Monday, December 31, 2007

Welcoming 2008 and Giving Thanks for 2007

Traditionally the Te Deum Laudamus is sung in thanksgiving on the last day of the year. A plenary induldgence (under the normal conditions) is granted to anyone who recites or sings this prayer publicly today.

Te Deum laudamus: te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi Caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni: quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
V. Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
R. Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
V. Per singulos dies benedicimus te.
R. Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
V. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
R. Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.
V. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
R. In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum.

O GOD, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth doth worship Thee.
To Thee all the Angels, the Heavens and all the Powers,
all the Cherubim and Seraphim, unceasingly proclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
the wonderful company of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world doth acknowledge Thee:
the Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Thou, having taken it upon Thyself to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Thou overcame the sting of death and hast opened to believers the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thou sitest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We beseech Thee, therefore, to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thine inheritance!
R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.
V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yea, forever and ever.
V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. O Lord, in Thee I have hoped; let me never be put to shame.

Happy New Year! May you all have a blessed and joyful 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

To my readers!

Merry Christmas!
When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us."
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

Luke 2:15-20

Friday, December 21, 2007

Williams, Heresy, and the Media

It seems that the Telegraph article on the Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams is the to story on every blog I see.

Here is my take: I have read the article and the interview transcript and Archbishop Williams' comments were clearly taken out of context. I am not saying that he did not say things that are heinous and clearly against Christian belief. Strangely, enough the media is taking perfectly acceptable statements and making them outrageous and ignoring the outrageous statements.

Below I will analyze the article with the transcript.
Article - Italics
Transcript - Bold
My comments - Red

The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men was nothing but a 'legend'.

Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings

SM And the wise men with the gold, frankincense, and Myrrh - with one of the wise men normally being black and the other two being white, for some reason?

ABC Well Matthew's gospel doesn't tell us that there were three of them, doesn't tell us they were kings, doesn't tell us where they came from, it says they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. That's all we're really told so, yes, 'the three kings with the one from Africa' - that's legend; it works quite well as legend.

SM But would they have been there?

ABC Not with the shepherds, they wouldn't. So if you've got shepherds on one side and three kings on the other, there's a bit of conflation going on.

As you can see he never said that the Magi didn't exist. He merely said that there is no proof that there were three or what race they were or where they were from. The fact is that the Scriptures only way they were from the east and that they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Everything else is tradition and legend which may or may not be true.

As for the shepherds and the magi being there together, there is nothing the Scriptures to tell us that they were there together. In fact, there is much in the Scriptures which can lead us to believe that they magi came much later. In fact, there is no proof in the Scriptures that Jesus was even still in Bethlehem when the magi came. The Gospel of Matthew even says that they found Jesus and Mary in a house, not in a stable. The shepherds appear the the Gospel of Luke and do arrive at a stable.

Yes, it is possible that the events occured simultaneously, but on this count I have to agree with the Archbishop.

Also, here is the quote that was used in the article:

Dr Williams said: "Matthew's gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that's all we're really told. It works quite well as legend."

Again, taken out of context. He wasn't saying that the magi were legend, but that the way we imagine them is legend.

The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.

SM So we're panning out now'; shepherds? They're with their sheep and the oxes and asses?

ABC Pass on the oxes and asses; they don't figure very strongly in the gospels, so I can live without the ox and asses.

Well, oxen and donkeys aren't mentioned in the Scriptures. They entered the story because we assume the stable was being used to house animals. I doubt the shepherds brought them because we all know that shepherds keep sheep, not cattle.

He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was "very unlikely".

In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: "Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival."

SM And pulling back further - snow on the ground?

ABC Very unlikely I think; it can be pretty damn cold in Bethlehem at this time of the year, but we don't know that it was this time of year because again the Gospels don't tell us what time of year it was; Christmas is the time it is because it fitted very well with the winter festival.

Misleading or not it doesn't really make a difference. Bethlehem doesn't really get snow. No, there wouldn't have been snow on the ground. That is a European invention. As for when Jesus was actually born, we have no clue. The truth is that it doesn't really matter. If we are focused on celebrating his birth on the exact day, we are missing the point of the celebration.

Here is more of the transcripts that didn't make the article.

SM It comes round every year that we're not being Christian enough or people don't know where Bethlehem is, people have never heard of Mary and so on, so this is a sort of an almost a tradition of Christmas, isn't it really. But I wonder, if people have got a traditional religious Christmas card in front of them, I just want to go through it, Archbishop, to find out how much of it you think is true and crucial to the believing in Christmas. So start with … the baby Jesus in a manger; historically and factually true?

