“The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated… Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate.” (Pope Benedict XVI, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, 64)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All Too Soon, The Clock Will Strike Midnight

A little over two years ago, my wife and I thought it would be good if each of us made moments of one-on-one time with each of our kids. Not just chance moments, but actual dates away from the home, doing something that would entertain that child and give him or her the chance to talk about whatever they want. The kids weren’t short on time with the parents – my wife homeschools and I was in between jobs. But there’s always competition for that solo attention, and that was a need that we weren’t fulfilling to our satisfaction.

I liked the idea so much that a made a date with my eldest child and only daughter. She was six at the time. We went to a donut shop first, and then a nearby neighborhood park. I don’t remember much about the date. I don’t think I even brought the camera. She liked the donuts (six-year-olds aren’t that picky) and enjoyed climbing on the slide/swing/fortress structure. She had a good time, we did talk, and that was about it.

That was the last date I had with her or any of the kids until last night. Two years. So much for great ideas and good intentions.

Much has happened since then. I have a job that requires weekend work quite often. Many 12 and sometimes 16 hour days. On top of all the hours, there has been tedious projects on the home front. I, of course, have left the blog fallow. No time to blog to oblivion when I don’t have time for much else.

I’m just not the best manager of time here at home. It’s a deadly trait – expecting time to stand still.

She is eight now. She’s not a “swings and slides” kind of girl anymore, though she still likes donuts. We go to confession together, we go to the communion rail together, and she has no trouble making conversation these days. In two years she’s changed.

I’d like to take credit for re-initiating last night’s one-on-one time, but I can’t. It was thrust upon me. There was a Daddy-Daughter dance on the calendar, and there wasn’t any question about going. She had this event set in her heart months before the big day.

And I made it as special as I could. I put on my best suit and she put on her new Christmas dress. I gave her a locket. We had dinner for two at Pizza Hut – her choice. And we also hit Dairy Queen after the dance. We had a blast.

Neither of us can dance, but after that experience I’m resolved to change that. I’m not quite sure how, but dancing is something that should be passed down through the family. It wasn’t in mine, and my wife had scant more exposure in her family. But really, that didn’t matter. She would stumble along as best she could, then light up like a Christmas tree every time I gave her a twirl.

I was concerned that the music would be in poor taste, but that fear was unfounded. It was mostly popular/dancy kind of stuff with some throwback tunes, and much of it I had a vague sense of familiarity (“two steps to the left now bring it on down, yo!”). Nothing lyrically inappropriate. Looking around the room, I think I had the inside track for the squarest father title. She didn’t mind at all. My daughter, she’s pretty square, too. (I hope there’s no video of us doing the bunny hop or the chicken dance – that would haunt us the rest of our lives, I’m sure)

She stayed close to me the entire time. No chance to have those small-talk conversations with other square dads. And she was not at all interested in socializing with her peers. She was locked to my side the entire night, save one trip to the bathroom. She gloried in being with me and trying to do this dancing stuff.

Why did I wait two years for this?

I remember three dances most from last night. The last dance was to The Load Down – not exactly what you’d expect at a dance like this, but it shines, as it always did for Jackson Browne, when it’s the last song of the night. It’s a piece that belongs with that handful of songs which always makes you stop scanning the radio dial. As it started with just Browne and his keyboard, I leisurely got her coat on and we gathered our stuff to leave, but then took her back out to the floor just in time for the percussion to begin, and we finished dancing out the door as the song faded.

We danced to one of my mom’s all-time favorites, Sweet Caroline. The DJ encouraged us to sing out our daughter’s name in place of “Caroline”, which delighted Sweet Kathleen to no end.

And then there was Cinderella by Steven Curtis Champman. This one falls into the “vaguely familiar” category. I’d heard it before, but never listened to it. But when you’re dancing with your daughter to that song, it’s impossible to miss what it’s about. I doubt she realized what the song was about – she just enjoyed the dance and liked hearing “Cinderella” in the song. Me – I was welling-up, and convicted in my heart.

I can’t go back to that jungle-gym and start again, bring a camera this time, and making two years of dates in my planner for my daughter and sons. That window has passed. What I can do, and what I’m resolved to do, is face time head-on, embracing it, and doing what is right for my state in life. Today, Lord, please! Today and not two years from now.

My Lord – thank you for the gift of time, and thank you for the broken heart to remind me of how to best use the gift.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow

So, you ask, what happened to the mid-Lent seminar?

Well, I’ll explain that later. For now, it’s Holy Saturday, and Eman the Ezrahite will guest blog. Happy Easter, all!

