Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Just Wondering, my Preciousssssssss... 

Am I the only person in all of St. Blog's who isn't enraptured by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem whatsover with Tolkien's work or those who are passionate about it, but the sheer level of dedication that seems to exist amongst many St. Bloggers and Catholics in general over Tolkien escapes me.

Gollum Image from http://www.glassgriffin.com

I read The Hobbit, and have seen Fellowship of the Ring three times (once in the theater, twice on one of the premium movie channels). I enjoyed them, but no more than any other well-crafted fantasy writing or filmmaking. It's probably a venial sin of some sort, but I haven't even seen The Two Towers yet! (I'm waiting for it to come on one of the movie channels.)

Please understand, I'm not being critical here. After all, I am probably one of the biggest Harry Potter fans in the entire world, and definitely THE biggest Potter fan over age 30! I just don't get it about LOTR. Can some of you please let me know what, in your opinion, makes Tolkien's trilogy so prominent for you?

Today is the Feast of St. Jerome 

It's nice to know that a sarcastic, mouthy guy with a quick-temper can still be declared a saint, provided their love for Christ is strong and unwaivering. Maybe there's hope for me yet!

Read about him here, at one of my favorite spots on the Internet, AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day.

Monday, September 29, 2003


(...if we had a dime, huh?)

CNN's Tucker Carlson Angry Over Phone Flap from the Associated Press via Yahoo News again.

I have to admit, I like Tucker Carlson and his views a lot. He's one of the few good things about the "Clinton News Network" (other than Paula Zahn with the sound turned down). However, if I was a honcho at FoxNews, I would have done the same thing, given his actions. What Fox did was pure poetry! And they're right, Carlson did start it. I'm disappointed he can dish it out but can't take it. He's gone down a notch or two on my scale.

(If you don't know what in the world I am talking about, you really need to click and read the article linked above.)

The Bush Administration DID Tell the U.N. That They Smelt A Rat 

Only it turns out it was probably behind the walls of the offices at the State Department, not in Iraq.

State Department Issues Mouse Alert from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.
Excerpt: "The department issued a warning Monday in its main building, saying that "increasing numbers of mice and their larger cousins" were set to launch their annual search for warm lodging and food."

"Larger cousins"?!? What are we talking here, kangaroos?

The Kids Really ARE Alright! 

I found this interesting little article on the Portland, Maine Diocese's website. It's a relief these days to hear good things about teenagers or Catholics, and especially Catholic teenagers! Give it a read and pass it along. It's not just "a Maine thing". I'm certain your state has kids and organization just like this.

Maine Catholic Teens Speak Out Against Media Stereotypes
by Alan Cyr, Maine Catholic Youth Communication Council

“...when the media presents a one-sided, negative view of teens, it bothers me. It’s upsetting that many people who read the paper or watch the news get the wrong impression that ALL teenagers make bad choices. So many teens do things that make the world a better place, but rarely get media recognition.” – Christy, High School Junior, St. Bartholomew Parish, Cape Elizabeth

Drugs. Suicide. Murder. When was the last time you opened the paper to read about the good things that teens have been doing in the world? For most of us, it’s been a while. As an illustration of this point, CNN recently posted a “Special Report” on their website that coincided with “back to school” season. The report provided statistical information that pointed to the fact that minors are increasingly getting involved in drugs, violence and other crime. Sad as this is, CNN, as with so many other news agencies, has forgotten to mention the teens who are not involved in these behaviors. They are the majority, and yet we rarely hear about them.

Maine has one of the strongest youth ministry cultures and programs in the country. Our youth are rich in faith and positive values. World Youth Day draws millions of young people every time it is held. They come together as one, gigantic family – to worship, to share their different cultures and to celebrate the faith and positive lifestyles that unite them as one Church.

If crime is so prevalent among young people, why is it that so many teens are able to stay away from it? How do teens feel about their negative portrayal in the news media? What do they feel has personally contributed to the positive choices they have made in their lives? These are all questions that kept going through my mind as I thought about this issue, so I decided to do a little investigating. Teens from across the state were interviewed to find out what they thought about these issues. I think most adults would be surprised with their answers:

How do you feel about the portrayal of teens in the news media?
*“I think it’s an insult. Generalizations are always wrong, whether it’s racial, religious, or in this case (because of) age.” - Bobby, High School Senior, St. Mary’s Parish, Biddeford
*“I try not to take it personally as a teen, because I know not all of us are bad. I still feel somewhat indignant that the media try to generalize a group of people who are still trying to find themselves. Yes, there are teens who are trouble, but there are also many people of every age who are.” -Cara, High School Junior, Auburn

Why do you think that most teens stay out of crime, drugs, etc? Do you think there are any common traits or factors which have gone on in their lives?
*“I think teens with a good family life, religion, or just determination to achieve something more important than a “high” tend to stay out of crime and drugs. Teens have energy that would be better focused on sports, art, school or whatever they can feel passionate about.” -Cara
*“Extra curricular activities such as sports, drama, or even finding places like the rec or YMCA to work out...” can be beneficial. - Eric, High School Junior, St. Joseph’s Parish, Lewiston

What personally drives you to make more positive choices? What makes other teens do the same?
*“Honestly, peer pressure has always made me make positive choices. All my friends do so I always have. I also have high career hopes and that pushes me to keep on the straight and narrow.” -Bobby
*“Catholic Youth Ministry and my involvement in my parish have had a huge effect on the choices I make. There’s no need to try to “fit in” because I know that I am accepted (perhaps because of my positive choices.). Youth Ministry has given me the self-confidence I need to be true to myself. Also, God’s will means making positive choices.” - Christy

I know that it’s unlikely that the mainstream news media will see this article and begin a campaign to bring the good news about today’s youth to the masses. It’s up to us to do that for ourselves. Those of us on the Catholic Youth Communication Council are here because we believe there are more positive stories about youth than there are negative ones. The adults who work with us believe the same thing. If the mainstream media only sees us at World Youth Day or at the Holiday Inn by the Bay (in Portland) at state convention time, well – that’s a start. But, if we each live our faith and take it out to the greater community, people will see and opinions will be changed.

The positive power of the world’s youth is growing every day. If peer pressure can lead teenagers into crime and drugs, then surely it can also lead them away from those things. We have the power to positively influence our peers – and that power comes from God. By allowing God to work through us, our example will draw more and more kids to Youth Ministry – to Him. Wouldn’t it be terrific if some day we looked around and the only stories there to be told were positive? What a “special report” that would be!

Well, Alan, this weblog may not exactly be the mainstream media (which is probably a good thing if you've read any of my rants about the "mainstream" media), but hopefully by posting your article here, a few more people will hear about what's good about kids today. God bless all those who make Maine's Catholic Youth Ministry the success that it is! Our prayers are with you!

Fiesta de los Angeles 

Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named. The memorials of Gabriel (March 24) and Raphael (October 24) were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their feasts to Michael's.

The following comment, along with the above information, comes from one of my first web stops in the morning, AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day feature:

"Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God's protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly."

Sunday, September 28, 2003

It was Twenty-Five Years Ago Today... 

Photo from http://www.vatican.va

Ioannes Paulus PP. I
(Albino Luciani)
26.VIII.1978 - 28.IX.1978

I still remember the shock I felt on that cool and sunny September day so long ago, when I was only eight. I urge you to pray for Papa Luciani and for his intercession before God on behalf of your intentions, so that his beatification and eventual canonization will come soon.

News of Papal Generosity and a Vatican Tradition that is Probably Best Left in the Past 

(Special Thanks to J. LeBlanc over at the fledgling Dei Gratia for bringing this to my attention. He's got a great blog going, so visit it often!)

(AGI) - Vatican City, September 27 - For the 25th annivesary of his election to Pope, John Paul II has decided to give a 500 euro bonus to all the employees of the Holy See and of Vatican City. This bonus will be paid the end of October. In the past, Vatican employees received a similar bonus at the death of a pope but when, in September 1978 Pope Luciani died suddenly less than two months after his election, this custom was stopped though a bonus was still given when a Pope was elected. (AGI)

Can you imagine the ramifications if every major organization gave its employees bonuses when the CEO died? The boss would need to watch his or her back all the time! A full-time bodyguard and food taster might sound like a good idea, but they would be considered employees too, wouldn't they?

Maybe the elimination of this little tradition of bonuses upon the death of the pope is one of the reasons JP2 has had such a long pontificate...ya think? The Vatican underlings no longer have an incentive to overwork the boss with bureaucratic drivel and drive him into the ground. (Please note my tongue is firmly in cheek here!)

By the way AGI is an Italian news service, and many Italians refer to Pope John Paul I affectionately as Papa (or Pope) Luciani.

A Column Related to the Abuse Scandal in the Portland, Maine Diocese 

Priest's Accuser Believes She's being Punished by Bill Nemitz of the Maine Sunday Telegram. Please remember that the priest in the column who is accused of misconduct is just that: accused. People are innocent until proven guilty in our society, and the investigation into his alleged actions is ongoing.

