Huge-IT Third Slide.

What’s in a name?

Easter is among other things, a feast where the Sacrament of Baptism is to the fore. The Easter Vigil has as its center the administration of Baptism to adult converts.

I’ve been baptizing babies (and adults) for 34 years and in that time I’ve noticed what is to me a distressing trend: the gradual disappearance of the “Christian name”

I came across this article and I offer it to you for your consideration.

http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9588

 

Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Ciceronianus vel Christianus?

The question above, according to Saint Jerome’s own account, came to him one day as what we might call an “epiphany moment”.  Jerome, a Christian, was a young man of the Fourth Century AD and totally enthralled and absorbed in the Latin writings of the Roman authors of the recent past; all of whom were pagan. He spent hours reading and admiring the great minds of the pagan Rome fading into history. His favorite was the writings of the author and politician Cicero who lived 300 years before him and was considered a model of rhetoric. Then one day Jerome said he felt the Lord ask him a question that changed his life: Are you a Ciceronian or a Christian?

At that moment, Jerome knew he had to make a fundamental decision about himself: who was he? Whom did he really adore? Where was his treasure? to use Jesus’ words.

He made the decision that he was, not only in name but in fact, a Christian and dedicated the rest of his years and his considerable talents in the service of the Church at Rome and in the Holy Land. He accepted Pope Damasus I’s commission and spent decades on the formidable task of translating the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible into Latin; then the popular or “vulgar” tongue of the Western Roman Empire. His Latin Bible, known as the Vulgate, after several revisions, forms the basis even today of the Catholic Church’s official Latin text of the Scriptures.

I give this story and the question above because I’ve been musing on it today.

In the words of Jesus Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.

Where is my treasure? Where is yours?

It is very easy to combine a more or less sincere profession of Catholicism with other, secular interests and hobbies. That is good as far as it goes, but, how far does it go?

I’ve known clerics who seem barely interested in the history, lore, and practice of the priesthood; yet mention fly-fishing, Broadway plays, sports or historical hat collecting and their eyes light up. Decent fellows to be sure, but no world-burners unless it comes to their real interest. Mass-goers leave church and complain to the priest in all seriousness that the length of the “sermon” (notice it’s NEVER the length of the readings, music, Prayer of the Faithful, or announcements) interfered with the (fill in your own blank) game. A colleague who once told me he’s never used any other Eucharistic Prayer other than “Canon Two” 365 days a year, Christmas, Easter, you name it, because it’s “short”; spent at least 2 hours a day exercising.

And me, when I think of the nonsense I’ve wasted time and money on for amusement!

While some of this may be in the realm of the harmless hobby or intellectual interest, the phenomenon can go deeper to questions of basic loyalty.

This is certainly a question when it comes to significant issues in public life.

One of the hoped-for results of the Catholic Church in America’s unprecedented devotion to privately funded Catholic education at all levels was to influence the public life of the country along “Catholic principles.” Decades of sacrifice, talk of “Catholic Action”, Catholic textbooks and apologetics were to, among other things; provide a crop of Catholic leaders in every field who would influence the political, professional, social, industrial, and educational culture of the United States. A free Church in a free country, “our own” would by persuasion, conviction, and a superior education give a Catholic tinge to everything.

Above all, we might have expected legislators and statesmen/women, benefiting so often from Catholic colleges and universities to be exemplary leaders of our national life. A whole tide of Irish-American and Italo-American politicians ( traditionally the two biggest Catholic ethnicities of our region) coming out of Saint John’s, Fordham, “Catholic U”, “BC”, Notre Dame, etc., would, without any forcing of anything on anybody, make Catholic moral principles an integral part of American public life.

Yet….

A wag once described the 19th century Church of England as “the Tory Party on its knees.” This meant that the mores, culture, outlook, and values of what was supposed to be a national Church was actually just a partisan body.  It has been sometimes said that the Catholic Church in America runs a similar risk.

Historically Roman Catholics tended to vote (and still often do) for the Democratic Party. It is a party now full of Irish, Italian, Polish, and Spanish names all betokening a Catholic background. Many of them are quite willing to trade on their Catholic roots and ethnic associations on  Columbus Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Pulaski Day, St. John the Baptist Day, etc.

