Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sharpening my focus

This is another one of those cases where something not thrown directly at me affected my view of my apostolate — if that's not too grandiose a term. Here's Fr. Robert Barron of talking about the new Catholic commentariat (sounds like a department in the old Soviet Russia government):

Part of the reason I've posted this here is because I intend to link my next OTA post to it. The other part is that Fr. Barron is such an intelligent and thoughtful commentator himself that it pays to listen to him.

To everyone that's followed me up to now, I thank you for hanging in with me while I try to find my voice within the Catholic blogosphere. Again, if you have any suggestions about how I can sharpen my "brand identity", please let me know!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two ambitious projects for your consideration

Project 1: 84,000 Novenas for Pope Benedict's 84th Birthday
This request came to me directly from John-Paul at Novena, and was just revealed today at his website. Beginning April 8, pray once a day for the intention of the Pope until April 16. As far as I know right now, the prayer intended is the traditional prayer for the Pope, which I'll post on a separate page. Follow this link to sign up for daily reminders and to let John-Paul know how close we get to the goal. You can also sign on to the novena as an event on Facebook. And please pass on the word to any people or groups you think would be interested (prayer circles, Bible study classes, etc.)!

Project 2: What If We Just Said "Pray"?
As you may remember from my March 6 post, there are groups in the US, the UK, Ireland and Australia who are raising a big stink about the new translation which becomes effective November 27, 2011 (first Sunday of Advent). Louie Verrecchio, who writes for the Catholic News Agency and has a couple of catechetical books on the racks, recently got fed up with the whinging and effing and decided to create an online petition of support for the new translation. Frankly, as I've said on the other blog, for all the supposed defects and clumsiness of the new translation, it's still overwhelmingly better than the watered-down pabulum currently being served to us.

The statement of concern, which is titled "What If We Just Said 'Pray'?" in mocking reference to last year's fruitless attempt to derail the approval of the new texts, shows support not only for the new translation but also for the bishops of the Church in the English-speaking world, and commits us to prayer on their behalf. It also commits us to prayer on behalf of those who are fighting the new translation, for the conversion of their souls so they may embrace the new translation and stop kicking against the goad (cf. Ac 26:14). Link here to read the full petition and sign it.

Gratia Dei vobiscum! And thanks!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We're all about monks and nuns here ....

A couple more communities that could use charitable support. True, you don't get marvelous coffee for your donations, but you do get the satisfaction of supporting those who pray for us every day.

 Besides an Internet outreach program, the Benedictine nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery in East Hendred, England, also have an audio service for the visually impaired. You can donate through this link using a couple of different options, or find out other ways to give. (Since they're in England, American donations may be subject to a tax that they'll find it difficult to recover, so you might up your contribution a tad to compensate. Also check the exchange rates beforehand to see if it's more cost effective to give in dollars or pounds.)

The Benedictine Monastery of St. Emma is on this side of the water, in Greensburg, PA; so if you're interested in a life of Benedictine spirituality, you can take a long weekend to check them out! They also have a cool gift shop which you can access online. To contribute, you can access their main donations page through this link.

Now's the time—Adopt A Nun today!

If you think I get wound up about Catholic dissidents ...

... then watch this eight-minute rant about the term "Taliban Catholic" from Michael Voris of

I got the video from Richard over at Linen on the Hedgerow, who in turn got it from Christine at A Catholic View. Also, I met Mary O'Regan at The Path Less Taken through Richard's blog; I sometimes suspect that one day all Catholic bloggers will be linked within six degrees of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.

I'm not a big fan of Voris; he's a little too snarky to be truly funny. I don't ordinarily raise a big stink about it, because to do so pays the term more attention than it deserves. Like my mom used to say to me about name-calling bullies: "Don't let them know it upsets you, because that'll make it all the worse." But he is right (not just right-wing): "Taliban Catholic" does an injustice not only to those of us who defend Catholic orthodoxy but also to those people who have been victimized by the real Taliban.

If these people were to call us "fundamentalists", or "extremists", or "right-wingers", the labels would still be inaccurate and inapposite but would at least not call into question our basic goodness. Only two explanations are possible for putting "Taliban" in front of "Catholic": 1) The person has been hiding under a rock for the last ten years or so and believes the Taliban is simply a hard-line Islamic sect; or, 2) The person is fully aware of the Taliban's terrorist activities, and is deliberately accusing us of being not just wrong but actively evil.