Mr. Nemitz is a long-time, respected columnist for the Telegram with much talent, but he does like to rabble-rouse and stir things up with his writing quite often. If I were asked to place him on the political spectrum, I'd put him somewhat left of center, though he is not a full-fledged liberal by any means in my opinion. I'm not passing judgement, but I felt that anyone reading him for the first time ought to know that this particular column is his typical style. It's not like this topic has "awakened a sleeping dragon" within him.

I myself haven't really formed a "thought-through" opinion on the specific issue of the current pastor's action against the accuser raised in this column. I'll post one in the comments section when I have. Posting articles like this is not my favorite thing to do at all, but as I've said, as author of a public weblog entitled "Maine Catholic and Beyond", I feel that people expect me to be a resource for what's going on in the diocese: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Results of Last Week's Poll on Directly Canonizing Mother Teresa, Skipping Beatification. 

The question this week was: "Do you think that Pope John Paul II should have held to his reported plan to proclaim Mother Teresa of Calcutta a saint without first beatifying her?"

*No (60.9%)

*Yes (30.4%)

*I don't know (8.7%)

The results waivered between yes and no all week until around Thursday, when the No's pulled ahead for good.

I myself voted no. I believe that Mother Teresa was a good and holy woman, and have no doubt whatsoever that she will be canonized just as soon as possible according to the norms of canonization. However, due to her major exposure in the media in her lifetime, I feel that she has an unfair edge over other, equally qualified souls being considered for sainthood who lived in earlier times or were not in highly visible positions for such an extended period as Mother Teresa. She should be required to go through the same steps toward canonization as anyone else, and somehow I think she would agree. I certainly sympathize with JP2's wish to canonize his friend himself, but I think it's for the best if he waits for the process to play itself out normally.

We still need that second miracle attributed to her, so keep praying for her intercession!

Standard disclaimer: This is not a scientific poll, just a snapshot of the sentiments of visitors to this blog in the past week who have chosen to take part. You may only vote once from a given computer, and neither the polling service nor I can track the origins of votes.

Further Feathering the Cardinals' Nest 

No real surprise here: Pope Names 30 New Cardinals from FoxNews.com.

There are no real shockers on the list which you can find here from The Washington Post. Many had hoped Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston would get the red hat, but with Cardinal Bernard Law already being a Boston cardinal, active in numerous Vatican commissions and still being of election age to participate in a papal enclave, it is thought by many that he was the reason O'Malley didn't make the list this time. I, like many others, was hoping O'Malley would be elevated to cardinal, but had a feeling it was a long shot given Law's status. As long as Archbishop O'Malley continues to effectively lead the Boston Archdiocese, I know we will see his elevation in due time.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

More "Resters in Peace" 

This time, the casualties are Donald O'Connor (one of the last living major stars of the "Golden Era" of cinema and pal of Francis, the Talking Mule), George Plimpton (noted literary figure and renaissance man), and even Stanley Fafara (who as a child played Whitey, Beaver's friend on Leave it to Beaver)!

O'Connor went out in real Irish-American style. According to his family, among his last words were: “I’d like to thank the Academy for the lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.”

Fine Print: All three of the above obits come from MSNBC.com.

Those end of the year tributes on television news to those who have passed away in 2003 are going to take an entire hour! Newspapers will need to devote entire editions to cover them all. The scary part: There are still three months left in the year!

ATTENTION ALL FAMOUS PEOPLE: The odds seem to be against you lately! See your doctors, eat your Wheaties, and get yourself in good standing with God.

Major League Baseball: The Big Picture at this Point 

I tend to have tunnel vision in major league baseball, focusing on the Red Sox 98% of the time, and the rest of the league the other 2%, unless there is something unusual going on like a record streak of some kind or a controversy. So, for my own personal benefit, as well as for that of those readers who care, here is what the playoff picture looks like as the postseason starts next week. I'm highlighting my picks to win each best-of-five series in bold print. Please note that who I think will win and who I want to win are not necessarily the same team in every case.

New York Yankees (A.L. East) vs. Minnesota Twins (A.L. Central)
Boston Red Sox (Wild Card) vs. Oakland Athletics (A.L. West)

Atlanta Braves (N.L. East) vs. Chicago Cubs (N.L. Central)
Florida Marlins (Wild Card) vs. San Francisco Giants (N.L. West)

Photo from http://www.howstuffworks.com

*THE WORLD SERIES I'D LOVE TO SEE: Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago Cubs (with a Sox win, of course!)

*THE WORLD SERIES WE'LL PROBABLY SEE: New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves (with an Atlanta win) In my opinion, these are the two strongest teams in baseball this year, though not my favorites by any means.

We'll Just Have to Get Used to It 

Pope Meets With Philippines President After Illness from FoxNews.com

I suspect from here on out, every time the Holy Father sneezes it's going to make international news. The poor fellow probably just had some Mexican food that disagreed with him causing the reported "mild intestinal problem" that flashed around the globe when he missed his weekly general audience earlier this week. It happens to the best of us (some more than others), and the pope is literally among the very best of us.

This thinly veiled media "deathwatch" on the pope is pretty tacky if you ask me. Every outlet is jockeying for position to be the first to break the news when it comes, though I think it won't be for quite a while yet. CNN (among many others, I suspect) is reportedly already prepared with their comprehensive obituary of the pope, highlights of his life and pontificate, punditry on his possible successors, and even "expert consultants" on Roman Catholicism and how the Vatican works lined up and ready to go for the events surrounding the passing of one pope and the election of a new one. All they have to do is insert the time and date, make a few phone calls, and it's all ready to go.

Of course, they all did the same thing for Bob Hope, with some of the obituaries and tributes dating back nearly four years before he really did pass away. In one case, a very moving tribute to the late Mr. Hope on the event of his passing was published that was written by a man who himself died three years before the legendary entertainer actually did. They've got Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Gerald and Betty Ford and Billy Graham in the pipelines ready to go too. I suppose it's proactive and wise to do this, so they will have well-polished products ready for broadcast when the event happens, but it still seems a bit ghoulish to me. The recent surprise death of John Ritter proved that the media can pull together some quality tributes in a short amount of time. Frankly, I think the immediacy of production of the obituaries and tributes to Ritter made them all the more moving and meaningful.

As for me, I'll keep my "mild intestinal problems" to myself. I bet the Holy Father wishes he could as well. And I'll keep praying for his health every single day.

Earth Shaking News 

Fr. Gee of the Banica Mission reported a small earthquake in the Dominican Republic earlier this week, northern Japan experienced a huge one the other day, and now there's news that a remote part of Russia has had a large quake.

It's been a lot of years since I took college geology, so help me refresh my memory. Don't these things tends to come in waves, with one fault triggering others in the earth over the course of a few days or more? Does this map from the U.S.G.S. typically have as many as 117 separate quakes on it? It seems to me I remember something about this "domino effect" from my studies, and it certainly often seems to be the case now and in other recent "outbreaks" of quakes.

I'm not worried, and don't want to cause anyone else to do so. I'm just curious, is all, and right now, after a long, hard week, I am feeling too lazy to look it up.

Even More Media Sins of Omission 

Bank-Robbing Pentecostal Minister Pleads Guilty from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

I found this in the relatively obscure "Oddly Enough" section of Yahoo News. If this were about a Catholic priest, you know it would be front-page news across the country.

Equality on Campus? Really? 

For those of you who are still a little boggled about what the big deal is about affirmative action, here's a nice concrete lesson in how it works from Reuters via Yahoo News: Texas Conservative Group Sets Cookie Price on Race

Lead sentence: "DALLAS (Reuters) - Southern Methodist University said on Thursday it shut down a bake sale on campus by a conservative political group that sold cookies at different prices, based on a customer's race and gender."

I give these college kids credit for finding a way of making the issue and its inherent discrimination crystal clear.


Today is the Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul 

This man started out in France as a grumpy, half-hearted priest who took up the vocation primarily for the comforts it offered compared the the farm life he knew as a child. Vincent de Paul's life took a startling turn after being asked to lead a group of missionaries minstering to the poor in Paris by a wealthy couple who were financing the establishment of the mission.

At first resistant, he accepted this task, and it changed him forever. His work among the less-fortunate transformed him into a zealous defender of the poor. The mission expanded under his leadership to reach out to include many selfless priests who devoted themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages. He established hospitals, confraternities of charity for the poor and sick in many parishes, and started what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians, as well as the Daughters of Charity.

Vincent de Paul also became a staunch opponent of clerical ignorance, laxity, and abuse of office, which was a rampant problem in France at the time. Those in our Church's leadership today who are heading up the charge to make sure all of our current clerics are solid in all aspects of their calling to be soldiers for Christ are following in the footsteps of this great saint.

According to AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day, "Vincent was by temperament a very irascible person—even his friends admitted it. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been 'hard and repulsive, rough and cross.' But he became a tender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others."