ABC I should think so; the Gospel tells us he was born outside the main house, probably because it was overcrowded because it was pilgrimage time or census time; whatever; yes; he's born in poor circumstances, slightly out of the ordinary.

Well, he got that part right.

SM The Virgin Mary next door to him?

ABC We know his mother's name was Mary, that's one of the things all the gospels agree about, and the two gospels that tell the story have the story of the virgin birth and that's something I'm committed to as part of what I've inherited.

SM You were a prominent part of a Spectator survey in the current issue which headlined' Do you believe in the virgin birth?' there are some people in this survey who would say they were Christian who don't have a problem if you don't believe in the Virgin birth;' how important it is it to believe in that bit?

ABC I don't want to set it as a kind of hurdle that people have to get over before they, you know, be signed up;, but I think quite a few people that as time goes on, they get a sense, a deeper sense of what the virgin birth is about. I would say that of myself. About thirty years ago I might have said I wasn't too fussed about it - now I see it much more as dovetailing with the rest of what I believe about the story and yes.

Ok, he gets off track here. The Virgin birth is one of the few things about the birth of Christ that is confirmed by Scripture. It is important because it proves the parentage of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God, not the son of Joseph or any other man. Belief in the Virgin Birth is essential.

SM Christopher Hitchens and many others make the point that isn't the translation for young woman rather than virgin? Does it have to be seen as virgin; might it be a mistranslation?

ABC It is… well, what's happening there one of the gospels quotes a prophecy that a virgin will conceive a child. Now the original Hebrew doesn't have the word virgin, it's just a young woman, but that's the prophecy that's quoted from the Old Testament in support of the story which is, in any case, about a birth without a human father, so it's not that it rests on mistranslation; St Matthew's gone to his Greek version of the bible and said "Oh, 'virgin'; sounds like the story I know," and put it in.

No, that is not what the Scriptures say. When the angel Gabriel visits Mary she clearly states that she is a virgin.

SM So you've got the Virgin Mary, Jesus: Joseph?

ABC Joseph, yes, again, the Gospels are pretty consistent that that's his father's name;

Ok, we are back on track again.

SM Just as a side issue on the kings and the wise bit; do you have a problem with astrologers being seen as wise men; there'd be many people in your church who would think, actually, astrology is bunk and should be exposed as bunk and the idea of saying that they are wise is somewhat farcical.?

ABC Well I 'm inclined to agree that astrology is bunk but you're dealing there with a world in which people watched the stars in order to get a sort of heads up on significant matters and astrologers were quite a growth industry; people who were respected and had a kind of professional technical skill and were respected as such., the thing here if course is what's the skill about? Well it's all bringing them to Jesus; it's not about fortune telling or telling the future, it's about a skill of watching the universe which leads them inexorably towards this event, so I don't think it's a justification of astrology.

Again, he does very well here. Although we do not believe in astrology and the Jewish people were not supposed to consult diviners, they often did so anyway. The Romans were heavily involved in astrology and divination. Yes, astrologers were considered wise men.

SM So if we're pulling back even further then, is there a star above the place where the child is?

ABC Don't know; I mean Matthew talks about the star rising, about the star standing still; we know stars don't behave quite like that, that the wise men should have seen something which triggered a recognition of something significant was going on; some constellation, there are various scientific theories about what it might have been at around that time and they followed that trek; that makes sense to me.

Maybe it was a star, maybe it was something else that looked like a star. Maybe it was a giant flying candle. Maybe it was an angel. Maybe it was something else. My question is: "so what?" There was something in the sky that lead the way. That alone makes it miraculous. As for stars not behaving that way, if the fact that stars don't behave that way causes us to not believe it was a star what will happen to our faith when we ponder the Virgin Birth, the miracles of Christ, not to mention the Ressurection, Ascension, and Pentecost. Let's look at all the things that don't work that way: babies are not concieved without intercourse, the sick are not instantly healed, dead people don't come spontaneously back to life, people don't float up to heaven, tongues of fire don't come into houses and rest upon people's heads. Seriously, if you can't believe that a star led the magi to Jesus, what can you believe.

I am so glad that archbishop scruffy isn't Catholic.

Ow Ow Ow Merry Christmas

This week has already been incredibly difficult, but it has just gotten worse. JP and I went grocery shopping and as I was putting him into his car seat I felt a pop in my back. The pain was so intense that I almost ended up on the ground. I got him strapped in and hobbled into the drivers seat.

