Saturday, January 06, 2007

Feast of the Theophany

The Eastern Church maybe does it better. Epiphany that is. The Latin rite hints at it in the office for this day, yet the significance is virtually obscured for the average person, and rarely have I heard a priest discuss this in his homily. Unless you are extremely liturgically sensitive in your prayer, you may miss the riches of the feast of the Epiphany.
In the West we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on the following day of the observance of Epiphany. Although we do not have a separate feast for the Miracle at Cana.
These three theophanies, or manifestations of the divinity of Christ are subtlety embodied within the liturgy for the feast of the Epiphany, which enlightens and deepens our prayer. (Once again proving the necessity for the Sacred Humanity of Christ to be the door that leads to authentic contemplation of the Divinity.)
"We keep this day holy in honor of three miracles:this day a star led the Wise Men to the manger;this day water was turned into wine at the marriage feast; this day Christ chose to be baptized by John in the Jordan, for our salvation, allelulia." Magnificat antiphon.
It is much more important than merely a feast of Christmas - more so than most understand...perhaps that is why we celebrate the next day, as a separate liturgical feast, The Baptism of the Lord.
This day, The Lord revealed Himself as clearly...yet people continue to reject Him, and even abandon Him for pastures unknown. Maybe because, in some instances, He just doesn't fit their idea of God...and they no longer recognize their Master, as the ox and the ass were able to do - because these beasts of burden were humble and simple - accustomed to obedience. The highest Angel - Satan - could not even tolerate the mystery of the Incarnation in this Theophany, much less God's plan of salvation.
Ah! Love is so not loved!

How do you pray?

Fr. Thomas Keating and the Centering Prayer phenomena.
"Centering Prayer is neither Catholic nor prayer, yet it is offered at most retreat centers. Nowadays, most retreat centers can scarcely be called Catholic and are notorious for adopting New Age and other non-Catholic techniques and philosophies.

An additional problem with retreat centers is that they often promote universalism (everyone is saved). In a short article by Fr. James Behrens, a universalist and Trappist at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia (where centering prayer and yoga retreats are offered), he asserts his belief in universal salvation by saying: "Salvation is a one is left out... all the Bibles could be destroyed tomorrow and it would not make a difference."

What is the connection between Centering Prayer and universalism? At the root of Centering Prayer is the belief that we are all already saved and because of this belief, we do not need to pray to God for salvation. New Agers believe that we are God and God is everything, so we do not need to pray to God in a relational way (as someone apart from ourselves), but rather to the god within. "
Spero News Forum
The above editorial concerns the Enneagram as well as Centering Prayer, two essentially non-Christian approaches to the spiritual life, 'adapted' and often promoted by some Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns. I've written on these topics before, and I'm heartened that other more qualified people continue to do so as well.
What's the big deal however? What if Zen or yoga trips your mystical trigger? What harm is there in that? What if Wicca or neo-paganism answers your spiritual needs? What if you practice a Christianized version of trancedental meditation and call it Centering prayer? Personally, I don't care what people do when they say they are praying, I just get annoyed when a few dress it up and try to pass it off as Roman Catholic contemplative prayer.
I've run into a number of la-di-da mystics out there as it is, pseudo-nuns and oodles of 3rd order religious or self-styled hermits, convinced they are contemplatives - despite their apparent lack of discernment, and perhaps a bit of presumption, these folks at least are pursuing an authentic prayer life. New Age feel-good religious seem to me to be simply pursuing themselves - or the god they believe themselves able to become.
Just because someone is a member of the Poor Clares, the Sisters of St. Joseph or the Cenacle, doesn't mean they are an authority on Catholic mystical theology, much less posess a penetrating understanding of the New Age crap they are in to. It might even be possible an elderly Trappist could be a bit theologically off center as well. (I've lived with monks - living in a monastery and wearing a habit doesn't guarantee orthodoxy.) However, these well intentioned people may not know they are leading others astray with false teachings. Unless... maybe...just maybe... they... do... know!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Penitent

