Monday, January 31, 2011

Fulton J. Sheen Explains the Tridentine Mass

I have posted this before, but it's worth posting again.

This film, called The Eternal Gift, was shot on Easter Sunday, 1941.  It is solemn High Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Chicago, and is narrated by Bishop -- then Msgr. -- Fulton J. Sheen.  

Our Lady of Sorrows parish was founded by the Servites in 1874.  The present church building was begun in 1890 and dedicated in 1902.  Our Lady of Sorrows is a national shrine, and was granted the title of basilica by Pope Pius XII in 1956, fifteen years after this film was made.  It still looks now very much as it did in 1941 (except for the stupid felt banners). 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why Priests are Fathers

St. John Bosco and his boys, to whom he was a true father. A mystic from childhood, Don Bosco ministered particularly to boys because of the insight he received regarding the spiritual dangers faced by boys.
One of the many objections to the Catholic Church that Protestants often raise is that we call priests "Father."  In support of this objection, they cite Matthew 23:9, in which Jesus says: "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven."

In the first place, I can't help noticing that this objection is often brought to me by the same people who accuse my Church of being a "Church of rules"; it's hard to imagine a pickier or more artificial rule than one designed to make me scrupulous about giving a term of respect and endearment to my parish priest.  In the second place, to cite Scripture in support of the objection is to misuse it.  Read in context, Matthew 23:9 is part of a denunciation of the hypocritical scribes and pharisees who love to lord it over everyone else, keep their subjects firmly under their thumbs by means of unreasonable demands, and bask in the glow of human respect.  Jesus is not forbidding His disciples literally to call anyone "Father"; rather, He is warning them not to follow in the footsteps of the Pharisees, whose path leads to hell.  In the third place, this question of calling priests "Father" involves supernatural realities of which both Protestants and Catholics have lost sight in our times.

Perhaps, for purposes of being struck by these realities, it helps to be at an age when one is older than most newly ordained priests.  For example, the baby-faced young priest who celebrated the Mass I attended this morning is probably 27 or 28, though, like most young people nowadays, he looks to me to be about twelve. Naturally speaking, it would be impossible for him to be my father, because I am so much older than he is.  But supernaturally speaking, he can be my father, and in fact is.  Just as my natural father must answer to God for my well-being, this young father is responsible before God for the care of my soul.  I could do no better at this point than to quote Frs. Rumble and Carty, the famous "radio priests" of the 1930s and '40s, on this very question:
In a purely spiritual sense a priest does all for the life of grace in a soul that ordinary parents do for the natural life of the children God gives them.  It is the priest who gives spiritual life to souls at the baptismal font.  He educates those brought forth to life in Christ by their baptismal rebirth; he teaches, warns, corrects and advises his spiritual children, and nourishes them with the bread of life in the Sacraments.  When souls go out of this world to meet God, it is the priest who is at their death-beds, soothing their last hours, allaying their fears, and consoling them as no others could do.  Having no family, the priest belongs to every family: and all in  his parish, men, women and children, love him and venerate him, and look up to him as their spiritual guide and friend, summing up everything in that term of supreme respect and reverence -- "Father."  Catholics rightly, therefore, call the priest "father," not to the exclusion of their Father in heaven, but as a manifestation on earth of the supreme Fatherhood of God in the spiritual order, even as an earthly parent is a similar manifestation of that same Fatherhood in the natural order.
Radio Replies, Volume III, section 304.

This is one of the paradoxes that is a hallmark of the supernatural: what is impossible in the natural order is possible in the supernatural order.  The jar that this paradox gives people operating in the purely natural realm should not be avoided: it is salutary, and the opportunity for a teaching moment.  A priest who looks to me like a high school kid is nevertheless my spiritual father; and I am his daughter in the supernatural order, even though I am much older than he is.  Therefore, despite the absurdity on a purely natural level, it is fitting and proper for me to call him "Father."  In fact, I submit that we ought to go further than that: not only should we call a priest "Father," but priests ought to get back into the habit of calling the faithful "sons" and "daughters," precisely to underscore, in this age of modernism and rationalism, this supernatural relationship with our shepherds.

Perhaps this will also do something toward restoring the lost esteem and dignity of priests in the eyes of their flocks, and hence their authority; and of helping priests themselves to live up to the same.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hope after Abortion

Thus says the LORD: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not."
Jeremiah 31:15

That is the part about having an abortion that Planned Parenthood does not tell women.  They leave the women -- a large percentage of whom have been coerced or pressured into having an abortion they do not want -- to find this part out for themselves.  Planned Parenthood does not like pro-life activists publishing images of aborted babies; but those are just some of the images that women who have had abortions see every time they close their eyes.

