Saturday, June 30, 2012

Special Report Vortex: A Must See

I'll try to get the script for this posted soon [done , but here's the money quote from today's Vortex "Special Report" on the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare:

...did you happen to notice one curious line in Chief Justice John Roberts reading of the majority opinion? 
Here it is: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." 
If that doesn’t just about sum it all up nicely and neatly, nothing ever will. In short, you people, yes as in WE the People, were gullible enough to elect this megalomaniac to office and all his cronies and thugs who crawled in behind him, so you get exactly what you deserve.

And that is exactly how God works. He cannot save us from the consequences of our choices. 

If he did, He would be unjust and undo His own handiwork – namely our free will. Nope, not gonna happen.

The script:

So the worst of all situations that could happen with Obamacare has happened: the Supreme Court has upheld it as Constitutional; and that, as they say, is the end of that.

But did you happen to notice one curious line in Chief Justice John Roberts reading of the majority opinion?

Here it is: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."

If that doesn’t just about sum it all up nicely and neatly, nothing ever will. In short, you people, yes as in WE the People, were gullible enough to elect this megalomaniac to office and all his cronies and thugs who crawled in behind him, so you get exactly what you deserve.

And that is exactly how God works. He cannot save us from the consequences of our choices. If he did, He would be unjust and undo His own handiwork – namely our free will. Nope, not gonna happen.

When we look at the health care law – Obamacare – what do we have? We have a law that pushes immorality in the form of abortion and contraception, and a rejection of conscience in the  case of Catholic institutions that must now pay for abortion and contraception or close up shop.

How has this happened? That’s easy. Because Catholics in America have been so busy wanting to fit in and wrap themselves in the flag – not just of the stars and stripes, but the flag of social acceptance and political correctness, the banners of non-judgmentalism and tolerance that they have begun to see their faith through the prism of “my country right or wrong”.

The doctrine of “my country right or wrong” may be fine if you’re trying to win the Congressional Medal of Freedom, but if you’re trying to get to Heaven, that’s not the philosophy you wanna have in tow with you when you reach the judgment throne.

Rarely have Catholics in America exhibited the spine needed to fight immoral laws. We have simply gone around and done whatever we could to fit in and confine our fights to ones of liberty or freedom – as if those are some kinds of ends in themselves.

Liberty and Freedom are not ends in themselves: they are the means to be able make the RIGHT choices free of any encumbrances.
When we start thinking of freedom in terms of an American Constitutional ideal, then we have already lost the battle. In America, freedom has become understood as the right to do what you want as long as it’s not a crime or no one is a victim.

Therefore, you should be free to marry who you want regardless of gender; kill your child in the womb; contracept your whole race out of existence…whatever, man.

And the Catholic response to this has been, for the most part, acceptance. The thought of fighting a law BECAUSE it’s evil is pretty much an oddity, with the exception of abortion – and even there, too many Catholics make exceptions.

Huge numbers of Catholics – including members of the ordained class – are simply willing to buy into the absolutely stupid and unsustainable American ideal of plurality and diversity.

We will tolerate all kinds of things – evils enshrined in law – so long as our little piece of turf is carved out and protected. American Catholics have become like Vichy France with the Nazis, and it is a complete abdication of our sworn duty to fight evil.

What is at the heart of this philosophical as well as theological error is the willingness to accept the idea that a multiplicity of divergent views and opinions is perfectly fine… as long as everyone has a place at the table, then that’s fine.

No, it’s not fine.

The Church has a solemn duty to promote the good and the moral and fight things that are bad and immoral to the best of Her ability. But too many leaders in the Church have allowed an atmosphere to develop where evil is not called out and battled, but treated as though it must ALSO be a valid option among many – or at least one that could somehow be compromised with.

Take the whole same-sex marriage thing. The numbers of high ranking clerics and regular clergy who are perfectly comfortable with allowing civil unions while defending traditional marriage is laughable, not to mention disobedient to the Magisterium.

Do they really think that after civil unions are approved of and accepted that the militant homosexual gang is gonna suddenly stop fighting and go back to the gay bar because they were able to strike a nice compromise and get MOST of what they want?

Obamacare is the law of the land today – right along with the HHS mandate requiring Church to pay for State imposed contraception and abortion – because the Church was too willing to compromise and carve out its own little niche and area of self- preservation.

For decades the American hierarchy collectively has played footsy with politicians who are merchants of death and supported them in one cause after another because it fit their self-serving needs.

They have not spoken out against in any real way, nor excommunicated, nor banned from Holy Communion a single Catholic politician who supports child murder or sodomite marriage or contraception as legitimate basis for laws.

They have bargained with them largely because they found common ground in helping each other with the charade of social justice programming and funding. Many bishops have been all too happy to subordinate the corporal works of mercy to the state as long as the state would shovel money their way to administer the programs.

