Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Bear and the Diocese

Years ago, back when there was a Soviet Union, a massive amount of time and effort was put by western governments (and press) went into reading what news and information was published there. The real point being not so much the factual details of the article, but the message that was being conveyed by the existence and the context of the articles themselves. An article about corruption, for instance, meant that the authorities were watching it closely. Two articles meant they were getting serious, and get honest quickly. Three articles meant if your hand is in the till, get ready for your ass to be in the Gulag.

Now, for years, the dioscean paper of the Charlotte Diocese, The News & Herald has had a pleasant, but unremarkable existence. Then several weeks ago, the format changed and the content became much, much more focused. It seemed like our FINE bishop was taking the game up a notch. Putting it in Soviet Watch terms, if I may - pay attention to what is going on here!

Then, last week, an article about a beautiful and very traditional church renovation in Tryon, NC, featured in this New Liturgical Movement post. Now, the current issue features a spread of yet another renovation - less extensive, but still traditional and Catholic looking. Better yet, this time the spread features traditional (and old) statuary, and prominent blurb about Sacred Art and Vatican II. As Icing on the Cake, these same issues had an article about the importance of - and resurgence of - Altar Boys, as well as a column about Chapel Veils.

Again in Soviet Watch terms, the beauty and truth of Catholicism and our external Catholic Identity is important. And, if you think that all of Catholic Tradition was put asunder by Vatican II, you're wrong.

Pay Attention. Catholicism is coming. Get ready.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This article is, entitled Called to Serve featured in the latest issue of our dioscean paper, the Catholic News & Herald. It's hard, I believe to overstate the importance of the content - or the importance of it being published so prominently (teaser on the front page) in the paper!

Called to Serve

CHARLOTTE — Have you noticed more young people wearing
albs, cassocks and surplices serving at Mass? It’s not just a fluke – it’s a trend that priests around the Diocese of Charlotte are encouraging. More and more young people in the
diocese are expressing willingness to serve their parishes through
the privilege of altar serving.

St. Michael Church in Gastonia particularly has been graced with a growing number of altar servers over the past several years. It is not uncommon for the church to have more than 10
boys every Sunday at the 10 a.m. Mass. Father Roger K. Arnsparger, who is St. Michael’s pastor as well as vicar of education for the diocese, welcomes the growing popularity of altar servers and said he hopes to encourage vocations.

“We have had a great interest from young men wanting to serve at Holy Mass,” Father Arnsparger said. “The young men are filled with a humble appreciation of the opportunity and the privilege
of serving Holy Mass. The fraternal bond between them has been a great help to them in their spiritual lives and in their growing love of the Mass and the Church.

“They show great responsibility, leadership and loyalty. They encourage each other, teach each other, learn from each other and enjoy the process. They are a small faith group leading each other in excellence in Catholic worship and in their Catholic lives.”

Father Christopher Roux also has been stoking the fires of service among young men since his arrival as rector of St. Patrick Cathedral in 2008. “It is my firm hope that by keeping the boys closely associated to the altar throughout their early years, if they have a vocation to
the priesthood, the call will be awakened and encouraged,” Father Roux said.

At St. Ann Church in Charlotte, Father Timothy Reid has the same intention.

“The Church has looked upon altar serving as a means of generating vocations to the priesthood for many generations precisely because it introduces boys and young men to the most important aspect of priesthood: offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass. So the more often our altar servers
have a chance to serve, the more exposure they are given,” he said.

Canon law and Church teaching also allow girls to serve at the altar, because altar servers assist at Mass in much the same way that readers and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion do. Even if vocations are not the primary aim, for both boys and girls serving at Mass can be a way of
becoming involved as lay people, particularly in smaller churches or where there is a pastoral need.

Altar servers act as cross bearers, acolytes, incense bearers and torch or candle bearers. Some servers also assist the priest by holding the sacramentary at Mass as the various prayers are read. When serving Mass for a bishop, even more servers (called “vimps”) are assigned to hold his crozier and his miter.

In most parishes, altar server training is overseen by a deacon. If you know of a young person interested in becoming an altar server, contact your parish’s office for details.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Middle class running as fast as it can Rex Nutting - MarketWatch

I am completely aware of my own limitations as a writer - painfully so at times.

