Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nota Bene Series

For those interested, the Knights of Columbus council #4174 will be starting a series called the Nota Bene Series. "Nota Bene" is Latin for “Take Notice!” because these meetings will consist of talks and presentations covering current issues Catholic men need to be informed about. It is the hope that these evenings will provide men not only information, but opportunities and suggestions for action.

The first topic will be on the dangers of Socialism. It will be held on April 29th, from 6:00-9:00pm in the Church of St. Michael's Gathering Space - St Michael, Minnesota. Follow this link for directions. The evening will start off with a meal. All men are invited.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Read Thou This ...

... and rejoice that thy brethren are as miserable as thou art:

Lamentations of the Father

Raises the question: Is Scriptural parody a sin?

Didn't Think You Were A Hater, Did You?

If any of you bloggers are military veterans, you might have read or heard of the furor over the recent release of a Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment of "Rightwing Extremism," in which returning vets are identified as potential future terrorists. The assessment is meant to "facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States."

But if you're Catholic you might be surprised to fight this passage in the assessment as well:

"Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."

Pray for our country, our President and other leaders. And pray that watch lists will be limited to terrorists who genuinely want to tear down our nation and our freedom, rather than those holding legitimate dissenting, counter-cultural Catholic viewpoints.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Callings, Revisited

Blogger's Note: That last post on my other blog garnered some interesting comments, both on- and off-line. Hope this one does, too.

It occurred to me on my commute this morning that there is one aspect of the priestly vocation versus the married vocation that I failed to explore: The possibility of answering one calling, only to hear another years or even decades later.

I know of at least two former Catholic priests who have chosen to leave the priesthood and get married. To the best of my knowledge, one left the Catholic Church and may now be a Protestant minister; the other is the head of one of the most Catholic families I know back home in Michigan.

I know of precisely zero married men who have chosen to leave their marriage to become priests. In neither case do I know what the "rules" are — how one "undoes" one sacramental vow and undertakes a new one, or even if it's possible, within the Catholic Church. I suppose one might do it regardless and seek forgiveness in some way, perhaps.

What is of more interest to me is that it is easier for people to imagine a celibate priest discerning a call to marriage later in life than to imagine a married man discerning a call to the celibate life of a priest. The romantic-triangle buddy comedy Keeping the Faith includes a great scene between a young priest, played by Edward Norton, who is contemplating turning his back on his vows over a girl, and an old priest who declares that falling in love every so often is part of the gig — and just like in marriage, you make a choice to stay faithful to your vows. The scene seems funny, wise, and true.

But why not the other way? I can imagine the possibility of years or even decades of celibacy were I to outlive my wife. (Perhaps even celibacy by my own choice ...) But another calling now? While I'm here, with this other half of me? It's unfathomable.

The question becomes, why is it unfathomable for me to imagine falling so in love with the Church that I would want to leave my married vocation, but it's not unfathomable for me to imagine a priest falling so in love with a woman that he would want to leave the Church? If you knew a man in former situation, would you not think it strange, or even outrageous? But in the latter situation? I suspect most people might be sympathetic.

I wonder if it's not the case that have we been so immersed in popular understandings of sexuality — especially male sexuality — that continence seems unnatural and celibacy, next to impossible. In such a world, it's difficult to imagine anyone who had experienced marital intimacy ever choosing celibacy.

But the discussion returns to a question posed in the last post: Would you leave your spouse if a tragic accident made it necessary for you to spend the rest of your days celibate? Would you stay married and cheat?

If you can imagine one, you can imagine the other. And if you can't imagine a love for God deep enough to forsake all others, perhaps you simply aren't called.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

If it can Raise the Dead Like a Duck ...

Stephen Colbert is still one of the funniest guys alive.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage Commercial

You can read Mr. Erhman's sad "once a born-again Christian, now an agnostic" story here if you'd like.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cross-Posting on Priests, Kids, and Vocations

Nothing too profound here: Just my thinking since last weekend on priests, aspiring priests, and one good priest in particular. As for me and my house, we're gonna miss him.

Sorry to keep cross-pollinating blogs, folks. Can't find time enough to write multiple posts for multiple sites right now!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Speech (Im)Pediment??

Earlier last week officials of Georgetown University converted the stage at Gaston Hall, into a presidential venue, at which the President gave a speech on the economy. In the midst of adding opaque backdrops and the obligatory phalanx of flags, they complied with a request to also cover a pediment (the triangular feature atop certain classical columns, and other facades) containing the traditional monogram of Jesus, "IHS." This was accomplished, it appears, with the aid of some painted plywood.

The debate and question: should Georgetown, the oldest Catholic University in the country, have covered the pediment containing the monogram IHS? And, perhaps in the context of the recent, legitimate uproar over Notre Dame's invitation to the President?

