Sunday, November 16, 2008

Everything has a Price

After the death of the Jewish High Priest Onias III in the 2nd century BC, Onias III’s brother Jason approached the Seleucid ruler Antiochus (IV) Epiphanes and offered him a “tribute” to become the next High Priest. Antiochus accepted the money and installed Jason as the new High Priest of the Jewish Temple. In the book of 2nd Maccabees we are told about the event and how much was paid:

“But Seleucus died, and when Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes succeeded him on the throne, Onias' brother Jason obtained the high priesthood by corrupt means: in an interview, he promised the king three hundred and sixty talents of silver, as well as eighty talents from another source of income.”
- 2 Maccabees 4:7-8
Curious as to how much 440 talents of silver would be in today’s money I looked up a few things and this is what I found:

1 talent = 75 lbs.
1 lb = 16 oz
1 oz of silver = $9.50

So 440 talents of silver = 33,000 pounds of silver = $5,016,000.00!

Jason had paid a little over 5 million dollars (today’s money I understand) to become the High Priest for one year. Unfortunately for Jason, about three years after this he was removed as High Priest after his friend Menelaus outbid him. Menelaus, not really having the money he promised, ended up stealing from the Temple funds to make payment. And this all lead to the Maccabean revolt, but that’s another story.

Now to me, $5 million seemed like an amazing amount of money to pay for a position for one year. But then I looked up the money spent by the 2008 McCain and Obama campaigns for president. And while not technically “buying” the position, you’ll have to argue pretty hard to convince me that it’s that far off. At least they’re getting four years out of the deal.

Senator John McCain: $293 Million
President-Elect Barack Obama: $573 Million*

And while I’m at it, why don’t we hear anyone asking the “Do you know how many hungry people we could feed for …” question? I guess the answer to that would depend on how you'd define “hungry people” (if you get my drift). And don't think the Republican's wouldn't have outspent the Democrats if they would have had the chance.

“What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, "See, this is new!" has already existed in the ages that preceded us.”
- Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Mary"?-- Quite Contrary!

I came across a news items recently (well, news to me anyway) describing the excommunication of something called the Army of Mary, and its followers. Apparently, the movement began with the news that a woman was receiving visions from the Blessed Virgin, who began to give the seer messages and instructions; later, this new "revelation" turned into a belief that Mary herself had, in the words of one of the followers, "taken possession of her soul." And of course there were other mysterious (and anti-Magesterial) demands. For years the Vatican had warned them of their heretical beliefs, and eventually had to take the step of excommunication. You can read a few of the accounts yourself, linked below.

This is very sad, that a seemingly orthodox belief-- one that is initially within the tenets of the Faith, insofar as private revelation is perfectly acceptable-- can be turned into a defiant, heretical cult. We should pray for these men and women, that they can see the error of their ways, renounce the heresy and return to full communion with the Church. And, pray that an extreme faux Marian following-- originating in the alleged visions of seers who give out all sorts of dire predictions and demands of the Church, which refuses to accept the authority of the Magesterium-- never blemishes the bucolic theological countryside of St. Michael, Minnesota...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Salt, Not Healing

Please check out this front page article from "The Catholic Spirit," our archdiocesan paper.

Where does this stuff come from, where do we get derailed? Never mind the slanted, hearsay narrative. Germanicus' post on fundamentalism notwithstanding, the Church's teaching on abortion and the corollary of not participating in an intrinsic evil via the vote, is pretty clear even for a dumb country boy like me.

Why must all this false talk about "healing divisions" always, always, always mean the radical left foists another point of their liberal agenda on the rest of us. Well, I say "the rest of us" but with 55% of the country's Catholics voting pro-death I guess I'm in the minority now.

The paper promises a wrap up of the elections in their Nov 13 edition. Can't wait.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Very short primer on Fundamentalism

Wild baseless speculation;
I think that fundamentalism will define the 21st century. It will eclipse Post-modernism as the answer to modernism because people want definite answers and they don’t care if they are true or not. Plus fundamentalism is easy to understand so children and under educated adults can understand it; a very important consideration if one wants to conquer the world.

What is it?
Most simply understood fundamentalism is a reaction. It is a reaction to the secularization of culture which forces believers to intensify their piety. At its root it is driven by the fear of annihilation.

Why is it bad?
This is important so pay attention; Because it focuses on acts of piety over and above virtue. Believe me this is a bad thing. From Isaiah to Socrates to Benedict 16 there is agreement on the badness of this.

Is there Fundamentalism in the Catholic Church?
You’re darn tootin’. Every one of you Baltimore Catechism, V2 ruined the church, the Bishops are wrong, Latin Mass types are teetering on the edge of fundamentalism.

How can I avoid it?
Develop virtue over piety.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Upon This Strange Rock ...

Blogger's Note: I don't generally mind new music as a part of Mass now and again. I enjoy our Youth Masses, and so do the kids. Wouldn't want to do it all the time, but still. Last night, however, the music in Chicago drove me to distraction.

When it comes to work, I don't travel well. Mostly I can't sleep. The train outside doesn't help.

But I do like certain things, like driving into a new city at night, or encountering interesting people. I also like going to church in strange places — I love finding a quiet oasis in the midst of the honking hustle, where people pray the same way I do at home.