In exchange, they would allow these same politicians to continue trafficking in the name Catholic and thereby help continue their tenures in office. From the 1960s onward, a huge number of bishops and their staffs have been political liberals and have carried the water for Democrats.

What they have failed to realize, even down to today, is that politicians who enshrine evil in lawwill one day turn on them and their moralizing… weak as it is.

Justice Roberts has a very good point: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."

Obamacare is the law of the land today, complete with abortion funding and all its others evils, because 54 percent of Catholics voted this man into office. And that happened because leaders have failed to understand and teach that evil cannot be compromised with, and immoral laws must be fought against on the much more important level of because they are immoral, and NOT because they violate the Constitution. 

For other Vortex posts, click on the "Vortex" tab at the top of the page.

A "Memorial" Mass Celebrated by Bishop Cary

On Friday, June 29, I attended a “memorial” Mass for Fr. Daniel Ochiabuto, SMMM (Congregation of Sons of Mary, Mother of Mercy), a missionary priest from Nigeria.  A funeral Mass and burial took place in Nigeria on June 22, 2012; Friday’s Mass was a commemoration of Fr. Daniel’s death by the parishioners of St. Bridget of Kildare Church in Nyssa, Oregon, who had been served by Fr. Daniel for a year in his capacity as a missionary priest to the Diocese of Baker.

For a straightforward, just-the-facts-ma’am report on the event, see my post on the SSGG blog. If you’re interested in my take on the whole thing, read on!

Bishop Liam Cary presided at today’s Mass, and that was a little unusual for the Nyssa parish. One friendly parishioner told me that she has lived there since 1995 and remembers a bishop visiting the parish only twice.  That’s because Nyssa is a little town of about 3500 people in Eastern Oregon, near the Idaho border; I don’t know the number of parish families, but there are two Masses every Sunday – one in English and one in Spanish.

St. Bridget church is small – it’s one of a number of “mission churches” built in Oregon in the 1900’s – and this one was actually completed in 1958. You can view some photos here. The church does have a little choir loft – which is actually used! There’s also a “cry room”, which was also in active use by a number of young moms with their babies. 

The church was pretty full – quite a tribute to a small community going to the extra effort to honor their priest on a Friday morning. The friendly parishioner mentioned above told me that they’d also had a potluck for the bishop the night before so that the people who couldn’t attend the funeral Mass could at least meet the bishop then; that event too was well attended, she said.

Back to the Mass: two altar boys vested in cassock and surplice served as miter and crosier bearer, but they did not wear vimpae, the scarves which they use to cover their hands while handling the bishop’s effects. I don’t imagine the parish even has such a thing, given the infrequency of episcopal visits! The neighboring Cathedral parish could have supplied them, but I suspect no one really thought about it.

Two girls in albs also served…sigh.

Interestingly, after the procession, Bishop Cary gave a few words of explanation before he led the congregation in the daytime prayer of the Office of the Dead, for which a little booklet was provided. There were about 17 priests and three nuns present as well, and they were in the front pews, so their example helped the people who might not have experienced such a thing before. The alternation of the psalm verses between the two sides of the Church was accomplished easily, and the office was said.

I think it would have been better to have recited the office before Mass, rather than process in and then do it. I’m not sure what the rubrics are for combining the office and the Mass, and lack the ambition to look them up at the moment. But I know you can’t go wrong by separating the liturgy of the hours from the Mass. They are two separate liturgies, and are each complete within themselves, so it seems at cross-purposes to combine them. Still, I’m glad the bishop included the office.

The music was…a problem. But then, isn’t it always? A little electronic organ accompanied the singers for some of the hymns, while guitar strumming took over at other times. I’m not going to say any more. If you have read much on this blog, you know how I feel.

At the sign of peace, I was able to be a non-participant. I didn’t know the people there, and no one was sitting right next to me or right in front of me, so I felt no pressure to participate in the glad-handing. I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and folded my hands, and no one bothered me.

If you go to an EF Mass on a regular basis and then attend a NO Mass, I’m sure you too have noticed what a distraction the “sign of peace” is. It just comes out of nowhere to interrupt the prayerful atmosphere. Let’s just greet each other afterwards, in the parking lot or the parish hall!

Bishop Cary’s homily was good. It wasn’t a eulogy (yay!), and he never assured us that Fr. Daniel is now in Heaven praying for us (yay again!). Rather, he quietly noted that we hope and pray that Fr. Daniel will find his way to Heaven. Now, right there you’ve got about the best funeral homily I’ve ever heard. I stopped going to funeral Masses because they generally turn out to be beatification ceremonies. This one was not.