The commemoration of Blessed Angela of Foligno, January 4th.
"She married young, had several sons, then, around 1288, all in her immediate household, husband, sons and mother, died. She was worldly, wealthy, vain, beautiful, even unfaithful to her husband, according to legend. She found herself unable to confess some of her sins, and, receiving communion, thus added sacrilege to these. Praying to St Francis that she find a confessor, she came upon her relative, the Franciscan, Brother Arnaldo. He would become her confessor, spiritual director, amanuensis. In modelling her life on St Francis she found herself before a crucifix, stripping herself of her clothing, vowing poverty and chastity. In 1291 she asked the Privilege of Poverty from the apostle Peter in Rome and sold the remainder of her possessions, giving the proceeds to the poor. She became a Franciscan tertiary and journeyed to Assisi, receiving first a vision of the Trinity in a chapel dedicated to the Trinity, then another in the Basilica of Assisi, from seeing stained glass of St Francis in Christ's bosom. Like Margery Kempe she started screaming and crying when this vision left and left her desolate. Brother Arnaldo was furious.

He thought she was inspired by the devil. He made her explain herself to him. A flood of visions. He struggled to write these down, in Italian, in Latin. She speaks of Christ as the God-man, stressing the paradox of Divinity and Humanity. Brother Arnaldo describes the stages of her spiritual journey, sometimes of God's presence and joy, sometimes of the deepest desolation and temptations of the devil." - A Circle of Angels
So, sinners, we should pray the Blessed Angela to obtain the grace of conversion for us, confident in God's mercy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Modesty and Calvinism...

There is a distinction.

The Apparition of the Madonna to St. Bernard wherein he nurses at her breast. It is a mystical moment in the life of the saint, rarely represented in art.

Presented is the history of the iconography shown here:

" The imagery of Bernard's miracle of lactation is founded on the words purported to have been spoken by Bernard in prayer before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Monstra te esse matrem." (show thyself my mother!) With this request the statue is said to have come alive and have 'expressed' a stream of milk to the mouth of Bernard. Louis Réau traces the iconography of the lactation miracle of Bernard back to the 14th century, finding three paintings from that period, six in the 15th century, eight in the 16th, seven in the 17th, and ends with three in the 18th century.165 14th century "Legend of St. Bernard" Majorcan;166 The Virgin Mary stands holding Jesus in right arm, pressing her right breast with her left hand using the p/z gesture; shooting a stream of milk to the kneeling Bernard in a praying attitude as three saints look on (fig. 10). > 15th century "La légende de la lactation" Flemish;167 p/z gesture to breast and holding the Christ child; Bernard holding book and pen; no milk.

ca. 1475 "Maria erscheint dem heilegen Bernhard" flemish;168 breast cupped with left hand, holding Jesus with right hand; Bernard kneels and prays; no milk. ca. 1540? "Aparición de la Virgen a San Bernardo" by Juan Correa,169 Spanish; Virgin in a mandorla cloud presses her right breast with her right hand to shoot a stream of milk to Bernard using the p/z gesture, holding Jesus in her left arm; Bernard kneels as he receives her milk. 15th century "The lactation miracle of St. Bernard,"170 detail of a retablo by the Valencian Master of Burgo de Osma; the Virgin appears to Bernard alone in a mandorla above an altar, pressing her breast between her thumb and second finger to shoot a stream of milk to the lips of Bernard; Bernard holds his hands in prayer and receives the milk drawn in a straight line from the Virgin's nipples to his closed lips. 1659 "La légende de la "lactation" mystique de saint Bernard" Bruxelles;171 The Virgin standing, with the baby Jesus in her left arm, and Bernard kneeling, elevated above the earth on clouds, overlooking Clairvaux, Bernard's newly established monastery; the Virgin squirts a stream of milk into Bernard's waiting mouth; no gesture visible 1665-75 "La visión de San Bernardo" by Bartolomé Murillo,172 Bernard kneeling with his hand on his chest in the pseudo-zygodactylous gesture receiving milk from the Virgin Mary; the Virgin appears in a cloudy mandorla and presses her right breast with her right hand to shoot a stream of milk to the saint, her nipple between her thumb and second finger, while she holds Jesus in her left arm.