Last night I went to Mass at St. Peter's in the Loop — the closest Catholic church to my hotel in downtown Chicago. I walked in the general direction, ignoring landmarks and counting streets — and suddenly there it was before me, gray and obvious, a solid block of stone tight between buildings. Petros. The Rock.

I entered to find a smiling, white-haired and -bearded Franciscan floating about the baptismal fount, greeting the arrivals. I smiled back and said hello, crossed myself and chose a short pew on the right side, midway up; knelt, prayed, then looked up and around. The church broke open like a geode: its hard gray exterior belied a glowing creamy marble interior, still a rock, but a very different rock.

The musicians were rehearsing at the front of the church — "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" The quartet was a jazzy number, however; vocals, upright bass, keyboard and drums. The singer could sing — beautifully — but her soulful rendition was tough to follow at times. The bassist and drummer were two hep Catholics in black sweaters and jeans; the bassist's sandy hair swooped skyward, and the drummer's dark locks hung straight down, below his ears. At the keyboards sat a Francisan who looked shockingly like a slouching Kelsey Grammar. Beneath the hem of his robes were frayed jeans and black sneakers.

I felt my insides hardening to judgment. I looked elsewhere.

To my left, and slightly behind, the pastor had slipped quietly behind two teenage girls to ask them to bring forward the gifts. One appeared to be latina, with long wavy black hair and an open and friendly face. The other was much darker, beautiful, with a glittering white gemstone in the side of her nose. Her mood was a mystery until she turned to the priest and smiled.

A black couple enters. An Asian family of five? six? — they keep moving around! — with a diminuitive mother showing her imminent intent to increase her shining brood. Men in suits. Women with shopping bags. Students in sweatshirts with ball-caps and backpacks. All seeking peace at The Rock. The haggard and cold people, and the beautiful people. Front and center sits a tall and well-dressed couple, his bald head polished to a sheen; her dark hair in a jaunty pony-tail, better to see her hoop earrings dangling with stones. Periodically her the rocks on her hands wink at me from a dozen pews or more away.

A woman walks past and curtsies — there is no other word — casually toward the tabernacle. A while later, another woman does the same. The first woman's beau arrives, a big cannon-shot of a man in a dress shirt and vest, with curly black hair slicked back and a single gold earring, like a pirate. I do not see him genuflect; he sits and throws his arms across the back of the pew. His girl nestles in close.

Again I feel my heart harden. I pray silently.

Just before Mass begins, another Franciscan comes up the aisle, genuflects, and kneels prayerfully in the pew in front of me. Beneath his robes is a fighter's frame, his face is dark — maybe Hispanic — and serious, with a boxer's chin and nose, and a scholar's dark-rimmed glasses. His folded fists are like round river rocks. I remember the words of Christ: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

The opening hymn. She gestures for us to sing, but who can follow her slides and trills? Frasier can really tickle the ivories, and the rhythm section is swinging. My newfound Petros and I sing softly to ourselves.

Father haunts the sanctuary like an over-friendly ghost, at times praying in a quavering cry, other times speaking in loud and joyous commonality. The reader, a thin and white-haired woman with a drawl, and the acolyte, an older Asian fellow, perform their duties with understated precision.

We reach the Gospel. Our diva is channeling Billie Holiday and getting slipperier by the verse — even the Alleluia is a tough act to follow. Petros closes his eyes and offers his own. I follow suit.

I feel badly that I'm so distracted by the things I don't like here, and I try to focus on the common elements. When we pray, I pray intently, as if I'm trying to wrest what control I can from the people around me. My conflict is my own, however — Petros remains a rock.

We sing the Lord's Prayer together, and the singer plays it straight. It's beautiful. We offer peace, and Petros turns to me, unfolding both his hands to enfold one of mine. His grip is firm, but soft and warm. What looked like a fighter's profile is now a broad and friendly smile. Another geode: stony on the surface; glowing inside.

I'm feeling better by the moment. I pray silently, and it occurs to me that Jodi and the kids were planning to attend 6 p.m. Mass back home. I smile to myself. We're praying the same prayers across the miles.

We come forward, then return to our pews and pray. The Eucharist is warm inside me. Petros bows his head and closes his eyes. So do I.

The final song is the one the combo rehearsed at the outset. At least I know what's coming. We sing as best we can together, one verse, two. The priest, reader and acolyte recess. So many people are leaving already, but not Petros and me. We sing the third verse, and the musicians are feeling it. They begin the fourth and final verse, and Petros closes his book and ducks out.

I realize I'm not sure he genuflected. Must have to get to the doors to wish people well as they depart, I justify.

The music stops to scattered applause. I emerge onto the cold street. The pastor is shaking hands. No sign of Petros. I feel it again: the hardening inside. I turn toward the hotel ... then shake my head at myself and smile again. So St. Peter was imperfect — who am I to judge?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Well, Today's the Day

"Virtue exalts a nation, but sin is a people's disgrace."
~ Proverbs 14:34

Make sure to get out and vote today.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


At a time that never was,
From a place which never existed,
He created everything that is,
From nothing at all.
And it was good.