Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Catholic Schools Week

Should you send your child(ren) to a Catholic School?

The answer to the question is, clearly,: depends on the school. After all, what's the use of sending your child to a Catholic school if they wind up as horribly catechized and woefully confused as Alexandra Pelosi? While "our" school excellent in both matters of academics AND Catholicism, the two closest parochial elementary schools to ours are both, um, lukewarm in their Catholic identity.

The difference?

Our school is run by (pardon the pun) old-school Carmelites who are solid, orthodox, active and zealous. And I am not saying that because some of them* read this blog. The problem is that even if you choose to send your child to a non-Catholic school and then bring him (or, as it happens with some frequency, her) in for CCD) you're still stuck with that weak-tea stuff. If they don't call it CCD, that's usually an indicator of something not-so-hot.

You have no idea the difference it makes to have a school run by orthodox, committed Sisters (or Brothers, or Fathers...) as opposed to the laity. The Sisters, based in L.A., love coming here because they see the fruits of the seeds they plant and, as a bonus, they get to kneel. To have them come to our parish (instead of the other way around) is a grace in bold, neon letters. It is a distinct honor and an undeserved privilege to have them here and what little I can do to assist them, I do so joyfully.

I realize many ::cough, cough:: schools are not nearly so blessed. I realize many parishes place a great emphasis not on steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, but rather the theological impact of macramé and of felt vs. burlap banners. I realize I live in some sort of bubble, what with this sort of excellent parochial school and also surrounded by Jesuits who make it a point of having Adoration, and praying the Rosary and all that stuff many others decry as semi-superstitious XIX Century mumbo-jumbo, but there you are.

I'd send my kids here even if I had to commute 2 hours each way.

-J.

* Waves to Sr. I, Sr. R, Sr. MK!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Applaud for life.

OK. What do you make of this...

I'm home for lunch one day last week, and I turn on the TV and start to flip channels when I get to EWTN. They have live coverage of the March for Life. Now, regardless of the cause, coverage of these sorts of events tends to be pretty similar. You see some wide shots of the assembled throng, you see some of the characteristics of the place wherein the event is taking place and you see reporters stopping marchers to ask them the usual questions.

But then the camera cut to Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, who was doing the closing (closing?) prayer. In doing so, he introduced the assorted bishops on the platform. He introduces Bp. X of the Diocese of Y...polite applause; he introduces Séan Cardinal O'Malley* of the Archdiocese of Boston...real applause, he introduces Abp. Z of the Archdiocese of Q...polite applause, etc., etc.

Then he introduces Bishop Finn from Kansas City and the place went NUTS. Clapping, stomping, whistling, protracted applause, the whole bit. (I'm frantically looking on YouTube for the video in question)

Question to ponder: Why do you suppose that was?

AMDG,

-J.

* His Eminence had the money quote -- and you can see why the lovely and gracious Karen granted him the status of "Ignatian Capuchin" -- with this gem: "As the populations of the Western world age, we will see that the generation of parents that aborted their own children, will be euthanized by the children who survived."

Lord, you know I'm trying.

Yesterday, Fr. Robert Drinan, SJ died. I guesstimate that by lunchtime, the whole Catholic section of the blogosphere will be abuzz.

I cannot say I agreed a whole lot w. Fr. Drinan on a lot of (most?) things, nor do I consider it remotely likely he would have found my views...er...congenial. But I am trying -- and it's rough, people -- to pray for him.

So here 'tis:

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda, quando coeli movendi sunt et terra. Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem. Tremens factus sum ego et timeo, dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira. Dies irae, dies illa, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. Matthew 5:44
P.P.S Don't email to remind me to enable comments, I'm leaving them shut on purpose.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why we fight.

If you wonder why I teach CCD (and, more importantly, what I teach and why I teach it) read this:

If you're Catholic and wired properly, your heart will ache over all those other kids growing up in the spiritual ghetto of the 1970s and 1980s who were led off the reservation and, unlike Mary Martha, they never managed to find their way back.

This is why I have a rough time* sitting still for that bongos-tambourine-kumbaya stuff.

AMDG,

-J.

