Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aglet Awareness and the Nexus of Culture

Each of us occupies a nexus of culture. That sounds rather high-brow, don’t you think? Please allow me to explain what I mean.

We are all consumers of culture. Personally, I consume sizeable doses of science fiction, fantasy, video games, politics, and religion. The list is not exhaustive, but it covers most of the major contributors, and it makes for an interesting combination of interactive cultural references. There are aspects of culture that I don’t consume much of: sports, theater, classical music, celebrity gossip. Thus, all to often, conversations can become hard to follow when I miss somebody’s baseball reference and they miss my Marvel comics reference.

As a parent, I sometimes consume a bit of kiddie culture. Some of it is really bad, and will never, ever produce a cultural reference of significance (for example, Hannah Montana or Suite Life). There are some gems, though. Spongebob had a good run, but I really don’t care much for the new stuff. One of my current favorites is the animated Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel.

Phineas and Ferb, if you’re not familiar with them, are two brothers who have a list of things that they want to do during their summer vacation. They also happen to have smarts that rival Nickelodeon’s Jimmy Neutron and Cartoon Network’s Dexter. Meanwhile, their pet platypus, Perry, goes about the business of foiling the machinations of the evil (or is he just misunderstood?) Dr. Doofenshmirz (of Doofenshmirz Evil Incorporated). Their sister Candace resents the activities of Phineas and Ferb, but can never seem to reveal their activities to their mother. Each episode includes an original musical number.

In one unforgettable episode, the two boys set out to make the world appreciate the humble aglet. What’s an aglet, you say? Why, it’s the plastic tip on the end of a shoe lace, of course. The pair organize an aglet-awareness concert at the local stadium and spend the day promoting it at the local mall. Here’s clip from the show:

Now I need to tie (ahem) this whole post back together regarding the nexus of cultural influences. At the last 5K that I ran, one of my rivals had a little problem with his shoe laces. He actually caught the toe of one shoe in the loop of the laces on the other shoe and went down in a fall. After the race, he was lamenting his condition and voiced that he was considering cutting his laces shorter. Before I could help myself, I blurted out, “But then you wouldn’t have any aglets!”

He laughed and said, “Yeah,” but I don’t know whether he really got the reference.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Time Management

Luther in the year he spent
as Junker Joerg in Wartburg towers,
translated the New Testament
to pass the everlasting hours.

Though living as a refugee
Erasmus wrote his tour de force.
In Praise of Folly’s said to be
the product of a trip by horse.

With dinners late, D’Aguesseau saw
an opportunity to write
his sixteen-volume work of law
in fifteen minutes every night.

Today I slept late, took a walk,
sipped coffee on my ragged lawn,
checked the mailbox, saw the clock,
and noticed half my life was gone.

by Stephen Scaer
From the June/July 2009 issue of First Things

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anchors Aweigh

Several months ago, Amy and I went out to dinner with another couple, Jamie and John. It's rare that we actually go out with somebody else. It was a very pleasant evening, filled with good conversation.

At one point, John leaned across the table and, looking me in the eyes, asked, "Can I ask you a question?" My breath caught as I wondered what was going to come next? Was he going to ask my advice about some pressing problem? Was he going to pitch Amway? Was he going to ask me to reveal something deeply personal?

I forget how I answered, but I gave him the go-ahead. He could ask his question.

"Is it true that you have an anchor in your backyard." My breath released as I smiled, laughed, and answered in the affirmative.

Back when my wife was my fiance, my future father-in-law was a machine trades teacher at the Joint Vocational School. I was a midshipman in the Navy ROTC, to be commissioned as a naval officer shortly before our planned marriage. My father-in-law-to-be figured that every Navy man needed an anchor, so he made me one. I had the pleasure of carrying it around with me throughout my bachelor party. It remains with me to this day.

If asked about it, the maker of the anchor will claim that it is symbolic. "Have you figured out what it means?" he'll ask in his typically loud voice. Yeah, I have a pretty good idea of what it could mean, although I think he made it mainly because he could, and he thought it would be neat. The anchor, though, is not the only thing that this machine trades instructor made for me. He also made me a cannon that is supposed to be capable of firing one-inch slugs.