I very much appreciated the bishop’s emphasis on the fact this Mass was for a priest. After discussing the fact that a funeral liturgy reverences the body of the deceased because it is created in the image of God, the bishop added that a priest’s body is different, special; the priest has been anointed for a special work of God – “especially his hands,” said Bishop Cary. “St. Thomas tells us that the sacraments are the prolongation of the hands of Christ. The priests hands are anointed, consecrated, set apart to do God’s work.”

And what do the priest’s hands do? During baptism, the priest uses his hands to anoint the individual with oil and to pour the baptismal water over the individual’s head; at the end of life, the same hands anoint the sick.

Most especially, those priestly, anointed hands do a most important work when they offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Yes! Exactly!

But in the Novus Ordo Mass, that very important fact about the anointed hands of the priest becomes obscured in several ways: for starters, there’s the use of lay ministers of Holy Communion to administer the Host. Their hands are not anointed! Why are they touching the Body of Christ? And although I was once upon a time such a minister, I was never instructed to purify my fingers afterwards. The thought now makes me cringe. Oh my poor Jesus!

And then of course there is the practice of receiving the Body of Christ in the hand. It is hard for me to imagine ever doing that again.

I had two interesting conversations with priests after the Mass. One was with one of the sweetest and most contemplative priests of the Diocese of Baker. He told me that recently a family had come to Mass at his parish (“and the wife had a veil, too” – a reference to the fact that I was the only one wearing one today), and when they received Holy Communion, they did not say “amen”. He said he even asked her about it afterwards, and learned that the faithful do not say “amen” in the EF Mass! I laughed and told him that I forgot to say “amen” today myself. I seldom receive Holy Communion at a Novus Ordo Mass, so I am out of practice, but it actually seems a bit awkward to say “amen” when receiving on the tongue.

The other conversation quickly touched on two issues. The priest mentioned that he was being transferred to a parish where there were not enough priests, and I commented that there seemed to be a real lack of priests in our diocese right now. He agreed, and I said, “People need to start having more babies.” He laughed, but then quickly agreed, saying, “Yes, because that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in right now!”

On the heels of that comment, he added that the need for bilingual priests is great because of so many non-English-speaking Hispanics. I responded, “Just say the Mass in Latin. Then everyone is on the same level.” The priest said, enthusiastically, “I WISH!” So I added, “And the music, too – let it be the music of the Church.” He agreed again.

That was nice!

At the reception, a huge potluck buffet was spread down a row of tables – fit for a king! The priests were instructed to sit at two particular table, and after filling their plates, they did. Bishop Cary, however, paused at a table where three older Hispanic women were seated, awaiting their turn at the buffet line. He stood with his plate in hand and spoke to them for a moment (in Spanish), then seated himself with them.  I think this bishop wants to get to know the faithful of his new diocese.

I snuck in and asked Bishop Cary if he would consent to an interview for this blog while he is Baker City. He said he is willing, but not sure of the timing of the various events of the weekend; I assured him I would track him down to see what we can arrange.

So stay tuned: I may be able to have a talk with the new bishop of the Diocese of Baker, and I will report on it here!

Biographical Information about Fr. Daniel Ochiabuto:

Fr. Daniel was born on June 15, 1973 in Umuahia, Nigeria. He attended Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu (1998-2002) and Seat of Wisdom Seminary in Owerri in Imo State.(2003-2007). He was ordained a deacon in 2006, and was ordained to the priesthood on July 28, 2007 in Umuahia Diocese. He arrived in the Diocese of Baker in October 2009.

Fr. Daniel served as associate pastor at Our Lady of the Valley Church in La Grande, Oregon, and in January 2011 he was made pastor of St. Bridget of Kildare in Nyssa.

Fr. Daniel became seriously ill with malaria in March 2012; he had been home for a visit, and returned to Oregon where it became apparent that he had not recovered. St. Bridget parishioners covered the cost of his return to Nigeria for treatment.  Tragically, Fr. Daniel was struck by a vehicle in Umuahia, Nigeria in late May, and died from his injuries on June 1, 2012 at the age of 39.

Requiescat in pace.

For related posts, click on the “Bishop Liam Cary Posts” tab at the top of the page.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cohabitation vs. Marriage: By My Daughter

My daughter Ruthie wrote the following essay in 2011, when she was a high school senior enrolled in an English class at the local community college. In fact, almost every essay she wrote for the two college English classes she took that year revolved around marriage and Catholic values. Yay! I’m posting it here simply because I am so very proud of her!

Is Cohabitation Taking the Place of Marriage?

Cohabitation, or living together before marriage, is becoming increasingly popular. At the same time, marriage is becoming a rare phenomenon. Why is this? Perhaps because humans are afraid of the relationship ending, so why risk the chance? Or is it simply “going out of style”? Or is there some completely different reason? These questions are part of what has inspired me to pursue this interesting topic.