P.S. If you're one of my CCD students (or an alumnus) now you realize why, although you may not know jack about slapping felt appliqués on burlap, you do know the difference between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant**.

* Memo to God: Lord, you know I'm trying.
** The correct answer is NOT "a whole bunch of new and better bishops" tempting as that might sound.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

You Know Who, someone's talking to you.

Those of you may remember my utter shock and disbelief when I found out Fr. Todd had died. Today, via the lovely and gracious Karen, I have found this video. I think it's vital to see and hear what this amazing priest (whose earthly ministry was far, FAR too short for my liking) had to say about his vocation.

I think it dovetails nicely with the presentation we saw today, Fishers of Men...a video so astonishingly good I am speechlessly shocked it came out of the USCCB offices.

Have at it.

AMDG,

-J.

Giving the devil his due

It's a tough call, deciding if evil deserves patience.

However, it's far more clear that evil hates (and I mean hates) perseverance.

Real-life example!

Today our parish was having an all-day retreat for those who will make their confirmation this year. I was chosen to give a brief presentation on the Scriptural underpinnings of the Rosary. So, having this assignment ahead of time, I get the ol' laptop out and start working on a Snazz-O-Matic ShockWave/Flash-like presentation thing. I scan great artistic representations of the scenes related to the various mysteries. I obsess over the animation, transitions, fonts, layout, etc. I scour through Holy Writ, read assorted translations, pick out choice verses from each, yaddayaddayaddayadda.

I mean, I really busted my chops on this one. In fact, I did this as if I were being graded thereon. It came out GREAT. So, happy with my efforts, I take selfsame laptop to the retreat, secure the projector from Sister I. and go to rig up the thing. Only this laptop considers that projector not another monitor, but an extension of the screen, which makes showing the presentation well-nigh impossible.

"Aha!" I say, I'll just connect this via S-Video cable. Only the laptop has no S-Video out, and even if it did, the S-Video input on the projector D-E-A-D dead. Oh, and the only extension cord was being put to use elsewhere.

Satan, y'see, kept heaping roadblocks at this. But -- having learned this the hard way -- I kept at it. Evil hates relentlessness. Read back to the Gospel according to Sts. Luke & Matthew (4:13 and 4:11, respectively) and you'll notice that Satan tried to derail Jesus and finally got tired of Jesus not giving in and chose to leave Jesus (for the moment). So knowing that

a) what I had been chosen to say was important, and
b) what's good for souls is bad for Satan, and
c) Satan is aware of the above, and finally
d) if you keep at it, he'll leave you for a time.

I kept at it. And it went well. It wasn't what I had planned on, but we managed to pray the Rosary, and we managed to delve a bit deeper into it and understand it a little better.

And we managed to learn the answer to the question: "When we will defeat Satan?"

With God's grace, the last time we struggle against him.

AMDG,

-J.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"So often you don't even notice it."

The lovely and gracious Karen has expressed herself on the matter of frustration at the Current State of Things.

While she may not realize it, her manner of coping with the things which frustrate her is a result of being kinda new Catholic-wise. This is to say, that she is not quite inured to the agents of frustration. So whackjobs act, well, wacky and nobody does anything and it gets Karen all mental. Which is understandable, since she hasn't gotten jaded accustomed yet.

Eventually, things reach a point when you realize that what you think ought be done is so unlikely to happen in your lifetime that you stop looking at the macro and start looking at the micro. At least that's what's happened in my case. You learn to look for a different approach and you learn that if you really want to have an impact, you have to start plowing different fields and not expecting the harvest to show up while you're still around to pick it.

In my case, I teach CCD. I make sure that I discuss things with my sons, and my wife and let them know why X is wrong and Y is right. I also let them know that they must also pass this on. I also try to engage, charitably, those who might, um, be off in the tall grass on some issue or another.

Said differently, I persevere not because there is something inherently noble or glorious in it, but because we have no choice. Now, you can decry the choicelessness until you're blue in the face but that won't mean you've been given the privilege of altering reality.

Besides, think of all the good stuff you can offer up. Why, every time I attend mass in L.A. I manage to offer up enough aggravation to fling umpteen gazillion souls out of Purgatory.

