Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s 8 PM: do you know where your conscience is?

A daily examination of conscience is something everyone should do.   It helps us to prepare for weekly or biweekly confession and on a daily basis to know what to work on.  The Devil’s greatest deception, they say, is not “convincing the world he doesn’t exist” but convincing the world “there’s plenty of time to get right with God” or, worse, “There’s no need to get right with God.”   People say, “God loves you unconditionally,” when we should ask ourselves whether we love *God* unconditionally.

St. Ignatius recommends keeping a journal of one’s daily examins–using coded symbols if one prefers–and checking off the number of times a particular sin was committed that day.  While we should obviously keep note of all serious sins to confess as soon as possible, we should also try to focus on a particular bad habit.

The USCCB has a page with various forms of Examination of Conscience.

Here is a PDF of a basic 10 Commandments based approach.



Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross

I. Jesus is condemned to death.
Pontius Pilate dares to condemn the all-holy Savior to death. No, not Pilate; but my sins have condemned Jesus to be crucified. O Jesus, have mercy on me and remember Thou didst choose to die that I may have eternal life. Let me so live that when I come to die I may find Thee a most merciful Judge, an all-loving Redeemer.

II. Jesus takes up His Cross.
Most willingly Jesus accepts and patiently bears His Cross for my sake. Will I refuse to bear my cross for His sake? No, my loving Redeemer, I will no longer seek to evade my cross, but with the Help of Thy Grace I will bear it with Christian patience and resignation and follow Thee always.

III. Jesus falls the first time.
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath His Cross. Alas! More truly was He crushed to earth by the number and enormity of my sins! Good Master, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I love Thee, infinite Goodness! Help me to hate sin as the only real evil.

IV. Jesus meets His sorrowful Mother.
Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, meets Mary, the Queen of Martyrs. Oceans of grief deluge their Hearts as they face each other. They suffer thus for my sins. O Jesus, O Mary, bathe my sinful soul in a sea of true sorrow for my past offences. In all temptation I will say: `Jesus, Mary, help me!’

V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.
Although Jesus seems about to expire, He does not need — yet accepts — the help of Simon, since He wills to die on the Cross. Thus does He teach me charity and perseverance. O Jesus, I too will carry my cross patiently to the end and strive to lighten the cross of my fellow-men.

VI. Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus.
Jesus accepts and returns the towel to Veronica. Upon it is left the impress of His adorable Face. Alas! My sins have disfigured Thy holy Countenance. O Jesus, grant me efficacious sorrow that all sin may be erased from my soul and that Thy Grace and Thy divine Image may be stamped upon it forever.

VII. Jesus falls a second time.
My feeble resolutions, my oft-repeated sins have crushed Jesus to earth a second time. Such is the malice of habitual sin. O Jesus, grant me true repentance. Let me die a thousand times rather than have the misfortune to fall again into mortal sin! Help me to hate all sin.

VIII. Jesus meet the Women of Jerusalem.
The Savior teaches teh women not to weep for Him, but for their own sins and the sins of their children. How generous is He! O Jesus, grant that I may understand the true meaning of Thy Passion and be so inflamed with love for Thee that I may shed tears of blood over my past transgressions.

IX. Jesus falls the third time.
Consternation fills my soul when I behold the Savior fall a third time beneath the Cross. What is the cause? The incredible obstinacy of sinners who refuse to amend their lives. O Jesus, grant that I may be truly converted and suffer every evil rather than be numbered among such ungrateful sinners.

X. Jesus is stripped of His garments.
What a pitiable spectacle is this shameful stripping of Jesus! Ghastly wounds are re-opened. Blood flows afresh. What shame would be mine if the veil were torn from my soul and the world saw my hidden sins! O Jesus, help me to know all my sins and confess them with deep sorrow and true humility.

XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
How can I behold the Savior shamefully nailed to the Cross and seek only comfort, wealth, and honors… and even indulge in unlawful pleasures? Jesus Crucified, help me to esteem and practice true Christian mortification that I may love only Thee and renounce the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

XII. Jesus dies on the Cross.
Jesus, my God, dies on the Cross for me. I have done nothing for Him. I too must die! O my Crucified Savior, grant that I may so live in the future that I may have no cause to fear a sudden and unprovided death. Jesus, for Thee I live. Jesus, for Thee I die!

