Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

See? Told ya.

"An optimist has no brakes, but a pessimist has no engine." Sign hanging behind the desk at my mechanic's office.

The lovely and gracious Karen will, in the sweet by-and-by, come around to shake her pessimism (I'll bet a kidney she thinks she's being a realist. Sh'yeah.) and not for any reason other than because she will eventually be unable to bear the weight of grain upon grain of good news raining down on her.

She herself writes:

I just returned from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (no, I am not suffering from the delusion that I am one) and one of the participants was a Jesuit that I am adding to my "good guy" list. He is Fr. Joseph Koterski, SJ; he is the Chair of the Philosphy department at Fordham and he has published eleventy bazillion articles, for anyone who wants to know him better.

I felt very blessed to have had the opportunity to attend the Mass over which he presided
.

Dutifully clicking the links shows Fr. Koterski to be, in Wodehouse's words, "one of nature's ripest." University Faculty For Life*? Cardinal Newman Society? This is priceless, priceless stuff. Anyone with an interest in the future of the Company in particular and academic Christianity in general has much to rejoice over when reading Fr. Koterski's C.V.

AMDG,

-J.

* At first I misread that and assumed it was some weird tenure thing. See? Even I make mistakes.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Oooh. A sale!

As you may know, this summer the family and I decided to burn up the rest of our FF miles on a vacation package to Disneyland (being ever-so-jaded with Walt Disney World) and during that trip we had the opportunity to visit (briefly!) the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.

Given the ::cough, cough:: Archdiocese in question, most people would be amazed at how wonderful, gloriously orthodox, dynamic, serving and on-fire-for-the-faith these women are. (Pray for them!!!) Anyway, they couldn't have possibly been more hospitable. Earlier that summer I had a business project go somewhat better than planned, and after prayin' up a storm over it, I was able to make a modest donation to the Carmelite Sisters. Anyway, even though there were 4 (4?) sisters making final vows that day, and all sorts of hectic-ness going on, Mother Regina Marie took time out from her exceedingly busy schedule to meet with us and all that. Even in the midst of all that hectic activity they threw breakfast at us. Figuratively, I mean. Including this brioche thing with a dark chocolate swirl that assures me whichever Sister baked it is assured a place in Heaven. I had to remind myself that 1- Gluttony is a sin and 2- I haven't seen my abdominal muscles in some time and this deliciousness wasn't going to help. But it was achingly hard to not eat it all.

So--and I'm homing in on the point of this post, I promise--upon returning I thought about how unfailingly kind they have been to me and my family and, gee, I oughta do something nice for them as a thank you. (The good Jesuit fathers drummed it into our heads that in order to be a Catholic gentleman, one had to be both thoroughly a Catholic and thoroughly a gentleman.) But given that we had had their bread and salt, I didn't just want to scribble a note and dash it off.

So I thought, much like Winnie the Pooh used to, and thought some more and I recalled that at their library they were a bit low on books by Jesuits. (Karen, they already have several biographies of St. Ignatius...I thought of that first.) I know the Sisters have an affinity of a certain kind of Jesuit. When Frs. Buckley and Fessio (see where I'm going with this?) went from the University of San Francisco to a hospital as chaplains it was to Duarte, CA...the medical center run by (you guessed it!) the very same Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. I believe the exact words used were "we snapped them up!" So I had that going for me.

Now, what to get? So I rummaged online and after a somewhat convoluted path, I found a web page on the estimable Fr. John Hardon, SJ. That webpage was attached to an apologetics blog (http://socrates58.blogspot.com) and perusing that blog I see it's run by Dave Armstrong, whose books and writings I have enjoyed for years.

So!

His latest entry is on the fact he's having a sale of his e-books (I think he needs more hard disk space or something?) and therefore $25 gets you 11 books. With a special discount if you jump through a couple of none-too-bad hoops; which you'll have to discover on your own. Frs. Fessio and Hardon have spoken very highly of him and his works and just thumbing through the blog, as it were, is enough to assure me his work...in the words of the movie Swingers..is "money, baby!"

