Saturday, February 01, 2003

Just returned from a quick trip into the city. Went to the Pauline Bookstore on E 52 St which is great. The Daughters of St. Paul are a great group who run a publication company and run bookstores. So good to see young, joyful nuns. The bookstore is huge and in a good location. On the way to catch the subway I stopped into St. Patrick's Cathedral and learned the Lady's Chapel is closed for renovations. This is a great spot to pray because the pews prevent anyone from walking around back there. In most of the Cathedral there are many people walking around and this is a nice little quiet spot so I hope they hurry with the work they are doing. On the way out, at the corner, there were anti-fur demonstrators handing out pamphlets and when people walked by without taking them (as I did), one older lady shouted "You can stay ignorant, that's fine". Way to get people on your side. Good thing they did not notice my leather gloves had fur inside. For the first time in memory I did not get a dirty water dog in the city and I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. When I got home I learned of the space shuttle tragedy, God grant them rest.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Sick of bad news in the Church? Need hope? Check out how young Catholics blog here, here, and here
Besides a large Indian heritage here on Long Island, we also have the remnants of the Quakers. Towns like Jericho, Bethpage, Plainview, and Hicksville (named after the family of preacher Elias Hicks) testify that they were once huge on the island. I believe the oldest, continually used meeting house is here as well. Although there was a spike in membership in the 1960’s due to the anti-war movement, the Quakers have been in serious decline. They may join the Shakers as a protestant movement that contributing greatly to the culture of America but then died out. I thought of these groups when I first read a statement about heresies, either by Belloc or Chesterton (does it matter?). A heresy is taking one article of the Catholic faith, and either denying it completely or blowing it up to become the whole of the faith itself. The simplicity, asceticism, peacefulness of Quakers are all a part of Christianity but not the sum of it. I like this definition and it would explain how movements based on heresy would die out, since only part of the faith is not enough. But then, explain the Amish. Last I heard, not only are they not in decline, but their communities, Amish and Mennonites are growing. Is it a cultural thing or religious thing that keeps ‘em going? Why would the Quakers decline so greatly and not the Amish?
Conversation heard long ago on the Howard Stern show that is stuck in my memory-(the guest was on due to his remarkable talent involving flatulence)

HS: What college do you go to?
Guest: Sacred Heart University
HS: Sacred Heart? What is that Catholic? It sounds Catholic.
Guest: Yeah, but they ain’t too strong with it
"St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare, and all the rest-the dummies! Why didn't anyone have the sense to hire a director of the Office of Worship who would set them straight?" -page 99 Why Catholics Can’t Sing by Thomas Day

This book should be required reading for all Catholics, particularly music directors and priests.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Bigot Retires

I have to say I respect the founding of CNN, it was a great idea, all news just as cable was becoming huge. Turner had brains and brash and think of all the good he could have done if he had not closed his mind early in his life. I think his father's suicide & his sister's death from lupus caused him to reject Christianity. He prayed to God that his sister would be saved and when she died he blamed God. He never lost the altruism of his early life when he dreamed of being a missionary to spread the Gospel. His immature faith could not comprehend how his sister could die, and he became a bitter anti-Christian secular humanist. It is never too late though.....May God enter his heart.
HELP I'm stuck on an island with idiots!

