Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Powerpuff Girls

Blossom, Commander and the Leader
Bubbles, she's the joy and the laughter
Buttercup, she's the toughest fighter
Powerpuffs save the day!!!

(Note: this post has not a thing to do with the mass or the catholic church, it's just a Father bragging.)

I am blessed enough to have not only a beautiful wife, but three beautiful children. A friend of my wifes once said, "Oh, just like the Powerpuff Girls!!!" And she (unknowingly) hit it right on the head. Allow me to explain...

First, we have soon to be six year old "Blossom" (see middle character above) - though I call her princess. Since an incredibly early age she has been creative, intellectual, and always wanting to direct things. When we play she says things like "you stand here, and say___" She still is that way. Only now she spends as much time "mothering" and teaching her little sisters as she does telling me how to play. Definitely the Commander and the Leader! Daddy already has her pegged to be a nun - or more of a Mother Superior.

Second comes three year old "Buttercup" (on the right above), whom I nicknamed "Wild Thing". Strong willed, strong physically, VERY physical, and absolutely fearless. And with a pain threshold almost beyond belief. Since she was about 6 months old we called her "the bowling ball", based on her seeming indestructibility and penchant for ramming in to and knocking over things. The toughest fighter indeed!!!! I can easily see her, wearing a flight suit, helmet in hand, on the deck of an aircraft carrier, climbing into the cockpit of an F-18.

Third comes "Bubbles" (on the left above) - nickname "Cherry Pie". She's beautiful beyond all reason. Never seen a child smile and laugh so much. Of course now that she is almost two, the smile and laugh times are contrasted sharply with the insufferably moody ones, but she is still a sweetheart most of the time. I can't imagine the exact career choice for this one, but her love of dancing and music, combined with her looks, means that all of the ones I do imagine scare the heck out of me. Maybe I'll get lucky and she'll be the next Danica Patrick, on the cover of Sports Illustrated with good reason, and good looks, rather than just the latter.

Or maybe I am just a crazy dad with crazy ideas for his girls....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The 1962 Missal - Hazard warning...

Recently, there have been some word from Rome (via the person on Card. Castrillon Hoyos) that the Holy Father wants to see the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (MEF) celebrated at least weekly in every parish in the Roman Catholic World. Needless to say I think that this is a WONDERFUL Idea!!! How to effect that change is another matter entirely. The MEF is supposed to be part of the "fabric of the church" . It cannot be, and will never be, such if it is limited to a few masses in a few churches, attended by MEF "enthusiasts" who travel to these masses exclusively. I understand how important the MEF is, and why one would want to abandon everyday parish life to experience the beauty and reverence it offers, and so I do not mean to disrespect those who are doing this very thing already. But if the MEF is to be the key to the restoration of the church, it simply MUST NOT be allowed to fall (in reality or perception) into the realm of a liturgical Grateful Dead Tour, complete with a following of chanting, latin-loving "deadheads".

This potential was noted quite eloquently by Fr. George William Rutler in an interview with the New Liturgical Movement:

" Unless the usus antiquior is more widely available, it could end up being the exotic indulgence of few for whom it can function as a symbol of other problems they have with the Church and with life in general. Quite simply if it is not centric it will be eccentric and will give the impression that it is for people who do not want to face the challenges of our age. When the usus antiquior is rare, it attracts the rara avis type of person who discourages others..." .

The entire interview is on the NLM blog, and I recommend it highly.

But the point is well taken. If the MEF is able to be pigeonholed into a special category - for Latin mass speciallist only, we are doomed. The traditional mass MUST be gotten into as many parishes as possible and quickly. Every week, or month of delay allows the perception to sink in that those who appreciate the older mass are simply cranks who hold desperately to the past. The opponents - no enemies - of the 1962 missal, and Summorum Pontificum are already using this tactic as the main thrust of their opposition, so it must be cut off quickly, or else the vast majority of Catholics worldwide will see the 1962 missal - and reverence - and Latin - and Catholic identity, as something that doesn't apply to them. And never will.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Liturgical Thoughts, Part II

ONCE upon a time at a sales training class I took, the instructor (a quite successful race-car driver turned consultant) used a true, but politically incorrect saying:
"They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but that's really not true. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but if you put him back in the same yard, he is going to poop in the same spot". The point being that training and seminars and books can teach you the right thing to do, but unless your environment changes, you are doomed to revert to the same old routines.