In addition to the previous questions, the topic interests me greatly due to my fascination with and anticipation of getting married. I’m wrapped up in the excitement of reaching an acceptable age at which to marry, and I am finding it extremely difficult to wait for the time when I am engaged and can begin to live my calling as a wife and mother.

While I find the thought of getting married thrilling, others do not appear to have the same desire to wed. It is my belief that this difference in opinion is due to my generation’s views on the sanctity of marriage. Until fairly recently, the social “norm” was that a man and woman were to live in separate households until marriage. In fact, it was frowned upon (and still should be, if you ask me!) when a couple cohabited without the morally sound act of marriage. However, currently it seems socially acceptable, and in many cases expected, that young couples will live together while unmarried. It seems to me that this now-acceptable living situation is having a drastic effect on marriage. With society’s expectation that a man and woman will live with one another before their wedding, it may be that this is causing people to become fond of the belief that marriage isn’t necessary.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, reality wedding television shows such as “Say Yes to the Dress” or “My Fair Wedding” are helping put more of a focus back on weddings. I myself am an avid fan of these shows (no surprise!); however, I feel that they focus solely on the glamour of a wedding, rather than the realistic aspect of a life-long marriage. Still, while in some cases this is appealing to the viewers, these shows could also be doing harm to the marriage image. Each episode seems to feature outrageously expensive, pricey items, all-in-all costing the couple tens of thousands of dollars. It is no secret that this country is going through hard economic times, and a wedding at that cost is simply out of the question. When a couple sees those hefty price tags, it’s no surprise that it’s a frightening thought.

My Catholic religious values stress the importance of both man and woman remaining virgins until marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that sex is for married couples, not for the unmarried. Sex has two purposes: it helps the couple become closer and more intimate, and it also has the purpose of producing children. The Catholic Church also teaches that artificial contraception is wrong, because it interferes with God’s plan for children. The main point of all of this is that there is more to a marriage relationship than just sex for the pleasure of the husband and wife. Marriage requires commitment and trust and faith. That’s why living together is unacceptable. You can’t just “try it out” and see if it’s going to work. You have to make the commitment that you are going to make it work, and for that you need God’s help.
Although I had read Rainey’s article “Is There Hope for a Lasting Marriage?” to get more of the human viewpoint, on the question, I learned that 96% of college students either want to be married or are already married (Rainey, 11). That sounds like a lot of marriages! Yet, 64% of college students believe that living together before marriage is a good idea (Rainey, 51). The fact that so many college students want to be married surprised me, since I originally thought that the majority of people don’t desire to be married. However, it appears as though this thought is still instilled in the minds of young adults, rather than older, more “experienced” adults. By experienced I mean those that have possibly been married previously, or in long-term relationships that fell through in the end. Alicia helped prove this theory by telling me a bit of her past relationship with the father of her child. She said that he ended up not being the type of person she wanted in a marriage, and since then has not felt the need to get married.

I also learned a bit more about human perspectives through talking with my friends. While Trenton and I agreed upon marriage and our views were very similar, Michael’s were not. While I am excited to be married, Michael finds the thought frightening. His words were “It’s a big step, and the commitment and possibility of failure is scary.” These words affirmed my original belief that people are afraid of being hurt in the end, and a few of them simply don’t want to take the chance.

My Conclusion

The statistics show that more people are, in fact, living together before marriage. It is also true that there are fewer marriages now than there have been in the past. However, the statistics show that many of the couples who are cohabiting will eventually get married. This leads me to believe that cohabiting is not fully taking the place of marriage.

In the end, marriage is a big responsibility, and that’s no secret. No one should enter into such a firm commitment without some sort of determination to make it work. However, even though it is a major responsibility, I am still of the opinion that living together before marriage is not the answer to making the marriage last.

Marriage is a beautiful relationship that everyone should have a chance to participate in. And in a society that has begun to fear and avoid the concept of true love and expressing it through marriage, I feel as though those my age who still believe that things can work out may help bring marriage – without living together first – back in style.

 Work Cited

CDC, Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait.

Mantel, Charles. “The End of Marriage,” January 8, 2010. 

Rainey, Dennis. “Is There Hope for a Lasting Marriage.”   

Real Relational Solutions,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NFP Is Not Required

NFP is an interesting topic…there’s a lot of emotion behind it, even though it really affects only about 2-3% of the Catholic population, as far as I can tell. There’s a committed group of people seeking to increase its usage, and there are a few nitpicking, nattering babobs like yours truly who think that’s not such a good idea.

Some readers believe I’m running counter to Church teaching by questioning the wisdom of promoting NFP while neglecting the important detail that it should be used only for “serious reasons”.

