Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Darth Vader on Harmonica

It can't always be about abortion/contraception/marriage/fighting the good fight - sometimes you just have to sit back, thank God for being alive, and have a good laugh!

I love Star Wars and I love playing the harmonica, so when I saw this, I was crying from laughing so hard. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Newsweek on the Bible and Sex

What was the last story Newsweek came forth with that was well done? Newsweek to me seems more and more to be simply one piece of a mounting arsenal of propaganda outlets for the liberal-atheistic political machine.

Any time Newsweek has stepped into the religious ring since I've started paying attention maybe 10 years ago, their attempts have been like a lost 4 year old child accidentally wandering into congress and trying to get everyone's attention.

There is absolutely no depth or logic to the issues Newsweek tries to tackle, but then again, it seems they know that, and it seems that they are simply trying to pull people away from seriously engaging the topics.

On Valentine's Day Newsweek featured an article entitled: "What the Bible Really Says About Sex." Is there any doubt, just from the title, that the article is going to be a journalistic debacle? The sub-title offers even more of a sense of what is to come: "New scholarship on the Good Book's naughty bits and how it deals with adultery, divorce, and same-sex love." Oh boy! Even more impressive is the fact that the "truth" is going to be "revealed" to us in two pages!

It starts out with what everyone already knows - the Song of Songs is erotic in nature. No one disputes that - please move on.

Let's look at some of the quotes from the article "In the Bible, "traditional marriage" doesn't exist." REALLY? So Jesus' words (which the article later quotes) about a man leaving his father and mother and clinging to his wife and the two becoming one flesh isn't about marriage? Jesus' line about what happens when a man divorces his wife and remarries being adultery isn't about "traditional marriage"? Interesting, and, ultimately, false.

"God razes Sodom not because its male inhabitants are having sex with each other, as so many contemporary ministers preach, Knust argues, but in part [what's the other part?] because the men of the town intended to rape angels of God who were sheltered in Lot's house." Got it! Don't rape God's angels is a consistent theme in the Bible (sorry for the sarcasm).

"There is sex in the Bible on every page, if you just know where to look." A full understanding of biblical teachings on sex requires a trained eye." This is the standard line from Scripture scholars used to justify their position in the first place - "You have to be smart like us or you can't understand the Bible" so some of them say. The irony is that the article trashes the Church for saying the same thing - that we need help interpreting the Bible. The Church's take is actually much more liberal; She doesn't say you have to be a scholar to get the Truth that is conveyed in the Bible. Therefore the more exclusive and elitist statement is the one by the Scripture scholar in this story, but the Church is the one that keeps people from the Truth?

The "scholars" quoted for this article have a similar statement later in the article. "A person alone on her couch with Scripture can also come to some dangerous conclusions: the Bible has, at certain times in history, been read to support slavery, wife beating, kidnapping, child abuse, racism, and polygamy." To this the Church would say "AMEN!!!" The Church would also say that just as a person can be led astray on their couch, biblical scholars can also be led astray sitting at their desks.

That the Bible has been used to justify crazy things should not bolster the points these "scholars" are making, it should actually hurt their case. They are saying, basically, "In the past, individuals have stood up and said that the Bible justified their crazy thing that they were in to. Now we're standing up and saying the Bible justifies what we're saying...but we're different than the people who got it wrong in the past" ??? One of the "enlightened scholars" the article quotes even goes so far as to [very correctly but ironically] note that "All kinds of heresies come from people who read the Bible and recklessly believe that they've understood it correctly." Isn't that also EXACTLY what these two "scholars" are saying - "we understand the Scriptures correctly and the rest of you need to see it the way the two of us do"??? Isn't that a glaring case of irony?

The article also states: "Coogan and Knust are hardly the first scholars to offer alternative readings of the Bible's teachings on sex [SEE: David Koresh, Jim Jones, etc.] What sets them apart is their populism. With provocative titles and mainstream publishing houses, they obviously hope to sell books." So... populism and having a publishing house behind you determines what is true? Didn't Hitler have populism and publishing houses on his side?

The article ultimately does nothing new, leaves only questions, which is exactly how people have been fighting the Truth forever - just cause people to have doubts and the victory is won in their mind.

Newsweek, step up your game, get serious, and if you are going to talk theology, please come stronger than this. How about trying to raise questions truly worthy of debate instead of spreading confusion with pathetically poor arguments masquerading as serious theology.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Music and the Mass Part 2

I wanted to share a story about the Mass and music

1) A few weeks ago we had an all school Mass at Ritter, and as we were doing a walk through about 30 minutes before Mass, I noticed the 4-5 young ladies who made up our our choir were anxious - the piano player had still not shown up! I went over and talked to them and said, "If we don't have music today that is fine, we're not going to put you on the spot, but why don't you try and sing it without any piano just to see how it sounds." I was just offering some practical advice, but as soon as they started singing I knew we were on to something. The piano player did finally show up, but I asked them if they wouldn't mind singing the opening song the same way they'd practiced it - no instrumentation.

As Mass and the small choir started their piece sans instruments I noticed a couple of things
A) The music was a ton more prayerful because it wasn't overpowering.
B) Because it wasn't overpowering, a TON more kids were singing than normally would. I think that as long as there are instruments going and lots of noise coming from the front of the Church, people aren't going to sing. However, if it is a prayerfully sung or chanted piece, I think it is much more of an invitation to join in.
C) The whole idea of chant is that the congregation realizes "If I don't join in, this song might not make it" by its very nature it invites people and it reminds people "the choir needs your help!" If the choir/flutist/pianist/guitarists/drums and whatever other fathomable musical arrangement is up at the front belting out a hymn, then I know, as a person in the congregation, that "this song doesn't need me." If I stand here with my arms folded and look at the ceiling, the song is going to be just fine.