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by his admirer Blessed Frederic Ozanam, is still very active today around the world in assisting the poor and suffering. He is the patron of all charitable societies.

In his honor today, why not make a donation to the Vincent de Paul Society or another worthy Catholic charity that serves those less-fortunate? There are many local chapters in American cities, links to which can be found by clicking here.

Vincent de Paul image from http://www.ozanet.org

This quote from Vincent de Paul's Letters is worthy of meditation on this, his memorial, and any time you feel anxious or insecure: "Strive to live content in the midst of those things that cause your discontent. Free your mind from all that troubles you, God will take care of things...Trust in him, I beg you, and you will have the fulfillment of what your heart desires."

Friday, September 26, 2003

Speaking of "Roman Rumors" 

Here is a list of some of the names currently circulating as possible candidates for elevation to the rank of cardinal by the Holy Father any time now, as is being widely being circulated in the Italian press.

Some, all, or none of these could be getting a red cap soon:
American Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston (yay!)
American Archbishop Justin F. Rigali
American Archbishop John P. Foley
Australian Archbishop George Pell
Brazilian Archbishop Eusebio Scheid
Canadian Archbishop Marc Ouellet
Chinese Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun
Colombian Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo
English Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald
French Archbishop Philippe Barbarin
French Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard
Hungarian Archbishop Peter Erdo
Italian Archbishop Renato Martino
Italian Archbishop Attilio Nicora
Italian Archbishop Luigi De Magistris
Italian Archbishop Francesco Marchisano
Italian Archbishop Angelo Scola
Italian Archbishop Ennio Antonelli
Italian Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone
Kenyan Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki
San Salvadoran Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle
Scottish Archbishop Mario Conti
Spanish Archbishop Julian Herranz

According to Catholic News Service, after Pope John Paul last named cardinals in 2001, the number of electors for the next papal enclave hit 135, 15 above the 120 maximum allowed by Church law. Right now there are 109 cardinals eligible as electors, and Vatican officials do not think the pope would hesitate to go over the maximum again. (He can do that. After all, he's the pope! Who's going to tell him he can't?)

When We Hear those "Roman Rumors" 

It's good to keep in mind the contents of this article published today by the Catholic News Service: Fishing at the Vatican: Journalists Not Sure What They're Catching, written by reporter John Thavis.

The Holy Father Remembers and Honors Two of His Predecessors, Seemingly Ignores Another 

Pope John Paul II will preside over a Mass on Saturday (9/27) for the repose of the souls of his predecessors Popes Paul VI and John XXIII. The story is here at the Zenit News Agency website.

My question is: Why isn't Pope John Paul I included as well? Certainly his pontificate was short, but as a fellow successor of Peter, he is no less deserving of a Mass for the repose of his soul than Paul VI and John XXIII.

It's Moose-Hunting Season here in Maine 

Here's what the moose think of it:

Moose photo from John Gomes, via http://www.wunderground.com/wximage/viewimages.html

"Gonna Have to Face It..." 

...one of the classiest rockers of my teenage years (the 1980s), Robert Palmer, has passed away suddenly as the result of a heart attack in Paris last night. Some of his best-known hits include "Addicted to Love" (for which he earned a Grammy Award), "Every Kinda People", "Simply Irresistable" (another Grammy winner), and of course, one of the greatest rock and roll party songs ever: "(Doctor, Doctor) Bad Case of Lovin' You". Palmer was only 54, and had received a clean bill of health from his doctors just a few weeks back. My prayers go out for the repose of his soul in Heaven, and for the comfort of his family, friends, and fans.

While his most popular music was rocking, uptempo stuff in the 80s that was (and still is) great at energetic parties, Robert Palmer was known for his being an impecciably groomed, somewhat restrained personality who never really lived the stereotypical "rock star life". He was known to go out of his way to avoid the hedonistic excesses that often come with rock stardom. In recent years, his music took a more mellow, bluesy, jazzy turn, as he followed his own muse and not the fads and trends of the music industry. An obituary for Palmer can be found here at FoxNews.com.

Robert Palmer photo from http://members.tripod.com/rant58/id321.htm

Robert Palmer's music is a part of the soundtrack of my youth, especially the rocker "Bang a Gong", which was the song cranked up on the radio when I was urged on by my friends to push my '72 Chevy Caprice to 110 in a 55 m.p.h. zone on an empty stretch of interstate when I was 16. (No drinking or drugs were involved, by the way.) It was a thrill at the time, and I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on that incident after seventeen years. I certainly don't condone such actions now as a mature adult who now knows only too well that none of us is invincible, and that my friends and I could've been killed. (If only all teenagers could grasp that now, instead of years after their potentially dangerous exploits.) But I digress...

Robert Palmer's death, as all are, is part of God's mysterious plan, which we cannot even begin to understand. My theory on this one: The Good Lord's got a big party planned for this weekend, and needed one of the best to entertain.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Poor Fr. Gee! 

It sounds as though liturgical weirdness is rampant in other parts of the world and not just here in the States. Fr. Gee at the Banica Mission in the Dominican Republic is struggling with the locals at keeping the Holy Mass free of extemporaneous fluff and distraction. God bless him and watch over him as he gradually and diplomatically brings things into line.

Why Didn't Someone Think of this Sooner? Priesthood Sunday 

We've got Mother's Day for moms, Father's Day for dads, Grandparents' Day for, well, grandparents. Heck, we even have Arbor Day to honor trees! Why not a day to honor priests? That's exactly what's happening on Sunday, October 26, 2003. It's Priesthood Sunday. I first read about it in St. Francis Messenger magazine, and thought it was worth looking into and mentioning here. Maybe other Catholic blogs will follow suit and publicize it further.

Directly from the website, here are some questions and answers:

1. What is "Priesthood Sunday?"
Priesthood Sunday, October 26, 2003, is a special day set to honor Priesthood in the United States. It is a call for parishioners to honor Christ as Priest and the men who are called to be his priests on earth.

2. Why October 26?
The readings for this 30th Sunday in Ordinary time call our attention to Priesthood ("You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedeck" and the story of Christ, as Master, healing the blind man).

3. Who is sponsoring "Priesthood Sunday?"
The board of the National Federation of Priests' Councils, the major national voice of priests in the U.S., first declared Sunday, October 26, 2003 Priesthood Sunday and called on churches all over America "to celebrate the gifts of Priesthood in service to the Catholic community." A wide array of national lay organizations and leaders are co-sponsoring the event.

4. Why have a "Priesthood Sunday?"
Our first reason for proposing a Priesthood Sunday is to affirm the priesthood in the life of the Church. The role of the priest has shifted since Vatican II causing some confusion about the place of the priest in the life of the Church. With the phenomenon of fewer priests, people, especially young people, see less and less of priests. The growth of lay ministers in pastoral ministry has affected the visibility of the priest in the community. Priesthood Sunday seeks to reaffirm the priesthood of Jesus Christ and its central place in the life of the Church. Second, in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, there has been concern that all priests have been tainted by the actions of a few. Some organizations and some parishes are working already to counteract this negativity. "Priesthood Sunday" sends a message to Catholics and non-Catholics everywhere that priests are instruments of Christ's Priesthood on earth, and are loved and respected by the Catholic community.

5. What will take place?
The lay faithful of each parish, school or other ministry are asked to develop their own special way of marking the day and honoring both the priesthood and their own priests. Special liturgies, celebrations and the opening of a dialog between priests and lay people are encouraged.

6. Is this just a one-day event to pat priests on the back?
Priesthood Sunday is a special day for Liturgy and Celebration. But there's a third part to it as well – Dialog. Priesthood Sunday will offer an opportunity for priests and their parishioners to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and build a stronger working relationship for the future. Priest and parish can use this day to honestly look at the challenges of the future and how they can work together in the parish to be "church together."

7. Is there any help to planning for this special day?
A special website has been established (www.priestsunday.org) to provide ideas for liturgies, social celebrations, preaching, school activities and other events. In some dioceses there will be special Catholic newspaper sections devoted to honoring priests. A mailing was sent at the end of August to every parish in the United States and to members of sponsoring organizations.

8. What can I do?
If you are a an active Catholic , a member of the parish staff or a lay minister/leader, call some friends and organize a group to spearhead the celebration. Work with your parish liturgy director. Go to the website for some ideas, then plan your own way of honoring the priest(s) of your parish.

9. Will it make a difference?
Yes it will, if we all stand up and show our support for the sacredness of Christ's priesthood and our thankfulness for good priests, who are there for us when we need them and our commitment towards a future of working together.

10. Isn't October 26, "World Youth Day?" Which should we celebrate?
Yes, October 26 is also World Youth Day. There certainly is a connection between Priesthood Sunday and World Youth Day. Vocations to the Priesthood and religious life from young people are critical to the success of the Priesthood in the future of the Church.

Parish offices, like most busy offices I know, get swamped with junk mail and solicitations all the time. It's possible that lay leaders in your parish may not be aware of this day of recognition. If you are in a position to organize some way of recognizing all that your priest is and does on October 26, I encourage you to do so. If not, then please pass along this information to those in positions in your parish who might be able to take the idea and run with it.

