Monday, April 17, 2006

"Why has it been wasted?"

The above is from "Strange Things, Mystifying" from Jesus Christ, Superstar . Judas sings it to Mary Magdalene after she's anoited Jesus with her perfumed oil:

Why has it been wasted?
We could've raised, maybe,
300 silver pieces or more.
People who are hungry
People who are starving
Matter more
Than your
Feet and hair!

That was my reaction when I read that the Cleveland Diocese was sued by a alleged abuse victim (I always say alleged, like alleged rape victim or whatever, until it's been proven) for $45,000 in a defamation suit. The article in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer reads, in part:

"{name] accuses Pilla [the old bishop], Mulica and diocesean officials of ruining his life, but thinks the settlement money will be therapeutic. He plans to buy a sailboat, take a long trip and write a book about his experiences ." (emphasis mine)

Um. OK. Glad to know the good people of Cleveland's offetory money is going to buy sailboats. I know that sounds harsh, but the alleged incident with a priest (who is now dead, I believe) happened in 1981--twenty-five years ago. The money is from a libel case that the family brought against the Diocese for remarks Bishop Pilla made in 2002. But either way, $45,000 is a lot of money that "could have been saved for the poor."

Triduum Wrap-up

I hope all of you had a blessed and joyous Easter! I know I did. If I had to name this season I'd call it the "Year of the Giggles" because it certainly was, at least for me. I was giggling or "awww"ing or seeing soemthing precious at every Mass...I'm sure my fellow choir members were thinking I'd gone 'round the bend, or something.

Some examples:

Holy Thursday : The Washing of the Feet is always interesting, just to see who gets picked, and there were a lot of little kids (or littler people) this year...RCIC kids, some of the 8th graders who are going to be confirmed. That was nice to see, as opposed to most of the adults. My parents were both up there, too, so the usual humor/pride mix that results when your family members are involved in Mass was there, too. There were so many kids, at all the Triduum Masses, and that made me happy. But kids love Holy Thursday because it's not that much longer than a normal Mass, but it's got all this awesome stuff--the feet washing, the Transfer of the Host, etc. (for those of you not in the loop: The Transfer of the Host occurs at the end of Holy Thursday Mass. The priest dons a cope (like a little cape thing) and carries the ciborium holding enough consecrated hosts for Good Friday service, since it's not a Mass. His hands are wrapped in the cope so he's not directly touching it. There's a procession with candles and beaucoup de incense, which the older adults seem to always grumble about but the kids like. So they watch the procession go around the church with everyong singing Tantum Ergo Sacramentum , which is only sung once a year...their eyes look like saucers. I love it. )

Good Friday : OK, no giggling at Good Friday because it's, well Good Friday. But it was a great service (FYI, it is the only time you can actually call a Catholic Mass a "Service", because it's not a Mass due to the fact that there's no consecration of the Eucharist). I love Good Friday, although it's my personal opinion that every lector who reads the First Reading (Isaiah 52-53) should have to watch Sir Lawrence Olivier deliver those lines in Jesus of Nazareth because he is just The Man.

Holy Saturday : Had about 15 people come into the Church, so that was nice. One was a family, which is also nice. One little girl, who I was near, watched her father come into the Church, and after he was confirmed she ran up to him and gave him a big hug, which of course made me go 'awww'. It was really cute. The "Hallelujah Chorus" went swimmingly, thank you. :)

So all in all a good triduum. I always love those Masses, even more than Christmas, and I always feel kind of relieved/bummed when it's over (relieved b/c I don't have to sing that much for the rest of the year, bummed because it's over). But I'm sure next year will come soon enough...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Immigration part deux

Story time, Kats and Kittens...

Once upon a time there were a few families that lived in Europe. Two lived in Italy, one lived in Germany, and one was a misplaced Irish family who fled Ireland during the Potato Famine to live in neighboring Scotland, who hadn't their devotion to the spud and therefore had other things to eat. In the early part of the twentieth century, all four families decided to immigrate to America.

It wasn't easy. There was the long boat crossing, which was expensive, especially considering they were treated like chattel. They couldn't all come at once--in some of the families the boys came first to find work and would send for their parents and sisters later, when they had the money for the passage. This could take years. But eventually all four families ended up in America--the Italians on Mulberry Street in New York, and the Germans and the Irish, somewhere else. All four eventually ended up in Pittsburgh, where the Irish/Scottish daughter married the German son and the daughter and son of the two Italian families married. They had children, and eventually two of those children got married and produced.... moi .