That is why Rachel's Vineyard came into being: to bring healing and reconciliation to women who have had abortions, and who have never been able to forgive themselves.  Rachel's Vineyard holds retreat weekends for women who have had abortions -- and also for the fathers and grandparents of aborted babies.  The retreat includes Scripture exercises, counseling, spiritual guidance from clergy, and a memorial service for the babies of the retreatants.  There are many who say that these weekends have changed their lives.  From Rachel's Vineyard's website, some comments from participants in the retreat:
For 12 years after my abortion I suffered in silence, grieving the loss of my child. My life became a living hell, and I didn't care if I lived or died. In October of 1997 all that changed. I attended a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat and began my journey of healing. Not only did God remove my fear, He has also allowed me to have tremendous love and support from my family and friends. I am now able to carry the message of hope and healing to others who have suffered after abortion.

How can I describe that in 48 hours, I became reconciled with my Heavenly Father? The process of healing can only begin through forgiveness and acknowledgement of my choice to abort my precious baby. And now, I have the greatest gift of all: the right to acknowledge, name, baptize, grieve, and give dignity to my first beloved child.

I took my daughter to England for an abortion. I thought that I was saving her from a life of misery. How wrong I was. My daughter has never been the same since. She began to drink heavily and take drugs. Her life is in a mess. When I heard of Rachel's Vineyard I knew that I had to come. I was allowed to share my pain in an emotionally safe environment. I was allowed to grieve the loss of my grandchild, and express the shame, the guilt and despair which have been such a heavy burden to carry. I now feel so much peace in my heart. I know that God has forgiven me. I have a new hope in my heart.

This retreat has been the best experience of my life. I wish that I had attended this retreat sooner. I was afraid to come because I had 3 abortions. I was afraid I would be judged that I had killed 3 children. I felt safe, loved and accepted. I was finally able to forgive myself and release my hatred toward God. You must come in order to finally heal. Please come.

For 24 years I suffered from my abortions. I thought time would heal all pain, but for years my pain remained. I lived with guilt, shame, depression, and grief. After 24 years I sought relief at a Rachel's Vineyard retreat. There I found total forgiveness in my Lord and Savior, and found peace for the first time in years. I can now remember my aborted children with fond memories and love. I am free from the guilt of my sin. The memorial service gave me the opportunity to pay my respects to my children. The respect I felt they never received. It helped me to lay them to rest in the arms of the Lord.

I have been through 14 years of therapy and anti-depressants. I've confessed my abortion a hundred times. Just when I thought I could take the pain no longer, I found Rachel's Vineyard. This weekend literally saved my life.
If you or someone you know are one of the millions who have been wounded by abortion, take heart.  There is help.
Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.
Ezekiel 18:31-32

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vulgarity as a Servant of the Common Good


For quite some time now, I have been noticing bumper stickers with this logo:
The pink ribbon, of course, is a symbol of breast cancer awareness.  But this logo is an example of how, in recent years, the crusade to find a cure for breast cancer has been coupled with fifth-grade-boy-humor slogans like "Honk if you love boobies!" and "I love my big tatas" and "Caught you looking at my tatas."  So I started wondering: how did the cause of breast cancer research, of all things, fall into the hands of the vulgarians?

It turns out that "Save the Tatas" is a brand.  "Save the Tatas" sells a wide variety of products, from T-shirts to ball caps to baby and dog attire to something called "Boob Lube" soap, all sporting the above logo or some similar specimen of mammary-gland humor, a percentage of the proceeds of which (the website claims 25%, totaling $606,000.00) is supposed to go to funding breast cancer research.

But "Save the Tatas" has competitors.  There is another outfit out there called "Feel Your Boobies," which also sells merchandise, whose goal is to issue a constant stream of adolescent reminders to women to perform breast self-examinations -- or, as they can't get enough of calling it, to feel their boobies.  Then there is "Save2ndBase," another hawker of merchandise, including T-shirts with slogans such as "Take Care of Your Rack," surmounted by an image of deer antlers, and "Save 2nd Base, surmounted by two large, strategically-located baseballs.   (At least now, at long last, I finally understand what "getting to second base" means.)