In these times when the good and holy men who do the work on the frontlines for Christ are held in lower esteem by society in general than at any other time in recent history, we should set aside time to appreciate and honor our priests. We should not let the reprehensible actions of a very small minority of priests cause all who've heard the call to vocation to be marginalized, minimalized, or condemned. Though this is an American initiative directed at American priests, I cannot think of a reason why you couldn't do the same thing in your parish no matter where you are in the world.

One last note: The Priesthood Sunday website has an excellent section called "Priest Stories", highlighting a few of the many inspiring works done by priests in America today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

One of Life's Great Ironies 

I've been perusing the search terms frequently used by Internet users who stumble across this strange little corner of the World Wide Web. One of the most common terms this month, probably because of CCD, RCIA, RCIC, parish youth groups and parochial schools starting up after the summer break, has been "Catholic + social + icebreakers". The user types in those search terms, lo and behold, this blog pops up on the list, and here they come! I find this near the height of dark humor.

Once they arrive here at "M.C. & B.", they discover, to their dismay, that the only mention of social icebreakers was my ruthless rant from the beginning of September about how much I absolutely detest taking part in them at the start of any new group of which I become a part, and how I feel that anyone who forces innocent bystanders like me to participate in them should be dipped in gravy and then dropped into a pen full of puppies.

NOTE TO NEWCOMERS TO THIS BLOG: I hope you enjoy reading what you find here. I strive to inform, enlighten and entertain. However, if you are looking for suggestions on icebreakers for your Catholic group, here's one: DON'T DO ANY! Just introduce everyone and get down to business. In a friendly, safe and open atmosphere where put-downs and whining are not tolerated, community will build quickly and naturally.

(MORE IRONY: By blogging about this, it is only likely to increase the number of hits to my blog on this topic.)

This Has GOT to be The Quote of the Day 

"I tell the librarians not to try to argue with robbers."

The origins of this intriguing piece of advice to the men and women who exercise their earthly vocations in the noble field of library science can be found at this article from (surprise!) the Associated Press via Yahoo News: Woman Bites Two Librarians in Robbery

I don't know if these words of wisdom would apply in all circumstances, however. What if the robber-to-be was Pee-Wee Herman with a water balloon, and the librarian was, say, Mike Tyson? Then it would be okay for the librarian to argue, wouldn't it? Hmmmmmm?

(Sorry, I'm really tired and loopy tonight.)

This One Blew Up in Their Faces 

Church Group's 'Kindness' Spurs Bomb Scare from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

Despite the debacle that ensued in this case, I think the world would be a better place if there were more people being kind for no reason other than for the sake of being kind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

More Media "Sins of Omission" 

Lane Core Jr. over at A Blog from the Core has an excellent post today featuring the comments of U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), a Vietnam combat veteran and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who recently visited Iraq and is quoted from today's Atlanta Constitution-Journal.

Rep. Marshall's comments regarding what he saw himself in Iraq, including the thousands of reconstruction projects that American servicemen and women are successfully undertaking, and a drastic reduction in western media presence in Iraq today compared to the conventional part of the conflict say volumes.

The congressman's observations, along with Lane's reflection on them serve as more evidence that the so-called "mainstream" media does as much, if not more damage through what they don't report, as with what they do. (See my media rant from this past Saturday on that topic.)

No wonder morale is sagging among the troops over there if they are working hard in brutal heat, far from their families, making positive gains toward getting Iraq back on its feet each day, and all that gets reported back here at home are the relatively few negatives that take place. May the Lord God bless the American and allied troops in Iraq, watch over them, and keep their spirits lifted.

Today is the Memorial of St. Padre Pio da Pietrelcina 

Padre Pio is truly a saint for our times, much like Mother Teresa. His canonization ceremony last year was one of the largest in history. Since his lifetime is so recent (1887-1968), there is a wealth of biographical information about this great man. I don't even know where to begin.

Padre Pio image from http://www.vatican.va

Perhaps it is best to leave it to the professionals at AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day feature to tell his story, but I will include a quote from Padre Pio here for consideration and meditation on this day: "The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain"

"With God as my Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly" 

The above quote is one of my favorites from station manager Mr. Carlson of the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. Gordon Jump, the actor who portrayed the befuddled radio station manager in the late 70s/early 80s on WKRP in Cincinnati died yesterday at age 71. He was also known as the lonely Maytag repairman in TV commercials in recent years. To fans of WKRP in general, and to those of us who were on the front lines of the radio business (prior to its decline due to government deregulation and corporate consolidation that began in the 1990s) in particular, we feel like we've lost a real friend. God bless, "Big Guy".

Gordon Jump photo from http://www.angelawards.com

His obituary from FoxNews.com can be found here.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Holy Baby, Batman! That's the Youngest Nun I've Ever Seen! 

Holy Baby from The Rosary Project

From The Rosary Project: "Baby Scholastica™ teaches the foundational prayers of the Rosary in English, French, German, Spanish, Latin, Portuguese and Vietnamese." The site does not tell which prayers those are (I'm guessing "The Exultet" probably isn't included), but it does say: "The DVD was inspired by the Pope’s call in 2003—“The Year of the Rosary”—for the faithful to instill the Rosary and other prayer in children and in their everyday lives." You can click right on the picture to go directly to the page featuring the Holy Baby DVD.

At first glance, it might seem ummm....well, kind of odd for such a product to even be on the market. Some may even think it's some kind of scam. However, in view of a great deal of recent research on the tremendous capacity for children's brains to absorb information at extremely young ages (this DVD is for ages 0-5 years), it makes good sense. There are numerous other mind-stimulating products that have come onto the market over the past two or three years, such as the "Baby Mozart" series. It may seem like "Corporate America" is using this recent brain research to prey on susceptible parents of little ones, and that may be true to some degree. However, wouldn't you rather your baby/toddler/preschooler listen to or watch something of quality and researched to be developmentally appropriate while they play, as opposed to wasting their time (and your sanity) with the numerous other mindless options for young children's DVDs and music available? Not only are you stimulating their language skills and entertaining them, in this particular case you are also instilling some of the basic prayers of our Catholic faith.

Two of my siblings and their spouses are living in "babyland" right now, with one having had a daughter last January and the other expecting a son next month. I can say firsthand from being right in the mix of the American baby products market lately, this is a good time to have a baby from the point of view of safety and quality in what is available to outfit them well for their first years of learning experiences in this big world.

Warning!: You as an adult are still as likely to get sick of hearing this DVD in the background as it plays for the ten-thousandth time for your child as you would if it were a Barney the Dinosaur or Teletubbies DVD! Science has not advanced far enough to develop a children's CD or DVD that overcomes that problem yet.

Leave it to a Child... 

...to find an easy way to get into Heaven! I heard this one the other day and got a chuckle out of it:

An exasperated mother whose child was always getting into mischief, finally asked him one day, "How do you expect to get into Heaven acting like you do?"

The child thought it over for a second.

"Well," the youngster said, "I'll just run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, 'For Heaven's sake, come in or stay out!'"

Worth Pondering as a New Week Begins 

I found this as today's Minute Meditation on AmericanCatholic.org, one of my favorite Catholic websites, run by the Franciscans. It comes from Eugene Kennedy's book Would You Like to Be a Catholic? and applies nicely to the state of the Church in 2003.

"If the Church means a place of growth in and of the Lord, then it is right to understand Catholicism as a family, a big one, and often noisy, as all healthy families are. "

Sunday, September 21, 2003

A Lecture on Morals from a Woman Who Once Claimed to be the Reincarnation of a 17th Century Welsh Witch 

Madonna-Britney kiss angers Stevie Nicks from the Australian Herald Sun Newspaper.

Although she is a bit eccentric at times (what living musician from the 70's isn't?), I respect Stevie Nicks as a survivor who has overcome major obstacles in her personal life, and also as a talented singer and musician. It nice to see someone of her stature in the music business speaking out against the sleazy borderline pornography that often passes as pop music aimed at teens and pre-teens these days. I'd listen to Fleetwood Mac's Rumors CD a hundred times before I would listen to a Britney Spears CD once. And if I had teenagers, I would let them go to a Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac concert without reservation. Heck, I'd go with them to see the show, probably to their great chagrin!

Trouble Over at the Neighbors' 

New Hampshire Catholics Demand Ouster of Two Bishops from the Associated Press via Yahoo News. (Personally, I think it would be better worded: "Protesters in New Hampshire Demand Ouster of Catholic Bishops")

They've only GOT two bishops over there, and both have pretty spotty records in this whole abuse debacle. (The diocese's website is here at this link.) There have been protests before, but this is the largest, drawing people from other states. With the publicity this has gotten, the number of picketers is likely to grow even larger. Apparently, the momentum is building to clean house entirely over there. I can't help but wonder if New Hampshire will be the next "hot spot" in the sex abuse crisis in the U.S., now that the Archdiocese of Boston has settled with their victims.

