Saturday, December 06, 2014

I like this: Stop making pronouncements in an "academic vacuum".

The Pope to theologians.

The Crux article I just read said, "Francis, whose near-disdain for theologians is well-known ..."

See - that's me too.  A priest friend once told me he was impressed by how many young people are really studying the faith, but said many seem to feel the theology degree is their ticket to heaven, yet very few understand ordinary life and simplicity, while even more seem to be wanting in prayer and devotion.  Another way of saying it is they lack humility and charity.  They know doctrine and dogma but neglect the interior life.

I remember reading someplace how a superior once counselled Fr. Hardon that his academic genius would make him a sort of tyrant rather than a pastor of souls - in so far as he lacked charity.  I wish I could find the exact wording of the anecdote as told by Fr. Hardon - it would help explain what I've said above.

That said - I very much like this article concerning what the Pope had to say to theologians:

Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church’s top theologians on Friday to listen to what ordinary Catholics have to say and pay attention to the “signs of the times,” rather than just making pronouncements in an academic vacuum. 
Francis, whose near-disdain for theologians is well-known, told the International Theological Commission that they must “humbly listen” to what God tells the church by understanding Scripture but also by taking into account how ordinary Catholics live out their faith. 
“Together with all Christians, theologians must open their eyes and ears to the signs of the times,” Francis said.
Francis has [...] spoken frequently about what he calls “theology on its knees” — a more merciful type of theology that isn’t focused so much on rules and regulations but meeting the faithful where they are to help them reach holiness. - Source

Some thoughts from St.Angela of Foligno ...

"I do repeat, therefore, that all the perfection of man and the knowledge of God and of himself that is to say, the understanding of the immensity of God in all perfection and goodness, and of his own nothingness this manifestation and knowledge of God and of himself is only granted unto the lawful sons of God, who do pray truly, and fervently do read and meditate in the Book of Life. Unto these true sons doth God the Father open and present the Book of Life, which is the life of Jesus Christ, God and Man, within which Book they will find all things that they can possibly desire to know." - Blessed Angela of Foligno

"When you come across flatterers, men or women, who tell you: 'Brother, your words have converted me to penance," do not pay any attention to them but rather turn to the Creator and thank him for this blessing. There are many preachers of falsehoods whose preaching is full of greed, and out of greed they preach for honors, money, and fame.'" -Blessed Angela of Foligno

“However much more you pray, ever more greatly will you be illuminated; however much more you are illuminated, so much more profoundly and intensely will you see the Supreme Good, the supremely good Being; how much more profoundly and intensely you see it, much more will you love it ... Successively you will arrive to the fullness of light, because you will understand not being able to comprehend." - Blessed Angela

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Happy Feast Day!

Pray for the new martyrs and the displaced peoples, the homeless, the children, the abused, the sexually exploited, those at sea, those at war, those sold into slavery, those most in need of mercy, O St. Nicholas, come to our aid!  Save us from selling our birthright for transitory joys!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Just because something is kitsch doesn't mean it is tacky or bad...

Just a note from Alix*, our Music Director.

A lot of religious art is kitsch.  It doesn't mean it is bad or can't lead to devotion.  Even John of the Cross says God sometimes uses humbler images to detach us from a too natural preference or vain attachment to what we consider fine art.

Christmas decorations are generally considered kitsch.  It doesn't mean it is artless or tacky.  Not at all.

So - if I have ever referred to something you like as kitsch - I wasn't suggesting it is worthless or tacky or of no value.  After all, one man's kitsch is another man's art.

Many of us online believe we are arbiters of taste - we are not.

It's good for donations too.

Song for this post (Ms. Kitsch) here.

*Alix pronounced Ah-leese.

Pope Francis the Great, the Pope of Christian Unity, and all that stuff.

Francis prays before the tomb of St. Pius V. 2013

The Pope takes a trip.

Pope Francis visits the Orthodox Patriarch - they both talk about the great need in this time of Christian martyrdom to reunite - Francis expresses this as his most heartfelt wish. He's always making overtures to our separated brethren - yet no one obsequiously grants him the title of the Pope of Christian unity.

The Pope reforms the curia and daily speaks about the reform of Christians.

He's the great reformer. There are stories that various clerics working in the Vatican returned home - almost immediately following the Pope's installation - their jobs cut. Jobs and spending cuts have been the order of the day since he took office. Cardinal Burke's Gammarelli bill alone almost collapsed the Vatican Bank - which, by the way - isn't really broke after all...