And so it goes with the liturgy. No amount of Papal suggestions, no books, no amount of training or retreats, will address the liturgical doldrums we are in unless something fundamental breaks the cycle. That is something that can only be done from the top down, and only with care and deliberate movement on the part of the Church. Certainly there are a quite a few priests, such as Father Longenecker who, along with his Pastor are taking the initiative to bring their own parishes liturgy around to something reverent and impressive, but they are the exception. For every one of them there are 9 who will not do it even if they think it is right, either from an aversion to parishoner complaints, or a fear of retribution from the hierarchy. And excepted from both categories are those who don't think anything is wrong with slouchmasses to begin with. Just as there are many who like Haugen/Hass/Schutte music, there are (usually the same) people who think that the liturgy is just fine the way it is.

So then, where to start? What changes can be clearly mandated in a non-fudgeable way to start the ball rolling toward the reverent liturgy that is both proper and needed? Anything that says "should" is right out. To say something like "Priests must assure that the mass is celebrated with the proper reverence" is meaningless. There must be some outward and visible and unmistakable change that grabs both the clergy and the laity by the collar and says "look here". At the same time, one can't just slam too many changes in at once, lest they both be rejected or ignored. And more importantly, while by definition this must happen from the top down, it cannot be just proclaimed and dropped.

The path to follow is clear. There are only two possibilities. Both practical, both critical, and both more or less easy to initiate.
The first must-do is to get rid of, as quickly as possible, every table altar in the every Catholic church in the world. There are some places where this will take some time and some money, but there are probably just as many (at least in the US and Europe) where the old high altar remains and the "reconversion" would take, say, 5 minutes. The change will be a bit shocking to the laity, but with a bit of catachesis, they'll adapt, and soon they will understand. And then they will believe.

The other possibility is that of re-instituting communion on the tongue while kneeling. There is simply no substitute for the feeling of being on your knees before the lord, opening up your mouth and accepting him into your person. The feeling of complete submission is simply indescribable. Since my sincerely believe that our fundamental problem with the modern liturgy is one of pride, kneeling in submission would go a long way towards dispelling the pride and restoring the submission. Something we all - including myself - desperately need.

So there are the two keys to the restoration of God's Church. THe question is, who is willing to take up those keys, and unlock the gate to the kingdom of heaven. A gate which was slammed shut decades ago by the self-absorbed "reformers" of the 1960's.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Liturgical Thoughts and Time Travel

I spent some time this evening watching my DVRed version of The Eternal Gift, which is the film of the celebration of the Easter Sunday mass at Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago, circa 1940 (youtube version here). I recorded it when it appeared on EWTN on the same day as the celebration of the Extraordinary Rite by the FSSP for the EWTN special. (FWIW, I recorded that mass too, but could only bring myself to watch it once all the way through, the incessant high-pitched nun-singing during the mass grated on my nerves - but I digress).

The film is scratchy black and white, and the audio flutters and wows, but I can still watch it and transport myself back in time to when it was happening. It is truly amazing to do and to feel. But one of the things that is unmistakable is how deeply people believed then. Sure there were no doubt some louts and philanders and what all in the congregation, just as there are today, but people by and large believed unhesitatingly. You can see in the faces - hear in the voices - such unadulterated and heartfelt joy and pleading and just raw emotion. Not in a pentecostal kind of way, but in a more sincere, reasoned, and true-believing way. The people were there talking to God in a way that one would talk to - say - a Judge on the Bench, or the President of the US, or the Holy Father. As if they were in a room with Greatness and Power, and had a chance to address the All Powerful One directly.

Absent completely is the careless off-handedness one sees today. The attitude of "ho-hum, gimme my host so I can get out of here" that is EVERYWHERE today in the Catholic Church. And I am not talking about some stupid puppet mass, I mean a properly celebrated by-the-book novus ordo mass. People plain and simple, don't CARE. I'm not questioning their fundamental beliefs or motives - God forbid I should do that - but their slouchy attitude. What I'm saying is, I know they believe something, or else they'd be at St. Mattress every Sunday morning, but it is not possible to reconcile their attitude and behavior with a sincere belief in and understanding of the sacrifice of the mass and the real presence of GOD HIMSELF in the tabernacle - or on the altar.

So what happened???? I know that society in general is rapidly deteriorating to the point where clean cargo shorts and t-shirts are considered "business attire". But is what we see representative of that decline? Or is it something different? Well, to use an inapproriate but telling business technique, let's check out the competition! In the more mainstream protestant churches, never (nearly) does one see men go to Sunday Service in anything but a suit, or at the very least a jacket and tie. But in OUR church, such attire is a rarity! At each mass there are a few suits, yes, but about 80% of the congregation looks like they are dressed for a round of golf, at best, or a Jimmy Buffet concert, at worst. In fact, here in the south, I have often heard people (protestants) point out that Catholics "wear anything" to church!