Also under attack seems to be the notion that there might be venial sin involved in the marital act, due to our fallen nature and tendency toward concupiscence.
It seems to me that underlying these protestations is the following line of reasoning – which really permeates modern society’s thinking (especially if you leave out the reference to God):

Sex is good, all the time, for married couples, because it is a gift from God.

Sex is a way of expressing love between husband and wife – the “unitive” end of marriage.

Therefore, it is good for a married couple to be able to have sex when the woman is not fertile so that they can still enjoy the “unitive” end of the marital act while avoiding pregnancy.

(Actually…I think the militant homosexualists have hijacked this train of thought, expanding it to include sex between or among any number of people regardless of gender.)

In order to maintain this line of reasoning, there’s a tendency to dismiss saints like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas – who explicitly addressed the problem of sin and concupiscence within marriage – as being outdated; as having been “corrected” in some way; and as being “not infallible”.

These objections seem to be coming mainly from those who want to promote NFP, some of whom want to leave the “serious reasons” for its use in a nebulous state to be “discerned” by the couple. These promoters believe that NFP should be taught to and practiced by many couples for a variety of reasons, not just for avoidance of pregnancy.

However, I would like to remind all concerned that the Church has taught from the beginning that couples should “be fruitful and multiply”, and that God never added a caveat to be “responsible” or “prudent” in that effort. In addition, the language used by the Church in describing marriage up until Vatican II included the phrase “generous parenthood” (in fact, that phrase is still used, but it is combined with the adjective “prudent”, and practically supplanted by the adjective “responsible”. More on that in another upcoming post).

It is not appropriate or even prudent to simply dismiss all that has been written about marriage before Vatican II. For instance, Popes Pius XI and XII acknowledged that periodic continence was licit, but they certainly did not condone its widespread use. They also acknowledged the dangers of concupiscence in the marital act. Are we to assume that they were in error and that their errors have now also been “corrected”?

I think it’s also important to keep in mind that in every place where periodic continence is mentioned in a Church document – even in recent times – the warning about “serious reasons” is always included. There is always the reminder that a couple should not consider that they have ultimate control over the procreative end of their marriage, because that would be usurping God’s right.

And while we may find a number of papal documents acknowledging that use of periodic continence for serious reasons is a licit use of the knowledge of a woman’s fertile periods, in none of those documents is it written that periodic continence must be used by a married couple. Rather, periodic continence is allowed, but really not encouraged.

What is encouraged is the idea that “husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church.” That’s Pope Pius XI talking, in Casti Connubiis. He’s talking about chastity vs. concupiscence, about love vs. sex. He goes on to say:

The love, then, of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds. This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue. (par. 23)

In addition, Pope Pius XI has some sound suggestions for pre-marriage instruction, emphasizing obedience to the Church, where we may find the truth. He warns the faithful against “the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason”, and says that if moral truth in general is difficult to discern without the help of the Church, then

…we must all the more pay attention to those things, which appertain to marriage where the inordinate desire for pleasure can attack frail human nature and easily deceive it and lead it astray. (par. 102)

And, interestingly enough, Pope Pius XI concludes that

Such wholesome instruction and religious training in regard to Christian marriage will be quite different from that exaggerated physiological education by means of which, in these times of ours, some reformers of married life make pretense of helping those joined in wedlock, laying much stress on these physiological matters, in which is learned rather the art of sinning in a subtle way than the virtue of living chastely. (par. 108)

That does give one pause, doesn’t it? 

Click on the NFP tab at the top of the page for a list of other NFP posts on this blog.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We Need Adult Catechesis

The “Year of Faith” is in the news, of course, and the phrase “new evangelization” keeps popping up alongside it. Fifty years since Vatican II…new evangelization…hmmm. The Vatican News agency noted in a 6/20 article about the next Bishop’s Synod::

"New methods and new forms of expression are needed to convey to the people of today the perennial truth of Jesus Christ, forever new and the source of all newness... This renewed dynamism in the Christian community will lead to renewed missionary activity (missio ad gentes), now more urgent than ever, given the large number of people who do not know Jesus Christ in not only far-off countries, but also those already evangelized." This is what His Exc. Mgr. Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops writes in the Preface to the Instrumentum Laboris of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: "The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith" (7 - 28 October, 2012).

It seems to me that we certainly do need an infusion of faith! And to accomplish that, we need to re-evangelize the people sitting in the pews at Mass on most Sundays who are in the process of being lost to the modernistic interpretations of Vatican II that have Protestantized our Catholic liturgies and poisoned the minds of the faithful with personalistic philosophy, moral relativism, and disdain for the hierarchy and the Magisterium of the Church.
We need to get back to the basics – for adult Catholics who never really got them in the first place. 
Too often, though, the focus is on programs for the youth, to the exclusion of adult formation. The youth are seen as our future – and of course, they are our future, but we cannot just give up on the adults. A recent article by Sandro Magister, “Religious illiteracy: The First to Send Back to School are the Adults”, addresses this issue. Magister quotes from an article by Professor Pietro de Marco [my emphases throughout]:

The trusting decision of making adolescents the primary and sometimes the exclusive focus of pastoral strategy is a mistake. [Christian formation for the youth] has thus become the only formation existing in the churches. But this formation is by definition inadequate for adults. And as a result it will be inadequate for the same subjects who are now being formed, once they have become adults.

