Thursday, July 31, 2003

Purple People Eater 

I just love this photo! Click here for the low-down from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

Purple People Eater
Photo courtesy of AP via Yahoo News.

Oh, Just Great! NOW What Will AC/DC Sing About? 

"Highway to Alberquerque" just doesn't have the same ring to it! New Mexico's D.O.T. is changing the route number of this roadway. Read about it in "New Mexico Says Goodbye to Its Highway to Hell" from Reuters via Yahoo News.

Devil's Highway

For the Real Techno-Catholic in Your Life 

Some time ago, I discovered a neat little free program and a well-made website entitled "Virtual Rosary". It is just as it sounds. It's a program you can download to your machine and use to say the Rosary with virtual beads on your computer screen. The text of the prayers is right there in front of you, as are very tasteful images of the various mysteries. You can choose different languages, different meditations for the mysteries, and even choose background music. (It's wicked cheesy MIDI file music, so I'd pass on that little feature if I were you!) I've downloaded it and used it a little, but I still prefer the real thing in my hands 99% of the time. Some people may come to prefer this virtual version though. Anything that brings more people to the Rosary has got to be a good thing.

The website itself is a good one for Rosary information, and the program is relatively small and simple to use. It's been around for a while now, and is already up to version 5.2. If you are interested, go to http://www.virtualrosary.org. It's free, no strings attached!

Maine AG Isn't Charging Accused Priests  

My goal is to keep this blog primarily on the positive side, but on occasion that's not possible. Here in the Maine Diocese, we've had three active-duty priests removed due to sexual abuse allegations. I guess you could consider us relatively lucky, although three priests is three too many. Bishop Joseph Gerry, O.S.M. has witnessed the slow-motion train wrecks in the dioceses to the west and south of us, and consequently has been very aggressive in routing out potentially abusive priests in the diocese. In some cases, his zero-tolerance policy has even been accused of not being tolerant enough. None of the three priests removed were "serial molesters" nor had they been shuffled from parish to parish when allegations were made against them.

However, there is the past to deal with, and the Maine Attorney General, Steven Rowe, has been investigating diocesean records of allegations made against 51 clergy members, dating back 75 years. 33 of these clergy members are still living, though no longer in active ministry. There has been controversy over whether the A.G. should release the names of the living and the dead, since they are just allegations and no charges were or will be charged at this point.

Personally, I think the names should be kept under wraps if the allegations have not been substantiated. And what good would come from releasing the names of deceased priests against whom allegations (proven or not) have been made? God is handing out justice to them. In the case of the 33 living, inactive clergy, I would prefer the release of the names of only those who, if not for legal technicalities such as statutes of limitations, would now be facing indictment, since they could still pose a potential threat to others today.

Anyhow, you can read about it in this article from the Portland Press Herald. I find the whole subject of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church very distasteful, and also feel that the media has singled it out and dragged it on and on. Nonetheless, my head is not in the sand on this topic, and when there is something truly worthy of mention in regards to it, I'll mention it. However, there is so much more good than bad going on in the U.S. Catholic Church, and that gets precious little coverage in the mainstream press.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Beep-beep, Bye-Bye 

I'm no nouveau hippie, like the hygiene-challenged throngs that are descending upon northern Maine for the big Phish concert in Limestone as we speak (see earlier post from July 27), but I have always had a soft spot for Volkswagen Beetles, ever since I was just a toddler. I even collect Beetle memorabilia. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking..."How did THIS guy only get 5% on the geek quiz?")

The "new" Beetles, introduced in 1998 are terrific, and I'd love to own one someday. Sharp and safe little cars, and in my mind an equal to the original models. But today there is sad news out of Mexico for "old-school" Beetle fans. While production and sales of the original VW Beetle came to an end in the U.S. in the late 1970's, a plant in Mexico has been cranking them out faithfully right along, until today. The last of the original-style Volkswagen Beetles, the 21,529,464th one made, rolled off the assembly line today, and is on its way to the Volkswagen museum in Germany. Read about it here from UK Reuters via Yahoo News.

Jesus Doesn't Want Your "Stuff"... 

...but He knows what he wants you to do with it. This excerpt from today's gospel reading made me stop and think:

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Matthew 13:45-46

"Stuff". We've all got it and many of us want more of it or better "stuff". The "stuff" could be material things, such as owning a nice car or having a nice home, or it could be power and influence, such as comes with high positions in government and business or with celebrity. I don't think Jesus is telling us in this mini-parable that He wants us to throw away all the fruits of our hard work and sit around waiting for eternal life. Instead, He wants us to fulfill our potential with the talents the Father has given us, and then share those fruits with others who need them. He also doesn't want us to put our drive for more "stuff", be it material or power and prestige, ahead of our unceasing love of God and neighbor.

A great example of people living Jesus' lesson in this mini-parable comes from my days of working my way through college. I was employed by the Recreation Department in a small town that desperately wanted to offer swim lessons to local youth, but there was no community pool, and the nearest safe swimming beach that was available was too far away to be a reasonable choice. The beach they had used previously was deemed no longer safe or appropriate. It looked like no swim lessons for the small town's children that summer, or ever again. Then, a few weeks before summer began, not one, but two prosperous local families stepped forward without being asked and offered the free use of their large personal swimming pools during the midday hours on weekdays. The swim program was saved.

These families were not expecting anything in return. While lessons were going on, they purposely stayed out of sight, so as not to attract thanks and accolades from parents and children. (Their curious and friendly cats were regular supervisors though.) If a child or instructor needed the bathroom, or the telephone was needed because of a problem, both families selflessly made them available without complaint. Their sole reward (on Earth) was in doing good for someone in need. They refused any public recognition or compensation. That was back in the late 1980's, and this tradition continues to this day. One of the families moved out of town the next year, but was sure to find another family in the community who would be willing to offer their pool for the summer swim program in their place. Since then, when a family that has offered their pool is no longer able to do so, they've taken it upon themselves to find a replacement on their own.

These people are giving freely of the fruits of their own personal success (in this case their pools, their backyards, and their peaceful and quiet weekday mornings and afternoons) to help others who would otherwise go without. I think that is what Jesus is telling us in this little parable. To achieve eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, aside from avoiding sin as much as possible, you must give generously of your own talents and treasures (which were ultimately given to you by God) to those less fortunate, without expecting reward or recognition. Incidentally, it doesn't have to be money or materials, it could be time or talent, so lack of a six-figure salary does not exempt any of us.

What have you been doing with your "stuff" lately?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Psychological Terrorism? 

Since September 11, 2001, we, the American public, have been given warnings on numerous occasions that a terrorist attack of some kind is eminent. We've had color-coded threat levels devised, and then raised and lowered, and have also stepped up anti-terror security and intelligence considerably. Osama Bin-Laden's Al-Qeada network has been constantly and relentlessly under the microscope of our government agencies and those of our allies. Well, some more than others. (I don't want to even get into the subject of "audiSay rabiaAray" tonight!) All in all, I think that our nation is safer today than it was on September 10, 2001.

Today we were told by the Department of Homeland Security, that Al-Qeada could be planning a new round of airliner highhackings and suicide bombings (much like 9/11)before the end of the summer. If you haven't heard about this, FoxNews.com has the full story here. Give it a read, especially if this is the first you've heard of it.