O Lord, the God of my salvation: I have cried in the day, and in the night before thee. Let my prayer come in before thee: incline thy ear to my petition. For my soul is filled with evils: and my life hath drawn nigh to hell.I am counted among them that go down to the pit: I am become as a man without help,

Free among the dead. Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cast off from thy hand. They have laid me in the lower pit: in the dark places, and in the shadow of death. Thy wrath is strong over me: and all thy waves thou hast brought in upon me. Thou hast put away my acquaintance far from me: they have set me an abomination to themselves. I was delivered up, and came not forth: My eyes languished through poverty. All the day I cried to thee, O Lord: I stretched out my hands to thee.

Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? or shall physicians raise to life, and give praise to thee? Shall any one in the sepulchre declare thy mercy: and thy truth in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark; and thy justice in the land of forgetfulness? But I, O Lord, have cried to thee: and in the morning my prayer shall prevent thee. Lord, why castest thou off my prayer: why turnest thou away thy face from me?

I am poor, and in labours from my youth: and being exalted have been humbled and troubled. Thy wrath hath come upon me: and thy terrors have troubled me. They have come round about me like water all the day: they have compassed me about together. Friend and neighbour thou hast put far from me: and my acquaintance, because of misery. (Psalm 88[87])

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The First Precept

Parochial Mass
“The parish is established to provide the parishioners with the helps of religion, especially with Mass. The parochial Mass is celebrated for their welfare on all Sundays and holidays of obligation, even when suppressed. The parish priest is not obliged to say it personally; but if he does not, he must offer his own Mass for that intention. Parishioners now fulfil their duty by assisting at Mass in any church; but formerly they had at least to hear a Mass in the parish church (ch. "Vices", 2, "De treuga et pace" in "Extrav. Comm." of Sixtus IV, n 1478)”. [New Advent, my emphasis]
One of the things that motivates me to blog is that our God has offered us INFINITE grace, yet we can only catch so much. And despite our finite capacity to receive grace, it is still amazing to me that the laity, and even some religious, will not place it as a priority to capture more of the grace that is offered. Often we do so little, usually out of ignorance, but sometimes out of a lack of motivation.

As astonished as I am, at the same time, I understand this problem personally. As I blog about this, I am in no position to demonstrate an example of someone capturing this grace. I’m only sounding the alarm. I’m not in fact realizing this in my own life.

I blogged earlier on Father Schnipple’s excellent article, Jesus the New Passover. I quoted this line before, but my focus was on the prefigurement of the cross. I want to now point to this final two lines of the quote, which say so much.
“Each of these lambs, by the thousands, would be carried out of the Temple
and to the homes of the people in and around Jerusalem. ‘Crucified lambs’ were
being offered for the people.”

The sacrifice was, in a sense, completed at the temple, when the High Priest partook, or consumed, the sacrifice that was, “offered for the people.” But in another sense, participation in the sacrifice was extended to the people, as the lambs were delivered to them by acolytes of the temple, from the temple altar to their home liturgical celebrations. Thanks to this insight, we can see with clarity the prefigurement of our Parochial Mass, offered, “for [the parishoners’] welfare on all Sundays…”

Mother Church, in Her wisdom, requires us to “hear” or “assist” at this mass if we are reasonably able to do so. I think the “pain of mortal sin” component is to negatively motivate us to do what we might decline to do in the positive sense, which is to participate in the perfect sacrifice that offers us a flood sanctifying grace, the Life and Love of the Trinity, and makes reconciliation with God the Father possible, for ourselves and for the whole world. Who in their right mind would fail to take part in that? No names now, that was rhetorical.

Those of us not called as priests have to realize that though our participation may not be essential for the sacrifice, it is essential for us and for those whom, for any reason, are not there. Not just to be in good standing, but to be true disciples. Do we realize this?

The human soul has a great capacity to compartmentalize our knowledge, and thus deprive our will from the realization of this great gift. Without that motivation, all too often take the Woody Allen approach of just showing up. We can also alter what the motivation should be, and as a result, we end up at mass to see our friends, sing familiar, catchy tunes, and leave with the warm and fuzzy that we’ve done our duty. This mass, if it’s all it’s cracked-up to be, should be something more than this. Shouldn’t it be?

Well, it’s your lucky day. I’ve spent countless minutes researching the best methods to improved participation at the mass, and I’m going to deliver to you that results of that thorough investigation. Let’s play Twenty Questions. Just take the following survey, and take note of any questions you answer in the negative:

· Do we often study ahead of time, even during the week before, the readings, Introit, Collect, Preface, Communion Antiphon, and Closing so as to more perfectly join in the prayers and mysteries during mass?

· Are we striving for proper etiquette and decorum while present in the nave?

· Do we bring our mass intentions with us, confident of Divine Assistance?