Painful because there are so many times when I observe things which I desperately feel need to be expressed on paper (or LCD), but can never quite make the words I spit out express the meaning I am trying to convey. And because of that, when I see a "real" writer put out something that expresses so well what I am seeing or thinking, I really appreciate it...

This column does just that. Enjoy

Middle class running as fast as it can Rex Nutting - MarketWatch

Monday, September 6, 2010

More thoughts on Music

Having witness so so much mediocre to just plain awful music at mass, I have to wonder...

Wouldn't NO music at all be preferable to BAD music barely (it at all) sung???

And I have to wonder also if the book "Why Catholics Can't Sing" isn't dealing
with the wrong question...

Why catholics DON'T sing is a better question.

Or better yet...

Why are we constantly TRYING to make people sing who just want to sit (or stand or kneel) and QUIETLY PRAY TO THEIR CREATOR??????

What's wrong with quiet devotion? Why must going to Mass be like Sing along with Mitch?


"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and ezpecting different results." So goes the famous quote, attributed to Albert Einstein. Last night, at Mass, I witnessed that insanity.

A stunningly beautiful Church with two hundred or more people, with a beautiful pipe organ being played. The makings of something magnificent! But makings is all you got. Because, as the organ wailed away, playing a series of tired old leisure-suit era ditties, virtually the entire congregation simply sat there in silence - or softly mumbled along with the lyrics at best.

And witnessing - yet again - this sad phenomonon makes me wonder. How on earth can you explain it??? Perhaps they simply CAN NOT SEE just how dismal the situation is with the mass and the accompaniment??? But since they have eyes and ears, I tend to dismiss this out of hand. Or perhaps they see it and just don't care? Nope. If they didn't care, they'd be at home.

It can only be that they see it, but are so absolutely rooted in their belief in doing it the way they have been taught to do it since 1970 that the possibility that they are wrong simply - in their world - does not exist. Their music MUST be just right, because THEY have decided that it is!!!

This is simply a microcosm of the mass exodus / decimation of the Church we have seen since we poor souls had the Wisdom and Enlightenment of Vatican II foisted upon us some four decades ago. And both the instigators of and the "true believers" in that "renewal", being know-it-alls by definition, have the same blind spot of all of their ilk. That is they ALL believe - or rather know - that they are absolutely right, so they need not even bother to consider otherwise!!!

And it saddens me to sit and wonder....

How long this insanity???
How long must we suffer???

Monday, August 16, 2010

Extraordinary Mass Number Four - Thoughts

On Sunday the 15th, I attended for the fourth time (as an adult) The Mass in the Extraordinary Form - celebrating the Feast of the Assumption.

Celebrated as a Low Mass, at Our Lady of Grace Church yesterday afternoon, by Father Robert Ferguson of the FSSP. And it was an overwhelming experience - perfect in every way (save for missing a part of the mass having to attend to my 8 year old's bloody nose). And it reminded me of a lesson learned from my childhood. That is - The Low Mass RULES! I am keenly aware of the Church's teaching that the High Mass is the "ultimate expression", etc. But I submit to you that - on a day in day out basis - they are wrong. Maybe at St. Peters or some other grand ediface on some days a High Mass is the best, but for the everyday Catholic - whose faith is simple, sincere, deep, and not wrapped up in Pomp and Pretense - the simplicity and humility of the simple rite reflects perfectly the humble and simple approach we have (or should have) to God our Father.

In addition tho the pure simplicity of the rite, there is the added aspect of being able to follow closely and precisely what is going on. In the High Mass, there are many times when the priest is up at the altar doing his thing and the choir is chanting away happily and there is now way at all to figure out what the heck is happening. At Mass one should internally participate and contemplate the enormous gravity of what is happening on the altar. The music should be focused on and supportive of that - not an ostentatious distraction from it.

Further it is now clear to me that the trend to highly produced Pontifical High Masses - both live and on television - is a distraction from the ultimate goal of establishing the traditional mass as a regular occurrence in most parishes. Watching one of these (admittedly beautiful) Masses is so overwheming and long that it can only be a turn off to those ordinary "John and Mary Catholics" who have neither the experience or the initiative to know that that is not an example of what having one of their parishes Sunday Masses in the extraordinary form would be like. They see a two-hour production on EWTN and think "no way would I want to have to sit through that every week" -never realizing that the normal parish mass would have virtually nothing in common with what they have seen on TV (or worse yet heard about second or third hand).