What I'd like to do is get this rant broken down into an .mp3 file and rig up the offices of the Fishwrap, Commonweal and America so that their Muzak systems play it 24/7 for a whole month. Then, after that, the offices of Marquette, Georgetown, Seattle U, Gonzaga, Creighton ... MUHUWAHAHA!

Oops ... sorry for the "evil overlord" laugh.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

From the "Childhood ambitions" department

Sometimes, a young child's art needs no interpretation. Sometimes, though, you have to have one, if only to settle other people's minds. Consider this youngster's enthusiastic rendering of Mommy's job:

The next day, the teacher received Mommy's embarrased explanation:

Dear Mrs. Jones,
I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.
I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every snow shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to show me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot.
From now on I will remember to check her homework more.

I should think so.

Ask Tony: What are the parts of the Mass?

No, I haven't gotten a question from a reader on this. But in my most recent post on Outside the Asylum, we have this explanation for non-Catholics who may read it:

The majority of the prayers offered during the Mass are fixed or with very limited options. The Ordinary of the Mass comprises these prayers and the order in which all the prayers and readings are said, complete with the congregation’s responses. There are, however, other prayers that vary with the seasons or with special dates in the Church’s life; together with the readings that are appropriate to the days, these all make up the Propers.

Since non-Catholics—at least those from a less liturgically-oriented communion—who come to a Mass often don't understand what's going on, it might help to go through each stage of the Mass.

Friday, March 25, 2011

From the "Watch the curb" department

My cousin Greg (USAR Ret.) forwarded this story to me. It may be true; it may be an urban legend.

I'm not a violent person, nor do I promote violence, but I can understand its occasional just application:

Augusta, GA
Orville Smith, a store manager for Best Buys in Augusta, Georgia, told police he observed a male customer, later identified as Tyrone Jackson of Augusta, on surveillance cameras putting a laptop computer under his jacket...

When confronted the man became irate, knocked down an employee, drew a knife and ran for the door.

Outside on the sidewalk were four Marines collecting toys for the "Toys for Tots" program.

Smith said the Marines stopped the man, but he stabbed one of the Marines, Cpl. Phillip Duggan, in the back; the injury did not appear to be severe. After police and an ambulance arrived at the scene Cpl. Duggan was transported for treatment.

The subject was also transported to the local hospital with two broken arms, a broken ankle, a broken leg, several missing teeth, possible broken ribs, multiple contusions, assorted lacerations, a broken nose and a broken jaw ... injuries he sustained when he slipped and fell off of the curb after stabbing the Marine.
 What can I say, except that it just doesn't pay to f*** with a United States Marine. OOH-RAH!

More monks, more coffee ... what else can you ask for?

Artist's conception
Great story in the OSV website on the Carmelite monks responsible for that most magical treat, Mystic Monk® Coffee. Among other things, it tells us that the ground-breaking for New Mount Carmel will be May 11, 2011 at 10:00 am. There's also a computer rendering superimposed on a photo of the land the monks have purchased (below).

Talk about your stunning backdrops!
I just wish the brothers could make some kind of distribution deal that would put their coffee beans on supermarket shelves—if not at Kroger's or Albertson's, at least at World Market (or Central Market, the foodie's paradise). As it is, to enjoy this superb blend you must fork out the clams to have it shipped direct to you. (Purchases of $40 or more get free shipping, so buy their 4 Bags and Sampler pack; if you get a monthly subscription, you save another $2 every month.)

Right now I'm out, and until I'm gainfully employed again I must conserve funds, so doing without Mystic Monk is an additional Lenten penance. (Of course, if someone wants to send me a gift card ....)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Out of order

Sorry, folks, I know I can do more than just tack on new items to the Father Corapi story. Just give me a little time ....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lopping off the tall poppies—UPDATED

Gee, it seems only a few weeks ago that we were shocked by the news of Fr. Thomas Euteneuer's fall from grace—oh, wait a minute, it WAS a few weeks ago! And it was just a couple of weeks after that that the grand jury in Philadelphia claimed there were as many as twenty-seven suspected predator-priests still active and unchained in that see.