I learned something last week about how to help transition a parish or community to the type of music that the Church asks for at Mass. The transition can be a lot simpler than it may seem when looking at the vast gap between what the Church is asking for and the typical music you hear at Mass today.

Other ideas for how to make Mass music holier? Other stories of what you have seen work with liturgical music?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rockin' the Habit

This morning I celebrated the Mass in the Sacramentary for "Religious Vocations." So often we pray for priestly vocations, and that is definitely awesome, but I think we should also remember to pray for an increase in those responding to God's call to live as sisters, brothers, and the consecrated single life.

Here are a couple of videos from one of my favorite communities, the Dominican Sisters who reside in Ann Arbor, MI. The first is a video about their lives, and the second is about a twenty minute video of when they appeared on Oprah. The segment on Oprah is very well done, and is something my kids watch in class and really enjoy.

We pray for all people discerning where God is calling them to this day, and we pray that those who he is calling to religious life will have the strength and courage to answer such a call.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chesterton on Contraception

I saw this commercial posted on Thomas Peter's blog The American Papist, and I couldn't help but think that some day, God willing, this commercial will be played on shows trying to explain to future generations how our society could have actually allowed contraception to have ever existed. This commercial will take its rightful place alongside the grainy Nazi Youth program commercials that we always see on shows that attempt to answer the question "How in the world could anyone have ever allowed Nazi Germany to do what it did?"

The commercial reminded me of one of my favorite essays. It is written, of course, by Mr. G.K. Chesterton, a saintly and very popular man from our own era (he wrote during the World Wars). I include his essay here because I think it is one of the best pieces of writing I've ever encountered.

Babies and Distributism

I hope it is not a secret arrogance to say that I do not think I am exceptionally arrogant; or if I were, my religion would prevent me from being proud of my pride. Nevertheless, for those of such a philosophy, there is a very terrible temptation to intellectual pride, in the welter of wordy and worthless philosophies that surround us today. Yet there are not many things that move me to anything like a personal contempt. I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification. I do not feel any contempt for a Bolshevist, who is a man driven to the same negative simplification by a revolt against very positive wrongs. But there is one type of person for whom I feel what I can only call contempt. And that is the popular propagandist of what he or she absurdly describes as Birth-Control.

I despise Birth-Control first because it is a weak and wobbly and cowardly word. It is also an entirely meaningless word; and is used so as to curry favour even with those who would at first recoil from its real meaning. The proceeding these quack doctors recommend does not control any birth. It only makes sure that there shall never be any birth to control. It cannot for instance, determine sex, or even make any selection in the style of the pseudo-science of Eugenics. Normal people can only act so as to produce birth; and these people can only act so as to prevent birth. But these people know perfectly well as I do that the very word Birth-Prevention would strike a chill into the public, the instant it was blazoned on headlines, or proclaimed on platforms, or scattered in advertisements like any other quack medicine. They dare not call it by its name, because its name is very bad advertising. Therefore they use a conventional and unmeaning word, which may make the quack medicine sound more innocuous.

Second, I despise Birth-Control because it is a weak and wobbly and cowardly thing. It is not even a step along the muddy road they call Eugenics; it is a flat refusal to take the first and most obvious step along the road of Eugenics. Once grant that their philosophy is right, and their course of action is obvious; and they dare not take it; they dare not even declare it. If there is no authority in things which Christendom has called moral, because their origins were mystical, then they are clearly free to ignore all the difference between animals and men; and treat men as we treat animals. They need not palter with the stale and timid compromise and convention called Birth-Control. Nobody applies it to the cat. The obvious course for Eugenists is to act towards babies as they act towards kittens. Let all the babies be born; and then let us drown those we do not like. I cannot see any objection to it; except the moral or mystical sort of objection that we advance against Birth-Prevention. And that would be real and even reasonable Eugenics; for we could then select the best, or at least the healthiest, and sacrifice what are called the unfit. By the weak compromise of Birth-Prevention, we are very probably sacrificing the fit and only producing the unfit. The births we prevent may be the births of the best and most beautiful children; those we allow, the weakest or worst. Indeed, it is probable; for the habit discourages the early parentage of young and vigorous people; and lets them put off the experience to later years, mostly from mercenary motives. Until I see a real pioneer and progressive leader coming out with a good, bold, scientific programme for drowning babies, I will not join the movement.

But there is a third reason for my contempt, much deeper and therefore more difficult to express; in which is rooted all my reasons for being anything I am or attempt to be; and above all, for being a Distributist. Perhaps the nearest to a description of it is to say this: that my contempt boils over into bad behaviour when I hear the common suggestion that a birth is avoided because people want to be "free" to go to the cinema or buy a gramophone or a loud-speaker. What makes me want to walk over such people like doormats is that they use the word "free." By every act of that sort they chain themselves to the most servile and mechanical system yet tolerated by men. The cinema is a machine for unrolling certain regular patterns called pictures; expressing the most vulgar millionaires' notion of the taste of the most vulgar millions. The gramophone is a machine for recording such tunes as certain shops and other organisations choose to sell. The wireless is better; but even that is marked by the modern mark of all three; the impotence of the receptive party. The amateur cannot challenge the actor; the householder will find it vain to go and shout into the gramophone; the mob cannot pelt the modern speaker, especially when he is a loud-speaker. It is all a central mechanism giving out to men exactly what their masters think they should have.

Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The State of Sacred Music Part 1 - We're Just Getting Started Here

I’ve been reading a lot on leadership lately, and one of the things I’ve come to realize is that a leader has to be a person who articulates a vision instead of simply putting down the stuff that isn’t working. Putting down the stuff that isn’t working is fun when everyone in on the joke understands the intent and the reasons, but it isn’t so much fun when people are looking for guidance and a way OUT of a problem.