(Pictured at left, an image I lifted from "Sacred Weblog of the Universal Inquisition")

Rubens (1577-1640) "Saint Augustin en moine."173 In the painting the figure of the risen Christ holding a cross looks down upon the saint from the left side, while the Virgin on the right presses her right breast with her right hand, presumably to gift Augustine, on whom she gazes, with her milk. Augustine himself kneels between the mother and son looking up into the heavens with his arms crossed. Directly associated with Murillo's painting of the lactation vision of Augustine is the painting by Murillo, "The vision of Saint Augustine" ca. 1678174 in which the bearded Augustine kneels with his hands low and outstretched, with the image of Christ crucified on the viewer's left, gazing upwards towards Mary, to the viewer's right, who is pressing her breast to squirt a stream of milk to his lips; putti fill the upper realms of the painting. ? "Saint Bernard et la Vierge," by the Master of the life of the Virgin, Cologne, the Virgin and Bernard stand in a mundane scene behind a low wall on which the baby Jesus sits; Bernard gazes at the child as Mary, with eyes lowered towards the saint, bares her left breast and holds it with the pseudo-zygodactylous gesture; Jesus touches her p/z hand, as Bernard touches the leg of Jesus with one hand while holding a book with the other; no milk. " Breast Feeding

The Puritan and Calvinist influences in our culture do indeed remain intact in the American psyche, even in an atmosphere of so much depravity and overt sexuality, while elements of Jansenism seem to be entering a new renaissance amongst some ultra-traditionalists. These provocative (provocative to a sexualized culture) images of St. Bernard will of course be shocking to some people. I post them because another blogger was recently criticized for a painting he posted on his blog, with a couple of commentators warning him that he was presenting an occasion of sin to those who would visit his site. It all happened on Roman Catholic Blog . (I myself had used the image he uses for his current post once before - borrowed from his earlier use of it.)

At the hospital today I was looking through People magazine - now that is soft porn - and definitely not art. "Brittney - put some underwear on!"

(Don Marco - where are you when I need you!)

Tested again and again...

Many tests today to find out what's wrong with me...
Of course they don't tell you and one has to wait to hear from the Dr. to know the complete diagnosis. Although, there is evidence of kidney the possible designated culprit in my collapse a few days ago.
The prostate thing is still not clearing up, although the heart thing is getting better. No hospital stays are in the offing, praise God! My Dr. asked me why I am so adamant not to go into the hospital, I told him I can't leave my cats alone. (If I learn I have something terminal, they are coming with me.)
My friends who imagine I like drugs because of my strange sense of humor about them, will be surprised to note that I refused two prescriptions for pain relief. No kidding!
How very un-Carmelite of me to post about my health. I apologize.
I intend to be back to work tomorrow.
Keep me in your prayers that I may be found worthy of the promises of Chrst at the hour of my death.

Rainbow Alliance

Can you get by this?

Rainbow Ick -thys

"Early Christians recognized each other by the sign of the fish.
See in the fish pin a sign of recognition of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers.

See in the fish pin a sign of recognition of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. The pin signals solidarity with all people of faith who promote justice and inclusivity for every person in their faith communities." -Los Angeles Archdiocese MLGC

"In 2006 we celebrated our 20th anniversary of this ministry. The Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics was founded by Cardinal Roger Mahony on February 4, 1986 and is supported throughout the Archdiocese at parish level a an active outreach ministry with gay and lesbian Catholics, their parents, families and friends." -LA MLGC

Significance of the Rainbow

"Because almost every society has considered the rainbow its private preserve, not surprisingly the bow has assumed many guises. The optimism that we associate with the rainbow is hardly universal. For example, the ancient Greeks named the rainbow Iris, and she became the bearer of the gods' often dread messages of war and retribution. Some societies see the rainbow as an ominous serpent arching across the sky, while others imagine it to be a tangible bridge between the gods and humanity. In Judeo-Christian culture...the rainbow is a symbolic bridge to the divine, a sign of God's covenant.

