Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pray without ceasing...

One of the greatest mistakes a person caught in sin makes is neglecting prayer. The Lord hears our prayer when we are reduced to hopelessness and find ourselves turning to him asking for help - especially when there is no one else, or anything else to turn to.
"There is no pit so deep that his love is not deeper still." Betsy Tenboom said that amidst the horrors of the concentration camp.
Saturday's Gospel always speaks to my heart when "Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." Luke 18
The Gospel of Luke is particularly focused upon the mercy of Jesus. Jesus was speaking to sinners. Sinners who seek freedom from habitual sin. Some may come so far as to pray daily, go to confession, do everything in their power to break free of a particular sin. Or they may find themselves steeped in some addiction, and only when faced with their hopeless condition, turn to the Lord for mercy. Then our Lord, moved with pity at the sight of our misery, for that is the meaning of mercy, finally lifts the soul up, grants the grace of freedom. It may take years, but the Lord responds because of our persistence.
Never give up prayer, even when caught in some sin. Do not think about merit or anything else, just keep crying out. God hears the prayer of the sinner, the person in dire straights. People think they have to be good to pray - no! - God always hears the sinner when he cries out for help, for mercy.
He asks for our sins when we have nothing else to offer.
He welcomed sinners and ate with them.
He said those who are well do not need a Doctor - sick people do.
There is just not any pit so deep and dark that his love is not deeper still.
Today's Gospel is so encouraging - never let anyone discourage you from prayer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

NCCB and Burke

Archbishop Burke, St. Louis, MO
He was once a Bishop in this area. Tonight I watched EWTN News coverage of his speeches at the USCCB Conference. He was actually cut off at one point when he exceeded his 5 minute chance to speak. (They're kinda strict when they want to be - the Bishops that is.)
He spoke very well.
I remember when he was in our locality as a Bishop, some zealot went to the Vatican to protest his allowing a transsexual to become a nun. Minor local scandal.
I don't really even know if Burke was aware of the person's sexual condition. The poor woman is doing what now? I have no idea.
Burke strikes me as an extremely compassionate and orthodox prelate, concerned for the salvation of souls. He perhaps thought this transsexual person was not unlike early Desert Father stories of women who impersonated as men to live the ascetic life. I'm certain there were pastoral provisions in his handling of this woman's case. He is a good shepherd.
When he spoke at the conference, he seemed nervous, yet resolute. I was impressed with his courage. He is a good pastor.
Sometimes the inquisitors seem to demonstrate a lack of pastoral prudence. They often remind me of the people who participated in the Salem witch hunt a couple of centuries ago. I'm happy for them that they are so orthodox and holy, not like other men - or women. They must be very happy with themselves.

The Enneagram

New Age Spirituality
-continuing to sneak through some cracks in the Church.

Do you even know what the enneagram is? It emanates from Sufiism, a mystical branch of Islam. It has been assilmilated by New Age Christians and passed off as a form of mysticism. It's sort of like astrology, I know a couple of priests who are more or less influenced by the enneagram and who use it's principles in their homilies, spiritual advice and confessions. I was always a little dubious about their orthodoxy after learning this.

The mandorla pictured is not an enneagram, yet many Christian enneagram enthusiasts would like to say it is. Read the following section from EWTN's library to discover what the ennegram consists of.

"In promoting the Enneagram, an effort is made to take Sufi objectives, their kind of self- knowledge and knowledge of others, for the sake of promoting Christian objectives. But it's the opposite that happens: Christian goals are used for the sake of promoting the aims of the Sufi religion: the Catholic religion is assimilated into the Enneagram and the Sufi religion.
Catholics using the Enneagram talk about things like saints and sin and faith and "fruits of the spirit". Using these words makes it sound legitimate. But they are only adapting these terms to the Enneagram, by giving them different definitions."
- EWTN Library

Richard Rohr is an enneagram enthusiast, having written extensively on it. It seems to be attractive to more progressive contemplative communities as well as priests and lay people interested in new age spirituality. I have re-printed some excerpts from a recent Stephen Crittenden interview with Fr. Richard Rohr found on The Religion Report, ABC National Radio.

"Richard Rohr is a well-known figure in American Catholic circles, very much in the tradition of the famous post-war Catholic monk, Thomas Merton. He was born in Kansas, has been active in the civil rights movement, and writes for the American magazine Sojourners, and for the National Catholic Reporter.

He founded a famous retreat centre in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Centre for Action and Contemplation, and he's on a speaking tour of Australia at the moment.