I’ll be posting more about this as we continue on here but my main “motto” or “solution” to the struggles we face as a Church is one that Pope Benedict (in the encyclical Spe Salvi) and others have quoted from the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky – “Beauty will save the world.” There are many things in that statement that need to be unpacked, and I’d like to look at one aspect today – sacred music.

The Church is very clear on sacred music (but then again the Church is also clear on abortion/contraception/going to Mass on Sundays and holy days etc.). Most of us are unaware that the Second Vatican Council actually has a lot to say about sacred music. The major document is titled Musicam Sacram (On Sacred Music) and contains a wealth of helpful information.

There are two essential things to note about sacred music from the document – the Church holds as the ideal setting for music to be A) Gregorian Chant and B) the instrumentation to be done by an organ.

Here are the excerpts on this topic from the document:

Paragraph 50: Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place
Paragraphs 62-63: The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lift up men's minds to God and higher things.
"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."
63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.
Any musical instrument permitted in divine worship should be used in such a way that it meets the needs of the liturgical celebration, and is in the interests both of the beauty of worship and the edification of the faithful.
In addition to these excerpts, the document also challenges us to know the parts of the Mass that we typically sing as the people should be AT LEAST known in Latin. How many of us know the “Lamb of God” the “Holy, Holy, Holy” the “Our Father” the “Creed,” or the “Christ has died, Christ has risen…” in Latin? The 2nd Vatican Council says we are supposed to – or rather that priests are supposed to make sure their people know these things.

A couple of questions arise here. What about the people in mission territory that obviously lack an organ? The folks in mission territories get special mention in the documents of the Church on liturgy. "Enculturation" is a buzz word among liturgists and it basically means that aspects of song and worship style can be adapted to those places where the Mass is coming for the first time. Exactly how long, though, that grace period should last is debated. It was never a problem in the past because the Jesuits were militantly faithful to Rome, so any changes that were made in the short term Rome seemed to trust that the Jesuits were doing out of the best interest of the universal Church. Now, though, people in mission territory seem to be less faithful, so the length of time that "enculturation" should be tolerated is up for debate among Vaticanistas, but clearly the Mass is meant to transcend culture, so to pretend that the Mass is supposed to continually languish in a form that feels more local than universal is highly problematic.

When I celebrate Mass at Holy Rosary, almost all of the music is without any instrumentation or the organ, and it is the most beautiful stuff I've ever heard. Sometimes the organ is used to intone a piece, but then goes silent, such as the Gloria. The Kyrie, the Creed, the Alleluia, the Sanctus (holy holy holy) etc. are all done there a capella some of the time, and it isn't hard because at least half the choir there is little kids – chant can be taught easily. I taught the kids at Ritter a Latin Sanctus, and a) they love singing it, and b) picked it up after hearing it three times. The Sanctus needs no instruments, and parents visiting at one of our Masses, when they hear our kids chant it, usually cry. We’re going to be implementing the “Christ has died” in Latin next – brick by brick!

Contrary to the common opinion here, to put a Mass together with guitars, pianos, and the music that typically goes along with all of that in the typical parish today is actually a TON MORE work. People hear Gregorian Chant and think, “Oh wow, that is surely not possible in most parishes.” In actuality, a parish that does what the 2nd Vatican Council asks only has a couple of pieces to prepare for – a) MAYBE an opening song (although the documents also allow that to be done solely on the organ) and b) MAYBE a song to sing while the people come forward for Communion and c) MAYBE a closing song, although again that can be just organ.

If a parish is deciding to take the tambourine and guitar approach to music then they have the following “set list”
Opening song
Psalm response
Preparation of the gifts
Holy, Holy, Holy
Christ Has Died…
Great Amen
Lamb of God
Communion song (or two)
Closing Song

Trust me, I’ve seen it from both perspectives, and doing music as the Church asks is a LOT easier and more beautiful.

The other myth here is that “Peter Paul and Mary-ish” Church songs are easier to learn, and will get the people to sing more. However, the success of such changes is non-existent in the lived experience of the Church. Most of the pieces performed by parish “bands” are MORE difficult to sing and seem to turn people off more than the simple yet more prayerful chant.

Some people raise the following – “Why can’t music at Mass be happy and sing-songy, or what is wrong with guitars/tambourines/drums etc.?” Some point to the Psalms, especially Psalm 150 which talks about how we are to praise the Lord with cymbals and the lute and dance etc. The Church would say to Psalm 150 "Yes, when you praise the Lord, bang on cymbals, guitars, dance, however, that type of praise does not need to be done during the Mass." I think of the rock concert we went to on the March 4 Life which was held AFTER Mass, and the kids were jumping up and down, singing along with Matt Maher, dancing, etc. It was a great opportunity to praise the Lord. During adoration it is possible to sing praise and worship songs if a group so chooses (although some people prefer silence), the Church would say "gather together in groups, worship and sing and praise the Lord." At St. Meinrad there was a group of guys who met every Sunday for praise and worship songs. I listen to Matt Maher driving around - there is a lot of great stuff out there, Catholic and non-Catholic. The problem is, in the Church's eyes, when we mix praise and worship with the Mass. Psalm 150 of course references the return of the Ark to Jerusalem with David leading the way dancing and praising God. However, when the Ark was brought in to the temple for worship and the offering of ritualistic sacrifices and so forth, there were no cymbals, guitars, or praise and worship going on in the temple. In fact, I would imagine that one would have been thrown out of the temple if they were playing instruments or dancing around while the sacrifices were being offered by the priest. But how many people today even know that the Mass is directly linked to the temple sacrifices of the Jewish people? The idea that most have is that the Mass is supposed to conjure up good feelings for me, which St. John of the Cross of course says sets ourselves up for potential spiritual disaster.