Why did everyone think the bank was broke in the first place? Because the Princes of the Church who headed dicasteries to nowhere, tucked unused funds away in secret accounts - that's why. I never even mentioned Bertone. I'm being facetious of course, but Cardinal Pell isn't keeping secrets, which, in my opinion, helps immensely in understanding this papacy and what is going on - especially the blow back from their Imperial Majesties on the ultra traditionalist side of the schismatic isle.

What Pell has revealed - thank God for transparency.
Cardinal George Pell, who took over as the Vatican’s chief financial official in February, said Thursday that his staff had turned up hundreds of millions of euros that the Vatican did not know it had. The funds were “tucked away” in various accounts, he said, and had not been tallied on the Vatican’s main balance sheets. 
The cardinal presented the found money as a happy surprise. “We have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed,” he wrote in an article for the magazine Catholic Herald, which is scheduled to be published Friday. “It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke.” 
Between the lines, though, there was less to be happy about. Cardinal Pell did not say that there had been any malpractice, but he hinted that it might explain why his own branch of the Curia, as the Vatican’s central administration is known, had been in the dark about the money. “Problems were kept ‘in house,’ ” Cardinal Pell said of the various arms of the Curia. “Very few were tempted to tell the outside world what was happening, except when they needed extra help.” - NYT

So.  The Vatican is not broke...

Good to know. My first impression was how corruption always starts at the top - hence, even as Pell said, these problems exist in individual dioceses as well - money for pet projects. Stop and think about that. The mansions some archbishops built for themselves, the payouts for lawsuits, the funding of organizations which oppose Catholic teaching on various moral issues, and so on. Not to mention all the scandals that have ravaged the Church for the last two decades - and the payouts.

My second impression was hold onto your wallets.

My third impression is - this Pope is indeed reforming the Church - beginning with the curia - beginning at the top.  It's obviously very painful for some - and apparently it is long overdue.  It makes sense now that one of Pope Francis' first acts of devotion was to pray at the tomb of St. Pius V.

That said - the various controversies over what the Pope says and does, especially his more enigmatic off-the-cuff sayings and daily homilies, have served to detach many of us - myself included - from hanging onto every word the Pope says.  What he says is often relayed in sound bites or editorialized by friend and foe, which only adds to the confusion.  The social media phenomena has become a great lesson in detachment and mortification of curiosity.   

In an extremely short time, Pope Francis has reformed the papacy itself - removing the monarchical trappings and ostentatious ceremony.  He is buon pastore.  That's what counts.

The strawberries on the cake.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Creepy Christmas Gifts: Ouija Boards

It would appear that Ouija boards are fast becoming one of the “coolest” and “must-have” Christmas gifts of 2014, but the church has fiercely criticized the trend calling it “absolutely appalling,” and strongly warned people to “not let this darkness” into their lives. - Source

Christmas and the occult.

First of all, I would strongly urge people to avoid Ouija Boards entirely.  It's not a game.  It is a portal to the occult and very dangerous.  Its influence clings to you like pitch - believe me.  Exorcists have warned about such 'games' and dabbling in the occult, seeking to communicate with the dead - something clearly condemned by Scripture and the Church.  Like so many other prohibitions, this too is often ignored by those who blow off Catholic teaching on this or that issue.  

My mother gave us a Ouija Board for Christmas one year - I was in grade school.  My brother and sister and I played with it - but they were clearly manipulating it to freak me out.  They soon bored with it, but I remained fascinated and toyed with it alone - nothing happened however.

Reminiscing about that reminded me that my mother had a fascination with the occult.  Evidently when she was little, her mother and dad gave the kids a Ouija Board too - which is one reason why my mom bought us one.  She said it was just a game - but she was also curious to see if it 'worked'.  She also believed in fortune tellers.

Before she knew she was pregnant with me, she had her fortune told and the reader told her she was pregnant - sure enough - she soon found out she was expecting.  Whenever my mom told the story, she always added anecdotes of other accurate readings the fortune teller told those who were with her.  I always wondered if that brush with the occult had any detrimental effect upon me - the foetus in her womb?  Likewise, since she was a fallen away Catholic, was my mother a target for some sort of infestation of the demonic type?  Without going into detail, she endured a great deal of evil and was also felled by some very serious sins and compulsive behavior, as well as severe depression.

That said, as a teen, my friends and I also fooled around with the board, and though weird things happened to others who used it - nothing significant happened to us.  Although we freaked ourselves out with creepy stories.  Nevertheless, it led me to dabble in the occult, getting into astrology, fortune telling, and all of that kind of stuff - it was also a trendy thing to do, along with drugs and Eastern spirituality.  