I haven't figured out yet what the meaning of the cannon is.

Catholic Priesthood Through the Ages

In this Year for Priests, I can't recommend highly enough a resource from the EWTN archives. Fr. Charles Connor has got to be one of the treasures of the Church for his popularization of history. He turned his talents to the subject of the priesthood in the series Catholic Priesthood Through the Ages.

The series is designed to give priests and especially catholic laity a deeper insight into the scriptural, theological, historical and spiritual richness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The are 13 Episodes available from the EWTN audio archive:

Episode 1: What is the priesthood?
Episode 2: The priesthood of Jesus Christ
Episode 3: The Priesthood in the Mind of St. Paul and the Early Church
Episode 4: The Fathers of the Church on the Priesthood
Episode 5: The Medeival, Reformation And Counter-Reformation Mind on the Priesthood
Episode 6: The Eucharist and the Priesthood
Episode 7: Prayer and Suffering: Essential Ingredients of the Priesthood
Episode 8: The Priest as Preacher of the Word
Episode 9: The Gift of Priestly Celibacy
Episode 10: Priesthood in the Third Millennium
Episode 11: Priestly Theology of Pope John Paul II – Part I
Episode 12: Priestly Theology of Pope John Paul II – Part II
Episode 13: The Blessed Virgin Mary And The Priesthood

I've listened to the whole series several times now, and probably will listen to it several more times before the Year for Priests comes to an end next year. Fr. Connor presents the views of Pope John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict XVI), Archbishop Fulton Sheen, John Cardinal O'Conner, and others in this inspiring series. Each episode is approximately 27 minutes in length and is available as a 3.15 MB mp3 file.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Facebook Friends

I have, for a long time, had little use for social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. They seemed to me to be too much like exercises in vanity (but then, what the heck is Blogger?). I have, however, watched my wife get a great deal of enjoyment out of it. The site allows her to connect with old friends and keep tabs on distant cousins. At times, she looked like she was just plain having fun.

We’ve also learned that our thirteen year old daughter is not ready for Facebook without a hefty amount of parental supervision.

After all this time and ambivalence, I’ve decided to jump in (I'm sooooo vain). What brought about the change in attitude? Old friends of mine (my college roommate, for cryin’ out loud!) started sending friend requests to my wife as a way to get to me. I can’t have my friends cluttering up my wife’s wall!

So, now I’m on Facebook, in addition to Blogger. Oh, won’t you be my friend?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Priests and Rest

I am not unsympathetic to priests who complain about not being able to get away from the demands of parish life. One part of me is amazed that so many members of the typical parish seem to be so needy that the pastor has to spend an inordinate amount of time tending to a small minority. Occasionally, a blogging priest will write a "day in the life" post, and it does make it appear that they are on-the-go through most of the typical day. If, of course, those days are truly typical.

The other side of the coin is that sometimes the pastor is not available. When our daughter Erin was born, we feared the possibility of a congenital heart defect, so we made arrangements with the Lutheran hospital chaplain to have her baptized immediately after her birth. "Good luck," he told us, "finding a Catholic priest on a Friday night." I have first-hand knowledge of a parish pro-life coordinator who wanted to get the pastor's permission to participate in the red-letter campaign from this past spring. Phone calls and personal trips to the rectory were fruitless. Even notes from the secretary to the pastor did not produce results. The pastor could not spare one minute to return a phone call from a parishioner trying to conduct parish business!

Fr. Peter Daly is a Maryland priest who writes a column syndicated by the Catholic News Service. He recently wrote that he finally had his first day off in four months. That sounds really bad, especially in light of this past Sunday's Gospel, in which Christ directed his disciples to take a day of rest. On a human level, these moments of rest and recuperation are necessary, and priests are certainly human. But what does a day off mean to a priest? Is it the same as a day of rest? What it seems to imply is a day in which Fr. Smith is just Mr. Smith. I find that troubling.

