Friday, March 31, 2006

Spring has sprung in Washington. The cherry blossoms are in bloom, and millions of people (well, it'll sure seem like millions) will out be in force to see them. So, all you readers in the DC area, please drive carefully and make this a safe weekend. You never know...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What is "Community" to you?

People use that word to mean any sort of hail-fellows-well-met gathering, to the point where its meaning has become diluted. Our suburban mentality remains, and when the fellowship is over, we retreat to our isolated enclaves, with neighbors we rarely see, much less get to know. Stephen Heiner has done a series on the issue of "Catholic community," using as a case study, Saint Mary's, Kansas, a town settled by German Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, and today the USA headquarters of the presumedly-schismatic (that is to say, if certain decrees are to be interpreted in a certain way) Society of Saint Pius X and many of their followers. While this writer has reservations about the SSPX, to say the least (although their publishing arm, Angelus Press, is an excellent source of material), Heiner's series (consisting of an Introduction, and Parts I, II, III, and IV) gives plenty of food for thought.

At one time it would have been understood; people would gravitate to their own kind, and live and work and worship in a setting which provided its own "comfort zone." The post-industrial era, the rise of single-use zoning, all enabled by the automobile, have scaled our lifestyles beyond the human scale, and have de-humanized our surroundings. It's one reason why after my marriage ended, I chose to leave the suburbs and live in town. I've never regretted that decision.

I began work last year on a series entitled "How then shall we live?" in response to the proposed building of Ave Maria, Florida. One thing led to another, and I was unable to complete the task. I intend to return to the subject one of these days. But a tip of the Black Hat goes to Mr Heiner for his initiative.

Thanks to Nicholas W of Traditio in Radice for the heads-up.
St Blog's Spinoffs

The key to good parody, is the ability to take those distinguishing characteristics of the subject matter, and take them to the ridiculous extreme. Rocco Palmo writes from Philadelphia for the British Catholic magazine The Tablet, among others. His role as a "Vatican insider" on Whispers in the Loggia has recently been lampooned in the form of Lispers in the Woggia, authored by one Konrad Huygens (at least that's who he or she says he or she is). I won't describe the attempt here; judge for yourself. And were that not enough, another Whispers Wannabe has emerged, in the form of Shouts in the Piazza, the work of a priest from New Jersey named Guy Sylvester. This one promises to be quite informative.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A "thirsty scribe" pays a visit to a monastery in Oklahoma.
Seen any good movies lately?

The weekend before last, we went to see V for Vendetta. The Post gave it a so-so review, wondering out loud how anyone could empathize with a character hiding behind a mask. I can assure you, we had no difficulty at all identifying with the hero of this film. In a temporary fit of admirable restraint, there's no sex scenes in this first-weekend-top-sales blockbuster. But it definitely ain't for the squeamish. Some people have likened the near-future dictatorship depicted with our current presidency. While I'm no apologist for this administration, that's a bit of a stretch. Paul says it's "the best movie so far this year." He knows more than the Post.

One that I'm also sure to see (and if I'm too late, I'm getting the DVD) is the musician's documentary Heart of Gold, which stars Neil Young, a Canadian singer-songwriter and grandaddy of the 1990s "grunge" movement. I've been a fan of his for years. In high school, I learned to play harmonica with a neck harness while playing guitar at the same time. It was Young, not Dylan, who inspired me. The movie shows us a close-up of the artist's performance at (where else?) Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, with vignettes of the artist's personal musings, and preparations for the event. It's a musician's movie, but also suitable fare for any devotee of the "Americana" sound.

Coming in late July, we have Flicka, the remake of the 1943 original little-girl-loves-her-horse film My Friend Flicka. In the latter-day version, Alison Lohman is a few years older than Rita Johnson in her day, so we've got a love story at more than one level in the works. I'll go see it for the breathtaking scenery which I could have seen in Brokeback Mountain but didn't because... well, you know.

Sal will go see it because it also stars Tim McGraw.

Monday, March 27, 2006

"I will go to the altar of God..."

One week ago today, the Diocese of Arlington announced that women and girls would be permitted to serve at the altar, a privilege heretofore allowed only to men and boys. Arlington was one of two dioceses in the USA which restricted altar service in parishes to males, since the Holy See permitted local bishops to open the role to females in 1994*. With this decision, only the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, reserves the privilege for males. Amid the blogosphere and e-mail chatter on the topic, this writer had an opportunity to reflect on his own experience...

