Monthly Archives: March 2008

Wow! Another Endorsement of "Standard Days"

If this doesn’t prove that “reliability” of contraception is all about the profit: “CycleBeads” give physicians something they can “sell,” so “Standard Days” is suddenly effective, whereas “Rhythm” wasn’t (even though they’re the same thing).

Speaking of _Superstar_, the Problem with the "Fifteenth Station"

As I write, I am listening to one of Fulton Sheen’s Good Friday talks on Netflix. Interestingly, it must be one of the things that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice meant by saying they used Fulton Sheen as their only non-biblical source for Jesus Christ Superstar. The episode begins with Bishop Sheen talking about a conversation he’d had with Orson Welles. Welles was asking him what would be appropriate or inappropriate in a movie about Christ. Specifically, he wanted to do a “life of Christ” where all the characters wore modern garb, to show who would be the Pharisees, Sadduccees, Pontius Pilate, etc., today. Then he would cast himself as a member of the mob. Bishop Sheen thought that was a great idea, and there was nothing disrespectful about it at all.
Yet, that is one of the usual criticisms lodged against Superstar: the anachronistic dress, Roman soldiers carrying machine guns, etc. But it actually comes from Fulton Sheen!

Another common criticism is that it ends with the burial of Jesus. Of course it does. It’s a Passion. That was one of the few flaws I found in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ: ending with the Resurrection (albeit handling it reverently).

I’ve always hated the idea of “adding” a “fifteenth station” and jumping straight to the Resurrection. I’ve never been able to explain it in a simple way, but here’s the simple way: no Holy Saturday.

Every Sunday is a little Easter. Every Friday is a little Good Friday. And every Saturday is an optional memorial to the Blessed Virgin because Saturday was the day she was without her Son.

Sheen liked to say that Americans “want Christ without the Cross.” This is true in many ways, but in the case of most Protestants and your average “post-Vatican II” Catholic (definitely your average “Spirit of Vatican II” Catholic), it means brushing over the Passion as much as possible and jumping as quickly as possible to the Resurrection.

“Look what Jesus did for us! Yay! We have nothing to worry about. Now I don’t have to suffer!”
No; that’s not the right attitude.
The correct attitude is, “Look what Jesus did for us! He suffered, willingly, though undeservedly, because of my sins. I need to be less self-centered and more self-mortifying. I need to accept the just [and unjust] punishments that come my way. I need to fill up in my own body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

The Crucifixion has to *mean* something. Jesus had to lose everything for it to *mean* something; or else we’re just Gnostics and the Crucifixion was just an act.

When we jump, in our meditations, from Crucifixion to Resurrection, we strip the Crucifixion of its meaning. We ignore the triumphal invasion of Hell. We ignore the sorrows of Our Lady of Sorrows, who had to mourn for two days. Mary should not have had to mourn her Son at all. The Catholic practice of honoring Mary on Saturdays is meant to atone for her day of mourning.

To jump straight to the “Fifteenth Station” is to refuse to take any responsibility for our sins or to show our love for Jesus and Mary.

My annual "Superstar" Reflection

Every Lent, I make a point of listening to Jesus Christ Superstar in (more or less) one sitting, and, every year, some passage really jumps out at me. A cultural Anglican (the young Andrew Lloyd Webber) and a cynical agnostic (Tim Rice) really gave a lot of insights in their passion play based upon the Gospels and the teachings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Anyway, today, that reflection was the line in “What’s the Buzz”: “I’m amazed that men like you can be so shallow, thick and slow. There is not a man among you who knows or cares if I come or go.”

Call it the “Sherlock Holmes” principle. In the Sherlock Holmes stories, we often get the impression that Dr. Watson is an idiot. But the whole point is that Dr. Watson is a medical doctor. He’s a very smart person and yet, compared to Holmes, he’s an idiot. It’s about how smart Holmes is, not how dumb Watson is.

So, in the Gospels, when Jesus says, “Oh wicked and perverse generation, how long must I endure you?” or words to that effect, He’s often referring to the Apostles.

These are the men who’ve already given up everything to follow Jesus around the country. They obey His every command. They acknowledge Him as the Messiah and Lord. And, yet, even they are “wicked and perverse” by Jesus’ standards of perfection.

Remember Luke 17:10: “So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do. “

My dad said he was reading a passage from St. Faustina’s diary today where Jesus says He is not offended so much by the great sins of those who live in the world as He is by the minor faults of those who love Him the most.

Meanwhile, we have people like this who think they can be “OK with God” while they do whatever they want.

Here’s a seminary with a required NFP class!