Go now, and place your order.

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. I ended up finding a MINT copy of Fr. Hardon's exhaustive book on the Catechism for the Sisters.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Memo from "The Better Late Than Never, Dept."

Somehow I missed this meme thing with which the estimable Shan has tagged me.

Five Things in my Freezer
1. Homemade chicken stock
2. Ice
3. Limoncello
4. The insert thingy for the ice cream maker
5. Pearl onions.

Five Things in my Closet
1. My camera stuff, gathering dust
2. Half of my shoes
3. Suits
4. Shirts
5. The tie rack I need to fasten to the closet wall so I can hang my ties properly

Five Items in my Car.
1. Car cover. (It gets HOT here, and Italian cars are not generally cars with highly efficient a/c systems)
2. My MP3 player
3. My Leatherman multi-tool thing
4. Jumper cables. “Just in case.”
5. Leather folder thingy to put in the manual, maintenance records and receipts.

Five interesting things in my backpack
Backpack? Dude, I'm 42...I haven't carried a backpack in 20 years. But I carry an attaché case, wherein I have:
1. My rosary.
2. My PDA.
3. My cell phone.
4. My pen du jour (don't ask).
5. Whatever book I'm reading.

I hereby tag Ryan J. Duns SJ (newly designated Chairman of Fordham's Tin Whistle Department) and the talented and gracious Karen.

AMDG,

-J.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Better late than never UPDATED

I finally updated my blogroll.

I know.

I'm terrible.

-J.

P.S. OK. The Techn-O-Rati thingy I used to update the blogrool isn't, y'know, infallible. I promise to try again.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Don't blame me.

Last night, the gracious and talented Karen and I exchanged a volley of emails which, eventually, swerved on the matter of catechesis.

In my reply to her, I wrote:

I grew up in one of the last places where V2 tookroot. My boredom was on my parents' list of concerns somewhere between #872 (fatal jellyfish attack) and#874 (scurvy). So we were dragged to Mass, and I was bored. My sisterand I went to single-sex schools (the Jesuit bootcamp in question is a 6-12 dealie) where I, at least, had to memorize the Baltimore Catechism. (I never bothered to see what my kid sister was up to, but the sisters were an unhabited lot, which always makes my antennae twitch.)

So, I um, wandered away. At no point did I ever stand up and shout "I renounce this teaching as unbiblical!" or anything like that. I just stopped thinking about it and given the zeitgeist (early 1980s), I went along to get along. There may have been girls, as well as spirituous liquors, involved at some point.

But after cracking my melon eleventy gazillion times between Confirmation and age, say, 30 (we're rounding off, but play along) I started to remember all the things Fr. Justin drilled into me, between declensions. Fr. Justen was exactly my idea of a Jesuit. He was a hard@$$. He was acerbic. He was inexpressively brilliant. He was invariably right. He HATED (hated, I tell you!) the reforms of the 1970s and when asked about why he did X when, in the Spirit of V2 he ought've been doing Y, he would reply he was eagerly awaiting news of the council. (This being 1978.) He was hilarious. He was also secretly kind. He started smiling towards the end of the 2nd semester of every school year, and then only at seniors.

So that's how I teach my class. I openly tell them "they are relieved of the responsibility of enjoying themselves." I tell them what is expected of them, which is A LOT. I refuse to hold their hands and I make them memorize and discuss. I call them by their last name, Miss X and Mr. Y. Yes, even when I was teaching 4th graders.

That said, I'm also (I hope) funny. And funny is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. I sling out analogies THEY can understand. I explain why the Church is right and Elbonianists are wrong. (Big thanks to Fr. Justin, who was an ardent apologist.) And they, somehow, get it.

They have a midterm, and a final and assignments and homework. I hand out a syllabus! In CCD. Stop and ponder that for a moment. What's even more unfathomable is that they take it seriously and study.

I talk straight, shoot straight and expect more than they think they can provide me. THEN, when the kids from Jesuit school (or the other non-parochial Catholic schools who must attend CCD) come back and tell me they ACED their religion final their eyes are opened.

