Sunday, November 30, 2003
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the sprit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord."
I remember as a kid at parochial school we had a large paper Jesse Tree mounted on a bulletin board in the main hallway of the school. Each day, according to custom, a decorative symbol was placed on the tree, traditionally the responsibility of the fifth graders at the school. My memories of that annual Jesse Tree at school are as clear as if it was just yesterday. It made an impact, for sure.
According to www.catholicculture.org, "The Jesse Tree symbols transform a Christmas tree into a "family tree" of Christ, since each ornament is a symbol of an ancestor or of a prophecy which foretells his coming. Some of the symbols included are:
*the tablets of the Law
*the key of David
*the root of Jesse
*Noah's ark (I was commissioned to create and hang this ornament at school in fifth grader. My final product looked like coconut shell with horses in it, in retrospect.)
*the Ark of the Covenant
*the altar of holocaust
*the Paschal Lamb
*the pillar of fire
*the star of David
*Jonah in the whale (My friend Toby made this one, and it looked more like a scene from the movie "Jaws" when he hung it up. It made my equine-stuffed coconut look good.)
*the crown and the scepter
*the sword of Judith
*the burning bush"
You can find more on the background of the Jesse Tree at this link, instructions on creating a Jesse Tree of your own for your family, classroom, CCD class, or whatever at this link, an explanation of the meaning behind the symbols at this link, and a prayer service that can be used with the Jesse Tree at this link. All of these links come from the excellent www.catholicculture.org site, as does the photo below.
A JESSE TREE
The "Off the Record" portion of Catholic World News recently published the following editorial, which is starting to get a lot of play on other blogs. I have removed the names of one of the priests in the editorial, since he was never accused of any abuse or illegal activity, and has in my opinion paid the price for his sins and has returned to ministry. If you are really that curious as to his name, in the interest of full disclosure the link above will take you to the actual editorial at CWS. By the way, I first reported on this story on this blog back in September, and if you look at that archived post, you will see that there is no real new
news here. What follows in italics is the editorial:
Two months ago the newly appointed Bishop of Norwich, CT, Michael Cote, took some flak because, when he was auxiliary bishop of Portland, ME, he returned Fr. John Harris to ministry after Harris admitted operating the pornographic St. Sebastian's Angels website and, moreover, kept Harris in a parish even after it was known that Harris was guilty of indecency ("nude swimming and hot-tubbing with minors") 20 years earlier. The smoking gun was a photo that showed the naked Harris in the company of a boy. Cote maintained he couldn't take action because, strictly speaking, there was no abuse alleged.
"The difficulty with this case was that a victim never surfaced," Cote wrote. "While the investigation was ongoing, there was only an accusation, but no identified victim. The dilemma for the bishop of Portland was a matter of justice and fairness to the priest," Cote wrote.
The faithful felt otherwise when the news of the photo came out, and in the ensuing uproar Fr. Harris requested and was granted a leave. Shortly afterward, however, a second priest from the Portland Diocese was identified as a St. Sebastian's user. He got a standing "O":
The Rev. X's apology to parishioners for his involvement in a Web site for gay priests was met with prolonged applause and a standing ovation Saturday afternoon at Y Catholic Church. ... X, who was in the midst of his annual vacation when the news broke last week, returned to the pulpit to read a prepared statement approved by diocesan officials and attorneys.
Fr. X, clearly well schooled by superiors and attorneys, took pains to depict his participation in St. Sebastian's Angels as marginal and half-hearted: X told his parishioners Saturday that he got involved with the Web site with 'the best of intentions.' He said that when the site 'deteriorated, I saw a need to remove myself from it completely' before its existence was made public. 'I sought reconciliation and forgiveness,' the priest said, referring to his confession about his involvement in the Web site. 'I have remained faithful ... though my sin has been publicly exposed.'
As it happens, we have the opportunity to gauge 'the best of intentions' in operation. The Roman Catholic Faithful makes available a SSA message thread on confessing sexual failings to fellow priests -- including this contribution from Fr. X:
Sent: Monday, September 27, 1999 6:48 PM
Subject: Re: [saintsebastian] confession
As I begin reading the emails on Confession and the need to confess after one has been intimate with a man -- big deal right? This reminds me of an incident years ago. I had gone to confession to a neighboring priest. Of course, I felt comfortable confessing to him because he had made a pass at me. While in confession he asked me who was that guy because he would like to have sex with him. I thought this was interesting at the time. I never gave him the name. X (END E-MAIL MESSAGE)
'Big deal right?' Fr. X admits matter-of-factly that the confessional is abused by gay priests of his diocese in almost incomprehensibly sacrilegious ways, and then, in a staggering act of cynicism, makes an artfully incomplete, lawyer-crafted annunciation to his parishioners of his desire for 'reconciliation and forgiveness.' It beggars belief.
Two other facts deserve consideration. First, in 1991 Fr. X was 'placed on sabbatical and sent away for treatment' as a result of a sexual liaison with a deacon under his supervision. Second, Bishop Michael Cote lived at X's parish until he left for Norwich. In fact, the parish website still lists him (erroneously) as in residence there.
It is not believable that Bishop Cote was ignorant of X's and Harris's activities and barely believable that he remains unaware of the gay daisy-chain and its sacramental corruption in Portland. How can Cote and his brother bishops continue to offer the faithful this kind of pastor to tend to their salvation? How can they put off the needed surgery -- unless indeed they hate and fear the remedy more than the disease? END
I do not agree entirely with this editorial, especially the implication that there is a "gay daisy-chain and sacramental corruption in Portland". Two or three priests do not a daisy-chain make, my friends, and this seems like a sweeping generalization.
I also take great issue with the author's questioning Fr. X's seeking reconciliation and forgiveness for his involvement in the site. In a clever twisting of words, the author makes it sound like the confession mentioned in the e-mail posted on the website recounts that seeking of reconciliation and forgiveness. It does not, since that e-mail was posted during Fr. X's involvement at the site. The reconciliation and forgiveness that Fr. X reported to his parishioners most assuredly must have come after his involvement with the illicit site ended, probably in confession with the bishop. When we leave the confessional, our sins are washed away in the eyes of God, but apparently not in the eyes of the author of this editorial. He is still holding Fr. X's past indescretions against him and doubting his genuineness in asking God's forgiveness. Granted, there are some sins that would merit removal from ministry, such as criminal activity, but Fr. X is not and never has been accused of any crimes.
I myself posted a response on another blog that featured this editorial, and am reprinting it below, with a few minor additions:
"Being a Maine Catholic, I can tell you that there are no priests in the diocese who are homosexual and have 'come out' of their own choosing. Fr. X is the only priest in Maine that I am aware of whose homosexual orientation is known. That's the rub. There may be noncelibate homosexual priests in ministry, but the laity here in Maine don't know who they are. For that matter, the bishop might not know either. Fr. X and Fr. Harris were unwise enough to leave a trail which could be followed in order to expose their apparent noncelibate homosexual lifestyles, but one wonders how many others are out there keeping it quiet.