The evidence of this error is there every day. What remains for the young person who has become an adult? There remain the "narratives" about Jesus and good sentiments or ideals, meaning all the weakness of contemporary catechesis.

I have seen a prime example of this in a nearby mission parish (meaning there aren’t very many members!). The people there love the children,as of course they should… but all catechesis is directed toward them, and even liturgical events are viewed with the aim of making them attractive to the kids, involving the kids (even in inappropriate ways), and making sure the kids are “comfortable”. The result is that the adults have come down to the level of the children in their knowledge of the faith, rather than raising the children up into responsible adults who seek to grow in their faith.

And think about it: when the focus is on children in the Mass, and when the catechesis is limited to at best a 2nd-grade level, what is the message to the teen-age crowd? “Been there, done that”, is what I’m thinking. It seems to me that the teens will see “church” as something for kids, something they themselves have outgrown.

Well…that is, unless there’s Wednesday night basketball religious education provided for the high school crowd (during which nothing controversial is discusses for fear of offending the parents).

De Marco adds:

It is not true that "well formed" young people will for this reason be good adults. Over the years, the young person is powerfully "socialized" by processes of identification and emulation, by new knowledge and communication communities, by unexpected possibilities of self-realization, all mediated by adults; who will help him to increase his understanding of the faith in parallel?

If the adults of reference today are not consistently led to confirm the Christian formation above all in themselves, as adults, then in intergenerational communication, the formation in the Catholic vision of the world offered today to adolescents in pastoral care is already at risk of failure.

Adults are in need of faith formation and religious education even more than their children – or they will not be able to pass on the faith!

In a recent post on the “Reverend Know-It-All” blog (which looks like it may have been removed…try here), Fr. Richard Simon talked about “Catholic education” in recent times, noting that

Catholic schools, by and large, have become failures themselves…Catholic schools have become inexpensive private schools for middle class people who have little or no interest in the Catholic faith, maintained at great expense by Catholic parishes. Catholic schools are, for the most part, over.

Wishful thinking?
That’s true in my limited experience as well. The Catholic school where my husband served as Associate Principal and I served as a religion teacher for a couple of years, had a student body that was 50% Catholic. The parents of the non-Catholic students were not sending them there for the Catholic education, and when I gave almost every student a “C” in my freshman religion class – because that’s what they deserved – the parents protested in droves. The principal decided to make the class “Pass/Fail” at that point, so the little dears wouldn’t suffer a drop in their GPA’s.

Fr. Simon adds:

The few kids from our schools who go to church don’t go because the school has converted them. They go because they have parents dedicated enough to bring them every Sunday, even in summer. Even in soccer season. Those kids may end up Catholic, not because they went to our schools and religious education programs, but because their parents were the first and best of teachers.

The children will follow along with their parents’ example of faith and duty to the Church. If the parents don’t go to Mass, how are the kids even supposed to get there?! But if the parents are faithful Mass-goers, chances are the children will be, too. Of course, there comes a point where the children become teens and then young adults, and they make their own choices, but if the foundation is firm, there’s certainly a greater possibility that they’ll remain faithful.

Fr. Simon makes the astute observation that:

We have turned sacrament into sacrilege. When you “get your sacraments” you’re “outta” there… Sacraments are an ending instead of a beginning.

And actually, doesn’t the staff of every parish know this? I remember many conversations in the parish staff meetings where we lamented that we would see a family when they wanted their child baptized, then when they wanted the child to receive first Holy Communion, and maybe for Confirmation. But especially after first Communion, there was a big drop-off in Mass attendance. And if you dare to mention to one of these parents that they should…you know…like, come to Mass more frequently…even, like, you know, every Sunday…they get a little defensive. As Fr. Simon notes, they’ll say that they are “perfectly good Catholics” because they “go to Mass every single Easter and every single Christmas without fail”.

What I witnessed in my few years as a parish secretary was that the parents were not held responsible for passing on the true faith to their children. If they wanted a baby baptized, the only requirement was to attend the baptism class. Now that’s a start, but I don’t really know what was taught; I know, though, that I saw plenty of examples of inappropriate God parents being chosen and taking part in the baptism rite. For example: only God mothers present, and no God father; fallen-away Catholics named as God parents and participating in the rite; non-Catholics as God parents.

