Musings of a 30ish Midwestern Catholic Improv Guy.

Monday, March 27, 2006  

My Wife is Beautiful...

...both inside and out.

I read her blog when I came home, and saw this lovely prayer. It floored me. It really did.

Amy's always been a quick learner; and once she get the hang of something, she masters it. She's been Catholic less than a year, and she's grown in leaps and bounds. Both she and I are far from perfect, but I do believe she's passed her sluggard husband by in running the race for the Crown that matters...

posted by Dave | 4:49 PM

Sunday, March 26, 2006  

Laetare Sunday

It's an annual custom. Every Fourth Sunday in Lent, I'm at the Indult Mass, situated in the second pew in the north transept. I do go to this Mass other times during the year, but Laetare Sunday has a special significance for me.

It's the spring of 1992. My grandfather is in the hospital with congestive heart failure. We're not sure if he'll make it or not. I decide to attend the Indult Mass, then being offered at the Mater Christi Chapel in the Cousins Center (the Archdiocese's main offices).

I meet with Fr. Richard Breitbach, who was then the Tridentine Community's chaplain. I ask him to remember my grandfather at the altar. But he does more than that. He asks the prayers of the entire congregation. From that time on, my grandfather's condition improves, and he becomes well enough to live with my parents, with assistance from a visiting CNA. His original prognosis was 3-6 months. He lives a year.

March 21, 1993. Grandpa's health has been declining since last December. All he wants now is to join his wife and son in time for Easter. That Sunday, I again to decide to go to the Indult Mass, now being offered at St. Mary Help of Christians in West Allis. Again I ask Fr. Breitbach for the community's prayers, and again he announces it to the congregation.

It's afternoon. I'm talking with a friend when an operator breaks into the line. It's my mother. Grandpa's dying.

A family friend picks me up and takes me to my parents' house and Grandpa's bedside. At 2:50 pm, he gets his wish.

Remembering all this, even 13 years later, brings a tear to my eye. I miss him, and nothing will take that feeling away until I can meet him again in Heaven. Something tells me he may well be there already. A man who literally wore down his rosary beads (he prayed it at least four times a day that last year of his life) can't have spent much time (if any) in Purgatory.

But until I leave this world, while it is still within my power to do so, I will go every Laetare Sunday to the Indult Mass. I will sit, stand and kneel in my customary place. I will behold rose vestments and paraments, and flowers on the altar. I will listen to the chant, and join in when appropriate. I will again hear the readings from Galatians about Agar and Sarai, and from John about the feeding of the 5000. I will behold a piece of bread and a cup of wine become the body and Blood of my Lord and God. And shortly afterwards, before receiving Him, when the priest remembers the faithful departed, I will remember with him, and the name of Wilbert John Benzinger will always come to mind...

posted by Dave | 9:30 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2006  

How to torture someone

You could shove bamboo under the victim's fingernails...

You could inflict electrical shocks on various body parts...

You could even make creative use of chili peppers...


You could make your victim watch Barry Manilow perform on American Idol... my wife did to me.

The horror. The horror.

posted by Dave | 8:38 PM

Monday, March 20, 2006  

Crunchy Worship

I'll admit it. I'm something of a Crunchy Conservative. The Caelum et Terra crowd were a big influence on me; and while I'm not entirely "authentic" (I do shop at Wal-Mart, for example), I do adhere to something of the Crunchy worldview.

Much of the whole Crunchy thing has to do with restoration: regaining what we've lost with the atomization, automation, and artificiality of the last century. This includes religion and worship. which is why I take issue with Maggie Gallagher's recent article on crunchy cons.

This is the chief offending paragraph:

There is something movingly pathetic in watching the Drehers drive through different religious identities, for example, searching for one that "fits." Worshipping at a Lebanese Maronite (Catholic) Church, for example, because they like the taste of ancient tradition, even if they are neither Lebanese nor Maronite. Tradition itself becomes a kind of consumption item, to be produced and consumed by crunchy cons.

The last sentence is especially egregious.

Traditional worship is not, and should not be, a "consumption item", chosen merely because the aesthetics are pleasing. I've known people who have gone to Episcopal churches because they liked the worship style, not because of any compelling belief (other than, perhaps, the usual PC agenda). The Drehers and countless others are drawn to traditional liturgical worship because it conveys the Transcendent. Its focus is on the Other, and not ourselves.