I hate to see such pain and anger in these protesters most of whom are abuse victims or their relatives and friends. My prayers are with them for healing and peace. I also hate to see such vitriol directed at leaders of the Church. I pray that the Lord will give them the strength to do what is right, not necessarily what is easy, in this difficult and sad situation.

May God's Holy Will be done in swiftly resolving this conflict in New Hampshire.

More G.I.R.M.-Related Stuff 

I am probably the last person at St. Blog's to become familiar with the blog of Fr. Rob Johansen entitled Thrown Back. I stumbled into it while surfing around my usual blogs earlier, and it's well-worth a regular visit.

Of particular interest was this post from late August about the warm and fuzzy "grip-and-grin" practice of having everyone shake hands and say hi to the people around them before Mass begins. I detest this practice on many levels, and thank goodness neither my home parish nor the one I grew up in have ever implemented it. Fr. Johansen hits the nail right on the head on why "grip-and-grin" is, for lack of a better term, stupid, in his posting. I highly recommend you give it a read if you haven't already.

Background Information for This Week's Poll: "Sainthood Fast Track" 

For a time, it was said that Pope John Paul II was seriously considering skipping beatification for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and going directly to her canonization next month. Recent reports from the Vatican say he has decided not to do so, and will proceed with Mother Teresa's beatification on October 19, 2003.

This September 12 article from Catholic News Service will give you more information on this issue and its pros and cons.

Results of Last Week's Poll on the Pope's Rigorous Schedule vs. His Physical Health 

The question this week was: "Given his physical health problems, do you think Pope John Paul II should curtail his travels abroad and reduce his workload at the Vatican by delegating more responsibilities?"

*No (36.8%)

*Yes (31.6%)

*I don't think it would make a difference either way. (31.6%)

A three-way horserace on this poll! It seems, by a small margin, that a plurality believes that God will call the Pontiff home when He's ready, and John Paul II should maintain his ministry at its current level until that day.

Standard disclaimer: This is not a scientific poll, just a snapshot of the sentiments of visitors to this blog in the past week who have chosen to take part. You may only vote once from a given computer, and neither the polling service nor I can track the origins of votes.

Arrrgh! More Piracy Bloggin' ye Scurvy Dogs! 

It's two days late for "Talk Like a Pirate Day", but try this little questionnaire to discover your inner-pirate name. I be "Cap'n Harry Flint", mateys! The results said: "Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arrgh!" Shiver me timbers, it's not too far off the mark!

Special thanks to my pal Alicia the Midwife at Fructus Ventris blog for finding this fun link! I guess me hearties and I won't have ta keelhaul her!

Very NOT Cool! 

U.S. Soldier Kills Baghdad Tiger After Attack at Zoo from Reuters.

It would be one thing if it was a hungry tiger roaming free in the streets getting shot in self-defense, but read these lines from the article: "A U.S. soldier shot dead a rare Bengal tiger [in its cage] at Baghdad Zoo after the animal injured a colleague who was trying to feed it through the cage bars, the zoo's manager said on Saturday.

Adil Salman Mousa told Reuters a group of U.S. soldiers were having a party [with beer] in the zoo on Thursday night, after it had closed."

What the heck do you EXPECT to happen if you stick your fingers in a full-grown tiger's cage? DUH!

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle 

Matthew, whose name means "gift of God", is yet another example of how saints are not these perfect people who were holy and devout from birth to death. He was a tax-collector when Jesus chose him to become one of the Twelve, and not an especially popular choice at first. Legend has it that it even took some time for the other Apostles to welcome him fully into their midst. Corruption among tax collectors for Rome was rampant in Galilee in the time of Christ, and the occupation as a whole was looked down upon by much of society as traitorous to the Jews. They were thrown in the broad group of "sinners" along with adulterers, robbers, insurrectionists and others they considered undesirable Jews.

Choosing Matthew as a member of his "inner circle" did not win Jesus a lot of popularity points with his critics, nor did the feast Matthew hosted at his house before going off to follow him. According to the Saint of the Day feature of AmericanCatholic.org: "The Gospel tells us that many tax collectors and those known as sinners came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, 'Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners' (Matthew 9:12b-13)."

St. Matthew the Evangelist, 13th century, from the Monastery of Gregoriou via http://home.it.net.au/~jgrapsas/ pages/lives.htm

Matthew is probably best known as the author of the first and longest gospel. It is said he preached among the Jews in the Jewish enclave in Ethiopia, and places in the East for 15 years after Jesus' ascension. There is disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew's martyrdom and the kind of torture inflicted on him, therefore it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded. Some even believe that he may have died a natural death. Given that he is often depicted as an older man in many works of art, it could be that he was among the oldest of the Twelve, thus making the possibility of natural causes more plausible. He is patron of accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, customs officers, financial officers, guards, money managers, security forces, security guards, stock brokers, and of course, tax collectors. He is also the patron of about a gazillion men and boys who bear his name as well as innumerable churches and parishes.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

How to Tell if Your Cable Company Is Having Money Troubles 

I'm not a huge TV watcher, but I was playing around with the on-screen cable guide earlier today, and happened into the "Pay-Per-View" area. In the recent past, they have offered "big draws" that are unavailable anywhere else such as sporting events that would not be otherwise broadcast in your local area, or films that made big box-office bucks and were not yet on the premium movie channels, like Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets, Spiderman, My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, or Signs. These are programs that I would consider ordering pay-per-view if I were having guests over or something like that.

It seems that this month, my cable company has either made some budget cuts, or there is very little worth broadcasting available to them right now. The program they are promoting like crazy, their so-called "Marquee Event" for September is...drumroll please... Toto, Live in Amsterdam! Yes, Toto! Remember that band from the early 80's? Remember Hold the Line? Rosanna? Africa? I didn't even know they were still together, much less playing in front of anyone except maybe a few dogs in a band member's garage. I don't think I (or anyone I know) would have paid to see them live IN PERSON ON MY OWN BACK DECK twenty years ago when the band was popular, much less on TV today! The cable company is offering it practically around the clock, all month. Good luck with that. Maybe Toto are musical icons in Holland, much as David Hasslehoff is in Germany. I wonder if A Flock of Seagulls Live in Kiev, Ukraine will be next month's highlight?

The cable company still offers sporting events on pay-per-view, but it's all college football games involving schools nowhere near New England, like Idaho vs. Nevada State, European Women's "Football" (a.k.a.-soccer) or some such thing of eqaul interest. The sports I want to want are already on regular cable channels. Other offerings on pay-per-view this month include: W.W.E. Wrestling: Raw is War CCLXXVIII, Blind Date: Uncensored Deluxe Edition, Shanghai Knights (which I might actually watch, but not on pay-per-view) and the ever-popular Daredevil, which made a total of $14 at the box office because Ben Affleck took his mom to go see it. There is also the occasional Jerry Springer Uncensored program and, of course, no shortage of explicit films with filthy titles I refuse to include on this family-oriented blog.

I think I'll go open up a good book and listen to a Dave Matthews Band CD.

By the way, Toto fans (and I mean both of you!), please don't fill the COMMENTS box for this posting with irate messages.

Phish Update and Media Rant 

Regular readers may recall my amused postings back at the beginning of August when the rock band Phish descended upon northern Maine with their "IT" Festival, attracting nearly 70,000 of their hippie-type fans to a rural and somewhat conservative part of the state. It was a fun, light-hearted series of postings, in tune with a fun, lighthearted event that few local residents actually attended, but from which many benefited economically. I am not a Phish fan, though I do respect their musicianship now that I have heard a great deal of their music.

When one of the members of Phish was charged with child endangerment a few weeks ago as he tried to help a lost 9-year-old find her parents at a huge Grateful Dead concert in New York, the "mainstream" (read: "popular") media jumped right onto it with their spin, complete with subtle insinuations and innuendo, despite the fact that the band and the girl's parents issued a joint statement at the time denying any wrongdoing whatsoever, and no charges of a sexual nature were being considered against the band member at any point. The parents of the girl did not even want to pursue the matter.

Well, today comes news that all charges were dropped in a New York court at the request of prosecutors. The only place in the media where the band member's vindication seems to be getting any attention at all is good old FoxNews. The article is here. They really DO report and let us decide! The other media outlets have apparently already decided for us what went on here in this case, and are not going to report the positive outcome for the band member that clears his name.

Two things BURN me about this:
#1-Our society seems to have become so paranoid about any male associating with kids who are not his own children by blood, that they are automatically suspected to be some kind of predator by many. With such a large number of children growing up in American homes without fathers, the outlook is getting bleaker and bleaker for them being able to have any kind of mentor or male role models. Men are much less willing nowadays to put themselves into such a situation that could be risky to their reputations, no matter how pure their intentions. That's a main reason why the number of men in child-related fields of work or volunteerism has dropped.