RCIA, where we had a chance to education and form new adult Catholics, was pretty lukewarm, too. The office staff always told me not to expect the new Catholics to remain in the Church; “seems like they come in one door and go out the other in a few years” they told me. My husband and I did our best to teach the true faith, but when we suggested to the pastor that there were a couple of candidates who really were not ready to come into the Church, our evaluation was discounted. It seemed to be more important to have a certain number of new Catholics at the Easter Vigil than to be sure they were really going to be Catholic.

Sandro Magister, in the article noted above, cited some remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI in a 2009 homily concerning “adult faith formation”. (Does that phrase make you roll your eyes, too? These courses always seem to end up being some fluff to help adults “feel good” and believe that they are growing in their faith, but with no actual substantive content, and no wish to touch on any controversial subjects.)

The words ‘adult faith’ in recent decades have formed a widespread slogan. It is often meant in the sense of the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her Pastors but autonomously choose what they want to believe and not to believe hence a do-it-yourself faith. And it is presented as a ‘courageous’ form of self-expression against the Magisterium of the Church. In fact, however, no courage is needed for this because one may always be certain of public applause. Rather, courage is needed to adhere to the Church’s faith, even if this contradicts the ‘logic’ of the contemporary world.

This is the non-conformism of faith which Paul calls an ‘adult faith’. It is the faith that he desires. On the other hand, he describes chasing the winds and trends of the time as infantile. (Pope Benedict XVI, homily at the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 2009)

The Church definitely needs a “new evangelization”. And, in my humble opinion, it definitely needs to start with the adults we already have in the Church who don’t know much about their faith.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Comic Relief

Are You Smarter Than the President?

Are You Smarter Than the President?


Are you smarter than the smartest man ever to occupy the White House?
  • Have you learned Austrian?
  • Have you ridden on the Intercontinental Railroad?
  • Do you know what year the 1936 Olympics was held?
Test your knowledge against the legendary genius of Barack Obama! On October 10, 2008, CNN commentator Julian E. Zelizer referred to Obama as “the presidential candidate who is the intellectual in the contest.” Historian Micheal Beschloss told radio host Don Imus essentially the same thing:
Michael Beschloss: “…this is a guy (Barack Obama) whose IQ is off the charts…”
Imus: “Well. What is his IQ?”
Historian Michael Beschloss: “Pardon?”
Imus: “What is his IQ?”
Historian Michael Beschloss: “Uh. I would say it’s probably – he’s probably the smartest guy ever to become President.”
- The Don Imus Show, November 18, 2008

On June 14, 2011, Chris Matthews claimed Barack Obama has a Mensa-qualifying IQ of 160. And, according to Jodi Cantor’s book, The Obamas, Barack makes the same claims about himself:
“When David Plouffe, [Obama’s] campaign manager, first interviewed for a job with him in 2006, the senator gave him a warning. ‘I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it.’ … Obama said nearly the same thing to Patrick Gaspard, whom he hired to be the campaign’s political director. ‘I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.’” (p. 66)

As further evidence of his brilliance, consider his college grades, his SAT and LSAT scores. None of these are available to the public. His natural transparency in this regard is undeniably a sign of his extremely high intelligence matched with a superior and saintly modesty.

In over one hundred and sixty pages, we ask you to answer questions as Barack Hussein Obama would. Naturally, this is impossible because you are only you, while Barack is... well.. he is Barack. Obviously, he is superior to you.

But Barack decided to give you a sporting chance to match whatever wits you might manage to gather together against his superior intellect. If you can answer even a dozen of these questions as well as Barack already has, you can count yourself lucky to be so undeservedly honored. And if you can’t... well... mess with the best, lose like the rest. Just take a number and join the line of crushed contenders.

Are you ready for a bruising?

Then let’s go!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Music, a Monk, and St. John the Baptist

A Homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Our Lady of the Presentation (St. Mary’s), Eugene, OR, June 24, 2012

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the birth of the precursor, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, who announced the Messiah, even from his mother’s womb. When Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, heard the annunciation of his son’s birth, he doubted and was struck dumb. But at the birth and naming of John, the infant saint’s intercession brought about the restoration and suppleness of voice to his father. This is because the saint was given the gift of the Holy Spirit in the womb at the Visitation of our Lady to her cousin Elizabeth. The babe in the womb leapt for joy because he received the Holy Spirit and was born in a state of grace. The Church teaches that St. John the Baptist received the grace of baptism in the womb by that gift of the Holy Spirit. That is why he baptized others. But he was unable to give the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism. It was a gift he had been given, but could not give. That is why he is the precursor. He knew that there was one to come that was greater than he. 