XIII. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
The lifeless Body of Jesus now rests in the arms of Mary. What anguish is hers as she thinks of the many souls for whom her Son shed His Precious Blood in vain! What joy to know that so many are redeemed! O my Savior, preserve me from Hell. O sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.

XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Like Jesus, I too must lie in the grave. But Jesus rises in triumph on the third day. My buried Jesus, grant eternal rest to all who sleep in death. Have mercy on me and grant me the grace to rise to a new spiritual life, that dying to myself now, I may rise gloriously with Thee on the Last Day.
Having finished the Way of the Cross, it is commendable pray for our Holy Father, the Pope.

I have no plans to see _Noah_ in the theater

Or _Son of God_, for that matter, or _God isn’t Dead_.  Or _Muppets Most Wanted_.

At least not till one is at the Masters Cinema (Oh, man!  Masters’ week is coming up!)

In all the back and forth about whether Noah is or is not appropriate for Catholics, from Barbara Niccolosi’s negative review that’s so popular it’s apparently crashed Patheos, to Steven Greydanus’s praise, all of which is probably more interesting than the movie itself, the debates all stem on whether a movie is worth seeing in the theater.  Catholic critics never seem to address the difference between “in the theater” and “at all.”

With a few exceptions, I’ve always been the “one or two movies a year” type, following my parents–indeed, my Mom hadn’t seen a movie in the cinema between the original X-Files movie in 1998 and Les Miserables in 2012.  That week, she ended up seeing three (The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey and something else) and had to close her eyes during the latter two.  My wife and I have only been to the movies by ourselves a few times, and the last one we walked out of.  We had a “date night” and a certificate for *that* movie theater, and of the ones currently playing, it looked the best.  It was so horrible we walked out and would have demanded our money back if it hadn’t been free.  The last one we went to together at all was Les Mis, and that was with her siblings.

Our rule for the kids is usually that we have to prescreen films, or watch them with them, and taking 4 kids to the vies gets pretty expensive unless it’s $1 a ticket or a good sale.

Plus, in addition to the disappointment so bad that I don’t even want to mention its name, the first time I’d ever gone to a movie just for the sake of seeing one, most of the other movies I’ve gone to recently have been disappointments: the entire Transformers franchise (after eagerly awaiting the first two, I saw the third on home video), for example.  Before Les Miserablesthe last truly enjoyable experience I had in the movie theater was The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall.

And in spite of all that, even if I were to go by myself, as I used to do for anticipated franchise movies, I still wouldn’t be able to sit through a movie.  I know the intensity would get to me–it gets to me on TV–and I can’t sit anywhere for very long these days without needing to lay down.

So, between cost, quality, family logistics and health, I have no desire to see any movie in the theater, and it really surprises me that in “this economy,” people have the money to do so.  I’m glad that the last one I did see is, as far as I’m concerned, the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it just doesn’t seem worth it to spend upwards of $10 per person for anything, no matter how worthy, when even if one desires the “experience,” one can wait a few months and watch it at home in HD for a fraction of the cost, using the TV and service(s) justified as saving money on trips to the movie theater (or the regular theater).

I just don’t understand why reviewers don’t write reviews with that under consideration.  If you think a movie is a waste of $10 a person, is it also a waste of $1 or less a person?   That’s the kind of a review I’d like to read.

My Favorite Series Finales

It’s conventional wisdom that a series finale can be a delicate matter.  Obviously, relatively short-lived series rarely get the opportunity to wrap things up.  Long running shows lose viewers over time, and with the phenomena of “shark jumping” and “Cousin Oliver’s” coming into play, they often go out with a whimper.  Resolve too much, and it seems forced.  Resolve too little, and the fans are unsatisfied.  What if there’s a last-minute decision by the network to keep the show on another year, or some of the people involved want to keep going?

A couple years ago, I came across one of the few Murder, She Wrote episodes I’d never seen, the Season 7, spring 1991, finale “The Skinny According to Nick Cullhane.”  The episode had the feel of a series finale–including bringing Jerry Orbach’s Harry McGraw of eponymous short-lived spin off fame to Cabot Cove.  I did some digging online and found where it had, in fact, been planned as a finale and written a year or two before it aired.   Lansbury, as happened several times in the course of the show, was tired.  The show was always teetering because of its high ratings but being week in the “coveted 18-49 demographic” that advertisers look for.   So they thought Season 7 would be the last and produced the episode.  As it happened, the following fall, Orbach left for New York City on Law & Order and the fictional Jessica Fletcher moved to NYC as well, extending the show’s life for another 5 years.