Think of what you get in your typical Whitebread Suburban American Catholic Church. Bland (or blandified) architecture. Chattiness before, during, and after Mass. Disposable music and disposable art. No substance in preaching, even if the preacher is engaging. A feelgood message with talk of "social justice" without actually expecting people to do anything concrete. And while the Transcendent happens with the Eucharist, there is no awe of the Real Presence.

Then there's what you get in a Classical Latin Mass, an Anglican Use Mass, a reverently celebrated Missa Normativa, a Marionite Liturgy, or a Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Beautiful (or beautified) architecture. A sense of reverence and awe throughout. Timeless music and meaningful art. A substantial message in the preaching (even if the priest or deacon isn't exactly Fulton Sheen). And the Presence is felt deeply as He comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine. The Transcendence is not lost.

People choose traditional worship (and all that comes with it) not because it is a consumer choice, but because it is true, and has Truth Himself as the Center. It is not produced, but handed down. It is not consumed like a commercial product, but it consumes and transforms. Mr. Dreher, who is a convert to Catholicism, has grasped this. So did Scott Hahn, when he beheld the Mass for the first time. So have countless others.

Granted, we do have a wide array of devotions, prayers, worship styles, and spiritualities to choose from, but this isn't a consumer mindset, either. The Church has always recognized that individual Catholics are called to different ways of prayers and lifestyle. Some prefer the Franciscan Method Way of the Cross; others are partial to the Liguori Method. One group of parishoners may meet to pray the Sorrowful Mother Devotions; another group may like the Perpetual Help devotions better. On a larger scale, a Dominican is no better or worse than a Jesuit (despite what you may hear from either group!). Both orders, and the underlying spiritualities, are equally good in and of themselves.

I think Ms. Gallagher, whatever her other points about Crunchy Cons may be, ought to reconsider her statement on religion. In the long run, authentic worship is not looking for the right fit, but it is something to be fitted into. It is not about feeling good, but becoming good. It is not about shopping around as a consumer, but seeking the Living God in His Fullness, worshipping Him using all of one's senses, and ultimately to be consumed and transformed by Him in the consuming of Him, under the appearance of bread and wine.

posted by Dave | 7:30 PM

Saturday, March 18, 2006  

This Wouldn't Have Happened With Rembert...

I do wonder if Archbishop Dolan will be having a chat with Fr. Carl at All Saints, however...

posted by Dave | 10:40 AM

Friday, March 17, 2006  

An Unholy Alliance?

Charles Krauthammer writes today about the emerging polyamory movement and it relation to the push for gay marriage. The chief emphasis has been on the hedonistic, radically autonomous aspect: that "marriage" and "commitment" are words which need no concrete, narrow definition; and that individuals should do what they want, whenever they want, however they want.

But I don't think anyone has touched upon another group who, while hostile to gay marriage, may be strange bedfellows (so to speak) with the hedonistic crowd in order to legalize polyamory:


I am aware that polygamy is not that widespread in the Islamic world, and that the practice is permitted but not really encouraged. That being said, I can see certain factions within Islam pushing for its legalization, since it is mentioned as an option in the Q'uran.

I also predict that this will first happen in Europe or Canada, since the hedonists in those places are already pushing for anything-goes relationships. Then, if they are successful, I wouldn't be surprised if a liberal federal judge somewhere decided that any concrete definition of marriage is somehow unconstitutional, and therefore polyamory must be permitted.

Can it happen? Yes. Nothing is too far-fetched anymore. Perhaps the pro-bestiality movement might emerge next...

posted by Dave | 11:40 AM

Thursday, March 16, 2006  

I weep for her...

More importantly, I'll pray for her...

posted by Dave | 9:11 PM

Tuesday, March 14, 2006  


I can just imagine what my late friend Pastor Wiest would have said about this particular abomination...

Thank you (I think) to Musings of an ex-Pagan and the Curt Jester.

posted by Dave | 5:28 AM

Friday, March 10, 2006  

I Used to Be a Marty Haugen Fan...

February 1990. I'm in a "contemporary choir" in my parish, singing and playing percussion. Marty Haugen's in town for a concert and a workshop. I go to the concert, enjoy it, and volunteer to demonstrate percussion during the workshop. And so I do, shaking a tambourine to "Gather Us In" in the presence of a few hundred people.