There is a famous episode associated with this feast. In the eighth century, Paul Warnefrid, the Deacon, a monk of Montecassino, and a member of the court of Charlemagne, was deputed to bless the Easter Candle at the Paschal Vigil. He lost his voice as he was preparing to sing the Exultet, which is proper to the office of deacon. He prayed to St. John the Baptist, who had loosened the voice of his father Zechariah at his birth. Paul the deacon prayed that his voice would be loosened as well. The saint heard his plea and interceded for him, loosening his voice to chant the Exultet. In thanksgiving, Paul the deacon composed a famous hymn to the saint which is sung in the Roman liturgy even to this day, in the Divine Office for this feast. The hymn is divided into three parts and sung at Vespers, Matins, and Lauds.
The hymn begins like this:

Since thy servants desire to sound forth,
with vocal chords well strung, thy wondrous deeds,
from all uncleanness free the lips of the guilty ones, O holy John!
(Gueranger The Liturgical Year. Vol. 12, p. 235-236).

This hymn is famous because it changed the course of music and the study of music for all time. In order to demonstrate how this change came about, we must look to the original Latin. The first verse then, goes like this: Ut queant laxis, resonare fibris mira gestorum famuli tuorum, solve polluti labii reatum, sancte Ioannes. Each strophe begins one note higher than the next. “The custom was afterwards introduced of giving to the notes themselves the names of these syllables: Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La. Guido of Arezzo, in his method of teaching, originated this custom, and by completing it with the introduction of the regular lines of the musical scale, he caused an immense stride to be made in the science of sacred music” (236). He changed the Ut to Do, then continued the scale up by adding Ti and finishing with Do again.
Music has long been associated with the divine. It is said that Pathagoras, a pagan Greek Mathematician and “mystic philosopher” (of the 6th century BC) was walking by a smith’s shop and “by a happy chance he heard the iron hammers striking an anvil, and rendering sounds most consonant to one another in all combinations except one. He observed in them these three concords: the octave, the fifth and the fourth; but that which was between the fourth and the fifth he found to be a discord” (Weiss and Taruskin. Music in the Western World. 3-4) So, he went home and experimented with weights hung on a string and he came to understand music as being mathematical. Since mathematics, as a science, studied the divine numerical order of the universe, so he concluded that music, being mathematical, therefore participated in the divine sounds of the heavenly spheres.  

Plato, another Greek, and a pagan, advanced the science of music even further. He identified that music could be holy, or it could be profane. There were hymns, which “consisted of prayers to the gods” (7); and then there were songs to express emotions; songs to tell stories, and unworthy songs that were insulting to men of virtue. He observed a “horror of disorder” (8) in that men of vice corrupted the holy forms of music by mixing holy sounds with profane words and holy words with profane sounds.
We have now looked at the pagans of Classical Greece. Let us not look to the covenant people of God. We see in the Jewish liturgies of the Synagogue that music was a participation in the heavenly song of the angels. “The words sung by the Seraphim entered the Jewish liturgy as the Kedushah” (19) from Isaiah chapter 6: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus, Deus exercituum; Plena est omnis terra gloria eius. (Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of hosts. All the earth is full of His glory). These words again greet us in the book of the Apocalypse of St. John around the heavenly altar of God (4:8): Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus omnipotens…. (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty). This song enters then from the divine liturgy of heaven into the divine liturgy of earth. The singing of the Sanctus at Mass joins our worship here on earth with the worship of the saints and angels in heaven.

It is fitting then to speak of the Sanctus on this feast of the precursor of the Lord. St. John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the wilderness, announcing the coming of the Lord. His birth signaled the end of the old covenant and the coming of the new. Christ is near, he seems to say. He is the patron of sacred music because first he loosened the tongue of his father to sing the praises of God. Then, eight centuries later, he loosened the tongue of Paul the deacon to sing the praises of the Easter Candle which represents the Light of Christ. Two more centuries passed and he loosened the tongue of Guido of Arezzo to created the musical scale. Because of the musical scale, human voices, unbounded by the centuries, could sing the same piece of music all over the world in every age. Today the members of the Church join their many voices in one voice to sing the Sanctus with the angels and saints in heaven, announcing the coming of the Lord on this altar. St. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Lord in the flesh. The Sanctus announcing the coming of the Lord on this altar.

Let us have a renewed devotion to the cultivation of sacred music, holy words joined with holy sounds. Let us purify our singing that nothing profane would accompany this most holy sacrifice, but that our singing would be entirely infused with an angelic sound, an angelic mind, an angelic spirit. Let us purify our senses too by purging our music collections of any music unworthy of a virtuous man or woman. Let us avoid listening to any music that is infused with the spirit of worldliness and profanity, whether inside the church or in our homes, our cars, our ipods, and phones. St. John the Baptist joins his voice from heaven with ours today in this church. Through his intercession, may our voices truly mingle with his voice and with all the saints and angels in their heavenly song to announce the coming of the Lord in the flesh on this altar.