When I suggest these things cling to us, or embed themselves in the memory, what I mean by that is sometimes an experience we believed was true can 'obsess' a person.  When I was in high school I asked the board when I would die, and the cursor moved to two numbers.  I have been tempted all my life to attribute some truth to that.  Intellectually I disregard it since the devil is the father of lies - nevertheless, my memory is not fully purified of the thought.

If that is the worst story I have, I suppose it seems harmless to play around with the board - but it is not.  The exorcists have real stories to tell.  My point is that Ouija and the Tarot and astrology opens the soul to dark influences and forces - principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world.  The memory and all the faculties can be stained, our judgement, our discernment clouded - perhaps the greatest danger is simply to be anaesthetised to the diabolic delusion that pervades the world at this time.

To be sure - it is not a game. 

Arise O Lord and let your enemies be scattered, 
may those who hate you flee before your Holy Face.

Link: Ouija Board is #5 in the top toys for Christmas.

Art at top: Edward Gorey

That's it! Pope Francis fires the Commandant!

Poor guy - it's tough to get fired during the Holidays.

Pope Francis sacks the head of the Swiss Guard (they're like the Army Knives) - for being too strict!

He has dismissed and demoted cardinals, bishops and the Vatican secretary of state, and now Pope Francis’s reformist zeal has claimed a new scalp – the head of his own private army, the Swiss Guard.
In a dispassionate one-sentence notice, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, announced on Wednesday that Daniel Anrig will no longer serve as the commandant of the 500-year-old corps after the end of next month.
No official explanation was given for the decision, but it was widely rumoured that the Argentinean Pope, who has established a warmer, more inclusive style of governance since being appointed pontiff in March last year, found the commander’s manner overly strict and “Teutonic”. - Source
Well doesn't that just say it all.  Too rigid - indeed.

I'm seeing a pattern here.



He wants to go
commando? - let him!

H/T Ray

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Advent elves ...

Getting ready for the holidays.

Warm Christmas Wishes from Bill Donohue and the Catholic League ...

H/T Mark Shea 

The always friendly Catholic League...
Bill Donohue introduces the Catholic League’s 2014 Christmas billboard:
For the past several years, we’ve been engaged in a battle of the billboards with our atheist foes at Christmastime. The typical venue has been New York City, the media capital of the nation. This year we chose to put our mark on the culture by making a statement in Los Angeles, right outside of Hollywood. - Catholic League

Action alert in the billboard war: after all, Christmas is all about fighting.

The Catholic League is known for the tasteful ambiance
surrounding their Nativity scenes.

Listen!  We're not putting up with these
filthy Christian-haters any longer!
They will celebrate Christ in Christmas
or there's gonna be hell to pay!

Making Advent ... work ...

Advent shrine.
Ed. note: Click 'source' for more inspiring photos.
Mom or dad could cut out all the parts,
then the kids can decorate the panels with dough, gesso 
or modeling paste, using cake decorating tools -
then grandma can help paint and rub with gold paint.
You will be busy right up until Christmas Eve
and won't have time to shop or cook.

I have an idea!  Let's put on a Christmas Advent show in the barn!

I was going to make this a craft post because I think making 'stuff' during Advent for Christmas is an excellent means of praying and working and being together.  Whatever.

I decided not to make this a personal arts and crafts post because I won't be doing much arts and crafts until after Christmas - I hope.  Although I'm doing little paintings and crafty stuff now - it's nothing to blog about.  So anyway.

Allow the ancient and antique 
to inspire and inform your creations.

I'm intrigued now about Jesse Trees for Advent.  They really are the perfect thing - aside from Advent calendars, and if you have to, Advent wreaths - I still think wreaths should be more creative and natural and festive though.  All of these things you should make yourself however - with the kids or with your friends in the attic.  I know!

When you make stuff - your hands are busy, you are free to pray as you work.  It's so contemplative.  You listen to a tape or someone leading the rosary or reading ... it's very monastic.  You can talk if you are together as a family of course.  It's creative and should be fun.  So here's the deal.

Try making dough figures for a painted box (cajon).

Like this:

You could use stiff cardboard instead of wood,
apply fabric or glue on 
cut out holy cards and scrap.

I'm not doing an arts and crafts post - I'm just suggesting how you could make a really cool Jesse Tree, Advent calendar, shrine (retablo) in the manner of the antique, or even in the style of the Peruvian cajones de San Marcos - if not a Jesse Tree, then a homemade creche - or santo ornaments for the tree.  I can't tell you what to do, how to do it, but I can give you some ideas to inspire or even copy.  I also found a site with instructions on how to make dough ornaments - as suggested, the same recipe could be used to make santos figures for retablos in the style of cojones de San Marcos.  So look at the photos and be inspired.