· Are we spending time in meditation, realizing His Real Presence in the tabernacle?

· Do we watch Father’s approach to the altar, aware that it is only he who can “dwell in thy tabernacle” or “rest on thy holy hill” with the rod of God in his hand?

· Are we praying or singing the Ordinaries and responses with conviction?

· Do we often listen carefully to God’s Word and the Homily, open to His voice?

· Do we recall our Mass intention during the Collect and the Offertory, so as to place them properly in the context of the Mass?

· Are we offering ourselves along with the gifts at the Offertory, not allowing the envelopes and sing-a-longs to become a distraction?

· Do we joyfully await His appearance on the altar?

· Are we following the spirit of the Eucharistic prayer, from the Sursum Corda through the Final Doxology? Not hanging on every word, but offering prayers for the Church, for the living, for communion with the saints, for the acceptance and blessing of the offering, for the etc., at the appropriate time?

· Is He adored by us when He arrives on the altar?
· How often do we humble ourselves, convicted in our sinfulness and in awe of His majesty and mercy, as we await communion?

· Is there fervor in our approach to receive?

· If we receive, do we praise Him and express our thanks?

· If we don’t receive, do we make a spiritual communion?

· As we kneel after communion, do we ask Him for a virtue to combat our sinfulness?

· Do we receive, with joyful gratitude, the final blessing?

· Are we taking our time leaving, making sure our Lord is consoled by our appreciation for His presence and sacrifice?

· Do we reflect on the mass in the hours and days afterward to better embody the gift we’ve been given.

So, how’d you do? Give yourself a point for each positive answer and see how you rate:

0 – Menace to Society – Please read Rev 13:5-8 and see if you qualify.
1-2 – Poser – But a strong candidate for a diocesan or parish staff position.
3-4 – CafeCat – I’m surprised you took the test. The picture of Jesus didn’t scare you away?
5-6 – Progressive – “We have been sung throughout all of hist'ry…”
7-9 - Fair Weather – I’d recommend starting a blog and pretending to know something about your faith.
10-11 – Average – Good job! This still would have been an F back in school.
12-13 - RadTrad – Please stop scowling every time we sing that fun, Gnostic hymn.
14-16 – Showoff – Your piety annoys us. Thanks for making the rest of us look bad!
17-19 – Cheater – You are going to Hell.
20 – Our Lady! – Or you can’t follow directions. Start over and read more carefully.

I wrote of our compartmentalized knowledge. We can’t repeatedly recite the Creed without knowing a great deal of our faith. Yet it is so easy and tempting to avoid any deep realization of what we know. So tempting and common is this compartmentalization that many of us forget what we know, and we can be easily led astray by subtle heresies about the nature of God, the Immaculate Conception, the Catholic Church as the only means of salvation, etc.

As hard as it is to believe, if we come away from mass linked more closely to Our Blessed Lord, we too can become, “A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” At the risk of sounding too modernistic, they do have a point when they stress that we are His body. Saint Paul used to stress that too. Thus, no matter what our priorities actually are (and hopefully our priorities align nicely with God’s), we could hardly do better for the greater glory of God, for ourselves, for our family, for our friends, for our Church, for our parish, for our superiors, for our cohorts, for our subordinates, for our enemies, for complete strangers, and for all of creation, than to DO MASS BETTER!

Maybe “doing Mass better” isn’t the absolute highest priority in life – I really don’t know. But I think it can be reasonably argued as such a priority. This can be pointed to in many ways, but for the sake of space, I will simply point to the short instruction contained in the 1962 Roman Missal:
Of all the practices recommended by our holy religion: Morning and Evening Prayers, Prayers before and after Meals, Visit to the Most Holy Sacrament, Rosary, Way of the Cross, etc.--the august Sacrifice of the Mass is infinitely greater. It is the most precious, the most holy of practices, as well as the most conducive to man's salvation.
As we stand now in the heart of Lent, the time of conversion, we should look once again at our priorities. Doing Mass well, better than we have, should be high on our list. One will find no other thing that supports greater spiritual benefit. Shouldn’t we all desire that?

I don’t think I heard any objections, so I’ll continue. Practically speaking, how can we pray the Mass well? I’m here to help. Here's four things you can do:

1. First, make sure to follow the advice of Pope Saint Pius X [my emphasis]:

The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him, in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way you have prayed Holy Mass.
For us in today’s Church, were very little is whispered at the altar, one would think this would be easily accomplished. But because we hear the same words echoed week after week, we rarely “associate [our] heart[s] with the holy feelings” at each point in the Mass, most notably from the Offertory onward. Typically, we let the predictable words flow empty through our ears. This requires true “active” participation. This require the study of the Mass and attempting to find out where our hearts should be at any time. Thus, during Mass, we can “active”-ly put our hearts where they need to be.