Yes friends, like the rest of you, I am an immigrant. But do you see the difference between the above story and the stories we're hearing today at these rallies, attending by thousands across the country? I sure do. My relatives, and probably yours, went through Ellis Island. They came here legally, worked hard, learned English (!), put up with all kinds of crap because they were Catholic, and some of them were Irish , God forbid. But they got married and produced American citizens who knew English and married other American citizens who produced more citizens...until I am the third generation born here. I've completed college. My brother's in college. My grandfather is a composer and a retired school orchestra teacher. My grandma raised 8 kids on one salary. My dad's father sold insurance to Italians in Pittsburgh. We all did pretty well for ourselves. None of us are on the dole, at least.

Yet these people, these "undocumented workers', say that we're anti-immigrant now. Wrong. We're anti- illegal immigrant. There's a big difference. My relatives didn't try to sneak in Boston Harbor and work under the radar. They did it the right way. There's a right and a wrong way to do this. If you want to be a citizen, do it properly. And don't say that you don't have time. Thousands of my countrymen from Ireland managed to immigrate here during the famine and they knew about not having time. They gnawed on quadruple-boiled bones to keep hunger at bay and ate grass until their mouths were green and still they starved.

We are a nation of immigrants, this is true. But the older ones assimilated. They became part of our fabric. They didn't try for multi-lingual signs, multiple options on the ATMs, and force us to accomodate them .

We are to show them justice and mercy and compassion. But at the same time we cannot advocate the reckless breaking of our laws. What's the point of having laws if we don't enforce them? And how can these people be good citizens if they're breaking the laws of their new country right off the bat?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bookshelf and popcorn

All right, time for a book 'n movie round-up:

books :

St. Therese of Lisieux, story of a Soul or L'Historie d'Ame , as the French would say...the autobiography of my patron saint, so it's very bizarre that I haven't read this earlier. that's probably due ot the fact that this is a hard book, surprisingly, to find in mainstream bookstores, but I finally found a copy at a local Catholic bookshop that was produced by a Carmelite house here in the U.S.

The book isn't one book, it's actually three manuscripts in one: Manuscript A is the story of her life, as written for Mother Agnes, prioress of the Carmel for a time and Therese's older sister and "little mother" Pauline. Manuscript B talks about her vocation-- "my vocation is love!"-- and was written for her oldest sister, Marie, who was also in Carmel. The final part, Mauscript C, was written on prayer and her "little way" for Mother Marie de Gonzagua, who became prioress again after Pauline. All three together present a vivid portrait of a saint and her "little way", which is, unsurprisingly, filled with the profound spiritual insight that made Pope John Pual II proclaim her a Doctor of the Church in 2000 (I think it was that year, anyway). Definitely, definitely worth reading this.

In conjunction with that, I've also been reading (but haven't finished) St. Therese of Lisieux: Her family, her God, her message by Fr. Bernard Bro, a leading expert in Theresian theology. It's a fascinating look at the forces that shaped her life and her spitirtuality and I'm really enjoying it so far.

Movies :

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is now on DVD. If you're a fan, get the two disc set because it's awesome. The film looks great on DVD transfer and is even better than I remember. Read my review in the December archieves if you haven't and then run to Best Buy to get this puppy. It's awesome.

King Kong :Didn't see it in the theater but bought it on DVD. It's good, a little long in parts (I thought that some of the scenes on Skull Island could have been shortened or cut, esp. the ones with the gross bugs), but the acting is pretty good (especially Naomi Watts, who is essentially acting against a green screen the whole time) and some of th CGI effects just take your breath away. I did find the Central Park scene a little hokey (tell me again how Kong is supported on that ice?) but I loved the sunset scene. It's worth watching if you haven't seen it but it's not this great Oscar worthy film that you must see (the idea, if true, that Naomi watts was miffed because she didn't get an Oscar nomination for her role is nuts, because her acting was good, but definitely not Best Actress worthy).

A Catholic American or an American Catholic?

Little story before we start...