In the same column, Fr. Daly noted the results of a 2002 survey in which 18% of parish priests said they worked more than 80 hours a week, with the average at 63 hours. That's a lot of time on the job, but I have to wonder what is included as work. Is everything that they do as a priest included? If that is the case, then every hour of every week should be included, because the ordained man is a priest forever. Fr. Smith is always Fr. Smith, he never becomes just Mr. Smith (I'm not considering the possibility of laicization here).

A lay person like me might spend 45 hours a week working on the job. Is that to be compared against the 63 hour average for the parish priest? That's the time that I spend making a living as an engineer. That's not the sum total of my vocation, however. As a father, I have to spend time parenting my children. Do I get to include the time that I spend counseling, educating, entertaining, feeding, and transporting my kids? What about the long, boring meetings that I have to attend for school and extra-curricular activities? It's part of my vocational identity that the priest doesn't have to attend to. As a husband, I have spend time with my wife for the strength of our marriage and the good of the children and the community. Every minute of every day, I am a father and a husband. It would be unseemly for me to take a day off from being married.

But wait, as they say in the infomercials, there's more! I am also a believing member of the laity. I devote time to my full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy. I catechize and volunteer and attend more meetings. I study and pray and try to discern and follow the will of God for my life. That all takes time, and I think that most priests think of Sunday as a "work day" because they celebrate multiple masses and deliver their big homily of the week.

I started this post by noting that I am not unsympathetic to over-worked priests, and I'm not. They need their periods of rest, and a chance to get away from the demands of a needy public. But when they speak of their duties (and privileges!) as a priest in the same way that I might speak of my responsibilities as an engineer, separate from my responsibilities as a father, husband, and lay person, then I think that maybe they've lost sight of what their vocation to the priesthood really means.

Our pastors should be able to get away from the parish more often than once every four months, but it saddens me to think that some of them might be counting or rationing the hours that they give to the sheep of their flock.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Prayers and Penance for Priests

In her broadcast for today (click here to listen), Sr. Ann Shields takes Sunday’s first reading from Jeremiah (“Woe to the shepherds. . .”) and uses it as a platform from which to encourage us to pray for our priests. It’s a message that I needed to hear. Yes, we have our Holy Hour every Monday evening with rosary, prayers for priests, and Benediction, but that gets to be so routine. Just as St. John Vianney did penance for the sheep of his flock, so we lay persons need to pray for and do penance for our pastors.

While I won’t be doing anything as dramatic as donning Fr. Brunner’s penance shirt shown at right (yes, Russ, I finally found a way to work it in – thanks for the image), I can put the suffering that I inflict upon myself during my training runs to good use. Maybe knowing that the suffering has been given meaning will strengthen me to endure the punishment.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Total Consecration

Today marks the twelfth anniversary of what should be a pivotal moment in the lives of my wife and me. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in 1997, we completed the total consecrate to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort and we were invested with the brown scapular.

De Montfort's method includes 33 days of prayer and preparation prior to the final consecration. The parish that we were in at the time, St. Lawrence the Martyr in Alexandria, Virginia, hosted a series of evenings for those interested in making the consecration, so there was a large group of us. I can still remember speaking with someone about the consecration. She was an unmarried middle-aged woman, very active as a volunteer in the parish. "I did that years ago," she said. Then she added jokingly, "You can't tell, can you?" I laughed with her, but I remember thinking, "Yes, I can." She was one of those good souls that we are fortunate to meet on our journey.

Life didn't change much for us after making the consecration. I separated from the Navy, and we moved back to Ohio and had three more children. Spiritually, I can hope that I've made improvements, but if so, they've been incremental. I still find that I have a need for sacramental confession. I still have trouble consistently saying my daily prayers. I still get extremely drowsy whenever I try to attend a holy hour. In short, I don't feel consecrated, but I am.