Some of them indeed are highly praised for their concern for the poor and the immigrant.  However, one class of the “poor” they seem to successfully not have concern for is often the unborn child. Almost to a man or woman they rarely if ever oppose abortion; and if they do, it’s muted and almost never to the fore. They indeed, often act to extend and “protect a woman’s right to choose” to the exclusion of any other consideration.  It is argued, even by some who ought to know better, that this pro-abortion stance (indistinguishable from any other secular “progressive”) is balanced by the afore-mentioned concern for the poor.

Well, in what does this concern for the poor usually consist?

Is it in personally serving the poor in simple and practical ways? Is it by refusing ostentatious and affluent lifestyles? Passing up private jets, summer homes, and large (often inherited) private fortunes? Or is it by advocating “public” programs that basically take money from one segment of the population and transfer it to another by legislation? Prescinding from both the inherent morality of such programs and the effectiveness in actually solving the problems addressed, I do not see an equivalence in the moral calculation of “he/she may be pro-choice, but there are OTHER moral issues such as care for the poor” arguments often advanced by apologists for the “pro-choice Catholic”.

How can it be that a theoretically POSSIBLE benefit to the poor (however defined) can balance an ACTUAL destruction of an ACTUALLY existing innocent life?

It can’t.

Let me put it simply and graphically.

Assume that the government came to you and said “We can end poverty, advantage the disadvantaged, end injustice beyond any doubt by legislation. There is, however, one little catch. We just need to strangle ONE infant child. Just one out of all the thousands of infants in the US; not much to ask. OK, folks, who wants to volunteer your baby? Anybody?”

No? I didn’t think so.

That’s my point in a nutshell: one may NEVER commit an actual grave moral evil for a putatively good end.  Also, while one may never presume the subjective moral state of another individual before God, one should at least not be taken in by specious arguments that evade the truth, however difficult.

But then again, that’s just me…

 

April 6, 2011

Huge-IT Third Slide.

“What’s so wrong with…?”

Just the other day I had occasion to correct an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion as to the manner of his distribution of Holy Communion. I had earlier made the point below at a general meeting of E.M.’s and I thought perhaps it had not registered. In any case, I had to make the point personally and simply.

As I had expected he came to me a few days later to ask why I had corrected his usual form of words: THIS IS the Body of Christ. That good man asked the question that I think goes to the heart of a common attitude to the Liturgy today.  His assertion after I simply informed him that the Church prescribes the simple phrase “The Body of Christ” without any trimmings was “”Well, what’s so wrong with saying “THIS IS the Body of Christ”? Nothing really, except it’s NOT the Liturgy of the Church. There may not be anything much “wrong” with saying what he says; but is it GOOD? 

The Church in her Liturgy specifies the dialogue that is to take place at the moment of reception of Holy Communion between the priest/deacon/ or Extraordinary Minister. He/she is to simply say The Body of Christ. The communicant is to respond with Amen.

It’s all rather short and sweet, isn’t it?

The Church tells her clergy and ministers that none of us has the right to alter that formula with additions of our own, no matter how seemingly meaningful to oneself or others.  The priest, deacon, or “EM” is at that moment a means of Communion, not the originator. We are the servants of the Church and her Liturgy,  not its masters. The addition of personal names, or added specifications or phrases, however well meant ultimately create division and what the moral theologians used to call admiratio (literally “wonderment”.)

While each priest, deacon or EM is an individual and there are times in the Mass where a priest celebrant or a deacon can exercise some options this is not one of them.

People come away wondering “Well, how come he doesn’t know MY name?…or

( with a bit of humor here, folks) “How come Father Rambertus says ‘The Body of Christ’ while Father Amphilocius says “The Body of the  Risen Lord Son of Mary Grandson of Joachim and Anne”? While indeed Jesus IS the Risen Lord, Son of Mary and ( logically) the grandson in the flesh of Sts. Joachim and Anne; that is NOT what the Church has sanctified as IT’s ( not MY) Formula of Holy Communion.

The laity too has their expected response: simply Amen. The same arguments above apply to the Communicant. It is not correct, or even, polite to not make your response when the Minister holds the Sacred Host before you and announces The Body of Christ or to make some other response of one’s own devising It is not for me to alter that formula as a priest, or for a layman to refuse to reply on the grounds of a purely personal piety.