#2-The damn "mainstream" media, again! Most people express their concerns with the media around the idea that what they report and how has a liberal slant. I agree with that concern, but I also have another, that is less obvious but just as damaging to the credibility: what they DON'T report. The stories and events that are purposely ignored for whatever reason can also provide an unfair slant to public opinion.

I confess to being prone to this media "sin of omission" for a brief time when I was in my very earliest years in radio announcing. Once in a while, a story would come across the teletype (no Internet, it was the mid-80s), that I just didn't want to give airtime for whatever reason. So I just left it out. It didn't happen very often, only occurred over the course of maybe a year, and I was only 15 or 16 years old at the time, acting out of pure ignorance. I got no training on preparing newscasts at the station beyond "rip and read", meaning tear it from the teletype and put it on the air at the appropriate times. (Those are my excuses and I'm sticking by them!)

It took a very talented "to-the-point" government-studies teacher in high-school to open my eyes through her teaching to the errors of my ways. On my own, I taught myself to prioritize and edit the news stories according to the time I had allotted for my newscasts (usually about five minutes at that time).

However the rest of the staff at that radio station were full-fledged, card-carrying adults, yet they were doing the same thing regularly, including my supervisors! They would omit a murder from their broadcasts of Maine news if it was too gory or tragic. It was an unspoken practice, and my challenges to it went ignored due to my youth, which was usually their reason for not listening to me on various items with which I took issue. Thankfully, their oversight was such that I could do the right thing, even if they wouldn't. (BTW-The station went out of business a year after I left.) Over the past 18 years, I've seen this omission practice repeated at numerous other "mainstream" media outlets with which I have had associations either formally or informally. Fortunately, I was either news director, and could thus prevent it, or not in the news division at all, so I wasn't part of their media "sins of omission".

I'm afraid this example of the Phish band member is a classic case of this media "sin of omission" in action. When he was accused and charged, it was in most of the mainstream media to some degree, because it was spun as juicy and controversial. Now that the man has been vindicated, by the prosecutors no less...well, let's just see how widely THAT gets covered over the next day or two.

By the way, I've said it before and I'm saying it again here, read Bernard Goldberg's Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News to get a dead-on picture of how it all really works in many media outlets.

One of the Great Underreported Catastrophes of Our Time 

The HIV/AIDS pandemic that is running rampant in Africa gets hardly a mention in the mass media here in the United States. It seems the only coverage it gets is when there is a political disagreement over what kind of new funding and programs should be implemented to counter it.

This pandemic a massive problem going on right now, affecting millions of people, including those suffering from the disease, their loved ones, and their communities. The most recent statistics (from 2001) show that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, 28.1 million people have the disease. That's almost 28 times the population of the entire state of Maine! The number of orphans of this crisis is in the hundreds of thousands and growing by the day. "Spinoff" crises from the pandemic, such as starvation and increases in crime are also on the rise.

I have never known anyone personally with the HIV/AIDS virus (of whom I am aware, at least), and do not have the disease myself, so this plea does not come from some personal experience. Being a teenager at the time when HIV/AIDS first came onto the scene in the early 1980s has likely made me sensitive to it, since my generation was the first to receive information on HIV/AIDS, and it was very urgent and intensive in those early days. In the early 80s, the casual attitudes toward sexual promiscuity spawned in the 60s were still rampant, and the specifics of the disease were lesser-known to society and the scientific community. HIV/AIDS was made to sound completely frightening, and looking back, that probably wasn't such a bad approach, except that it turned those suffering from the disease into the modern-day equivalent of lepers in Christ's time.

I recently read a very blunt Catholic article about this crisis, although I cannot remember the source, and its stark reality (and probably intervention of the Holy Spirit) caused my jaw to drop to the floor. One line in particular burned itself into my mind, and it was a question one of the missionary sisters asked near the end of the article: "How would you respond if God asked you at the gates of Heaven, 'What were you doing while millions of My children in Africa were suffering from the HIV/AIDS pandemic?'"

This crisis is of a monumental scope, and regardless of politics, there must be more done than there is being done currently. I'd like to draw your attention to "The Choose to Care" initiative from the Catholic Medical Mission Board which was singled out by name by President George W. Bush as he signed the global AIDS bill (HR 1298) into law this past May for their excellent work. Their site not only can educate you further on the crisis, but also on what this Catholic organization founded in 1928 is doing now to combat it and other health issues facing the poor in Africa. There is contact information so that you can help in any way that you are able. I believe that their methods of combating this pandemic are all pro-life, but if you are uneasy about that issue, then provide assistance to reputable scientific organizations that are researching a cure for this disease.

Please keep all the victims, their families, communities, and caretakers in your prayers. May we, along with St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of AIDS patients and their care-givers, and St. Jerome Emiliani, patron of orphans, pray to the Lord God in intercession for them.

"Uniquely Maine News" for September 20, 2003 

Bangor (ME) Daily News: Firefighters Respond to Burning Crab Pot

The man is okay, but no word on the condition of the crabs.

Bangor's WLBZ2 News: Newry Man Attacked by a Bull Moose

The man is in the hospital in stable condition (and expected to recover), the dogs are fine, and the bull moose is feeling pretty smug right now.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Avast, Me Hearties! 

Today, September 19, is of course, "Talk Like a Pirate Day" in the United States. It's been an annual thing for a number of years now. The official website is here. The originators of this "holiday" want to emphasize that one is urged to TALK like a pirate today, not ACT like a pirate! No criminal activity is encouraged as part of celebrating this unusual observation.

After visiting there, smartly steer yer deadlights over ta The Pirate Glossary me buckos, or ye may find yerself dancin' with Jack Ketch!

Euphemisms 101 

Paraphrased from NBC's Jay Leno: "Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez aren't referring to the recent negative events in their romance as a 'cancelled wedding', they prefer to call it 'a pre-emptive divorce'."

How do you say "Giant Squid are not Agents of Al-Queda" in Spanish? 

Spanish Navy Shocks Blamed for Giant Squid Deaths from Reuters via Yahoo News.

Just because you are creepy, slimey and have lots of feelers, that doesn't mean you should be a target for naval warfare. If that was the case, Bill Clinton would be in big trouble.

Like Lemmings 

You've probably heard about the squabble between British Prime Minister Tony Blair against the B.B.C. over charges that the broadcasting giant falsely accused Blair's government of "sexing up" the intelligence that they had gathered in order to make a case for war in Iraq.

This post is not about that.

This post is about the phrased "sexed up". It's a British thing, I guess. While we speak the same language (although if you converse with a fast-talking citizen of Wales, you'd never know it), there are some terms in Britain that differ from those we use here in the U.S. For example, a truck is a "lorry", gasoline is "petrol", and elevators are "lifts", to name a few. "Sexed up", I'm assuming, is a British term for the slang terms "juiced up" or "spiced up".

Here's the strange thing. Tom Brokaw never refers to the rising cost of "petrol", and Peter Jennings never reports on the latest "lorry" bomb in Israel. So why has the American media embraced the British phrase "sexed up" so wholeheartedly? Here's my theory, but I'll let you fill in the blank: "____ sells." It grabs the listener's attention. That may be so, but still, do we need to adopt this particular terminology here in the states? Our language is suffering under the weight of enough homegrown, borderline-offensive slang as it is.

Who Would THEY Call for Tech Support? 

This joke has been circulating the Internet for a while now, but I still think it's funny, and it has a good secular lesson about computer work.

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on his computer. They had been going at it for days, and God [the Father] was tired of hearing all of the bickering. Finally God said, "Cool it. I am going to set up a test that will run two hours and I will judge who does the better job."

So down Satan and Jesus sat at the keyboards and typed away. They blogged. They created spreadsheets. They wrote reports with multimedia features. They sent faxes. They sent e-mail, even with attachments. They downloaded information on obscure subjects. They did some complex genealogy research. They made greeting cards. They did every job that a computer can do.

But ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, the rain poured and, of course, the electricity went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed. The electricity finally flickered back on, and each of them restarted their computers.

Satan started searching frantically, screaming "It's gone! It's all gone! I lost everything when the power went out!"

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours. Satan observed this and became irate.

"Wait! He cheated, how did he do it?"

God raised an eyebrow, shrugged and said simply, "Jesus saves."


Catholic News Service: October should be a Busy Month in the Busiest Pontificate in History

A quote from the article: "If Pope John Paul has a heavy schedule these days, he shoulders part of the blame. His ambitious papacy has helped change the way popes operate: once remote and regal, the head of the church is now expected to be in a state of perpetual pastoral motion."

The article is interesting, and not only outlines his October scheduled events, but also details how the duties of pontiff have changed since Vatican II, especially on John Paul's watch. I hope the Holy Father is resting up and eating his Wheaties now.

May God give him the strength to successfully navigate this tough lineup of events in October.

Heeeeeeeere Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! 

This can NOT be good: Police Search for Missing Cheetah from Reuters via Yahoo News.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Where SHOULD the Line be Drawn? 