2. Read Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI.
Books like Spirit of the Liturgy, Feast of Faith, A New Song for the Lord, God Is Near Us, and his series on Jesus of Nazareth. Take my word for it. HE KNOWS THIS STUFF! Why go to The Shack to unlock the mysteries of faith when you can learn from a man who knows it, and communicates it better than anyone. An easy read? By no means do I mean that. But with time, patience, and prayerful reading, he can shed considerable brightness on your blind spots. This Pope is grace for our times. Take advantage of his wisdom.

3. Go back through the test taken above. Correct shortcomings.

4. Go to my Mid-Lent Virtual Seminar

Yes, I’m going to offer a Mid-Lent Virtual Seminar. I hope you will attend. It will most certainly help with your Mass.
Please read the sidebar to reckognize my numerous creditials and expertice for this. Expect the Seminar to begin in the next few days, give or take a week, and run for 14 or so posts. Consider it like the Way of the Cross, without the indugences or any devotional grace.
But whether you attend the Seminar or not, please take away one thing - pray the Mass. Every Mass offers the opportunity to participate in something beyond anything we could imagine. Jesus Christ is there, through the liturgy, offering our petty gifts to the Father, transformed in His holy hands. You're prayer for the conversion of your sister, or comfort for your dying mother, or for that job that you need to support your family, or for the victims of earthquakes - how are they best offered? Going straight to God yourself? That's good. Going through the Mother of God? That's better. But in the hands of Jesus, the High Priest, the Saving Victim, offered directly to the Father? If prayer is better heard from the righteous, you have no better hearing for your prayers than this.
Don't waste the precious gift of the Mass. Pray it well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Bad Start

Wake up. Get excited! Today is the start of a magnificent journey of prayer, penance, and renunciation, and I need to get worked up about it. Yawn.

I stagger to the coffee maker. Can't find the normal water-fill cup used for coffee. Have to use a smaller one. This means two trips to the refrigerator.

On the second trip, I spy a tasty morsel of chicken enchilada on the casserole pan from last night. Toss in mouth. Not much chewing needed. As I'm filling the cup at the fridge and the morsel is headed toward my throat for swallowing, it hits me.


Ten seconds of intense spitting back into the casserole dish. Leave for wife to clean. Use water to wash-out mouth. Start coffee.

Read morning prayers with wife. Almost say the A-word after the opening Glory Be. Finish prayers. Ask out loud, "Is coffee okay for fasting?" I'm the cradle Catholic, so a definitive answer wasn't expected. Fill coffee cups for both. Make a conscious decision not to google for an answer on the coffee.

Prepare to open breviary. Look up at crucifix. AHHHHH! THE PALMS ARE STILL UP!

This was the first hour of the first day. Only 959 hours to go.

Is your soul prepared?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Contraceptives Day!

Ok, ok, maybe its not an official holy day holiday in our country just yet, but personal sexual slavery to lust "freedom" seems to have become the de facto religion of our country, if you consider how pervasive contraceptives have become.

But what to do with all of those leftover birth control trays? Surely throwing them in the trash only adds to the amount of dangerous hormone that goes into the environment and creates genetically mutated fish and frogs. We can't recycle those containers, and it is un-American to even consider reducing birth control pill use. The only thing left is to reuse. BUT HOW?

Glad you asked! What better way to say "I love you" than to give your sweetheart chocolate? Of course it is to give them chocolate shaped like birth control pill containers!

Amazingly, someone actually came up with the idea of creating a baking mold out of those old containers. And, really, I can't think of a better icon to what American culture has reduced Valentine's Day. St. Valentine, pray for us. Pray for us all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Masculine Discussion on Feminism

Tonight, the Lay Mystagogues will be fitting on our boxing gloves and attending the Argument of the Month Club's argument over "Marian Femininity vs. Modern Feminism."

Now for those of you who don't know, the AOTM is a club for men alone. That is, real "manly" men, who like to eat "manly" meals, and who apparently like to emphasize that they are "manly" at every opportunity. Being secure in my own masculinity, even though I have never considered myself a "manly" man with all the fixin's that go along with that, like toting a power drill, or guzzling beer, or smashing empty beer cans on my forehead, this whole emphasis on "manliness" to me seems, well, pretty "unmanly". Here is a sampling from the dinner menu tonight (sic):
Apetizer: AOTM Louisiana Hot Wings for starters and yes celery for those girly men who are watching their girlish figure. But for the real man who want taste, we have Blue Cheese dressing to stick that celery in.
Now I must admit that I have never attended the AOTM Club before, and although it is tempting to cover my entire body in blue paint with a giant letter "J" on my chest (for "Jesus" naturally) in order to fit in, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that all this "manliness" is just sort of a tongue-in-cheek celebration of being men.