All indications are that Fr. X is now a gay celibate priest who has sought reconciliation and paid the price for his indiscretions. His involvement with the deacon under his supervision was very inappropriate, but there are no indications that it was nonconsensual or illegal, and Fr. X did receive retribution for this terrible lapse of moral judgement. That being said, I have to be honest in saying that I have somewhat of a lingering concern in the fact that his involvement on the illicit website occurred AFTER Fr. X's sabbatical for treatment in the early 90's. I don't think he has done anything that rises to the level of having him removed from ministry, but he does merit a close eye from the bishop. Could that explain Cote's assignment to Fr. X's parish (Cote was the first bishop in Maine ever not to be in residence in Portland) until he moved to assume the bishopric of Norwich earlier this year?
Fr. Harris, on the other hand, stepped way across the line as revealed in that nude photo with a minor, and should have been removed as soon as this came to light, which was long before this past August. Someone clearly dropped the ball BIG TIME on that one. At first, I was hoping Auxiliary Bishop Cote was going to be the one to succeed our current bishop of Portland who is retiring, but now I think it's best that he will not be doing so.
I do want to state, for the record, that if a priest is homosexual but totally celibate and does not preach or institute anything in his parish that runs contrary to Church teachings, I have no problem with his continuing in his vocation. As a heterosexual, I personally can't see how a celibate homosexual priest would be any more of a threat to males under his parochial jurisdiction than a celibate heterosexual priest would be to females. I would be no more or less worried about my wife, sister or daughter around a celibate priest of either sexual orientation than I would my brother or son. Of course, there are some who will disagree with me on that.
If a celibate gay priest is smart, he will do all he can to 'stay in the closet', but if he is outed somehow against his will and yet remains celibate and totally loyal to the Holy Father and the Catholic Church's tenets, leave him alone. The key aspect that rises above all others in this type of situation is CELIBACY."
This post will likely evoke some comments including strongly-held beliefs. I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, and welcome concurring and dissenting opinions, as long as they are not offensive or personal attacks based on pure conjecture.
Excerpt: "COLUMBIA, Conn. — The world of Harry Potter, credited with inspiring millions of children to read, is now being used to get students excited about physical education. Justin VanGelder, a first-year gym teacher at Horace W. Porter School, is among those across the country incorporating the game 'Quidditch' into their curriculum."
Just way too cool! I love this quote in the story from an 8 year old student, who is very fond of the activity, but thinks improvement could be made: "I just wish they had strings on the roof to make the brooms fly." Somehow, I don't think the school's insurance would cover that.
The following information comes from the patron saints index of www.catholic-forum.com:
Born at Bethsaida, Andrew is considered the first apostle. He was a fisherman by trade and the younger brother of Simon Peter. Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. He went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. Andrew was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on an saltire (x-shaped) cross in Greece, and is said to have preached for two days from it (tough guy!).
According to catholic-forum.com, there are some odd traditions, mostly related to marriage, connected to St. Andrew's Day:
*An old German tradition says that single women who wish to marry should ask for Saint Andrew's help on the Eve of his feast, then sleep naked that night; they will see their future husbands in their dreams.
*Another says that young women should note the location of barking dogs on Saint Andrew's Eve: their future husbands will come from that direction. (They better hope the guy doesn't own the yappy dog!)
*On the day after Andrew's feast, young people float cups in a tub; if a boy's and a girl's cup drift together and are intercepted by a cup inscribed "priest" it indicates marriage.
Andrew's patronages include: Achaia, Amalfi in Italy, anglers, Burgundy, diocese of Constantinople, diocese of Grand Rapids, fish dealers, fishermen, gout, Greece, Lampertheim, Germany, maidens, old maids, Patras in Greece, Russia, Scotland, singers, sore throats, spinsters, University of Patras, unmarried women, women who wish to become mothers.
SANCTUS ANDREAS, ORA PRO NOBIS
[Jesus said to his disciples:]
"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."
The core message here for me seems to be that Jesus is telling us to live each day as if it were our last day on Earth. Keep your spirit in order according to God's Word, because the final day will come when it is least expected.
*I never invoke one of the apostles for intercession (50.0%)
*Jude Thaddeus (18.8%)
I was surprised by the results of this poll. I suspected that the "none of the above" option would have a strong showing, but I didn't think it would win by 50%. My thought was that the apostles were the "first string team" of saints, to apply a sports analogy, and that the votes would be more spread out. As it is, those listed above are the only ones to receive votes.
My vote was for St. Jude Thaddeus. Part of my reasoning is of course his patronage of lost causes, which I feel like I've faced more than my share of in the past 13 months. Another is that he could be considered the underdog of the apostles, since he bore the same name as the man who betrayed our Lord and has frequently been forgotten. I frequently favor underdogs. The pope who named him patron of lost causes did a great deal for St. Jude's profile. Whenever I am in a pinch, large or small, St. Jude gets some prayers from me. I also make sure to offer him prayers of thanks, especially when things work out for the best.
If I had a second vote, it would have been for St. John. I recently did some research into the life and ministry of this man, and found his teachings and actions in the name of Christ to be compelling. He's an interesting and complex human being, a mixture of ambition and humility, a rough-hewn fisherman who became one of the most articulate and influential members of the early Christian Church. His close relationship not only to Jesus as the reputed "beloved disciple", but also to the Blessed Mother (the saint with whom I seek intercession the most often by far) is another factor in my invoking his prayers before God. He is the saint I ask to pray for the strength and vitality of my Catholic Faith.
If the Spirit moves you, I would be interested in hearing in the COMMENTS section of this posting which saint (apostle or not) you do pray to for intercession most frequently. For the sake of variety, let's take the Virgin Mary out of the running, since she would likely be the first choice of a vast majority of us. As I said, St. Jude Thaddeus is the saint I invoke the most after the Blessed Mother, with St. Anthony of Padua coming in just behind him. St. John would be third.
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.
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Lead: "ORANGE CITY, Fla. — A mob of shoppers rushing for a sale on DVD players trampled the first woman in line and knocked her unconscious as they scrambled for the shelves at a Wal-Mart Supercenter."
Is it just me, or have these crazed post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzies gone too far? They're like fashionable riots. Every year we seem to hear more and more ridiculous news about people camping out all night in the cold outside their local K-Mart or shoving others aside to be the first into the electronics department. The media feeds on these stories like sharks on chum, and in turn, the public buys into them and perpetuates the problem, creating a vicious cycle.
Some say that they don't want to miss out on the "special early bird bargains", but a friend of mine who once worked at one of the big-box retailers told me that the storerooms in the back are filled to the rafters with more of the bargain items, and if the floor displays run out, they'll restock them. If they aren't selling fast enough, they may even cut the price more. A DVD player selling for a bargain sale price of $99 at a local retailer last year at 6:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving was going for $79 that same day at noon. That was the last straw for a family member of mine who had risen at 5:00 in the morning so as not to miss the good deal. She now sleeps in on "Black Friday" and hits the stores after lunch.
I broke my vow to stay out of any retail establishments all weekend today as I stepped out to get some fresh candles for our Advent wreath. Our old ones were just stubs, and with the season starting tomorrow, I saw this as a necessity.