I am worried that people will become complacent when these threats are announced and will not take the precautions necessary to keep themselves and others safe. Much like the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf". The U.S. Government is in a tough, tough spot with this, since it is their obligation to alert us when threats arise. I sympathize with them on this a great deal. If they didn't issue an alert when they had reliable intelligence, and a terrorist act actually occured, there would be hell to pay, to put it mildly! However, with each alert issued that does not result in an event (either a terrorist act or the arrest of suspects in such an act), I fear that the American public takes them less and less seriously. Are we as citizens widely considering that the heightened security that comes with these increased levels of alert may have discouraged or outright thwarted terrorist activity without anyone but the would-be terrorists knowing it?

That being said, there is another side of this that came to me this afternoon while I was traveling a considerable distance in my car. Bear in mind, there's not much to see other than trees and the occasional moose on the highways of northern Maine where I was, so there's lots of opportunity to listen to the radio and/or just think. (Come to think of it, you could start a pretty darn good mobile comtemplative religious community up here that spends all its time traveling the highways and byways north of Bangor in a Winnebago converted into a monestary-on-wheels. Communing with God's beautiful natural creations, hardly any distractions, it would be perfect! They could be called "The Contemplative Order of St. Christopher", since Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, but then there is the question of whether St. Christopher REALLY existed, and if he is some kind of quasi-saint or something and, he is my namesake, but I still don't know for sure if I am named for a real genuine saint and, and, and you all know how that gets me going, and...and... ***deep cleansing breaths*** Ahhh...ok, that's better.) But I digress...again.

Seriously, the thought that occurred to me is that Al-Qeada could easily be planting this information falsely, in hopes that the threats will be picked up by authorities, publicized and the level of threat raised again. Meanwhile, Osama and his pals can sit back in their caves and listen to their shortwave radios and laugh as the U.S. Government appears to "cry wolf" again, and the American public takes them less seriously with each successive announcement. Their goal could be the "softening up" of the psyche citizens of the U.S., so that when the terrorists really do have a major attack planned, few people will take the heightened warning levels seriously and Al-Qeada will be able to better achieve their evil aims.

There is another reason I feel planting false threats would work to Al-Qeada's advantage. Success breeds contempt, and with the United States being the richest country in the world, its global image is seen by many, especially those people in underpriveleged countries, as one of being a hedonisitic, wasteful, selfish, and wealthy bully that does not take God or them very seriously.

It was no coincidence that they attacked the World Trade Center not just once, in 2001, but twice (remember the car-bombing in 1993?). The WTC was their symbol of America's mighty economy, and any damage they can do to that economy is considered a victory by AL-Qeada and their followers. Kind of a twisted version of "David and Goliath". The mere leaking of these possible threats is enough to send a negative ripple through the American economy each time setting back any progress that has been made toward recovery. An example: with each warning issued about possible terrorist attacks, people are less likely to fly the airlines. The airline industry has been devastated by 9/11, and every time things start bouncing back, a new terror alert is issued. This not only hurts the airline industry, but also the car rental people, the hotels and resorts, and any number of other businesses that depend on tourism and travelers for their livelihoods. I think it is an underlying fear of terrorism, lurking on our collective American subconcious that has been holding our economy in check since 9/11. Why would Al-Qeada go to all the trouble of staging an attack when all they have to do is plant a few well-placed lies and sit back and watch our economy drag?

The best analogy I can think of for this is when you wiggle your fingers about six inches from the belly of a ticklish child and say in a silly voice "Tickle, tickle, tickle!". Even without touching them, most of these children will still keel over in peals of laughter through their memories of being tickled before and the anticipation that they are very possibly going to be tickled again. Al-Qeada planting these rumors would have the same effect on the economy. Fears of the past and warnings of the future will get them the result they want (economic chaos), by barely lifting a finger.

My mind works best through analogies, which is why they are peppered thoughout this. If comparing or connecting a concept to something of which I already have a firm grasp, I can see it more clearly and examine it from more angles. To give credit where credit is due, the second thought about the effects these warnings on our economy had it's roots in some discussion on the Howie Carr Talk Show on the radio. He was talking about how these threats always seem to occur just as the airline industry gets back on its feet a little. Shortly thereafter, the radio signal faded, but my mind kept going on this, and the result is this entry.

Maybe I ought to bring some of my Van Halen tapes along on my next trip onto the highways of the deepest wilderness of northern Maine instead. I think my brain hurts now.

Monday, July 28, 2003

A Random Neural Firing in my Brain 

What ever happened to Underdog? Remember that cartoon from the late 60's/early 70's? All I could find was this outdated, homemade fan site that hasn't been updated since late 2001.


Image courtesy of http://www.vegalleries.com

"Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Underdog. Underdog!"

I think I better go lie down.

A Life Well-Lived, Mr. Hope. 

Bob Hope

AFP Photo via Yahoo News
Bob Hope: 1903-2003

NEWS FLASH! (to me at least): Bob Hope converted to Catholicism in the final years of his life, after he was no longer able to work in entertainment.

With all the turmoil and immorality in the forefront of the world's attention lately, God must have needed someone to provide Him with a few laughs up in Heaven. This is a man who will be absolutely deserving of all the accolades that are sure to be forthcoming in the next few days. My contribution, being made at 10:38 EST Monday morning, will probably be echoed all week by far more prominent people than me. It is simply this: Though born in Britain, Mr. Hope was the embodiment of the American spirit. I can't imagine that we will ever see the likes of Bob Hope again in our lifetimes.

Bob Hope exemplified many of the strongest tenets of the Faith, such as charity, mercy, love, and of course, hope. His wife Delores is a very devout Catholic and he attended Mass with her very often over the course of their long marriage. The two of them funded the Chapel of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1994.

I'd like to think that he and Bing are probably knocking a few ball off the tees together in the Great Beyond right now, and planning the script for their new picture "The Road to Heaven" with Dorothy Lamour.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

So What's the Deal? Am I Named for a Saint or Not?! 

My name is Christopher. Many Catholic boys born in the late 60's-early 70's were named Christopher. We have a problem. Please help us!

It seems that some years ago, someone in a high place in the Catholic Church decided that St. Christopher may not have really existed, so he got some kind of "demotion" (St. Christopher, that is, not the bureaucrat). His feast day was taken off the Church calendar, and I even think his cult was suppressed. So is he a semi-saint, or a quasi-saint, or a sort-of saint or what?!?!

I never heard about this as a young child. I was told the story of the giant guy who carted the Christ Child across a river as he got heavier and heavier with the weight of the world's sins. I even dressed up as him for a parochial school Halloween party when I was seven ("patron or favorite saints" was the theme), complete with muscle-padding and a baby doll duct-taped to my shoulder. I thought it was cool to share a name with a big, tough guy who was pretty tight with Jesus. When I heard about his demotion when I got a little older, I was kind of bummed. But when one is 12 years old, life goes on pretty quickly and easily, and I've just kept the whole thing on the back burner of my mind ever since.

But now I'm all grown up (allegedly) and I have THIS online forum of my very own. Bruwahahahahahahahah! (That's my evil scientist laugh, and yes I do tend to be a geek sometimes.) So, what is the deal with St. Christopher anyhow? Can anyone give me some input on this dissing? Many of the Church's earliest saints are based almost entirely in legend with only a few, if any, sketchy facts. Why pick on MY namesake? Why not demote some saint whose name no one can pronounce easily, like St. Apollinaris Syncletica? Can anyone point me in the direction to get the story behind St. Chris' demotion? (I know "demotion" isn't the official canonical term, but I don't know the real one, and "demotion" seems to fit the situation very nicely.)