+ + +


When I was a little boy, the Mass was still in Latin, the classical texts still in use. I remember being too small to see over the heads of the grownups, but my Dad got me a pocket-size Latin-English missal by the time I entered the third grade, and I could follow with the priest and the servers. The Church in "the Queen City of the West" could not have been accused of a "low Mass mentality." Before the day began at the parish school, a daily High Mass was the norm. Students sang the chants they learned from the Ward Method, and the "Archdiocesan Young People's Hymnal" was used as the older children sang hymns like "O Esca Viatorum" in two parts. (Interestingly, there were no indignant harpies telling us to "shoosh" when we responded to the priest turning to us and saying "Orate fratres..." or "Ecce agnus Dei..." One wonders how we ever managed!)

By the time I old enough to serve in the mid-sixties, certain changes were already being made. But the old high altar was still present in my parish church for as long as possible, the Mass settings were still in Latin (with a magnificent Gloria composed by our organist and sung by our choir), and our beloved pastor, Father Carl Steinbicker, took it upon himself to train all who entered the Holy of Holies.

The first year was an apprenticeship, when we didn't do the Mass yet, but memorized our parts as we were relegated to the Friday rosary and Benediction. Father would call out the mysteries, but the boys led the people in the Hail Marys. Those who served well (yours truly included) would be taken on field trips. A wealthy parishioner had a mansion across the river, and Father used his friendship with them to gain us access to the pool. There were jaunts to amusement parks and all that as well. But looking back, I get the distinct impression that we really were being encouraged to consider a vocation to the priesthood. To put it another way, we were being trained, in advance!

And of that age group, three of us entered the seminary. One is now a married priest of the Byzantine Rite. Another was vice-rector at North American College in Rome during the 1990s (and known to many younger priests of the Arlington Diocese), and is now rector at the seminary in Cincinnati. Not too shabby.

What did the girls make of all this? Quite honestly, I don't remember. In fact, I can't recall that it mattered. But I know that we as upcoming Catholic gentlemen were expected to be courteous to the ladies among us. In the third grade, dear old Mrs Gilligan assigned each of us boys a girl, to take her coat and hang it up in the morning. When we lined up for lunch, the girls' line went first. We even had separate lines at the bus stop. In time, we didn't have to make the offer; the girls just assumed it. In the midst of all this courtesy, the idea of girls serving at the altar didn't seem to come up. Then again, neither was any set of rules for "acting like a lady" toward the gentlemen.

Life in that parish went on after I left in 1980, as one might expect. But several years later, it changed forever.

It seems the old professor in the rectory was replaced by a younger, more "dynamic" pastor, who eventually came under pressure to use girls as altar servers. The discipline of the time forbade this. So he announced in the bulletin that the role of "altar server" would be eliminated, to be replaced by a position known as "altar attendant," which would include both boys and girls. But, the important point of this story is that, twelve years after it became a legitimate form of service, those who serve at the altar in the parish where I grew up, to this very day, are still referred to as "altar attendants." But as transparent and as juvenile as all this sounds -- and I have the bulletin announcement on file, so I can prove it -- everybody at the time bought it. Hook, line, and sinker! Everyone, that is, except for my old man, who actually called him up on the phone and gave him a good going-over. Compare this to hundreds of otherwise perfectly intelligent and mature adults, many of whom I have known since childhood, who hold real jobs and pay mortgages just like real grownups.

(Maybe Abe Lincoln was wrong; seems you really can fool all the people all the time.)


I've had occasion to serve Mass as an adult. I've served for the Old Mass as well as the reformed, for the Roman Rite as well as the Byzantine Rite. I trained servers for conventions, and even did a concelebration of Dominicans at the Basilica of the National Shrine. Once, a visiting archbishop came from the Philippines, for a special Mass of local countrymen. Sal and I showed up some time before, to find them woefully unprepared, with two boys in shorts and sneakers who had never served a bishop, corralled at the last minute. The parish didn't even provide access to the sacred vessels in the sacristy. With little time to spare, and a nervous archbishop wondering what would happen next, I stepped in and got the key from the secretary ("Will you be needing communion ministers?" "Madame, we aren't even gonna have Communion unless we move quickly, if you please..."), delegated tasks to the boys, and was putting my own vestments on even as the procession began. After all, someone had to know when to remove and replace the archbishop's mitre. He appeared quite relieved to know that I had shown up and saved him from some discomfort. Such was also the case the following Sunday morning at the same parish, when he processed to the altar -- alone. I went to the sacristy, vested quickly, and approached his chair from the side just as the opening prayer was finished. Genuflecting in his presence and kissing his ring, he greeted me with a smile of relief as I said in a low voice: "Your Excellency, I was in the neighborhood, and thought you could use a hand." It seemed the right thing to do at the time.

As much as I still love serving at God's altar, I realize there's more to the task than playing dress-up, and that it is by no means an entitlement. That I am aware of this is bred in the bone, no thanks to me, but to those who trained me long ago. Will we be able to say the same of the girls when they reach adulthood?