Clearly, there is money to be made with all this breast cancer merchandising, and the adolescent gimmickry is a tool for making money.  The purpose of this inquiry, however, is not to determine whether the money for all the pink ribbon junk is really going to fund breast cancer research (and there are those who say that very little of it actually does).   Nor is it to find out how much of the money raised actually goes to the abortion industry (in fact, donees of  the above groups include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which in turn gives money to Planned Parenthood, and also takes time out to publish documents that purport to debunk the theory that abortion contributes to breast cancer). For our present purposes, we can assume that every last dime raised by the sale of "Save a Life, Grope Your Wife" T-shirts actually goes to fund legitimate breast cancer research.  The question here is whether a net gain redounds to the common good by pressing vulgarity into the service of finding a cure for this deadly disease, even if it raises huge quantities of money that would not otherwise be raised.

I can already hear the howls of opposition.  "But this is about breast cancer research!  This is about curing a disease that kills thousands of women every year!  This is about raising awareness for early diagnosis!  What could be more important than saving lives?"  Certainly, saving lives is important (although, as noted above, the Susan G. Komen Foundation does not further the cause of life by contributing to the already overflowing coffers of Planned Parenthood).  And breast cancer is no joke: the National Cancer Institute says it is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer. 

But there are other values.  We are not put on this earth either for the sole purpose of prolonging our time on it, or to devote ourselves entirely to eating, drinking and being merry.  Our overriding duty is to view this life in the light of eternity, and act accordingly; and we ought, while we are here, to do all we can to create a society that is conducive to this end.

The coarsening of public discourse, and the celebration of the low and the crass, is destructive of this end; nor can it really be said to achieve its ostensible purpose.  So far from drawing attention to the seriousness of breast cancer, the vulgarisms peddled on bracelets and T-shirts and hats really draw attention only to themselves, and to those who sport them -- witness the websites that peddle these wares, which encourage customers to send in photos of themselves wearing or displaying them.  All these things really are are a way for people who feel straitened and confined by the requirements of decorum to publicly flout the rules of polite society; to congratulate themselves on "caring" while avoiding the grueling and messy toil that making a real difference requires; and to win admiration and validation for their impudence, which is touted as courage or forthrightness.

And by exalting coarsened sensibilities, all we end up with is the transformation of people -- especially women -- into objects.  All this focusing on "boobies" and "tatas" does nothing but reduce women to nothing more than the sum of their body parts.  And since women are the ones pushing and promoting this garbage, we make the world safe for neanderthals by stripping ourselves of the social defenses that formerly kept their boorish behavior in check.   Worse, we lose the ability to distinguish between decorum and boorishness.  It should come as no surprise to us to find ourselves at the mercy of the mouthbreathers and knuckledraggers who regard us as nothing more than playthings.  But it will be our doing, because we encouraged it, and because we lashed out at the good, chivalrous men who would otherwise have intervened to prevent it.

When you stop and consider it, we really do not want a world that encourages the proliferation of this sort of thing:
But that is exactly where we are headed.  Crassness and vulgarity make treacherous servants, and we are fools to think we can harness them for the good.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Junk Collector or Occultist?

On January 8th, a shooter with a long history of bizarre behavior and apparent mental problems shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and about 20 others at a public event in a grocery store parking lot near Tucson, Arizona.  Giffords was critically wounded, having taken a bullet to the head, and six of the victims died, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.  The shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, was tackled by a civilian and taken into custody.  Then began the investigation into Loughner's motivations.

The New York Daily News has published some photos from Loughner's home, including this curiosity found behind a camouflage curtain-tent setup, which it describes as an occult shrine.  The Daily News reports that "Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups."  USA Today, on the other hand, takes issue with that assessment, quoting Star Foster, a pagan blogger, who sees, not an altar, but a random pile of junk, "the remnants of summer forgotten in deep winter, like you might see in any backyard."  Speculates Foster: "It appears to me that someone set a bowl of oranges with decorative skull here from Halloween and forgot about it, just like they set the utilitarian white candles here and potting soil and never gave them a second thought."

Except that second, third, fifth, and even tenth thoughts seem to have been given to this particular accumulation of refuse.  It is true, as the USA Today columnist points out, that the experts who say this is an occult shrine are not named, and we get no further particulars on the basis for the claim.  I myself am no expert on the occult: so far, no necessity has compelled me to become versed in it; meanwhile, I consider it best to avoid delving into it.  But Star Foster admits that earth, air, water and fire do feature in occult ceremonies, and at least some of these elements seem to be represented here.  She points to the dirty and unkempt appearance of the space in question to support her junk-heap theory; yet the stacked flower pots with the shriveled oranges and skull are clearly carefully arranged and not tossed randomly together.  Finally, there is the obvious: if this were just innocent junk or a Halloween decoration, why is it hiding behind an elaborate tent set-up?  No, I fear Miss Foster's proffered explanation does not ring true.  Even if it could be established that this business behind the camouflage tent did not conform to the ceremonial standards of any particular organized occult group, that does not mean that it could not or did not serve as a portal for the powers of hell.