Sixteen years later, I wonder why I ever did that.

I won't totally bash Mr. Haugen. He has produced a few worthy works, and I did end up using Mass of Creation for my wedding. But I realized at some point that his lyrics are often simplistic, and his theology is questionable for Catholics. (It should be noted that Mr. Haugen belongs to the United Church of Christ. This explains a lot.)

Here's a challenge to my fellow bloggers: can you give me at least one or more decent efforts by Haugen, Haas, Joncas, the St. Louis Jesuits, or others of their ilk?

I'll start:

Marty Haugen: I like his melody for "We Walk By Faith". Also "Your Love is Finer than Life", a very nice setting of Psalm 63.

David Haas: "We Are His People", a setting of Psalm 100, is decent.

Michael Joncas: The Alleluia from "Praise His Name".

John Foley: "May We Praise You" is as close to "traditional" as his group will get. And I've always loved "Take, Lord, Receive", although it is more appropriate as a choir piece.

The St. Louis Jesuits: Their Christmas album Gentle Night has a few good pieces on it, especially "Who Has Known" (which is meant to be a choir piece).

Any others?

posted by Dave | 4:40 PM

Wednesday, March 08, 2006  

What Makes A Catholic (redux)

I've posted on this before, but recent comments on The Cafeteria is Closed has got me thinking about "liberal" vs. "conservative" again. Talmida's comment, to be specific.

Talmida's comments in italics, mine in standard script:

If you are a conservative, then you want to conserve something. You want to maintain the status quo, defend the existing church. That makes conservatives reactionary - -and oh! there is so much out there to react to!

Some conservatives could be called reactionary on all things. I would contend that most conservatives are cautious and/or skeptical of change -- you have to prove why something is better.

I think that's why conservatives blog more -- there are just so many things out there to fight.

I concede the point here...

A liberal favours change. He looks forward to how he can improve the situation instead of how to maintain it. He may not like the new, but its very newness equates with change and gives it value.

The question is this, however: is it change for change's sake, or a real improvement? The Church has always accepted change when it has proven to be conducive to her mission. Mendicant friars, active orders like the Jesuits, and non-cloistered women religious were all radical ideas once. The Gothic cathedrals were startling and avant-garde when they first were built. Even the use of Vulgar Latin in the liturgy was cutting-edge. Did all of these concepts meet up with resistance, for a variety of reasons? Yes. Did it sometimes take centuries for changes to be accepted? Yes. But they were accepted and embraced, because they proved helpful to the Church's mission, and did not conflict with her doctrine in any way.

There is also a fascination with "progress" and "evolving", which seems to turn into a journey without a destination in sight. The parameters always shift; the means to the goal are always altered; and the goal itself may alter significantly.

Of course neither the conservative or the liberal as I have defined them is particulary christian in his behaviour -- I expect our Lord was a bit of both. Conserve what works, change what doesn't.

I would say our Lord was in the center, since He is the Center of all things.

And of course, as you point out in your Canadian piece, most of us liberals are out there doing social(ist) activism.

This leads me to a critique of one of Talmida's comments in the Creative Fidelity post:

If you receive the sacraments, and you're in full communion, and obedient to your own bishops, and you take seriously what the Gospels say in Matthew 25:42-46, so you spend the rest of your time caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, the stranger...

Does that make you a socialist? or a fundamentalist? or just a Christian? Is it more important to be orthodox, or orthoprax?

I'll answer as I did in the combox: you can't have true orthodoxy without true orthopraxy, and vice-versa.

You must hold the truths of the Creed as traditionally understood. You must adhere to the teachings on sexuality. You must have a reverent Liturgy which sticks to the rubrics and doesn't play fast and loose. All of these things are important.

But you must also remember that the Four Sins which Cry to Heaven for Vengeance include oppressing the poor and cheating the worker of his rightful wage. You must practice the Corporal Works of Mercy as your ability allows. You must reach out to the less fortunate among us. All of these things are equally important.

The point is this: you have to do it all to be fully Catholic. No additions, subtractions, or convenient alterations of any kind.

And if a nation takes it upon itself to care for its sick and its poor -- does that make the nation a Christian nation? or Marxist?

Seriously, how do you distinguish one from the other?