Over the years, in my self-directed study of the liturgical arts, I found a case for liberalizing the practice and opening the role to females. The traditional restriction was not so much against service at the altar, as it was the presbyterium, the place of presiding, essentially the sanctuary. With permission for women to read the Scriptures before the Gospel in 1971, the barrier had effectively been lifted. If women were qualified to conduct Communion services under extraordinary circumstances, what was the point in selectively retaining the barrier? To put it another way, the best reason to eliminate the practice was that there was no compelling reason left to retain it.

In the meantime, I was for a few years associated with a Jesuit parish in the city, one which shall remain nameless. I used to attempt to volunteer for the acolyte position, but was constantly told all the slots were filled. About that time, the openings multiplied for the sake of female participation, some years before Rome granted permission. I remember hearing the adults chatter amongst themselves about how they were defying the Archbishop, and appearing to be downright proud of it. As a sacristan of that parish in later years, it seemed to me that some of the women who served had a chip on their shoulders a mile wide. They weren't much help between the Masses either.

At that point, it occurred to me that this function had less to do with genuine service, and more to do with appearances. I had always been taught that it was a privilege to serve at the altar, something reinforced even in adulthood, when I served on occasion. With time and sufficient reflection, I came to prefer the traditional observance (and I've written about that in an earlier piece entitled "They also serve...". Yet even by then, the presence of women in the sanctuary bothered me less than the baggage they (or their parents) often carried with them.

The pattern became clear. When males served, it was a privilege; when females served, it was a statement. Justice, in the end, was still to be found wanting.


This deprivation is initially apparent as Arlington comes to join the rest of the country. We may tell ourselves we are doing this out of fairness. But both stand to be treated very differently, one from the other. If a pastor tells little Johnny, no, we have all we need, thank you, he doesn't have to worry about the fallout when Mass is over. Can the good Father say that about little Suzy?

The "Particular Norms for Altar Servers in the Diocese of Arlington", published by the Diocese, is downloadable from their website, and is unlikely to be read by most of the faithful. While the related article in the Arlington Catholic Herald is informative, it is not complete. This document is worth a closer look.

Some provisions take the Holy See's universal norms into account: "[T]he Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has also led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue." (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences, Prot. n. 2482/93, March 15, 1994) All well and good, but that won't discourage those parishes whose people and/or pastor have been agitating for this. It certainly won't mean diddley to the two pastors who have been quoted in the local press, and who have openly attempted to flaunt the rules themselves until now.

Returning to the "Particular Norms," there is sufficient emphasis given to the discretion of the pastor, and the need for prior consultation with confreres in the same assignment, and the parish pastoral council. The priest's discretionary role is in keeping with the universal norms as well, and it underscores the nature of the acolytal role, as one whose essential purpose is to serve the priest, as opposed to a cause or a committee. While there is room for "pastoral sensitivity" when dealing with those young ladies whose service may not be preferred by a priest assigned to a Mass on short notice, it is clear that the use of males as a traditional norm is not to be discounted in the long run. Indeed, should the indulgence outlive its usefulness, there is provision for a pastor to return to the practice of males only.

There is attention given to the need for understanding the responsibilities involved, and for proper training. This would have been a good idea anyway. At one parish I used to frequent, the role of altar service went noticeably downhill in just a few years, with boys missing the procession and stumbling into the sanctuary late with continued regularity. In other places, they have been little more than decoration, such that one would wonder why pastors even bothered with them.

One of the more unique provisions concerns not only the proper decorum, but "...servers must be instructed to exercise good judgment with regard to clothing that may be visible outside of their vesture, so as to avoid items (including but not limited to ostentatious or excessive jewelry, bright colors, glitter or spangles, athletic or other inappropriate footwear, etc.) that might be distracting to the faithful or otherwise detract from the dignity of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Makeup and hair color, if any, must be minimal and present a natural and wholesome appearance. Any tattoos or piercings (other than ears) should be discouraged and, if present, must be covered to the greatest extent practicable." Watching a young lady at the altar cross her legs to show how little she has on underneath her robe, will not speak well for her presence there. (Happened at my sister's wedding. Good Lord, what do their mothers tell them anyway???)

Another noteworthy provision involves a common challenge nationwide, where females tend to predominate the ranks of altar servers once they are introduced: "[S]pecial effort must be made to retain males to serve at the altar as well, such that females do not tend to predominate. Reasonable steps are to be taken to ensure that former servers continue... If, over time, female servers come to predominate at a parish and the situation is not rectified by the pastor, permission for the use of female servers at that parish may be withdrawn by the Bishop." This would appear to respect both the universal norms, and the sensibilities of boys of pre- and early adolescent age, concerning their social interaction with females.