The Portland (ME) Press Herald published an article recently entitled "Is a Priest's Private Life Fair Game for the Public?". I am not posting a link to it, because the article mentions the name of a Maine priest who participated in a discussion forum on the now-defunct website for gay Catholic clergy back in 2000, and was recently "outed" by the Maine Voice of the Faithful. I did make a specific posting on that particular subject last week, and you can see that here. The priest in question broke no earthly laws, but was nontheless disciplined by the diocese for ethical lapses and has long since returned to ministry. I don't feel it is fair to spread this priest's name publicly. If you are the type who is into gossip of this kind...well you've got enough information here to run a Google search.

Here is a quote from the Press Herald article: "We had been talking about criminal issues, but now we are talking about someone's personal sin being made public," Diocesean Spokeswoman Sue Bernard said. "Do we expect more from our priests? Of course we do. But this should be a matter of internal discipline or private discipline. . . . This is about sin, and we are a church of sinners."

Another from Bernard: "He has been publicly embarrassed and humiliated. He will have to see if he can still have an effective ministry," she said. "Will there be consequences? Will he be able to focus on his work? We don't know."

On the other side of the issue, Maine Voice of the Faithful co-founder Paul Kendrick is quoted in the Press Herald article as saying [the priest]'s behavior identifies him as a risk to children, and that the sexual language [the priest] used on the Web site was disturbing. He said [the priest]'s involvement proves that he had some dangerous connections.

I guess what I am wondering is, are a priest's private sins the public's business? I'm not talking about big things like sex abuse or embezzlement, but lesser sins, some of which may not be illegal or even clear-cut sins.

Some "what-ifs":
*Is it fair to publicize beyond that of an ordinary citizen it if a priest is ticketed for speeding?
*Should a priest be disciplined if he enjoys spending time drinking alcohol in a neighborhood bar on Friday nights?
*Should he be scrutinized for his choice of friends?
*Is his credibility as a minister of God shot if he dresses in ripped jeans and a t-shirt and attends an Aerosmith concert?
*Can a priest be actively involved in a politician's campaign for office?
*What if you overhear him telling a bawdy, off-color joke to a group at a social gathering?
*What if he takes part in a controversial (non-faith related) protest and is arrested for civil disobedience?
*What about causing accidents? (Would the former Bishop in Arizona accused of a hit-and-run death have gotten the nationwide media attention that he did were he not a member of the clergy?)

Where do we make the distinction between what is a cleric's personal business and what is the business of his diocese, his parish or the public in general?

Personally...I think priests and clerics should be held to a somewhat higher (but still reasonable) standard than the average person, but as Jesus himself said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". If we expect every Catholic priest to be a perfect, sinless person, we are only setting ourselves up for disappointment. It's impossible, unless Jesus himself becomes your parish priest, or the Virgin Mary your pastoral associate. They are the only sinless humans who have ever lived. Even the greatest saints were sinners. St. Peter attacked an innocent servant with a sword in the Garden of Gesthemene, and St. Paul made great sport of persecuting Christians before his conversion. What if their abilities to minister in Christ's Holy Church had ended when they commited these sins? If a priest has a flaw, or commits a sin, it needs to be taken in a reasonable context, and not automatically be made into front page news. There seems to be a real "Salem Witch Hunt" attitude toward the actions of Catholic clerics in our culture these days.

What do you think?

Who knows? The Holy Grail Could be in Your Aunt Mabel's Attic. 

Relic of True Cross Found in Dusty Back Room at Columbus, Ohio Cathedral from Catholic News Service.

I hope they don't go on "Antiques Roadshow" with it. Quite a few of those Ohio Catholic Bishops and their "chancery-dwellers" have had some pretty zany ideas of late!

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

You Don't See Headlines like THIS in the Morning Paper Very Often! 

I'm not going to link to it, because it's not worth it, but this headline from Reuters via Yahoo News is too unusual to go unmentioned here: World's Oldest Genitals Found.

Ironically, it was listed just over this headline from the Associated Press via Yahoo News: World's Oldest Woman Turns 116 in Japan.

(I wonder if there's a connection? Hmmm...)

There's No Need to Fear! 

Angle-Grinder Man from http://www.anglegrinderman.com

This silly but true story comes from Reuters via Yahoo News: Superhero Frees Cars from the Clamp

I love this man's advice in the article: "Better to saw off clamps attached by private contractors than those placed by actual police, who can arrest you." (Apparently, the police are to Angle-Grinder Man what kryptonite is to Superman.)

Step aside Spider-Man! Take a hike, Batman! Angle-Grinder Man is here, and by the look on his face, he means business! Angle-Grinder Man's website can be found by clicking this link. (The one in the article doesn't work!)

More on the Pope on the Road 

From Zenit.org: Will John Paul II Still Travel? It's Up to Him, Says Aide

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls told journalists, "Whoever knows the Pope also knows that one can never say, 'This is the last trip,' as it all depends on his wish and desire."

Well, duh! Of course it does! Kind of a cop-out answer on Navarro-Valls' part, don't you think? Who in the world is going to tell the Pope not to do something when he's got his mind set on it? I can only think of one, and his name starts with "G", ends with "D", and rhymes with "Claude".

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

If You Can Read This... 

... link at NRO, then you are probably normal. If you can't, I wouldn't sweat it much. As a specialist in the field of literacy education, I found this post at "The Corner on National Review" Online was vrey iretnsertnig. I had read some things about this phenomenon in my grad studies, and have seen it play out in action with kids in the classroom.

Special thanks to Lane Core Jr. from The Blog from the Core for pointing out this link.

Are THESE Acts Worth Going to Court For? 

I just got my copy of Newsweek in the mail today, and man, do I feel old!

It has excellent coverage of the debate over whether record companies are following the best course in slapping lawsuits on thousands of file-swappers. (Ironically, you don't have to buy an issue, you can read it all for free at Newsweek's website. They encourage it! What does Newsweek know that the recording industry doesn't?) I blogged my opinion on this last week, and it still hasn't changed. I think the downloaders should be held accountable, but clogging up the legal system with these silly suits is not the way to do it. If you missed it, the link to that post is here.

Not included in Newsweek online is the list they compiled of the Top 50 most downloaded artists. On the entire list, the highest rated artists that I would even consider listening to for pleasure are my long-time favorites, The Beatles at #24. Beyond that, there are only four others that I would pop in my CD player: Dave Matthews (of whom I am a big fan) and Santana, plus Aerosmith and Linkin Park if I am in the right mood. In total, five acts out of fifty. That's only 10% of the list! I either haven't heard of or can't tolerate the other 90%! What's happened to me? I'm only 33 years old!

I've been an avid fan of rock/pop music since I was just a little kid, but to see that I've fallen so far out of touch with what's "hip" in popular music is scary. I swore to myself as a teenager that I'd never become one of those adults who "can't stand that music these kids listen to these days". But, I have!

Oh well, since I have, I might as well embrace it and have some fun! Let's run down the top ten most downloaded acts, with a little of my personal commentary on the side.

#10-Justin Timberlake (In Maine, this is the answer to the question "Where do you like to fish, old-timer?")

#9-Ludacris (I think the name says it all here, as does the spelling, which IS accurate according to the list.)

#8-Lil' Kim (Wasn't she in some now-defunct hillbilly comic strip back in the 1950's?)

#7-Christina Aguilera (If she's so great, how come no one mentioned it or cared when Madonna kissed HER on stage after Britney Spears?)

#6-Jay-Z (I'm sure that this must be some new act that combines the soulful stylings of the O'Jays and the Texas boogie of ZZ Top. Gotta be!)

#5-Jennifer Lopez (You mean she sings? I hope her latest CD is better than "Gigli"!)

#4-R. Kelly (The R. stands for "Rich pervert getting away with breaking the law".)

#3-Nelly (Supposedly a hot male rapper, but whenever I hear the name, I can't help but picture that lady in the bonnet and flouncy dress getting tied to railroad tracks by Black Bart in those old silent films.)

#2-50 Cent (Is that the guy's name, or the value of his CD's at a yard sale by next spring?)

#1-Eminem (Living proof to kids that if you put on a nasally voice and use enough foul, bigoted, hateful language, you too can grow up to be a rich and popular music star in America.)

It will only be a matter of time before I find myself yelling up the stairs at the top of my lungs "Turn that crap down!" It's the circle of life! (Speaking of that, Elton John came in at #44 on the list.)

"Two Thumbs Up" from Rome 

From EWTN News: Vatican Official Endorses "The Passion"

Mel Gibson's film is certainly getting a lot of what is called "pre-buzz" in the media. What I'm wondering is how many mainstream movie theaters and theater chains will put this on their screens on opening weekend as they would the latest James Bond or Star Wars flick? It's due for release in early spring, late March I believe. That's typically a quiet time of year for new movie releases, so the excuse from theater owners that it got crowded out by films more likely to draw a larger audience won't fly.