Some here would say – “Who cares about music at Mass?” However, if the Mass is the most important thing we do as people, we need to be able to look at what we engage in during the Mass, and one of the biggest aspects of the Mass is the music we sing there. I really believe that if someone walked into the average Catholic parish today, and listened to the music going on there, they would not guess that we as Catholics hold the Mass to be the most important thing in our lives. So if everything we do flows from the Mass, then we MUST put our best effort forward at the Mass and those parts of the Mass that we have influence on as the human participants.

Also, as Pope Benedict notes - "The liturgy must be more. It must become clear that a dimension of existence opens up here that we are all secretly seeking: the presence of that which cannot be made" (Sing a New Song for the Lord, 94). Pope Benedict makes this point all over the place - we secretly want to run into something in the Mass that points UPWARD and that points BEYOND me and music is the way we either achieve this pointing or not; what we sing either brings us face to face with something we have not created but has been given to us by the universal Church, or it brings us face to face with campfire music.

Sacred Music is an important discussion that needs to be carried out CIVILLY. The temptation that I’ve seen is for those who understand what the Church is saying about music to quickly become frustrated with those who don’t know what the Church says about music. I think the approach must be taken by those who see the whole picture – “Hate the music, love the musician!” So many people in the parishes in our country don’t have any idea that the Church treats music during Mass so seriously, but as we broaden our horizons and get beyond our personal tastes, and start to experience the Mass in places where it is celebrated as the Church has asked we need to help educate those around us, not sulk about the state liturgical music is currently in. Light a candle – don’t curse the darkness!

I’ll end this post with my favorite piece of Gergorian Chant – Allegri’s Miserere. This is more complex (obviously) and is more of a piece to be performed by a skilled choir, but parish choirs, with a surprisingly small amount of training can pull off stuff that sounds like this. May we lift up our voices and gifts to the Lord!

BONUS: Pope Benedict on sacred music -

"Where liturgy deteriorates, the musica sacra also deteriorates, and where liturgy is correctly understood and lived, there good church music also grows."
Sing a New Song for the Lord, 174

"If we do not succeed in overcoming these ideas affectively, succeed in seeing the Church differently again from the heart, then the liturgy is not being renewed; on the contrary, the dead are burying the dead and calling it reform."
Sing a New Song for the Lord, 148 (WOW that is NOT ambiguous!)

"(the Mass) will come off badly if it wants to enter the competition of show business. A pastor is not an emcee, and the liturgy is not a variety show. It will also come off badly if it wants to be a sort of engaging circle of friends."
Sing A New Song for the Lord, 94

"In this [NOT GOOD] way of looking at things the experience of togetherness and the fostering of the village community rank higher than the gift of the sacrament…so it seems reasonable to switch from the objectivity of the Eucharist to the the subjectivity of experience...but the results of placing the experience of community above the sacramental reality in such a way are momentous. The congregation is now celebrating itself." (Very St. John of the Cross-ish)
Sing A New Song for the Lord, 91

"To an increasing degree people are seeing through the banality and the childish rationalism of the pathetic home-made liturgies with their artificial theatrics; it is becoming obvious how trivial they are."
Sing A New Song for the Lord, 39

Class on Marriage

Intro class on marriage

Lila Rose In Action

Regardless of what you think of Glenn Beck, this is a great introduction to Planned Parenthood. If you disagree with this, don't not watch, watch it and then DEBATE the issues here. If you think this is rubish, let's talk about it respectfully. I'll watch whatever you want me to watch if you send it to me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

World Youth Day

It has been one of those days where I seem to be on the computer all day (bring it on carpal tunnel syndrome!). Found this cool video on World Youth Day - the single greatest Catholic event I have ever been to. If you know a young adult who might be interested (or even one who needs a little nudging) you might pass this video on. It is from, you guessed it, my favorite film people - Grassroots. Enjoy!

Great Commentary on the Pitfalls of Individuality

I finally started receiving my Catholic World Reports again now that my new address is all straightened out (subscribe here if interested). There is a FANTASTIC article in the January edition that is short, succinct, beautiful and humorously written which describes the mindset of cafeteria Catholics today - a mindset that must be surmounted if people truly hope to encounter the Truth of Christ and His Church.

The article can be viewed by clicking here. Here is a great excerpt:

"Nobody gets to tell me that I'm not a Catholic," wrote Charles Pierce in a lengthy essay entitled, "What I believe," which was featured in an August issue of the Boston Sunday Globe magazine. For most readers, no doubt, questions about what Charles Pierce believes are secondary only to the question: who the hell is Charles Pierce? But he must be a very important person, if no one has the authority to tell him that he's not a Catholic."


"The Globe essay contains the standard attacks on the Church hierarchy, backed by the standard quotes from Richard McBrien, the preferred theologian of anti-Catholic Catholics. But Pierce goes further, announcing: "I simply don't want what they call a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Makes you wonder why he's hanging out in Catholic churches - if indeed he is hanging out in churches."

Thanks to the author for a brilliant dissection of the idiocy that is cafeteria Catholicism.

Paulist Press - What in the World are you Thinking?