St. Chris

Image courtesy of www.hellenic-art.com

That Roman Curia bureaucrat who suggested demoting St. Christopher had better be watching his back up in Heaven, because if St. Christopher is real, that pencil-pusher is guaranteed to get roughed up a little from time to time throughout eternity.

Meanwhile, since there is no St. Alan (Alan is my middle name) that I am aware of, I've "adopted" as my own personal patron St. Joseph, also patron of workers and fathers, and spouse of my favorite saint by far, the Blessed Mother, Mary.

Something Phishy 

I have many family members who live up in Aroostook County in northern Maine, which is bracing for it's third "Phish Festival", a massive two-day outdoor concert by the Vermont-based band Phish at the old Loring Air Force Base in the town of Limestone. It (the festival) is entitled "It". (Go figure.) In 1997 the festival was called "The Great Went", and in 1998 it was called "Lemonwheel". This is their first return since 1998. For a rural area such as that, 60,000 fans plus innumerable vendors, media, and lookie-loos is a huge influx of people, making rural potato country one of the most populated places in the state for a few days. Let's pray to our Lord that the luck continues, and the festival-goers and everyone else involved stays safe and healthy.

Phish is not neccesarily a Catholic topic, but it is a Maine topic, and is definitely unique and interesting (Nouveau hippies and stoic potato farmers rubbing elbows for a weekend? It can't get better than that!), so I thought the upcoming "It" was worthy of mention here. This link to the Bangor Daily News gives more information, and I'll be giving updates and commentary as this weekend's festival proceeds.

Sorry though, no live, on-the-scene reports from Limestone from me. If it was the Dave Matthews Band, I'd be there, but Phish just doesn't do it for me enough to brave mingling in close quarters with the unwashed masses.

Sage Words from the Apostle Paul from Today's Readings 

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all." ~Ephesians 4:4-6

With all the apparent divisions, disagreements and scandals in the Church these days, I think it is very important that we keep in the forefront of our minds that we are all called to be as one, the Body of Christ on Earth. Conflict and disagreement happen in every healthy body (taking it literally: ever accidentally bitten your tongue or poked yourself in the eye?), but it seems like the proliferation of available information in this age we are living is causing the relatively little "bad stuff" to overshadow the massive good works of the people of the Catholic Church throughout the world.

Letting off steam once in a while is normal and healthy, but continuous complaining without looking at what is going right is destructive to the spirit. I bet if we really took a close look at each other, we would see that we are all much more in agreement with each other than we are in disagreement.

A good example this tedious complaining is a certain website (not a blog) which shall remain nameless here, that just continually whines and complains about the architecture and expense of the new cathedral completed in Los Angeles last year. It's built, it's been dedicated, it's in use...deal with it!

On this day, it might be good to ask yourself: Am I regularly contributing energy to the overshadowing of the good in Catholicism by the actions of a relatively few bad eggs associated with the Faith? And (at the risk of cliche) am I doing what Jesus would do?

Friday, July 25, 2003

Cat eats Dog, (well kind of) 

This odd story comes out of Germany from Reuters via Yahoo News. The parenthetical asides are my own comments, of course.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A giant catfish that ate a dog and terrorized a German lake for years has washed up dead, but the legend of "Kuno the Killer" lives on.

A gardener discovered the carcass of a five-foot-long catfish weighing 77 pounds this week, a spokesman for the western city of Moenchengladbach (say THAT ten times fast!) said on Friday.

Kuno became a local celebrity in 2001 when he sprang from the waters of the Volksgarten park lake to swallow a Dachshund puppy whole. He evaded repeated attempts to capture him. (Kind of a dubious way to achieve celebrity, don't you think? Weiners are eaten everyday, especially in Germany.)

"He was our Loch Ness monster," said Uwe Heil, member of "Kuno's Friends," a local rock band named after the fish. (You can HAVE him.)

Several fishermen identified the carcass as Kuno, but doubts linger. (Of course! Otherwise tourism in the area will drop like a stone.)

"That's not the Kuno we know," said Leon Cornelius, another member of "Kuno's Friends." He said he had seen several huge catfish in the lake. (Is it just me or are these guys in the band a little TOO interested in this fishy monster?)

Low water levels and a summer heat wave probably killed the catfish, among the biggest found in Germany. The northern city of Bremen plans to stuff it and put in a museum. (Double yuck! Don't expect ME to visit that slimy beast in a museum.)

Mass Time Preference Poll Final Results 

*Early Sunday Morning-33.3%
*Saturday Vigil-23.8% (my personal preference)
*It varies-19%
*Mid-Sunday Morning-9.5%
*Late Sunday Morning-9.5%
*Sunday Afternoon/Evening-4.8%
*I don't go to Mass-0%

Thanks for taking part, and please cast your vote in the new poll, which will be in place until next Friday, August 1, 2003.

Who Says Catholic Schools Don't Inspire Students to Take Moral Stands and Initiate Social Action? 

This little guy who attends a Catholic school in Winslow, Maine is not standing idly by as what he sees as an injustice against cats occurs in his neighborhood. This article comes to us via the Central Maine Morning Sentinel newspaper, based in Waterville, Maine.

The Feast of St. James is Today 

One thing I love about St. James, brother of John the Evangelist by the way, is how he was portrayed in the Gospels. He was ambitious, short-tempered, and rather rough around the edges. Jesus nicknamed James and John as "Sons of Thunder". All of the apostles are portrayed as very human, with flaws and fears and shortcomings, and yet Jesus chose them to become the "Fathers of the Church". Christ is not looking for perfect people, he's looking for people whose hearts and spirits are in the right place to continue His work.

Some Facts and Legends about "Big St. James":
*First of the apostles to have been martyred
*Considered to be within Jesus' "inner circle", along with Peter and John.
*NOT the author of the Letter of James in the New Testament.
*Possibly a cousin of Jesus.
*Legend says his body was taken by angels, and sailed in a rudderless, unattended boat to Spain where a massive rock closed around it.
*Relics are reported to be at Campostella, Spain.
*Another legend reports that James brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy's father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away. (Who says God hasn't got a sense of humor?)
*Patron of: arthritis and rheumatoid sufferers, blacksmiths, Chile, furriers, Guatemala, horsemen, knights, laborers, Nicaragua, pharmacists, pilgrims, soldiers, Spain, tanners, and veterinarians.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

"Like a Rock?" Then How Did It Float? 

MIAMI (Reuters via Yahoo News) - The 12 Cubans who tried to sail a 1951 Chevy truck from the communist-ruled island to the United States got no marks from U.S. authorities for their creativity.

The would-be emigrants were sent back home.

No one remembers anyone attempting the 90-mile crossing of the Florida Straits in a floating flatbed truck with 55-gallon (250-litre) drums strapped to its sides, tires still in place, a propeller attached to its drive shaft and a driver behind the wheel.

"We've seen surfboards, pieces of Styrofoam, bathtubs, refrigerators. But never an automobile," Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said on Thursday.

Chevy Truck Raft
Photo courtesy of U.S.Coast Guard via Reuters via Yahoo News via me.

My prayers are with these poor people trying to escape the oppression in Cuba. I hope they are safe when they are returned to the island. If these folks are this creative, resourceful and determined, something tells me the Good Lord will guide them toward the freedom they seek.

'Dem Bones, 'Dem Bones, 'Dem Catholic Bones 

History and archeology have always been interests of mine since I was a kid. I was always finding a Native American arrowhead or some ancient carving on a piece of wood, or so I thought. I was wrong 99% of the time, but it was fun and the interest carries on to this day.