I hope it will be treated like any other major film and given wide release, although we will have to wait and see, I guess. People shouldn't have to travel far out of their way to one of those "art movie" houses that usually specialize in independent or foreign films to see this movie. I have nothing against art movie houses, it's just that their number is relatively few compared to mainstream movie theaters, and consequently fewer people would be able to see and appreciate The Passion if it is on fewer screens. Plus, many citizens of the United States and Canada don't have an art movie house within a reasonable driving distance. The closest public one to my parents home, for example, is 195 miles away.

Has anyone heard the extent to which The Passion will be distributed on its opening weekend? If distribution is going to be limited by the movie industry or theater owners, it would be nice to find out far enough in advance to write letters and circulate petitions aimed at the appropriate parties so that The Passion will get the widespread release it deserves.

I'm not trying to stir people up here. I'm just looking to be proactive based on how the entertainment industry has tended to treat religion and religious themes in the recent past.

Monday, September 15, 2003

From Darkness Can Come Light 

Special thanks to Domenico Bettinelli over at BettNet.com for pointing out this column from Tom Shea of The Springfield (Mass.) Republican on his blog.

It tells of a young man named Peter who was abused by a now-notorious pedophile priest starting when he was just eight. Not only did Peter suffer the abuse of the priest, but it consequently led the young man into a life of addiction to pain-killers and alcohol. Peter met Father Jim Scahill when his father was dying in a hospital eleven years ago. At that time, Peter's mistrust of priests was intense, and he didn't even want to be in the same room as Fr. Scahill. Fr. Scahill seeing the young man's pain, reached out in friendship to Peter, and after a long time, Peter accepted it.

Over the next eleven years Peter and Fr. Scahill became true friends. They met for coffee in public places and Fr. Scahill would be there to listen. Gradually, Peter found someone with whom he could share his pain and anguish which has compounded into a litany of struggles over time.

Peter's is a very sad story, and is made even sadder by the fact that he is now dying of leukemia. He hasn't found peace, and probably never will in this world, but he has found a true friend in Fr. Scahill.

A quote from Peter regarding the good Fr. Scahill in the column says volumes: "What he did was care," Peter says. "One priest took from me. This one was trying to give me something."

There is much, much more to this heart-rending tale. I don't want to tell it all here, but I strongly encourage you to go to the Tom Shea column at this link and read it. Please pass it on to others you know, and maybe even print it out and hold onto it for when dark times descend on you or someone you know.

May St. John Vianney, patron of priests, pray for Fr. Scahill, that he may continue to be God's Word in action, and may Simon Peter, the saint upon whom Christ founded His Church pray for his namesake Peter, that he may find comfort and peace.

Following Up on the Maine Diocese's Troubles of Late 

I posted a piece entitled Sad News in the Maine Diocese about the removal from ministry of a priest here in Maine about a two weeks ago. This priest had been instrumental in founding a website for homosexual Catholic clergy called "St. Sebastian's Angels", which was primarily a discussion group, but also included some explicit images and links, back in 2000. He was reported to Bishop Joseph Gerry that summer, sent to a retreat house to discern whether to continue with his vocation. The priest decided to return, Bishop Gerry allowed it, and assigned him to a very remote parish in mountainous western Maine, where he had been ever since until last month.

Recently a photograph of that same priest and a nude minor taken some twenty years ago at a summer camp (not affiliated with the Church) surfaced, and the Diocese has suspended him, pending an investigation. There are no allegations of sexual contact, and as far as I know no one has stepped forward as a victim, but it looks like the end of the line for this man's priestly career. No final decision will be made until he returns from the year of absence he took "for studies" just after he became aware that the news of the photograph was going to be released by the diocese.

Well, news surfaced today that Maine's former auxiliary bishop, Michael Cote, (who just became the bishop of Norwich, Connecticut this past spring) was aware of more than just the website. He is reported to have known of allegations of sexual misconduct from this particular priest's past, but did nothing. One can assume the reasoning is that it was hearsay, and there was no evidence or formal complaint made. You can read the whole sordid story here at this link to the Bangor Daily News.

Here's an interesting piece of the Bangor Daily News article: "In May 2002, the Portland diocese turned over all records of complaints to the state's attorney general. Around that time (emphasis added), a photograph surfaced that showed [the priest] with a minor who was nude.

Cote's spokeswoman [in Norwich], Jacqueline Keller, said the diocese did not immediately remove [the priest] in response to the camp complaint because until the photograph surfaced 'there was really no victim.'

She said, 'It was only after a photograph of him nude with a minor was sent that there was actual proof.'"

So why the lag from May 2002 to late August, 2003?

There is another twist to this story that hasn't seemed to surface in the news yet. When the explicit website came to the diocese's attention back in 2000, three Maine priests were shown to be involved with it. The priest mentioned above was one of the site's creators and moderators, but two others from Maine had made postings and left their e-mail addresses (file that under "Stupid") on that site as participants in forums of various kinds. One of those two priests had retired in 1993, allegedly for health reasons. His name was made public at the time, and since he broke no earthly laws, I believe he merely got sent away for treatment and discernment, and is now living somewhere in the state in retirement. He is still a priest, but in name only. He does not perform any type of ministry, which was his own decision I believe. The third priest's name was not made public. Though he did not break any earthly laws, the "mysterious third priest " was sent away for treatment and discernment, and then returned to ministry a few months later. Maine's Voice of the Faithful finally rooted out his name his past week after doing some clever detective work, forcing the diocese's hand in releasing it themselves so they could control the spin in the media. Since the "mysterious third priest" has already taken his consequences from the diocese, no further actions will be taken and he will remain at his post, although his name was all over the news here in Maine for several days, and the man's reputation is now thoroughly smudged.

Here's what's interesting: Then-Auxiliary Bishop Michael Cote was in-residence at the same rectory as the "mysterious third priest", the one whose identity was so carefully hidden by the diocese, from before the 2000 incidents emerged until earlier this year, when Cote moved to Norwich. Surely Cote was aware of this priest's involvement in the website. Was he (the auxiliary bishop) intentionally paired up with this priest to keep an eye on him? Is there more to this than is being let on, especially since he was under Cote's thumb before 2000? Auxiliary Bishop Cote was the first auxiliary in diocese history to take up residence outside of the city of Portland, and the reason given was for "geographic purposes", since a large Catholic population exists in northern Maine, far from Portland. But this particular parish and rectory were an odd choice. Although it was near a population center, it was far from the largest, richest, fastest-growing, or most active in the region. It would seemed to have made more sense to base the diocese's #2 in Bangor or Presque Isle.

I hate reporting on this kind of stuff, and I hate even more being a conspiracy theorist, the boundaries of which I have flirted with in this posting. Nonetheless, since this is a "Maine Catholic" blog, people come to it expecting to hear about Maine Catholic news and events. There are lots of positives going on here in the Diocese of Portland as well, mind you, and they far outnumber the negatives. However there is a time when the negatives require attention. This is one of those times.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

How Far We've Come??? Take me back to 1940! 

I happened across a copy of the 1940 yearbook of my current parish. I'm a history buff by nature, and the yearbook was fascinating to read. I was intrigued to learn that the priest who baptized me at my hometown parish originally hailed from my current parish. (That priest died very shortly after my baptism as an infant, but my parents and older relatives assure me I had nothing to do with it.) It's astounding (and a little disconcerting) to see how times have changed in 63 years.

For example, the editors in 1940 asked some of the oldest parishoners at the time for their fondest recollections of the parish. They were all touching remembrances, but among them was this quote: "Rt. Rev. Monsignor (Name Excluded), who among many other fine qualities held a great love for boys." Try putting THAT in your parish yearbook these days! It's so sad that in today's society, people are so quick to suspect Catholic priests (and men in general) to be likely predators against children due to the high-profile misdeeds of a tiny minority.

What I really wanted to share here was this brief but great section of the yearbook entitled "Sunday Don'ts".

"Don’t get into the habit of being late for Mass. A moment of preparation before Mass may be the means of opening your soul to many graces.

Don’t go to Mass without a prayer book or rosary, unless you wish distraction and not devotion to occupy your mind.

Don’t talk in church without necessity. Talk with God, Whom you may not have visited, in His temple, since last Sunday; you will have plenty of time to talk with your neighbor after Mass.

Don’t leave the church until the priest has left the sanctuary. Take a moment in which to thank God for the graces of the Holy Mass.

Don’t talk in the aisles going out. Remember you are in the presence of God in His Holy Sacrament. Your gossip will keep until you reach the street.

Don’t forget to bend the right knee to the floor as you enter and leave your seat. This is an act of adoration paid to the Real Presence. Do it with faith and rev­erence, facing the altar."

You know darn well that the priests back then backed up their rules with action! I think parishes should reinforce these very same "don'ts" in the very same staright language today. Political-correctness and fear of offending certain people have made many leaders, clerical and otherwise, terribly "namby-pamby". Face it, some people these days just don't get it unless you spell it out in clear and direct language.

Another yearning for the past: In 1940 there were enough clergy in the state of Maine that this parish had no less than four resident priests. Today there is only one, very fine but very overworked priest serving the parish which has grown even larger and more complex than it was in 1940.
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