Paulist Press is a (Catholic?) publishing company. Paulist sends me their catalogs, although they should feel free to stop doing so. Here is a review from one other featured books:

Revisioning Theology - A Mythic Approach to Religion - by Norvene Vest

"Re-visioning theology proposes a contemporary mythic approach to theology that offers a way of living faithfully in the midst of the tension and uncertainty of changing times.
This book offers a composite mythic theology to rebalance the rational, heroic ego, with the imaginal, erotic/creative soul. Theological imagination is the first element, including Jungian active imagination, James Hillman's soul archetypes, and Sufi mysticism's imaginal realm where God and human embrace.
Second, a feminist approach to fullness of life for both women and men affirms the unity of physical and spiritual, the dignity of every person in a community of equals, and the impact of God images in daily human life.
Finally, Paul Ricouer's philosophy demonstrates the value of an "open" philosophical system, where the experience of mystery continually draws participants into "possible" worlds.
This engaging book is written in a tone and style that is academically sound as well as an inspiring challenge to live into an openness born of critical thought and compassionate response

Wowsers!! Ms. Vest - place whatever you are smoking on the ground and slowly back away from the drum circle. Thank you, Paulist Press and Ms. Vest for showing us what theology looks like when it has been completely unhinged from any faithfulness to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Let us continue to learn about our Faith - the only thing that will save the world is Truth. Pray for Paulist Press and Ms. Vest and all the people who masquerade as theologians.

Thanks, Paulist, for the brochures, but I think I'll stick to St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict, John Paul II, the Church Fathers, St. Bonaventure, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Terese of Lisieux, St. John Vianney, St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Charles Borromeo, St. John Bosco, St. Augustine, and the thousands of other saints who have written from the heart of the Magisterium and who have led countless others to the Truth.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bieber Fever

I've never heard a Justin Bieber song but he's climbing the charts in my book. In a Rolling Stones Magazine he said something about how abortion seems wrong to him. He didn't go on and on about it, he just mentioned that it seemed wrong to him.

Wow, did the flood gates open or what? The guy has been slammed by every liberal pro-abortion outlet possible, proving once again it is definitely not cool to stand up against the abortion industry.

My favorite was an MSN headline (I try to avoid MSN at all cost, but it popped up on a different computer that I don't normally use) and the headline said something to the effect of "Bieber learning lesson of other celebs - pop and politics don't mix!"

This is the irony of ironies of ironies! WHAT OTHER CELEBRITY KEEPS QUIET ABOUT POLITICS? All the other celebrities that speak out on abortion or politics are liberal, though, so that's apparently okay. The first celebrity in the history of the world says something about abortion and MSN pretends that celebrities should be quiet about politics???

Where was their call for celebs to be quiet about politics when Alec Baldwin said he'd leave the country if G.W. Bush was elected president. That mood of the media around that story was one of mourning - "Oh, please, Alec, don't go!" seemed to be the media's lament.

Where was the call by the media for celebs to lay low when Matt Damon and others absolutely berated Sarah Palin? Their comments weren't just political, they were absolutely vicious. Bieber makes one single whisper about abortion and he gets beat down?

Where was the call by the media for celebs to stay out of politics when Oprah was crying over the prospects of Obama getting elected

or when Whoppi pontificates daily on absolutely ridiculous liberal topics

or when Kathy Griffin opens her mouth

or when Dave Letterman has on anyone who is conservative

or when Sean Penn turns another one of his awards' speeches into the democratic pro-choice platform

or when Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon weigh in on life

or when Ashley Judd plays her Planned Parenthood trumpet again

I agree that the fact that Justin Bieber has come out against abortion doesn't PROVE that pro-life is the right side (although the liberal media often uses the fact that the rest of Hollywood besides Justin Bieber is pro-abortion to "prove" that pro-abortion is very intelligent). I've always said that the fact that we put ANY stock in ANY celebrities comments blows my mind - we give these people our money precisely to NOT live in reality, to NOT experience the life that normal people live, and then we turn around and grant creedence to their political pontifications?

Beyond the weight we grant these celebrities, however, it absolutely blows my mind that the media has such a blatant double standard with this Justin Bieber thing. Welcome to life as a pro-lifer Biebs!

Great Video Tribute to the Gather Hymnal

A friend sent me this and it was one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. Check it out!

(NOTE: this video is mocking the "guitarification" and the "gatherhymnalification" of the Catholic Mass, not the original words of Scripture from which some of them were derived. When people ask me why Catholics don't go to Mass anymore, I really honestly believe that one of the top reasons is the Gather Hymnal and the songs it contains. The songs in Gather were written by non-Catholics and all date from the late 60's through the 70's. Just as people of other faiths would find it odd to have everyone of their songs be "Catholic" hymns, so Catholics should find it odd that everything they sing at Mass is written by people who do not believe the Mass is what Catholics believe it is.

The Church has consistently said one instrument is to be played at Mass - the organ - so when people were deciding to cast off everything else the Church taught, they also came after sacred music. Even the piano is not supposed to be played at Mass. As one of my friend's (Fr. Meyer) relayed to me, the woman who plays at his Masses reminded him "Fr., don't forget that the piano is a percussion instrument". Now, even when I hear piano being played at Mass it seems jarring to me and unprayerful in some way. If I could change one thing tomorrow with "Catholic America" it would be Sacred Music. The maker of this video seems to me to be making fun of the ridiculous state of Catholic "music" in most parishes today.)

Class on Love

Some have asked that I put my classes online again. The last system we were using crashed last Fall, but occasionally I will put them on Youtube. This is an introductory look at authentic vs. romantic love. If you are curious, enjoy. (If you are reading this on Facebook, you'll need to view the class on the blog at

Pro-(rushed and uninformed) Choice

The pro-life wheels are turning in Indiana as the legislative branch has produced some fantastic legislation and it looks like it has a lot of momentum right now. Planned Parenthood is on the defensive, as evidenced by the Indystar's piece this morning (could we get some objective reporting in the Star just once? The author, Heather Gillis, seemed to be auditioning for a role as a Planned Parenthood brochure writer).