Stephen Crittenden: It seems to me that centres like yours have picked up a lot on Buddhist New Age retreat centres that we associate with California for example; that they're offering people something that they seem to want that comes out of monasteries, that involves retreats and something temporary.

Richard Rohr: Yes, I think that's true. You know that what's been called Buddhism, I as a Franciscan though, was taught by my own 13th, 14th century Franciscan mystics. But here's the difference: is we didn't have the sophisticated, refined psychological vocabulary in the 13th and 14th century, that Buddhists have now. So very often, Christians will find themselves drawing from Buddhist sources simply, in my opinion, because the refined vocabulary of what is happening to the ego, to the self. How does transformation happen? Their vocabulary is very often very helpful. Even though I know it's identical in substance to what our own Christian mystics taught. So it's a coming together that is, I think to the advantage of all.

Stephen Crittenden: You're part of the 800-year tradition of St Francis and St Bonaventure, but are you also in the sort of American 'feel good' New Age guru tradition? Is there part of the Oprah Winfrey and Dr Phil in what you're doing?

Richard Rohr: Well in the sense that I'm trying to find a language and metaphors that make sense to the present consciousness. If you want to call that New Age, I don't think it is, I think it's the Gospel of Paul himself, took upon himself to be all things to all people, and I think that's our task too. But whenever you do that, even John's Gospel that uses a philosophical word like logos, are we going to accuse him of being overly trendy because he found a language that contemporary people could hear? I don't think so. But that's an umbrella word like New Age is an umbrella word that Christians apply today to almost anything they don't understand. And they don't realise that some of the things they don't understand are their own tradition." - The Religion Report

"Richard Rohr is a well-known figure in American Catholic circles, very much in the tradition of the famous post-war Catholic monk, Thomas Merton." I like that quote. I think both guys are capable of misleading Christians away from authentic Catholic prayer, as well as doctrine. Merton started out great, but got a bit confused towards the end. Rohr may indeed be following suit.

More on clerical ambition

Cool detail from the Last Judgement scene, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua.
The Bishop has a bag of money, blessing the monk - looks like the promotion didn't take - although someone got the mitre.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I posted this on my Leaflet blog because I liked the hat - The Saturno - looks way much better than the Biretta. Here is the priest's comments who posted it:
"Yes, the saturno is available in Rome. So much have the times changed that you even see it in clerical shop windows… along with other hats more than a few clerics of my acquaintance would like to have, alas."
I did not realize priests are ambitious for Bishoprics and the like. I guess I am naive. Although it could explain the pomposity in some - like climbing socialites I suppose.

Thanks A Lot Day

(Pictured, my favorite dysfunctional family, "The Royal Tenenbaums".)
It's a week from tonight. So far only one person has asked me what I am doing for Thanksgiving. One year I told people I was preparing dinner at the Animal Shelter for homeless pets - and they actually believed me. I thought it was the funniest excuse I ever had - but no one picked up on the humor. (My very best friend Keevin tells me I am not funny.)
For years I would lie and say I was going to relatives, when I spent it with friends. There is such a thing about being with your family - I think that works if you have a normal one. (Although my sister has a lovely family, but I'm not a family type guy. She finally gets it.)
The holidays are a big stress time for many. Over the years I have worked hard to avoid the stress and pressure of family dinners and get-togethers. I just don't go. I used to say I was coming, but then wouldn't show up - but I realized that was rude. So now I just say, "No thank you."
But then there is the guilt. I've never liked Thanksgiving - it always seemed so Protestant to me. Dress up, act normal - until everyone had a little too much to drink, eat lots of food after having prayed grace for the first and only time all year, etc. I've never liked parades either, so I don't watch Macy's. But I do appreciate football - thank God for football! I also like "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "Home Alone" - two movies shown at this time of year.
I'm just not sentimental about Thanksgiving, or dysfunctional families. I've always asked my sister, "Why do I have to come over? You have your own family." After all of these years she leaves Uncle Scrooge alone. I usually get together with friends who feel as I do - although even then I'd rather be "Home Alone." I actually like to paint on the holidays - football in the background.
Very nice friends with family always invite me over, because I do not want to commit officious lies, I now just tell them, "I don't want to be with my family, so why would I want to be with yours." I thank them - but I have to be blunt - otherwise they are relentless. People make way too big a deal about this sentimental stuff - and I know I'm the envy of many a husband.
But if you have to go to the relatives house - and you don't like it - here is an article you may find helpful - or just don't go:
Holiday Family Angst
By Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D.