It was like walking into the sixth circle of Hell, only more stressful and less pleasant. To make matters worse, it was a store I had never been in before, so I did not know where to find the candles. Once I did, it took me some time to find matching pillar candles that were the right colors and at a price I was willing to pay. I did accidentally stumble across a cool decorative statue of St. Patrick that caught my eye, but it wasn't in today's budget, and my arms were overloaded already. No carts or baskets left, of course!
I stood in line for half an hour behind a large dentally-challenged man and his young daughter, who was wearing an eyepatch, a Britney Spears belly shirt, and some kind of tights (not exactly an end-of-November-in-Maine outfit). They were buying twenty jars of spaghetti sauce, a stuffed monkey and a "Garden Weasel", which made for a sort of brain-teaser for me to pass the time with. I held tight to my armload of five large candles and some new decorations for the wreath (having dropped them all twice already). It seemed that the temperature in the store was rising by at least five degrees every minute.
Upon paying for my items, I headed for the car, narrowly avoiding getting hit by: first, an overloaded minivan full of wrapping paper backing out of a space; then a pickup truck with a very nasty dog in the back and a Confederate flag on the bumper racing into a space; and finally, a dirty-faced five year old named "Carldammit!" (that's what his mother kept yelling at him, at least) who was navigating a stray shopping cart at top speed in no particular direction across the busy parking lot. I drove straight home, swallowed some asprin and took a long nap. St. Patrick, pray for me!
I can't believe that normally sensible people go out and do such things as this voluntarily all Thanksgiving weekend! Even my parents, along with my brother and sister-in-law are right in the thick of it this weekend in the greater Portland area, Maine's "Retail Central". I hope they took along their health insurance cards.
If you want to go out Christmas shopping with me, meet up with me at the mall on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, preferably during a rain or snowstorm.
RED SOX ACQUIRE CURT SCHILLING
Curt Schilling agreed to waive his no trade clause on Friday and s headed to the Red Sox. The star right-hander, co-MVP of the 2001 World Series who has a career record of 163-117 and a 3.33 ERA, was obtained for pitchers Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon along with two minor leaguers.
Schilling will fortify a Boston starting rotation that already includes Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield.
Thrilled doesn't even begin to describe my feelings about this transaction! I think Curt Schilling will find Boston and Red Sox Nation in general to be one of the most unusual and intense places to play major league baseball. However, I have no doubt that he will be welcomed with open arms, and will rise to the occasion to become one of the greatest pitchers in Red Sox history, on par with Martinez and Clemens. That starting rotation is a 21st Century "Murderer's Row", only this time it's for pitching instead of hitting.
Now, if they will just leave Nomar in place, get a talented manager whose philosophy meshes with the team and the boys upstairs, as well as shore up that accursed bullpen, we'll be sitting very pretty for 2004.
CURT SCHILLING--BOSTON BOUND!
Other than the conundrum of what to do with the beautiful hanging structure that held the Tabernacle candle (there's no practical way it can be mounted on the wall near the tabernacle's new location), I think this is a brilliant move. Where many parishes are shunting the tabernacle and the living presence of Christ in the Eucharist out of sight into side chapels, mine has made it the very focal point of the main sanctuary, along with the altar and crucifix.
Once again, our wonderful priest has impressed me. My hope is that this is a permanent change, and not just one for the Advent and Christmas seasons to accomodate the wreath and creche. I just hope that the small contingent in our parish that detests ANY change at all doesn't rise up and become a bullying vocal minority.
In the interest of readability, this will read as almost a laundry list of suggestions from which to pick and choose. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Though your intentions may be good, you may be unintentionally fueling stress for the season if you commit yourself to too much. Take on some things that require sacrifice, but will not take a serious toll on your ability to function in your everyday world.
*Read and meditate on the daily Mass readings each day. (The Sacred Space website is a great place to do this online.) Write down a verse that particularly strikes you on a small piece of paper, and keep it in your pocket all day. From time to time, pull it out and meditate on it for a few minutes and ask yourself what God is telling you personally through it.
*If possible, make time to attend daily Mass at least one more time than you currently do. If you don't go at all, try going once a week. If you go once a week, go twice.
*Pray the rosary often, daily if you can. I find right before turning in for the evening works best for me, as the meditations prevent me from rehashing the secular events of the day as I settle down. Offer the rosaries for special intentions, such as:
-for redemption of the world through union of all peoples under one faith in God
-for peace at all levels, from the internal and personal level right up to the global level
-for the health and well-being of our Holy Father, John Paul II and the special intentions he has put forth for the month of December
-for the strength and vitality of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world
-for your enemies, both those who work against you personally, and those who work against your faith and your nation
-for those who suffer from poverty, illness, fear, oppression, imprisonment and anxiety
-for the souls of the departed, especially those in purgatory
-for the banishment from your heart of hatred, bitterness, and preconceived judgments
*spend at least an hour a week in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. If your parish does not offer a specific time for Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration, see if you can gain access to your church for an hour to pray before the Tabernacle. Most priests are very accommodating to such requests, particularly if you arrange a time to do so with advance notice.
*recite a litany each day, such as the Litany of Loretto, the Litany of the Saints, the Litany of the Sacred Heart or any others, some of which may be found at this part of the EWTN website.
*Memorize the very brief "Jesus Prayer" ("Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner") and recite it under your breath in downtimes in your day.
*One of the visionaries at Medjugorje report that the Virgin Mary urged people to take a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening devoted entirely to prayer. Whether you are a believer in the Medjugorje apparitions of the Blessed Mother or not, this still sounds like something to which to attain.
*Skip lunch a few times a week and devote that time instead to prayer.
*Give up snacking between meals.
*Stop taking "seconds" at meals.
*If you have the physical stamina, fast on bread and water only for one day a week. Friday is traditionally a day of penance in the Church, so that might be the day. (This is not recommended for the very young, the very old, or those with certain medical conditions. If you aren't sure if your medical condition isn't conducive to this, skip it, or clear it with your doctor first.)
*Pray, pray, pray for anyone who is in need of prayer. It's an easy and very powerful form of charity. A special prayer could be offered for whichever soul in God's creation is most in need of prayer at that moment.
*Donate money (saved by your fastings or otherwise) to a Catholic charity that directly serves the poor or the ill.
*Begin tithing 10% of your income to your parish. If that is too much, double your contributions to the weekly collection during Advent and Christmas.
*Volunteer at a soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless shelter, nursing home, hospital, or by ringing the bell with the donation kettle for the Salvation Army outside a store in your town.
*Donate clean used clothes, toys and appliances to thrift stores run by charities. (Skip getting a receipt for tax purposes, which would defeat the purpose of selfless giving.)
*Make use of Internet prayer request sites (AmericanCatholic.org has a great one), to offer up intentions for others.
*Visit or call someone you know who is homebound, ill, or institutionalized often.
*Help out with around-the-house chores for those who find it a hardship. Examples might be cleaning up the yard, winterizing a home, putting up a Christmas tree or clearing snow and ice on walkways and driveways.
