Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Little Poetry

A little poetry.  I dabble.

You ever have an idea pop into your head that you knew you had to get down on paper?  This was one of those.

I know alliteration is the sign of a JV poet, but I'm a jv poet, so I'm okay with it.

I think the alliteration is actually helpful to what is going on in the poem. 

At Meribah, Moses got so fed up with the people complaining that he hit the rock with his staff, and despite it all, the water flows from the rock.

The thing that "struck" me with this incident is that from this long line of defeat and sin, the sin of Moses, the sins of the people, the fact that the Earth has been tainted from sin, from all of this flows...water!  A miracle, but also a miracle that teaches us something larger - that God brings out of the "mire and the muck" a stream that renews.  He literally brings it out of the "muck and mire".  I used all "m's" because it feels like it connects all of the sin, dirt, Moses, the complaints, the failures, the wars, etc. - it is all united by failure and sin, but the last word, water, is "M" upside down - failure turned on its head.

So that's what is going on, and now I'll share it with you.

The Waters of Meribah

Mounds of Marble made from the mud and mire of Meribah and Massah
Muck and mucus and marshes and maggots mixed and mangled and made miniscule
Ministers, menservants, millionaires, and magicians are mummified and mutilated
Millenia mashed into mere millimeters of mudstone

Moses the murderer moves mightily to mitigate the masses…
Men mesmerized in merriment…
From the muted and motionless millions of mistakes, the murders, the massacres,
and the moral madness of men…

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Amidst Colorado Floods - On This Rock

A special thanks to Fr. Tom Schliessman for finding this news story.  This is a news piece about a Catholic chapel that Fr. Tom and I have been to many Masses at as part of my Dad's annual Summer trip taking young people into God's wilderness.

The chapel on the rock was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993 when he was in the area for world youth day, and, based on the quote of his that has been turned into a plaque in the chapel, it was a very impactful visit for the late Holy Father as well.

Amidst the flooding that has ravaged Colorado, there was a gigantic mudslide that came tearing down Mt. Meeker, but the chapel was untouched.

Apparently, foundations do matter!

Here is the cool story:

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock."

Matthew 7: 24-25

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"The Dead...They See Only What They Want to See"

I've always liked the quote: "The dead, they see only what they want to see" from the movie "The Sixth Sense."  The quote applies to people today who are walking the earth like zombie puppets of the Evil One who are under his spell; they only see and hear what they want to see and hear.

How someone can read Pope Francis' interview and not hear what the Church has always taught is beyond me. 

In a major strategy shift for this blog, instead of railing against the media for another total twisting and warping of a message by a Church leader, I have decided to try a new strategy.

When people ask me about what the Pope said, I'm going to tell them that Pope Francis wants people to do 5 things

1) get sterilized
2) have homosexual sex
3) if female, use IVF to get pregnant
4) abort any child whose life could be forecasted as being "hard"
5) go out and help the poor

Monday, September 16, 2013

How I Wanted to be Rudy Ruettiger

Growing up as a football kid from Indiana, I probably watched "Rudy" 4,000 times.  I teared up at the end for all 4,000 viewings as Rudy was carried off the field by his Notre Dame teammates.  My goal through high school, and even college, was to get carried off the football field for doing something great athletically.

The goal for me for most of my childhood and even into my twenties
It never happened.

Getting carried off a football field is not a dream of mine anymore.  I have a new dream, but it still involves being carried off the field.

We read today in the reading for St. Cyprian:

"In this way the blessed Cyprian suffered, and his body was laid out at a nearby place to satisfy the curiosity of the pagans.  During the night Cyprian's body was triumphantly borne away in a procession of Christians who, praying and bearing tapers and torches, carried the body to the cemetery."

Now THAT is being carried off the field!  I pray that if it be God's Will, I get carried off the field of this life in the same way.

Of "Red Lines" and St. Cyrpian

Much ink has been spilled about the geopolitical situation and the establishment of "red-lines".  I'm not saying "red lines" don't have their place in geopolitics, but I find them to be an interesting contrast with one of the saints the Church remembers today.

"Red lines" typically mean "do ___________ and we will kill you"

but in the case of St. Cyrpian, he drew an opposite "red line"...he told a Roman Emperor "You will have to kill me before I worship your gods."

From the Proconsular Acts of the martyrdom of Saint Cyprian, Bishop:

"The governor said: "Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to perform the religious rites."