Some people ask why there is not much adult education at the parish level. This is a valid question and I think one of the reasons is that Catholics were educated in the faith, especially up to confirmation, and then expected to live the faith. We do need more adult education in the parishes but like everything else it must be carefully screened to make sure what is being taught, is actually Catholic.
Just down the road from me is a Jewish synagogue with a Montessori school attached to it. I have always seen the sign and did not know until a couple of years ago that Montessori was Maria Montessori, a devout Catholic. I think it is ironic that very few Catholic schools follow a Montessori type program but with the growth of home schooling maybe this will change. Since home schooling seems to work so well, I would think there would be more individual learning in all schools, public or private.
A Catholic school could teach everything straight from the Catechism and still not be impressive though. The school has to be good academically, in fact, since we have a 2000 year old culture and pretty much invented the university, it should be very good. You inspire more people with quality than with crappiness. I remember telling a story of 1 little experience in high school that made a big impression on someone. In 9th grade English class, if we handed in a paper with a misspelled word, the brother made us write it out 25 times or something. This made you use a dictionary just to be safe. I used the phrase “florescent bulb” in one essay and of course looked it up. It came back marked misspelling so I went up to brother, kind of smug since I was pretty sure I was right, and told him I thought this might be a mistake. He said ok, look it up in the dictionary behind him, which I did. Turns out, there are two fluorescent words, one as in a bulb of that type (fluorescent) and one that means when a flower is in full bloom (florescent). Who the hell knows that??? Apparently Brother did, and now so do I.
A Catholic school that is not 100% Catholic is a waste of resources, energy, and a potential liability for the Church. I don’t think that this has to mean mandatory daily Adoration, Rosary, Mass, Penance, etc. but the school should not have any staff that teach false doctrine, exhibit unchristian behavior, or have an agenda that goes against the Church. If a Catholic school’s curriculum and spirit matches that of any secular school, then any money spent on tuition there is wasted. Here on Long Island, particularly on the north shore, we have some excellent public schools. There is every reason to send your child to them and unless a Catholic school offers as good an education, but also something extra, it will be empty. That something extra has to be a solid Catholic education. Again, less may be more when it comes to Catholic schools.

Connected to a solid Catholic education is how that faith is taught. A school could make kids memorize the Baltimore catechism and attend prayer services on the hour, but if the staff is grumpy, cold, nasty, or stupid, then it will not succeed in evangelization. The whole culture of a Catholic school should be positive and this especially applies to Theology class. Some people today think the way theology was taught in the past was too simple, too rote, too uncritical. There is some truth to this. But it is equally false to think that teaching in a critical, constantly questioning way is going to turn out Catholics ready to set the world on fire with their faith. The Jesus seminar type of thing does not evangelize, it de-evangelizes. When I got to high school I remember being impressed with the first religion class I had to take. Grammar school was God is Love type of stuff, but in this class we studied the Bible as history and it was interesting. It also made me realize that this religion stuff was real, not theory. Religion class was an academic subject, like the others, just as important and in fact most important. The brothers and priests (no lay people in the religion dept. even today) taught us as if they respected our intelligence but also expected us to respect the Church. My first posts on education prompted some comments showing that many who get taught in a negative way, either get confused or just give up believing. This is simple educational methodology too. Which is better for teaching classical music--- teaching a class for 45 minutes that rock music sucks and that classical is better or teaching a class for 45 minutes about classical music and letting kids figure it out for themselves? If a teacher really truly loves classical music, then he/she will be passionate about it and children will pick up on that. People who are passionate want to spread their knowledge not tear down what others think or like. When teaching theology or any subject in religion, teachers should be passionate and love what they are teaching. If they spend most of their time teaching impressionable kids that everything they have been taught is wrong, that we need to create a new church to replace the big bad old one, then the kids will not exactly go evangelizing the world. This is what is happening now in many places in Catholic education and we are becoming a church of Woody Allens – neurotic, self-doubting, wimps. (No offense Woody).
A major problem today with Catholic schools is the expense. Catholic schools should be well run and a special effort should be made to make them affordable to low income Catholics. Even if it means less schools, Catholics should make sure that Catholic education is affordable
Inspired by Amy Welborn’s posts on Catholic education, which is a particular area of interest for me, I want to post some thoughts (grammar school and high school only- University is another kettle of fish):

Catholic schools are not strictly necessary, in the sense that the faith can be passed on without them. This is the case in some countries. This has to be said since many people act as if closing a Catholic school is the worst thing that could be done. In fact, Catholic schools are sort of a luxury and should be thought of that way. In areas that once had a large Catholic population but now do not, Catholic schools have to be closed. This is true of New York City where many schools have a very high percentage of non-Catholic students. This is very politically incorrect and unpopular but the primary purpose of Catholic schools is to teach the faith to Catholics and if Catholics move from an area, then the schools must move with them. (Cardinal O’Connor hated the idea of closing schools and his heart was in the right place but Catholics can’t be expected to foot the bill for educating all children).

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Great education posts and comments at In Between Naps. I wanted to make Catholic education the focus of my blog but maybe its easier to just go there.
It Seems like they are everywhere I look, Is it just me???

