Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, May 26, 2006

RIP - Fr. Todd

Fr. Todd returned to Our Lord this past Wednesday the 24th.

I'm stupefied.

PLEASE leave condolences for his family here.

AMDG,

-J.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Why We Fight."

If you want to see the TOTAL opposite, 180-degrees-out-of-phase with the way I view Catholicism, click here.

Wow.

Just...wow.

-J.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It matters most. Here's why.

Every once in a while, someone who is a bit (or a lot) less traditional than I am asks me a question that (apologies to Bob Newhart) goes a little something like this:

"Don't we have bigger things to worry about than being the rubrics-police? Shouldn't we be focusing on clothing the naked/quenching the thirsty/eradicating pestilence/etc.?"

The short answer, I'm afraid, is "No, we do not."

Before I launch into why I believe this is, allow me to throw in my favorite bit o' Holy Writ on the subject:

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he reclined at table. But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, "To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." When Jesus heard this, He said unto them, "Why trouble ye the woman? She hath wrought a good work upon Me. For ye have the poor always with you; but Me, ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial. Verily I say unto ye: Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

You will kindly note the sentiment expressed by the disciples "To what purpose is this waste?" is identical to the one at the top of this post. In the search for goodness and holiness in results, people often forget the work that must precede it and, should that work cease to be done, the goodness and holiness, seemingly disconnected (or very distantly connected) will inevitably wither and die.

And then people scratch their melons and wonder why the whole thing fell apart. Earlier I wrote of the necessity of evangelization and catechetization if we are to see peace, kindness, charity, goodness, justice, temperance, etc., etc., breaking out all over the world. The germ of this is a reverence for the Lord. Things that foster reverence for God will lead people to be better catechized, to evangelize, to treat others with dignity and fairness.

This is why it's important to adhere to the norms that give us that sense of reverence, that "awe and wonder" that teaches and reminds us that God is not (as opposed to Zaphod Beeblebrox) "...just this guy, you know?" There is nothing more important than how we worship God and the homage we do Him. Nothing at all. If we fail to do this, all our good works, all our nicey-nice intentions, all our efforts are nothing but a vanity, a carefully constructed chain of elaborate links hanging on to a nail affixed firmly to...thin air.

Part of what fosters reverence is a sense of the universality of the Universal Church. You can't get that sense if at St. X they are all about bongos, tambourines and kumbaya, and at St. Y, it's Ye Olde Yells, Bells and Smells. Adherence to norms means there is a sense of geographical continuity and an enhanced sense of the global nature of the Church. There is a difference between the current "Ain't we grand?" approach and "We are all in this together."

Another part of fostering reverence is--as a desecrated altarpiece from a synagogue, on exhibit at the Holocaust Museum read--to "Know Before Whom You Stand." If Jesus walked in through your front door, would you run out with that alabaster jar? Or would you be mindful of the "waste?" The same way we must be aware His Body and Blood are consecrated in the proper vessels, not cheap baskets and Kool-AidTM pitchers. How does this glorify God? How does this put the faithful in the frame of mind to recognize the infinite gulf between Him and us?

If we do not make active, conscious, ceaseless efforts to remind ourselves of this gap--a gap only God can bridge--we are in reality just rebuilding Babel. We just cloak our vain nature in nobler aspirations, but it's the same thing. With, inevitably and eventually, the same results.

With a loss of reverence--of an active and constant recognition of the unimaginable distance between us and God--sooner or later, everything falls apart. Everything. Every last itty-bitty little thing. Vocations deflate, morals erode, civility evaporates, injustice and violence abound, mercy crumbles, courage disappears, repentance desiccates and kindness and goodness take a powder.

This is why "rules matter," why those of us who long for greater adherence to norm continue to struggle and work and pray. Not because we want to stick it to the BirkenstockTM crowd, not because we want to quench the Spirit, not because we are backward-looking nostalgists. We do this because we long to see certain fruits in abundance at the harvest and we know the only way to get them is to plant seeds a certain way, nurture the seedlings and trees a certain way and care for the leaves and blossoms and buds a certain way. This is because we know that when this was standard operating procedure in the Church, the measurable aspects of its impact were in a positive trend. What works, works.