*Donate a Catholic children's book to your local public library or parochial school library. Check out what they already have first. (There are lots of very good ones out there, even at chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders, as well as Amazon.com.)
These suggestions come from my own head. No doubt there are innumerable other ways in which to bring ourselves closer to God during Advent or at any other time of year.
I'll wrap up this series on preparing to prepare, "Rediscovering Advent", with a passage from Matthew's gospel (25:31-40) that, along with the passage I included in the first posting of the series, will act as a primary guide for my spiritual life during these next four weeks of Advent:
[Jesus said,] "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
A most blessed Advent to you all!
Friday, November 28, 2003
Some close family members of mine had a first-hand experience with these deep fat fryers for turkeys a few years ago, and their assessment is about as far from positive as you can get. They didn't burn anything down, miraculously, but the turkey was greasy and hard as a rock, despite their meticulous following of the directions. For your home's safety and your family's overall health (turkey's fairly good for you, but deep-fried turkey probably isn't), their advice is to stick to the hours of roasting in the oven.
On the other hand, if you want to pick up a deep fat fryer for turkeys real cheap for a Christmas gift for your least favorite relative, I bet there's a slew of them going cheap (and used only once) on EBay today.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
From the article: Terrorists are testing America's resolve, Bush said, and "they hope we will run."
"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," the president said, prompting a standing ovation and cheers.
"You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq," he said, "so we don't have to face them in our own country."
In my opinion, George W. Bush has emerged as the strongest and most genuine leader our country has had since President Reagan, and will undoubtedly go down in history as one of our greatest presidents. His stealth Thanksgiving visit to Iraq demonstrates his total commitment to our troops and to the cause of freedom for the Iraqi people. Not only that, but he put his own life in potential jeopardy to make this gesture to the soldiers and the Iraqi citizens.
No doubt, the anti-Bush forces will call this "political grandstanding" and "a pre-election year ploy", but I think an army lieutenant colonel from the 3rd Brigade 1st Armored Division serving in Baghdad said it best: "It demonstrates that the president, as the commander in chief, is willing to go wherever he's sending his soldiers in harm's way."
*Miami (7-4) at Dallas (8-3), 4:05 pm EST on CBS. This should be the true football fan's game of the day. Both of these teams are having a strong season. My heart and money are in the same place on this one. I'm predicting a close game, but the Dolphins to win.
Of course, many of us will be snoozing and drooling through the games due to a turkey tryptophan overdose anyway.
From the article: "Four youngsters have died of the flu in Colorado since last week in what U.S. health officials say could foretell a severe flu season (search) for the country."
"Even before the deaths, there were signs that this could be an especially bad flu season. Some parts of the country — particularly Colorado, Texas and Nevada — have been hit hard a month earlier than usual."
May our prayers be with the souls of these four children, as well as their grief-stricken families during what is certain to be a very sad holiday season for them. Let us also offer intercession before God for those who have or will contract influenza this season.
Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made a difference.
It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Grape — or Black Widow Spider?: Arachnids found in produce in 3 Mass. supermarkets from MSNBC.com.
I guess they aren't only interested in curds and whey anymore.
First of all, yes! Yes! Yes! A thousand times, YES! Give us Curt Schilling! How great would that be?!
Second of all, no! No! No! A hundred thousand times, NO! Whatever you do, DO NOT TRADE NOMAR GARCIAPARRA, even for a player the calibur of Alex Rodriguez! Nomar is one of the few real class acts left in professional sports. He is not only a strong player (and one of the few who actually earns his expansive salary), but is also an exceptional human being and an exceptional role model for young fans. Nomar represents the best of what the Boston Red Sox are, and it would break my heart to see him go. The team has let some of the greatest players in the game slip through their fingers and go on to bigger things, starting with Babe Ruth and including other notables such as Carlton Fiske, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, and of course Roger Clemens. Don't add Nomar to that list!
At his weekly audience at the Vatican today, Pope John Paul II made remarks of his own on Advent, which I wanted to include here. The text which follows comes from a Catholic News Service article by Cindy Wooden.
"Advent should be a time of vigilance when Catholics prepare not only to mark Christ's birth, but to honor him as king of heaven and earth, Pope John Paul II said.
At his Nov. 26 general audience, which fell between the feast of Christ the King and the first Sunday of Advent, the pope focused on the 'royal hymn' of Psalm 110 proclaiming the enthronement of King David's descendent at the right hand of God.
Although written in reference to earthly kings of ancient Israel, the psalm traditionally has been read by Christians as a reference to the kingship of Christ and his final victory over the enemies of sin and death, the pope said.
By saying that the enemies of the king are placed at his feet, the pope said, the psalm underlines the contrast between 'the plan of God, which works through his elected one, and the designs of those who would want to affirm their own hostile and abusive power.'
Speaking in Polish to pilgrims from his homeland, the pope said that Advent, which begins Nov. 30, 'is a special time to train ourselves in vigilance as preparation for our Christmas encounter with Christ, who has shown himself to be king and lord in the glory of heaven.'
Addressing Portuguese pilgrims, the pope asked Catholics to continue their prayers for 'the extension of Christ's kingdom of truth and life, of justice, love and peace for the whole earth.'
Pope John Paul seemed to have no difficulty reading his short texts and greetings at the audience, and he led the singing of the Lord's Prayer in a strong voice." END
By the way, numerous reports in the past week or two have commented on the pope's renewed strength and vigor. That's something else to be thankful for as we express our gratitude to God on Thanksgiving.
It's probably a good thing that actress Irene Ryan, ("Granny" from TV's Beverly Hillbillies) has moved on to her eternal reward. Otherwise, John Ashcroft's boys would have her locked up at Guantanamo Bay faster than you can say "possum pie and grits".
The people at my place of work, where I have been now for two months, just don't get me. They are nice enough folks and competant at what they do, but most of the time it seems like we come from different planets. In my previous workplaces, they would have been the aliens, but in this case, I think I am.
Case in point: As the day was winding down today, our supervisor wished our department a happy Thanksgiving, and urged caution for any of us who were traveling. "I heard there will be 50 million drunks out there on the road," he said. At this, I, with the same rakish wit that earned me numerous detentions in junior high, blurted out almost instinctually "Fifty million drunks on the road?! Won't that make for pretty bumpy driving?" (Insert rimshot here.) Get it? Get it? "On the road?" Like the 50 million would literally be lying on the roadway and you'd have to drive over..........ahhh, never mind. Maybe I deserved those detentions.
Awkward silence and blank looks ran rampant. This is not an isolated case, and I am beginning to seriously wonder if I was dropped into this company from another dimension. At least no one was offended. I don't think my current colleagues crack a smile unless the allegedly humorous remark begins with either "Knock, knock" or "You might be a redneck if...".
By the way, for a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni (It's the San Francisco Treat, dontchaknow?), can you name the 60's act that performed the song quoted in the title of this posting?
And all seriousness aside, if someone gives you the bird in the next few days, here's hoping it will merely be turkey on a platter!