Now whose neck is on the chopping block? Fr. John Corapi, the EWTN-televised priest with the booming voice and the take-the-faith-to-the-gym theology. Unlike Fr. Euteneuer, though, Fr. Corapi isn't going down without a fight. Here's the release from his website (H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra):

There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on "administrative leave" as the result of this. 

I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.
I would urge everyone at this time not to leap to conclusions. I would hope and pray that the charges are found to be without merit, and that Fr. Corapi's charism and vocation suffer no damage as a result of them. At the same time, I hope and pray that the investigation is fair and balanced—not in the Fox News sense; I mean really impartial—and that justice is done where justice is due.

It seems that Satan, in his infernal desire to sift the disciples like wheat (cf. Lk 22:31), is targeting the "tall poppies" of the Church in America. Who's next: Fr. Robert Barron? Abp. Timothy Dolan (well, they've been trying to get him since he moved to the Big Apple from Milwaukee)? Karl Keating? Maybe some old woman (or man) has a repressed memory return from some indiscretion committed by Abp. Fulton Sheen?

Update: March 21, 2011
Deacon Greg's original post, as of this writing, has had 238 responses; according to Elizabeth Scalia, the story is "producing a lot of sound and fury in some quarters, signifying not-much, and producing little-to-no light." Frank Weathers at YIMC has a great indirect commentary on calumny. Doctor Gerald Nadal agrees with Fr. Corapi that the suspension publicly proclaims him guilty until proven innocent. Lisa Graas points us back to the Anchoress, as does Deacon Greg; frankly, if you read one post—well, if you read one more post–that would be the one to read.

In sum: We've still only heard one side of the story. While I'm inclined to give Fr. Corapi the benefit of the doubt, I'm not his religious superior, nor do I run EWTN (which, according to a source Steve Ray has, is yanking his show for the time being). That being said, like Dr. Nadal, I do believe Fr. Corapi deserves the presumption of innocence—not because he's a fantastic preacher, nor because he's a priest, nor because he's a Public Figure, but because he's a person, a member of the Church and a child of God like the rest of us.

A little later:
Mark Shea essentially agrees with the Anchoress in proposing the Prof. Digory Kirke response: "How about if everybody minds their own business and lets the investigation proceed so that the facts, whatever they are, will be uncovered?" And, without casting unnecessary or rash judgment on Fr. Corapi, Fr. Dwight Longenecker reminds us that we have to be careful that our respect and admiration for specially prominent priests doesn't verge into "bubble gum religion".

The point of a priest being an alter Christus is to point us to Christ Himself. We always have before us the example of the Corinthians, who built personality cults around Paul, Peter and Apollos; St. Paul himself took some pains to reject such partisanship:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? ... What then is Paul? What then is Apollos? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor (1 Cor 1:13, 3:5-8).
There are plenty of good, strong Catholic voices from whom we can learn the authentic faith—not only priests such as Frs. Corapi, Longenecker, Zuhlsdorf and so forth, but upwards to hierarchs such as Abp. Timothy Dolan (not to mention our highly intelligent, highly profound Pope) and downwards to lay men and women of great knowledge such as Dr. John Zmirak, Chuck Colson, Dr. George Weigel and so on. But at the end of the day, they—and we—are all disciples of Christ, not disciples of _________. We do well to remember that.

A little later than before!
From Pat Archbold's blog in the National Catholic Register:

Statement from Rev. Gerald Sheehan, Regional Priest Servant
Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity
18 March 2011

Today, as Regional Priest Servant for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, I have the unhappy responsibility to announce that Father John Corapi, SOLT has been placed on administrative leave from priestly ministry, in accordance to the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church.  We have received an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation in this accusation.

It is important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Father Corapi is guilty of the allegation.  It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far, the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the [level?] of criminal conduct.  Consequently, this matter will be investigated internally, and unless and until information suggests otherwise it will not be referred to civil authorities.  In the event that we learn of any occasion where the criminal civil law may have been breached we will immediately refer the matter to civil authorities.
Update: March 23, 2011
Patrick Madrid has a copy of an announcement from EWTN regarding the suspension of Fr. Corapi's show. You can read it here. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Best St. Patrick's Day Post 2011

The reason we need bright young journalists like the Bright Maidens in the MSM is because of dumb old journalists like Patrick Roberts.