AMDG,

-J.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Until I'm blue in the face.

The estimable Mark Mossa, SJ* has written a most excellent blog entry, off which I shall riff. I think our "evangelization problem" has two roots:

1- Um, subpar** catechetization, and
2- Evangelization atrophy.

Bringing people to Christ is something that requires a lot of momentum on our part, because the worldliness which infects the whole human species provides such monumental inertia. The Jesuits taught me in physics class that momentum = mass x velocity. Or something like that. (Hey, it's been 27 years! This is pretty good for an MBA!) In order to lose that momentum all we have to do is lose the "mass" (in this case, our catechetical base) OR the "velocity" (zeal for evangelization), and a case can be made we've lost both.

If we lose that momentum, getting going again is going to be murder. There is rust to shake off our evangelism and catechism machinery. There is the discomfort of adjustment, of people looking at us "all weird." But it is not to our current circumstances to which we have to answer for all eternity. Not to our friends/neighbors/co-workers/crazy relatives. We'll have to show our spiritual ledger at the Day of Our Audit and we'd better have all our receipts.

It sounds crazy, but to the world, it's tantamount to admission of imbecility, bigotry, superstition, and/or callousness to admit being a practicing Christian (throw in being a practicing Catholic, and the thing gets oh-so-much-better). How did we get into such a mess?

Easy!

Loss of momentum. Like many species of fish, this is a case of "swim or die." At some point we stopped swimming. We grew comfortable, fat, dumb and happy with our circumstances and we confused the torpor of losing our oxygen supply with a feeling of relaxed well-being. But we don't have a choice. We have been called to preach the Gospel "with words, if necessary" to all of Creation. To teach and preach and above all else to lead by example. The first part of this starts within, to admit to ourselves all the times we could have stood up for something and we shut up instead. We could have corrected someone in error, but didn't. This is a rather unpleasant bit of soul-searching, but we need to do that; and, once accomplished we might be able to heed the call to "arise, let us be on our way."

AMDG,

-J.

* I may not always agree with Mark, but a) I know what he writes he does out of conviction and gentle sincerity, and b) hey, when he's right he's right and therefore credit ought go where it's due.
** Was this charitable enough?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It is what it is.

One of the blessings of speaking more than one language is that you "get" a lot of the aphorisms which lose most of their bite in translation. One such aphorism is "Lo feo no quita lo valiente y vice versa." It basically means your flaws and your strengths are often independent of one another.

I mention this because I'm about to riff off a blog entry over at The Cafeteria Is Closed.

The premise of this concerns homosexuality and Catholicism. Your best bet is to read that post, and if so inclined read my outlook on the issues raised thereby.

Part of the "problem" with the way people view the Catholic position is that some terms or words -- the word "disordered" leaps to mind -- carry a different feel in English than in, say, Latin or other Romance languages. But let's set that aside for now. The fact is there are men and women, holy men and women who have recognized that their inclinations to be attracted to the same sex are, in fact, their cross to bear. This is at the root of many of our problems these days, a refusal to recognize that we all have our corss to bear. We don't wanna bear no @#$%ing crosses! The easiest way to not bear a cross is to plop it down and turn it into furniture.

I am not among those who rail against people because of their inclinations. It's their actions that will cause them whatever grief they come to and my obligation is to point out the dangers to their eternal selves in pursuing a given course of action. It's like pointing out the speed limit between Main Street and Elm Street is 30mph (50kph, for you, Shan) and what will happen when a policeman catches you doing triple that. That's not to say I want you to get caught by the cops, or that you have no business driving. I'm just pointing out what my experience and understanding have led me to conclude.

A better analogy would be to see you on a window ledge on the gazillionth floor of a skyscraper, with two feather dusters in either hand, shouting to all Creation that you are going to leap off, flap the feather dusters and soar like a thrush. Gee, it'd sure be great if that were true, but I know that all you'll wind up doing is spreading a thin crimson layer of you on the pavement below. So I have to tell you and try to dissuade you in the way least likely to alienate you as possible.