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Chapter II: The Structure of the Mass, Its Elements and Its Parts, Part II: The Different Elements of the Mass, Section 5: "The Importance of Singing", Item 40 (Whew! Let me catch my breath!) states: "Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation."
I wonder what the interpretation is of the part which states music should be a part of the celebration of the Mass with "due consideration for the...abilities of each liturgical assembly"? Does this mean there doesn't have to be singing at Mass if the priest or congregation can't carry a tune in a bag? Half the Catholic Churches in the country would be music-free in that case!
Excerpt: "The National Farmers' Union has released a chill-out album to help turkeys keep calm in the understandably stressful run-up to Christmas.
Geoff Hemus is one of 300 farmers who will be playing recordings of Gregorian chants, [in addition to] whale calls and rustling forests to his 3,500 birds."
I heard they tried CDs of Marty Haugen's works, but it caused the turkeys to vault the fences and run hysterically into the woods.
Geared up Gobblers Groovin' to Gregorian
It seems that there was a star player on one of the teams that had earned a berth in the tournament who was a very strict practitioner of his faith. (It's called "The Church of God Restored", and if I was the sort to make a little fun of a religion, I'd be tempted to say that, by their name, Bob Vila must be their spiritual leader. Of course I would never make fun like that!) Anyhow, according to this religion, the Sabbath is observed from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. This isn't how most of us as Catholics observe our Sunday Sabbath, but I feel it is not an entirely unreasonable or unprecedented observance. Consequently, the boy would not be able to take part in any basketball games during that time. Somehow his team's schedule to that point had been such that he had missed very little playing time due to this restriction during the regular season.
The problem arose when the first game that the boy's team was to play in the tournament was scheduled for 4:40 p.m. on Friday, February 14, which meant that the boy would only be able to play the first quarter at most, and then as required by his religion, leave not only the game, but also the auditorium when the sun officially set.
The boy's mother anticipated the problem well in advance of the tournament by noting how well her son's team had been doing in the regular season to that point and seeing that a post season appearance was likely. She appealed to the Maine Principals Association to have the time of the game changed to after sunset on Saturday, and given that her son was one of the team's best players, his school and community backed her up on this. Part of her argument for their doing so was that a precedent had already been set: Deering and Portland high school moved football games to a Thursday night to accommodate students celebrating Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, in 2002, and that Penquis and Calais high schools played a girls' soccer tournament on a Friday rather than Saturday to allow a Calais player to participate in both the tournament and a golf contest.
Long story short: The Maine Principals Association discussed the request, denied it, and the boy's team, Mt. View High School of Thorndike, lost the game 70-50 and was eliminated from the tournament in the first round, despite a strong first quarter.
Today, an investigator for the Maine Human Rights Commission reported that the Maine Principals Association's refusal to reschedule basketball games in this case to accommodate a student's religious beliefs amounted to unlawful discrimination. His findings will go before the full commission on December 8. The Maine Human Rights Commission generally follows the recommendations of its investigators, and though their findings are not law, they may become grounds for lawsuits. You can bet in this case the paperwork for the suits is all filled out and ready to be filed.
You can fill in the blanks by reading this article from today's Central Maine Morning Sentinel, which also wins the "Longest Headline of the Day" Award: Bias based in athlete's religion, says investigator Tournament could have been rescheduled, finds Rights Panel official.
I'm still puzzling out where I stand on this one. On the one hand, I want to respect anyone's right to observe their religion according to its tenets. On the other, I don't like the idea of special treatment for a group or individual, since it can set precedents that can quick cause things to get out of hand.
I thought I'd write this up in hopes of developing some definite point of view of my own as I composed it, as well as maybe getting some thoughts from you, the readers. No matter which way you slice it, it's a complicated issue.
My source for this post, as with the previous two, is the venerable old Catholic Encyclopedia in its online form. I've edited some portions to make for easier readabiliity and for relevance and space, but the original text can be found by clicking on the "Advent" link in the heading below.
(Latin ad-venio, to come to)
Continued from previous post...
It cannot be determined with any degree of certainty when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church. The preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not held before the feast itself existed, and of this we find no evidence before the end of the fourth century, when, according to Duchesne [Christian Worship (London, 1904), 260], it was celebrated throughout the whole Church, by some on 25 December, by others on 6 January.
Of such a preparation we read in the Acts of a synod held at Saragossa in 380, whose fourth canon prescribes that from the seventeenth of December to the feast of the Epiphany no one should be permitted to absent himself from church.
We have two homilies of St. Maximus, Bishop of Turin (415-466), entitled "In Adventu Domini", but he makes no reference to a special time. The title may be the addition of a copyist. There are some homilies extant, most likely of St. Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (502-542), in which we find mention of a preparation before the birthday of Christ; still, to judge from the context, no general law on the matter seems then to have been in existence.
A synod held (581) at Mâcon, in Gaul, by its ninth canon orders that from the eleventh of November to the Nativity the Sacrifice be offered according to the Lenten rite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week.
The Gelasian Sacramentary notes five Sundays for the season; these five were reduced to four by Pope St. Gregory VII (1073-85). The collection of homilies of St. Gregory the Great (590-604) begins with a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent.
In 650 Advent was celebrated in Spain with five Sundays. Several synods had made laws about fasting to be observed during this time, some beginning with the eleventh of November, others the fifteenth, and others as early as the autumnal equinox. Other synods forbade the celebration of matrimony.
In the Greek Church we find no documents for the observance of Advent earlier than the eighth century. St. Theodore the Studite (d. 826), who speaks of the feasts and fasts commonly celebrated by the Greeks, makes no mention of this season.
In the eighth century we find it observed not as a liturgical celebration, but as a time of fast and abstinence, from 15 November to the Nativity, which, according to Goar, was later reduced to seven days. But a council of the Ruthenians (1720) ordered the fast according to the old rule from the fifteenth of November. This is the rule with at least some of the Greeks. Similarly, the Ambrosian and the Mozarabic rites have no special liturgy for Advent, but only the fast. END
The next few posts in this series will be a laundry list to pick and choose from according to your spiritual needs, containing ways in which we can put Christ as the center of what is popularly known as "the Christmas season". The suggestions will range in scope from large to small, and will be culled from various sources and my own experiences and ideas.
Monday, November 24, 2003
I'm not much of a singer or musician, though I fully appreciate the place that music plays in the celebration of the Mass, and didn't realize how much until I attended a Sunday Mass that was completely music-free. This was about two years ago, and it was a downright odd experience. It was the early, early Sunday morning Mass, and the lack of music at that liturgy was a longtime parish tradition. (I think it started long, long ago when the music director at the time was too hung over to get to the church in time for Mass.) The best comparison I can give is that the totally music-free Sunday liturgy was like having a meal with no condiments at all. The sustenance was still there, but the experience was not nearly as full for me spiritually.
At the same time, I think music at Mass can be overdone as well. When every prayer and every response is sung, it starts to feel more like an opera than a Eucharistic celebration. There's a time to sing and a time to simply speak, and a good liturgist knows how best to strike that balance.