Throughout history, the rainbow is seen primarily as a symbol -- whether of peace, covenant, or divine sanction -- rather than as a part of nature. As a symbol, rather than a natural phenomenon, the rainbow can depart quite radically from nature. (Marketing) can satisfy (or create) our collective desire for emblems, and in so doing, it has absorbed the rainbow..." Raymond L. Lee "The Rainbow Bridge"

And Now, A Very Special History of the Rainbow Flag

"Use of the rainbow flag by the gay community began in 1978 when it first appeared in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Borrowing symbolism from the hippie movement and black civil rights groups, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in response to a need for a symbol that could be used year after year. Baker and thirty volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed two huge prototype flags for the parade.
The flags had eight stripes, each color representing a component of the community:

1. Hot Pink for Sex 2. Red for Life 3. Orange for Healing 4. Yellow for Sun
5. Green for Nature 6. Turquoise for Art 7. Indigo for Harmony 8. Violet for Spirit." -Rainbow Flag History

My Thoughts

In Nazi Germany homosexuals had to wear a pink triangle. If everyone would have worn it, no one would have known who was gay.

So you can take a negative and make it positive - "Queer" once a negative and demeaning term for homosexuals has been taken back by them as a badge of honor; Queer Nation, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queers without Borders, etc.

There is reverse psychology going on here marketed by homosexual activists, with the Cardinal and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in collusion.

UPDATE: Roman Catholic Blog had the first post yesterday regarding this issue and he provides an index of sorts of the blogs with in-depth background on the issue; Curt Jester, Cafeteria Is Closed, etc. Thanks, as usual, for the leading the way guys!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Problem of the Internet

About a year ago, I signed up to be part of a network called The International Fellowship of St. Bruno, and so I regularly get emails by the members discussing spiritual topics. I never enter into the discourse because I do not know how to access the website, I forgot how, I should say. (Nevertheless that is how I am with groups, I rarely join any, and if I do, I rarely participate. Friends know this about me.)

For the past week or two members had been discussing the Internet and the temptations inherent in its use, as well as how it may or may not take one away from a contemplative life. Thus I have been ruminating their questions and concerns for a few days.

I realized my Internet use can be excessive, to say the least. It's a captivating tool. I rarely realize how fast time passes with its use. As a person who rarely expresses his opinions in public conversations, I have no problem blogging just about anything and everything I think. Although writing has always been my preferred means of communication, aside from painting.

Visiting the author Michael O'Brien's website I came across his reflections concerning the Internet, which I will share with you.

Michael O'Brien
"Does the apparent connection to a global community offered by the internet give us a genuine communion, or does it offer us a dangerously misleading pseudo-communion? Does it disconnect us even as it tells us it is connecting us? Is it merely a new language of communication, or is it a palantir, the “seeing stone” in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, opening the portals to the eye of the Dark Lord at the tap of a computer key? The palantir was all about communication, all about transcending the limitations of human sight and hearing, dissolving distance, dispelling separation. But what is this newfound power, this instant knowledge of good and evil, really about? Why has it appeared so swiftly, and spread everywhere, and why does it engender so much addictive behaviour in its devotees? That it is a tool with potential for immense good is undeniable. That it is a tool for immense evil is also undeniable. The internet is neither good nor evil in itself. Evil cannot be created. No created thing is evil. As the Lord says, it is not what goes into a man that is evil, but what comes out of him. Even so, we must always consider whether our tools and powers are disposing us toward good or toward evil. Do they make it easier for us to live the good, or more difficult? The question I’m asking today is, are there consequences to an omnipresent e-culture other than its obvious good and evil effects?

Alas! Sigh! Here I am trying to connect with you via the very medium that is killing us.