Also on that day twelve years ago, we received our brown scapulars. I look at my scapular as a sign of devotion to Our Lady. It's like a little piece of the carmelite habit that reminds me (and tells any who might catch a glimpse of it), that I love our Blessed Mother and want to better serve her Son. Scapulars are a common sight around town. Many children are enrolled after they make their First Communion. It's not unusual to see them with their scapulars double-looped around their necks, with both ends peeking over the tops of their shirt fronts.

Some people focus on the promises that were allegedly made regarding assurances to anyone who dies wearing a scapular. While I might hope that those promises are true if I'm lucky enough to be wearing mine when I die, I resist the temptation to think of the scapular in a superstitious manner, as though it were a straight-to-heaven talisman. I prefer to think that the promises might be true for anyone who is disposed to wear a scapular for the right reasons. In other words, it's not the patch of brown cloth that wins what is promised, rather it is the devotion and humility that leads one to wear the brown cloth with the proper intention.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Month from Today

One month from today, on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Amy and I will be in Buffalo, New York, listening to a conference given by Fr. John Corapi. His Sunday evening program on EWTN is one of the few television programs that can tear her away from the Food Network or Home and Garden Television (not that she watches a lot of television, but when she does, that’s where she’s tuned). She just loves to offer a bad imitation of Fr. Corapi’s baritone voice. She’s wanted to hear him in person for a long time, and she got our tickets as soon as they were available, referring to them often as her “Christmas present” and thanking me for the gift.

Fr. Corapi has recorded a video message regarding the upcoming event.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

St. Augustine on Islam

One of the fun things about having a blog is being able to see what kind of internet searches land people on your site. I've had several Google referrals that have resulted from people trying to find out what St. Augustine had to say about Islam. Let me make this simple. St. Augustine of Hippo died in the year 430. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, lived from ca. 570 until 632. St. Augustine never wrote anything about Islam, because Islam didn't exist when St. Augustine was alive.

I note this as a public service to those who use internet search engines.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Paying Attention

A while back, Fr. Kyle Schnippel noted on his blog that some priests do not like the award-winning film Fishers of Men. They object to the heroic presentation of the priest because, they say, it establishes unrealistic expectations. We priests, they say, just can't measure up. It’s a powerful film, and the trailer is embedded below.

I was reminded of Fr. Schnippels comment today when I happened upon an Ignatius Press advertisement promoting books for the Year for Priests. Among the titles were The Cure D’Ars Today by Fr. George Rutler (“this spiritual biography of St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, gives us new insights about the Cure’s life and message for today’s Church”), The Priest is Not His Own by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (“Sheen delves deeply into what he considers the main character of the priesthood, that of being a ‘holy victim’, to imitate Christ in His example of sacrifice, offering himself as a victim to make His Incarnation present in the world”), Theology of the Priesthood by Fr. Jean Galot, S.J. (“in this masterful work, Jean Galot, S.J. explains how the Jewish priesthood, the perfect priestly ministry of Jesus, and the role of the Twelve help us understand the ministerial priesthood”), and Christ, the Ideal of the Priest by Fr. Columba Marmion (“Marmion wrote this classic work on the priesthood to show the holiness that priests are called to, and how it can only be attained through close union with, and imitation of, Jesus Christ”).

When we speak of Jesus, we sometimes hear distinctions between a high Christology which emphasizes the divinity of Christ versus a low Christology which emphasizes the humanity of Christ. The Church teaches that Jesus is true God and true man – one divine person with two natures. Overemphasizing the divine nature runs the risk of forgetting the He was “a man like us in all things but sin.” Overemphasizing the human nature runs the risk of forgetting that He is the eternal Word, present at the creation and coeternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through the Incarnation, we have the mystery of the hypostatic union. The right line to walk is not to split the difference, making Jesus a little less than God and a little more than man (i.e., a sort of demigod), but rather to embrace both the high Christology and the low Christology at the same time.

