Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yay, Team!

Over at the Ignatius Press blog, Joseph Felice Previtali gives us a preview of the USA team vying for the Clericus Cup. (The "Vatican World Cup" if you will)

Go check it out!


Friday, February 23, 2007


Several people have asked me, most recently BobK in the combox of my previous post, about my teaching CCD.

First, I am indebted to the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. For the last ___ years our DRE has been one of the Sisters, so we are blessed to have a Religious Education program that is both 100% solid and deadly serious. In many places it's one or the other..and sometimes neither. So, my approach my CCD classes with the serious intent to properly catechize a group of confirmandi is actually met with -- gasp! -- strong support. This is key.

Speaking strictly for myself, I go by straight by the Catechism. After all, what better way to catechize, right? It doesn't matter what students I get in a given year, private school kids from very affluent families, non-parochial Catholic school students, or public schoolers: They all get the Catechism. I riff off the Baltimore Catechism as re. format and content, but try to throw in some analogies and examples that will resonate within the 14 y.o. cranium. My desire is not to prattle on from August to April on arcane matters. I want these kids to own this material. Given the way our culture has changed, giving kids the "why" is crucial.

Since this is a stright-up Catechism, I also make a studious lack of use of whatever textbook I am assigned.

I also try to convey my own passion and my own witness, without being all "rah-rah" or turgid or stolid. Now, I couldn't do any of this without the aforesaid support. In fact, I wouldn't do any of this without the aforesaid support. If our DRE said that kids get confirmed even if they don't know a church from a chamberpot, that's when I'd tender my resignation. I have plenty of material to address at my particular judgment, without the added burden of answering for letting undeserving students receive a Sacrament. Just not worth the additional Purgatory time, nuh-uh.

I have said it eleventy squajillion times: ALL our problems -- show me where I'm mistaken -- as a Church are the direct result of the nonexistent catechesis of the last 40 or so years. So, I take it as my row to hoe to correct this when I am assigned students. If you are giving of yourself to Catechize, God bless you. It can be very frustrating and vexing, but ultimately you are planting seeds. When I see a former student of mine, now in college (!) standing in line for Confession or hearing Mass by him/herself, I realize it has all be worth it.



Wednesday, February 21, 2007


First, a hat tip to The Curt Jester for the cool graphic.

Second, I want to express how pleased I am in this morning's Mass. Sometimes we get visiting priests who lean towards the bongo/kumbaya/tambourine thing, but today Fr. S delivered not only as reverent and beautiful a Mass as may be had in English (especially notable, given the appalling current ICEL translation), but when the time came for my imposition of ashes, Father actually said: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

In 2007! I know! So that was excellent.

So, had it not been Lent already (wasn't Christmas, I dunno, Thursday?) I would have hopped and skipped. For those likeminded folks, rest assured the Spirit of Vatican Three will soon let us skip and hop during Lent.



Most people get Lent, as we used to say at school, "bass ackwards." The idea is for us to be reminded of the logic-defying generosity of God. By giving up the unessentials we are reminded of the abundance He has provided us. Abundance, I hasten to add, none of use ever deserve. Look at it this way. God took his people Israel into a land flowing with milk and honey. That is, a certain people were placed by God in a situation of abundance...not, you'll kindly note, did people draw ever-closer to God by going around accumulating milk and honey.

"Wait!" I hear you clamor.

"Is this the free market acolyte speaking?" "Is he desecrating the memory of Adam Smith?"

Pay attention. This will be on the test.

We are tempted to gather stuff, things material and otherwise. Items which God will provide you in His inimitable Providence. By focusing on the gathering these rather than in He who provides them from His bounty, we are almost trying to make a vacuum and "forcing" God to come along.

During Lent we have to be mindful of two things:

1- How much we owe God: spiritually, materially, etc., and
2- How utterly undeserving we are of such blessings.

As Christ emptied Himself, we awkwardly join in by emptying ourselves of the spiritual debris we've gathered over the last year. Those attractions which pull our focus away, which occupy our attention which otherwise get us off-message.

Lent, in short, is teh time for us to focus on some stark realities, realities which the frivolities and vanities of everyday life prevent us from seeing let alone meditating upon.



Sunday, February 18, 2007

De Nobis Fabula Narratur

Since it's a long weekend and since I'm feeling a bit under the weather I went schlepping around the blogs found over at the B-List. One I have generally enjoyed, but haven't visited in epochs, is The Donegal Express.