Dr. Linda Helps - It's that time of year again when most of us consider the trek home to join the family fun. For many, it's a trip into dysfunction, raising anxiety levels. Family get-togethers can create holiday angst -- a gift worth not giving!

Most of my therapy discussion this time of year centers on helping people prepare for family gatherings. My first piece of advice is this: do not idealize family relations. Unless you've all been in intensive therapy for a while, the family dance is not that different from years passed. Grandpa will still drink too much. Aunt Mary will be critical of the turkey. And Uncle Bob will be as obnoxious as ever. If you approach your family problems realistically, you can better prepare your reactions. Continue - Holiday Family Angst
Truth be told, when I was young and bad, Thanksgiving night used to be the most fun night of the year in the bars - everyone was in from out of town - out that night to escape the family. Although - in some ways - when you got back home, it was worse. I've repented and reformed since then.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Hare

This isn't her, but I have one just like her who sits all day long outside my door in the garden. She's really cute. She must be watching her nest. I allow the rabbits to live in my yard. It's very safe since it is tightly hedged, with an added barrier of ivy covered fence.
I wondered if rabbits reproduce even during the winter months, as this seems rather late in the season to have babies. I then reasoned that they must be destined to be food for another predator to get through the winter. I hope it's not one of those murderous, well fed, house cats who prowl about. They kill for sport. Kind of like people who hunt.
My cats are indoor cats. When they go out they remain in the enclosure. They just watch the rabbits, although sometimes Agnes likes to chase them.

Married Priests

News is the Holy Father is meeting with Bishops in a closed session to address the issue of married priests in light of crazy Archbishop Milingo's recent antics. Media likes to speculate on this question, but if they are hoping for any reversal on the discipline of a celibate priesthood, don't hold your breath.
I'm very happy with celibacy as a single Catholic man, as I think most priests are. The argument that it would elevate the dignity of marriage is a silly one, as is the argument that more men would be willing to enter the priesthood if celibacy was an option.
One of the chief reasons men and women are reluctant to enter religious life seems to me to be that there are so many lucrative career options for people today. In other words, people are immersed in a materialistic and hedonistic culture, relishing their freedom to do as they wish. There exists with this a reluctance to sacrifice this freedom and live under obedience. Naturally, this would indicate a lack of spirituality and mystic vision. (I also think when priesthood is presented as a career choice, and Bishops and clergy act more like CEO's and administrators, working in a 9-5 manner, with 1 day off a week - it isn't an attractive career path.)
A married priesthood would result in the understanding of the sacredotal state as just another career option, as opposed to a supernatural vocation. Meeting the new permanent Deacons and their wives suggests to me that a married priesthood would look much like this group.
Granted, the married Deacons are very fervent and dedicated to their ministry, while their wives, who usually go through training with them are a wonderful support. I have no problem with that. One does notice the wives are often very involved; some, not all, work in Church offices, or act as liturgists, etc. I could see this happening with married priests. The priest would appear to be a team with his wife. I think my confidence in him would somehow be compromised. If I needed advice, would his wife know about it? Would he turn to her for advice about ministry issues, instead of going to prayer and looking to his spiritual director or superiors for counsel?
I think the rule of celibacy vivifies the priesthood, raises it above the natural to the supernatural, freeing the priest to act in persona Christi.
I don't like the idea of a married priesthood. Archbishop Milingo is nuts - I hope they don't spend a lot of time discussing his issue.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I stole this picture from Don Marco at Vultus Christi - I thought that it exemplified the American Catholic Faithful at this time - even though it is an image of souls in purgatory.
I haven't posted about the controversies swirling about amongst the Bishops on Pastoral Care for Homosexual Persons. I've focused way too much on the gay thing of late - so much so people are wondering about me.
So head over to Amy Welborne's "Open Book" for hi-lights on their discussions - gosh - is she gay?
Here is her comment on the discussions:
"The quite difficult thing here is that the bishops who speak on this are just one step away from stating the full story on Catholic teaching on this. It is such a challenging thing to just say, "This is dis-ordered because it is not consistent with God's design for human sexuality that men have sex with other men or women with other women. There is a mystery at the heart of these temptations, there is goodness in deep affection between persons of the same sex, but yes - it is sinful to engage in this activity and to embrace it as a good. There are many holy people past and present who have struggled with this. They are not a "they" - they are us, a part of us, a part of the Body of Christ. But we can't and won't do what activists would like us to do which is, frankly, to throw Catholic teaching on sexuality completely out the window, and remake it in a completely different image, unrecognizable in the context of the broader and deeper tradition and, we believe, revelation of God." -Amy Welborne
I kind of think she believes it is an important issue that concerns others besides those people with homosexual inclination as much as I do.