 

We are soon to embark on the most significant liturgical changes in 4 decades: the new vernacular texts of the Roman Missal that will replace the words with which we have all grown familiar since the 60’s. I might even say that these changes will be more significant than even the change from Latin to English and the production of a new Rite of Mass in 1970 to replace the “old Mass” in either Latin or English. Then, it was all new. The Latin texts of the Mass were not commonly spoken aloud by the laity and the new English texts and prayers had no force of custom behind them. Now we will ALL be expected to learn different prayers and ways of expression. Leaving aside the texts themselves, I foresee the greatest challenge for many will be one of simply adhering to normative texts and words after 4 decades of wide-spread personal variations, preferences, and “improvements” on the part of both priests and laity.

The attitude of “What’s so wrong if I….etc…etc..?” has led to situations where there seems to be no part of the Mass that escapes “improvement”. Recently I attempted to concelebrate a Mass presided over by another priest whose “personal improvements” on the Eucharistic Prayer made it nearly impossible to follow. He wasn’t doing this to be disobedient, but a habit he had gotten into over decades that he didn’t even notice anymore.

Yet, it was NOT the Liturgy as the Catholic Church gives to us, but as “Father” gives it to us.

Another example is the many variations on the simple Dismissal “ The Mass is ended, go in peace” and its options have led to seemingly limitless variations and an unintentionally humorous confusion as to when am I supposed to say “Thanks be to God”?

 

I will have more to write on this here and in the bulletin; but be prepared.

The answer to this dilemma and confusion (and even willfulness) is summed in the motto that the Bl. Pope John XXIII chose as his motto: Obedientia et Pax.

If I could be said to have a “program” for the “implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal” that would be it !

 

March 28, 2011

 

Huge-IT Third Slide.

“Lady Day”

Well, it’s only nine months to Christmas!…As of yesterday.

I would have posted this entry yesterday, March 25th, if I’d hit the right button at the end of my “admin page” but I didn’t. So, as they say, “better late than never”.

Yesterday, March 25th was the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the liturgical calendar, it holds the rank of Solemnity: the highest of all liturgical days. If it falls during Holy Week it is transferred to the nearest “free day”; i.e., the Monday after Low Sunday ( I’ll explain that in a future entry.)

It is the day that the Church evolved in her calendar to mark with plain realism the conception of the Incarnate Son of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary exactly nine months before Christmas. The scene is given to us in the Gospel of Saint Luke and so well loved was it that the day and its central event entered into the very history of western Christendom and its culture. Few artists over the centuries could resist painting it; museums of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and even more modern art are replete with “Annunciations” from the hands of countless masters.

The most beloved Catholic prayer, the Hail Mary, is essentially the Annunciation in its text. The Angelus,  prayers in honor of the Annunciation, still rings out in many churches at noon.

This Feast was so highly regarded that for centuries it marked the first day of the civil year! Hence the naming of September, October, November, December ( “Seventh…Eighth…Ninth …Tenth months”) while now, of course, they are 9th…10th…11th..and 12th months. As late as the 18th century March 25th, “Lady Day” was the first day of the year in some places.

This feast marks the beginning of The Greatest Story Ever Told and recalls us in the midst of Lent to the astounding and tender fact that God’s plan of Redemption sought, prepared, and received the consent of Mary to open her heart and her very body to the Holy Spirit to effect within her the conception of the God-Man.

Let us make her reply our own….Fiat mihi!!!…Let it be done to me according to your word!

March 26, 2011

Huge-IT Third Slide.

I Don’t Need Ashes

Continuing with the Ash Wednesday theme of the last few entries, I recently read the newsletter of another parish that piqued my interest.

The pastor said that during the Ash Wednesday services in his church he saw a regular parishioner, a daily Mass goer, staying in the pews while everyone else was going up to receive ashes. He later asked why she, of all people, seemed to be the only Catholic in the world who didn’t want ashes. She replied quite calmly that she didn’t need to get ashes because, as she averred, “I have no sins to repent of.”

Of course, he found this rather startling and bit “much” and reflected on that person’s spiritual pride. My own reaction was a bit different: But isn’t she mortal?