I am moving very slowly right now and am in some of the worst pain I can remember. I always seem to get hurt right around Christmas and Easter. Last I broke my toe last Easter, the Christmas before I sprained my ankle, I even had the cross from the top of the Sanctus bells go through my lip during Holy Week. So far, none of these injuries have kept me from my liturgical duties, and I hope I will be as lucky this time.

Pray! Please pray.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Justice of God

In today's general audience, the last of 2007, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke on the subject of Christmas.

"If, on the one hand, Christmas is a commemoration of the incredible prodigy of the birth of the only-begotten Son of God from the Virgin Mary in the grotto of Bethlehem," said the Pope, "on the other, it also exhorts us to wait, vigilant and prayerful, for our own Redeemer, Who on the last day 'will come to judge the living and the dead'."

"Perhaps today," the Pope added in off-the-cuff remarks, "we faithful truly believe in the Judge; we all expect justice. We see so many injustices in the world, ... and we expect justice. ... We hope that whoever comes can bring justice. In this context we pray to Jesus Christ to come as a Judge. ... The Lord knows how to come into the world and create justice."

"Hoping for justice in the Christian sense means ... that we too begin to live under the eyes of the Judge, ... creating justice in our own lives. ... In this way we can open the world to the coming of the Son and prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord Who comes."

Returning to his prepared text, Benedict XVI said: "He Who was generated by the Father in eternity became a man in history thanks to the Virgin Mother. The true Son of God is also a true Son of man. Today, in our secularized world, these concepts do not seem to count for very much. People prefer to ignore them or to consider them superfluous to life, advancing the pretext that they are so far distant as to be practically untranslatable into convincing and significant words.

"Moreover," he added, "we have formed a view of tolerance and pluralism such that to believe that Truth has been effectively manifested appears to constitute an attack on tolerance and the freedom of man. If, however, truth is cancelled, is man not a being deprived of meaning? Do we not force ourselves and the world into a meaningless relativism?"

He continued: "How important it is, then, for us to reinforce the mystery of salvation which the celebration of Christ's Nativity brings. In Bethlehem the Light that illuminates our lives was revealed to the world; we were shown the Way that leads us to the fullness of our humanity. If we do not recognize that God was made man, what sense does it have to celebrate Christmas? We Christians must reaffirm with profound and heartfelt conviction the truth of Christ's nativity, in order to bear witness before everyone of the unique gift which brings wealth not just to us, but to everyone.

"From here," the Holy Father added, "arises the duty of evangelization, which is the communication of the 'eu-angelion,' the 'good news.' This was underlined in the recent document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 'Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization,' which I wish to present for your reflection and your individual and joint perusal."

"In these days leading up to Christmas," said Pope Benedict, "the Church prays more intensely for the realization of hopes of peace and salvation, of which the world today still has such urgent need. Let us ask God for violence to be defeated with the strength of love, for contrasts to give way to reconciliation, for the desire to dominate to be transformed into a desire for forgiveness, justice and peace. May the wishes for goodness and love that we exchange over these days reach all areas of our daily lives."

"May the message of solidarity and acceptance which arises from Christmas," the Pope concluded, "contribute to creating a more profound awareness of old and new forms of poverty, and of the common good in which everyone is called to participate."

According to a note published today by the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, a total of 624,100 people participated in the 44 general audiences celebrated by Benedict XVI during the course of 2007.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Joseph and Chico

Thanks to the wonderful people at Ignatius Press, Joseph and Chico will be available in America. I am ordering on for me...errr...for JP today. Unfortunately, it won't be available until March.

The forward of this children's book was written by the Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein. The book tells the story of Pope Benedict's life from his birth to his election to the papacy through the eyes of his next door neighbor's cat, Chico. Chico is a real cat who used to take up residence in the Holy Father's house in Pentling when he was home from Rome.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Pope Edition

The quote recently appeared in the London Telegraph: "'Benedict still comes across as quite cold, which is a problem in his job.'" Who said it? None other than the film director Franco Zeffirelli of Jesus of Nazareth fame.

Several things are quite wrong with that quote.
  1. No matter how you dress him up or try to change his image, those who hate Pope Benedict will continue to hate him because it isn't really an image problem. It's an obedience problem.
  2. Maybe part of the problem is the people who continue to call Pope Benedict XVI "Pope Ratzinger".
  3. Papal robes are too opulent and flashy? Which ones? He can't possibly mean the white simar and zuchetto. Oh! He means the chasubles? Well, they aren't really papal robes. The as the vestments of the Mass which are proper to any priest. As for opulent and flashy, I guess we should get rid of the gold chalices too and start using ceramic. Oh, I forget...been there and done didn't work. I guess selling the Pieta will be next on Franco's list.
  4. No matter how Pope Benedict looks on TV and in pictures he is very warm in person. I am saying this as someone who has stood face to face with him. Cold is not only of the words I would use to describe him.
  5. Franco says that he "is in continual contact with his [Pope Benedict] inner circle". So am I. So what? Some may be impressed with that, I am not.
  6. The best line is at the end where he says that he "has directed holy ceremonies at the Vatican in the past". Hmmm, could that have been where the Liturgical ballerinas came from? Just asking.