Perhaps the most curious provision of all (were the above not enough) concerns the differences in vesture: "If female altar servers are used, they must be vested in albs or similar altar robes. Cassocks and surplices may not be worn by female servers. For male servers, albs may be worn, or vesture of cassocks and surplices may be chosen, at the pastor's discretion." No reason is given for this difference. One might speculate that this is meant to respect in advance, the pre-disposition of a given parish towards a more conservative approach to liturgy. Obviously any pastor can run out and spend up to a couple thousand dollars on a complete set of albs. Obviously, someone might want to donate that much to the parish, if only their little Suzie would be allowed to serve Mass. Obviously there's a lesson here somewhere.

Then again, if my little Johnny wants to serve, and the pastor tells me the ranks are full, and I observe that most of them are girls... well, there's a lesson here too. Not to mention a chance to tie up the good Father in paperwork.


It should be made clear to the reader of this essay, that this writer has no harsh words for the young lady who genuinely aspires to serve at the altar with the proper disposition. One local "samizdat" newsletter opined that "girl altar boys" were the work of the devil. I'm not sure I'd go that far. No, my quarrel is not with Suzie; it's with her parents and the other ambitious adults around her. Many of them are not motivated by the notion of service. In so doing, they give their opponents all the ammunition they need, and set a bad example for their daughters. This swarm of aging adolescents delight in flaunting their defiance of a legitimate authority at any chance, and rub the noses of their detractors in their success. Their behavior is a distraction from the true message of the Gospel, as service becomes less about our actions, and more about appearances. What is worse, it turns the Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen gentium, 11; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324), into an ideological battleground. The young ladies quoted in the local press have learned the wrong lesson in the course of their endeavor. They and their enablers serve no one but themselves.

At the end of the day, two things will remain sacred. First, where the Catholic Church is concerned, only men will be called to the priesthood. And second, when a luxury liner goes down at sea, only men will be called to give up their spaces in the lifeboats.

Can someone tell me what's "fair" about that?

+ + +

* The manner in which this permission was granted is not exactly cause for a boast. The late Pope John Paul II did not approve female altar servers per se. What he actually did was approve the interpretation of a particular canon, so as to suggest that nothing would impede such an innovation. There is actually a difference, especially for one known to have confided to others: "If we allow altar girls, we will soon have no altar boys." Vatican insiders have long been aware that when the late Pope signed on the matter in question, he was in considerable abdominal discomfort, a fact known to those in the Curia who wished to move this initiative forward. When the announcement was actually made in 1994, it was premature. In order for it to be law, it had to have been published in the "Acts of the Apostolic See," which is the record of all legislative and administrative decisions. As such, it would be given what is called a "protocol number." Alas, this announcement did not have one, and so was illicit at the start. Many canonists throughout the world were astonished at the handling of the matter. Indeed, the late former Arlington Bishop John Keating, who sat on the commission for interpretation of legislative texts (which reviewed the matter in question originally) and was an eminent canonist in his day, was as surprised as anyone by the eventual announcement.
Monday Morning Musings

I've been writing over the weekend, on something I had hoped to post by Friday, but... well, one thing leads to another, you know?

When Bishop Loverde was appointed to Arlington, I got a lot of questions about what he'd do about two things in particular. Now, of course, the whole world knows the answer. Less well known is what will come of them. I'm preparing to respond to one now, the other later.

Meanwhile, "Don Jim" Tucker observes that he gets fewer complaints from the pro-altar-girl crowd, and plenty from the Latin-Mass-or-die crowd. "I would also point out the instructive fact that, although the right wing has been very loud and at times quite savage about the altar-girl permission, I have yet to see or hear a single negative comment from the left wing about the permission for the Old Mass. In fact, the only negative comments I've heard about it have come from conservatives." Implicit is the notion is that this represents the "sensus fidelum" of Catholics in northern Virginia. Oh yeah, like the white-wine-and-brie-cheese-New-York-Times-reading-Volvo-driving set would come running for counsel to a good Father with the audacity to run around in a cassock with some regularity, and speak with a distinct sense of Catholicity. (Sorry, Padre, the universe doesn't work that way. All in good time...)

I do enjoy his work, though, inasmuch as he is one of the few true "renaissance men" in the Catholic blogosphere, other than... well, moi!

That's all for now. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Altar Girls for the Latin Mass: An Update

(Just kidding; they're separate.)

"Don Jim" Tucker provides his own reflection on the news for the Diocese of Arlington. In the meantime, the norms for both female acolytes and the 1962 Missale Romanum can be found here.

More to come...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Two indulgences for the price of one!

Two notices will appear in the upcoming edition of the Arlington Catholic Herald:

"Bishop Paul S Loverde... has asked Fathers Christopher Mould and Edward Hathaway (pictured at right) to celebrate a weekly 1962 Latin Mass — sometimes known as a Tridentine Mass — at St Lawrence and St John Parishes, where they serve as pastors, respectively."