The two most beautiful Masses of my adult life have been this Sunday's Low Mass, and the Missa Cantata I attended last Easter in a tiny, beautiful church in Winston Salem, NC. If we could transform the average Sunday Mass at the average parish into something as simple and moving and beautiful and holy as those two Masses, the Church would be well along the read to true renewal.

Please Lord Let it be so.....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

On Making Pancakes... or, why am I so slow?

Pancakes! First let me say that I LOVE pancakes. All kinds of pancakes - as long as ther not too exotic or (God forbid) cheesy. Love 'em.

Because of that love and appreciation I tend to want to eat them a lot. And having three little girls means that I have had to fix them a lot over the past few years. Even some of the microwaveable ones are actually quite good, and about as convenient a food as one can fix - period. But lately, thanks to economics and a new electric griddle, I have had the opportunity fix them over and over again.

Usually, I buy a Costco-sized bag of dry mix, add the necessary liquid(s) and start cooking - and they are consistently Very Good. Yesterday morning, however, I was flat out of mix, and decided to try to make them from scratch.

The FIRST ONE was barely off the griddle before I could tell the difference in aroma, appearance, and texture. The first bite and the flavor difference became readily apparent. WOW! I could not believe the difference and could not believe what I had been missing. Admittedly, pancakes are not some Julia Child fancy-pants recipe, but the fresh versus premix difference is all the more astounding.

This episode has had me thinking for the past 24 hours.....

The experience of learning the difference between fresh scratch cooking and pre-mix cooking is not a new one. It is a lesson that I have learned before, but is still being re-learned. And I have to wonder - WHY? Why must I forget such simple, essential lessons? In Other Words - Why Am I So Slow????

The priciple applies to every aspect of life, too. How can we all be so stupid? How is it that God can jump in to our lives and save us - like a fireman dragging us semi-concious from a burning building - and a few months later we are cruising along like He isn't really there or doesn't really care? And I gotta wonder - does He get frustrated with us? Does He know how stupid we feel when we re-learn His love and care?

Will we ever really learn - permanently? Or should we even try? Maybe the experience of actually re-learning His love is an essential part of appreciating it in a deeper and deeper way? And maybe that is why He made us the way we are....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Priests et parishes et Latin et stability et cetera

My new home parish has been blessed for the past year to have not only a great Pastor in Father John Allen, but a fantastic newly-ordained Parochial Vicar, Father Benjamin Roberts.

Father Roberts is a fantastic young Priest in many ways. For one, give GREAT homilies, which are both enlightening and inspiring. He also has a fantastic voice with which to sing the Mass - and usually does so. And in fact, on Pentecost, sung the Mass in LATIN! (Albeit within the context of the Apostles and various languages and the first Pentecost) Overall, he is simply inspiring. I thank God for his time at our parish.

BUT.... it was announced last Sunday that he will be leaving us for another parish in the diocese, to be replaced by one of our four (!) newly ordained Priests. A blessing for them, to be sure, but I have to wonder why!?! Why move a man so often? I know that there are so few priests and Priests need to be moved periodically to match their skill-set with the Parish, but I wish it didn't happen so often. I could understand it better if the Bishop gave some sort of hint as to why, but none is forthcoming - at least not in this case.

Along similar lines, I find it puzzling that some parishes have a Pastor assigned, and that is where he stays, leading to stability and (sometimes) growth. And other Parishes seem to change administrations every few years. Hmmm

BUT!!!! on the bright side, we in the Diocese of Charlotte now (as of 5-4-2010) have four new priests!!!

And I am looking forward to meeting ours on July 1st!!!

Deo Gratias

Making Sense

After months and months of reading (and hearing) so much "irrational exuberance" (i.e. crack-smoking) from the so-called "business press". FINALLY some one makes a little bit of sense.


The truly amazing thing is that the fourth estate has been able to blow so much smoke for so long about the alleged "recovery". This mindless optimism can only be explained by either a true malice and intent to misinform or a complete insular within-the-Wall-Street mindset - only getting information from other insiders.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BI-RITUAL - sort of.....

Well, the decision is in, and after much consideration, we are now an unofficially bi-ritual family.