Franco does have a point that Pope Benedict's personality doesn't always translate well onto film, but seriously so we want a Pope or a movie star. I think that after 26 years of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, we have forgotten that there is more to the papacy than a friendly face and a well timed joke. Yes, we live in the age of the instant media, but I think people intelligent enough to realize that what a pope does and says is what is really important.

As for the image problem, Franco, check out the audience stats. Pope Benedict XVI's crowds are blowing Pope John Paul II's numbers out of the water. Benedict is getting so many people that they very often they have to be separated into two groups.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Liturgical Catechesis

The other day I was lamenting the fact that I no longer had copies of a wonderful series on the Liturgy called "Living and Loving the Mass" that was published in our diocesan newspaper, The Anchor. The excellent series was written by Fr. Thomas Kocik and covered everything from the symbolism behind the vestments to what all the different postures mean. I remember distinctly that he called the vestments "the armor of the priest". I was thinking about calling to request copies, but I got some interesting news last night.

It had been published into a book! Living and Loving the Mass is now available from Zaccheus Press. Here is the info from the website.

Many Catholics attend Mass without fully understanding its meaning and purpose. This book was written to provide that understanding.

Author Father Thomas Kocik walks the reader through each part of the Mass, explaining the meaning of the prayers, the sacred vestments, the bodily gestures (such as bowing and genuflecting), and how each of these fit into the overall “drama” of the Mass.

He explains these things in a clear, easy-to-follow style. But there is real substance here as well: Fr. Kocik often discusses the history behind a particular prayer or gesture, and the Scriptural background as well. This is no dry textbook. He makes understanding the Mass an enjoyable journey. Although written for adults, high school students will enjoy it, too.

The Mass is a treasure-house of grace, but all too often the doors to this treasure-house remain closed through a lack of understanding. This book was written to open the doors — to help Catholics appreciate and embrace the transformative power of the Mass.

At $7.95 it is very affordable. Get yourself a stocking stuffer! You can order it here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Things I Learned from St. Thomas Aquinas

Sadly, my semester of studying the Summa Theologiae and the other writings of St. Thomas Aquinas has come to an end. I submitted my term paper yesterday (via e-mail because of the snow storm). I learned many things during this semester, most of which I wasn't expecting.

  1. I can talk about the senses of scripture and the powers of the soul at great length.
  2. I know the difference between the image of God and the likeness of God.
  3. I know much less than I think I know.
  4. I can write a parody article of the Summa Theologiae.
  5. The Holy Spirit tends to provide the inspiration to write intense papers on intense topics at the last minute.
  6. The Trinity is a more difficult concept to understand that I even though it was.
  7. The answer to any theological question can be found in the Summa, no matter how obscure.
  8. Theology isn't about getting it right, it's about helping the Church get it right.
  9. Even the best theologian gets it wrong once in a while.
  10. Sometimes the best answer to a question is "I don't know".

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chaput on the Golden Compass

Archbishop Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver wrote an excellent column in the Denver Catholic Register on the Golden Compass.

When the first Harry Potter movie arrived in theaters several years ago, many Catholic families had divided views about the film. Some enjoyed it as an innocent and intriguing fantasy. Others avoided it because of its emphasis on magic. But the screen adaptation of Philip Pullman’s book, “The Golden Compass,” which opened in Denver on Dec. 7, will likely produce far more agreement. No matter how one looks at it, “The Golden Compass” is a bad film. There’s just no nicer way to say it.
I saw it at an 8:30 evening showing on Dec. 8. The theater was largely deserted. That may be a trend. While “The Golden Compass,” released by New Line Cinema, ranked No. 1 in box office revenues on its opening weekend, it took in only a modest $26.1 million. The three “Ring Trilogy” movies grossed between $47 and $72 million on their respective opening weekends, and “The Chronicles of Narnia” had opening revenues of more than $65 million. In fact, secular critics have been less than kind to the movie, and for good reason. It’s long, complicated, and despite a very gifted supporting cast and wonderful special effects, the story is finally lifeless. Much of the movie takes place in the polar north, and the iciness of the setting is a perfect metaphor for the chilly, sterile spirit at the heart of the story. Anyone expecting a playful children’s fantasy would do well to look elsewhere. There is nothing remotely “playful” about this movie.