Bishop Cyprian replied: "I will not do so."

Galerius Maximus said: "Consider your position"

Cyrpian replied: "Follow your orders.  In such a just cause there is no need for deliberation."

The Galerius Maximus, after consulting with his council, reluctantly issued the following judgment: "You have long lived with your sacrilegious convictions, and you have gathered about yourself many others in a vicious conspiracy.  You have set yourself up as an enemy of the gods of Rome and our religious practices.  The pious and venerable emperors, the Augusti, Valerian, and Gallienus and Valerian the most noble of Caesars, have been unable to draw you back to the observance of their holy ceremonies.  You have been discovered as the author and leader of these heinous crimes, and will consequently be held forth as an example for all those who have followed you in your crime.  By your blood the law shall be confirmed."

Next he read the sentence from a tablet: "It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword."

Cyprian responded: "Thanks be to God!"

Now that's a RED LINE!  I pray that I may have the strength to draw such lines in the sand as well - the strength to stand up to kinds and rulers and say

"I draw a line in the sand here.  You will have to kill me because I will never cross this line!"

St. Cyprian, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Archbishop Tobin Issues Statement on Day of Fasting and Prayer for Saturday, September 7th

Archdiocese to pray and fast for peace on Sept 7th

Last Sunday, Pope Francis called the Catholic Church throughout the world to mark Saturday, Sept. 7, as a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world. He also invited members of other religions, and all people of good will to participate in this initiative in whatever way they can.

Through his heartfelt words during the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father united himself clearly with the anguish of suffering people across the globe but, especially, with the victims of the bloody civil war in Syria.

He did not mince words in condemning the obscenity of that slaughter, particularly, the apparent use of chemical weapons that resulted in the massacre of hundreds, including many innocent children. However, he will not allow that tragedy to justify the additional violence that would result from the intervention of other nations, including the United States.

Rather, Pope Francis uses the terrible images of war and the specter of an ever-widening circle of violence to remind each of us of our responsibilities, first, as human beings and then, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis repeated the teaching of Pope John XXIII who, 50 years ago, wrote that it is the responsibility of every individual to work for peace by establishing new relationships in this world “under the mastery of guidance of justice and love” (“Pacem in Terris,” #30-32). Peacemaking, then, is not simply the task of those in government or delegates at the United Nations. Rather, all of us have the responsibility for ending conflict. As a song asks of God: let there be peace on Earth … and let it begin with me.

As disciples of Jesus, our peacemaking includes constant prayer for the sake of this world. Noting the particularly grave situation of the Middle East, Pope Francis has called for special prayer and fasting on Sept. 7, the day before the Church celebrates the birth of Mary. I wonder whether an incident from the ministry of Jesus may have motivated this request?

The Gospels recall the Apostles’ failure to expel a demon that was tormenting a young boy. After Jesus frees the child, the Apostles ask him to explain why they could not do it. Jesus replies, “This kind can only come out through prayer” (Mk 9:29). Some versions add “and fasting.” In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus attributes the failure of the disciples to expel the demon to their lack of faith (cf. Mt17:14-20;  Lk 9:37-43).

I believe that Pope Francis is calling us to a greater faith, a faith that “works.” Even to the most generous of souls, the pursuit of world peace can appear elusive, frustrating and futile. It is, if it all depends on us.

Our faith tells us that peace is finally God’s gift and God’s desire. We do not have to bribe or cajole God into bestowing it. We are asking God to help us to forgive our violence, especially the unquestioning confidence that bloodshed will end bloodshed. There are demons that will only be cast out by prayer and fasting.

How does the archdiocese intend to respond to this request of Pope Francis? Although the Holy Father has given us less than a week to prepare, I believe that we will be able to get the message out through Internet and e-mail.

So I am asking all parishes to schedule a special period of prayer on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 7, in solidarity with the prayer vigil that will be celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Deaneries may designate a parish or eucharistic chapel where the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed next Saturday afternoon and special prayer conducted.

Finally, at the vigil Mass this Saturday afternoon or evening, parishes will be permitted to substitute the Mass for the Perseveration of Peace and Justice in place of the Mass for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Holy Father also encourages that we fast on Saturday. According to our tradition, on fast days a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not to equal a full meal. People unable to accept such a discipline because of age or health, might choose to fast from TV, radio or the Internet on Sept. 7.