Aside from all this chest thumping, the question that comes to mind is this: Why are a bunch of men discussing the appropriate way for women to be feminists? As a man, I am must more interested in being a real man, like Jesus, than how a woman can be a real woman, like Mary. But no women will benefit from such a discussion because women are not allowed is this meeting to talk about how women should behave. Apparently I'm supposed to go home to lay down the law and, from my chair as high-manly-priest of my home, instruct my subordinates, including (apparently) Mrs. Andy, how to appropriately behave.

It just seems wrong, yet somehow intriguing. I pray that this group's need to feel manly is simply a "tongue in cheek" attitude. If worse comes to worse, I will just get big and fat tonight on the all-you-can-eat buffet. You know, like a REAL man.

The Lion as Catholic

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist's shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that "only such a faith can outlast the
death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations". You see the little rift? "Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason." That's the game, (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXIII)
Admittedly, I dive into to politics often. I'm sure this makes my apologetics partner grown. There is a very good reason, though. And Phil Lawler's reveiw of Ted Kennedy's posthumous autobiography, True Compass, A Memoir, puts that reason into perspective (my emphasis).
Because they concentrated so heavily on the misbehavior that he never denied, most of Kennedy’s conservative critics failed to realize the real political masterstroke that he never discussed. Over the course of his political career, Kennedy steered steadily leftward without endangering his popular support in Massachusetts; he brought his constituency along with him. Still more remarkably, he became more and more open in his conflicts with the Catholic Church—eventually becoming the most influential opponent of Catholicism on key public issues—while remaining the most visible Catholic legislator in Washington.

Throughout his public life, and especially at his death, Ted Kennedy was identified as a devout Catholic. He was, after all, the standard-bearer for the most famous Catholic family in America. His brother had been the country’s first Catholic president; his father was so close to Boston’s Cardinal Cushing that he referred to him as “Richard” (which is curious, really, since everyone else in Boston called him “Dick”); he himself had received his First Communion from Pope Pius XII.

How did Kennedy manage to maintain the public perception that he was a loyal Catholic, even while he worked to shatter the solidarity that once characterized the Catholic voting bloc? How did he keep alive the traditional presumption that ethnic Catholics belonged in the Democratic Party, even as the Democratic Party began to marginalize anyone who upheld Catholic moral teachings? That question is never addressed in True Compass. In his memoir, as in his public career, Ted Kennedy deflects attention from his most remarkable—albeit ultimately destructive—achievement.

Lawler, in his review, details the political shift that brought Catholic Democrats to the place of defending the culture of death. I'm not sure this was all Ted Kennedy's doing. It's hard to believe one man could scandalize an entire region and a good percentage of the nation. The evil "Spirit of Vatican II" was quite active in this political transition of American Catholics, and this transition obviously transcended politics. Nevertheless, I must concede to Lawler two points. One - He's clearly an expert on the matter. Two - I was once one of Ted Kennedy's scandalized.

But that is for another time. I've blogged about Kennedys before, and may soon after.
Kennedy mentions his Catholicism hundreds of times in this book, but almost invariably he is referring to the cultural heritage of Catholicism rather than to its doctrinal content or its spiritual exercises—the form rather than the substance of his faith. Still he insists that his faith shaped his political outlook. In one of the book’s most revealing passages, he relates how his thoughts matured as he entered adult life:

"My own center of belief, as I matured and grew curious about these things, moved toward the great Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 especially, in which he calls us to care for the least of these among us, and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned. It’s enormously significant to me that the only description in the Bible about salvation is tied to one’s willingness to act on behalf of one’s fellow human beings."

It boggles the mind that an adult Catholic—who presumably heard the Scriptures read at every Sunday Mass, even if he never read the Bible himself—could claim that there is only one passage in the Bible addressing the question of salvation. But the above quotation contains another sign, less obvious but even more telling, of the author’s detached attitude toward his faith. When he says that “he calls us to care for the least of these among us,” Kennedy never identifies who “he” is. The name of Jesus does not appear anywhere in this memoir.

“All of my life, the teachings of my faith have provided solace and hope,” Kennedy wrote as he faced the prospect of death. He surely did draw solace from his faith, but
not guidance. He knew that the Church offered words of comfort; he never recognized that the Church also spoke with authority. So in his final illness, while he felt the need to write to Pope Benedict XVI, asking for the pontiff’s blessing, he still saw no need to renounce his long history of public opposition to Church teaching on the dignity of life.