It was apparent to me what had happened: he was using the newer option of the formula for the imposition of ashes: Repent and believe in the Gospel! ( the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Mark.) While not for one minute approving of that woman’s surprising (and impossible) assertion, I could see the origin of her remark. She probably did in fact already “believe in the Gospel” and might well have had no mortal sins to repent of. Now if she was serious in her statement to her pastor, however, she is in real danger of spiritual blindness.

If however, she heard as she came forward for ashes the other formula ( from the Book of Genesis) Remember, O man, that you are dust and unto dust, you shall return she might well have made no such demurral; unless she thinks she is in fact immortal.

Personally, I have only used the “old” formula in all my 34 years of giving out blessed ashes with very few exceptions. The Church “invented” Ash Wednesday over 1200 years ago and the Genesis formula seemed a perfect fit.

The words of God as written by the Sacred Author of Genesis are His stark reminder that we are dust; i.e., beings that only live at His leave and by His permission; and that even the best of us are ultimately to resolve physically into near nothingness. This is designed to urge us to cultivate the only thing that we will take out of this world: our immortal soul.

It is the teaching of the Faith that at the moment that we begin to exist physically in our mother’s womb at our conception, created “mediately” through the biological processes of which He is the Author, God “immediately” and directly creates our immortal soul and “infuses” it into our developing being.

While all human beings share a remarkably high percentage of DNA, what is completely unique to each one of us is our soul. Unrepeatable, a direct creation of the Heavenly Father we come into being as a “mixed” being: body and spirit (soul.)  With a foot in each kingdom, the mortal and animal, and the immortal and spiritual; we make our way through this earth and the span of years allotted to us.

The ancient Genesis statement reminds us of the separation of these two components of our human existence in bodily death and the primacy of the spiritual.

That is true of everybody: saint AND sinner and that for is me the power of the giving and receiving of blessed ashes on Ash Wednesday.

It is that that urges me to cultivate my soul in these weeks of Lent.

March 23, 2011

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent.

Huge-IT Third Slide.

After the dust or ashes have settled….

My blog entry last week was written the day before Ash Wednesday, known traditionally as Shrove Tuesday. The name is derived from an old English word shrive which meant the act of Absolution in the Sacrament of Penance in Confession. It was the custom in Pre-Reformation Catholic England for many to go to Confession on the day before Ash Wednesday to be shriven of their sins, i.e., absolved.

I wrote some reflections on Ash Wednesday and our new policy of not only distributing Ashes at several Liturgies but throughout the day until about 8:30 PM.  I ended with James Joyce’s quip about the Catholic Church: Here comes everybody!

While at no time were we overwhelmed the priests and deacons found a steady stream of people seeking Ashes especially in the early and late afternoon as well as the 7 PM Mass and afterward. As I imposed Ashes on men, women, and children I often heard a whispered Thank you, Father. There was one rather arthritic lady who I saw starting to make her slow way up the main aisle on her walker. I got up from my chair at the altar rail and was able to meet her not too far up the aisle. She was delighted and tearful at the gesture, sparing her what would have been a laborious trek up to the rail and then back out again. For me, it was a gesture of simple politeness. I had no line waiting for Ashes and it seemed so natural to not make her walk all the way up.  It was an easy thing for me, yet a very moving one for her. As for the day long availability, apart from the congregations at the Masses and the Liturgy of the Word, it made for a more unhurried and kindly atmosphere in which one might impose Ashes on individuals in a less frenetic atmosphere.

Ash Wednesday is about simple things I guess: economically worthless palm ash, a simple sentence, a cross of black smudged on a forehead. Yet perhaps, a lot of good.

March 14. Monday in the first week of Lent.

 

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Here comes everybody!

Remember, O man, that you are dust….Repent and believe in the Gospel!