So, off I go, reading the various entries since my previous visit. (It's been a while, so it took a while.) Well. This one struck me, not because of the specifics of the issue; in this case the--surprise!--rather interesting interpretation of the phrase "wide and generous" as re. the indult for the Traditional Latin Mass. Rather, what struck me was the tone of the matter being discussed therein. It bore enough of a resemblance to something I had experienced my own bad self not too long ago. In fact, the resemblance was such that it'd be improbable such a similar experience would be caused by coincidence.

If I may venture so bold a proclamation, I believe we are approaching (if we have not already arrived, checked in, and started rifling through the minibar) a crisis in the episcopate in the USA. The lovely and gracious Karen has obliquely mentioned her own dissatisfaction along this front.

In the USA there is an informal (but no less real) schism. Yet, the USCCB is apparently more hopped up about global warming than the souls being led astray by ostensibly Catholic public figures leading whole segments of the Body of Christ astray on life and moral issues. A rather, um, stilted interpretation of the Church's doctrine on social justice has just about trumped the need to save the members of their flocks from damnation. It's as if the marauding wolves are less of a danger than what the formation in which the sheep march. In many cases the teachings of the Magisterium are not so much to be adhered to as they to be flouted with plausible deniability. Too often a sense of reverence is the greatest relic a parish has, instead of some artifact from a martyr. Despite that having Masses that look like Mass in churches that look like a church being the greatest insurance against the corrosive influence of the greater culture, this approach is being undermined constantly. In fact, it seems as if in half of our seminaries Liturgical Abuse has become an integral part of the core curriculum.

If some priest dressed up like Howard the Duck and immolated wolverines on the altar, there would likely be no real consequence from the average bishop. Unless it found its way on YouTube and even then we're looking at even money.

I'm starting to think our Anglican brethren may be on to something in seeking oversight elsewhere*. I certainly am slowly developing a case of Bishop Envy and if someone can find a way to do something similar so that I fall under the pastoral care of Bp. Finn or Abp. Chaput or Burke, I'd be tickled pink.

However, Christ is still in charge of His Church. So there is, has to be, reason for hope. But hope does not preclude impatience. So I out myself as impatient, because all these great seminarians, scholastics, novices and Young Fogey priests are just now beginning to appear. Which means the (arch)bishop who will straighten out the (arch)diocese of ____ is likely still in formation or maybe recently ordained a priest at best. The good news is help is on the way, the bad news is the help is stuck in traffic.


We have to pray. Pray for:

1- Those excellent bishops with which we HAVE been blessed. Many of them are straightening out dioceses ravaged by the neglect visited upon them by the Spirit of Vatican II.
2- The excellent priests (and sisters and brothers) who are doing the Lord's work, even if they are doing so ::cough, cough:: against the current. Theirs is a quiet heroism such as we'll never know. Just realize they are out there and the Holy Spirit moves through their actions.
3- Vocations. God knows whom He wants as brothers, sisters and priests. He knows whom he's called. Pray they answer the call.
4- Pray for the wayward bishops and priests. Pray for the bishops and priests who have been afflicted with hubris, who have turned their ear away from God's message and from those with whose care they have been entrusted, ensnared by the siren song of the zeitgeist. They need our prayers.
5- Pray for our Holy Father that God may grant him the means and time to put in place the mechanisms via which we may see proper reform and change (this I believe he is doing, even if the pace is not one I would have wished).


6- Pray for the spirit of fraternal correction, that those who need it may take it humbly and those called upon to issue it may not shirk this duty but yet do so as charitably as possible.

And pray that God gives me the faithful more patience.



* Let's not look upon them with the miasma of smugness, muttering "Well, at least we're not as bad off as THEY are." Because the same forces at work there are at work here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


WARNING: This link will take you to a HILARIOUS satire of the whole Edwards/blogger fiasco. There is (in the name of satire and given the nature of the thing) much outright profanity. You've been warned.



Oy. Here we go again.

Ryan Duns, SJ posted something over his way on which I wanted to chime. I'll do the chiming ovah heah and not ovah theah, because I may unwittingly cause Ryan to comment more than he is allowed to and I want Ryan ordained. I'm selfish, sue me.

He quoted Regina Brett of the Cleveland Plain Dealer talking about parish closures, priest shortages and she seems to have decided the solution(s) to be

Wait for it!

married priests and priestesses.

Presumably also married priestesses, because, y'know, "while we're at it." Ryan has to be more circumspect than I, given his position. I have no such restraint. I mean, sure, I have to be charitable to Regina Brett and I am happy to report that via this op-ed piece, she has afforded me MUCH opportunity to be charitable.

I'll ask one of those reductio ad absurdum sort of questions Fr. Ed (S.J., natch) loved: How do we solve the problem of closing convents and nun* shortages? If we follow Ms. Brett's train of thought, the answer would be "married nuns and male nuns." That'd seem the logical answer given her interpretation and processing of the facts, yes?