Some people have pointed out that homosexuals perform many great and selfless and charitable deeds. All perfectly true, no doubt. But our good deeds do not counterbalance our sins and our propensity to sin. Only drawing ourselves closer to God will accomplish that, whatever our weak link of sin might be.

It is arrogant of those who are not afflicted with same-sex attractions to assume that having THAT particular cross to bear is sinful in se, or that those who yield to said impulses are somehow better or worse than those who have a two wives, or who are promiscuous. A sin is a sin. One you choose to separate yourself from God, you have made a disconnect and arguing over who has more or fewer millimeters of disconnection from God is spectacularly moot. If two gears are not close enough to mesh, it's irrelevant by how much/little they aren't meshing. Color me orthodox, but I see this in black and white terms. To argue over how much lesser my sins are from yours is playing with fire and brimstone.

So, we should refrain from taunting and being uncharitable towards those whose trials are in this particular configuration, but us also remind ourselves that nobody has the privilege of adjusting reality to their purposes and this is doubly true in matters of God and our sinfulness. Let's also keep praying for those who are fighting the good fight under circumstances which you and I are blessed not to have.

AMDG,

-J.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Unsolved Mysteries

Sometimes I get an insight so elemental I am embarrassed I didn't get said insight epochs before. Because I have to be ever-vigilant against the sin of pride* I will share it with you, dear Internet.

I was praying my almost-nightly** Rosary going through my favorite Mysteries (Sorrowful) when, having concluded, I realized the groupings of mysteries are really the names -- like I-95 or The Pennsylvania Turnpike -- for roads by which we come to Christ. How I didn't see this before is more a testament to my spiritual astigmatism than anything else.

Some of us have a "Christ forehead slappin' moment" when we ponder the Joyful Mysteries; The Nativity and all that entails...when we consider how the light of the world is like a tiny candle in the largest, blackest abyss: the darkness must yield. Others among us have reached that point when we have meditated upon the Glorious Mysteries, reaching a new height upon realizing the impact of The Risen Christ. For yet others, it is the Luminous Mysteries which causes their hearts to turn Godwards. The signs and marvels Christ performs in Scripture can help some people wrap their brains (and spirits) around the fact He is "the Christ, son of the living God."

For me, the Sorrowfuls do the job best. There is a -- wait for it -- Chuck Yaeger-like aspect of both love and manliness about the Agony in the garden at Gethsemane, or being crowned with thorns, or being scourged, or carrying the Cross (and with it the weight of the sinfulness of untold billions of people) or finally emptying Yourself enough to die for these fallen creatures even (especially?) those who willfully pirouette away from You and skip 'n' hop back to Sinville.

That Christ was able and willing to withstand that for me is something so inexpressively humbling it leaves me silent with gratitude. Gratitude, mind you, which I frequently do an abysmal job of expressing. But I am grateful to Him, even as I am inadequate in showing him said gratitude. Why would God-made-man endure such agonies? When you consider that God (y'know, being GOD) undergoing a papercut entails more than anything you or I will ever know, it is even more jarring to realize the extents to which He'd go to prove His love for a fallen bunch like us.

AMDG,

-J.

* The lovely and gracious Karen inadvertently fueled that by saying I was the closest thing she knew to a Jesuit without being one.

** I hate it when I miss one, but alas, I must confess to doing so.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"He's a well-known traffic menace, and he's a Catholic."

One of the hard parts to understand about forgiveness is that you have to want to be forgiven and you have to want it bad enough to access it. I'm reminded of an old (and wildly unfunny) joke that dealt with two friends discussing going someplace where the streets were paved with gold and one of the two saying that was no prize because you still had to stoop down to pick it up.

When we consider the salvific nature of Christ's work, instead of getting all grateful 'n' stuff, we get extra demanding. It's not good enough that we have salvation/redemption/forgiveness freely given...no-o-o-o-o. We want it delivered, installed and all the packing materials put away neatly for us. Just because forgiveness is free doesn't mean it's structured around our convenience.

Let's say you have a friend who works for a famous musician. Your friend's famous musician contact comes into town to perform and your friend calls to say "I got you tickets." Would you expect your friend to get in the limo, come over to your house, wait for you to show up, place the tickets in your hands, get you dressed up and then give you a limo ride to the show? If you are expecting that, I foresee a long wait for you. Your friend will leave the tickets at the box office under the "Will Call" window. There are your tickets. You want 'em? Go get them. They're free. All you have to do is go there, ask for them and they are yours. That's it.