It's true that we here at the missions of St. Blog's like to poke fun at some of the songs that pass for hymns at Mass these days. I am as guilty, if not more so than anyone. However, the fact is that with a given song of any musical genre, you are always going to have some who like it and some who just do not. While I cringe, stare at the crucifix and murmur "The Jesus Prayer" (my mental escape route during liturgical irritants at Mass) as a man with a slightly out-of-tune guitar leads the congregation in a rousing rendition of Marty Haugen's "All Are Welcome", the lady behind me is singing joyfully and having a spiritual experience with it.
The moral of the story is just as the pope said, "song is a way to move closer to Christ". It's just that certain songs move some of us closer to Him than others, I guess. Regardless, I am grateful for the musical tradition that is part of the Catholic celebration of the Mass.
Rumor has it, it was headed for Capitol Hill.
All it usually takes in public schools (and many other public institutions) is one loudmouth to overshadow the wishes of the silent majority. Unfortunately, when people are satisfied with the status quo (which is not by definition a bad thing), they don't call up school officials expressing their support. Often, for every complainer, there are usually at least ten satisfied people out there who remain unheard.
The link above will take you to an article on the FoxNews site highlighting this and a number of other absurd but true instances of the politically-correct thought police wielding their influence in recent days. I'd only recommend you read it if you've had a good day so far or have a stiff drink in your hands. It really makes you wonder what our Founding Fathers (or should I say "Founding Parental Units" now?) would say.
Of course the people they interviewed trundled out the same old arguments: "The Church isn't up with the times", "This is the view of a few at the top and does not reflect the opinions of the majority of Catholics", and the newly popular "With the recent sex-abuse scandals, I don't think anyone is going to take them all that seriously anyhow"
To follow the line of reasoning on that last lame excuse, think of this analogy: A man is convicted of robbing a gas station and does some time in jail. He is released and living a clean life again. This man speaks out in outrage against a brutal hate crime that has just recently taken place in his town. Just because he has done wrong in the past, does that automatically make this hypothetical man's opinions irrelevant or wrong?
Of course, in true liberal media fashion, the report (which was supplied to NBC by one of their Massachusetts affiliates, I believe) features footage from yesterday's homily by a Fr. DiLorenzo, who came across as overly flambouyant and almost as a bit of a kook, in the vain (whoops! Make that "vein"!) of the televangelists who were so pervasive in the 1980s. I'm sure that this footage took the man totally out of context (although he did manage to get a few good points across on the air, though just barely), but that is par for the course for the "mainstream" media these days.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed." (Dn. 7:14)
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God,
"the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty." (Rv. 1:8)
These really jumped out at me at Mass last night. The basic message I got personally from these was: If we follow God, there is no way we can be lost. He is the ultimate power, and the ultimate refuge for souls.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Lead Sentence: "Friendly Ice Cream Corp. (of Wilbraham, Mass.) said Friday that it is recalling one lot of half-gallon packages of "Apple Pie a la Mode, Limited Edition" ice cream because it may contain small pieces of a soft, beige, rubber material that could pose a choking hazard." The lot number is 25-26 WC5 SEP 22 04 by the way, and it was sold along the Atlantic seaboard from South Carolina to Maine, plus Ohio.
I guess the doctor was right when he said eating ice cream is not good for you.
*Just after Thanksgiving (63.2%)
*The week before Christmas (21.1%)
*Before Halloween (0.0%)
*Just after Halloween (0.0%)
*Just after Veteran's Day (0.0%)
The results are exactly what I expected. My vote was for mid-December, although I do begin spiritually preparing for Christmas as soon as Advent starts just after Thanksgiving. I'll set up the Advent wreath and enjoy having my creche set up at Advent's start, but the Christmas Tree, decorations, card-sending, party going and gift wrapping are things I try to put off until the start of the third Sunday of Advent.
For the sake of my sanity, I start my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, and chip away at it in bits and pieces until about a week before Christmas day. I find mid-week evenings, like Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually pretty low-key. I've learned the hard way that a one-time shopping extravaganza in the city, especially on a Saturday close to Christmas, is akin to hanging out voluntarily in the seventh circle of Hell. I'm fairly certain that is not the experience Christ would be wanting us to have as we anticipate the celebration of his coming as man.
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.
Mother Dog Gives Birth to 13 Puppies from the Associated Press via Yahoo News.
That is a big ol' pile of puppies!
I don't know about you, but I just don't want my gravy "fizzy". Yick.
We will be addressing ways in which we might be able to live a Christ-centered Advent in the face of the overwhelming secularization in western society in future postings, but these first two or three posts are simply building some common background for us all on what Advent is, as well as some of its history from The Catholic Encyclopedia Online. Again, I want to make it clear that some portions of the original may be edited out by me for space or relevance to the topic. Any of my own personal reflections or opinions will be clearly noted as such.
(Latin ad-venio, to come to)
Continued from previous post...
To attain this object (see previous post for the three things the faithful are admonished to do during Advent) the Church has arranged the Liturgy for this season. In the official prayer, the Breviary, she calls upon her ministers, in the Invitatory for Matins, to adore "the Lord the King that is to come", "the Lord already near", "Him Whose glory will be seen on the morrow".
As lessons for the first Nocturn she prescribes chapters from the prophet Isaiah, who speaks in scathing terms of the ingratitude of the house of Israel, the chosen children who had forsaken and forgotten their Father; who tells of the Man of Sorrows stricken for the sins of His people; who describes accurately the passion and death of the coming Saviour and His final glory; who announces the gathering of the Gentiles to the Holy Hill.
In the second Nocturn the lessons on three Sundays are taken from the eighth homily of Pope St. Leo (440-461) on fasting and almsdeeds as a preparation for the advent of the Lord, and on one Sunday (the second) from St. Jerome's commentary on Isaiah 11:1, which text he interprets of the Blessed Virgin Mary as "the rod out of the root of Jesse".
In the hymns of the season we find praise for the coming of Christ, the Creator of the universe, as Redeemer, combined with prayer to the coming judge of the world to protect us from the enemy. Similar ideas are expressed in the antiphons for the Magnificat on the last seven days before the Vigil of the Nativity. In them, the Church calls on the Divine Wisdom to teach us the way of prudence; on the Key of David to free us from bondage; on the Rising Sun to illuminate us sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, etc.
In the Masses, the intention of the Church is shown in the choice of the Epistles and Gospels.
In the Epistle she exhorts the faithful that, since the Redeemer is nearer, they should cast aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; should walk honestly, as in the day, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ; she shows that the nations are called to praise the name of the Lord; she asks them to rejoice in the nearness of the Lord, so that the price of God, which surpasses all understanding, may keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus; she admonishes them not to pass judgment, for the Lord, when He comes, will manifest the secrets hidden in hearts.
In the Gospels, the Church speaks of the Lord coming in glory; of Him in, and through, Whom the prophecies are being fulfilled; of the Eternal walking in the midst of the Jews; of the voice in the desert, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord". The Church in her Liturgy takes us in spirit back to the time before the incarnation of the Son of God, as though it were really yet to take place.