My Latin basically is nonexistent, consisting of one year at Page High School in '75, so I can't translate this. But, as the church, and Pope Benedict in particular says "as we pray, so we believe" (Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi), I would like to add "how we act and dress is how we believe". And I speak with personal experience. Looking Back over the years at my own behavior, there were times when I went to church in a ratty t-shirt, holey, dirty jeans, and old sneakers. Only now, with the clarity of hindsight, do I realize that those were the same times when I was just "going though the motions". It may be unfair or unreasonable to extrapolate that out to the Catholic world in general, but I don't think it is. I think it's the only logical choice.

The question for the ages is, how did we get here? And how do we get out? The first half is easy. We got here because we were put here. A whole generation of priests came out of Vatican II with the attitude of "Jesus is COOL man!!!" "He Loves you no matter what you wear". Combined with their own laissez-faire attitude toward reverence and respect, they dumbed us all down.

The answer to the second is harder, and it will be the topic of my next post....

Tune in again tomorrow!!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Meme-Tagged By The Cannonball!!

Write whatever comes to your mind about yourself.

1- blogging.
A Love-Hate relationship, in a way. I love doing it, but hate NOT doing it. The problem is that there are times when I just don't really have anything interesting or insightful to say. Then, the blog kind of dies and I feel guilty about it. On the other hand, sometimes I have occasion to look back at some posts from months before, and think "Wow, I wrote THAT". So, more than anything else, blogging has given me the opportunity to pound out some interesting thoughts that otherwise would have been lost in the noise-filled echo-chamber that is my brain nowadays.

2- writing.
Oh how I wish I could!!!!! I am told that I am a great storyteller, and I so wish that I had the ability to translate that to paper (or ether). My brain is full of so many interesting stories, mostly of the people I have worked with, and interesting things (at least to me) that I have had the chance to see and do. Since I read the first chapter of All Creatures Great and Small, I thought that it (and it's three companion volumes) was the greatest book ever written. I'm no James Herriott, but I think I might be able to make a few people laugh, or at least giggle.

3- art.
Art is beautiful. Art is beauty. It is all around us. Everywhere, it seems, except those places where "modern man" intentionally tries to create it. Art takes time, both to create and appreciate, maybe that's why it is so rare in our world any more. This is true in the Catholic Church in the extreme. It appears that any art found nowadays is cookie-cutter 1970 minimalist. It all ha the appearance of a conscious effort to be "cutting edge", the problem being that the style was about 8 years past "cutting edge" in 1970 when it became the catholic norm. But I suppose the boomer generation, secure in their knowledge that everything they do is by definition the ultimate achievement, is unable to learn that the world has moved on.

4- crazy dreams.
I have been known to have some wild ones, on rare occasions leading to physical action. One time, I had a dream about getting into a fight with my former employer, grabbed him by the collar of his jacket, and shook him while screaming "You Son of a Bitch" over and over. The dream ended when my panicked (and previosly sleeping wife woke me up, as I actually, in my sleep, had HER by the nightgown, shaking her and saying the same thing!!!

5- nuns.
I miss them so much. I went to catholic school toward the end of the "mean nun" era. I had a few hard cases, but most were kind, firm, guiding. My daughter is in Catholic school (a GOOD one), and it breaks my heart to see her there without the whole platoon of nuns around. There is a retired nun (a real one, in a real habit) who still often is at the school in the mornings, either to visit or to help out, I'm not sure, and her very PRESENCE on the school grounds changes the whole atmosphere of the place. And I pray - every day - that my daughters, or at least one of them, gets the call.

6- music.
Love to listen to it, love to sing it - LOUD. Damn near any kind. But I have to be careful - very careful - because it can define my mood and attitude. I can drive myself into a real depression by listening to to much melancholy music.

7- normalcy.
I always wanted to be "normal", but never have been. Nowadays, since normal seems to be defined as a herd of starbucks coffee sipping SUV driving pretentious yuppies, I no longer have the desire to be "normal". On the other hand, now that I live in a real subdivision, I find that I can't fire up the grill or mow the lawn without the Monkees' song Pleasant Valley Sunday coming into my head!

Thanks CC, for the Meme, and for waking me up. I needed that.