 

Back in 1966, Pope Paul VI issued an Apostolic Constitution entitled Paenitemini  ( “Do penance!”) on the penitential discipline of Lent and the other laws of the Church in that area. Those were the heady days of the immediate post-Vatican II era when changes seemed to come every day in almost every aspect of Catholic life. The Pope started off by extolling the practice of penance and penitential discipline, already fully in place in the Western Church: fast and abstinence on the weekdays of Lent, the Vigils of great Feasts (hence the Italian custom of the big fish meal on Christmas Eve), the quarterly Ember Days, abstinence from meat on every Friday, as well as the voluntary penances people often imposed on themselves over and above these in Lent. However, as was so often the case of Pope Paul’s documents, the very thing he started off praising and extolling was abrogated or weakened by the end. Various “modern conditions” and “new insights” and being more “mature Christians” meant we could viitiate and renew all that old discipline. The upshot was that by the end of that year we were told that “we can eat meat on Friday now” and no longer needed to fast or abstain partially from meat on the weekdays of Lent. By 1970, the ancient penitential Ember Days and Vigils of great Feasts were also gone.  In place of the mandatory fasts and self-denials from meat, we were told to substitute more “meaningful” penances.

Forty-five years later I think we might be hard pressed to say that the remnant of practicing Catholics, clergy or laity, are today any more penitentially “mature” than in the “bad old days.”

Despite the Pope’s very fine statements about penance as a virtue and what it should be; few could argue today that his expressed desired aims have been achieved.

Ironically, the one thing that has occurred is surely not what the Pope intended: that a once visible and corporate season and days of penance have become private and individual; if not invisible.  Before 1966 one could see all around you in businesses, schools, and neighborhoods, evidence of Catholics (and indeed other Christians) abstaining from meat on certain days, taking small meals only in the morning or at lunch, all through Lent. Certainly more tuna fish and egg-salad sandwiches were consumed than at any other time since! We could see in our towns that in close proximity to every Catholic church were a bakery and a fish store.  After Mass, Catholics would buy rolls and buns now that the Communion Fast was broken and on Fridays would line up to buy their flounder filet.  Now we are “obliged” in one way or another to fast and abstain only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

I vividly remember some years ago when I was at Saint James Parish in Seaford finding myself with a few free hours in the late morning and early afternoon on a Good Friday. I went down to the Jones Beach boardwalk to walk and prepare myself for the Liturgy later that day. It was a bright and sunny spring day, and I thought I’d have a little lunch. I went into the main concession stand in the Central Mall to get a cup of clam chowder. The room was packed with people eagerly wolfing down hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken. On Good Friday!  I thought to myself  “Boy, there’s a lot of Jews here today!” with a wink and an inward sardonic smile.

What had happened?

A story is told of how in the 19th century the Jesuits of the United States wished to build a new seminary. They forwarded the plans to the “headquarters” of the Society in Rome. The plans came back with circles around some areas and a Latin quip: Suntne Angeli? (Are they Angels?). The earnest planners had neglected a minor detail: toilets and baths!

I wonder if we thought we were “angels” years ago and could “go beyond” the “old” practices? Or as flesh and blood men and women do we still need the more real rather than the abstract? Talk of fasting is no substitute for the sensation of an empty stomach denied a bigger lunch.

To be honest I wonder if Lent for many is basically six weeks of purple vestments and vague talk of “sinfulness” and “our journey towards Easter” as though somehow we’re not all going to get there on April 24th willy-nilly?

Tomorrow, as we have done from ages past, we begin the Season of Lent with the observance of Ash Wednesday and its blessing and imposition of ashes upon our foreheads.

Oddly enough it’s the last vestige of the old, deeply Catholic, notion of corporate penance. Thousands of people all over Long Island will walk around with the black smudge of ash on their foreheads for all to see. And by no means would all, or most, be what we might call “practicing Catholics”. They are often that derided group called “A & P Catholics”: Ashes and Palms.

True, but something draws them, and us, here.

Recently a brother priest remarked at a meeting that Ash Wednesday is the one thing we have where you don’t have to do anything, say anything, belong to anything (even non-baptized people can, and do, receive ashes.) You don’t have to “sign up”, sing, shake your neighbor’s hand, or even engage in “full, active, conscious participation”.

They just show up, at often inconvenient hours and times, “to get my ashes.”

I have long since learned not to despise these A’s & P’s and have given up trying to shoe-horn them into our neat liturgical boxes of when and where ashes will be distributed and “at no other times.”

Of course, everybody should be practicing their Faith and receive ashes in a context that is meaningful and even liturgical.