It seems to me that we can also speak of a high and low presbyterology (I think I just made the word up). The high presbyterology emphasizes the ontological change that transforms a man into an alter Christus. The low presbyterology emphasizes that the priest is still just a man. Just as in Christology, where the right answer is not either/or nor split-the-difference, so the right approach with respect to the priesthood has to be the simultaneous recognition of his mere humanity and the sacred character of the vocation to which he has been called.

There seems to be a low priesthood movement afoot. I see it in complaints that priests have no time for themselves and therefore need homes away from the rectory. I see it in calls for the repeal of priestly celibacy requirements. I see it in priests who prefer to dress in civilian clothes (aka “incognito”) when “off-duty.” In this Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI is encouraging priests to rediscover that they were not called to a job, but to a vocation. I suspect that many of those priests who did not like “Fishers of Men” are hoping that nobody is paying attention.

video link

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Reading

I'm currently trying to read three separate books, each of which came to me in a different way.

Theology and Down Syndrome by Amos Yong came home with my wife from her support group meeting for parents of children with special needs. She promised that I would read it and post a review on her blog at My Little Saint. I'm only a chapter into it, but the author, who is Pentecostal, seems to treat the whole subject of theology a little differently than I would expect a Catholic author to. His whole approach seems to be subjective rather than objective. That is to say, rather than writing and thinking about God, he is focused on the person's response on an individual and social level. Thus, there was much hand-wringing at the beginning about whether he could even write about the theology of disability without being disabled himself. Needless to say, I don't expect to see much about the sacraments or magisterial teaching.

Coincidentally, I'm slowly slogging my way through Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand. I'm having a hard time grasping the densely packed verbiage in this one. I find that I have to re-read paragraphs several times, and even then I only understand half of the content. At the point in the von Hildebrand book at which I started reading the Yong book, von Hildebrand was discussing simplicity, and noting that "all forms of false simplicity, except the one based on a deficiency of intellectual gifts, constitute an insuperable obstactle to the attainment of true simplicity." Mental disabilities, therefore, do not constitute a barrier to the attainment of holiness. My sister in Biloxi originally read this book, and then gave it to my mom, who passed it on to me.

A third book came to me in a most unusual way. One of my kids came to me with it, saying that a lady had dropped it off. I went to the door and looked, but she had gone. All that the kids could tell me was that she had brown hair. I recognized the name of the author, so now I also find myself reading When the Spirit Comes in Power, by Peter Herbeck. Mr. Herbeck is Vice President of Renewal Ministries, through which he has a daily radio program, Fire on the Earth, and he is also a panelist on the EWTN program Crossing the Goal. His book is subtitled "Rediscovering the Charismatic Dimension of the Christian Life." Whoever dropped the book off evidently thinks that I can benefit from opening my life to the power of the Holy Spirit. The Charismatic aspects might even help to close the circle, allowing me to appreciate the Pentecostal aspects of Mr. Yong's theology.

I don't know how long it will take me to read these. I tend to be a slow reader, and other material continues to arrive (e.g., the latest issue of First Things, the encyclical Caritas in Veritate), and I would like to get another pleasure read (I'm thinking maybe a Brad Thor or Andrew Klavan novel) in before the summer ends.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5K Reflections

We've officially passed the half-way point in the 2009 5K season. Last Saturday's Independence Day race in Fort Loramie was race number six of twelve. I'm running better than I did last year, and yet for some reason I still feel a little disappointed. Here are some points of reflection for the season thus far.

1. Sometimes I don't understand myself. Training can be frustrating. I can have a couple of good, back-to-back 6.5 mile training runs, and then go out and really struggle after two miles, finally giving up and walking after three. It leads me to wonder which me is going to show up? With every run, I wonder whether it's going to be a good run or a bad run. A spiritual analogy to concupiscence and sin seems apt.

2. I ran a strong race in the third race of the season at Anna. After that race, I was confident that I was going to break into the teens. The fourth race, the Daffy Derby, was an evening run. I paid too much attention to the runners ahead of me, I was unable to hold the pace, even though it was slower than at Anna, and I ended up walking after 2.5 miles. I was very disappointed with myself. Following that race, I decided that I needed to run at my pace rather than worry about the leaders. The same thing is probably true in the spiritual life. Rather than try to match the holiness of others, I should concentrate on my own relationship with God and my response to his grace.