"Bishop Paul S Loverde has announced an expansion of the Diocese of Arlington’s policy permitting women and girls to serve at the altar during Mass..."

More as these develop -- and they probably will.

My Life As A “Charity Case”

The following was reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer last Saturday:

"Sister Louise Ackers, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, and Ruth Steinert Foote have been passionate about women's ordination in the Roman Catholic Church for more than 20 years. And next Saturday, they will sponsor an appearance by one of three women in the world illegally ordained as Roman Catholic bishops..."

Rich Leonardi is from Cincinnati, and has posted on this subject in his weblog Ten Reasons. I have been led to believe I have "opened a can of worms" in bringing this discussion to the question of official sanction. There are those who would ask, "Where in the hell does he get off by doing this?"

Well, I'll tell ya.

The parish school I attended as a boy in the 1960s, was staffed by members of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, an offshoot of the original Sisters in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and the order founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton. They were the backbone for the Church's education and health care systems, in one of Middle America's greatest cities.

They've come a long way since then. Recently, they announced on their website, the "World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination," and leave us with the distinct impression, of their willingness to cooperate with any future "ordination" of priestesses. Presumedly, their role as champions against patriarchy and oppression is secure -- enough so as to overlook their own role in the "bad old days."

My first grade teacher, Sister Mary Lewis (her real name, as I don't give a rat's behind!), beat the crap out of me. By this I mean she would grab a six-year old boy by his arm, and beat him repeatedly on the back with a clenched fist. She was not above head games either. After demanding that you apologize for your offense, she would answer with "Oh, you are NOT sorry!" I was one of the lucky ones. A girl in the class had trouble answering questions put to her, possibly due to a learning disability. She was barely given a chance to stand before Sister rushed to her desk and attacked her physically. This could go on for several consecutive days, as though part of some perverse daily ritual. Several classmates had wet their pants in their desks at one time or another, possibly out of sheer terror.

There was no escape once you reached the second grade. If "Miss H" found you more than she could handle, she'd go across the hall for some "muscle" from... guess who?

Still, I remember when my sister Mary was in the hospital in the mid-sixties, and had occasion to see Sister in her infirmity. As I recall, Mary described her as apologizing profusely for the injuries she had brought upon us.

In later years, I learned that the Sister who was principal back then, was in the infirmary at the Motherhouse. My attempts to see her about ten years ago, were put off by the various Sisters in charge of her care. I gave no indication of any hidden reason for my visit, and she died before I could confront her with any lingering questions about those days. To tell the truth, I'm not really sure what I would have said. Maybe just... hello.

I suppose I turned out alright, but according to a classmate with whom I spoke two years ago, others were not so lucky.

Then there was another Sister Mary Somebody, my brother's fourth-grade teacher, a native of Ireland who wasn't above calling some miscreant a "jack-ass." It seems Steve was the subject of a lengthy phone conversation between her and our Mom -- a conversation that was cut short when it was learned we were listening in on the extension.

My eighth-grade teacher, who doubled as principal, was... well, not known for her interpersonal skills. We eighth-graders would be given responsibilities over the younger ones during recreation -- "squad leaders," we were called. Once I was holding the restroom door open for my young charges, as they made their way to the cafeteria line. Sister walked by, and in a sarcastic tone, told me: "You are doing a great job." I didn't quite get it, so I asked what she meant. "Don't you ever cross me, or I'll smack you," she responded. I still didn't quite get it. Right about that time, my parish went through its own proverbial post-Vatican II melodrama; you know, the one where the old-school, fuddy-duddy pastor is at odds with the young, dynamic associate pastor, and everybody chooses sides. Turns out Sister might have been a "player" herself, as there were whispers that she was collaborating with an influential family of the parish, on a way to get rid of the old pastor.

Now, I should be very clear in this story, that I cannot prove any of this connivence. For me, it is little more than hearsay. But I knew more than one person who claimed intimate knowledge of the unholy alliance.

One of them was my father.

Dad remembered a very different Sisters of Charity, women who lived up to their name and their charism. As the son of a man who was known to, uh, drink a bit, life at home was not always a happy one. The good Sisters were not unaware of certain local goings-on, and knew how to find sufficient after-school distractions for a troubled young man, from altar service to band practice. He remembered how happy they were in their vocations, and stayed in touch with one in particular, Sister Ann Simien, until her death.

I too have happy memories of some of them. One of them, Sister Shiela Marie (later Sister Jacqueline) took me to be unusually bright, and attempted her own "gifted and talented" program for me, by giving me challenging books to read. Let's face it; Bishop Sheen is more than most fifth-graders are likely to handle. Sister was also quite adept on ice skates, and I can still remember her sharing our delight at an impromptu hockey game.