On the other hand, there’s the infamously week ending of The X-Files that seemed remarkably forced and rushed for a show that had dragged on for 9 years with many opportunities to wrap up its stories more neatly.

The writing has been on the wall for USA’s Psych for a couple years.  Renewals had been slower in coming as ratings dropped each season–a couple years ago almost an entire calendar year went by before the new season started–but it was the oldest show on the network, the last from the Monk-era glory days.  Few of its newer series have managed to take off, so USA kept it going perhaps a bit too long.  Many story lines were resolved with last season’s finale.  What little happened this season could have been condensed into a single episode, the rest seeming to drag on.  Even Monk seemed to lose a lot of its quality in the final season.

In the case of Psych, the stories this season have been inconsistent.  Often the attempt at overarching “final season” stories indicate only a few days, at most, have passed between episodes, yet Lassiter’s wife discovers her pregnancy and gives birth within the space of a few episodes?   We get two “Cousin Oliver” characters: Anthony Michael Hall’s Harris Trout, the hugely unpopular new chief, and then Mira Sorvino’s Det. Betsy Brannigan, a much more interesting new character whose main role, however, is to render Shawn obsolete leading up to the finale.
The finale was written and filmed before much of the rest of the season, though some parts were filmed after everything else (I read that a big surprise cameo, the revelation of off-screen Det. Dobson, was the last scene filmed).   The title, “The Break Up”, given the situation, was ominous.  It was originally 8 of 8.  Then USA ordered 15 episodes.  USA increased the order to 13 but only 10 were produced.  They saved the official announcement until late January or early February, but most people knew it was coming.  Then they did their best to make everyone think it was an unexpected cancellation.  The promo for the finale said something like, “Next week: a life-shattering revelation; a marriage proposal; a career ruined. . . . OK, none of that’s going to happen. . . . ”
But it did, sort of.  I never understood how they could “resolve” the show without something like the end of Season 7, with everyone getting fired, minimally, but they did it–quite amazingly well.  And, like a good finale, it was a new beginning, almost a pilot for a new show, and has fans wanting to know what comes next, though nothing will).

So, in no particular order, I thought I’d reflect on some of my favorites:

Nicely done!  As I said, I didn’t think it could end on a positive note, but it did.  Storylines were resolved.  Characters literally got to say their good-byes.  I have read many reviews that speak highly of the finale, and there’s no need to rehash their praise.  My favorite moments were Henry saying he helped because Shawn finally called him; Lassiter refusing to hear Shawn’s confession and destroying it instead; Chief Vick, now Chief of Detectives in San Francisco, saying “We already have a guy–he’s alphabetizing the condiments in the kitchen” (Shawn replies, “Do you think that guy’s better than we are?” and fans across the Internet are saying, “Crossover movie!”); and the very beginning with its fourth wall breaking self-referential introduction where Shawn talks about leaving his job for the woman he loves, which in some sense James Roday was doing at the time (Maggie Lawson having left the show, and moved to LA, for the short-lived Back in the Game; she has another pilot next fall).

Speaking of “the other guy,” it had to be one of the most moving finales I’ve ever seen (obviously, it’s on the list).  Seeing everything come together: Adrian finally getting to be happy (realistically not “cured” but functional); Trudy’s murder solved; a sort of step daughter to have in his life; Randy getting a sheriff job in NJ and marrying Sharona; it all fit.  And the poignance for me of thinking how, when the show had started, my eldest was a baby; how for a few years in VA it was the weekly ritual for me to go hang out with my father in law and watch Monk together: those memories added to the poignancy of the event, but the story was so well resolved.