In 2004, we will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Catholicism in Maine (and all of New England). Here's the story, excerpted from the Catholic Encyclopedia website.

In the spring of 1604, Samuel de Champlain, with two vessels carrying one hundred and twenty persons. After stopping at several places along the Maine coast, Champlain sailed up the St. Croix River, as he named it, and landed on an island to which he gave the same name. This is now known as De Monts Island, and is within the limits of the current parish of the Immaculate Conception, which includes the city of Calais. Here, in a small chapel, quickly erected, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the first time on the soil of New England by Rev. Nicholas Aubry of Paris in July, 1604. From this little colony the Gospel spread among the Indians, the Abenakis being the first on the continent to embrace the Catholic Faith; this they did in a body, and they have stood steadfast in the Faith to this day.

The little French colony did not last long. (Maine winters are some tough Chummy, especially if you don't know what to expect!) Many of the settlers died over that winter, and the settlement was dismantled in August of 1605. (IRONY ALERT: They relocated to Nova Scotia, thinking it would be easier going, climate-wise!) Nevertheless, the Catholic Faith stayed behind in the Wabenaki people and grew as better-prepared French missionaries and other settlers made their way back into what is now Maine.

The reason I bring up this anniversary now in 2003 instead of next year is a recent news article from the Bangor (ME) Daily News, which documents the establishment of a new cemetery for some of those original settlers, whose bones had been popping up out of the ground due to erosion for years. The old graves were formally excavated, and the National Park Service and some concerned locals recently reinterred the remains of 23 men who died on L'Isle-Sainte Croix on consecrated (and relatively more erosion-proof) ground.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Happy Birthday to Us! Does the Entire Diocese Get a Free Meal at Denny's? 

The sesquicentennial anniversary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland kicks off this weekend with a return to the roots of the diocese. On Saturday, July 26, a Mass at St. Ann’s Parish, on Indian Island in Old Town (that's about ten miles north of Bangor, for all you Flatlanders) will honor Native Americans, the first Catholics to live on the lands that would make up the Diocese of Portland when it was later established in 1853.

The mission at Indian Island was established in 1694 by the French who lived among the Penobscots and ministered to their spiritual needs. This special relationship between the Native Americans and the Catholic Church will be remembered during Mass on Saturday. Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, O.S.B. will preside and give the homily. (The good bishop is an admirable and holy person, but he is duller than dirt. Bring your No-Doze to Mass to make it through the homily.)

The following day, Sunday, July 27,2003, Bishop Joseph will celebrate the 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland where a plaque will be dedicated marking the 150th anniversary of the Diocese. The diocese was carved out of the Diocese of Boston by Blessed Pope Pius IX (and in light of recent events down there, we're darn lucky he did!).

On Sunday, August 24, an anniversary Mass will be celebrated at St. Sebastian Cemetery, Norridgewock, in honor of the martyrdom there of Father Sebastian Rasle and a number of Native American Catholics in colonial times. (Fr. Rasle's is an inspiring story! I'll write about it on here someday.)

The people of the diocese will gather at the Cathedral in Portland for a solemn Mass of thanksgiving on Monday, September 8 to officially mark the establishment of the Diocese of Portland on July 29, 1853. (Seems only appropriate to mark a July 29th anniversary on September 8, don't you think?)

The above information, except the snide parenthetical comments in italics, comes from the diocese's "news briefs" on their website. See the link to the right.

Chris' Fun Maine Bishop Facts:
Did you know that the Maine Diocese was the first in the country to have an African-American bishop who was ordained in the U.S.? The Most Rev. James A. Healy, D.D. was the second Bishop of Portland, from 1875-1900.

Did you know that the Most Rev. Edward C. O'Leary, D.D. Ninth Bishop of Portland, absolutely smoked some of my fellow third graders and me in a game of basketball (H.O.R.S.E., to be exact) at St. Mary's School during a visit at recess? He retired in 1988, and passed away last year, but he was probably the most effective and beloved bishop to serve the Portland Diocese. He was an example of the kind of leadership our Church needs today.

Cardinal Bernardin Must Be Rolling Over in His Grave 

Once upon a time, 137 years ago to be exact, the Sisters of Mercy founded St. James Elementary School in the parish of St. James on Wabash Ave. in Chicago to serve the large Irish-American population. Much has changed since 1866, but St. James School has consistently flourished. Today, its student body is almost entirely African-American, and the school has become one of the most lauded parochial schools in the nation. A large number of their graduates go on to acceptance at some of the area's most prestigious Catholic high schools, and then on to higher education afterward.

Fast forward to 2003. The school's veteran principal, Sr. Jayne Daly R.S.M., a dynamic woman who has played a large part in maintaining and improving the overall quality of the school is up for contract renewal. The decision to renew is in the hands of Father Edward Linton, who came to the sponsor parish just last year. He puts a stipulation into Sr. Jayne's contract where she is required to reveal the names of the generous North Shore donors who contribute to the hefty scholarship program, without which a great number of the students would not be able to attend the school. When the scholarship program was established in 1985, it was with the understanding that the names of the donors would remain anonymous so that donors would not be continually hounded by additional fund-raising solicitations from the Chicago archdiocese.

Of course, Sr. Jayne wouldn't agree to give up the names for ethical reasons. Consequently, her contract was not renewed, and she is out the door, very much against her wishes and the wishes of the school community. The Archdiocese of Chicago is backing the priest, of course.

So often, this is exactly the kind of thing that dominates and weakens educational institutions, both public and private, throughout the United States. Politics is put before people. The best interests of the children of St. James School is being put at risk over a silly grab for a little more control by Father Linton. I've seen situations not unlike this too many times. The best people to run our schools and classrooms are driven out because of ridiculous political tiffs with administrators, many of whom haven't worked directly with students in years. Sadly, many of those who go into educational administration do so because they are, for lack of a better term, "control freaks" who want more money and to get out of the classroom. (Granted, there are some very notable exceptions.)

Here's the link to the story in the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. The whole thing disgusts me.

By the way, just in case you are interested in making your views on this matter known, here is the e-mail address for Fr. Edward Linton of St. James on Wabash. The parish's general contact info is: St. James Parish, 2942 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60616, Phone: (312)842-1919, Fax: (312)842-3612. Here is the contact information for the Archiodiocese of Chicago, which is headed by Cardinal Francis George. Mysteriously, the link to contact the archdiocese's Office of Schools by e-mail is inactive this summer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Effectively Affecting Change (in a few Fun and Easy Steps!)

I've noticed that bashing liturgical deviations, the Church hierarchy, and VOTF has become a favorite sport on many Catholic blogs. Well, I'm tired of "all-talk, no-action". Stop whining and start doing. I have very mixed feelings about the Voice of the Faithful movement, but I will give them credit for at least trying to do something about what's wrong in the Church. We can all make our contributions at least at the parish level by merely speaking up to the people who are in a place to do something about our concerns. Don't just grumble to your sister over tea on Sunday afternoon! Make an appointment with the priest or music director or whoever is relevant to the concern, and give them your opinion. Encourage others who agree with you to do so as well. You can make a difference on many levels: parish, diocese, archdiocese, and national, but it won't happen if you just grumble behind closed doors and don't speak up.

PICK YOUR BATTLES first and foremost, then make your concerns known through the appropriate channels, going as high as you feel is necessary. Picking your battles is a real key, since complaining to the priest about too many "guitar masses" is nowhere near being on the same level as having concerns that your parish sponsors three gay/lesbian groups and their activities on parish property. People who complain too much often lose credibility, like the little boy who cried wolf. If you try to fight everything, you will gain nothing. And follow the chain of command. Don't start out by writing a letter to the pope, for example.