3. My hip has been bothering me a lot, to the point that I really needed to concentrate if I wanted to walk without a limp. Naturally, it affected my training. My confidence was already shattered after the Daffy Derby, but now I also had to worry about aggravating an injury. I had to try and find a balance between running enough to maintain conditioning and allowing my hip to heal. Sometimes slow and steady is better than strenuous. In terms of spiritual analogy, I think of a husband and wife who are at different points on the scale of spiritual awareness. One spouse might want to jump into the pious devotions with both feet, but doing so could alarm the other spouse and create some serious tension in the marriage. A little prudence goes a long way. By the way, my hip, thankfully, has not bothered me at all since Independence Day.

4. A lot of these races start with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. At Fort Loramie, we were invited to join in the singing, and I think that most of us did (it was the Fourth of July, after all). My wife's cousin was standing near me, and I saw him wipe a tear from his eye. My eyes were welling up, too. The whole first half of that race, the national anthem kept repeating in my head. After that, I had to concentrate just to keep running.

5. Fort Loramie was the first race this year in which I've actually been involved in a last mad dash for the finish. As we rounded the last turn, with about a tenth of a mile to go, three of us in the same age group were tightly bunched together. I don't know who moved first, but all three of us spent everything we had left to get to the line first. I ended up in the middle of the pack. In retrospect, it was fun, but at the time, I just wanted to collapse in a pile.

6. The last half mile has been really hard for me. It takes an extreme focusing of the will for me to keep running when my body is telling me to stop and walk. Every race ends up being a contest of the will. I can only pray that, by exercising my will to resist the voice that tells me to walk, I am thereby exercising my will to resist other, more deadly (in a spiritual sense) temptations.

7. I've never thought much about my weight being in issue in my running, except for the fact that the Oktoberfest 10K features weight categories (I won the over-225 lb category last year). There have been some instances to make me reconsider. After the Anna race, another runner asked me how much I weighed. After telling him that I weighed 230-235 lbs, he commented, "Just think how much faster you'd be at 200!" At the Daffy Derby I was told that the heat would be hard on heavier runners like me. At Fort Loramie, I was chatting with the runner who edged me out at the finish. I commented that he's really running well - more than a minute better than he ran last year. He told me that he isn't training any harder, but he's dropped ten pounds from a frame that was smaller than mine to begin with. All this has me seriously thinking about whether I should make an effort to shed some of my extra weight. The spiritual analogy seems obvious -- our attachments are like the extra weight we carry that prevents us from attaining true holiness.

8. The Anna and Botkins races were photographed by DAT photography. They place water-marked images on the internet for review and runners can purchase prints that they want. In reviewing some of my pictures, I noticed that my form was really bad. There's not much I can do about my right foot swinging wide, but I was running with my palms down, swinging my arms across my body. I've changed the orientation of my palms and focused on swinging my arms in a vertical arc. It should be a more efficient form. It seemed to help somewhat at Fort Loramie, anyway. Spiritually, we can slip into modes of piety that are "bad form." A spiritual director is like a coach who can point those things out so that we can run with the greatest possible efficiency. Poor form doesn't just slow us down and make us work harder than we need to, it can also contribute to injuries.

Does running always have to have a dual meaning? Of course not! But the fact that it analogizes so well provides me with plenty to think about, reflect upon, and pray over.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chaput's Visitation

A handful of my regular visitors (OK, all of my regular visitors only amounts to a handful, I’m talkin’ about a fraction thereof) will find this interesting. The Apostolic Visitation of the Legionaries of Christ is finally scheduled to begin. Catholic News Agency has the confirmed report. There will be different prelates responsible for the Visitations in different parts of the world, with Visitation to the Legion’s institutions in the United States being carried out by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. The Visitations and an official announcement are expected to begin on Julyl 15.