A Christianity without Jesus, a Catholicism without sacraments, a doctrine without authority: this is the conception of the Church that emerges from True Compass. Ted Kennedy saw Catholicism as an important part of his identity, of his family history, of his cultural patrimony. But his life story provides very little evidence that his faith shaped his political ideals. On the contrary, it seems clear that his political ideals shaped the content of his faith. The story of Ted Kennedy’s public life is, to an alarming extent, the story of a generation of Catholics—in Boston in particular, in America in general. It is, regrettably, not a story of how these Catholics shaped the
popular culture, but of how that culture changed their faith.
This is the story of faith kept at arms' distance, used, as Lewis wrote, as a means, and not embraced to the fullest. Faith is turned upside down. God is made in our image instead of the reverse.

Probably the saddest chapter of his tragic life was revealed at his funeral, something Lawler mentions above. This was his letter, delivered by President Obama, to our Holy Father. Oddly, it was read by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick to offer the mourners comfort. Instead, for those of us who were searching for something hopeful in his words to indicate a conversion, what Cardinal McCarrick read was confirmation of his fantasy faith, a platform for his pride, and persistent obstinance. Kennedy's intention seemed to be to lay out for Pope Benedict his cause for salvation, nay, canonization.
I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war.

Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States senator. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone. I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, our Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.

(I can't say he did much for those "conscience protections", as his colleagues in the Senate passed a bill without any, and his legacy candidate made it clear that she didn't believe in them.)

With all due respect, why Cardinal McCarrick thought this would be a fitting tribute at his funeral is beyond me. The idea that we can trumpet our own case for salvation (fudging or straight-up lying about the facts) and use the faith for whatever we see fit is a terrible heresy. It's plagued Ted Kennedy's generation, and every one since.

What would have brought me more comfort is to find out that he received his sacraments before passing. That's more important than any accomplishments or failings that seemed to follow him to his death. Luckily, like other high-profile obstinate cafeteria Catholics, he was at the receiving end of prayers and graces, and had priests available at his last hour. That is what gives us hope that Kennedy will see God - not his expansion of government to solve the problems of the poor.

It is most unfortunate that members of the Church seemed to be agreeable to Kennedy's public version of faith, thus allowing his scandal wide influence for 40 years. I'm grateful that those days seem to be coming to an end. But I can't help but note how tragic it was that his scandal wasn't addressed early, publicly when warranted, and consistently. Many will say that I don't know that it wasn't addressed properly. But how can 40 years of public scandal from a man wearing the Catholic label and no public rebuke from his bishop be considered proper?

The errors of Kennedy in matters of faith are widespread. In fact, most all of us suffer from this tendency to some extent. Always remember to check your own version of faith with the one that has God's promise of Truth. Submit early and often, and root out your tendency to run with your own will.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Eyes Have Seen Thy Salvation

Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui, secundum nomen tuum, Deus. Ita et laus tua in fines terrae;
Justitia plena est dextera tua.
Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum, Amen.

We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple; according to Thy Name, O God, so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth;
Thy right hand is full of justice.
Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised, in the city of God, in His holy mountain.
Glory be... (Introit for the Presentation of the Lord)

The Feast of the Presentation is a favorite of my family, for reasons I've hinted about over these first few months of blogging. Maybe next year I'll blog about that. As for right now, I'm going to take it easy on Andy's lack of interest in my lengthy posts, and rather send you to one of the best bloggers I've found at liturgical reflections, Karinanne. And here is another one sure to please from Father Mark.

Don't forget to have your candles blessed today.

But rather, I'm ALWAYS asked what a serious lay mystagogue does for fun. That seems to be the burning question of our many fans out there. Well, lots of things. It's really hard to narrow it down. But recently, I took some video of a bike ride I was on with Andy. I apologise for the music; Andy fancies himself a producer and it couldn't be helped. I think this gives you a glimpse into the personal life of a mystagogue spending his free time in God's creation.

Groundhogs Day The Feast of the Presentation is always a good time to start thinking about Lent. I think I'll be giving up extreme sports. And you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Contact CBS Now!

CBS, the television network that will broadcast this year's Superbowl, is being pressured by the peddlers of the Culture of Death to not broadcast a pro-life commercial during the game.

A coalition of women's groups called on the CBS network on Monday to scrap its plan to broadcast an ad during the Super Bowl featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, which critics say is likely to convey an anti-abortion message.

The ad -- paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family -- is expected to recount the story of Pam Tebow's pregnancy in 1987 with a theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim, who went on to win the 2007 Heisman Trophy while helping his Florida team to two college football championships.

The New York-based Women's Media Center was coordinating the protest with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups.

"An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together," said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center.