Talking Jesus Dolls

I hate crap like this. Kitsch!
When I was little I loved beautiful statues and devotional pictures - I would have hated a cartoon Jesus.
At my company we sell another Rabbi-looking 'Loving Jesus' doll - he doesn't talk, but he is just as creepy. It sells like crazy. It is so Protestant. There is just no accounting for taste.
The news of late is that the Marines have rejected the Jesus doll as a donation for Toys for Tots. It isn't a question of taste - they said it's just that some kids may not celebrate Christmas. So why give them anything? I thought the whole Toys for Tots thing was to give poor kids Christmas presents they would otherwise not get.
I don't think it's such a big deal however. So they rejected it - it's religious - who cares? It's ugly and I wouldn't want my little boy getting a doll, unless it's some cool action figure. Nevertheless, I don't like the idea of Jesus being a doll. I can't stand the Jesus playing baseball pictures or him playing sports figures either. It's tacky - just like the laughing Jesus 'art'.
The entire controversy is because Toys for Tots rejected a Christian symbol. They can do that. Just as people do not have to say "Merry Christmas" - "Happy Holidays" works for me. Many people celebrate Christmas simply as a holiday anyway - it's a time for parties and lavish gift giving amidst sometimes excruciatingly painful family reunions, exhausting to the point most forget it is the Nativity of Our Lord. I don't know if Christians can force the issue down the throats of secularized society.
Although, I remain a firm believer that freedom of religion must be protected and public displays of the Nativity should be protected by the Constitution. (Although they're so often badly done.) Since this freedom has been suppressed in many cases, I imagine that is why everyone gets so stirred up about this Jesus doll thing. Choose your battles folks. (And remember, we still have a Madonna Christmas stamp - that says something about our Country.)
I'd rather protest making Jesus a toy.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Retarded Souls

Remember Lot's wife - she was turned into a pillar of salt - I think that's her in the photo, with the hat.
I have heard so many people over the years claim that they are in the dark night of the soul, as described by St. John of the Cross. Religious and lay people alike. They wish!
I do believe there can be an interchange of sorts, for persons who are serious about the practice of prayer, to sort of 'dance' in and out of the so-called dark night. It is the natural volley of aridity and consolation in beginners, preparing them for an authentic life of faith and charity, as well as hope, grounded in humility.
Garrigou-Lagrange is one of my favorite authors whom I turn to as far as spirituality goes, he is second only to John of the Cross for me. (I only need them for subjects like this, retarded souls or faults of beginners.)
I mentioned centering prayer in another post. It is still so popular as a substitute for Christocentric meditation. How often I have heard people of prayer, religious or lay, express they are in some sort of dark night - they should be so advanced. Centering prayer enthusiasts included, yet they feel centering prayer is their remedy, sitting empty, perhaps using some sort of mantra, with the only real effect being some sort of natural peace or tranquility. Zen and TM does that too.
Garrigou-Lagrange describes retarded souls in his work, "The Three Ages of the Interior Life." It is very enlightening. It's the spiritual equivalent of arrested development in the natural sphere, so obvious in our culture - "Hi Brittney and Elton!". "Unfortunately they are numerous." Says the Dominican theologian in reference to retarded souls.
He cites the reason for this retardation as being, "The neglect of little things in the service of God and the refusal to make the sacrifices He asks." One may see this in the neglect of prayer and devotion in the exercises of religion. Supplanting these with activities - maybe even blogging - or apostolic works while neglecting duties of piety and religion. It begins with giving up prayer, or duties such as the Office, or the merely perfunctory celebration or attendance at Mass. In addition, attachment to satisfactions of nature as well as a failure in the duties of one's state in life, along with the vice of sloth - spiritual and natural.
These failures can result in the complete abandonment of religion, or supplanting it with some other pseudo spirituality. In some cases one's religious exercises are focused upon external observance devoid of personal piety. One often sees this in people who become obsessed with ritual and liturgy and the controversies in the Church, with all the ecclesial gossip that accompanies that. One of the hallmarks of the retarded soul is the tendency to derision. Garrigou-Lagrange writes:
"Among the cases of tepidity in retarded souls the tendency to derision should be particularly noted...the vices opposed to justice: insult, detraction, murmuring against the reputation of our neighbor. It is a grievous sin to ridicule the things of God." -Chapter XXXVII. That being said, how many times in the blog world do we read grievous insults to the Holy Father, Bishops and priests. (This blog as well!) So I can safely say "It's retarded!"
In the case of religious, it leads to a complete emphasis upon activities associated with the apostolate or social concerns, replacing these for genuine piety and prayer. Sometimes a new age form of meditation may replace the traditional and authentic Catholic prayer one has been trained in, allowing the person to sit in an empty peace, imagining oneself to be a contemplative. It is a natural exercise, what I call 'natural mysticism', that indeed produces a sense of peace, relaxation and joy. So does valium.
Work, study, intellectualism, theology, liturgical ritual, ecclesial preoccupations, can all supplant supernatural virtue, authentic piety - and ultimately charity. We must always be on the alert to such things. Frequent recourse to the Blessed Virgin, especially through the devout recitation of the rosary, is an antidote to our difficulties and remedy for tepidity, or spiritual retardation.
One ought not to be too quick to assume one's experience is THE dark night. You could be steeped in sin, or worse yet - retarded - that is, satisfied with your pseudo spirituality, which is very difficult to overcome. A quote from St. Bernard explains this well;
"You will more easily see a great number of seculars renounce vice and embrace virtue than a single religious pass from tepidity to fervor."
Therefore we ought not to become too smug about our spiritual or doctrinal status, or pretensions - we just might be retarded. Read Garrigou-Lagrange, not me, for the correct understanding of all of this. PLEASE read him if you suspect you may be in a dark night of the soul, or you're kind of a pompous ass about your doctrinal self-righteousness. Periods of spiritual consolation, even fervor, as well as ecclesial correctness, do not a saint make. (You can quote me on that!:)
How do I know this stuff? I'm retarded - so please, please pray for me to Our Lady.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Burn Down the Mission