– Dallas
I was on the fence about whether to list this as an example of a badly done finale or well done.  In 1991, Dallas ended after 13 years with its weird inverted It’s a Wonderful Life episode.  Miss Ellie has left Southfork for good, tired of all the feuding, and has turned the Ranch over to Bobby (the full deed, retconned to a trust in the revival series).   Cliff Barnes owns Ewing Oil.  Sue Ellen has been in England for a few years with her new husband.  John Ross has decided he wants to live with his mother, and Christopher is going along till he gets adjusted.  J.R.’s illegitimate son James has moved away with his grandson.  His second wife Callie has left and given birth to a son, and JR decides to let them live in piece.  Really, the penultimate episode had resolved all the storylines.  Everyone knew the show was on its last legs, although they wanted to leave room for a possible 15th season.
Alone at Southfork while Bobby drives the boys to the airport, J.R. gets drunk and contemplates suicide, and a mysterious man appears and shows him how different everyone’s lives would be if he’d never been born, almost always for the better.   When he tries to convince J.R. to shoot himself, J.R. says, “What kind of angel are you?” “Who said I was an angel?” Then his eyes turn red and he starts laughing.  Bobby comes home to a gunshot and runs into J.R.’s room, with a look of horror on his face.  Did J.R. shoot himself?
6 years later, J.R. Returns attempted to answer the question with a TV movie intended as a pilot about the next generation–the series had, often through the voice of their Grandma–hinted at a third generation (the story of Jock and Jason Ewing and Digger Barnes having been told in the miniseries Dallas: the Early Years), though the sensitive, soft-hearted John Ross always seemed destined to be the future “good guy,” while the often brooding, mischievous Christopher seemed destined to be the future “bad guy.”
Fans didn’t respond to the show, and the younger characters were still too young for it to be anything but a 90210 kind of show.  However, it managed to resolve a plot or two, and ended with J.R. in charge of WestStar and Bobby in charge of Ewing Oil, J.R. saying, “Bobby, it’s our town again.”  War of the Ewings focused more on the elder characters and resolved a few more storylines.  Growing demand on the internet and internationally to see a new series might have seen it happen but for two things: the Hollywood trend towards adaptation of TV shows and the Enron scandal.  David Jacobs pitched to rights-holding Warner the notion of doing a big screen reboot of Dallas as a metaphor for the Enron scandal.  This languished in pre-production for 10 years, and was finally scrapped in favor of TNT’s new series, which also ignores the reunion movies.

-30 Rock
Last year’s finale of 30 Rock definitely ranks, with its parody of the notorious St. Elsewhere finale.  In other news, you may have heard of the Tommy Westphall Universe Theory, a tongue-in-cheek “fandom” theory that points out all the cross-overs connected to St. Elsewhere, such that arguably the only “true” events in the history of most TV shows were those last few minutes.  It’s kind of like “Six Degrees of Separation”.  For example, St. ElsewhereHomicide-Law & Order-X-Files-Millennium.

Then there’s Newhart’s famous finale parodying Dallas’s 1986 “It was all a dream” resolution that brought Bobby back from the dead after he flatlined on screen a year before.

-The Office
The producers of The Office said they’d planned several scenarios for ending the show, so they just put them all together as a bunch of mini-finales, and they did a great job of it.

-Star Trek the Next Generation
“All Good Things . . . ” is a fantastic wrap-up, but has the dilemma, like some of the others I’ve mentioned, of being written with more in mind.  Its time-travelling events were immediately contradicted by Generations which came along just a few months later.  Really, the farewell to the NCC-1701-D Enterprise crew was in the lackluster Nemesiswith Riker & Troi’s wedding, Riker’s new ship and Data’s “death.”

-Star Trek Deep Space Nine
“What You Leave Behind” left me as emotionally moved as Monk, for a similar reason.  As dramatic series go, I’d still say it’s my all-time favorite.  It wraps up the stories and, like I say, has that feeling of being as much a pilot as a finale–a feeling followed up by a series of engaging novels that I started reading years ago and never continued with.

Again, this isn’t meant to be in any way scientific, just some thoughts on what I think makes a good series finale and some of the ones that come to mind when I think of good ones, out of shows I’m familiar enough with to say.

Lenten Reminder: He comes like a thief in the night

Reminder: whatever you do, Keep in mind you could be dead tomorrow.

People say, “What would Jesus do?”

They should really ask, “What would Jesus think?”

When you make a decision, consider that “Nothing that is hidden will remain hidden” (Lk 8:17) .  It’s a scary thought that everything that has ever happened will one day be known by everyone who has ever lived.

Remember the man to whom the Lord said, “You fool!  Don’t you know this very night your life will be demanded of you?”(Lk 12:20)  People like to prepare so much for the “future” when the “future” that seems so looming is nothing compared to the true Future that awaits after “death.”  We prepare for “retirement,” and we even prepare “funeral expenses,” but do we really prepare ourselves for Death and Judgement?  Or do we presume on God’s mercy? I know I do far too much of the latter.