I was sitting around with a bunch of my friends one night last year, discussing the potential pool of Republican 2008 Presidential candidates. A lot of them voiced support for Rudy, which is well-deserved, even today, given that he was mayor of New York City, a city that is sapphire in its blueness, and did one hell of a job. But I wasn't about to get on the Rudy bandwagon.

"He's pro-choice," I said.

"But he's good on terrorism and national security. He's a shoo-in," one of my best friends added.

"Yeah, but he's pro-choice."

"So? That's minor."

"He won't get out of the primary, for starters," I said. "And I can't vote for a pro-choicer. I'll vote for a pro-life Democrat before I vote for a pro-choice Republican."

Most of the people in the room looked at me like I was crazy. Winning is, in the political life, first and foremost in the mind. With winning you get to set the agenda. But I wasn't about to let the agenda be set by someone who doesn't agree with me on key moral issues. He might win, but it wasn't with my vote.

All of this came to the surface lately after I finished reading Father Neuhaus' new book Catholic Matters (I posted a review of it in another post). He asks an intriguing question: Are we, as Americans, Catholic Americans or American Catholics? Which comes first in our allegiance?

As I thought about this, I realized that I consider myself a Catholic American. My faith is probably, if I had to say, more important that my citizenship. Don't get me wrong. I am proud to be an American, glad for the freedoms and privileges I enjoy and can say, without reservation, that I consider the U.S. the best country in the world (sorry to my foreign readers :) ). But my country isn't going with me when I die. I don't have to stand in judgement before George Washington, and Abe Lincoln didn't die to save my soul. I love America, but she can make mistakes--she's run by faliable humans. But with Catholicism, that doesn't happen. "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it." I can put more stock in those beliefs than in others. And when it comes to what my party believes and what my Church teaches, I'm going to side with the Church. Of course one does not have to accept everything that comes out of a bishop's mouth, so I put my faith in Rome, the Magesterium and the catechism. Thank God we have B XVI in charge.

This is a difficult thing to think about. It isn't often that one has to make this distinction, but when you have to, I'd make it a Catholic American over an American Catholic. God has to come first, right? Isn't that what He tells us?

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about this...but this is what I've got for now.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

No luck with the Chinese...yet...


Taipei, April 4 (CNA) The Vatican and China did not engage in any official talks on establishing diplomatic relations during their latest contact, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

According to Wang Yu-yuan, director-general of the MOFA's Department of European Affairs, high-ranking Vatican officials have promised to inform Taiwan if the Holy See starts talks on establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing.

The Vatican -- the only European country to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan -- has been trying to improve its relations with China and has maintained on-and-off contact with Beijing, Wang noted.

Wang said freedom of religion has been the main problem hampering the establishment of Vatican-China diplomatic relations because the Vatican is concerned about the rights of Catholics in China, which does not recognize the authority of bishops and other officials appointed by the Catholic church.

Wang said that since 1992, the Vatican has mentioned plans to "move its embassy" from Taipei to Beijing and that China has put forth several conditions on the establishment of diplomatic ties with the Vatican, including that it must not interfere with China's internal affairs and must sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The matter is at a standstill because the Vatican has refused to compromise on some of these conditions, Wang said.

On reports that the pope is planning to visit Asia, Wang said he had not heard of any such plans.

The Liturgy is not a time for self-expression....

says the vatican. Huzzah! I love Cardinal Arinze more and more, let me tell you. There's a bit from that I've posted below, but I've always thought this.

The way I see it, the Mass is like a play, right? There's a script, and the players all have their parts. It's like when you go to theater to see Macbeth's the same every time. You know what to expect going in. It's not like on day you're going to go and find out, "hey, in our version, Duncan lives and Lady MacBeth bakes brownies for everyone!" No. The Mass is the same way. You go in, you know what's going to happen.

Regular readers of this space are aware of my ongoing frustration with the visiting priest at our parish who fills in for our pastor from time to time since we only have one priest. And he likes to change all sorts of things, like God isn't "father", he's "God" in th Doxology, and Jesus wants to preserve us from "undue" anxiety....hmmmm. What exactly is "due" anxiety? And if you're still having a problem with calling God "father" then I think you've gotta get on board with that pretty quick. So let's just have Mass the way we're supposed to have it, huh? Thank you.