Salt dough ornaments.
Go here.

So how to make dough ornaments and figures?

It's called salt dough.  You can get clay at art stores, but it's more fun to make dough to sculpt.  I found a recipe with how to photos here.  It's not all Advent/Christmas stuff - but you can use the same technique.

See - Abbey Roads really is family friendly.

Song for this post here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

When I first started to blog...

I thought it was important to try to be funny and comment about everything everyone else was writing about - which meant writing about sensational Catholic news items and chit chat by bloggers I had never heard of before.  Then I thought it was almost required to be as scathing - or snarky - as possible.  (The honesty's too much!)  I'd discuss people I didn't even know - their private lives made public in and through their writings - as if it was my duty, my job, and my right to do that.  Thoughtful readers would help me out and email me more resources and links to 'background checks' which provided more information to round out the detraction.  Oddly enough, I thought it necessary to voice an opinion about how the archdiocese as well as individual parishes were run - despite the fact I had no real inside information - just hearsay and gossip.

A few years ago a friend pointed out that someone on a forum asked, "Who is Terry Nelson anyway?"

Nobody.  Terry Nelson is nobody.  I have comments to prove it too.

One of the very best comments I ever received was from someone who reads me all the time - but obviously doesn't like me - I save comments such as these to review now and then.  People who write them think I remove them because I don't want to be criticized, there is some truth in that of course, but I prefer to remove them to avoid other readers possibly coming to my defense.  Although I often save such comments, I originally began saving them as a sort of 'evidence gathering' exercise - which made no sense, until I realized they are better than awards or compliments.  How often do people tell us what we would rather not hear?  How often do we experience how others actually perceive us?

Anyway - the following comment is one of my favorites:
Do you always slather on so much venom with your alleged good advice, and isn't it sort of ironic, coming from you, a stranger on the internet who blogs and sells homoerotic art, claims to know everything about everything all the time? - Anonymous 

Stay tuned for the Abbey Roads Christmas Special!

Art in a Jesuitenkirche ...

Monday, December 01, 2014

(Gay) People are really damaged.

Lie may be a little harsh - dissembling might be a better choice.  What?

Today's Gospel about the Centurion asking Jesus to heal his slave has been interpreted by some gay people as a gay encounter with Christ.  Writers suggest the Centurion and his slave were lovers, although there is absolutely no exegetical evidence for this claim.  The story is promoted by LGBTQ Christian group to illustrate how Christ approved of same sex relationships - or at least showed no objection toward them.  It's part of the new gay mythology or hagiography - which suggests various saints and martyrs were gay.

I've written about these things in the past so I'm not interested in spending time attempting to refute such claims.  I tend to find revisionist thinking rather annoying, but this morning I was struck by what it says about us - not just gay people, but all people who look for some sort of affirmation, validation, and approval of our fallen nature.  It is a deeply flawed, damaged person who needs to appropriate such delusional - disordered thinking.  The desperate are easily deceived.  The good news is that Jesus came to save us from all that... to undo the damage - to heal and restore.

I'm not patronizing or trying to be holier than thou when I say it, but I really do feel sorry for those of us who can be so easily misled by such distortions.  I can't help but recall what Paul wrote to the Galatians: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

Song for this post here.

Gay people tend to think everyone is gay.  It is why people are outed, or those who attempt to reform their lives, and even claim they are gay no more, are shamed when they fall from grace.  (Here's a thought - what if those people who say they are gay no more were never really gay in the first place?)

Yesterday I caught part of a PBS concert with 2Cellos,  a Croatian virtuoso cello duo, consisting of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser.  I think Elton John discovered them and promoted them.  They are two lifelong friends who work together very well - so close they are like brothers.  Evidently everyone asks if they are gay - Elton says they are not.  People still think they are.  That is distorted, disordered thinking.  It is clear evidence of damage.  How we perceive others is based upon deeply flawed notions of friendship, especially same sex friendship, as well as human relationships in general.  Our understanding of love and affection is completely disordered, damaged by eroticism and the objectification of grace and beauty.

This is why gay-Christians can distort a simple Gospel story and translate it as Christ approving of homosexual acts and same sex marriage.  This is why I say (gay) people are deeply damaged - no matter how balanced they seem to be, no matter how successful they appear.

Trash your gaydar - it's flawed.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent stuff ...

Detail of Jesse Tree icon.

I like Christmas stuff better.