Cardinal Nicholas Patrick Wiseman says: "We are not dryly exhorted to profit by that blessed event, but we are daily made to sigh with the Fathers of old, 'Send down the dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened, and bud forth the Redeemer.' The Collects on three of the four Sundays of that season begin with the words, 'Lord, raise up thy power and come' -- as though we feared our iniquities would prevent His being born." END
Friday, November 21, 2003
The recommendations are entirely those of the persons who submitted them, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or endorsement of yours truly, although the good reputation and sensibility of most of these contributors precedes them.
J.P. Laurier of Catholic School Blogger:
*Foundations of Christian Faith by Karl Rahner
Tom Fitzpatrick of Recta Ratio:
*A Psalter by a Father Frey and originally published by The Confraternity of the Precious Blood in 1947. (Tom advises that it is still in print under the titles My Daily Prayer Book and the Perfect Prayer Book.)
*Lord, Have Mercy by Scott Hahn
*Saint John Fisher, An Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms from Ignatius Press
*Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Lane Core of A Blog from the Core:
*The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O'Connor
*Triumph by H. W. Crocker III
Nathan Nelson of The Tower:
*The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
*On Pilgrimage by Dorothy Day
Josh from A Saint Some Days:
*Saint Francis of Assisi/Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
*The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie
*The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Don from Mixolydian Mode:
*Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
*The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
*Collected Stories by Muriel Spark
*Morte d'Urban, Wheat That Springeth Green by J.F. Powers
*Past Master by R.A. Lafferty (or any of his short story collections)
*A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller
*Collected Stories by Flannery O'Connor
(Don also generally recommends authors Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh, G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc.)
Alicia the Midwife from Fructus Ventris:
*The Eleventh Commandment by Murray Leinster
*The three novels by Bud Mc Farland (available FREE via www.catholicity.com)
*I Believe in Love by Pere Jean D'Elbee
*Soul of the Apostolate by Fr. De Cassaude (not completely sure of the author's name)
*Letter to A Young Bride by Alice Von Hildebrand
*The Blessed Eucharist from Tan Publications by a Fr. Muller
*Lives of Modern Saints by Ann Ball
*Our Lady of Fatima by a Fr. Walsh
*Vatican by Malachi Martin
*Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset
*True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis Marie DeMontford
*The Devil's Final Battle by Fr. Paul Kramer
*Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
*Splendor of the Church by Henri DeLubac
*Map of Life by Frank Sheed
*Interior Castle by Theresa of Avila
*This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan
*Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam
*Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
*Confessions by St. Augustine
*Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
*Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed
T.S. O'Rama from Video Meliora
*Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor
*This is the Faith by Francis J. Ripley
*Ratzinger Report and Called to Communion by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
*Old Thunder (A Biography of Belloc) by Joseph Pearce
And me (Chris) from this little ol' blog:
*The Holy Longing by Ronald Holheiser
*His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of Our Time by Carl Bernstein & Marco Politi
*The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen
*Medjugorje:The Message by Wayne Weible
*John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend by R. Alan Culpepper
*Revised Catechism of the Catholic Church
*The Catholic Prayer Book by Michael J. Buckley & Tony Castle
*Bishop Blackie Ryan mystery series by Andrew Greeley
*The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri J. M. Nouwen
*Growing Up Catholic by Mary Jane Frances Cavolina
You can continue to contribute reading suggestions in the COMMENTS section of this posting if you have additions. I'll keep this post updated for a while.
I'd also like to hear about any online resources for purchasing Catholic literature with which you have had positive experiences. I myself have generally relied on Amazon.com, although the Barnes & Noble Booksellers site (www.bn.com) is especially good for out-of-print or hard to find books. I strongly recommend both, since they have large and varied selections, reasonable prices, and relatively quick shipping. I haven't purchase Catholic literature from any website other than those. How about you?
These first few installments come directly from the online edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia. I will always provide the link to the original source, but I want to make it clear that some portions of the original may be edited out by me for space or relevance to the topic. Any of my own personal reflections or opinions will be clearly noted as such. This first one will be fairly brief.
(Latin ad-venio, to come to)
According to present  usage, Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days.
With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches. During this time the faithful are admonished
*to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
*thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace,
*and thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world. END.
This passage from the Gospel of Luke (3:3-18), sums up the purpose of the Advent season for me:
[John the Baptist] went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?"
He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise."
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?"
He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."
Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
I won't deny that this news story has some legitimacy, but it certainly does not deserve the prominence in coverage that it and other similar cases inevitably seem to get. Do Brokaw, Rather and Jennings really need to place it at the top of their broadcasts? Do "Larry King Live", "Dateline NBC" and "The O'Reilly Factor" really need to dedicate their entire programs to the topic for days and weeks? Between this latest scandal, Kobe Bryant and the Petersen Case, it's hard to tell where the line between real news and "Entertainment Tonight" is.
We can thank O.J. Simpson for proving the sad fact that a large number of Americans find such tabloid reporting interesting (thus generating much-coveted ratings for those who make it prominent), and the rise of the cable news channels with 24 hours to fill each day for feeding and perpetuating that hunger for the sordid. News programs I normally enjoy, like "Hannity and Colmes" on FoxNews for example, become intolerable during periods of celebrity legal scandals.
The Rush Limbaugh situation is a little different, because he is not just a celebrity, but also one who is very influential in shaping public opinion and policy. I am not condoning the feeding frenzy that occurred when his drug problems came to light, especially the rampant, biased speculation and unsubstantiated rumors that were (and continue to be) broadcast. However, the Limbaugh troubles are thankfully lacking in one key factor that keeps it from leading off the newscasts and dominating the talking-head programs for entire hours for days and days: sex.
Let's face it, an uncomfortably large portion of our society is obsessed with anything remotely related to sex. I'm not saying we are a nation of perverts, it's just that an awful lot of us are just conditioned to show at least a passing interest in such things. We can thank those who initiated "The Sexual Revolution" in their younger days for this, in this Generation X-er's opinion. Those same people gained power and influence over our culture as they came into true adulthood in the late 70's into the 80's, and the mass media has been falling all over itself to feed their tawdry interests ever since. The standards for decency and taste have been falling drastically with every passing year. As a kid, I remember people being scandalized over Boy George, some of the lyrics on Prince's "Purple Rain" album, and the innuendo on television's "Three's Company". Those things seem downright quaint in comparison to some of the lyrics that are heard in current songs on pop/rock/hip-hop radio today, and to some of the TV programming we are offered like "Fear Factor", "Big Brother" or "The Osbournes".
As much as I would like to blame the media, I can't honestly do so (at least not entirely). If people weren't clambering for this kind of "entertainment", there would be no money in it and the media wouldn't bother broadcasting it. The only way things will change is if we let them know by our own viewing and listening habits, and by trying to influence the viewing and listening habits of others. Letters and phone calls to media outlets and the sponsors of programming you consider offensive makes a difference too. If no one is watching or listening, or the sponsors are backing off, the media will have no motivation to perpetuate the filth.
Equally important is to patronize the programs and musical artists who are producing quality work that is not indecent or tasteless, as well as making your appreciation known to sponsors of such work known, so the media moguls will not only know what we don't want, but also what we do.
