental at director's/accompanist's discretion "We Remember" "Faith of Our Fathers" Ritual music for the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate: Welcome of candidates: "We stand with you" Signing of the Senses: "Christ Will Be Your Strength" Haas settings both Sending of the Catechumens: reprise of the psalm refrain Evening Prayer (for the blessing of our new piano) Hymnody: "Day Is Done" text by James Quinn, SJ, tune of AR HYD Y NOS Psalm 141: "Rise Like Incense" my setting Gospel Canticle: tune of ST COLUMBA Intercessions: chanted Lord's Prayer: plainsong
Taking Archibshop Burke to task on war When I read over Archbishop Burke's pastoral letter (here: http://www.stlouisreview.com/article.php?id=7051), I almost choked on this passage in paragraph 30:
"Although war and capital punishment can rarely be justified, they are not intrinsically evil."
Let's focus on war, with a nod that the other issue brings its own baggage to the table. Exodus 20:13: "You shall not kill." CCC 2307: "The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life." Y'all can go read your own catechisms, but I point out that Catholics are obliged to action, not just prayer to end war (2307), that a legitimate defensive war requires "rigorous" consideration and "strict" conditions, particularly a judgment that war should not "produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated." (2309) Moral law is a permanent fixture of war (2312) and not abrogated in the cases of victory or defeat. Anger (2302) and hatred (2303) are dealt with appropriately here, too. The Church's position on war is not without some flaws, however. Sadly for pro-war Catholics, I think these flaws tend to sprout up as an obstacle to maintaining a philosophical status quo rather than as a pass on applying morality. The CCC seems to give such a pass on attacking enemy combatants, but there are moral dangers with this approach. First, many honorable people with honorable motives have fought in defense of their country or principles, even against the US, and we would be hard-pressed to say that all individual combatants are evil. It could be argued that they are misguided or duped by their leaders, but not every enemy soldier is a rapist, torturer, looter, murderer, or terrorist. And even if they were, their life is still worthy of respect, even if their individual morality is suspect. The Catechism also avoids the danger to soldiers themselves who, when they must kill in the line of duty, themselves become tainted with the evil they resist. Violence begets violence, and it is seen in elevated levels of spousal and child abuse in families of people with violent professions, especially the military. The taint of evil is seen in the conduct of war by a side which may have stood on the moral high ground before a conflict or early in it, but who have themselves resorted to immoral means of achieving a just end. In making these points, I don't even cross the line into serious pacifism. This is all basic morality derived from the Bible and Catechism. I think the archbishop's letter is seriously flawed in that it glosses over the issue of war, which is probably one of the most serious and current moral issues we face in the US today. Burke's statement that war is "not intrinsically evil" is ... incredible. I have no other polite word for it. Killing is intrinsically evil: that's why abortion is wrong. Abortion isn't wrong because the unborn are small, innocent, defenseless, precious, or cute. (Though fetus children are all of these things and more, especially to expectant parents.) Abortion isn't wrong because we get to dump on our favorite villains because of it. Abortion is wrong because it is a violent act against human life. War is also a violent act. A human pregnancy might end for biological reasons (mother or child) or by external accident. Likewise, a born person may die as a result of illness or accident. Moralists might also acknowledge a pregnancy ending as an unintended consequence, and it seems at first glance that enemy combatants are treated in the same way: if opposing soldiers must die to achieve a good and moral end, this is an acceptable cost, especially if the intent is not to kill outright. The archbishop is correct in saying that some things are always wrong. Some of these issues are far more grave than others. Cheating on a test, falsifying documents, cheating on taxes, blaming someone else for a mistake, cruelty to an animal: these are all things which are always wrong. But none of them approach the gravity of killing a human being. Even conceding that killing in a just war is a needful thing, the matter of war, however prudential it might be deemed, is a far more grave moral dilemma than same-sex marriage. Certainly, some of these issues are more important to some of us than others. A gay Catholic would certainly find church teaching on homosexuality a bit higher up on the list than a heterosexual. Teachers, taxpayers, victims of identity fraud, animal rights activists would each have their own rendering of some of these absolute issues in their priority lists. We'd like to think that life and death is at the top of everybody's list. This statement: "One cannot justify a vote for a candidate who promotes intrinsically evil acts which erode the very foundation of the common good, such as abortion and same-sex "marriage," by appealing to that same candidate's opposition to war or capital punishment." lacks the depth a bishop must bring to the table when teaching the faithful. Just because the issue of war or capital punishment are theoretically matters of prudential judgment, doesn't mean they offer the moral person a pass on making such judgments, or that they are automatically assigned a second tier of morality, somewhere behind same-sex marriage or even tax evasion, theft, or looking over someone's shoulder on the final exam. Even if the war in Iraq were an entirely just enterprise, "rigor" and "strictness" would still be needed to ensure a just prosecution of matters there. And for millions of Americans, there are grave moral doubts on this issue. My suggestion is that the archbishop return to the drawing board on his letter. Sensible Catholics acknowledge that issues are aligned by gravity of the subject matter, not the surety we bring to the topic. Sensible Catholics actually engage their consciences and church teaching to make prudential judgments on issues such as war. Even non-pacifists who concede that war is sometimes just and necessary might find serious moral problems in the support of a war which has lost its focus. This letter has been termed "complicated," and maybe that's the truth. The archbishop may have gotten caught up in the complexities of life and death issues himself. That's fine. We all need to grow and change on the path toward greater holiness and wisdom. And regarding the upcoming elections, we certainly need all the holiness and wisdom we can muster to make the best choices possible.

Friday, October 01, 2004

"Study: Women may beat men in sprint by 2156" http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/science/09/30/science.sport.women.reut/index.html ... and I was thinking, not if the SSPX has anything to say about it.
Prometheus http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gs2.cgi?path=../multimedia/images/small-moons/images/PIA06488.jpg&type=image Saturn's moons, by the way, are named for members of the race of Titans, of which Saturn himself was one. Other satellite naming conventions: Jupiter's moons are named for lovers of the king of the gods, Uranian moons for Shakespearean characters, Neptune's moons for oceanic associates of the sea god.

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