KEEP IN MIND, A HEALTHY FAITH IS A GROWING AND CHANGING FAITH, so I think it would be most imprudent to resist every change that comes our way in the Faith. Change has been a part of Catholicism from the day the apostles emerged from the upper-room filled with the Holy Spirit, so many years ago. Again, it's really worth repeating, choose your battles very carefully!

DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU TAKE ANY ACTION. "Well, that's not how we always USED to do it!" is not going to get you anywhere at all as the basis of your argument. That line has become a joke among many priests I've known, because every priest faces making some changes at some point in each appointment he receives, and I would dare say every priest has heard that line more than just a few times. Read your catechism and other valid sources, talk to knowledgeable people with similar views to get their opinions, and take notes before speaking out. When you do speak out, be polite but firm, maintain a professional composure at all times, avoid sarcasm (my biggest problem), and never say anything that you can't back up with facts.

AVOID LABELING YOURSELF, BUT EMPHASIZE CORE PRINCIPLES AND BELIEFS INSTEAD. I have never led any kind of official movement within the Church. Fortunately, I have never felt the need in the parishes where I have lived in my life. However, I have developed no small amount of skill as an effective rabble-rouser and leader of uprisings against the corruption (or more often misguided delusions) of authority figures my little corner of the American education system, where I was a public school teacher for over eleven years. Being a conservative, a Republican, and a devout Catholic in that predominantly left-wing atmosphere just automatically led me to lots of experience in having to stand firm for my principles in the face of liberal, politically-correct lunacy that impacted our children and their future. I think being a male in a predominantly female profession played some part too. (Probably a testosterone thing.) What about the teachers'union? I wasn't active there at all, because they only elected warm and fuzzy leadership, and didn't want to "rock the boat" with administration. Their interests were more along the lines of planning retirement parties and getting cards out to teachers who have had babies. Even when they did take a stand, it tended to have all the impact of a sneeze in a hurricane. They were good people, but they just weren't much good for taking care of their business and serving their core purpose. There may be organizations in your parish (parish council, other committees) who are much the same. In that absence, someone needs to step up to the plate. What was most interesting is that I could usually gain lots of grassroots support among those around me by avoiding the use of labels like "conservative" and "liberal", and by choosing my battles. (People knew that when I got motivated against something, it must be a worth fighting for, since I was usually pretty laid-back. It's that "choose your battles" thing in action.) I framed the issues of concern in terms of whether they were in the best interests of the children with whom we were charged or not. The same would probably apply in one's approach to activism in the Church.

KEEP A CONSTANT WATCH FOR LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE and get to know them. On the Catholic Light weblog, there was an entry about a fledgling Catholic activist group being started by some of the people who put together the "Catholic Online" site. They've got Ray Flynn, former Boston mayor and former ambassador to the Vatican under Slick Willie as their public face, and that does concern me a little bit. However, I think they are an outfit worth keeping an eye on as they develop and grow. Their website is : http://www.ycvf.org/.

REMEMBER, IT WAS THE "GREATEST GENERATION", the parents of the baby-boomers, the generation of John Paul II, who conceived the principles of Vatican II. The work of bringing those principles to the world has fallen mostly to the boomer clerics and lay persons in the past 15 years, as more of the older ones who were there when the vision was developed in the early 60's have gone on to retirement. In North America, this "changing of the guard" has not been an altogether smooth or successful. Vatican II is an easy target for some, but I don't believe that it is the problem. It has been those priests and bishops who have implemented it in ways that are twisted to fit their liberal agendas. It's not unlike when the Supreme Court gets a liberal majority. It's not the U.S. Constitution that's flawed, it's the way it is being interpretted by those in positions of power.

CONCENTRATE ON "THE BUBBLE". That is, the large bubble of many liberal, baby-boomer priests and bishops who attended seminaries in the 60's and early 70's that is currently moving up in the heirarchy. It seems that it is they who are the cause of many of our current troubles. I am not trying to start a generation war here, but it's been so clear to me over my 33 years on this Earth that as the Greatest Generation has ceded their influence and the Baby-Boomers have taken the reins during my lifetime, things have gotten morally more "iffy", not only in the Church, but in western culture in general. We need to reach out to the baby boomers who are part of the solution, not the problem, (and there are many of them) and help them and the Gen-Xers save the integrity of the Faith for their children, and future generations.

GEN-XERS ARE GRADUALLY MAKING THEIR WAY INTO THE PRIESTHOOD AND RELIGIOUS LIFE, AND NEED SUPPORT. One thing that's made me start feeling old is that there are now ordained priests younger than me, and I'm just 33! This can be a good thing. In general, we Gen-Xers tend to look on much of the influence of the baby boomer generation and its aftermath with skepticism, but generally admire the greatest generation and JP2 (of course, I cannot speak for an entire generation). These new, under-40 priests and religious need our support, subtle guidance, and time to grow before they can make an impact on the Church in earnest by attaining leadership positions. Because Gen-Xers tend to have different sensibilities than the boomers, priests and religious of that younger generation are likely going to be stuggling to find acceptable role models among the current leaders of the Church. We need to pray that they find mentors (clerics or lay persons) who will support them, encourage them (especially when they are down), and will help them save the Faith.

TAKE COMFORT IN THE GROUNDWORK THAT POPE JOHN PAUL II HAS LAIN DOWN, and in the vast majority of cardinals eligible to vote in the next papal enclave who have been hand-chosen by him. We are almost guaranteed that our next pontiff to be in the same vein as our current pope. The Holy Father's visions for the future of the Church are going to take time to grab hold. In the meantime, we need to pray for and support those principles that are in communion with Rome, and stay active in keeping those principles on the forefront in our parishes.

Thank you for reading through my long editorial rant on how to change the world, and we now return you to our regular programming of random Catholic musings, cool saints, wierd news stories about drive-by underwear, rented corpses and the like, and of course baseball scores and standings that precious few of you care about on much more than a very superficial level.

"YOU take the DNA sample!" "Eeyew! No way! YOU do it!" 

So...you thought the world couldn't get any stranger, huh? Wrong! Today there is this story out of Germany from Reuters, via Yahoo News.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A pair of flying underpants caused a crash on a German highway when they landed on a driver's face and blocked his view, police said Tuesday.

A police spokesman in the central town of Gotha said one of a group of naked men in a van threw the underwear into a Volkswagen Passat as they passed it on a busy stretch of one of Germany's notoriously speedy autobahns.

"The underpants landed on the driver's face, causing him to ram the truck ahead from behind," said the spokesman, adding that he did not know why the men were driving along naked.

No one was hurt in the crash, but police are hunting the owner of the underpants for failing to stop at the scene.

All I can say is, thank goodness the driver of the Passat lived. That would NOT be how I'd want to slough off this mortal coil!

Sunday, July 20, 2003

The Church and "The Clap" 

I don't know much about the particulars of local Catholic worship traditions outside of New England, so my view of what is widely accepted during Mass may be more limited than most. Maine in particular is not the most cultrually diverse state in the nation, and I've spent my entire life here. That being said, my parents' parish, which is my hometown parish and where I worshipped for the first 22 years of my life, is dealing with an issue I call "The Clap".