But you have to get them.

Don't want to go through the bother of getting them? Then stay home, but don't complain you never get to see that famous musician or that your friend does you no favors. At some point, even if it's just minimally so, you must cooperate and participate in the scheme of things, whether it's getting to Heaven or getting to see Steve and Edie live at The Sands.

God has already assured you a place in Heaven, the question is, do you want to go to the box office and ask for your tickets?

AMDG,

-J.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tag, I'm it.

The estimable Shan doth give tag to mine blog for the following meme:

[A is for apparitions - your favorite]: Lourdes.

[B is for Bible - the one you read most often]: Douay-Rheims for the language, the more pedestrian NAB for study purposes, plus a couple in Spanish to help me flesh out any translation ambiguities.

[C is for Charism - the one you would most like to have]: The one I'm missing.

[D is for Doctor of the Church - your favorite]: Teresa

[E is for Essential Prayer - What’s yours?]: The Our Father

[F is for Favorite Hymn]: How Great Thou Art

[G is for Gospel - your favorite author?]: John

[H is for Holy Communion - How would you describe it, using one word?]: Revivifying.

[I is for Inspiration - When do you feel most inspired by God?]: Catechizing.

[J is for Jesus - When did you first meet Him?]: "Face-to-face," as it were, when my youngest was diagnosed with autism.

[K is for Kindness - Which saint or person has most inspired you by their kindness?]: Blessed Miguel A. Pro, SJ.

[L is for liturgical year - your favorite time in the liturgical cycle?]: Advent

[M is for Mary, the Mother of God - Your favorite term of endearment for her]: Santa Maria, Madre de Dios

[N is for New Testament - Your favorite passage]: St. Matthew 16:15-17 "Jesus saith to them: 'But whom do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answering, said to him: 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.'

[O is for Old Testament - Your favorite Book here]: Exodus.

[P is for Psalms - your favorite]: Psalm 23

[Q is for quote - saint quote]: “Despair is not from God.” - St. Ignatius of Loyola

[R is for rosary - your favorite mysteries]: The Sorrowful

[S is for Saint - the one you turn to in time of need - not including the Blessed Virgin Mary]: St. Anthony because I am forever losing things, and St. Ignatius Loyola

[T is for Tradition - your favorite Catholic tradition]: The litany of saints

[U is for university - Which Catholic University have you attended or are currently attending?]: It could have been Georgetown, if I had bothered to study harder in high school. As it was I barely missed the cut.

[V is for Virtue - the one you wish you had]: Charity. Even as hard as I'm working on that, I'm lagging.

[W is for Way of the Cross - Which station can you most relate to?]: St. Veronica wipes Christ's face.

[X is for Xaverian Brothers - Do you know who they are?]: Do they distill ardent spirits?

[Y is for your favorite Catholic musician]: Bocelli, except for that pop stuff...[shudder].

[Z is for Zeal for the faith]: I have been accused thereof.

I hereby tag...Ryan Duns, SJ!

AMDG,

-J.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Finally, it comes to pass.

A certain someone I know is getting ordained this (I believe) June. He will -- if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise -- become a Jesuit priest. Complying with an explicit request, I shan't divulge any more details.

Besides the usual stuff in which one rejoices, I rejoice because he is a very strong candidate for Chosen Dozen status. I further rejoice because his formation was, er, rough. The nutshell of the thing is that he discovered to his bitter surprise that not everyone in a position to affect the pursuit of his calling was (in his words) "on board." This was manifested in varying degrees of intensity. Some had views that were slightly at variance with Catholic teaching and not a few were at variance on almost all of the "controversial" issues du jour. The problem is that this guy saw it as his obligation to set straight those instructors whose views on, say, artificial contraception, were not in synchrony with the official position of the Church.

Finally, he had to be told (by those who cared about him) point-blank: "Shut up and get ordained."

Well, he has, and it seems he will.

AMDG!

-J.