Signs are growing that Pope Benedict XVI intends to bring the liturgy back to a more traditional form after a top Vatican official protested the use of “Do-it-Yourself” services. In a keynote speech delivered at Westminster Cathedral recently, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, also said that individual priests should not add to or subtract from the approved rites, mentioning the practice of playing background music in particular as one practice that should stop. “The Mass is the most solemn action of the sacred liturgy, which is itself the public worship of the Church,” the cardinal said. "'Liturgy', says Pope John Paul II, 'is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church'. “It follows that individuals, whether they be priests or lay faithful, are not free to add or subtract any details in the approved rites of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. A do-it-yourself mentality, an attitude of nobody-will-tell-me-what-to-do, or a defiant sting of if-you-do-not-like-my-Mass-you-can-go-to-another-parish, is not only against sound theology and ecclesiology, but also offends against common sense. Unfortunately, sometimes common sense is not very common, when we see a priest ignoring liturgical rules and installing creativity, in his case personal idiosyncrasy, as the guide to the celebration of Holy Mass. Our faith guides us and our love of Jesus and of his Church safeguards us from taking such unwholesome liberties. Aware that we are only ministers, not masters of the mysteries of Christ.” The cardinal's comments come a week after proposals were announced by a Vatican commission to outlaw the use of drums and electric guitars from church services. The commission outlined 50 proposals on reforming the liturgy, with Vatican insiders saying that the commission also proposed to increase the use of Latin during Mass. But Fr Tom Jordon from the National Conference of Priests, said he was unaware of any deviation from the Rubrics provided by the Roman Missal in the nation's churches but added that since Vatican II in was inevitable that the personality of priests shone through during Mass.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cleveland's new top dog

More on Cleveland's new bishop:

Bishop Richard Lennon, from Boston, was introduced Tuesday by retiring Bishop Anthony Pilla.

Lennon, 59, was ordained in 1973 in Boston and became an auxiliary bishop in 2001.

He made national headlines when he temporarily took control of the Boston Diocese. That came after Cardinal Bernard Law quit in 2002 amid the priest sex-abuse scandal.
What Should Bishop Accomplish In Cleveland?
Lennon said he will use the same healing and straightforward approach in dealing with all the issues in Cleveland.

He said the global settlement of more than 500 cases involving the church was the only logical and human approach.

"To try and handle each separate case individually would have kept it going for months, if not years. And that was not helpful to the victims, the church, it wasn't helpful to anyone," Lennon said.

Lennon becomes the 10th bishop in the Diocese of Cleveland.

He got the call from the pope two weeks ago and said he never hesitated to say yes.

He takes over for Pilla, who announced his retirement in January.

Cleveland area Catholics say that Pilla's shoes will be tough to fill, but they have high hopes for Lennon's leadership, and think that his experience with the Boston diocese during difficult times is also important.

There's only one problem Clevelanders have with the Boston native: he's a self-admitted die-hard Red Sox fan.

"I will try to be as supportive of the Indians as possible but I must be honest, Red Sox fans, I mean, they're diehards. I mean we waited how many years?," he joked.

Lennon will be installed on May 15 at 3 p.m.

SNAP doesn't like him, which means I do, because I've done some research on them and they didn't like B XVi's election and support (and are supported byh )Voice of the Faithful, which is a lefty group out of Boston. So I wish him good luck in Cleveland and hope he does well.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

One year later...

Today, as I'm sure we're all aware, marks the first anniversary of JP The Great's death. I was convinced that the world would never know as great a Pope as he was, and I still share that sentiment, but the election of B XVI and the first year of his papacy have done a lot to soothe the huge hole his death left.

I had lived my entire life under his papacy. All of my cousins (I think, except for one, possibly) were born under this papacy. My parents were married with him as Pope. His reign marked (almost) all of the major events of my life. To lose him was indescribable.

But I have loved B XVI and knew, from the moment he was elected, that he would be a good Pope. Who else could best continue JP II's legacy, and leave one of his own. His first encyclical clearly spells out the Church's teaching on so many things, not just love (as one would guess from the title).

He was a saintly man, a wonderful Pope, and I still miss him. He really was like a father to so many of us. But B XVI is doing a great job and I'm glad that the cardinals elected him. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have him as a Pope.