Today's news on Sir Elton John's statements on how "Religion should be banned" illuminated for me a question raised by my friend Donna years ago. She asked, "What does the song mean?" Such an epiphany! Donna! - it means what Elton said today - all religion should be banned! Burn down the mission!

"Everybody now bring your family down to the riverside
Look to the east to see where the fat stock hide
Behind four walls of stone the rich man sleeps
It's time we put the flame torch to their keep

Burn down the mission
If we're gonna stay alive
Watch the black smoke fly to heaven
See the red flame light the sky

Burn down the mission
Burn it down to stay alive
It's our only chance of living"

So Elton was anti-religious back then? Oh - that's right - so was I - Donna pretty much remains so today. "Tumbleweed Connection" is my all-time favorite album - it came out when Elton looked like this photo - kind of hippie, kind of 'underground'. I was told he was gay but didn't believe it - only guys who worked in fashion were gay - so I thought. I never associated rock-n-roll with gay - gay people only liked Broadway show tunes, Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland. Turns out he was gay - I couldn't ignore it when he went all glitz and bubble-gum. (I have to admit, I like "Philadelphia Freedom" - I wish I had a copy.) "Tumbleweed" and "Madman" remain two of my favorite albums - he more or less lost me after that. (Just as Michael had after "Thriller.")

Silly Elton. Whose the best friend gays ever had? The Roman Catholic Church you silly! Cardinal O'Connor called in the Missionaries of Charity to assist those suffering from AIDS in NYC. Cardinal Cooke started Courage, a group for gays seeking to live a chaste and celibate life. It was the Catholic Church who took the initiative to help those suffering from AIDS worlwide.

Elton thinks he is like the old Queen Mum; in his recent interview he says,

"Sir Elton compared his place in British culture with that of the Queen Mother's. He said:

"People come to me and I'm a bit like the Queen Mother. I never get those problems. I don't know what it is with me, people treat me very reverently. Referring to his "wedding" to long-term partner David Furnish, he said: "It was the same when Dave and I had our civil union - I was expecting the odd flour bomb and there wasn't."Dave and I as a couple seem to be the acceptable face of gayness..."

People may seem to be approaching him reverently because they are usually walking on eggs around him. The bitch-queen is known to throw hissyfits if he doesn't get his way. He's had fall-outs with everyone he's ever known. He is kind of queen mother-ish, mainly because he's an old queen. (George Michael said he's fat - it cracks me up how they cat-fight - so "Will and Grace"!) I don't think there is a person alive who thinks he and his partner are the acceptable face of gayness, much less respect his bogus marriage.

Looks like "Madman across the water" was autobiographical as well.

"EAT STEAK!" (I'm sooooooo glad Lovitz is straight!:)