I have also since read of how things transpired for women Religious in this country, as the century reached mid-point; how the postwar boom was met with greater demands on Catholic education and other apostolates. Sisters were able to go to college, to learn new ideas, only to return to being overworked and undercompensated, at times under the supervision of men who showed little understanding of their situation. (An fascinating inside account is Nun: A Memoir, by Mary Gilligan Wong.) The cracks in the ediface were forming, and it took an ecumenical council, and a subsequent revolution in popular culture, to bring those tensions to the breaking point. And that's just the short version.

Like I said, I was one of the lucky ones. But why make these childhood memories the object of so much attention?

A major premise of those who agitate for "reform" in the Church, is that some sort of "power sharing" with these women would be the herald of a new, enlightened era for the Church, and a kinder, gentler presence in the world. But if we really want to know what they would do in the future, we need only remember what they have done up until the present. A generation of Catholic schoolchildren, many of whom were NEVER touched inappropriately by a priest, have stories similar to my own, or worse. These accounts are just insignificant enough to fade into memory, and are remarkable only in their sheer volume.

But I would pose a question to the good Sisters, should they be contemplating a boat cruise in the near future, amidst the waves of their own foolishness.

Imagine if the "volume" were turned up. What then?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ite ad Ioseph... one more time!

"Don Jim" Tucker reminds us that the feast of St Joseph (transferred from Sunday to today) is actually more significant to the Church year than St Paddy's Day. He fails to mention that, when the Church spread across America in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, most of her bishops here were Irish and not Italian. Be that as it may, he draws our attention to Fish Eaters, a site with helpful hints for making the most of today.

Fortunately, I've got a can of minestrone soup at home, so I'm all set.
In Phoebe's Footsteps

Jacob at Vatican Watcher reports on a challenge to Benedict XVI recently, to which he responded with a "bombshell" of his own: "Don Marco Valentini, a 39-year-old parochial vicar of.. the Diocese of Rome... asked his bishop, who happens to be Pope Benedict XVI, why not include women in the governance of the church?... Benedict dropped an ecclesiastical bombshell... that sacramental ordination to priesthood was not the only avenue to ministerial service, but "nevertheless, it is right to ask oneself if more space, more positions of responsibility, can be given to women, even in the ministerial services. He did not elaborate..."

The writer of the Newsday piece, Phyllis Zagano, elaborates for us. Her book Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church, does just that, and she gives a clue as to how, as she did last year in a Commonweal article based on her book.

Now, if you want to know what she doesn't tell you, you need to read something I wrote back in 1996 for the Arlington Catholic Herald entitled "A Rose By Any Other Name: The Ordination of Women to the Diaconate," which has since been preserved at the EWTN Online Library. (For openers, the term "ordination" — in Greek, "chierotonia"— was more broadly defined for much of Church history, and did not always imply the reception of Holy Orders.)

I'm hoping later this year to update the piece, and have it pubished elsewhere, taking into account, not only the misleading areas in Zagano's book (which were foreseen in my original piece), but new developments in the Orthodox Churches, some of which have begun to restore deaconesses to their historic role in the Church, especially the Greeks and the Antiochians.

That's right, I said "deaconess." They are not the same as deacons, as my article takes pains to point out. Meanwhile, a more sensible approach to the topic (if to be read cum grano salus from a Catholic perspective) is to be found in Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church: Called to Holiness and Ministry, by Kyriaki Karidoyanes Fitzgerald.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Not just your average Joe! (from an entry for this day in 2004)

"Today is the Feast of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, and foster father of Jesus. As a solemnity (first-class feast) of the liturgical year having fallen on a Friday, the usual requirement of abstinence from meat is dispensed for this day..."

That last tidbit might answer a couple of queries from readers of a few days ago. Obviously, this observance is superseded by the Third Sunday of Lent. But that should not deter the sons of Italy (and daughters too!) from remembering their beloved patron. To all of you (including my beloved bishop, Paul S Loverde), a special tip of the Black Hat. Ciao, kids!

(UPDATE: Another hat tip goes out to Jeff "The Curt Jester" Miller, for reminding us that the feast -- a solemnity, actually, or first class feast for you die-hards of the old school -- transfers to a Monday observance this year. As an example to fathers and carpenters everywhere, old Joe could go for a two-day soiree now and then!)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Of course, we don't have to ask about that for which the Apostle of Ireland is best known, do we? "Agus fagaimid siud mar ata se."
How an Irishman Thinks

Fitness guru and all-around bad-@$$ Matt Furey gives his tribute to the Irish. One wonders whether it is reminiscent of what G K Chesterton once wrote of them, in his epic poem "The Ballad of the White Horse":

"For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad."

Ah, Christmas in Killarney on Saint Patrick's in June...