LarryD over at Acts of the Apostasy does a good job of fisking Roberts' ignorance of St. Pat, canonization and basic Church history. But even better is his illustration:

Yes, just another reason to keep holy cards around the house: you never know what other righteous uses you can put them to, such as sacramental sarcasm!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Okay, so the following couple of tunes are really Irish-American kitsch. But first, it's not St. Patrick's Day in America if you haven't heard "Danny Boy" at least once. (Besides, I'm in love with Celtic Woman, though it's an ill-fated romance because polygamy is forbidden.)

Second, Irish Catholics of a certain age were brought up with the sound of Der Bingl singing Irish-American kitsch (and why was a nice Irish boy given a pseudo-German nickname? Beats me; ask "Dutch" Reagan!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Art behaving very badly

There are time when you're torn between scratching your head, wondering "What is this artist saying?" and slapping said artist upside his/her head, screaming "What the hell were you thinking?"

Case in point: Soasig Chamaillard, a French sculptor who combines a sense of playfulness with a complete absence of religious sensibility. The write-up on's Arts blog has shots of eleven sculptures of the Blessed Virgin, albeit in various transpositions from the merely irreverent to the silly to the downright blasphemous. Four examples for your delectation:

Super Mary
Hello Mary
"Super Mary", the Toronto Globe and Mail says, is "a perfect totem for Tough Times Like These, when many recession-battered consumers harbour rescue fantasies or are turning to religion (or both)." Um, okay; at least they didn't say religion is a rescue fantasy ... then I'd really have to throw a nutty. But what can we say about the Blessed Virgin Kitty? ("Hello Mary" is its given title, but as far as that goes, it reminds me too much of the late McLean Stevenson's short-lived comedy Hello Larry ... especially as I have a couple of friends married to each other who are named Larry and Mary.)

Sioux Marie
Blood Pieta
I do kinda-sorta like "Sioux Marie"; I've often wondered how a competent artist could transpose either our Savior or the BVM into different ethnic and racial categories to emphasize their universality. (Check out this woodblock print of Our Lady of Perpetual Help by Daniel Mitsui!) My only real qualm with it is that it looks too Anglo-Saxon-starlet-playing-an-Indian-in-a-John-Ford-western cheesy; Our Lady looks too much like the Land O' Lakes Butter logo.

On the other hand, there's simply no excuse for "Blood Pieta". Maybe you're going for the Goth crowd, maybe not ... but vampires are evil, no matter how much you're into the Twilight series, or how big a fan you might be of Angel or Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Actually, I blame Fred Saberhagen for recasting Bram Stoker's Dracula first as a put-upon, horribly misunderstood good guy, then as a chaotic-good antihero. He's the one most responsible for the transformation of the undead nosferatu into relatively normal people with an alternative lifestyle of biting necks.)

Ms. Chamaillard has some talent, and in a way the statues do send up the cloying, kitschy colors of your standard-issue Catholic statue. (I find nothing in canon law which requires tackiness of Latin-rite icons.) But ... the New Eve as a Barbie doll? or as a My Little Pony?—that, by the way, was just too horrible to show; imagine a pink female centaur wearing the Maiden's hair covering.

What is she saying? What was she thinking?

Recycling Church trash

According to Damian Thompson at The Telegraph, this church (St. Anne's on Laxton Street near King's Cross) is to be the London Home of the new Ordinariate:

Now, Mr. Thompson is a very incisive writer with fine Catholic sensibilities, and I agree with him: it does look like "a cross between a public lavatory and a Christian Science Reading Room". But I figure the English episcopate might as well get some use out of it—for certain it wouldn't sell anytime soon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

From the "Our Perspicacious President" file

Here is the first sentence/paragraph of the report on MSNBC:

President Barack Obama says the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are a potentially "catastrophic" disaster, and he says his thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people.
Hold on there, Mr. President, you don't want to leap to any unfounded conclusions!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Messages from Our Lady of Akita—UPDATED

“... [I]f men do not repent and better themselves, the Heavenly Father will inflict a great punishment on all humanity. It will definitely be a punishment greater than the Deluge, such as one has never seen before. Fire will plunge from the sky and a large part of humanity will perish. ... The good as well as the bad will perish, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves plunged into such terrible hardships that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son [Eucharist]. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the bishops and the priests."

For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the Law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of Grace? ... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-29, 31).
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church. One will see cardinals opposing other cardinals ... and bishops confronting other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres; churches and altars will be sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord."