As many readers will already know, Philip Pullman is an atheist, and “The Golden Compass” — the first book in his trilogy “His Dark Materials” — is a calculated counter-story to Christian-based fantasies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia.” “The Golden Compass” takes place in a parallel world similar to earth, but dominated by a sinister quasi-religious authority known as the Magisterium. This powerful elite seeks to “protect” people — for their own good — by shielding them from scientific knowledge, represented by the movie’s mysterious cosmic dust and a truth-telling piece of technology called an “alethiometer” (or golden compass). More specifically, the Magisterium abducts young children and literally kills their souls, thereby extinguishing the spirit of free thought and inquiry.

The aggressively anti-religious, anti-Christian undercurrent in “The Golden Compass” is unmistakable and at times undisguised. The wicked Mrs. Coulter alludes approvingly to a fictional version of the doctrine of Original Sin. When a warrior Ice Bear — one of the heroes of the story — breaks into the local Magisterium headquarters to take back the armor stolen from him, the exterior walls of the evil building are covered with Eastern Christian icons. And for Catholics in our own world, of course, “Magisterium” refers to the teaching authority of the Church — hardly a literary coincidence. The idea that any Christian film critics could overlook or downplay these negative elements, as some have seemed to do, is simply baffling.

Strangest of all — and in striking contrast to the Harry Potter and Narnia stories — is the absence of joy or any real laughter in the movie. The talented child actress who plays the film’s leading role is hobbled by a character that is uniformly unpleasant, rebellious, belligerent and humorless; the kind of young person described by one of my parent friends as needing a “long time-out.”

Obviously, parents are the primary teachers of their children. They need to use their own best judgment about whether a film is suitable for their families. But I’ll certainly be encouraging my own friends to put their Christmas cash to better use. In fact, maybe the most cynical and insulting thing about “The Golden Compass” is that its makers would offer this cold, angry, anti-religious fable as “holiday fare” in the midst of a season built around the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s certainly worth a letter to the people at New Line Cinema. With two more books in the Pullman trilogy as possible sequels, it might be helpful if they heard from all of us.

Archbishop Flores Found

From the Houston Chronicle:

Retired Archbishop Patrick Flores, the long-serving leader of South Texas Catholics, was found safe early Wednesday more than 200 miles from the assisted living center where he was reported missing the day before.

Flores, 78, was disoriented and was driving the wrong way on an interstate shortly before he was found pumping gas at a convenience store in West Texas at about 3 a.m., Crockett County Sheriff Shane Fenton said.

The retired leader of the Archdiocese of San Antonio was reported missing Tuesday afternoon when he didn't return home from a shopping trip. Flores lives at the facility for retired priests who are in declining health. He has diabetes, difficulty with balance and a bad back — resulting from being roughed up when he was taken hostage by a distraught man in 2000, said the Rev. Ed Loch, the archdiocese archivist.

More than 12 hours after Flores was reported missing, a Crockett County sheriff's deputy responded to a report that a car was headed in the wrong direction on Interstate 10 near Ozona. The deputy then found Flores pumping gas, Fenton said.
"He seemed really disoriented and didn't know exactly where he was at," Fenton said.

Flores told the deputy he was trying to get home and didn't realize he had been driving the wrong way on the interstate.

When Crockett County deputies found that Flores had been reported missing, they called San Antonio police and a local Catholic priest. The archbishop was taken to a local church to wait for someone from San Antonio to pick him up and take him home, Fenton said.

"Nobody's hurt. It turned out lucky," he said.

Flores served as the archbishop for 25 years before retiring in 2005.

He was a bishop for 10 years before being named archbishop and was the first Mexican-American bishop named in the United States.

Flores gained a reputation as an advocate for immigrants and the poor. He was also an outspoken critic of abortion and state law that allows people to carry concealed weapons.

Please remember the Archbishop in your prayers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frosty the Christian Allegory

I don't know why I never noticed this before, but last night I was watching Frosty the Snowman with JP. He is obsessed with all those Claymation Christmas movies. Well, I hadn't actually sat and watched it with before, because while he was watching it I got a nice chance to catch up on house and school work, as well as work work.

By the time the movie ended I realized that the story was strangely familiar, but not only because it was my 30th time watching the movie. I realized that Frosty the Snowman was a Christological figure.