There are no doubt any number of Americans of recent Third World ancestry who wonder what the fuss is about today. Even until the current generation, the feast of St Patrick was a religious holiday in the land of his patronage. Irish Catholics went to Mass as a holyday of obligation, and the bars were closed. Then along came the Americans, descendents of the exiles from the great potato famine of the early 19th century, with their green beer and their St Paddy's parades.

The truth is, just over ten percent of the USA population claims ancestry from the Emerald Isle (this author and his family are not among them), exactly 30,528,492 of them according to the 2000 Census, and over seven times the population of Ireland itself, which stood at 4 million in 2003.

But that could be on the rise, as Western companies look to Erin's shores for cheap labor in the high-tech industries.* Already the American influence is felt in, of all things, the aforementioned parade. See it for yourself in this video feed from The Irish Times Sadly, some of the old neighborhood pubs are giving way to the huge franchise variety. Now that is pathetic!

I generally don't go out of my way to wear green on this day. But I do have a button I wear, a line from a poem by William Butler Yeats: "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree..."

And two years ago, I wrote my manifesto on all things Irish, entitled "My Celtic Moment."

Finally, if you're in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this weekend, and are in the mood for local theatre, go see "The Irish... and How They Got That Way."

* Personally, I hope they take over some of the toll-free numbers from India, where the command of English leaves much to be desired (and they're not much help either). Besides, I'd rather argue with an Irishman.
Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

(Regards to Julianne Wiley for sending this in.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Arlington Gets The Indult!!!

No, not that one, you dolt -- THIS one:

"Although Roman Catholics over the age of 14 are obliged to abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent, Catholics of the Diocese of Arlington are dispensed from this obligation on March 17, 2006, in observance of Saint Patrick’s Day as long as they choose another day during the week..."

Personally, I'm choosing Wednesday, which was a traditional day for abstinence during Lent, in addition to abstinence year-round on Friday. So that no one thinks the Church is going to the dogs over this one, a similar decree in past generations was not unusual for Saint Joseph's Day, which falls on a Sunday this year. (UPDATE: The observance of Saint Joseph is transferred to the following Monday, and Rocco Palmo tells us how the Italians celebrate it.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

We all know someone like this in the family, don't we? (Good thing it's not me, right, Pat?)
Okay, so I missed the Oscars!

Paradise Lost (Fox & Corrum)

I'm just relieved that "Brokeback Mountain" didn't get Best Picture. I'm even more relieved that the crown jewel went to a relatively unknown low-budget film from several years ago, which only got any widespread attention at all because Lions Gate Films picked up the distribution.

It's been a busy week at this end too. Like most of the "B List," I work for a living. But it's the funniest thing. Right after I signed up as an Amateur, I got a call from (dare I utter this), an admirer of my work from Maryland. That's a first for me alright. Now that it appears I've got some sort of cult following -- egad, did I really say that? -- I'd love to start a speaking tour in the area this summer, just as soon as I figure out what to say. But first, I'd love to get Dom Alcuin Reid to come to these parts, as long as he's in the States for a spell. I've got one of my best men on it. (Okay, a sympathetic pastor. You da man, Padre!)

Meanwhile, back on campus, we're coming into the last week. I have to give a presentation on the revamping of a website. My choice is none other than Catholic Charities USA.

Also, my boy Leroy Thomas, the best dressed man in Zydeco, is in town this weekend. "Somebody's lookin' for ya..."

Oh, and look for a new addition to "The Usual Suspects" entitled "Refdesk." If I didn't use this for a default page, I'd be using that. A tip of the Black Hat to "MK" for giving me the heads-up. You go, grrrl.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Because I can't be expected to think of everything...

Amateur Catholic B-Team Member

Tommy Boy of The Donegal Express explains: "In 1972 a crack Catholic commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they did not commit. These Catholics promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the blogosphere underground. Today, still wanted by We Are Church, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem with your DRE, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the B-Team."

Once they realize what they're missing, the Bs will be joined by yours truly at the new site Amateur Catholic (linked by clicking on the above). Stay tuned...

Keep the faith. Lose the attitude. HOO-rah.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Clear Signal Returns

Occasionally, this weblog brings the viewer a slice of Cincinnati life from this place of exile, including the unique local radio stations. One of them has played a significant role in American broadcasting history.

WLW was a powerful voice in the American midsection, and homes across the nation were tuned in to 700 kilohertz. With an output of one hundred thousand watts (down to fifty thousand before mid-century due to revised FCC regulations), and the distinction of being a "clear channel" station, everything from the big band sounds, to "hillbilly music," to news and farm reports, could be heard. From its downtown Cincinnati studios, local talent such as Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and the Williams Brothers (one of whom was Andy, who later went on to recording and television), were enjoyed by millions, along with the guitar sounds of a boy from Tennessee named Chet Atkins.