It appears to me to have been an effort to simplify the backdrop, and not necessarily a consciously insidious plan to strip the stage of its theological symbology. There are, after all, stained glass windows clearly visible behind the stage, and apparently the monogram appears in many other places in the Hall (and remained uncovered).

So, what do you think? Innocent and typical presidential stagecraft; concession to remove any distraction from the President; or yet another slap in the face to Catholics, by liberal Catholic "educators?"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Renewed Easter Pledge

St. Michael welcomed 18 new members into the Church last night at the Easter Vigil, including six catechumens, praise God. And yes, all six went full immersion.

I assume most of these new Catholics will be part of our parish, but of course you're never sure how many will move or have come from another location. But, I continue to be amazed at the number of RCIA candidates we get each year.

I entered the Church three years ago, and last night during the Vigil as I looked around I noted how many great friends I've made in our parish. They were everywhere. I even got to talk to a
seminarian who was integral into my decision to finally "take the plunge" into RCIA; and I saw a friend who moved to Montana a couple of years ago, and happened to stop by just before the Vigil to connect with some of us.

Realizing the gifts I've received from the Church (a second chance at salvation, leadership of my family's faith life, role models in faith, to name a few), I am more determined than ever to help protect our precious faith. I might occasionally fail, and I might occasionally fall.

But I will never quit.

A blessed Easter to you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This is the Night!

Missed the Vigil for the first time in 10 years tonight - I stayed home with some sick kids so my wife could attend. Her friend was being brought into the Church tonight so it was a pretty important night for her.

One of my favorite parts of the Vigil is when the Deacon sings the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation).

The Exsultet

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

(For it is fed by the melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


Two Powerful Experiences

Tonight I finally watched the movie The Passion of the Christ. I know, I'm way behind most of you, and I'll admit I have been simply intimidated by the prospect of forcing myself to watch the film, after having heard how brutal and graphic it is.
And, those reviews are entirely accurate. The film is of course an unrelenting graphic portrayal of the Passion, and it hit me just about the way I thought it would. Afterwards, I was numb and drained, emotionally and almost physically. But, also spiritually inspiring; I wished I had watched it on Ash Wednesday, to steel myself to Lenten sacrifice.
Almost as powerful was a short passage I had read a few days ago, from a reflection on the second sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary by Saint Josemaria Escriva:

"...Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds. The blows of the lash sound upon his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More blows. More fury. Still more... It is the last extreme of human cruelty. Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and falls limp, broken and half-dead. You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed.
Look at him, look at him... slowly.

After this... can you ever fear penance?"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Leadership In Action

The letter from our Archbishop to Fr. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. This happened under the radar, or at least under my radar, which probably isn't saying too much... At any rate, I thought his concise, strong message is a great example of how to take a position and communicate it.

"If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.

"If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17

March 26, 2009
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.President, University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear Father Jenkins:
I have just learned that you, as President of the University of Notre Dame, have invited President Barack Obama to be the graduation commencement speaker at the University’s exercises on May 17, 2009. I was also informed that you will confer on the president an honorary doctor of laws degree, one of the highest honors bestowed by your institution.

I write to protest this egregious decision on your part. President Obama has been a pro-abortion legislator. He has indicated, especially since he took office, his deliberate disregard of the unborn by lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research, by promoting the FOCA agenda and by his open support for gay rights throughout this country.

It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician.

I hope that you are able to reconsider this decision. If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future.

Sincerely yours,
The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

School of Hard Knox?

The hits just keep on coming, as the saying goes...

In the midst of a whole heap of hope and change, we've seen a glimpse into the future. From the destruction of more innocent life... the effort to force American doctors to perform abortions, or refer women to abortion clinics, against their conscience...

...we now get a look at how the Church will likely be treated from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, for at least the next three years. Harry Knox, a long time gay (not the happy kind) activist is a newly appointed member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It's safe to say that Knox is not a fan of the Church, the Holy Father, or apparently the Knights of Columbus... short, just the kind of guy you want heading a group that appears to be tasked with "advising" the Commander in Chief on faith, or neighborhoods, or... uh, well whatever it means to be on the ACFBNP.

To be honest, in the reading the Bay Area Reporter story in which Knox's comments are briefly quoted, I was heartened that the BAR decried the support the Church provided for California Proposition 8 which verifies marriage between opposite-sex partners only. We heard a lot about the Mormons supporting Prop 8 and not as much about Catholics doing so. This was a pleasant surprise for me.

What has been an unpleasant unsurprise, is the moral direction our new leadership is attempting to take our country. As Catholics begin to blink awake and wonder what they truly wrought in November, let's pray they get serious and earn their Hard Knocks diploma.

The "army of oppression" needs them!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Anyone Here Read French?

Is compulsive book-buying a sin? Has anyone here read Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales? Reading group? Father Michael confirms he's a giant — can't wait!