Think about it.
  • Frosty is born at Christmas.
  • Frosty gives his life to save Karen.
  • Santa allows the cold wind (Holy Spirit) to come into the greenhouse and Frosty comes back to life.
  • Frosty goes to the North Pole with Santa.
  • Frosty promises to return

Sound familiar? Even a bit like the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Triumphal Return? Yeah, I thought so too.

I wonder if that was intentional, or accidental. I guess Frosty will have to be banned in schools next.

New Colors

I have tried to give the blog an Advent color theme. It' s just one more attempt to do anything other than write these essays. Gotta try to get a little rose in there for this weekend.

Website: Congregation for the Clergy

I have only looked at this briefly. Believe it or not, I am supposed to be writing three essays on the Summa Theologiae. Yeah, that's what I am doing.

Well, that was what I was doing until came across this new website for the Congregation of the Clergy. There are so many gems there that I really might need to turn off my internet access if I am going to get these written in time to turn in tomorrow.

Anyway, here is the link:

Ham for Chanakah

Continuing on today's theme of complete cluelessness, I give a H/T to First Things for finding these pictures from Nancy Kay Shapiro's Blog.

What's better than a Chanakah ham? Three Chanakah hams! What do you mean, it's not allowed.
Check out Nancy's blog for more pictures.

Jesus, the Greeks, and Four Dumb Women

I can't stand The View, but the fact that they make themselves sound like complete idiots on a regular basis almost tempts me to watch once in a while.

One of the latest complete blunders happened last week when Sherri Shepherd claimed that Epicurus and Jesus Christ were contemporaries and that the Greeks threw the Christians to the lions. She also said that nothing pre-dates Christianity because Jesus came first in creation.

It seems that dear Sherri is confusing theology with history. Yes, Jesus came first, but not in creation. Jesus Christ as the WORD always existed. He existed at the creation of the world, but Jesus Christ did not take human flesh until sometime between the year 5BC (calendar miscalculation) and the year 0 (for simplicity's sake, let's say that it happened in the year 0).

Since Jesus is God, He existed outside of time and space until he chose to become man and live on earth. Many things happened on earth before Jesus took on human flesh. First of all, all the the Old Testament happened. Anyone with even a kindergarten understanding of the Bible knows that the Jewish people pre-date Christ. A further examination of the Bible shows that so did the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Greeks, and the Romans pre-date Christ.

The Greeks did not throw the Christians to the lions. That was the Romans. Also Epicurus lived over 300 years before the birth of Christ.

Here is the video for your amusement.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Meme

I swiped this from Brian.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrap. Gift bags are too expensive.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Fake, real trees come complete with real bugs, and a real mess.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Usually at some time during the third week of Advent, but the tree went up this year before Advent even began. Why? Because JP wanted it up AND I already had the tree and decorations out because the plumber needed to get into the closet.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Around the feast of the Baptism of the Lord

5. Do you like eggnog?
Yes, but only certain ones. I have a fondness for the Hood Vanilla Eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A full size Yamaha piano. It was a lousy instrument, but I didn't know how to play and was only 7 years old.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
Yes, but it's not up yet.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
My husband.

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
A weird wall clock of the crucifixion.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail, but there are some online friends I send e-cards to.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie?
I love the Nativity Story, but I also love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I started on Black Friday. Before you cringe, I went around 6 pm and the mall was empty. It was awesome and I got almost everything bought it one day.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yes, shamefully I have.

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Hickory Farms Meltaways. I know...lame.

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Clear. I can't stand colored, especially if they blink.

16. Favorite Christmas song.
Gesu Bambino

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We go to my aunt's house and my in laws. Each are about 15 minutes away.

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer.
Yes, but only because Brian had them already written here. (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and of course Rudolph).

19. Angel on the tree top or a star?

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning (if I don't have an early Mass), but we open presents from my parents at their house on Christmas Eve.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The war of Christmas, people out Christmas shopping who seem to have forgotten everything that Jesus taught about loving neighbors.

I tag everyone who reads this.

First Things Blog

First Things now has a blog! Check it out here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Coming to a Confessional Near You?

H/T to the Ritualist.

Well, maybe not to a confessional near you, but it is a scary look at what may happen in some other denominations.

It's also downright funny. Watch, laugh, and pray for vocations.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Americanizing of Faith

The last time I posted from one of Fr. Stokes' articles he was bemoaning the decline of funeral homily. Now he is writing about the decline of the Episcopalian/Anglican Church.