Then along came television and FM radio, and the station evolved with the times. In recent years, WLW has gained prominence for its news and talk format, and as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds. Eventually, other stations emerged on the 700 kHz band, albeit in far-reaching parts of the USA.

But now, it gets its clear signal back. XM Radio has just announced that WLW is joining its lineup of talk channels later this month. "The Nation's station" is once again available coast to coast via satellite. Among the on-air personalities I remember from my youth are Jim Scott, a popular rock-and-roll deejay from the old WSAI station in the 60s and 70s. Not only that, but I can fall asleep listening to America's Truckin' Network with Steve Sommers.

Just like goin' on a road trip while fallin' asleep. It can happen.

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's gonna be a busy weekend at the computer. I only hope things don't get this unreal.
"The child is father to the man." - Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)

People tend to see a "right" as akin to doing or saying whatever the hell it is they want, when in fact it is no such thing. It's bad enough explaining this to kids, let alone adults. In the following case, it does not include the right to misrepresent, or to lie outright.

To wit, it's now "lawyers, guns, and money" at a high school in Colorado. Expose the Left has the lowdown: "Sean Allen, the student who outed a teacher who spewed anti-American and anti-Bush remarks, appeared on Hannity & Colmes tonight to discuss the story. Alan immediately came out not on the teacher’s side, so he would look like a non-deranged liberal, but it was obvious he was just doing that to protect himself."

Now, the persual by the United States, of a Wilsonian foreign policy, is hardly a new direction, and (regardless of what anyone in Hollywood thinks) hardly limited to Republican administrations. So when a geography teacher starts giving his own brand of civics lesson by comparing Bush to Hitler -- well, Bush might be deemed reckless at worst, but hardly bent on ruling the world.

The video at ETL is worth watching. (Windows Media Player required.)
Bring back the tiara, and we'll call it even.

Personally, I recommend for anyone who takes over as head of a large long-standing institution, not to make any significant changes during the first year on the job. Of course, now that we have a pope who doesn't return my calls (which I've gotten used to because none of them do), the numerous wardrobe revivals -- you know, the ermine mozetta, the red slippers with white stockings, the Gregorian pallium, I could go on -- may have all led up to a whopper of a revision, all without the benefit of my counsel.

To explain...

When Benedict XVI begins a decree, he does so with all his titles. They are:

Bishop of Rome,
Vicar of Jesus Christ,
Successor of the Prince of Apostles,
Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church,
Primate of Italy,
Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Province,
Sovereign of Vatican City and (most important),
Servant of the Servants of God.

By now, a few of you know which one is missing: Patriarch of the West.

There are traditionally five patriarchates whose origins date to the earliest of times -- Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Rome. To this day, all but one of them is in (and of) the East. That leaves Rome on its own side of the Bosporus. Over the centuries, a different significance to the concept of a patriarch arose. Now, I'd take the time to explain all this, and why this omission was deemed necessary by the Holy Father in mending fences with the Orthodox. But others have explained it already, and do so better than I could. After all, some ecclesiastical matters are too arcane even for ME! So tune in to Michelle Arnold of Jimmy Akin Incorporated, Drew of the Holy Whappers, "Dom Jim" the Dappler of Things, and finally, Rocco Palmo the Loggia Whisperer.

More on the tiara story as it develops. Rocco???

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Where The Heart Is

My son Paul and I went to dinner last night -- something we don't get to do often enough. I listened to his account of his maternal grandmother's funeral, and the goings-on of people I actually once knew as family. If you want to know why divorce as a concept is inherently without sense, you can contemplate that for a moment.

For my part, I've become accustomed to the idea. The greater challenge, is the knowledge that Paul and I have not lived together regularly since he was five, for reasons over which I had no control. Now, as a young man of twenty, he is puzzled by the prospect that anything all that serious has been missed. I wondered out loud if he would know what it is to have a father, let alone to be one someday. I'm sure we'll get through this passage somehow, but I wonder...

I also wonder if he really has the sense of place that I knew as a boy. He wants to leave Arlington and move back to the area west of the Beltway, to that suburban nebula that he has known most of his life. As development encroaches ever rapidly, the landmarks change to the point beyond recognition. Were he to leave this area, say, for five or ten years, would he recognize anything upon his return? Would anyone be left to recognize him?

After twenty-five years in what is politely referred to as "the Nation's capital," I am lucky if the best friends I have made here return my calls within a few days. (Can so many of you be so important?) On the other hand, I can return to Cincinnati, to the town in the eastern outskirts where I grew up, and it can be as though I never left. Even to the present day, my calls get returned much more easily there.

All of this is food for thought, as I considered Maclin Horton's reflection on retaining a sense of place -- one of a series of Sunday night reflections, this one entitled "Staying Put."

If I'm lucky, Paul will read it, and will save me the trouble of further explanation.