The boys like it that they KNOW that I know what I'm talking about when I tell them "X is a bad idea, besides being a sin." The girls like it that I tell them (politely, natch) exactly what is on the minds of 15 year old boys. (There's a very funny story on this for another time.)

I throw out Bible references all the time with Bible references. (No easy feat for a cradle Catholic, y'know. Another huge debt to Fr. Justin.) I explain where Confirmation and Confession show up in the Bible. And Purgatory.

I make them attend Confession during Advent and Lent.

What I specifically avoid doing is showing "earnestness" or "enthusiasm." I had catechists like
that and, as Wodehouse used to write, "they gave me the pip." I don't show any of those ULTRA LAME videos found in 90% of the CCD offices in the USA. I use video clips of the Passion of The Christ to teach them about the Rosary. I use the textbooks (for which, um, I don't care) the least amount permissible. If I'm really going to kick it old school, I might as well do the thing properly and go with the Baltimore Catechism*.

My favorite thing? We're all assigned a seminarian to be our aide, and chime in and generally help out. "My" seminarians invariably start taking notes.

A big help is that I'm at an Old Skool parish, with Carmelites Sisters all over the place in full-on habits (what my friend P. calls "regalia") and everyone expects there to be hard@$$edness. Even the 1st graders here know what it means to forego the Eucharist, where Jesus is actually present "in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity." Oh, yeah, a lot of the students come back in subsequent years as volunteers.


Now, what Karen really wanted me to post was my syllabus, which I did Baltimore Catechism-like. Here 'tis:

Part The First–About Our Teacher

1- Who is to be our teacher?
Our teacher is to be J.M. García.

2- How are we to address/refer to our teacher?
We are to address/refer to our teacher as Mr. García. Tasteful acts of veneration are strictly optional.

3- Why is Mr. García our teacher?
The reason why Mr. García is our teacher is a Mystery.

4- How is Mr. García different from most other teachers?
Mr. García is different from most other teachers in that he gives Tests and Assignments.

Part The Second–About Our Class

5- What tests does Mr. García give us?
The tests Mr. García gives us are a Midterm and a Final.

6- What sort of test will our Midterm be, and material will be included on our Midterm?
Our Midterm will be 50 multiple-choice questions, 25 short-answer questions and 25 True-or-False questions, with additional extra-credit questions. The material included on our Midterm will be the material covered in class, or assigned as homework, until the next-to-last day of class in December. This is Mr. García’s idea of a Christmas gift to us.

7- What sort of test will the Final be, and material will be included on the Final?
The Final can be one of two types. For those of us who passed the Midterm, it will be of 50 true/false and multiple-choice questions. For those of us who failed the Midterm, it will be of 100 true/false and multiple-choice questions. The material included on the Final will be the material covered in class, or assigned as homework, until the next-to-last day of class in April. This is Mr. García’s idea of an Easter basket to us.

8- What kinds of questions should we expect on our Tests?
The two kinds of questions we should expect on our Tests are: Hard questions and Trick questions. This is to prepare us for life, when God will allow difficulties to arise to test us, and Satan will try to trick us.

9- Why does Mr. García give us tests?
Mr. García gives us tests to foreshadow Purgatory for those who pass them and Hell for those who do not.

10- What assignments does Mr. García give us?
The assignments Mr. García gives us are related to reading Scripture, praying and learning prayers, all of which will prove useful in helping us pass Mr. García’s class.

11- Do students learn in Mr. García’s class?
Students learn in Mr. García’s class more than they realize.

12- Why do students learn so much in Mr. García’s class?
Students learn in Mr. García’s class because they are afraid.

13- Why are students in Mr. García’s class afraid?
Because they have fear of the Lord, which Mr. García makes students keep in mind.

Part The Third–About Our Expectations

14- How can students pass Mr. García’s class?
Students can pass Mr. García’s class by application, supplication and study.