Let me set the scene: It's a good-sized, moderate-to-conservative leaning parish founded by Irish immigrants 155 years ago in a working-class rural area, devoted mostly to agriculture. It has never been all that musical, and historically has had a hard time recruiting and retaining choir members. The current music director is a rather timid sort, who relies heavily on the "guitar Mass" format. The church has a very nice organ, as well as a piano, but they collect dust much of the time. Guitar Masses are accepted in the parish, since they've had them ever since I can remember as a toddler in the early 70's, and in general they have been done tastefully and with restraint. The music director also seems to like to experiment with new hymns from the hymnal each week that no one in the congregation has ever heard of, much less will be able to sing. This congregation is not, and never has been, a "singing bunch", and they only tend to rise to the occasion with very well-known hymns, or at special celebrations, such as holidays and funerals.

This being said, some newer members of the choir have taken to trying to get the congregation clapping when the recessional hymn is a particularly upbeat one. (I assume they are recruited more for their singing abilities than their catechetical knowledge.) As I glance around the church's approximately 400 worshippers in the pews at Mass, maybe three are clapping with them (no exaggeration), while the rest are rolling their eyes, looking like they have indigestion, staring at the floor as if the big game were being broadcast down there, or are already subtly easing their way down the aisle and out of there. "The Clap" just doesn't fit the personality of the parish at all, and yet no one seems to have spoken to the music director or the choir about how embarrassing this phenomenon has become. The priest should the one to deal with it, be he is not really one for confrontation or controversy. I overheard one middle-aged lady grumbling on the way out today, "The next thing, they'll have us speaking in tongues, and yelling out 'Allelulia' in the middle of sermons."

Another variation of "The Clap" that I have not yet encountered in this diocese, but have read about on other Catholic blogs, is the congregation applauding at the end of the homilies and at the end of the recessional hymn every week. Will those big foam "We're #1!" fingers be next? The Celebration of the Holy Eucharist is not on the same level of a playoff game, after all.

So, here's what I am wondering. Has any strain of "The Clap" infected your parish? For how long? How has it been received? And most importantly, do you think clapping along with liturgical music or applauding the homily or the recessional hymn on a regular basis (note the wording) are good ideas? My answer, quite simply, is NO, unless it's a joyful holiday like Easter or Christmas, and even then it should be kept within reason.

By the way, please feel comfortable to disagree with me on this or any issue I bring up. I encourage diverse opinions and do not take those that clash with mine personally, as long as they are not intentionally rude. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and weblogs are a great way to exercise it!

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Politics of (My) Shame?

Ever since I have been old enough to understand politics, I have always been Republican. When I was ten, I campaigned for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election, much to the chagrin of my Democrat parents. These days, I tend to be a moderate, maverick type of Republican in the mold of Sen. John McCain (who I was staunchly behind in the 2000 primaries), but have always held to most of the planks of the Republican platform. My only flirtation with "The Dark Side" (the Democrats) came during a period of weakness at the end of my college years, when I can say with head hung low that I did vote for Clinton in 1992 (not 1996 though). Those liberal campuses can get into your head no matter how strong you are. (I think it's something they put in the water.)

In any given election, I do not vote a straight party ticket, but for the candidate I feel is the best qualified for the office and holds positions closest to my own. More often than not, that means voting Republican, but I have cast votes for Democrats in good conscience before. Rep. Michael Michaud, for example, is the freshman Democratic congressman from my voting district, and he is a Catholic, pro-life, moderate politician. Bright guy with good ideas, although he has all the public speaking skills of Helen Keller and dynamic public presence of a horseshoe crab. I just hope his one-to-one people skills are working in his favor.

But I digress...I supported George W. Bush when he emerged as the Republican nominee in 2000, and have been very happy with his job performance as president thus far. He has restored intergrity to the office of President, and is a "straight-shooter" when he speaks, which is a relief after eight years of "Clintonspeak" and searching for whatever the definition of "is" is. I fully intend to support President Bush again in 2004, especially if he can learn to pronounce the word "nuclear" (as opposed to his"newcular"). However, I recently made the mistake of taking some online "match-up" poll that matches your political views with the announced presidential candidates, with silly me assuming the results would be a given . I cannot even remember the blog from which it came, but I know it is on several Catholic-oriented ones right now.

At any rate, in the end I came out as 99% in synch with President Bush. Great news, right? Well it would be, if I hadn't come out as 100% for Democratic Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose name I can neither remember nor spell, nor pronounce, and whom I would not recognize if he came up to me on the street and whacked me over the head with a bushel of bananas! I had to go search several news sites just to find his name to include here. I'm a news junkie too, so not being able to even recall his name is something for me.

So, the moral of the story is: Don't buy much stock in these online "match-up" polls, since I am getting the distinct impression that most have serious flaws. And this is coming from a man whose alleged "inner-nation" is Cuba, and "inner-animal" is a badger! I need to leave my innards alone, I think. Ignorance is truly bliss. I'll probably still take those silly "match-up" polls though. At least they provide lively conversation!

The beaches of New England are about to be stormed by a brigade of little rubber Anatidae Anatinae! Panic in the streets! Alert the the neighbors! Grab the kids! Head for the hills!

I originally posted this "warning" earlier in the week, but one of the newspapers in Maine, the Portland Press Herald, has published a more detailed article about this interesting and odd situation.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Okay, He May Be Really, Really, Really Obscure, but...

I think Maine is the only state in the U.S.A. that can claim it shares a name with a saint. Between that, and the facts that we are the only state with a one-syllable name, the only state that borders only one other U.S. state, and are the easternmost point in the country, well, our self-esteem is just through the roof.

The following information comes from the Saints Index of Catholic Online This is the entire entry. It isn't much, but I bet you can't find a St. Mississippi or St. Idaho out there anywhere!

St. Maine
Feastday: June 21
Founder of Saint-Meon in Brittany, France. He was a disciple of St. Samson. Maine, who also is listed as Meen, Mevenus, Mavenus, or Mewan, was either Welsh or Cornish.

When Three Doors Close, Three More Open

Last year, here in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, we had three parish priests removed due to inappropriate sexual conduct in their pasts. Mild compared to other dioceses, I'll admit, but very tough on our diocese, which is geographically large and where most parishes are spread out a great deal. The loss of any priests in this diocese is a serious blow, since we only have sixty-something priests serving 158 parishes and missions (plus a number of chapliancies and administrative positions), and many of them are getting up there in age. Well, this year, through the grace of God, we will have had three seminarians ordained to the priesthood who will be serving as parish priests in our diocese.

Here's the story of the third ordination, which will take place tomorrow. This article comes from the Bangor (ME) Daily News.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Knowing When to Stop

In last week's Newsweek magazine, 88-year-old Ruth G. Nedbor wrote a touching essay piece on how she had decided that she was no longer a safe driver, and voluntarily gave up her driver's license and her car. I really admire this woman's strength and integrity for putting not only her own safety, but the safety of others ahead of her own convenience.

In light of the recent tragedy in Santa Monica, California, where an 86-year-old man plowed out of control through a downtown farmer's market, killing ten people, this essay from Mrs. Nedbor has even more poignant meaning. When I saw the poor old man being lead away by police on the news, he looked absolutely shocked and devastated. We have all known or seen elderly drivers who just do not belong on the road, but approaching them about the subject is terribly uncomfortable and awkward. Nonetheless, if more of us had the strength to gently but firmly confront them, or if more elderly drivers were willing to accept their limitations on their own as they emerge, who knows how many tragedies could be averted on the roads? Please understand, I am not saying that all elderly drivers are some kind of menace. Many people drive very safely well into their golden years. But if you know someone who is aging and is not safe behind the wheel, please talk to them about it. It could save their life and those of unknown others.