"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto ye.

AMDG,

-J.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What Lola wants, Lola gets...

The lovely and talented Karen hath issued taggage unto me:

Accent: Generic American, with tinges of Grosse Pointedness.
B____: There is no "B" entry.
Chore I Hate: All chores. Forced to narrow it down to one, I'd say picking up and shelving the reading materials I have enjoyed reading.
Dog or Cat: Neither. We have a fish tank which I refuse to acknowledge.
Essential Electronics: Laptop, home theatre.
Favorite Cologne: Used to be Monogram, but now it's Polo Blue.
Gold or Silver: Gold. White gold. Looks silver-like but it's expensive, but only you know it's expensive, so you're not being flashy and tasteless.
Hometown: Miami, Florida.
Insomnia: Nightly.
Job Title: SAHD sometimes and Strategic Consultant the rest of the time.
Kids: Two.
Living arrangements: House. Wife and kids.
Most admirable traits: Brilliant and hilarious conversationalist, with a working knowledge of almost everything.
N____: There is no "N" entry.
Overnight hospital stays: One. Tonsils.
Phobias: None. I pity the phobic.
Quote: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Mark Twain
Religion: High Church, Orthodox, Traditionalist Roman Catholic. Some days seemingly the last one left.
Siblings: One sister, younger, bossy.
Time I wake up: 6:30am if I went to sleep around 2am, or 2am if I went to sleep at 10pm. Basically, 4 hours after falling asleep.
Unusual talent or skill: Coming up with lyrics on the fly.
Vegetables I refuse to eat: The unspeakably vile bell pepper. The briny and bitter olive.
Worst habit: Procrastination.
X-rays: One, broken arm, age 9.
Yummy foods I make: The basic Euro-Mediterranean repertoire. (Ethnically speaking, I am 3/4 Iberic and 1/4 Italic) Pasta from scratch, all the major tapas food groups, anything grilled. Impressive brunch stuff, working knowledge of Creole/Cajun and Caribbean and Southwest. Put it this way: I have 9' x 4' of shelving CRAMMED with cookbooks.
Z____: There is no "Z" entry.

AMDG,

-J.

Mea (et Tua) Maxima Culpa

It's about bloody time I weighed in on the Da Vinci Code.

As you may have noticed, I try to keep things positive and forward-looking on this blog (the unwritten motto of which is "I ain't got time to bleed"). I leave it to others to get all bent outa shape over heterodoxy, heresy, blasphemy and all that jazz. There is enough of that (and enough of that which is done well) for me to try to muscle in with, essentially, a glorified and overwrought "me too."

So you won't read here about how awful the book and/or movie is/are. Or read terrible things about Dan Brown, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Sony Pictures or the guy who plays the albino. Amen, amen I say to you, they've already had their reward.

I'm here to discuss the beam/board/plank/log in our collective eye.

There is one reason why we, as ostensibly committed people of faith, are in this mess. We have done, over the last 40something years, an ABYSMAL job of catechizing and evangelizing. At every opportunity, at every turn, at every single solitary last pivotal moment, we have dropped the ball. Much like a drowning man will grab an anvil, so will a society (long ago set adrift from its Judeo-Christian moorings) leap for the unapologetic--if wildly erroneous--certainty of drivel like The Da Vinci Code.

In a way I look at it like Pearl Harbor. It's not an "opportunity to dialogue" but a potentially defining moment. Not in whether it tanks at the box office, or we can muster eleventy gazillion people of all faiths and creeds to protest, picket, march or boycott. It's a potentially defining moment because we can stand up for what we believe, we can reach out to those ensnared in lies, confusion, doubletalk and spiritual fog.