It all started about a year ago, when, due to a shecdule conflict, my wife attended a Sunday evening Mass at St. Paul's. I was deeeeply suspicious, because I had heard many stories about the place, and how it was one step to the left of liberal - both liturgically and doctrinally. But, she came home from that Mass happier than I had seen her in years. She began to go every Sunday evening, each time with true joy and enthusiasm. Not so much from the liturgy per se, but from the attitude of the people there. It was with further trepidation that I went there for the first time last year - as I reported here. But I too sensed both the enthusiasm and sincerity of the people and the place. Admittedly there were a few liturgical practices that were not "per spec", but it really was quite conservative compared to many of the places and things I have seen and heard.

Since that time the parish has come "under new management" being served by two really good dioscean priests (replacing the OSFS). I knew that changes were in order the first weekend when the new pastor explained that he was replacing the glass flagons, etc. with real chalices - AND he explained why in his homily! Then the next weeks bulletin featured a quote from Romano Guardini's Spirit of the Liturgy !!! And the celebration of the Mass is now Strictly "Say the Black - Do the Red". And yet, in spite of the changes (and there have been others) the place remains very joyous and beautiful. The Sunday evening Mass is LifeTeen (or so they say), but other than the music - which is VERY VERY well done - the Mass itself is very traditional, including the Priests SINGING most of the mass, beautiful vestments, and orthodox preaching. And while there are still EMHC's, they are now kept off the altar. And truth be known, the music is actually better and more meaningful lyrically than most of the drivel out there. Most of all the when-will-it-end attitude (which one sees so often) is seemingly absent from the congregation. In addition to all this, the priests' focus on, appreciation of, and outright support of our local Catholic Schools and stressing of the importance of Catholic education make the place so desirable.

Coincidentally, all of this has happened at a time when my previous home parish more or less has adopted a less than positive attitude about Catholic schools (they cost the Parish money, you see). While at the same time the Mass, preaching and music there have deteriorated somewhat. So much frittered away - it breaks my heart - after 18 years of faithful membership and support. I wanted - no NEEDED - a positive place for my children.

So as of last week, my "home" parish has changed. Of course, since we go to Mass in shifts, I won't be there all the time. But "for the record" thats were we belong - where we are appreciated.

SO THE MORAL OF THE STORY... Especially for all of the Traditional people and Priests out there is... ACT LIKE YOU MEAN IT!!! And treat people like you WANT them to be there! One smile or kind gesture will win you a "convert" - one scowl will lose you TEN......

Boundary Law and Common Sense

Years ago, when I first began to learn about the legal aspects of surveying law and boundary law, my mentor in the Profession taught me one simple concept - one which I teach to my students every year. This precept - or way of understanding - is stated as this:

You only own what you are willing to defend.

In otherwords, in terms of property law, if you are not willing to stop your neighbor from using your land as if it were his, then it really isn't yours - you have voluntarily given up your rights to claim it as your exclusive property. Yes, there is A LOT more detail and nuance to the process than that, but it still all boils down to that one concept.

It has occured to me that the same concept can be applied in a macro sense to the ongoing immigration debate, whcih is stirring up anew because of the new reasonable an justified law in Arizona. If you are not willing to defend the integrity of your countries borders, you don't really get to claim it as yours any more! It seems that the STATE of Arizona has suddenly discovered the gonadal fortitude to do for itself what the Federal Govenment has refused to do - defend its borders. Good for them!!!!

And this doesn't have a damn thing to do with humanitarian concerns, or love of your neighbor. And this is not racist in any way, either. It's just simple good sense and prudence. If you won't defend it, it ain't yours. That rule applies to every piece of property on earth, be it material, intellectual, or anything else. And nothing in this applies to the concept that you may voluntarily decide to let someone have your property. But there is a fundamental difference from, say, letting a down-and-out friend live in your spare bedroom and leaving the doors of your house open with a "help yourself" sign in the frontyard. Or between writing a check to the Rescue Mission and having a wino steal your checkbook and help himself to your bank account.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

In Praise of Smokestacks

Tough Times, these are. Tougher in some ways than those of the past. Yes, the thirties were awful, and in a pure economic sense, I cannot compare my situation to those my grandparents faced. I, for instance, have a stable job - as does my wife. But I am also aware, due to my personal contacts, that there are MANY people who are lacking. Lacking less in strict material terms, but far more spiritually.