It's a pretty tall order to initiate change of this magnitude, but if every person or family took it upon themselves to simply turn off the garbage and turn on the good stuff, it will have an impact.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
The National Shrine of St. Anthony in Cincinnati, Ohio has been run by the Franciscans since its establishment in 1889, and they have just unveiled a terrific new website with multiple areas related to the shrine, St. Anthony, prayer requests, and ways to help the Franciscans help others. The address is: http://www.stanthony.org. It's the newest addition to my "Catholic Favorites" file in my web browser.
It seems that the University of Minnesota has been having some problems with people cutting down evergreen trees for their Christmas trees in recent years. This year, they appear to have hired Wile E. Coyote as a consultant, and have a plan for dealing with this: spray anything that looks like a holiday tree with skunk scent ordered from a West Virginia trapping store.
Quoth the article: "Cold weather masks the smell. But warm, indoor air releases it.
'We'll probably still lose some trees, but I have some satisfaction in knowing that it's not going to work out the way the thief thinks it will,' [UMinn. Grounds superintendent Les] Potts said.
He admitted wondering what the campus will smell like when warm weather hits next spring."
Insert your own punchline here. I have so many, I can't choose just one.
This is why some of us put our feet down at the first sign of something "iffy" that hasn't passed muster with two-third of the U.S.S.C.B. and given approval by The Holy See, even if it doesn't seem like a big deal at the time. Once a precedent is set, it can often snowball out of control.
At the Zenit News Agency website from Rome, there is a very sensible article addressing the holding of hands at the Lord's Prayer during Mass, written by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. It's a brief blurb that is well worth reading.
Some excerpts: "It is true that there is no prescribed posture for the hands during the Our Father and that, so far at least, neither the Holy See nor the U.S. bishops' conference has officially addressed it."
"The argument from [this] silence is not very strong, however, because while there is no" particular difficulty in a couple, family or a small group spontaneously holding hands during the Our Father, a problem arises when the entire assembly is expected or obliged to do so."
"The use of this practice during the Our Father could detract and distract from the prayer's God-directed sense of adoration and petition, as explained in Nos. 2777-2865 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in favor of a more horizontal and merely human meaning."
"For all of these reasons, no one should have any qualms about not participating in this gesture if disinclined to do so. They will be simply following the universal customs of the Church, and should not be accused of being a cause of disharmony."
Just some liturgical food for thought for a November Wednesday.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Massachusetts residents, please actively and vocally support Gov. Romney as he opposes this move and works to establish an amendment to the state constitution to rectify things.
For those of us living outside the Bay State, pray hard for Gov. Romney and those allied with him that they will meet with success, as well as for the overturn of this court decision by the Federal Supreme Court.
Let's not let the birthplace of America's freedom from British tyranny become the birthplace of American's legal freedom from God's natural order.
Jesus, Moses, and a third player are out on the links for a round of golf. At the fifth hole, a difficult par 4, Moses tees off and ker-plop, his ball lands right in the middle of a pond and sinks to the bottom. Scratch.
Jesus goes next. His ball also lands in the middle of the pond, but comes to rest on a floating lily pad. He walks across the water, chips the ball out, and goes on to complete the hole under par.
The third player steps up to the tee, swings, and his ball ends up on a lily pad in the middle of the pond. As Moses and Jesus watch, a frog leaps from the water and swallows the ball. Then an eagle swoops down and picks up the frog, flies with it, and drops it within inches of the hole. With a loud "pit-ooey", the frog spits out the ball and it lands right in the hole.
At this, Moses turns to Jesus and says, "I'm telling you, this is the LAST TIME I'm playing golf with your dad!"
Monday, November 17, 2003
Click here to read a full transcript of Rush's opening segments from the 11/17 program, courtesy of "El Rushbo's" official website.
If there's an upside to this, it's that the decision was made from the bottom-up, by the parishioners themselves, and not handed down from the chancery in Portland against their will. When the bishop's office closed the city of Portland's oldest Catholic church, the charming but decaying St. Dominic's in the heart of the city in 1998, it set off a political firestorm that remains a bone of contention with some of the city's Catholics to this day.
This is such a heart-rending issue. On the one hand, I can see the sound reason in closing parishes (if there is another Catholic church within a reasonable distance) when attendance has decreased noticeably due to socioeconomics and maintaining the facilities has become a disproportionate drain on finances. Given the serious shortage of active priests in the diocese, such closures make even more sense. If the diocese were to hire an impartial financial adviser and gave him or her all the necessary data to make recommendations, I'm sure quite a number of small rural parishes and missions would be advised to be closed and merged with others nearby. I suspect that this would be the case in almost every diocese in the country, not just this one.
The other side of the coin is the intimate role that parishes play in our many of our lives. While a church is certainly more than just a building, that building itself becomes almost like member of our family. If my hometown parish were to be closed, I would be devastated. It is where my parents were married, where I was baptized, received First Holy Communion and said my first confession, where I served as an altar boy and a lector, where I was confirmed, and where the weddings, baptisms and funerals for family members and friends have been held. The basement of the church was where Christmas pageants, church suppers, concerts, holiday bazaars, and other fun memories from my past took place. It was a tough enough thing for me emotionally when my old parochial school closed. The closure of my home parish (which is not likely since it is a newer building with consistent attendance and the only one serving a population center of over 8,000 people) would truly be like a death of a loved one. I can only imagine the grief that the parishioners of St. Francis in Brownville must have felt in making that anguishing decision to close the parish. The sadness and loss they are suffering is acute right now, and will linger for the rest of the lives of many parishioners, especially on holidays and the anniversaries of special occasions.
Let us all pray for the parishioners of the former St. Francis Xavier Church in Brownville, Maine, and all those who have experienced the sadness of a parish closure. May the Almighty Father comfort them in this time of transition and keep the fire of their Catholic faith burning brightly as they set down roots and start making memories in their new church in Milo.
This is indeed the memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a well-to-do woman, a princess in fact, who dedicated much of her life to providing for the poor and the sick. She is a fine example of why the church venerates saints. The life she led doing Christ's work on Earth should serve as an inspiration to all of us and give us something to strive for in our own lives.
Here is some biographical information from www.catholic-forum.com:
Elizabeth was born a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and was the great-aunt of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. She married Prince Louis of Thuringa at age 13. Elizabeth built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood and often tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ's teachings, not theirs. Once when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon Louis' death, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields. She died at a relatively young age of 24 in 1231 at Marburg. She was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1235. Her relics, including her skull wearing a gold crown she had worn in life, are preserved at the convent of Saint Elizabeth in Vienna, Austria.
Her partonages are many, including: bakers, beggars, brides, charitable workers, charities, countesses, death of children, exiles, falsely accused people, hoboes, homeless people, hospitals, in-law problems, lacemakers, nursing homes, nursing services, people in exile, people ridiculed for their piety, Sisters of Mercy, tertiaries, Teutonic Knights, toothache, and widows.
St. Elizabeth, ora pro nobis.