I trust that Archbishop Chaput will conduct a fair and thorough examination. The Legionaries have many friends and enemies, both of whom will be expectantly awaiting the reports of the Visitors.

An Apostolic Visitation is the Pope’s way of exercising his jurisdiction. In essence, he deputizes somebody to go and look around on his behalf, and then report back what you find. In some cases, the Pope’s legates might be authorized to enact changes or levy canonical penalties. In this case, I believe that the Pope has reserved those options to himself.

Dying on the Vine

Oh, the things you hear on NPR!

On Tuesday morning, it was a story about the Texas town of Cleburne, where residents wonder whether drilling for natural gas is the cause of a series of recent earthquakes.

"Natural gas recovery in the Barnett Shale involves drilling down several thousand feet and then drilling sideways thousands of feet more. Liquid is then pumped down the wells at very high pressures, which fractures the strata releasing the pockets of natural gas. Could this be causing little quakes?"

It was a mildly interesting story, but what grabbed my attention was a phrase used by the reporter, Wade Goodwyn.

"While most of rural America slowly dies on the vine,...."

I live in an Ohio village of 2800 souls, surrounded by farmland. We have quite a bit of interaction with "rural America." I was surprised and a little taken aback at the assertion that rural America is slowly dying on the vine. At 39 years old, I am actually above the median age in my little village.

Cleburne, Texas, on the other hand, is a city of 29,000. If that's rural, then what are we?

And the intelligentsia wonder why people think that NPR is biased.

A House Full of Girls

You know that you live in a house full of girls when every time you try to tidy up a bit, you find hair pieces and hair brushes everywhere. When you actually want to brush your hair, though, none of the fifty hair brushes that you put away the night before are anywhere to be found.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Intimate and Conscious

There’s an interesting article by Patricia Snow about Communion in the hand over at the On the Square section of the First Things website. She covers a lot of ground in a relatively short piece. Among other things, she points to the unity of liturgical symbolism that is lost when Communion is given in the hand, particularly the cleansing rituals that are supposed to ensure that no crumbs of the sacred species are casually left to be trampled upon.

I choose to receive Our Lord on the tongue, but I admit that my thought has always tended toward the subjective. Why do I receive him this way, and so I never gave much thought to the appropriateness in the general sense of Communion in the hand. The Church, so my thinking went, had decided that it was OK, and that was good enough for me. The Church, of course, can make bad decisions that do not affect doctrine itself, but might have the effect of undermining the way in which the doctrine is received or perceived. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the Church decided to take back some of the allowances that have been granted to U.S. Catholics over the last forty years.

As for my subjective reasons, they are summed up well by this paragraph from the article:

So why, once Communion in the hand was permitted in the United States, did it so swiftly and almost universally become preferred? The answer is obvious. For a twentieth-century American, receiving on the tongue seems difficult. It is undignified and dependent, uncomfortably intimate and interior. By an act of the will, one must set aside one’s pride and embarrassment and make a conscious decision to see the priest as Christ.

It is intimate. It is conscious. It reminds me that what I am receiving is not mere bread.

I am not an absolutist. When the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is two feet shorter than I am, I usually receive in the hand. When experience has taught me that the EMHC is going to try to throw the host into my open mouth from six inches away, lest there by any incidental contact, I will receive in the hand rather than risk his or her missing the target. But in these cases, I’m reduced to questioning whether that person should really be distributing the Body of Christ

The Perks

by Midge Goldberg
Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (June/July 2008).

Why is Satan not too hot in hell?
He doesn’t seem to suffer like the rest
Who languish there. You’d almost say he’s blessed,
He’s acclimated to the place so well.

Perhaps he has a fast metabolism?
But he can’t be impervious to heat-
That would be kind of silly and defeat
The purpose of this weather-changing schism.

No, there’s a different way he disobeys-
An air-conditioned office where he stays,
A well-stocked mini-fridge that would entice
God himself-cold beer and, oh, the ice!
To his chagrin, he cannot let God know.
From time to time, he mops his brow for show.