As we heed the request of Pope Francis to invoke God’s great gift of peace on Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world, let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love.  

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

UPDATED: Statistics Concerning Male Altar Servers

There's been a lot of discussion on whether it is better to have male altar servers or to allow both girls and boys to serve at the altar.

Most of the discussion ends up being people offering their opinions

"I think it helps girls discern religious life"
"I think it fosters vocations to the priesthood"
"I think boys are more likely to serve if girls don't serve"
"I think boys are just as likely to serve whether or not girls are allowed to"

and the opinions continue to pass each other like missiles mid flight

I like statistics, so I solicited some.  I'd love to have more, so if you know of a parish, drop their stats in as a comment, and I'll add them.

I asked for parishes that made the switch to all male altar servers what their server numbers were like before the switch and what the number of servers was about a year after the switch.

Here we go:

That's hard to argue with.  The average parish surveyed, when switching from co-ed servers to male-only saw their server numbers grow 450%


As this has spread a bit across the internet, the statisticians have come out of the woodwork.  I was a math major, and so let me say, first of all, that I understand that correlation does not imply causality. I had it beat into my brain in high school and college.  Correlation does not imply causality, but it certainly can SUGGEST causality, and 450% change is certainly GIGANTIC change.

Secondly, some of the statistical hounds have pointed out that "the sample size is too small."
a) I never said this was scientific
b) one person has noted that I would need 200 parishes and another noted I would need at least 32 parishes.  I agree it would be great to get more parishes, but I'm not sure 32 parishes in the USA have had co-ed servers and have since switched back to only male servers.
c) If you want a "statistically relevant" study, feel free to go conduct one yourself.  I don't have time.  My limited research has told me all I needed.  If you want more, feel free to go get more.  I'm busy pastoring a parish.
d) You may also want to ask yourself why you are attacking the above graphic - is it because you have a concern that every piece of data, even one not claiming to be "scientific" actually meat scientific standards...or do you struggle with the data presented because it upsets your personally held belief on the matter?

Thirdly, one commenter has put it beautifully - "I don't understand why one side in this thread is expected to justify and extend the data it provides while the other gets to trot out unverifiable claims about unsampled groups and their "feelings"."
      - I couldn't agree more!  People are falling into the exact pattern that I described in my original post, even in the face of the stats above.

Look through the comments on this thread, and all you see from the "other side" is people throwing out their own theories and beliefs.  It is amazing how quickly we dismiss statistics when they upset our beliefs on a subject.  

People are saying things like "Have you thought of following these young men and women through adulthood to see if there is correlation of their staying in the Church, or even having their children baptized in the Church. You may ask the parents, especially the mothers, whether they intend to stay in Church."

and "An interesting list, for sure. I'd be curious to see other statistics about those parishes, namely their population size, the number of children, and compare those fields to the before & after numbers. I'm also curious if there were any where the numbers dropped."

and "there is no qualitative data about how this affected young girls' feelings towards themselves or the Church."

and "maybe it is the lack of strong role models that cause boys not to want to altar serve. Maybe it is indeed that boys psychologically do not tolerate a mixed crowd when it comes to altar serving. Perhaps there are other reasons such as world view differences that lead to the actual cause being obscured."

and "I can't help but feel that at altar serving age, I would have felt very turned off by a switch such as this. I am curious to know what the females in this age group at these parishes feel about not being allowed to serve."

Here's my response - heck, it could be that each of these parishes had interstellar star dust sprinkled on them by aliens and that is why the numbers grew.  I don't know the cause, and people can throw out their theories all day long. 

I would also to say to such comments: feel FREE to go and study these theories with research of your own.  I will not be doing any such research, but would love to hear about it if you research your personal theories as to why the numbers are what they are.

I'll end where I began - Every parish that I've heard from who switched from co-ed servers to all male servers saw, one year after the switch, an average increase of FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY PERCENT!  That's pretty incredible. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gonna keep on climbing 'till I reach the highest ground!

Iowa Democrats Pray for Abortion Rights

Besides the obvious spiritual issues with the "prayers" this priestess offers, it also reminded me of prayers I heard from high school freshmen when I was teaching.  Nothing about God's Will, just a list of things that God needs to do if He (strike that, I mean "She") is really an intelligent God.
I love the reference to the "Lord of the Dance" song at the end too! 

Here's How You Change the World