Remember, kids, Satan doesn't want their soul. He just doesn't want their soul to go with God. That's it. Satan doesn't have to talk anyone into Hell, all he has to do is talk them out of Heaven...and he does not, as has become plainly obvious, abide by truth in advertising laws.

AMDG,

-J.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Three's the charm.

It drives me mental when there is something (or, in this case, somethingS) which I have beheld and known and never bothered to connect. It's embarrassing enough to make a guy hand in his Mensa card in shame, but there ya go.

Anyway.

I was pondering Holy Writ--as is my wont--and I came across the bit of Peter (not yet St. Peter) and his rather squalid trifecta of denial as re. Christ. Then the thought struck me, "Why three? Why not, say, two...or five?"

Then it hit me.

If you'll flip back to the Gospel according to St. John, you'll notice that in 14:6 Christ tells 'em He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. By Chapter 18, Peter is denying up a storm, unable to withstand the oh-so-relentless verbal onslaught of the servant girl (D-R calls her a "portress" which means she watched the door or something) and he launches into his denial hat trick. What Peter had done by his denial was deny Christ was the Way, then he denied Christ was the Truth, and finally that Christ was the Life. Put another way, he denied that Christ was the means, goal and result of following God's revealed truths.

Not good. Peter, of all people, knew better and from way back (Jn. 6:70) and had openly said so: "Thou art the Christ." Big surprise he "wept bitterly."

Mind you, Peter had followed Jesus when almost everyone else had scattered, which is why he was available for the servant girl to inquire of him. Like elsewhere (walking on water, anyone?), Peter's faith runs out midway through. Peter is like a vintage sports car (again with the car analogies?) that sputters, stumbles, stalls and it's only when it finally manages to start up properly that it roars and revs.

We tend to be like that, at least the sputtering part. What bothers God is not so much that we sputter...but that we don't eventually "catch" and rev like He meant us to do.

AMDG,

-J.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bishop Robert Finn sums it all up.

In a nice, neat little bundle, here it is:

A bishop's job is to help Catholics respond to their baptismal call to holiness, grow in the sacramental life and be closer to God, in short, to help everyone become saints. "You can't say it more simply or profoundly than that," he said. "Our goal is to get ourselves to heaven and take as many people with us as we can."

AMDG,

-J.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wow.

Over at The Cafeteria Is Closed, Gerald commented on an editorial at NCR which cast a critical eye on Bishop Finn of Kansas City. I rather agreed with Gerald's take on the editorial, and when I went to append a comment I ran into this one from "Sage:"

What is so striking to me about articles like this is what they reveal about the progressive mindset. There is the strangest hypocrisy about the radical mind that I have never quite managed to tease out, though better writers than me have expressed the problem reasonably well.

What I'm referring to is this: Radicals in positions of power never come to acknowledge and accept their role as The Establishment. When the Spirit of Vatican II descended on parishes and diocese around the country, the effect was like that of a nuclear blast. Established ways of believing and of doing things were trampled underfoot by "reforming" Bishops and lay people with all the glee of a beach bully demolishing a sand castle. Nothing, not the liturgy or even (especially?) the very bricks and mortar of the Churches themselves, was to be held too sacred for the ravages of the progressive agenda. The determination to remake Catholicism in the mold of newfangled ideologies and left-wing political agendas was unremitting and merciless. All resistance was dismissed as illegitimate and dangerous. Millions abandoned the Faith altogether, and soul-wrenching heartbreak was ubiquitous. I have heard tales directly from the mouths of older priests who literally wept at the altar for, as they said, they were powerless to resist and their only chance of survival was to accommodate the whims of the advocates of "reform."

Now, at no point did the arbitrary exercise of power for these purposes, so reckless and so obviously infused with an "agenda," ever come to be seen as somehow illegitimate. The mentality which reigns among revolutionaries, from France to St. Petersburg, has been one of "permanent revolution." Once in power, in order to avoid the stigma of establishmentarianism, and in order to avoid the suggestion that they really are The Man now, revolutionaries must always insist that their work has only begun, and any remaining trace of the old order is seized upon with zealous righteousness as a sign of reactionary elements, as vindication that their work is only beginning. These tiny sparks are held up as justification for the relentless pursuit of purification, and therefore of the power wielded by the revolutionaries.

