Thursday, April 30, 2009

Upcoming Trip?

I've been planning a Memorial Day weekend trip to Mexico City to visit Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

That trip is now put in doubt by the recent swine flu business. Another time, perhaps.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Portuguese Papacy?

Good Shepherd Sunday


During WWII, Pope Pius XII directed that should the Nazis ever follow through on their threat to abduct him, his resignation would be effective immediately. The cardinals of the Vatican would then move to neutral Portugal and elect a successor. Pope Pius told his advisers the person the Nazis would have under these conditions "would not be Pius XII but Eugenio Pacelli" (his name before he was elected Pontiff).

Hitler had ordered the kidnapping because he feared that Pius would further criticise the Nazis' treatment of the Jews. Pius was loathed by the Nazis for speaking out about the Holocaust and for behind-the-scenes efforts to save Italian Jews who otherwise would have been sent to death camps.

"Only the Catholic Church protested against the Hitlerian onslaught on liberty. Up till then I had not been interested in the Church, but today I feel a great admiration for the Church, which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral liberty."
- Albert Einstein

"During a generation of wars and dissensions, he affirmed the high ideals of peace and compassion. During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims. The life of our time has been enriched by a voice which expressed the great moral truths above the tumults of daily conflicts."
- Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister 1969-1974

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Friday Vegetarian

"So where do you want to eat lunch today?" my colleague asked.

"So long as I can get a meatless dish I'm flexible," I replied.

"Wait -- are you a vegetarian?"

"Only on Fridays," I said.

"But it's not Lent anymore!"

"No, but I'm a traditional Catholic, so I pass on meat on Fridays year 'round."

This was greeted with an eye roll. Curiously, the same chap is routinely keen to be polite and helpful to the week-round vegetarians, suggesting places to go that have decent non-meat alternatives. Clearly, the eye roll wasn't about abstaining from meat: it was about doing so for love of God.

It was the 12 apostles who started the practice. Christ gave up His flesh on a Friday, one friend explained to me, so we should give up flesh meat then too. Another said it was fitting to do penance through avoiding certain foods because Adam and Eve had been escorted from the Garden after eating the forbidden fruit. Yet another friend told me that more people end up in Hell from indulging their physical appetites than for any other reason, so it makes sense to curb such desires by abstaining from meat. Then there's the simple fact that meatless Fridays has been the constant 2,000 year practice of the Church; that by itself is sufficient reason to keep it going.

Dictum sapienti sat est.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earthen Ambassadors from China


Yesterday I went to Atlanta's High Museum of Art to see a detachment from the 8,000-strong terra cotta army that stood guard for over 2,000 years in the tomb of Qin Shi Huang (259 BC – 210 BC), the first Chinese Emperor.

Terra Cotta Army at Xi'an, China

There are several types of soldiers represented in the army -- infantry, charioteers (with horses), archers, officers -- and each of the 8,000 has a unique face and head: you can see facial differences between old and young, different hairstyles, and various kinds of hats. The figures range from 6'0" to 6'5" in height -- what would have been almost mythological proportions to the people of the time. Though the figures are all a dull grayish-brown now (terra cotta is a clay-based unglazed ceramic), when first sent into active duty they were painted in a rainbow of brilliant colors.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Navy 1, Pirates 0

Easter Sunday


Today U.S. Navy snipers opened fire and killed three pirates holding an American captain at gunpoint, delivering the skipper unharmed and ending a five-day high-seas hostage drama.

The captain had offered himself as a captive to the pirates, an act that allowed his crew to escape. The pirates were pointing AK-47s at the captain when the commander of the nearby destroyer Bainbridge gave the order to open fire.

“I’m just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs, those who have brought me home,” Captain Phillips said.

Perhaps this was not Lepanto in miniature, but it was a lovely Easter gift all the same.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Storm on Good Friday

Good Friday

The evening of Good Friday was spent at home praying rosaries and listening to tornado sirens. It was good material for a Lenten meditation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ethics First


An Italian reporter wrote that the Vatican had informally rejected at least three of President Obama's candidates to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

The critical issue in the case was abortion. Subsequent reports said this was incorrect, and that no Vatican veto had been implemented.

I think it would be brilliant for the Vatican to do such a thing. We'll see how matters play out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

100 Prayers for Father

Palm Sunday

In 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning Mount Holyoke professor Peter Viereck commented that "Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals" (i.e. American liberal intellectuals).

The success of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code -- a badly-written novel that has all the historical integrity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- is evidence of the point.

The individuals who are the easy and obvious targets for anti-Catholic and anti-clerical sentiment, with their uniform-like cassocks and white collars, are the parish priests. At least the priests have the fortitude to dress for battle.

If he is happy - he is a nuisance.

If he is grave and austere - he is bad tempered.

If he is handsome - why didn't he marry?

If he is ugly - nobody loved him.

If he is fat - he eats too much.

If he is thin - he is stingy.

If he is tall - he looks down on people.

If he is short - he looks like an altar boy.

If he owns a car - he likes material things.

If he walks - he is old fashioned.

If he goes to the cafe - he is a drunkard.

If he stays in the rectory - he is an introvert.

If he visits the faithful - he meddles in other peoples business.

If he stays in the Church - he doesn't care about the faithful.

If he visits the poor - he is a revolutionary.

If he delegates duty - he is lazy.

If he controls the activities - he is a tyrant.

If he teaches catechism - he is obsessed with hell.

If he doesn't teach - he doesn't like children.

If he preaches long sermons - he's boring.

If he preaches short sermons - he doesn't want to get tired.

If he makes comparisons with the life in the world - he blasphemes.

If he raises his voice - he screams.

If he speaks normally - you cannot understand what he says.

If he talks about Heaven - he is a modernist.

If he talks about hell - he is a Jansenist.

If he talks about the cross - he is an integrist.

If he asks for donations - he is greedy.

If he doesn't ask for donations - his bank account should be checked.

If he doesn't organize a party - the parish is dead.

If he speaks to the parishioners after Mass - he is not pious.

If he stays to pray after Mass - he is not interested in his parishioners.

If he keeps people in the confessional too long - he gets people tired and causes scandal.

If he hears confessions quickly - he does away with the Sacrament.

If he starts Mass on time - his watch is ahead.

If he fixes up the Chapel - he wastes people's money.

If he doesn't fix up the Chapel - he doesn't care about the Chapel.

If he looks after the youth - he wants them in the convent.

If he looks after the married couples - he does not care about vocations.

If he is young - he lacks experience.If he is old - he should retire.

If he is in between - he is in a critical age.

Do as he may - or even if he does nothing - he will never be right!

But if he leaves who will take his place?*

So starting next Easter Sunday I'll begin a new campaign: for 100 days -- from April 12 through July 21 -- I'll offer a daily rosary for my parish priest, for the Pope, and for all the priests from whom I have received the sacraments. You're invited to join me with a daily prayer of your own.

Hoc est bellum.

* My apologies for the lack of attribution on this list of Ifs; it's just something that made its way to my in-box one day. If someone can provide the source I'll gladly give credit.