The problem we face is twofold and arguments such as Ms. Brett's (and those of her fellow travelers) are merely discussions on which Band-Aid(TM) to use on a hatchet wound. These arguments take our eye off the ball and distract us. The implication, which I cheerfully reject, is that God simply isn't calling enough unmarried men to the priesthood. That perhaps He hasn't noted the need or that maybe the "prophet" method doesn't have the cachet of old. This, of course, is deranged.

If God is in charge of His Church (I'm betting that He is) then He has to be calling the appropriate -- in terms of quality and numbers -- men for the priesthood (and men and women religious). Let us s'pose He is, in fact, doing just that. If He is doing so, then what could be the problem? Ma-a-a-a-a-aybe that those whom He calls are saying "Um, no thanks." Maybe some of those whom He calls aren't even picking up the phone, or don't even hear the phone, or don't even know there IS a phone.

Fr. Powell, OP (an Ignatian Dominican if there ever was one) has nailed it so squarely that it should be cross-stitched on samplers everywhere: We have a crisis, not of vocation but of courage. In fact, go read it now. I'll wait.

I convict myself among that number. I never even bothered to consider discerning a vocation. It'd be easy to slam the zeitgeist of the 1970s and early 1980s, but the fault rests with me. This isn't to say I SHOULD have, or was meant to, become a [Jesuit] priest or brother, but I should have given the matter my attention. I was an idiot, fully reveling in the idiocies available to me at the time and therefore I didn't. Mea maxima culpa.

We can sit here and whinge and complain about things which happen to suit the mood of the moment (women and marrieds in the priesthood) but even if somehow these came to pass, the problem wouldn't** be solved. You still have to address the problem of collapsing Mass attendance and the number of people whose catholicism is nothing more than a demographic identifier. Just look at the nominally Catholic nations of Europe. The "eldest daughter of the Church," France, has run away from home with a biker dude and has tattooed herself and wearing a leather teddy. Spain and Italy are in danger of becoming (if you ask Karen, they have already) post-Catholic. Such populations and such cultures will be barren soil for vocations even IF you stretched the meaning of the term, to encompass the thinking of what passes for enlightened people these days.

Think of it: if, oh, 90% of the "Catholics" are purely nominal (not even C&E) what do you want more priests for? If the multipurpose worship spaces churches are empty, what good does it do to have eleventy gazillion priests? Show me a country (state, archdiocese, whatever) that has Masses that are full, Masses that look like Masses in churches that look like churches, and I'll show you a lack of vocation shortages. I charitably ask anyone to show me an example where this doesn't hold true. I'm confident it cannot be done.

Priests and sisters and brothers don't magically appear. They are the sons and daughters of moms and dads. They were once babies, infants and toddlers. They didn't apparate with theological tomes, they grew up and played with toys and ran around and went to school. They grew to be mature enough to recognize and answer God's call, they weren't teleported from the planet Vocatia.

The families where these babies grew up, and will grow up, are the seedbed for the solution to any vocation issues. Feed the soil with proper catechesis and vocations will sprout like mad. Or, as a far better pair of writers than I said it:

" ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Luke 12:31 and Matthew 6:33)

So, you want vocations? You want an end to "consolidations" and closings? Pray for families that they may be properly catechized*** and prove fertile ground for those whom God calls.

I mean, duh.



* You know I mean both "regular" religious Sisters and also cloistered Sisters.
** Seen any Episcopalian seminaries filled to bursting?
*** The more I survey the mess, they more firmly convinced I am that Satan pulled a fast one with regards to having lousy or nonexistent catechesis.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

That's SAINT Valentine to you, pal.

Most of my pals have had to endure my rant on the fact the "St." part was dropped from St. Valentine's Day. Ironically, the only time you hear the "St." bit is when someone is talking about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

So, because I'm all about the edifying, here is the scoop on St. Valentine:

Valentine was a priest in Terni, and he was installed as a bishop in Rome. By training he was a physician. Sometimes he is found in the various books and texts as St. Valentine of Terni and other times as St. Valentine of Rome. (Sometimes people get confused with St. Valentinian of Africa, but he was a different martyr.)

One day he was tending his garden when a Centurion named Sabino and a Christian woman named Serapia approached him--he had a general reputation of being kind, and wise and all that--because they were in love but a) Christianity was being persecuted and b) Li'l Miss Christian wouldn't consent to marriage unless Sabino converted, dangerous as that was, especially given his rank and position in the army. He made them a present of a bouquet of roses (or maybe one rose, accounts differ) which would remain in bloom until one or the other had changed his (or her) mind.