Killing us? A bit extreme, Mr. O'Brien! Well, yes, but in all honesty I think it fair to say that this very useful, morally neutral tool is now devouring countless lives, warping our sense of time and our scale of human values—not to mention the moral absolutes. The subject is vast and crucial. I will try to write more about it in forthcoming newsletters—hopefully in January, after Christmas, in time and in eternity (if I do not employ an axe of my own on this slave that enslaves me)." Michael O'Brien December 2005

Internet Porn
Since I've started blogging I have spent less time in prayer on some days, much less time reading, even less time watching television - which is perhaps the best thing about this laptop. I notice things as I look for images or surf the net for stories. The most brief accidental viewing of a pornographic image can embed in one's memory. Not unlike a provocative scene in a movie, or a television ad. Images get filed away in the unconscious. To be honest, they do not move me to lust, yet there remains something sinister about them.

Priests frequently mention that Internet porn is one of the top sins Catholic men, of any age or status most frequently confess. I can indeed see how a person can be ensnared by these images when they so easily pop up while searching the net. Curiosity can lead one to click on the pop-up, or an image, or even a suggestive title. If one let's one's curiosity get the best of him - he's just about captured already. Once captured, it's hard to get out, a habit may develop, and a sort of addiction is born.

Fortunately, for myself, I have never liked pornography. When I was younger, before high blood pressure problems and the medications one takes for it, chastity was indeed a battle for me. Nevertheless, pornography always repulsed me. I imagine it is a grace that I could see the diabolic in it. However, that is not to deny a mere glimpse of it could incite my passions - when I was younger - I simply never indulged in it, or used it. Thanks be to God.

St. John of the Cross wrote - sadly I can't find the quote - that a soul united to God could look on the most obscene image and not be disturbed. I am not there yet, nevertheless, I have the grace that when I see even the most obscene image, I immediately turn away, repulsed, without taking pleasure in it. That is sheer grace however. Having said that, there is much to be said for mortification and penance, and the so-called purification of the senses to acquire this attitude.

Sometimes God permits a soul striving for holiness to engage in a tremendous battle with sins against chastity. In and through the humiliation of continually falling and rising, as well as the dryness and distaste one may experience in one's perseverance in spiritual exercises - what takes place, almost imperceptibly, is at once both an active and passive purification of the senses. Almost unnoticed by the soul engaged in the spiritual combat. This may take many years, but the soul may suddenly find itself undisturbed by the things that once captured it so easily. The soul is purified in and through it's struggle with actual sin - not just the temptation, to such a degree it no longer finds delight in those things by which it was stimulated in the past.

Yet it is indeed a ferocious battle - albeit victory is assured, provided the supreme weapons be the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and constant prayer - with complete trust in the Divine Mercy. (This final victory is possible in any struggle with sin involving the senses.)

The falls the Lord permitted, along with the humiliating struggle He supported the soul in, cause the soul to understand that it was His grace alone that freed him from the bondage of his sins. That is why, perseverance in the struggle is so important, even more so than the victory, that at times seems so unobtainable. Souls become discouraged by their failings, yet if they are humble and humbly persevere, grace triumphs and the soul eventually finds peace. But I digress.

Is the Internet Addictive?
Aside from the obvious issue of pornography, can internet use be excessive and even sinful? Is it addictive in itself? I'm inclined to think so. Unless one's occupation requires one to be at the keyboard all day, it seems to me there are some issues with excessive use.

These may or may not involve such things as neglecting one's other responsibilities, or family, and friends. Neglect of prayer and good reading - Lectio Divina. Indulging in idle curiosity. Scripture says somewhere, in much speaking one cannot fail to sin. Blogging is a lot of chatter, don't you think? What about people who blog at work or surf the net at work? That is sort of a "little white collar crime" as well as a sin.

Don't get me wrong, because I think the Internet is an inestimable good, and blogging is not only fun, it's informative. However, for myself, I think I have to practice a greater discipline in my use of this laptop.

I so envy the Carthusian grande silence.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Old Feast of the Day was a Commemoration of the Bris of Jesus.

Or the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord.

As well as the naming of Jesus. Some people think that it was a rite akin to Baptism, to purify the Jew from original sin - some fundamentalists think this. NOT. Here is a description for those who never watched the episode on "The Nanny" with Fran Drescher:

The Origin of Bris Milah (Circumcision)

Times change. Styles change. But some things never change: Bris Milah is one of them. It is a bond between God and the Jewish nation for all time. It is a bond that can never be broken.