But in a Church where less than 20% practice their Faith at all, I’m not sure we can afford to be too smug about making them part of an “assembly”.

So, we open the doors of Saint Matthew’s at 6:30 AM and close them at 8:30 PM and we’ll see who comes and how demanding it might be upon priestly and diaconal nerves. But one thing I think it is safe to say, as the poet James Joyce said of the Catholic Church: Here comes everybody!

Shrove Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Huge-IT Third Slide.

The King’s Speech…and my own

As we know this year several “Oscars” went to the movie The King’s Speech. While I do not usually follow the movies, I had hoped this particular film would win. It seemed at first an unlikely candidate.  The film is an historical drama devoid of violence, special effects, or sex, based on events known to very few people today, especially in the United States: the late King George VI (reigned 1936-1952) and his long painful struggle with a debilitating stammer; and the efforts he made to overcome it with the help of an Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, and with the support of his devoted wife, the future Queen Mother. They are the parents of the current Queen Elizabeth II. I would suspect that hardly any of the audience who viewed the movie had any but the vaguest idea of the characters depicted but were moved by both the quality of the acting and cinematography and the human qualities of the story itself.  ( Of course, dramatic license was taken and unfortunately, there was a bit of (in my opinion) unnecessary profanity.)

I went to see it in January, but it was a story with which I was already familiar.  I knew quite a bit about George VI, his stammer, and Lionel Logue. I knew that a “stammer” (also called non-fluency) is a paralyzing (literally and figuratively) of a person’s ability to speak. Unlike a stutter, where sounds explode repetitively, a stammer prevents one from uttering sounds at all. One feels strangled and desperately helpless as an invisible hand seems to clamp down on one’s throat. The humiliation is intense as one “freezes” or utters inarticulate groans.

A 1924 speech of the then “Bertie”, Duke of York is shown as the nadir of the man’s affliction.  You can also find several clips of actual footage of him making a speech and visibly and audibly struggling to get his words out. His jaw works tensely as he pauses awkwardly, and the struggle is obvious. Colin Firth, the actor who portrayed him, said he wept while watching and listening to those clips as he prepared for the role in sheer sympathy for the man as he fought an affliction so terrible for one whose public role required a clear voice.

I knew the story well since it is similar to mine.

I too stammered as a child until my 20’s. I knew the terror a phone call, a public speech or reading, even speaking to a clerk at a store could bring. Early on I felt the humiliation and shame that a public speech impediment can cause; as well as the fear that it will never go away, or that one is mentally or emotionally ill.

Like many such people, I developed an early love of reading and learned to express myself in writing. When I felt within myself the vocation to the priesthood I went along with it, but all the while I wondered how I was ever going to be allowed to be ordained. After all, how could a man who cannot speak fluently or comfortably be a “preacher”?

All through my school days right up into college I feared and avoided public speaking. I had a little speech therapy as a child but to no effect. For the rest, I just had to “get on with it”. I would sometimes go to great lengths to avoid speaking in public or even chance conversations.

In those days, with my love of history, I chanced upon a biography of King George VI. Immediately I felt an admiration for such a man whose birth and duty propelled him into “…the fierce light that beats upon a throne” and who had to contend with a stammer.  I read anything I could about him and Logue.

As for myself, my own stammer essentially disappeared on its own in my college years. I was petrified in my first “speech class” when the professor evaluated us by handing each of us a copy of the newspaper and asking us to read an article out loud.  As I picked up the paper I told him that I had a stammer and to expect to hear me struggle. He told me to “Go ahead.” I did, not without some fear and pausing. He looked at me and said “What stammer?” It was from that moment on that the burden began to lift from my shoulders. Some might say I’ve made up for lost time ever since!

Like many such cases, there are times when fatigue or awkward moments trigger a “flashback”.  We know for the King, while it moderated, it never entirely disappeared.

So, when I went to see the movie, in a way, and I’m sure like many another sufferer from various speech impediments, I went to see something of my own “Speech.”

I write this account with some degree of reluctance. One might take away the impression of self-absorption; or perhaps too much self-revelation; and exposing my personal vulnerabilities is not my (or I suspect, most people’s) “strong suit”. Yet, I write them for any who might read these words and find in them some measure of comfort or even hope that such trials can be overcome.