It was Sabino who relented and Valentine married them in secret. The marriage turned out so so happy that many other similar couples followed their example, to such a point that the Church was induced to dedicate one day of the year to a general benediction of the state of matrimony. But Emperor Claudius and his gang weren't so keen on their soldiers and senators, etc. going off and marrying Christians and converting. After all, Emperor Aurelius had just ordered Christians were to be persecuted and fed to the lions and all that and this stuff, frankly, made them look bad. They found out who was responsible and, catching him in the act of performing a wedding, seized him. They probably beat him up along the process, what with Romans being Romans.

Anyway, the next day he was dragged before the prefect thrown in the dungeon. While he was there he cured the dungeonkeeper's daughter of blindness. The entire family converted and he secretly baptized them. When the prefect, Placidus Furius (nice name, huh?) heard of this miracle and the subsequent conversion of one of the more prominent families in dungeonkeeping circles, he was livid. He sent orders that Valentine was to be beaten with staves in public and then beheaded.

On 14 February, 273AD, he was beaten for 3 hours and then beheaded in Rome. The morning of the execution, he is said to have sent the dungeonkeeper's family a farewell message signed, "From your Valentine." His body was thrown outside the city walls and buried in the catacombs along the Flaminian Way; his relics were later transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes, although some relics are found in Ireland, Scotland and Malta, to name a few spots.

In 1644 he was proclaimed Patron Saint of Terni (in Umbria, Italy) and also patron saint of lovers. The Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni was built in 1605 on the ruins of Roman temples, and contains works of art of some interest, particularly in the crypt.

He is the patron of stuff you'd expect like: affianced couples, betrothed couples, engaged couples, happy marriages, love and lovers; as well my favorite: greeting card manufacturers. However he is also the patron of travelers, young people and bee keepers. His intercession is invoked against fainting, epilepsy, fainting and the plague.

And now you know.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Under assault...and lovin' it!

If you are a half-sentient person, you will have noted that Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, and orthodox Catholicism in specific, are under assault.

The, um, salvationally-imperiled* bloggers hired by John Edwards are but the latest example, and I bring up the additional evidence of the treatment of this story by the "useful idiots"** in the Fifth Column Fourth Estate.

William & Mary has taken down a cross from a Christian chapel on the grounds "some people" might be offended by the presence of Christian symbols in Christian places of worship.

Everywhere you go, people who are of a Christian bent are the gleeful targets of attack, as the redership of Commonweal will eventually discover when the Fellow Travelers*** run out of other targets.

Europe has decided to roll over in the face of Islamofascists.


Christians have gotten fat, dumb and happy. We have forgotten what the early Church Fathers had to undergo, what assorted missionaries withstood. We have gotten complacent. We need a snap-to, a wake-up call.

No hitting the snooze, now.


* How's that for charitable?
** I'm just quoting, so it's not uncharitable.
*** Ibid.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Who's your Abba?

No, not those Swedish semi-disco pop lightweights.

Holy Writ has Christ referring to God the Father as "Abba" and defining it, rather turgidly, as "Father." Which ain't zackly so. A more (but still not perfectly) accurate definition is "Daddy." It is supposed to show not merely a paternal/filial thing going on, but the utter dependence we have on Him and which we must acknowledge if we're to make any headway.

So, that part's easy. God loves us like a Daddy does, magnified eleventy gazillion times. Much like I feel about each of my sons, He wants to just hug us, love us, kiss us, stroke our hair and look into our (relatively) innocent eyes and bask in our basking. Satan, coincidentally, wants us also. Not for himself, natch, but to keep us from being with God. God cares where we go, Satan cares where we don't.

Put another way, if God wants us to be with him like a Daddy, Satan wants us like a kidnapper. He knows he can't destroy or overpower God, so he goes for the Next Best Thing, those whom He loves. That's his way of "stickin' it to God." Towards that end, he'll do what he can to get the maximum number of people to peel off from God. He'll flatter us, delude us just enough or appeal to our senses and our feelings to get the most damnation for his effort.

Don't fall for it, people.




This blog may be acting up. Dunno if you'll see this. If you do, be sure I'm aware of the mess.

This is what happens when you are taught by orthodox Jesuits.

The lovely and gracious Karen pointed me to this.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

So, to retaliate, I bring you this:

My score on The Religious Right Test:

THE Religious Right
(You scored 100% Religious Right!)

You are a member of the Religious Right. If this comes as a shock to you, please seek professional assistance. You may wish to consider blaspheming or not taking every possible deduction on your income tax return as a therapy.

Link: The Religious Right Test
(OkCupid Free Online Dating)