Please join me in praying for the dead and injured victims of the Santa Monica accident, and for the elderly driver who caused it. I believe that he too is a victim, and needs as many prayers of forgiveness and mercy as he can get.

If you haven't read it, you can find Mrs. Nedbor's touching essay on giving up driving her car at Newsweek, via MSNBC.com.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Hey, the Pope doesn't Have to Wear Pants in There, so Why do We?!

You've probably heard that tourists wishing to enter St. Peter's Basilica in Rome are being turned away if they have exposed shoulders or are wearing shorts or miniskirts. I guess this have been a particularly hot summer over there, which has exacerbated the controversy. I'm just not sure that selling paper pants outside the basilica is the best way around the dress code. Yes, really! Pants made of PAPER! The crinkling sounds echoing off the basilica's massive stone walls must be deafening!

Personally, I think it's perfectly fine for the Vatican to have a dress code, especially one as lenient as the current one is. I live in shorts in the summer, but I always put on long pants and a fairly conservative shirt when I attend Mass, no matter how hot it is. I don't expect coats and ties for all men and dresses and veils for all women in church, but it seems like many Catholics have really let their standards slip over recent years when it comes to dressing appropriately for Mass.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I wore a black Van Halen t-shirt (see below for the image that was on it) and ripped jeans with untied high-top Nike basketball sneakers under my cassock and surplice more than once when I was an altar boy back in the 80's, even at a Christmas Eve Mass and a couple of funerals. I didn't mean any disrespect to anyone, and the priest didn't seem to care so long as no one saw the jeans and t-shirt during the service. He did ask me to tie my sneakers on occasion, even though that was the "in" style back then. I got wise to him though, and starting wearing a longer cassock. My excuse for such behavior was, and is: Hey, I was just a kid!

1984 Cover Art

Read this article, from Reuters via Yahoo News to find out more about the Vatican Dress Code flap.

P.S.-I've still got that Van Halen album, and am not ashamed to admit I listen to it quite often. It's pretty mild compared to some of what passes for popular music these days. Special thanks to Amazon.com and Warner Brothers Inc. for the image.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I've Heard of Horse Sense, but THIS is Ridiculous!

In the interest of giving credit where it's due, the following article comes from the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press newspaper, via MSNBC.com's News of the Weird section.

Real News that Sounds like a Joke: In June, the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiled counselors Lynn Baskfield and Ann Romberg, who use the technique of "equine-assisted coaching" to help clients like Mari Harris, who wants to boost her singing career. In a typical session at a Stillwater, Minn., farm, Harris would ride and walk a horse until struck with some dramatic insight on how to achieve show-business success. Said Romberg, "It's much easier to accept feedback from a horse than a human." Another client said that when his usually passive horse suddenly sped up in a frenzy, "It got me thinking that I had been letting my business lead me," he realized, apparently for the first time, and thus started drawing a better balance between work and family.

Face it, we all know at least one person who would pay good money to do this. I'm thinking it would be my sister-in-law.
HELP! We Need Nuns!

The number of nuns in the Catholic Church is shrinking dramatically! All of my life, I've seen these women do more than their share of the footwork for the Church. As you pray for new vocations, don't only ask God to call many good men to the priesthood, but also many good women to become nuns. And encourage bright, young Catholic women you know to consider such a vocation. This article from the Cincinnati Post tells how one order is dealing with the shrinking population at a time when they are needed more than ever. And if you see one today, be sure to thank a nun for dedicating her life to doing the Lord's work.
Going off on an Angry Rant (I promise that I won't make it a habit!)

A local Catholic, pro-choice politician attended a charity spaghetti dinner as a "celebrity waiter" at my parish's church hall a year ago in May of 2002. This politician was merely a "celebrity waiter", and did not make any speeches, nor was the fundraiser for him. The money was earmarked for a local organization that promotes agricultural education in our county. It should also be noted that this politician and his entire family are lifelong communicants of my parish. He is a very moderate Democrat, and a thoughtful and effective politician. And this is coming from a longtime right-of-center Republican. The only issue I really have a major disagreement with him on is that of abortion. He's pro-education, against tax increases of any kind, sensitive to those in need, and working on making our government more streamlined, effective and cost-efficient.

Anyhow, since that fundraiser in May 2002, our parish has been picketed by an anti-abortion extremist and his cronies every Sunday morning between the 9:00 Children's Mass and the 11:00 Mass. He and usually two or three others are standing on the street just outside the main entrance of the church, displaying 6 foot X 4 foot photographs of bloody, aborted fetuses and shouting slogans. He even did it on Mother's Day and First Communion Sunday. The photos are horrifying for children and sensitive viewers, and it has become a major issue in the parish. I purposely park in the rear lot and leave church by a side door with my five year old son. I hate the effect this "man" is having on me and our large, strong, conservative parish, which is a huge brick edifice built under 24-hour armed guard by Irish immigrants in the 1850's in the face of violent opposition by the Know-Nothings and other anti-Catholics in the area.

The vast majority of parishoners agree with this "man's"pro-life stance, myself included, but his tactics are extremely offensive to us. The man doing this also holds up his signs at one of the busiest intersections in the city on Saturdays, as well as at a local women's clinic where my pregnant sister-in-law goes for prenatal care and treatment, not for an abortion , and yet she is harassed and traumatized when she enters and leaves while this "man" is present. He can also be found most noontimes outside the student union at the local university where he is a professor of geology. He contends that he will continue his protests outside our church until our bishop adopts some kind of policy that pro-choice politicians cannot take part in any events on church property in the diocese. One of the biggest ironies is that the priest who okayed the original fundraiser in the church hall moved on to another assignment, and the protests have done nothing but intensify. Our current priest, who came to us last August is one of the most wonderful servants of God I have ever had to privelege to know, and he does not deserve to have inherited this controversy.

Whenever his offensive protests are written about in the "Letters to the Editor" section of the local paper, this "man" immediately responds to defend his methods, every single time, although his arguments are the same thing unreasonable ravings every time, and come across as hollow as a rotten tree. If the media comes near with their cameras, he replaces his angry vindictiveness and fierce scowl with a big warm smile, and plays the poor, friendly old man/victim. It's sickening, and is making a mockery of the real issue, which is abortion. It seems to merely be this "man's" way of making himself a celebrity, albiet a notorious one. He is obviously offending the pro-choice crowd, and his protests in other public places have offended parents of young children and sensitive people. Now he has alienated the very large Catholic community in our area. When legitimate pro-life events are held in the area, this "man" shows up with his graphic photos and turns the whole thing into a farce, focusing more on his foul tactics than the serious issue of abortion itself. He's like a little girl at a picnic pulling her dress over her head just to get attention. It's sad and frustrating.

The parish has tried every legal means possible to prevent this, but has hit dead ends in court due to First Amendment protection. About a month ago, this "man", all 6' 6" of him, was alleged to have pushed one of the parishoners, who have taken to holding up large placards of their own to block his as other parishoners are coming from and going to the church's main entrance. He was arrested on assault charges, but is out again and still waving around his bloody signs, traumatizing children. There are six other Catholic churches in our area, but none of them are right on the street like ours, except for one other: this "man's" own parish, where he does not protest, ironically. The other five are back away from the road and have enough alternative parking lot exits that his protests can be effectively blunted unless he trespasses on church property, which he has been forbidden to do unless it is for purposes of worship.