Our Lady of Akita
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The demon is trying hard to influence souls consecrated to God. The thought of the perdition of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins continue to be committed further, there will no longer be pardon for them. ... Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am still able to help you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in Me will be given necessary help.”

Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. "This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death" (Lumen Gentium 57); it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:  
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son (Lumen Gentium 58; cf. Jn 19:26-27)"—Catechism of the Catholic Church 964.
The paragraphs in bold with quotation marks are the three messages given to Sr. Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa in 1973 by the Blessed Virgin Mother. The Marian apparition was approved by Bp. John Shojiro Ito in 1984, and by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger, in 1988. The Shrine of Our Lady of Akita is about 176 km (102 mi.) north-northeast of Sendai, about 189 km (116 mi.) north-northeast of where the tsunami struck.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.—From the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

Please pray for the people of Japan, and for all those who will be working with them in charity and mercy for their recovery.

UPDATE: March 16, 2011
The Catholic Knight has a great litany for the people of Japan, invoking their patrons and martyrs, as well as a link to contribute to relief efforts; I've posted the litany itself as a stand-alone page on Outside the Asylum. And Mark Shea has a great reflection on Church-approved private revelations, with Our Lady of Akita especially in mind. I've also corrected the prophecies; they are now as reported in Bp. Ito's letter.

Pope preaches against "cafeteria Catholicism"! Oh yeah!

From a CNS/EWTN news story released yesterday:

.- Priests must not preach “Christianity 'a la carte'” and should be willing to approach even uncomfortable aspects of the Gospel, Pope Benedict said in a meeting with priests this week. ...

The Pope ... called on priests today not to shrink from proclaiming “the entire plan of God.”

“This is important,” said the Pope. “The Apostle does not preach Christianity 'a la carte,' according to his own tastes, he does not preach a Gospel according to his own preferred theological ideas; he does not take away from the commitment to announce the entire will of God, even when uncomfortable, nor the themes he may least like personally. 

“It is our mission to announce all the will of God, in its totality and ultimate simplicity. But the fact that we must instruct and preach is important — as St. Paul says — and really proposes the entire will of God.”
 Do I hear an "Amen"? OOH-RAH!

From the "sympathy from the Devil" file ....

I've maintained for some time that loudmouths like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, P. Z. Myers and Philip Pullman aren't representative of all atheists. In fact, Dawkins isn't the atheist's C. S. Lewis so much as he is the atheist Jack Chick.

Today I found a couple of atheists who bear my point out. 

First, courtesy of Francis Phillips at Catholic Herald, we have Dr. David Starkey (hopefully no relation to Ringo Starr!), self-described as "atheist and gay", who opposed the fining of Peter and Hazel Mary Bull, a Christian couple who refused to let a room of their Cornwall B&B to a couple of men. “The way to do that is not to ban them, not to fine them. It is for them simply to put up what seems to me to be a quite proper notice in a small privately-run hotel which says we are Christians and this is what we believe,” Dr. Starkey told a BBC 1 audience on Question Time. Otherwise, “We are producing a new tyranny.”

The second example comes from a CNS story from last September, but which I stumbled across in a link from another story. In a story done by the Spanish journal ABC, French liberal atheist Bernard-Henri Lévy said, “The Pope’s voice is extremely important. And we are very unjust to this Pope. I am not Catholic, but I think there is prejudice and especially major anti-clericalism that is taking on enormous proportions in Europe. ... In France there is much talk about the desecrations of Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, but nobody knows that the tombs of Catholics are continually desecrated. ... There is a sort of anti-clericalism in France that is not healthy at all. We have the right to criticize religions, but the most attacked religion today is the Catholic religion.”

Unfortunately, two examples in six months hardly constitutes evidence of a groundswell of secularist support for Christianity. But perhaps it gives us a little light in the gloom.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Re-drawing the line

Back in November, I posted five things that will make me leave one church and search out another for Mass: 1) Liturgical puppets; 2) designer vestments; 3) artsy-craftsy liturgical decorations; 4) Clown Masses; and 5) liturgical dancers.