For those unfamiliar with Fr. David L. Stokes, he is a former Episcopalian priest, who converted to Catholicism and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood. He teaches theology at Providence College and writes an occasional column for the Providence Journal. As I learned on my first day as his student, Fr. Stokes pulls no punches. He tells it like it is, and if you don't like it, tough luck!

This particular article is from October 29th. I had wanted to post it weeks, ago but you know what happens when something is put on the back burner.

In this article, Fr. Stokes argues that the Episcopal Church has much deeper problems than same-sex marriage and gay bishops. The emphases are mine.

...But Robinson’s election, important as it is in this drama, is really only secondary to the woes besetting the Episcopal Church — and, indeed, Anglicanism world-wide. To couch it in theological language, we may call Robinson the efficient cause of Anglicanism’s fracturing. But he is not the formal cause. Strange as it sounds, the formal cause is nothing less than the demise of the British Empire and with it the ineluctable evaporation of a definite British ethos.

In 1559, Queen Elizabeth I, much more a practitioner of real-politic than her father Henry VIII, dealt with feuding Christian factions by encompassing them within the same state church. Puritans and Catholics, “high” churchman and “low,” woke up one morning to find themselves beneath the same tent. That didn’t mean disputes ceased. The English Civil War (1642-1651) attests to how bloody theological contentions could turn. Still, by the late 17th Century, with a common prayer book and the King James Bible, the lineaments of Anglicanism had emerged — much more a cultural ethos than a confessional church such as existed amongst the Lutherans and Calvinists on the continent.

Elizabeth’s actions had another result. In suspending theological squabbles, she inadvertently suspended corporate theological reflection. For over 400 years the Anglican ethos remained pretty much a late medieval view of God and the human person, suspended in linguistic amber of dazzling beauty. Thus “protestant” and “catholic,” Platonist and even the odd agnostic all found themselves harmonizing after a fashion in the same choir.

What kept this ethos from evaporating like mist? Not the Archbishop of Canterbury. (He has never held authority analogous to the pope.) Nor the creedal statements of Anglicanism. (Like a wax nose these have always been shaped pretty much by whoever was doing the interpreting.)

What grounded this Anglican ethos was the very English culture from which it arose. For example, two Anglicans may, and did, vehemently disagree on a biblical text’s meaning, but they both shared a common culture that took the Bible as normative. Their differences became blended into the soil they share. With the significant exception of nonconformists, to be an Englishman was to be an Anglican, to be an Anglican was to be English. Cultural stability ensured theological consensus.


For anyone brought up in the mid-20th Century, the Episcopal Church still radiated certain Englishness. We resonated to the rhythm of the old prayer book, the sonorities of T. S. Eliot and the urbanity of W. H. Auden. Ours was the church of C.S.Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and Vaughn Williams. Those mid-century decades possessed a spirituality of informed and stylish moderation.

Even then, though, had we been more attentive, we would have heard a distinctly nostalgic, even elegiac, tone in all this. But few of us are ever explicitly aware of the under-currents of real change in our lives. It’s not that the Episcopal Church scrapped the old prayer book, nor was it somehow infiltrated by dastardly liberals. Simply, it underwent what happened to most Protestant traditions imported to these shores: As the English ethos slowly dissipated, the Episcopal Church was finally being transformed into an American denomination.

What does this mean? To use the most glaring example: Where once heterosexual marriage was integral to the social and civic ecology of America, it is no longer. And the spiritual ecology of American denominations cannot but adapt accordingly, if they are to be credible. American culture determines the agenda for American denominationalism.


...I am certainly not ringing the death knell of the Episcopal Church. Indeed, when these disputes are finally settled, I suspect the Episcopal Church may prove an attractive option to many Americans nostalgic for some sort of a spirituality.


American history’s answer has always been power-plays, cloaked in theological rhetoric — followed by yet another, new denomination. Let’s wait and see.

Read the complete article here.

I think that as American Catholics, we need to take Fr. Stokes words to heart and see that something quite similar is happening in the Catholic Church. Have we moved from the Roman Catholic Church to the American Catholic Church? When we desire to assimilate into American culture, that is exactly what we are doing. I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church. There was a time where Catholics wouldn't dare to eat meat on Fridays, now Catholics don't give it a second thought to eat meat on any Friday, even during Lent. I hear Catholics say that they don't want to stand out or do anything which will reveal their faith. We are to be signs of contradiction, not signs of assimilation. So what if someone looks at us funny when we don't go along with the rest of society. Notice how well Christ blended in?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cardinal Mahony Attacked

H/T to Gerald. Article from Reuters.