15- How do we define application?
We define application to be making the maximum effort to learn the material covered this year, and include it in our daily lives.

16- How do we define supplication?
We define supplication to be praying to God the Father that we may be open to the material covered this year, to the Holy Spirit that we may be enlightened in our tests and assignments and to Jesus Christ that Mr. García grades us with extreme mercy.

17- How do we define study?
We define study as looking over our texts, handouts and other materials on our own time and is a form of prayer to Jesus Christ that Mr. García grades us with mercy, and the likeliest one to be answered the desired way.

18- What is the purpose of this class?
The purpose of this class will be to prepare us to receive and be worthy of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, from which we are quite far at this point.

19- How can this class prepare us to receive and be worthy of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation?
How this class prepares us to receive, and be worthy of receiving, the Sacrament of Confirmation is a Mystery. It seems we need abundant applications of the Holy Spirit.

20- Besides class, what else will we be doing throughout the year?
Besides class, we will, at various points throughout the year, be attending Mass, going to Confession, participating in sessions with our sponsors, watching films, attending a retreat, and participating in prayer services related to the Sacrament of Confirmation. We might consider these excursions away from the classroom a mini-vacation, but we would be wrong to do so.

21- What will be expected of us students this year?
Students this year are expected to attend every Monday night on the schedule, to have selected a Patron Saint by [insert date], to have selected a proper Confirmation Sponsor by [insert date], to have completed a Confirmation Journal before the appointed date and to have completed 45 hours of Community Service.

22- What are we expected to do every Monday night on the schedule?
We are expected to arrive at assembly on time, walk to our classrooms in some semblance of silence, sit in our assigned seats quietly and speak only when Mr. García calls upon us.

23- How are we to select a Patron Saint?
We are to select a Patron Saint with reflection, meditation and prayer, after having studied the saints carefully, since we will take as our Confirmation Name the name of this Patron Saint, who is to intercede for us, to guide us and assist us. We are not to select a Patron Saint because he or she has a cool name, like St. Fabian, or a funny name like St. Eusebius, or a smarty-pants name like St. Louis, St. Bernard, St. Nicholas or St. Valentine. The worst thing of all for us to do is to come up with a made-up name like St. Vituperius or St. Elsewhere.

24- How are we to select a proper Confirmation Sponsor?
We are to select a proper Confirmation Sponsor from someone who is a friend or relative who is a practicing Catholic and over 18 years of age. That means, for example, that a 15-year old who is divorced and living with someone else’s concubine and a stolen poodle would be not be acceptable as a sponsor.

25- How are we to complete 45 hours of community service?
We are to complete 45 hours of community service by volunteering to do, or join in, activities that are of benefit to others. Since it is a good exercise in resisting temptation, we will not count (towards the 45 hours): chores, things we do for our friends anyway, things for which we are paid, and/or any community service hours the judge gave us in court.

26- How are we to complete our Confirmation Journal?
We are to complete our Confirmation Journal based on the answers we give at our Sponsor Sessions, and we should include details of our activities with our Sponsor and of our Community Service. We are to type it, in consideration of Mr. García, who will be aging rapidly as he teaches us, possibly as a direct result.

27- What are we to bring to class every time?
We are to bring to class, every time, our Student Bible, paper and pen/pencil for taking notes (there will be lots of notes) and our textbooks. It will also be handy to bring in a Rosary (you’ll get one at the retreat, if you are currently Rosary-deprived). Taking needed items from the desk of the student where you are sitting is a Very Bad Idea, and clearly sinful stuff, requiring you to go to Confession. Having a separate CCD book bag is a great idea, hint-hint.

28- Whom should we contact with any questions?
Contact the Office of Religious Education with any questions. Preferably just before lunch.

Thus endeth the lesson.

-J.

* Which reminds me of SNL's Hans & Franz: "Hear me now and believe me later." Too much emphasis has been placed on having kids "understand" stuff. I believe in knowing stuff. To understand is to acquire wisdom via the application of knowledge to circumstances.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wine Spectating.