One of my favorite authors, Joseph Pearce, wrote Literary Converts, which discusses the many literary and artistic converts of England before Vatican II. The list of accomplished adult converts there and in America is impressive. I can’t think of too many who converted during the upheaval of the 60’s and 70’s. This is regrettable but understandable. Lately, it seems like another tidal wave of converts started up again in the 80’s and 90’s. If this is true, then the cut off was due to the immense changes in society and in the Church and not to the Council itself, as some claim. I consider the converts to be a major factor in my return to the Church. Almost every writer, book, magazine, EWTN show, or blog that I enjoy is run by or authored by a convert. We have to figure out how to bottle this faith of the convert and raise cradle Catholics that have as much zeal and knowledge.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Just got my first request from the National Catholic Register for a donation. They are doing well with subscriptions and want to expand according to the professional looking brochure. I like this paper, its very well done and a good part of the Legionaries of Christ apostolate. One thing I respect in charitable organizations is professionalism, I am more likely to give if the charity seems like they know what they are doing. I get this from Chaminade, my high school, run by the best. My parents had a different philosophy of giving: if the charity seemed like they needed money, they would give. As a Catholic on several mailing lists, I get inundated with requests for money. With the thousands of good ways to donate your money, how do you know what is best?? I limit my donations to a couple of orthodox, quality charities, and the rest of my giving is in the collection at Mass. I try to stick with things I am familiar with on a firsthand basis. If a Catholic charity is not orthodox then don’t support it at all, but if an orthodox charity is not well run, it may also not be worth supporting.
Brother Astronomer Adventure of a Vatican Astronomer by Guy Consolmagno-- NEWSFLASH- A Jesuit who seems happy and appears to love the Church!!! I liked this book, its interesting and the good brother tells the truth which is rare today. Read the book but don’t tell his superiors, remember what happens to good Jesuits (think Hardon and Fessio).
For years now, the many religious communities that were “re-formed” have been in denial about their inability to attract vocations. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, in his book The Reform of Renewal, describes listening to a speaker describe a great formation program. When asked directly, the speaker admitted there were no students in this program. Besides the inability to see their own failings in this area, many religious will deny the opposite situation, namely: the more orthodox, traditional groups get more vocations. I have seen Catholics do acrobatics worthy of Cirque Du Soleil in trying to explain how orthodox or traditionalists do not really get and keep vocations. I have seen speakers and writers try to explain that these younger, more orthodox priests and seminarians cause problems in parishes, but without mentioning any specifics. I sat next to a Franciscan who tried to say that a community known for being “conservative”, young and vibrant was not growing since they have the same number of brothers at their school as they did years ago (29). I informed him that , while that was true, this community founded a second school and a group of brothers (10) now live there. (29 + 10= 39) I might as well have just told the wall directly behind him rather than the info passing through the Franciscan.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

In case your wondering, I really don’t care who wins the Super Bowl, as long as the score at the end of some quarter ends in a “3” or a “0”, then I will be happy.

(I wrote this, but before I posted it I checked the Catechism to see what it says about gambling. I found this: “Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others.”)
Early Mass today was, in the words of Bart Simpson, craptacular. There was a giant video screen set up on the back wall of the sanctuary. Since it was covering the statue of the risen Christ and empty cross that are on that wall, they had a slide of this artwork on the screen. 2 televisions were set up facing the sides where people sit. I went to this Mass since the young, orthodox priest was celebrating this one. He explained that, no it was not a setup for a Superbowl simulcast, but a slide show for the Parish's anniversary which we are celebrating all year. The slide show came after Communion, and was awful. The slides were mostly of people of the parish and went by so quickly you could hardly make anything out. Background music was sentimental stuff, and then the finale was - I am not making this up- Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World. The script of the slide show was basically that we are a wonderful parish made up of wonderful people and isn't that wonderful? The post Vatican II era of the parish was described as "sensitive time of change". LOL This would have been fine for a parish event, such as the anniversary dinner they are going to have, but not at Mass. Or am I just too cynical? The priest, as usual was excellent. His homily touched on the dramatic call to follow Christ that characterized the Apostles and the Saints, while explaining that our call may not be as dramatic. He mentioned the dramatic call and our response such as when we do not contracept, do not abort, when we encourage vocations. This priest knows what people need to hear.