It’s actually the sidebar to the main article. It had me worried at first, because it started off with “the sex talk” in marriage prep, and the hypothetical modern young engaged person thinking, “What does this guy know about sex?” The article proceeds, “Here’s a seminary that teaches its students the reality of sex,” and I was like, “Oh, no!” But they mean the reality, not the “reality” of it, if that makes sense.
Anyway, they actually teach a full NFP course, with various medical experts and everything, so the future priests will be able to deal with the subject in their ministry.

That said, I wonder if the subject really *is* appropriate to celibate priests? Shouldn’t this be mandatory training for permanent deacons?

God is good!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a deep spiritual crisis I was having. The principles in those posts are the underlying principles of what the “Lewis Crusade” is all about, and can be summed up in Jesus’ teaching, ‘Let the little children come to Me,. . .”

The Church tells us that the family is the fundamental unit of society. All those issues I talked about in the post I just wrote on ranking social issues boil down to the importance children should have in society–and in the Church. And the practical difficulties of raising one’s children to be faithful Catholics, getting them to Church, being open to life despite disability, etc., conflicting with the way people are so judgemental about things that have nothing to do with morality, criticizing others for breaking the “conventions” precisely in the effort to be better Catholics, just drove me to, for lack of a better word, despair.

I never doubted God, per se. But I was seriously doubting the Catholic Church.

God sent me a bunch of great stuff in a row, though, that has helped considerably. Last week, we went to a “retreat” in Atlanta. It was a conference given by this weird priest, Fr. Bing Arellano (more on that later). The content of the conference was mostly crazy conspiracy theories, and was actually more hurtful than helpful. In fact, his talk I attended on Saturday morning nearly had me in complete despair.

They promised access to confession all weekend, but the access wasn’t much better, relatively speaking, than at the average parish. But Mary explained my situation to one of the brothers, and he got me in.

So I got to go to confession. We got some cool books on spiritual warfare and some cool sacramentals. Fr. Bing, regardless of his crazy political views and rather Jansenist theology (again, I’ll post on that separately), is a both a doctor of canon law and an exorcist (I’ve read in at least one place that paranoia is a side-effect of being an exorcist). He performed a ritual exorcism of the entire congregation. Not sure how licit it was, but, since he is a canon lawyer, I’ll defer to his judgement. But, of course, illicit does not necessarily mean “invalid” (e.g., it’s still Jesus in the tabernacle of a Society of St. Pius X or Greek Orthodox Church). And ever since we’ve known for certain that we have at least one family member putting occult curses on us, we’ve wanted some kind of formal exorcism to remove the oppression.

Also, as a result of it, we now have exorcised holy water and exorcised/blessed salt.

The conference was in Roswell, GA, so on Sunday morning, we attended Divine Liturgy at Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church. It was the first time in my life, that I’m aware of, that I attended a Byzantine liturgy (maybe once when I was a kid).

My grandma, Anna Teresa Plavcan Hathaway, was a Slovak. I knew that grandma’s “childhood church” was “different,” and that my great-aunt Mary went her whole life to “that church,” but also that they were still somehow Catholics. No one ever really explained it to me. Additionally confusing things to me as a kid was that Aunt Mary’s short-term husband (long story) was Greek Orthodox.

In high school, I had a teacher, Bogdan “Mr. Z” Zlotnicki, who was Polish-Ukrainian, and he was the first one to explain to me about the different Rites in the Church.

This led to a deep fascination with the Eastern Churches. As I learned more about them, I started to think that sounded like what I’d always longed for. I started hoping, ca. 10 years ago, for the chance to seriously explore the Byzantines.

During marriage prep, I had to fill out a form which asked if any of my parents or grandparents was an eastern Catholic. I suddenly put two-and-two together. I asked, “Dad, was grandma Byzantine?” He said, “Yeah, but she switched when she married Grandpa.”

Then, on Tuesday before the trip to Atlanta, I was talking to a friend who was explaining how he’s actually a Melkite, though his family have been going to Roman churches for a couple generations, and he’s hardly ever been to a Melkite liturgy: it was very rare in those days for anyone to officially switch Rites. Latin Rite priests would basically “steal” Eastern Catholics through marriage or whatever, and no one would ever officially file the papers.

I’ve always had this deep sense of displacement at Mass. I’ve always felt that I didn’t quite “belong,” that something was missing. I first thought it was the liberal post-Vatican II liturgies (that was certainly a big part of it).

I would watch the Paul VI Latin Mass on EWTN and say, “That’s how I”ve always felt it should be done.” I’d *go* to the Paul VI Latin Mass in Virginia. Then I finally got to go to the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Joseph’s in Richmond, and, while I really liked the Tridentine Mass, I still didn’t quite feel “at home” there.

Then we went to St. Anthony’s Maronite in Richmond a few times. I really liked their liturgy, and the general attitude of the Maronites. And I started to feel closer to the sense of “home” that was always eluding me.