Truth is - we prepare for Christmas within and throughout Advent.  So put up Christmas one light at a time and play Motown Christmas music until Christmas Eve or something, if you are worried about what your neighbors will think.

You shouldn't worry though.  The liturgy - the prayer of the Church - Holy Mass, the readings and the prayers - this is the real 'stuff' of Advent.  If you pray - you know that.  If you teach your children how to pray - then pray in union with the Church - everything is focused upon Advent: preparation for Christ to come again - as well as preparation to celebrate his Nativity - which goes on for days and days.  Advent is a time of joy - joyful penance, watching, waiting.  (Although you can start out by scaring the kids with apocalyptic stories of death and destruction - and people going to hell in droves at the last judgement - but you should try to finish the scary stuff up by the time St. Nicholas arrives with Black Peter.)

Of all the traditions for Advent, the Jesse Tree is perhaps the best - the only one I appreciate that is.  Not the ugly felt banner ones - but the ancient and medieval icons and carvings depicting the lineage of Christ.

Give the kids knives and chisels and have them carve their own.
Or you can make clay, or papier-mâché relief figures.
(Did you know you can make dough figures too?)

If you need outward signs to display in your home, carve an altar piece, paint an icon, do a huge Jesse Tree tapestry - but do it artfully and tastefully - always strive for museum perfection.  It can be a religious and spiritual exercise as well as a lesson in art history.

Or make an Advent calendar - just don't pretend you aren't getting ready for Christmas, because you are.


What could be more sad and dreary than this?
How many children have lost their faith
because of this stuff?

Song for this post here and here.

Mass chat: The Ethiopian Orthodox Divine Liturgy and the Novus Ordo ...

Taste and see that the LORD is good...

The biggest surprise I've had in discovering the Ethiopian Divine Liturgy is how much sense the Novus Ordo - or the revised Latin Mass of Paul VI now makes.

The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved. - Sacrosanctum Concilium

The Ethiopians are definitely active participants, singing, 'dancing', chanting, and obviously fully understanding what is going on.  There are those who remain penitent and quietly prayerful at the back of the church - yet they participate.  Children wander about, participate in dance and song; parents and singles come and go, which reminds me of the Greeks.  It's a living liturgy.  Of course I'm not familiar enough to discuss the Ethiopian liturgy, but I am deeply impressed by their reverence and piety - and the length of time they spend at Mass.

Hence, the activity we can experience at the Novus Ordo makes more sense to me.  For instance, I used to do an eye roll every Sunday we had a baptism included in Mass, or a blessing of a longtime married couple - but the Ethiopians seem to include these rites in their Liturgy - with no trouble.  Some Sundays I've noticed they have weddings within the Sunday Mass - the entire community witnesses it.

I'm not a liturgist by any means, but I've accustomed myself to the Mass of Paul VI - I love the revised Mass.  Some Sundays may be a bit more active than others, but by the grace of God I am able to actively participate - devoutly and prayerfully - and the greatest grace of all is to be able to receive the precious body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  I live for that.

The Ethiopians are an obvious, recognizable community - gathered together to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.  They are living, breathing, praying, moving, audible, people; praying, adoring, worshipping in communion with one another and the priest and deacons.  I used to complain about the sign of peace at the Ordinary Form of Mass, or someone talking to their neighbor or child, while still more people complain about children making noise or moving about.  (More recently, Catholics are discussing children with autism - as if they shouldn't be included at Mass!)  That is so ridiculous.  We are not angels, we are human beings - God delights in the children of men; we are told all of heaven, indeed the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents - therefore what is the joy when we come to worship and offer prayers and thanksgiving each Sunday?

I love the traditional Latin rite, the Extraordinary Form - and to be sure one fully participates prayerfully in the EF.  Nevertheless, there is absolutely nothing wrong, nothing lacking in the Ordinary Form or Novus Ordo - yes, even despite some of the liturgical abuses the OF has suffered over the years.

Again - I'm not a liturgist and I don't make a study of liturgical rites - I just participate.  My prayer is centered upon the liturgy.  I may be wrong in my observations - but I'm always looking for ways to praise the Ordinary Form of Mass when so many today disparage it.  I understand it better in and through the ancient rites of the Orthodox as well as our own Extraordinary Form.

One more thing.  The Ethiopians veil, fast rigorously, remove their shoes before entering the church, and so on - I have never seen a long, dour face, nose stuck in their Missal (yes, they use them) or unwilling to acknowledge their neighbor.  Just the opposite.  They are full of joy, and though recollected, they always seem to be smiling.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the LORD, you his holy ones;
nothing is lacking to those who fear him.