Now I've added a sixth, courtesy of Deacon Greg Kandra:

Do I really need to say this? Okay, I'll say it:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

From the "I always wondered about that" file

Oddly enough, for all the Ash Wednesday Masses and distribution services I've attended in my life, I have no conscious memory of ever seeing a priest with ashes on his head ... probably because I wasn't looking for it. But, in case you were wondering, not even the Pope escapes this ritual:

"Remember, O man, that 'you are dust, and to dust you shall return'"(Gen 3:19). Even if you're the Pope.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Into the darkness of heart

There are people who confuse writing down a handful of numbers with deep thought. There are people who confuse bluntness and foul language with honesty. There are people who think that if they make enough jokes about an experience we'll believe they're all right, that "there nothing wrong with her!" There are people who believe that, if they make a big fuss about rights and proclaim their compassion for the downtrodden loud enough, we'll believe they really do possess a moral compass that's in fine working order.

Such a person is Dolores P., an LPN candidate who works with an abortion provider. Read her post in The Hairpin. (If you need to know what kind of site The Hairpin is, I should tell you that one of the articles I saw advertised was "How To Give Up Urinary Tract Infections For Lent".) Here's a sample of her ersatz-candid style:

Up until recently I’d come out of any closet I found myself in—queer, non-monogamous, I fucking love Tool [the heavy-metal rock band] still, whatever—not that I live to hear the drink-choking sound, but because, to me, coming out was just one of the ways I could pay back the privileges that had been arbitrarily bestowed upon me (educated! white-appearing! “normal!”). My responsibility to normalize as much as I could. But training as an abortion provider is the first thing in my life that I hold back on spilling about. At the core of it, there’s a huge gap between saying “I had one” and saying “I do them.” I don’t want to alienate people. And nothing else I’ve ever done or been has felt like a direct invitation to a motivated someone out there to kill me and get away with it.
By the way, she says elsewhere that she's engaged to the father of the child she aborted, so when she says she came out of the "queer" and "non-monogamous" closets, I can't tell if she's decided she's bisexual, or if she somehow avoided getting labeled "queer", or even if she has a clue what the hell she was trying to say. (She could be just one more victim of that particularly bad piece of advice, "Write the way you talk.")

The whole post is filled with hysterical fears about being killed by some wild-eyed pro-lifer (girlfriend, you're more likely to die in an airplane crash!), dubious stats (65% of women getting abortions are mothers already? Really? That rates a 7.2 on the b.s. meter) and a link of contraceptive sabotage to spousal abuse that hints at the old "at home, barefoot and pregnant" trope. But worst—and most incoherent—of her writing sins is her explanation of what kind of woman feels regret, in what appears to be an attempt to minimize the actual rate of occurence; she has apparently never heard of PAS (Post-Abortion Syndrome), and isn't aware that it can take 5-10 years for it to fully manifest. As it appears to showing up in her writing.

Please pray for the conversion of her soul.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ask Tony: Where did Mardi Gras come from?

Q: I know “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday”, and that it’s the day before Ash Wednesday. But many places start celebrating it so early, even weeks in advance! How did Mardi Gras start?

A: Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”, is simply the last day of the long festival season called Carnival. Traditionally, Carnival starts on Septuagesima Sunday, the third Sunday before Lent. In Germany, the festival season (Fasching) begins on November 11 at 11:11 am, but the actual Karneval period begins the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, peaking on “Rose Monday”. In some areas, the season can begin as early as Epiphany (or Twelfth Night, January 6).

The origin of the festival name is disputed. Usually, it’s explained as derived from carne vale, “farewell to meat”, but many scholars believe that’s folk etymology. However, the festival is called Apokriés in Greek, which also means “farewell to meat”. Since there were Greek colonies founded throughout the Mediterranean basin, and some of the customs appear to have been carried over from pre-Christian times, it’s not unlikely that carne vale was translated from Greek.

It’s also probably due to the Mediterranean influence that the customs associated with Carnival never took hold further north in the British isles or the Nordic countries. In the United Kingdom, the day is known as Shrove Tuesday, the last day of Shrovetide (the week before Ash Wednesday), during which the lay people were expected to go to Confession prior to the start of Lent; the only known customs to have survived in any form since the Reformation are football games and pancake races.

 Although, as I said, some of the Greek customs appear to predate Christianity, we don’t really know when Carnival got started. We do know the earliest recorded celebrations in the West were in Venice in 1268, and in Nice in 1294. However, pre-Lenten festivals sprang up in different forms throughout Europe, including Russia (where the festival is called Maslenitsa, after an old Slavic pagan celebration).