Certainly the more reverent and traditional the liturgies were, the better the subjective experience. But there was also something more personal at work. Now, the Maronites are Antiochian, not Byzantine (for some reason, Lebanon is divided between Byzantines and Antiochians; Melkites are the Byzantines of Lebanon).

But I’ve never been to an actual Byzantine Liturgy till this past Sunday. Better yet, it was the Ruthenian Byzantine Church, to which Slovaks in the US are assigned (There is a Slovakian Byzantine Church, but there are only a couple of them in the US).

Now, on the one hand, I really didn’t feel anything “profound,” which is almost a good thing. But I did feel *comfortable*. I finally found that sense of comfort I’ve always looked for, that I”ve only felt in snatches. What was especially interesting was that, for a completely different liturgy (albeit vernacular), I found it very easy to participate.

I may have become a bit familiar through the Maronites, since there are similarities, but somehow I could anticipate the chant melodies, and a few times anticipated the words of the responses without even looking at the words of my book.

Now, Mary and I have discussed this many times in the past, when it was purely hypothetical. There is a great deal of importance on the ethnicity of one’s Rite. For example, one year we went to the Maronite Church for Easter (one of the first times we went was for Easter, and I liked the liturgy so much we went back each year after). A Lutheran whose spouse was Maronite was being received into the Church. The person was first received into the Church as a Latin Rite Catholic and then immediately switched Rites.

Likewise, if a Muslim from Lebanon were to come here and convert to Catholicism in the US, in a Roman Rite parish, that Lebanese Muslim would *first* have to be received into the Maronite or Melkite Church.

I don’t know what my canonical “lineage” is. After all, my mother’s side and my paternal grandfather’s side are solidly Roman Catholic. But I know from my genealogy research that I’m more Slovak than any other ethnicity (a solid 25% versus the rest being a mix of Irish, English, German, Scottish, Native American, French, and unknown). And if my grandmother never officially changed Rites, that would solidify the theory that my Slovak ancestry is calling me to the Byzantine Church.

There’s a Melkite Church in Augusta, a little more than an hour away, so I’m gonna try to talk my friend into making at least a monthly trip over there.

ON Monday, we went to Mass at the Cathedral in Atlanta. Mary hadn’t been able to get to confession yet, and the priests at the Cathedral were all busy. On our way out of town, we gave it one last try at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She got to go to confession, and we got an official pilgrimage out of our trip.

Then, we went to Mass on Friday at our home parish, and the pastor gave a homily that seemed to speak right to my spiritual crisis I’d been going through (and e-mailed him about over a month ago).
At the soup supper, he came up to me and said, “I just got a whole bunch of e-mails you’d sent me that had been sitting in my spam folder.” (Most of them were innocuous). I explained about the crisis I’d been going through, and how God had sent me just what I needed to get out of it.
“So, I don’t need to address that last one?” “No, not exactly.”

But I was touched he actually said that, and it also proved he wasn’t ignoring it. Also confirmed my suspicion that the homily may have been a response to my e-mail, since my e-mail was about feeling like God didn’t want me, and that was the topic of his homily, and then he told me he just got my e-mail that afternoon!

Anyway, God is good. And I now know my place in the Church.

This article is very frustrating

Knowing how well the media does at translating Vatican documents, and knowing how even the CNS intentionally misquoted the Pontifical Academy for Life when the Vaccine letter came out, I am putting the stupidity of this squarely on the reporters and not on Bishop Gianfranco Girotti.

But every time the Vatican comes out with a statement (e.g., the “Ten Commandments of Driving”) explaining application of Catholic teaching to some new technology or situation, the media act like the Church is somehow “changing” or replacing some old moral teaching.

Like, before it was OK to be obscenely rich, and now, suddenly, it’s not. No, these kinds of teachings are just clarifying the things were Catholics try to make excuses for themselves. Yes, tax evasion is a form of theft. Yes, it’s a sin to horde money (it has never *not* been a sin). In fact, according to the Gospel of Luke, it’s a sin to invest.

Abortion is not a new sin. Abortion has been around forever, and the Church has always opposed it. What is “new” is that society has made abortion a social issue, and, thus, the Vatican must emphasize the moral obligation of Catholics to oppose abortion.

And, again, people have always found drugs to abuse, and the Church has always condemned drug abuse. What’s different now is the international drug trade, and how many “Catholics” in the mafia and the Latin American drug cartels are going to Church on Sunday and profiting off the sale of illegal drugs.

Lyrics for Frustrated Traditionalists

“One Bread, One Body
One Stupid Hymn
One Liberal Heresy We Profess!
And we, though many, in mortal sin,
We will still go receive Communion!”