When our forefather Abraham reached the ripe old age of 99 years (Genesis 17) the Almighty promised him that his descendants would have a special relationship with their Creator. This would forever be symbolized by the Bris Milah (Covenant of Circumcision). "This will be a sign of the covenant between Me and you".

Abraham circumcised himself as well as all the men of his household. When his son Isaac was born, he too, underwent Bris Milah on the eighth day, as Divinely specified. (As did Jesus today.)

Heroism Throughout the Ages

Throughout the generations the Jewish people have been unyielding in performing this mitzvah. Bris Milah was often performed in secret, defying innumerable despots and hostile regimes.

Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, and ancient Greece and Rome all tried to ban Bris Milah. They understood correctly that this distinctive rite is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith, and that proscribing it would be the first step towards eliminating our nation.

The Jewish people, non-observant as well as observant, are uncompromising on this issue. They recognize that in order for their children to survive as Jews, they must induct them into the Divine covenant of Bris Milah. (The Child Jesus was no exception.)

The Mohel (pronounced, moiyh-el)

A Mohel performs the circumcision with spiritual intent. A Bris by a Mohel is more than a simple medical procedure; it is a connection with the Divine. At a Bris Milah blessings are said and prayers are recited as the child takes his place as a member of the Jewish people. Carried out according to Jewish tradition, Bris Milah is a profoundly moving experience for all in attendance. - Bris, Jewish Circumcision

Thus with my male health problems, the Divine Infant Jesus is most assuredly the focus of my prayer in this first of His sufferings and shedding of blood.

"Jesus, sweetest Child, circumcised on the eighth day, called by the glorious name of Jesus, and by your name and your blood, revealed as the Savior of the world; have mercy on us!" - Carmelite novena to the Infant Jesus.

Mazel Tov!

The Nun's Story

Another favorite movie of's too bad there wasn't a "Monk's Story" that I could have gotten photos from.
Pretend this is Dr. Fortunati (it's actually the Director) saying good bye to Sr. Luke as she leaves the Congo and returns to the Motherhouse. Then pretend Sr. Luke is a monk...
Don Marco is leaving in two days to return to his Abbey, Santa Croce in Rome.

I hope the Abbot realizes how important Don Marco's blog is to the thousands of readers he has, and that he will continue writing! Pray for Don Marco - he isn't in the best of health either.

The Mother of God

Happy Feast of the Mother of God.
And Happy New Year.
Pictured, an icon of Our Lady of the Sign by a Terrance Nelson, painted for a priest in St. Paul, Minnesota.
"Narrative: Depicting the Virgin of Mt. Sinai, Our Lady of the Sign expresses the ancient anthem, “In the bush seen by Moses, as burning yet unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of your glorious virginity, O Mother of God!” as well as the prophecy of Isaiah, “... the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.” (Isaiah 7:14)"
(It was the first icon I came across when I put in "Our Lady of the Sign" on Google.)
As usual, The Penitent Blogger has a concise explanation of the meaning of today's feast, in his post, "Something About Mary".

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Old people just like to tell stories...

Okay - I promise - this is my last New Years Eve post - yes, Michael, I'll be more serious after this one.
Picture New Year's Eve 1967, I'm at home in my apartment at Fair Oaks, across from the Minneapolis Museum of Fine Arts, sitting on the sofa, sipping a scotch and soda, reading "Rosemary's Baby" - terrified.
Yes, the book was scary, yet years earlier, when we were playing with the Ouija Board in Larry's basement, I asked the question, "When will I die?" (I always ask that.)
The thing moved to "6" and then to "7". I was convinced it meant I would die sometime by the end of the year 1967. Having survived the year that far, I was waiting on New Year's Eve to see if I would die, while reading "Rosemary's Baby". One minute after midnight I said to my roommate David, "Well, I didn't die." And I finished my book. (Obviously, this was a couple of years before my conversion.)
Isn't that a cute story?
Anyway, it could be this year! In June; it's the 6th month in the year '07 - 6/07, or it could be when I'm 67 years old...but I'm not superstitious any longer. Anyway, how would the devil even know this stuff? (After all, he's the one behind Ouija Boards and all of that junk. And he lies. Right? ...Fr. Altier!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Happy New Year and good night, ladies and gentlemen! I'm going to bed.
Michael, I promise I'll be better about posting after this. (He's so strict!)