Ash Wednesday is the start of the penitential season of Lent. Originally, meat was forbidden throughout the whole forty days, as were dairy products, fats and sugar; the Eastern Orthodox still practice this Great Fast, forbidding even eggs. Festivals were forbidden, except by indult of the local bishop; in Germany, alcohol could not be sold.

When Europe was still a predominantly agricultural society, food wasn’t wasted, so anything that couldn’t be eaten during Lent had to be used up before Ash Wednesday. The need to empty out the pantry and wine barrels provided an excellent excuse to party! During this time, old folk customs that had languished in the rise of Christianity were effectively “baptized”, much like Easter eggs and Christmas trees—given Christian rationales that were eventually lost after the old pagan meanings had been forgotten.

The English, especially Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans, were effective in stamping out such papist nonsense in the British Isles. However, wherever French, Spanish and Portuguese explorers, settlers and soldiers went, Carnival eventually followed. Although the celebration in certain areas can get pretty decadent, still, it’s gotta be said: Mardi Gras proves that Catholics know how to party down.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ask Tony: What’s the big deal about the new missal?

Q: Over the last few months, a few groups in the US, the UK, Australia and Ireland have been complaining about the new translation of the Mass coming out at the end of November this year. What’s the big deal about it? Why is this such a problem?

A: First, we have to understand that the Mass being retranslated is the Ordinary Form, also known as the Novus Ordo (New Order, or NO) or Mass of Paul VI. One of the few changes actually called for by Vatican II was to the Tridentine Latin Mass (TLM):

The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.
For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary (Sacrosanctum Concilium [1963], §50; emphasis added).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Talk about mixed feelings ...!

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in re Snyder v. Phelps (09-751), 8-1 in favor of the vile Fred Phelps and his loony pack of family members/disciples, Westboro Baptist.

... [T]here is significant pressure on the courts and legislatures to remove “hate speech” from the shelter of the First Amendment. And it’s precisely nutjobs like the Phelps family who make such an action appear reasonable and desirable. And it’s precisely because we Christians include homophobes within our ranks that gay activists feel justified in cleping even the most charitably-phrased opposition “hate speech”. While a public-safety argument could be made for placing restrictions on “hate speech”, the problem remains: who would be in control of the definition?

On the one hand, I suppose I should be grateful that discussions of matters such as same-sex marriage can't be shut down on grounds of "hate speech". But a part of me can't help but wish that others besides A.J. Samuel Alito, the lone dissenter, had paid more attention to the "captive audience" part of the plaintiff's argument. No matter what Westboro Baptist believes, that they inflicted it on a family suffering grief and at a Christian religious service is not merely cruel—it's blasphemous.

This isn't a Pyrrhic victory. But it feels just as unsatisfying.

Please pray for the repose of Lcpl. Matthew Snyder, USMC, and the comfort and healing of his family. Semper Fi, Marine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to go downtown ....

I have seen the report this news story is based on:

“Researchers studying the human papillomavirus say that in the United States HPV causes 64 percent of oropharynxl cancers,” said a Feb. 22 NPR report by Peggy Girshmann. “In the rest of the world, tobacco remains the leading cause of oral cancer, Dr. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this past weekend.”

“And the more oral sex someone has had -- and the more partners they've had -- the greater their risk of getting these cancers, which grow in the middle part of the throat,” said Girshmann’s NPR story. "‘An individual who has six or more lifetime partners -- on whom they've performed oral sex -- has an eightfold increase in risk compared to someone who has never performed oral sex,’ [Gillison] said.”

“Close to 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year,” says the Oral Cancer Foundation website. “It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 36,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. This is a number which has not significantly improved in decades. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma). If you expand the definition of oral cancers to include cancer of the larynx, for which the risk factors are the same, the numbers of diagnosed cases grow to approximately 50,000 individuals, and 13,500 deaths per year in the US alone.”

Just another reason to keep it in your pants until you're married.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not really back yet ...

Another reason I took a day off of blogging (this doesn't count): Desperately in need of an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately, my favorite place for adjusting my attitude is Pat & Mike's at 90th and Bedford in Omaha ... about 653 miles away. But my posts on Outside the Asylum have been turning from this:

... into this:

Since I was becoming precisely the kind of talking head I dislike, I needed to back off a bit and recover my optimism and good cheer ... though hopefully retaining my deadly use of sarcasm.