OK.

I'm rummaging through Holy Writ, as is my wont, and I am struck by something. (I mean struck by something I was reading, as opposed to struck by a hunk of plaster off the ceiling.) I had noticed the frequent comparison between "us" and sheep* before. But that whole wine/vineyard thing had escaped me.

We see a lot of references to the vineyard, vines, vineyard of the Lord and the question naturally sprang forth of "Um...why all this vineyard and wine stuff? Why not dairy and milk? Or grove and juice?" It has to do with the fact it takes some measure of process to reach "wine."
So, I was shooting emails back and forth with the lovely and talented Karen, when this popped into my head, down my arms, out my fingertips and onto the keyboard. So, because I'm a giver, I share it with youse:

That is to say, I've been a grape, I've been crushed, I've had all the stems and seeds and skins removed, I've been juice, and now I'm starting to ferment. Not yet a stellar vintage, I'm afraid.

Some people start out as grapes and get botrytized** on the vine and rot and fall off. Or fall off and wither into raisins. But those that are to become wine must undergo...stuff. Crushing and plucking and filtering and all that. We have to do the very same, if we're to reach the goal of "becoming wine" that is, we have to endure a lot. In the process, our seed sprouts new vines in the Lord's vineyard. Which is what God is telling us.

Which is why we must pray for vocations, that more will become laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.

AMDG,

-J.

* More on that later.
** Some, who are caught in time, turn into a particularly rare and sweet wine, but now I may be getting all carried away with this metaphor.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Do you remember where you were?

Today marks the 5th Anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/01. [Pretend there's a picture here...Blogger's acting up. Again.]

In this blog, I try to respect privacy, so I rarely (ever?) give out last names, infrequently first names. While still doing this, I'd like you all to specifically keep Timothy S. in your prayers today.

Tim was 41-42 years old. He had a beautiful wife and an enviable marriage, with three gorgeous children aged 5, 3 and 1. He had just gotten a great promotion at a certain financial services firm. Five years ago today, he and about 3000 other innocents were murdered. The first plane struck right at the floor where his firm's office was located. He died on impact and his family, I believe, has never recovered anything to bury. I fear there was nothing left of him.

Like Karen, I have no way of having experienced 9/11 through the prism of a "regular" person. Someone I knew died. Someone good and kind and honest and loving. Killed by a murderous hatred given a genocidal expression. So, today I remember him and his family, I remember all those who helped, all those who perished.

I am reminded that whether we like it or not, we are now at war. I fear it may be WW III, but either way, we are at war. Along with with prayers for the abovementioned, I also pray for our enemies -- not that it's so easy -- that God may turn their hearts from their venomous hatred, and for the innocents who are the inevitable casualties of war.

Today I am reminded of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Julia Ward Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My condemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

AMDG,

-J.

Still here!

I am still alive. I have much to blog, since I have been swamped with family and work obligations.

Oh, tonight's the first night of CCD, so keep me and my students in your prayers.

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. Jesuit John, if you're reading this, do NOT click here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

...and here's why.

Sorry to have been out of the loop these last few days. My great-uncle C. died on Friday. He is the last one of my grandparents' generation* to go, and he died at age 100 + a few weeks. Surprisingly, he had been in excellent health until Tuesday when his heart started failing. After that his decline was rapid and, thank God, painless. He was a good man, a gentleman in every sense of the word: kind, loyal, learned, wise, charitable, pious and ridiculously erudite; full of enthusiasm and integrity. He had been a professor, then dean of the school of commerce and eventually president of the University of Havana until the [spit] Communists [/spit] threw him in jail for "counter-revolutionary activities." He became a senior partner at a Very Big Accounting firm and he helped train thousands of of the partners from Latin America until he finally REALLY retired around age 85.

He finally joins my great-aunt (he had widowed about 6 years ago), but down here he will be missed greatly. So that's why I have been out and will be until Wednesday-ish. Your prayers for the respose of his soul will be immensely appreciated.

-J.

* Hard to believe he was "the baby."