You know, I get the point that abortion may be more divisive than Budweiser vs. Miller or Pepsi vs. Coke. But the feminist concern is not about dividing, but rather that life argument is raised at all. As my previous post points out, the pro-abortion argument only survives when it remains unchallenged. That is their concern. To them, the pro-life cause has no place anywhere, let alone the most-watched commercial stage.

My fellow pro-life bloggers, please spread the word. We need everyone who can to contact CBS now and encourage them to stand up to the pressure.

As for me, if they decide to cancel the commercial, I will not watch the Superbowl, nor anything else on CBS for 2010. If they cancel, it is a clear message to me as a pro-lifer, one who wants to spread that message, that my patronage of their network is unappreciated. That, however, won't be in my message to them. They are planning on running it as of right now, and they don't need threats. They just need some backbone reinforcement. Thanks and admiration will do just fine.

Timeliness is important. I'm sure there is support within the notwork for dropping the ad, and that contingent won't give up. Some support right now might help keep this ad in it's prime-time location.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Change - Yes We Can! But...

UPDATE at bottom of post.

There has been considerable chest-pounding in the wake of the Massachusetts Senate race. The conservative pundits have been celebrating the dawning of a new era, a paradigm shift, for the American electorate. President Obama promised "change", and he most certainly delivered. Not all of the change, though, was the same change he promised. Some of it was (e.g. coddling our enemies, selling-out our friends, massive government solutions for all those who earn less than average) and some of it wasn't (e.g. bipartisanship, line-by-line budget cutting, tax breaks for the middle class), but it was most certainly a change. As his presidency passes the first anniversary, more Americans are realizing that misdirected change is actually worse than the status quo. On January 19th, that reality was manifested in the election of Scott Brown. But is this the first gust of the winds of change, or was this a tempest in a tea party pot.

One thing that struck me was how amazingly brazen was his competition. Martha Coakley, among her many striking statements, declared that devote Catholics, you know, the ones who actually believe in the sanctity of human life, "...probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room," on the chance that they might be in a position to treat a rape victim and refuse the abortifacient morning after pill. Killing the unborn is so important to Martha that she made this her most vocal issue. Keep in mind, Scott Brown is not pro-life. He only believes in the so-called "common sense" provisions, like parental notification, a ban on late-term abortions, and conscience rights for medical personnel.

In Martha's world, a woman's right to an abortion supersedes all other rights. The reason she declared that devote Catholics need not apply for medical jobs was to make that distinction between her abortion absolutism and Brown's softer pro-abortion position. Her campaign used this distinction to paint Brown as a heartless extremist. This tactic resonated well with a good portion of the electorate.

Massachusetts is 44% Catholic, more than all the other religious affiliations combined. Martha herself is Catholic. Yet she made it clear that belief in what the Catholic Church teaches is extreme and justifies nixxing their rights expressed in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution in favor of a right which is no where expressed in the same document.

We have a strong Catholic voting population. And we should also be able to assume that, among the rest of the 56% of the population, there resides a substantial number of people of good conscience who would recognize this blatant disregard of fundamental human rights.

Rather, what we find is that this woman, whose positions should make her disqualified for any office this side of the free world, garnered 47% of the vote. That tells me that her radical statement on the second-class status of faithful Catholics might have changed a few minds, but it did not move the voting numbers like such a revealing statement should.

Phil Lawyer breaks down the real reason for the Brown victory and the likely fallout, and unfortunately, despite all the giddy pundits, there isn't much to celebrate.

It was, I am convinced, a long-overdue manifestation of independence on the part of the state's voters, who have been held in thrall for years by liberal ideology and Kennedy mystique. That's progress.

It was also a reminder that American voters, even in true-blue Massachusetts, resent the idea that their representatives in Washington might ignore their wishes and enact a sweeping federal policy-- like health-care reform, in this case-- despite heavy public opposition. With the arrival of Senator Scott Brown on Capitol Hill, the
unpopular plan is apparently dead. That's progress, too. (As C.S. Lewis pointed out, when you realize that you're headed in the wrong direction, the best way to make progress is to turn back.)

However, I hope no one who read my analysis concluded that political sanity has returned to Massachusetts. We have a long, long way to go before a healthy political climate is restored. Consider: Senator-elect Brown is not pro-life. On the issue of health-care reform his vote may benefit the pro-life position; the state's largest pro-life group saw that as reason enough to endorse his candidacy. But Brown did not appeal for pro-life support, did not use pro-life arguments, did not mention pro-life issues. On the contrary, while his opponent Martha Coakley made her unswerving support for abortion the #1 issue in her campaign, Brown did his best to dodge the issue. He may now suspect that he won despite the support of pro-lifers, and liberal journalists will encourage him toward that conclusion. Republican consultants will tell their candidates to imitate Brown's campaign strategy, avoiding the abortion issue. Already the new Senator from Massachusetts is being touted as the ideal GOP candidate: populist in approach, patriotic, conservative on fiscal questions, and silent on social issues. In the long run, the upset in Massachusetts is more likely to benefit the "big tent" Republicans than the pro-life movement.