My question is: How does the nation (here I also mean the people and the culture, and not just the government) take it upon itself to care for its sick and its poor? Does the nation leave it entirely to government agencies, which can create (and has created) a cycle of dependency and a sense of entitlement? Does it leave important decisions entirely to bureaucrats, even if the decisions are completely divorced from reality?

Conversely, does the nation leave things entirely to a virtueless capitalism, which can place (and has placed) necessities out of the reach of the poor and working-class? Does it treat the working poor with contempt, saying that they deserve to be where they are? Does it lay off workers and outsource their jobs in the name of efficiency? Does it allow virtual monopolies to be created, leaving people with no real choice?

And most importantly, does a nation make it easy to be good? Does it encourage stable family structures, with a father and mother? Does it allow for a one-income household to provide all necessities? Does it promote virtue?

More on this tomorrow, as it's very late now, and I need to go to bed...

posted by Dave | 6:46 PM

Monday, March 06, 2006  

She's Got the Hang of this Catholic Thing...

Check out the Lenten reflections written by my wife. Good, solid stuff from someone who's been Catholic for less than a year.

posted by Dave | 6:04 AM

Saturday, March 04, 2006  

What Should A Church Look Like?

I've seen lots of posts lately on churches: the good old ones, the horrid new ones, and the wreckovated ones. But I don't think anyone has addressed the good new churches, nor the 60's and 70's atrocities which have be remolded into something decent.

Let's have a look at two of the best churches of recent years:

St. Aloysius, New Canaan, CT

This church was built in the mid-60's, when a lot of bland concrete monstrosities were being erected. And this one was blander than usual.

Screened-off choir loft overhanging the sanctuary. Exits flanking same. And the colors? Let's just say that even if there was a color photo available, you wouldn't notice much of a difference.

In the early 90's, the parish hired Henry Hardinge Menzies to renovate their church. This is how it looks now:

Color. Beauty. A centrally located tabernacle, which is situated between the sanctuary and a smaller chapel. A place worthy to be the Lord's temple.

Holy Spirit, Atlanta, GA

Would you believe this was built in the mid-90's?

A beautifully appointed sanctuary.

View from the sanctuary, towards the choir loft.

The tabernacle.

The baptismal font, situated in its own chapel.

Traditionally-styled confessionals.

The pastors of these churches had a choice. They could either build a "worship space", or they could make something beautiful. Thank God they chose the latter. I believe this will be the trend in forthcoming years, as the younger generation of priests takes over.

posted by Dave | 2:44 PM

Friday, March 03, 2006  

Twist of Fate

Yesterday afternoon got interesting really quickly.

Amy twisted her ankle at work while pushing a mail cart. She didn't trip or slip on anything; her ankle just gave way. Lenten regimen went out the window as I made my way to the emergency room to join her, then help her get up the stairs to her apartment.

So now I'm unexpectedly at home, Amy's gorked out on painkillers, and I'll be picking up my Lenten prayer regimen at midday. I also apologize for not getting the Prayer Network blog up last night...

posted by Dave | 9:38 AM

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  

What I'm Doing for Lent

Today I began my Lenten routine:


-- I've resumed praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Office of Readings and Morning Prayer after rising, Midmorning Prayer on my 10:30 break. Midday Prayer after lunch, Midafternoon Prayer at my 2:00 break, Evening Prayer on the busride from work, and Night Prayer before bedtime. After Easter, I'll simply pray Daytime Prayer in the afternoon instead of the full complement, but all else will remain the same.

-- Friday 5 pm Mass at St. Florian's. It's handy to Amy's workplace, and I can get there easily by bus. I think I'll pray the Stations and Evening Prayer there beforehand.


-- A very simplified menu for us. The only red meat we'll eat will be a bit of bacon or ham with Sunday breakfast, and corned beef on or around St. Patrick's Day. Otherwise, it's pasta on Mondays, egg dishes on Tuesday, soup (chicken or vegetarian) on Wedensday, fish on Thursday, pulse and grain on Friday, and either poultry or fancy seafood on Saturday evening. Sunday will be determined by our parents' choice for dinner.

-- No eating between meals. Lots of water and cups of tea.

-- More exercise. I look like I'm about to give birth to triplets. I need to do something about that.


I'm starting with Poustinia by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. I don't know what I'll do after that.

posted by Dave | 9:38 PM