and Moonstruck
One of my all time favorite movies - the last one I liked Nick Cage in - never forgave him for marrying Elvis' daughter.
Anyway - the Italian family in that movie was so like my neighborhood and my best friend's families - especially Linda's. Cher's character looks so much like my ex-sister-in-law, which I forgive Cher for - But Judy, honey, get a new look for heaven's sake!
I grew up in the Italian neighborhood on the East Side of St. Paul, Minnesota. It was in the "last days of little Pompeii" - before most of the old timers died and the kids got married and moved to the suburbs. Yes - it was like Moonstruck, as was the North End in Boston when I lived there in the '70's.
Over the years, none of my ritzy friends understood Asti Spumante. It's a beverage frowned upon in the elite tasty circles - especially when you put a lump of sugar in it. (You really only have to do that with the cheap stuff, it prevents acid reflux.) Yet it is so Italian-American, as Cher demonstrated in the movie.
Oh! I miss the days and nights and holidays in Linda's kitchen with everyone talking over each other! The Morelli's, the Rulli's, the Yarusso's, the Raiolla's, the Cocchiarella's, the D'amico's, the Farese's, the Corbo's - well maybe not them. Auld Lang Syne! Now isn't that what New Year's is all about?
(Looks like Ray isn't the only one with nothing to do on New Years - "Agnes - where the hell is that Asti?" She's already had too much catnip!)

Masked Ball

The meeting of Romeo and Juliet in Zeferelli's classic.
This is what I always wanted for New Year's Eve.
It never happened - I never met Olivia Hussey.
(My cats and I are having a masked ball of our own tonight. Just kidding! Wouldn't that be funny though? "Agnes, pour me some more Asti!")


What's a kvetch? It's yiddish for a complainer - or a bitch. This is Helen Thomas - not that she's a kvetch - I just like her smile.

Anyway - I got an email from Ray who obviously has nothing better to do on New Year's Eve than surf the net and read parish bulletins. It was about SJA! St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis. The pastor had shared some kvetching he hears from his parishioners when he dares try to adjust the SOP of his parish.

There is just no accounting for church people, is there. When I grew up one would never dare question the pastor - he was in charge of the parish like a little pope. So it's not just the more Catholic-than-the-pope parishes that kvetch if something is tweaked a bit, it's the progressivist faith communities as well. And not just parishes, religious communities can be the same way.

The Church As Police State

(I'll post a snip from Fr. Debruycker's pastors page at the end of my anecdotes. God bless our priests who endure such criticisms.)

  • One local Church pastor has received complaints and criticism because he went with a different parish calendar this year. I hear it is more modern, I don't know if it's the art or there are no fish symbols on Fridays in Lent.

  • Another new pastor was criticised because he had to limit the daily Mass schedule due to fewer priests available.

  • In another instance, a pastor received objections for placing the new Advent wreath in the sanctuary.

  • I know of a chaplain who decided to celebrate Mass ad orientem - facing the tabernacle - instead of facing the people, to the objections of many.

  • I was once close to a group of nuns where some bitterly complained their chaplain never used the word "sins" at the penitential rite when beginning Mass.

  • I also heard of a pastor who limited the wearing of the cassock for Sunday liturgies only - and didn't take the objections well. The rule remains however.

  • Another nun complained that the same priest did not pray the ritual prayers or use holy water when he blessed a sacramental, or when he heard confession without a stole.

  • A priest I know who had been invited to a wedding, danced with another guest. A member of the wedding party asked him to stop since it was scandalous for a priest to dance.