And then there are the fruits to consider, the product of a tree that may be rooted in  something more than just the soil of mental illness.  When, over a period of years, a man exhibits bizarre, threatening and unstable behavior that finally culminates in mass murder in a grocery store parking lot, after which he grins insanely into the camera taking his mugshot at the local jail, I can't say I'd be surprised if it turned out he had opened himself up to satanic influences.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For

A number of readers have commented on the fact that I have never posted any pictures of myself on V for Victory!.  Some of you are curious to put a face to the name and the scribblings.  Apparently, nobody is prepared to believe that the profile pic in the sidebar -- the simian at the typewriter -- is really me.  I must confess I find this gratifying.

I am pleased to announce that after four and a half years in the blogosphere, I have decided to lift the moratorium on self-portraits and satisfy the curiosity of my loyal readers.  

Here I am...

...this is me...

...your loyal correspondent...

...[insert drum roll here]...

...[and trumpet fanfare]...

...[curtain rising]... 1971.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The First Post of the Year...

...and it has to be about the fact that, effective January 10th, we in Boise are losing our only accessible Traditional Latin Mass (apart from the SSPX chapel).  The good Fr. Andrew Szymakowski, pastor of St. Bridget of Kildare in Nyssa, Oregon, is being transferred to another parish not far from Portland.  Apart from the SSPX chapel, this leaves Boiseans with no Traditional Latin Mass within 300 miles.

The Catholics of Nyssa, whether they know it or not, are most unfortunate to be losing Fr. Andrew.  He is a true shepherd, with the rod and the staff to prove it, and he's not afraid to use them: any wolf foolhardy enough to take on Fr. Andrew has met its match.  Although brought up by the FSSP (to which he no longer belongs), Father is perfectly willing to celebrate the Novus Ordo (for which he is hated and despised by the ├╝ber-trads); he clothes himself and his chalice in aesthetically pleasing vestments, says the black, does the red, and brooks no nonsense.  He takes seriously both his authority and his responsibility to exercise the same: he says yes when charity demands it, and no when no needs to be said, heedless of howls and derision.  He preaches doctrine fearlessly, plainly and straightforwardly, unafraid to step on toes or prick consciences.  He has been a friend to my chapter of lay Dominicans, and was good enough to concelebrate at the Mass where I made my perpetual profession in October.  And he is, besides all this, quite a character.  It is not possible to sit stony-faced and glum with Fr. Andy and his energetic personality at the table.  My friends and I who went out to Nyssa for Mass had many laughs with him over dinner afterward.  We will miss him very much.

And we will miss the Traditional Latin Mass.  Having endured the penance of 100-mile round trips, and given thanks for being spared the penance of getting up at 4:30 a.m. for it...well, I guess we put out of our minds all thought about the penance of not having it at all.  We did not attend for political reasons, or because we think the Novus Ordo is invalid, or because we wanted to bask in the glory of being an oppressed minority in the Church; we attended because we love the TLM as a thing worthy of being loved on its own merits. I, for one, get more truths of the Catholic faith from one Traditional Latin Mass than I got out of 12 years of Catholic school.  It is the same Mass, albeit with a few changes, that has nourished generations upon generations of saints: if Ignatius Loyola or Alphonsus Liguori or Don Bosco or Faustina, while still living on this earth, were to be plucked out of their own times and set down in a church during the Traditional Latin Mass now, in 2011, they would feel at home.   Now that I have a few dozen TLMs under my belt, I can read explanations of the Mass by St. Alphonsus or Dietrich von Hildebrand and understand what they are talking about.  And there is always something new to discover, something the meaning of which had never struck home before.  I am sorry to say that very few people attended.  It is unfortunate that so many excluded themselves from so much beauty, and from this inestimable treasure of our Catholic heritage.  It could have been even more beautiful still if Father had had the personnel to celebrate Missa Cantata or High Mass, but sufficient interest from those with the necessary qualifications could not be mustered.  And now it has been taken away.  I suppose that is only just.

God bless Fr. Andrew, and keep him safe, and prosper his ministry.  And God help us as we now turn to the task of bringing this pearl of great price, the Traditional Latin Mass, back and close to home.