Leading U.S. Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony was attacked on the street by a man enraged by the Church's sex abuse scandal just days after his Los Angeles diocese agreed to make a record payout to more than 500 victims, a Los Angeles newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Mahony, 71, spoke of the July attack at a recent conference of priests and said it gave him a deeper understanding of the suffering endured by victims of the nationwide scandal.

Father Sal Pilato, principal of Junipero Serra Catholic High School in Los Angeles who heard Mahony speak at the conference, said the cardinal was dropping off letters at a mailbox near the downtown Los Angeles cathedral where he lives.

"Somebody recognized him and attacked him. It was shocking because it was an act of violence and it was someone we know and respect," Pilato told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Mahony told the priests that the man began shouting expletives and knocked him to the ground. It took a month for his injuries to heal after the attack.

It was not known whether the man was himself the victim of sexual molestation by a priest and Mahony did not report the assault to police. Mahony's office declined to comment.


Pilato told the Daily News Mahony spoke of the assault with fellow priests in October during a discussion on the abuse issue. The scandal, involving sexual assaults by trusted priests on young Catholics and subsequent cover-ups, erupted in Boston in 2002 and has affected virtually every diocese in the United States.

"The main message was that his wounds healed within a month, bruises and all, but the victims of child abuse are still suffering after many years, that their wounds are far deeper than what he experienced," Pilato said.

The New York Times has a little more info.

“He went down there to drop something off at the mailbox when this guy approached him, saying some stuff,” said Father Gutierrez, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Santa Monica. “Then, boom, the guy was on him.”


No report about the assault was filed with the Los Angeles Police Department, a police spokesman said. “We don’t know if the assault did or did not happen,” said the spokesman, Sgt. Lee Sands, who said Tuesday that he was trying to get in touch with Cardinal Mahony.

The cardinal could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Carolina Guevara, said, “The annual pastoral meeting with the priests of the archdiocese is a private meeting, and whatever conversation that might have taken place was between the priests and their bishop and was not meant to be public.”

Priests at the meeting reported that Cardinal Mahoney said it had taken him a month to heal from the assault. “The cardinal is fine,” Ms. Guevara said when asked about his condition.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said that “violence against anyone is abhorrent,” but that “there are citizens who feel anger about the way Cardinal Mahony has handled this case for years and years.”

“If he was assaulted,” Mr. Clohessy said. “I feel for him.”
It shouldn't have happened. No one should get assaulted, but this story sounds fishy. I have many questions about this, but my primary one is: How did this help Mahony understand the the victims of sexual abuse?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sing to the Lord

The USCCB has released the new document on Liturgical music, titled "Sing to the Lord".

There are a few sections which I would like to highlight here. My comments are in red.

The Liturgical Judgment
127. The question asked by this judgment may be stated as follows: Is this composition capable of meeting the structural and textual requirements set forth by the liturgical books for this particular rite? Hmmm, good thought which I think many musicians fail to consider.

128. Structural considerations depend on the demands of the rite itself to guide the choice of parts to be sung, taking into account the principle of progressive solemnity (see nos. 110ff. in this document). A certain balance among the various elements of the Liturgy should be sought, so that less important elements do not overshadow more important ones. Textual elements include the ability of a musical setting to support the liturgical text and to convey meaning faithful to the teaching of the Church.

129. A brief introduction to the aspects of music and the various liturgical rites is
provided below in nos. 137ff. Pastoral musicians should develop a working familiarity with the requirements of each rite through a study of the liturgical books themselves. Liturgical knowledge is another area where many liturgical musicians are lacking. It is great to me a master musician, but that it hardly enough.


The Musical Judgment
134. The musical judgment asks whether this composition has the necessary aesthetic qualities that can bear the weight of the mysteries celebrated in the Liturgy. It asks the question: Is this composition technically, aesthetically, and expressively worthy? Just think of "I Myself am the Bread of Life", or "If I Was a Butterfly"

135. This judgment requires musical competence. Only artistically sound music will be effective and endure over time. To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, the trite, or the musical cliché often found in secular popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure. Hahahaha! There goes how many songs in the hymnals.

136. Sufficiency of artistic expression, however, is not the same as musical style, for “the Church has not adopted any particular style of art as her own. She has admitted styles from every period, in keeping with the natural characteristics and conditions of peoples and the needs of the various rites.”104 Thus, in recent times, the Church has consistently recognized and freely welcomed the use of various styles of music as an aid to liturgical worship. Ehhh, not too sure about that.

All 87 pages of the document are available here. I haven't read the entire document yet, but I doubt it will change a thing.