These are just petty annoyances - but I know many priests get a lot of critical email, oftentimes scathing and mean spirited. Priests have a tough enough job as it is, I think they deserve more respect and better treatment - no matter how liberal or traditional they may be - but don't overdo it with the pompous ones.

So here is Debruycker's kvetch - not his - but a few he received in the mail:

Pastor's 2 Cents: Fr. Jim DeBruycker:

"I thought it time to catch up on some e-mail responses. (Of course I will answer them from my point of view and sound like a martyr.)

1) Why don’t you lose some weight; you are so heavy you make me feel uncomfortable?

I’ll try.

2) Why do you have to say Body of Christ so loud; can you turn down the mike?

I have been preaching for the last 20 years in Churches with a poor or non-existent sound system. I’ve developed a booming voice; friends kick me under the table at restaurants and shush me all the time. Also, our family starts to go deaf at my age. I’ll try and turn it down.

3) Why do you have to talk so fast?

Blame Miss Lentz in grade school. She was my speech therapist. I used to lisp and stutter. After years of work she got me past that, but the speed is an ongoing problem. I’ll work on it.

4) I bless you in the name of the Creator, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. For God’s sake get a script!

Actually, that blessing is a less than adequate gender compromise which was made up by God knows who, so I made up my own which at least allows for some kind of a personal God. I did write my own script.

5) Where did the seating arrangement come from? Is it being imposed by the chancery?

When I arrived at St. Joan’s I had a couple of concerns. The mike in the middle of the altar was so clumsy you said mass around it. I was told it had to be that way because of the guest speakers’ and lectors’ needs. I suggested a separate pulpit which was ignored. After Fr. Egan’s funeral the Archbishop requested we have a separate place for the liturgy of the word. This request was brought to the Liturgy Committee whose response was, “We will do it, but not until we can theologically justify it.”

My other concern was that the Eucharist was part of a show-mass at the ‘uptown bar.’ The music is great, but it would be nice to have a separate area for the Eucharist where we could put more emphasis on it, while still being true to St. Joan’s communal spirit. In early fall Vicky Klima, the Archdiocese Liturgy Director, made a pastoral visit. We discussed different Church arrangements to heighten communal involvement while maintaining the integrity of the different liturgies taking place, as well as the music accompanying these liturgies. What you see in the gym is a result of that brainstorming: the different pods for the liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the people engaging each other by facing each other in their seats. However, the building fights against this arrangement for a variety of reasons, including sight lines, sound, etc. It is a work in progress. I believe we had over 100 comments, out of 10,000 parishioners, mostly against the present arrangement, neck cramp being the most mentioned problem." - St. Joan of Arc

Pray especially for priests engaged in the "reform of the reform" - there are many starting gates in this race. Fr. Jim is doing the best he can, given his starting gate position.

"What comparison can I use for the men of today? What are they like?
They are like children squatting in the city squares and calling to their playmates,
'We piped you a tune but you did not dance,
We sang you a dirge but you did not wail.'" - Luke 7: 31

New Year's Eve

Night Clubbing

Painting by Tamara de Lempicka

New Year's eve once held a special fascination for me as a boy because of all the 1930's screwball comedies I used to watch on TV, depicting a mad-cap gala, while awaiting my parents return home with noise-makers and crowns for us to play with.
Later, when night clubbing on this eve, I desperately tried to have the same fun I imagined from the old movies. I never, ever had a fun time on New Years. Nevertheless, I still like the Art Deco memories the artist de Lempicka documented so well in her paintings.
New Year's is far too overrated. For me, it's nothing but a chronological transition, a turn of the page in one's calendar.
Fr. Nicholas has a charming history of New Year's traditions on his blog "Roman Miscellany". The feast of the Annunciation at one time was the New Years commemoration, I like that.
(If you never read the British Catholic blogs, I highly recommend you do - they are extremely informative and revealing as to how fervent the British are in their faith, their concern for continuity and the Church, not to mention their ardent desire for "the dowry" to be returned to the Church of Rome. I am always edified with these sons and daughters of the great martyrs of the Church of England and Wales.) Pictured below, The Martyrs of England and Wales.