The Church remains silent. The majority of voters in Massachusetts are not registered in any political party. These independent voters swung the election for Scott Brown, demonstrating that they have finally escaped the magnetic force of the Kennedy family. But what will replace that influence? There's an old common-sense principle in politics: You can't beat somebody with nobody; you can't beat something with nothing. For 45 years Ted Kennedy offered a vision of what the political system should accomplish, and Massachusetts voters embraced that vision. When Martha Coakley put forward a very similar vision, the voters rejected it. But Scott Brown had no compelling vision. The Republican Party-- in Massachusetts, at least-- has no vision at all. And politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Someone will provide a new vision: a new model for politics. Who will it be? As I explained in my book The Faithful Departed, the Catholic Church was once, not too very long ago, the dominant force on the local scene, and set the agenda for discussion of public issues. But for more than a full generation now the Catholic influence has been waning, and Church institutions have been co-opted to serve the purposes of a secular liberal ideology.

If ever there was a time for a genuine Catholic revival in Massachusetts, now is that time. But it won't be easy; we have miles and miles to go.

This vote, and the general current of the country, is a rejection of the policies and tactics of the Obama administration. But one should soberly recognize that despite all that's happened in the last year, this nation hasn't embraced everything that is anti-Obama. There very well could be big victories for the loyal opposition over the next few years. This represents the ebb and flow of the political landscape, with the recent spike only came about because we have an aggressive administration that played too strong of a hand in too short of a time span. We haven't fundamentally changed. The liberals and their media allies only have to keep tearing down American values until something sticks, and they'll be back on top again.

As Catholics, we need to reclaim what has been lost. How can so many Catholics feel just fine in the pro-abortion camp? As Phil stated, we have such a long way to go. So don't take the wrong message from this election. If anything, this election shows what a terrible state we are in today. The victory for Scott Brown was a great thing, a very great thing indeed. However, it doesn't mean a collective light bulb went off in Massachusetts. Politicians on both sides of the aisle didn't stop being liars and cheats, for sale to the highest bidder. The only paradigm that shifted was that voters realized that Obama wasn't the transcendent leader that they believed he was only a year ago. And many of them will forget that lesson as soon as they learned it.

What we need is to begin to reclaim the Cafeteria Catholic into the genuine fold of the Church. Our bishops and priests are incrementally moving in that direction as best as I can see. This is one long road, though. The ranks of our priests are poisoned with some bad apples. Our parish and diocesan staffs are infiltrated with Marxists, feminists, and pragmatists. Our schools seem more of a reflection of the modern culture than an escape from it.

We will know we are there when we can have open and frank discussions on moral issues like abortion with our neighbors. Abortion's worst nightmare is an honest discussion. Abortion cannot stand up to any logical construction. It stands upon lies and convenient sound bytes. Yet a real discussion can't take place. Even conservative talk radio avoids the issue. In public, both sides throw long-standing phrases past each other, and the real questions are never addressed. Bringing up a topic like this could even get you fired at work.

How can any one's mind change if we can't talk about it? A unified Catholic Church is the first step in that direction. We can't transform the culture if we can't get our own house in order. If we have the Church as a solid base, the citizenry will find the courage to put abortion, and all other "extreme" issues, back into the public square.

The message of this post: Hurrah for Scott! Now the rest of you, don't get your hopes up or let your guard down. Nothing earth shattering happened or is likely to happen soon. Our best hope is to support the Church in her movement away from silence and more towards cultural confrontation.

UPDATE: So, you ask yourself, what did he mean when he said, "Yet a real discussion can't take place?" If I could write good, maybe I would have wrote something like this here:

A survey of the justifications advanced by scientists, philosophers, and other members of the elite class, such as judges, to justify the legalization of induced abortion reveals that they have abandoned rational inquiry in favor of ideology. For although their arguments have the trappings of the objectivity of scientific method and other marks of rational inquiry, it is clear that they subvert reason and manipulate evidence to actualize an ideal that they perceive to be above all rational criticism. This enslavement to ideology is but a reenactment of what happened in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to the detriment of science and philosophy, not to mention the degradation of human life.

Inatius Insight has a detailed explanation as to why we can't argue the case for life. Part II is here. That ought to make Andy's eyes glaze over.