Back then, there was at least hope - the prospect that some day, the factory would reopen, the smoke would start pouring out of the smokestacks, and they would be back to work. Here in 2010, only the most ignorant or naive think that that will ever ever happen. This time, the fires were doused - permanently. To be replaced by new fires far over the sea. When things (or IF things) get rolling economically, it will be the Chinese smokestacks that will again be showing the telltale smoke of economic prosperity. Here in the USA we will remain (barring unforseen circumstances) in the backwater of economic activity. A once proud nation of honest, hard working people trying to create an economy by doing each others' laundry. You don't need a PhD in Economics to see that that simply will not work. That PhD may in fact preclude you from seeing that simple reality. The whole gospel of the "modern, service-based" economy is now and in fact always was an illusion - pure bulls**t is more like it. Someone, somewhere ultimately has to produce a good of some kind or the whole system grinds to a halt.

In the world of physics -You CAN"T use an electric generator to run an electric motor which turns the axle of the generator. You need to have an outside power source somewhere to get the whole thing started and to keep it moving.

That power source in economic terms is PRODUCTION. Even in, as in an agricultural society, the product is just food and related products, there is still something being produced which was not there before. And ultimately, the producer of that product is the one who generates the economic (directly of indirectly) need for every other good or service. We are no longer a purely agricultural economy - we are an industrial one. An that is where the smokestacks come in to play. The smokestack is the classic symbol of economic production. That smoke means that someone inside is producing something. Which means that you can start to run an economy. Smoke = Work, No Smoke = No Work .. for ANYBODY!

Which leads to a (true) story I heard once of a family during the darkest depths of the depression. The father had made a good living for his family running an upscale clothing store in New York City in the 1920's, selling suits to the "investor class". When the crash of '29 more or less eliminated his customer base, he sold all of his assets, and he and his family boarded a steamer to Florida. Disembarking, he bought an old car, packed the family in, and began to work their way throughout the southeast - on the road, looking for work, like east coast "okies". For months they moved from city to city, looking for any place wit any sort of promise - to no avail. Then one afternoon, they saw the city of Winston Salem, NC - home of the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company - far off in the distance. And there was SMOKE coming out of the smokestacks. Seeing this, he turned to his wife and children and said "see that smoke!?! there's work here". A few weeks later, he had opened a small store, selling work clothes to the factory workers. And that is where they remained.

So bring on the Smokestacks, because I - we all - need what they meant then, and still mean today - there's WORK here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sin, Penance, and Atonement

CONFITEOR Deo omnipotenti, beatae Mariae semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Ioanni Baptistae, sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, et omnibus Sanctis, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Ioannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, et omnes Sanctos, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum. Amen.

So goes the one of the great prayers of our faith...

And this Ash Wednesday, I find myself thinking about my behavior and my attitude - especially regarding my more recent experiences at Mass. And as I think back, while I still hold to what was said, I wish I had not been so short and snarky about it.

The fact is, almost without exception, I have liked and respected every priest I have ever had or known. There are some you love, and some you just appreciate in a low-key kind of way. Priests are men, too, and as with all men some are more charismatic and likeable than others, but that's only normal. I just hope sincerely that all of those whose lives have touched mine know that they are appreciated by me and in my prayers always.

So for those of you out there who may be reading this, know that I appreciate you and all you have done. And forgive me if I have offended you.

I will continue to post and comment, to be sure! But I am going to try to be honest without being "brutally" honest.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What I Learned at Mass on Sunday

Since I had to blow out of Saturday vigil mass during the presentation of the gifts due to two squirmy children. I decided to go at 10:30 Sunday morning to make up for the missed time. At a different parish, one which my wife loves and attends regulary.

Here I learned a couple of things. First, it appears to be a rule that older women (say 65+) find it impossible to sit in church and quietly (let alone prayerfully) wait for mass to start. This is a BIG church, and there were perhaps a half-dozen LOUD group conversations going on for some time - not to mention a lot of semi-hushed ones. Almost without exception the conversants were old and female.

Funny that the YOUNGER women (<40 or so) seemed to come in, kneel and pray and wait in silence.

Counterintuitive, ain't it?

What I Learned at Mass on Saturday

I rerely attend Saturday vigil Mass. It just doesn't feel right, no matter what the Curch says. Legal perhaps, but just not quite right. But this week I did, due largely to time demands. And it was a very educational experience!

For instance, I learned from the Homily that the HOMILY is the most important part of the Mass - and the most important thing that a priest can do! I have this on good authority because the priest's homiletics professor told him so.

And all this time I thought the Eucharist was "the source and summit" and all that!

Silly Me!!!