The irony of the article is that Planned Parenthood of Indiana is upset about the fact that the legislation HELPS women make their CHOICE. The legislation requires that women get to see an ultrasound of their child. The only type of person who could possibly be upset about a woman getting to see an ultrasound of her child would be someone TRYING TO GET A WOMEN TO HAVE AN ABORTION. The bill also would require women to be notified that the child feels pain when getting an abortion (are scientists really still trying to figure out if that is true or not?). The bill looks to also require that women be told that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.

On the issue of abortion causing a dramatic rise in the risk of contracting breast cancer, Planned Parenthood doesn't reveal their true intentions, they make the accusation that this is "unproven science." If PP really loved women, though, wouldn't you think they'd at least be curious if there was a link? Instead they try and say it is "unproven" at every turn. Really, then, what Planned Parenthood is about, which any insider in the industry will tell you, is funneling women to getting abortions. PP loves to tout statistics about how much "good" they do, and that abortions are only a small percentage of their work. What everyone knows, however, is that abortions are the only part of Planned Parenthood that MAKES money. So PP masquerades as the knight in shining armor for women when in reality it is trying to funnel them to get abortions so that PP can stay solvent. Also, their plan of "decreasing unwanted pregnancies" which involves something just short of raining contraceptives down on our society, actually causes abortion rates to skyrocket, as we've discussed before.

Back to the whole breast cancer-abortion link for just a moment. I'm not a biologist, but lets think about this for a minute. A woman's body begins to prepare for a child from the very moment of conception (that is proven science). Part of that change is a woman's breasts, which begin to prepare for nursing the child. When a child dies through miscarriage, the body is aware of it, makes the hormonal adjustments and "gets the word out" to the rest of the body. The body of the mother adapts to the loss of the child and, over time, returns to normal. However, there is no hormonal system which tells the rest of the body that "hey, a doctor just forced open the uteran muscles, inserted a suction tube, and sucked up the baby that was growing inside me, so it is time to adjust to the loss." The body doesn't know what has happened because everything about abortion is against nature, and so it makes sense to me that cells in the mother's breasts might not "reabsorb" properly back into the body, and cells that are out of place and not functioning as they should seems quite naturally to raise the risk of cancer.

Then again, Planned Parenthood is out there fighting for women everyday, and if this link were ever proved true, I'm sure they'd shut down their abortion industry on the spot!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The "L" Word

Yesterday I gave a homily to the Ritter students but I forgot my camera at the rectory so I thought I'd share the basic content of the homily with you here because I think it is important for all the faithful.

Despite all the things that people SAY the 2nd Vatican Council changed, one of the biggest things it changed was actually a reworking of the Church's calendar. The biggest change to the calendar was probably the dropping of the 30 days known as "Septuagesima" - translated as 70 days, as in 70 days till Easter. During the 30 days leading up to Lent, the Alleluia is dropped and the priest wears purple, although the fasting and abstinence and so forth don't kick in until Lent.

The 30 day run up to Lent, then, was kind of a chance to stretch out and get ready for Lent; an opportunity to think about what one might be giving up AND what holy practices one might be ADDING to their lives as well.

In the West, we often START to think about what we're going to do for Lent on Fat Tuesday, but there seems to be a lot of wisdom in not letting Lent sneak up on us.

A part of me dreads Lent, and so a part of me wants to not think about it until the last possible moment. However, I also know it is precisely because Lent is so intimidating that it is such a good thing for me. If I fast for a day or carry out some other penance for a day, I can usually tell myself that "tomorrow will be better when I am no longer hungry." However, the massive chunk of the calendar that is Lent forces me to realize that I can't run from God.

Here at Ritter during homeroom in Lent we're offering a weekly Rosary, weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and a Bible study as well. I encourage all Catholics to use Lent as an opportunity to do something POSITIVE - a Rosary daily, perhaps going to Mass on a day besides Sunday each week at your parish, an hour of adoration a week, 2 chapters from the Bible each day...the list could go on forever. Spend some time NOW praying and thinking about what God might be calling you to pick up during Lent this year.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Book I Wrote

For four years, while in the seminary, I wrote down reflections and stories that I felt like shaped me and ultimately led to my decision to become a priest. I gave a copy of my book to my close family and friends as a thank you and as a way to explain or offer a glimpse into how I got to the point where I was laying on the floor promising to give my life to the Church.

I've since offered copies of the books to my seniors for free since I teach them a class on vocations, and while they aren't all thinking about becoming priests, there is a lot in the book about discernment and trying to figure out what God wants with each of us.

I've decided that if there are people out there who would like a copy, I have about 100 left, and I am offering copies for 20 dollars. This will help defray the printing costs for the copies I give to the seniors, and sometimes it is easier for people to pick up and read things when you know the person who wrote it.

So if you are curious about my journey or you know someone who is trying to discern where God is calling them in their life, this book might be a good one for them.

If you would like a copy, please just send a check for 20 dollars to
Fr. John Hollowell
c/o Cardinal Ritter High School
3360 W. 30th Street
Indianapolis, IN

When you send me the check please let me know what address you would like the book shipped to. God bless!

Art in Theology Class?

I've reflected before on the importance of art and beauty in the Church. With my seniors at Ritter, as we dive into the topic of "vocations" this semester, I have spent some time looking at art and what the Church says about its importance in our daily lives. I challenged the seniors to realize that they are all called to be artists in whatever forms of expression that God has blessed them with. I also then encourage them, over time, to produce art for class. The first piece of art they produce has to be a poem of some kind. While some of the kids certainly do their poems during homeroom, I also received some FANTASTIC work this year. One of them was so good that I wanted to share it on here. It comes from Emily Wesling, who gave me permission to put it on here. I feel like I've read a decent amount of poetry, and this is one of the best poems I've ever read!