Thus, it is not enough to set fire to the liturgy of one's own parish. It becomes necessary to go much further, by denying anyone the positive right to practice older, pre-revolutionary forms of liturgy. Any embers of the the past must be stamped out entirely, and the work of doing so must be cast as so important that it justifies the continued dominance of a small and out-of-touch revolutionary elite. Catechism must be re-written or thrown out altogether, altars must literally be smashed to make way for the New Order, sacramental Confessions truncated, tabernacles removed and hidden, priestly authority assaulted from every direction, ancient music discarded as though it were nothing, Adoration reduced or eliminated altogether, secular administrators and educators must be brought in to reshape spiritual formation and Catechesis, and on and on endlessly without reprieve.

Now, as the radicals are beginning in some places to lose their dictatorial control, even the most modest rollback of their all-encompassing program is viewed with wild despair. The exercise of any power not their own is decried as authoritarian and tyrannical, and the mere presence of any agenda at all--even a plainly pastoral and simply Catholic one--is cast in the most darkly suspicious tones. The self-serving hypocrisy of it all is so brazen that it must require an act of the will. Presenting their own halcyon days as somehow devoid of agendas and power-seeking, as somehow non-ideological, as a period of peaceful and merely organic change, becomes the necessary lie that they must tell themselves and others. No matter how obviously untrue this story is, they must repeat it in order to assume the role of the put-upon victims of unwanted change, even if this role reversal is laughable in its implausibility to any ordinary observer.

Expect more of this sort of thing. The poor-little-old-me-what-did-we-ever-do-to-deserve- this-sort-of-treatment line is going to be the broken record in the background for the next fifty years or more. Stand firm, and let the Restoration proceed with all the zeal of the revolution that preceded it. For, the "agenda" we bring is not sprung from our foreheads like Athena the goddess of war leaping sword-in-hand from the head of Zeus. We come not with the bloody scythe of the revolutionary, but with the warm and life-giving earth of the eternal Church militant. It is the tradition of thousands of years and the only remaining hope for real renewal of the life of the Church. Indeed, it is the only hope there ever was, for any one of us.

Well said!

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. The Catholic Pillow Fight has an excellent perspective on this matter as well.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Progress!

I want to offer my prayers (and ask for yours) for my friend CR who was ordained Saturday. I guess that makes him Father CR now, huh? Anyway, not 5 hours after being ordained he was celebrating his first Mass. Of course, being a young (20something) man, his first Mass had lots of acoustic guitars, tambourines, bongos and he "rapped" the homily.

Just kidding. It's 2006, not 1972, and young men ordained to the priesthood don't do that whole bongos 'n' Birkenstocks hootenanny nearly as often.

Instead, the Mass was a Missa Normativa, with a generous use of Latin (which doubtlessly helped as he and his family are Italian and SoFla is a community more-or-less equally divided among native English- and Spanish-speakers) and all the "yells bells and smells" that one associates with that long forgotten attribute of reverence.

Which goes to show he is a liturgical moderate, as I am.

God bless you and your ministry, Fr. CR!

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. Yes, Karen, he gave a hearty plug to Vocation Sunday...and all communion was distributed by priests. (There were eleventy gazillion priests concelebrating.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

While you're at it.

My friend L. is going to visit the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word in Birmingham, Alabama, the latest step in his journey of discernment. Please keep him in your prayers, that God may reveal His will to him, and that he receive the graces to carry that out.

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. If Fr. Pacwa wants to talk to you about the Society of Jesus... ;-)

The Joys of Vicarious Blogging

WARNING.

If you go here

http://roamingroman.blogspot.com

and you start going through the archives, you will look up and suddenly realize you have evaporated HOURS of your time. So make sure you don't have anything pressing to do!

AMDG,

-J.