As a devout Catholic who is staunchly pro-life, this creep makes me mad as hell! Not only is he harassing my parish family and my own family, both of which I love very much, but he is making a mockery of an issue that most Catholics take very seriously and with which they agree with him. It's his tactics that are immoral and wrong. If anything, he is giving ammunition to the pro-choice movement in our area.

This has been going on for well over a year now, and it just makes my blood boil. Why doesn't he go down to Portland and protest at the Chancery Office on a regular basis if he is really serious about trying to send a message to our bishop? I'm not going to post links to any of the letters or articles about him. I'm not even mentioning the "man's" name, because he's an attention-junky and that's exactly what he would want.

Well, I just needed to vent. I am proudly and strongly pro-life, but just as strongly anti-traumatizing innocent people, especially children.

Monday, July 14, 2003

You ANIMAL, You!

Once again, our good friend Kathy the Carmelite over at the Gospel Minefield Weblog has stumbled across a fun and easy personality quiz. This one tells what kind of animal you are most like. Here are my results:

What Is Your Animal Personality?

I have to admit, I like being a badger A LOT better than being Cuba. The description is right on for me, and Kathy said that hers (a crow) was on the money as well. Give it a try and let us in on the animal inside you! It only takes about a minute, and it's kind of fun.
One Gutsy Woman of God

Today is the feast day of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be beatified. She stood up against some incredible odds to maintain her faith in God and His Church during her lifetime. She was beatified in 1980, but my question is: When will she be canonized a saint? American Catholic.Org's Saint of the Day feature provides more information about this inspiring woman.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Thought for the Day

Granted, it's from children's author J.K. Rowling, not a pope, saint or theologian, but these words imparted by the kind Headmaster Albus Dumbledore to 12-year-old Harry Potter at the end of the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets have always struck me as a very wise insight worth pondering. It was even quoted in Catholic Digest in the January 2003 issue.

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Was Baseball's Randall Simon doing the Church's Work?

All the fuss over the Pittsburgh Pirates' Randall Simon playfully tapping a sausage mascot with a bat earlier this week causing her to fall down is silly, if you ask me. But now, after a little research, I am wondering: was Simon on a secret mission from the Vatican? (Tongue firmly in cheek here!) In the July issue of Catholic Digest, writer Julie Rattey writes in an article that the early Catholic Church renounced sausage because it was a favorite dish at the Roman pagan festival Lupercalia. Christian Roman Emperor Constantine banned his subjects from eating it in the fourth century. So many people were sneaking sausage behind the backs of authorities that the ban eventually was repealed though.

He may have gotten slapped with a fine from major league baseball, but maybe Randall Simon got a few indulgences from the Church over his sausage whacking.
21 Reasons for Non-Catholics to Stop Complaining About Us

Did you know that Catholicism is responsible for the origins of chocolate and The Grateful Dead? Check out this article from Catholic Digest's online website.

Friday, July 11, 2003


That's my attempt at a Hollywood Variety newspaper-type headline. With all the attention being given to Mel Gibson's current film project on the last twelve hours of Christ's life, my mind has turned to other Catholic-oriented films. What are your favorite films where Catholicism plays a central role? Are there any that you disliked, despite the filmmaker's seemingly good intentions? Please don't include films that are obviously offensive to Catholics, like Dogma or The Last Temptation of Christ. We can save that topic for another time.

I'll go first, because I can. My all-time favorite, Catholic-oriented movie is the classic The Bells of St. Mary's with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. A film from 1945 may sound like an odd choice for a post Vatican II baby. However I watched it for the first time at Christmastime when I was about 8 years old with my devoutly Catholic grandmother, who was also an avid Crosby fan. I was also a parochial school student at the time. Unlike the stereotypical parochial school alumnus, my years at St. Mary's (yes, really!) were some of the best of my life. In the past ten years, my beloved grandmother passed away, and my parochial school was closed. I saw the film again for the first time since I was 8 just last December, and was surprised to find myself moved to tears. Movies very rarely do that to me! I think it was the combination of my personal memories and the yearning for a time (real or imagined) when belief in miracles, the power of prayer, and respect for the Church seemed more commonplace.

In second place, it's a tie between two fairly recent films. One is Wide Awake, directed by M. Night Shymalan just before he hit it big with The Sixth Sense. The biggest name in the film is Rosie O'Donnell, but she is really just a secondary character. They just put her face on the movie poster to draw an audience. The other is Stolen Summer, produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. This is ironic because they were also behind Dogma, which is the polar opposite in its treatment of Catholicism. Aiden Quinn and Bonnie Hunt are in this one. Ironically, the child actor who stars in this movie playing a Catholic child trying to convert a Jewish boy to the Faith is Jewish himself.

Both Wide Awake and Stolen Summer are family films that were produced in the past few years, and sadly, both were flops at the box office. They are on video, and I would highly recommend them for families with children ages 8 and up. (There is non-violent death of secondary characters due to cancer in both films, so they might not be a good fit for very young or very sensitive viewers.) Even though these titles may be found in the family or children's section of the video store, adults would be entertained and moved by these even without children around. They are not Catholic cheerleading films by any means, but very spiritual in nature and cause you to ponder the Faith more deeply.

So what are YOUR favorite and least favorite Catholic-oriented films? Give a shout out (a.k.a. make a comment)!

Thursday, July 10, 2003

"ONLY IN MAINE" news for July 10, 2002

You can expect this little featurette on this weblog from time to time. I can't commit to a regular schedule for it. Heck, I'm lucky if I can commit to setting the alarm on my alarm clock before bed. At any rate, check out this news article from the Portland Press Herald about the town of Kennebunk's revived celebration of all things refuse.
Dust Off Your Atlases Folks!

Kathy the Carmelite has this great "Which Country Are You?" Quiz linked to her fantastic blog. Give it a try. Here are my results, of which I am a little nonplussed. Apparently, I compare favorably to the only Communist nation in our hemisphere.

You're Cuba, Chris!
How bad can you really be? So many people have said so many bad things about you, but everyone knows they can't all be true. Not even most of them. You went a little crazy for a while, but now you're just getting older and tired of all the nasty stuff people think about you. You could use a little more money and you really wish people wouldn't keep leaving you for something they think is better, but other than that, things aren't that bad! You really like used military clothing and your car is so old it still runs on leaded gasoline

Take the Country Quiz yourself here, but I won't take resonsibility if you are unhappy with your results. Why should I? I'm an island. I'm Cuba!

A Catholic Version of M*A*S*H*?

If you haven't already, check out this blog from The Banica Mission in the Dominican Republic. These wonderful servants of God are working under very difficult conditions on a daily basis, but are staying strong through their strong faith and by keeping a VERY healthy sense of humor! They find joy and laughter amidst the poverty and despair, and I am sure it is as good for those they serve as it is for themselves. Recently, one of the missionaries was given the task of having to pull some poor soul's teeth. You'll have to read his entries on it to appreciate it. Could YOU do it if you had to?
Welcome to Maine Catholic and Beyond!

Greetings everyone! I have become such a fan of various Catholic-oriented blogs over the past six months that I decided to start my own. If you are an author or reader of the blogs listed on the links section on the right, you've probably seen my comments as being from "Chris", with the e-mail address of chris_r_88@yahoo.com. While Catholicism will be the central topic here, don't be surprised to see a little bit of everything pop up from time to time. By the way, the title, "Maine Catholic" does NOT mean the only intended audience for this blog is Catholics from Maine. It was the best title I could think of at the time, since I am both Catholic and from Maine.
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