At a climactic moment of the film, the King passionately blurts out at his mentor I have a voice!  

May all who so suffer find their voice.

 

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Blog away…

This is the first new posting in my “Blog” ( “Web Log”) on our new parish website. I will “blog” here in this space periodically with thoughts, ideas, ruminations that I might put in the bulletin. Sometimes they will be fairly unremarkable, other times perhaps, more controversial of challenging.

I believe that a good, active, and interactive Parish website is an important means of communication in our increasingly electronic age.

I remember back in the 90’s resisting the suggestions of others that I get a computer. Finally, some very generous friends bought me one. It arrived in components; all wires, cables, boxes etc. To make a long story short, it was a case of interest meeting opportunity. There were much trial and error but years later I can’t imagine life without a computer any more than without a telephone.

As with the TV, the computer can be an awful ( in many senses of the word) time-waster or a fantastic means of communication and world-wide information and sharing. It can also serve a means of teaching, evangelizing, and the sharing of the Faith.

For me, this blog will be a place to air my thoughts and to communicate on issues affecting the Church, the Diocese, the Parish, and indeed our culture and the world today.

Feb. 19, 2011

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Last November

Thursday of this week is November 11th and for many of us that date brings back memories. For those perhaps a bit older, we might remember it as Armistice Day; though now it is officially Veterans’ Day. For most of the rest of the English-speaking world, it is known as Remembrance Day. What is the “Armistice” and what are we remembering?

Well, it marks the day that “the guns fell silent” all along the “Western Front” in 1918, the end of hostilities in what was then simply called “The Great War”; and now in light of the sad experience of subsequent years known as The First World War.

So long ago! I guess now there is no one now living who served in those vast and desperate armies? Is there now no one left of Pershing’s “Doughboys” to tell their tales?

I remember many years ago at a Veterans’ Day Parade in Oyster Bay when I was a newly-ordained priest in 1978 gazing with awe at what seemed to me then a very old man dressed in the khaki and round hat of a “WWI” American soldier. I also noticed tears streaming down his face during the patriotic speeches by civic officials and politicians. Those tears were signs of a human suffering that he still bore after so many decades; that I could not hope to comprehend.

For many of us, “WWI” evokes memories of “Kaisers”, “Tsars”, spiked helmets, bi-planes, zeppelins, “Doughboys”, and trenches; and (most trivially) “Snoopy” on his doghouse “Sopwith Camel” hunting for the “Red Baron” comes to mind.

In fact, it was the single greatest human-caused catastrophe known to man until that time. Untold millions of people lost their lives, their health, and their civilizations in the onslaught of mechanized mass-produced war and its social, political, and economic aftermath.

In fact, so horror-stricken were the societies at the terrible destruction and the hordes of the nameless unidentifiable dead that a wave of emotion swept the Western world whose visible effects remain to this day in the Tombs of Unknown Soldiers that exist in every major capital city of the victorious powers.

As Catholics, there is an added interest to this day.

By the time the war was winding down, and the Germans were at the end of their capacity to hold the Front, the Allies had placed a French general at the head of their combined forces. He was Ferdinand Foch (after whom they eventually named a boulevard in Queens.) Foch had risen to the supreme rank of “Marshal of France” despite the fact that he was “politically incorrect” as far as French political society in those days saw it: he was a practicing Catholic who attended Mass every day and received Communion frequently.

While not a saint, this was so unusual for a French general that his men called him “The Capuchin in boots.”

It was to his headquarters that the German request for an “Armistice” or “cease-fire” came in the second week of November 1918. It took time to arrange given the size and complexity of the area involved (from the Belgian coast to the Alps) but Foch set the cease-fire to begin on “the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month: that is at 11AM on November 11th.

Foch would have known very well from his daily Mass and his faith that the day was also the feast if Saint Martin of Tours, the 4th century soldier turned monk and eventually bishop who is the patron saint of French soldiers.

Merely a coincidence, as the French say, n’est-ce pas?

As the kids say today: NOT!

This weekend we remember all veterans of the Armed Forces of whatever war, era, or time. God bless them all; as the old song says, “the long and the short and the tall.”