"Elegy to Optimisim" by Emily Wesling

So call me naive - a lighthearted fool,
Dead and cold is the Age of Innocence,
Hence in a sense only senses are jew'l,
O when did love's execution commence?

Were it in songs of sensual pleasure?
In pornography's ocular thieving?
Women transform to chests without treasure,
When cynics gain the pow'r of deceiving.

Have worth, I tell you - Hold close your ideals,
Be not a fruit of ephemeral flame,
Transcend despite death and wrong on your heels,
Graze upon hope 'til you earn a new name.

They call you Naive, but that - is your pow'r,
Over lemons sucked dry - alone - and sour.

If you ever wonder if there are young people waiting to charge out of the gates and do good in the world, hopefully this poem answers your question.

May we all continue to try to see the poetry in our lives and seek to express the beauty and pain that we encounter daily in ways that bring hope and joy and beauty to others!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Church Hates Women and...Worships Mary?

Today I had spiritual direction in Terre Haute with Msgr. Larry Moran who is the chaplain for the Carmelite Convent in Terre Haute. Before spiritual direction I had Mass, and I noticed something that I had never thought of before about the Church and women.

The first reading for today's Mass was Adam and Eve - "Why did you sin Adam? Because the woman gave it to me...etc." Saturdays have also had a long tradition in the Church of celebrating a votive Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother, and today the sisters at Carmel chose to do just that. Certainly Eve and Mary have been linked from the time of the New Testament and the early Church, where Mary was often referred to as the "New Eve." Just as sin entered the world through Eve, Mary allowed the Grace which defeated that sin to enter into the world.

Another link jumped out at me today between Eve and Mary, especially celebrating Mass this morning with the cloistered (never leave the grounds) and fully habited (everything but their face is covered) sisters at Mount Carmel. The passage from Genesis is often used by anti-Christian rhetoricists to make the claim that the Church hates women because women are blamed from the beginning with being the vehicle through which temptation enters the world. Blaming Eve for the fall is held up as evidence along side the prohibition against ordaining women, the "wives be subject to your husbands" from Ephesians 5, and other supposedly damning evidence to seal the fate of the Church as the historical keeper of the flame of misogyny.

The irony here is that the same people who often paint the picture of the Church as haters of women often turn around and accuse the Church of WORSHIPING a woman, of holding a woman in TOO lofty a position. How can both be true at the same time?

A nice and succinct article on whether or not the Church hates women can be found by clicking here. There is an especially nice quote in the article from historian Henry Chadwick:

"Christianity seems to have been especially successful among women. It was often through the wives that it penetrated the upper classes of society in the first instance. Christians believed in the equality of men and women before God and found in the New Testament commands that husbands should treat their wives with such consideration and love as Christ manifested for his Church. Christian teaching about the sanctity of marriage offered a powerful safeguard to married women (Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, Penguin, 58–59)."

The Church has a lot to say about the dignity of women with John Paul II taking the definite lead in that area. His Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (the Dignity of Women - click here to read) is an AWESOME read - and would make great reflection for a retreat.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Officer Moore's Service and the Catholic Mass

As I sat on the stage for 3.5 hours last Tuesday at Officer Moore's service, I had some time to think. Given the fact that 2 of the hours were spent watching police file in or out of Conseco, I guess I had a LOT of time to think.

One of the things that I started to think about was the fact that the very things that made the service so powerful and moving are the very same things that most people bemoan about the Catholic Mass.

The service for David was
1) precise
2) planned
3) full of rituals that not many people knew the origins of but were nonetheless impressed by
4) utterly lacking in spontaneity

The reason for all of these elements is simple - no one wanted attention on themselves and all of us participating at home and at Conseco knew that we were there NOT FOR OURSELVES but to honor David.

Don't all of these things that made the service beautiful also usually serve as ammo against the Catholic Mass?
1) It is too precise
2) It is too planned
3) It is too full of rituals that not many people know the origins of
4) The Mass is utterly lacking in spontaneity

I sometimes hear "gosh father you seem intense at Mass, you need to be more relaxed, you need to be more engaging, etc." Funny that I didn't hear those same remarks from those who saw my comments at David's service.

There were definitely young kids in attendance at David's service as well, and that also made me think. I wondered how many of those young kids and teenagers woke up and said something like, "I don't want to go, I'm not going to get anything out of it, it's cold, I'm tired." The parents of these children, while understanding what their kids were saying, would still have paid little to no attention to their children's complaints, yet how many parents let their teenagers opt out of going to Mass on Sunday for those very same things.

May we as Catholics continue to think about what it means to go to Mass - are we going to first of all get something out of it for ourselves or are we first of all going to Mass to offer something to God.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Catholic Identity in Our Catholic Schools

This past week was a severely shortened Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of the benefits of Catholic education in the United Staes. Celebrating Catholic schools can be a touchy subject because a) some parents at any parish are not able to afford to send their kids to Catholic Schools and b) some parishoners at most parishes are administrators or teachers in public schools, and work their tails off for their kids. I've thought recently that, if I weren't a priest, I'd like to at least try to teach for a few years in an inner-city public school because that is definitely mission territory.

So, while celebrating the great work that our public schools do, the Church does take a week to acknowledge the special importance of Catholic schools in the history of our country. Not every country's Catholicism is intertwined with education like ours is, but for many reasons Catholicism, to those inside and outside the Faith in this country, is synonymous with education.

For years, the Catholic education system in the U.S. has mirrored the decline of the larger Church's catechetical ineffectiveness, with stories of schools with students authentically learning the Faith being extremely sparse, especially from the 1970's onward. The push now is towards a reclaiming of "Catholic Identity" and trying to recapture the sense in our Catholic schools that the primary function of said schools is not standardized test success or SAT scores but a successful passing on of (and inspiring its students to put into practice) the teachings of the Faith (the other scores are important too, but it is the way in which these goals have been prioritized in the past that is being revisited).