One of the Devil’s greatest lies is that we have plenty of time.

Yet we’re told, by the voices of advertising that taunt us to break the 9th and 10th Commandments, that we have lots of time and need to “prepare” (not to store up treasure in Heaven), or that we have no time at all.

Fukushima; ever-impending nuclear war with Russia, Iran, North Korea, China or whomever; Climate change; bee depopulation; GMOs and various -icides: the media, new and old, are constantly telling us of the things that are going to kill us all before we know it, to create panic and get us to but stuff, not to get us to get right with God.  In the meantime, every one of us is a blood pressure spike or clot away from death–some of us are just more keenly aware of that fact.

Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!

Nuns on the Pill: Habitless Nuns who Support Obamacare

“Sister” Donna Quinn, head of some group called National Coalition of American Nuns, is outraged that Notre Dame and other institutions are starting to act Catholic:
“It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women”
What kind of demonic filth is this, coming from someone professed to perpetual continence?
What is “autonomy,” much less “reproductive autonomy”?
And the comments (from which mine, asking the questions, was apparently deleted) are so absolutely blasphemous (and devolve into the usual “Whether Jesus even existed” garbage you see on any secular liberal site) –suggesting that Jesus was the product of “In Vitro Fertilization,” etc.

St. Scholastica, pray for us.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
St. Gianna Molla, pray for us.

St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the malice and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power, cast into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Catholics suddenly realize they should boycott anti-Catholic beer company

This is old news by now, but Guinness and several other beer companies boycotted this year’s New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade over the longstanding fight about allowing “GLBTQ” people to march in the parade *as GLBTQ* proponents, and as if they don’t have enough events and parades to participate in.

This debate, especially with the addition of the beer controversy gets to the heart of “St. Patrick’s Day.”  As I say every year, half-serious/half-joking, “I oppose the secularization of St. Patrick’s Day.”

The problem is that St. Patrick’s Day has become a festival of “Irishness” and nothing at all about sanctity.  We celebrate a Saint who is credited with driving the “snakes” (demons, and while many point out that snakes are not indigenous to Ireland, snake-worship was part of the Druidic religion) out of Ireland by promoting leprechauns.  We celebrate a Saint who taught the trinity using the example of a three-leaf shamrocks by promoting four-leaf clovers.  We use the “luck of the Irish,” a term originally meant ironically like “Murphy’s Law” as actual “luck.”

Leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day should be like “Krampuses” and similar European traditions on St. Nicholas Day: reminders that demons are slaves to Jesus and the Saints, and they only have power over us if we let them.

Now we have Guinness Beer, a company long associated with St. Patrick’s Day because it’s Irish, a company that started the eponymous Book of World Records to provide trivia for guys to argue about in bars, and a company that was founded by a bloody Protestant!!!

We rarely buy beer, usually only for visiting in-laws or for cooking, and before she found out she was allergic to wheat, the only beer my wife ever drank was Killian’s.  A year ago, before we left for my surgery in Charleston, I bought a box of Killian’s for my father-in-law, and it’s still sitting in our laundry room unopened.  However, we refused to ever buy anything from Guinness about 10 years ago when we saw an ad on TV where they depicted St. Patrick getting drunk in a bar and flirting with scantily-clad women on his knee.

Then there was the year in Columbia when we were trying to go to St. Joseph’s Day Mass at St. Joseph’s Church but were late for Mass because traffic was diverted for a city St. Patrick’s Parade, and parade-goers were using the church’s parking lot! People complain about children’s candy on Easter and All Saint’s Eve (“Halloween”), or candy and presents on Christmas.  But the debauchery associated with St. Patrick’s Day, especially as it usually falls in the middle of Great Fast, has long been a scandal to me.  Feasting and celebrating is one thing.  Getting drunk and acting lewd (or worse) is another.

Things would improve in our culture if Catholics went back to celebrating Feasts with actual Eucharistic Processions and gave up on these secular parades altogether.  Maybe if we gave half the attention to praying the Office and attending Mass that we do to planning and fighting over secular parades, Christmas trees, etc., we would both have a more fulfilling celebration of holidays and see genuine improvement in society.