At Cardinal Ritter High School we have been spending this year trying to look at our Catholic identity and see what concrete steps can be taken to improve it. Some of that involves statues/images/prayers etc., but we're also trying to step back and look for ways that might not come to mind immediately. Some of the things we're looking at:
1) Something you hear at every Catholic education talk is the inevitable "in the 1950's our schools were full of priests and nuns, and they aren't there anymore." I've heard that a ton, but no one has ever really talked about a solution to that. One of things that I've specifically been working at is to try and bring along our lay faculty to a place of greater awareness in terms of ways they can bring Catholicism into their classrooms. There are "Catholic-friendly" curriculums out there which do a great job of bringing the faith into English and science and history courses, but most Catholic Schools are not in a position to overhaul their entire curriculum. I've been working with our departments one at a time trying to provide short and concise articles and essays for our teachers that talk about ways to incorporate the faith into their classes without an overhaul. For example, with the science department I've provided some info on what ACTUALLY happened with Galileo, some info on fantastic Catholic scientists who have played a key role in science's development, some essays on the TRUE relationship between the Church and science, including Pope Benedict, who has written voluminously on this subject. I've given the government teachers some Catholic takes on democracy, history teachers have received a more accurate description of some of the persecution of the Church during the French Revolution and a fairer read on the Crusades and the Inquisition than what most western civ. textbooks provide. English teachers were provided with some topics such as how Shakespeare was likely a Catholic and I also provided them with some Catholic authors so that they can consider incorporating them into their reading.

This process has been very informative for me and has born a lot of fruit already amongst our faculty. The process has let the faculty know that they can come to me with questions or bring me into their classes at any time.

2) Another thing we're doing is piloting a program that will provide us with feedback in terms of our Catholic identity and offer suggestions for ways to improve that identity.

3) With regards to the actual theology curriculum, the Bishops have taken a very active role in reform, and have actually provided publishers with a very thorough list of what each high school course should contain. At Ritter, our textbooks meet the standards the Bishops have provided, and we were one of the first high schools in the area to overhaul our theology textbooks having done the switch this past Summer.

Some see this focus on Catholic Identity as a move to be more exclusive of other faith backgrounds, however I find it interesting that some of my best and most interested students are non-Catholics, while some of my worst are cradle Catholics. I believe that increasing the Catholic identity of our schools will be a good thing for all people involved. I pray that our schools across the country will work to continue to strengthen our Catholic identity so that we are instructing children of all faiths who are more effectively entering the world able to dialogue and actually explain the tenants of the faith to the larger culture.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, patron saint of Catholic schools,...pray for us!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Have a Book That Will Rock Your World!!

An excerpt from the preface of Abby Johnson's Unplanned:

"Thirteen weeks," I heard the nurse say after taking measurements to determine the fetus's age.
"Okay," the doctor said, looking at me, "just hold the probe in place during the procedure so I can see what I'm doing."
The cool air of the exam room left me feeling chilled. My eyes still glued to the image of this perfectly formed baby, I watched as a new image entered the video screen. The cannula - a straw-shaped instrument attached to the end of the suction tube - had been inserted into the uterus and was nearing the baby's side. It looked like an invader on the screen, out of place. Wrong. It just looked wrong.
My heart sped up. Time slowed. I didn't want to look, but I didn't want to stop looking either. I couldn't not watch. I was horrified, but fascinated at the same time, like a gawker slowing as he drives past some horrific automobile wreck - not wanting to see a mangled body, but looking all the same.
My eyes flew to the patient's face; tears flowed from the corners of her eyes. I could see she was in pain. The nurse dabbed the woman's face with a tissue.
"Just breathe," the nurse gently coached her. "Breathe."
"It's almost over," I whispered. I wanted to stay focused on her, but my eyes shot back to the image on the screen. At first the baby didn't seem aware of the cannula. It gently probed the baby's side, and for a quick second I felt relief. Of course, I thought. The fetus doesn't feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I'd been taught by Planned Parenthood. The fetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed. Get a grip, Abby. This is a simple, quick medical procedure. My head was working hard to control my responses, but I couldn't shake an inner disquiet that was quickly mounting to horror as I watched the screen.
The next movement was the sudden jerk of a tiny foot as the baby started kicking, as if trying to move away from the probing invader. As the cannula pressed in, the baby began struggling to turn and twist away. It seemed clear to me that the fetus could feel the cannula and did not like the feeling. And then the doctor's voice broke through, startling me.
"Beam me up, Scotty," he said lightheartedly to the nurse. He was telling her to turn on the suction - in an abortion the suction isn't turned on until the doctor feels he has the cannula in exactly the right place.
I had the sudden urge to yell "Stop!" to shake the woman and say, "Look at what is happening to your baby! Wake up! Hurry! Stop them!
But even as I thought those words, I looked at my own hand holding the probe. I was one of "them" performing this act. My eyes shot back to the screen again. The cannula was lareday being rotated by the doctor, and now I could see the tiny body violently twisting with it. For the briefest moment it looked as if the baby were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then the little body crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then everything was gone. And the uterus was empty. Totally empty.

Order this book for yourself and anyone who thinks abortion is about the right of a woman to "choose"

March 4 Life Highlight Video of Our Trip

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Planned Parenthood Undercover

Lila Rose and Liveaction have been busting Planned Parenthood "clinics" all over the country with their simple method of taking a camera into counseling sessions to see whether or not Planned Parenthood employees will counsel people to break the law. This is another in a string of surprising videos; the first that drew attention to the work being done at Liveaction was a Planned Parenthood in Bloomington, IN.