Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crux (with KofC dollars) pretends not to know what a woman is

Here's the headline at Crux (paid for by the Knights of Columbus, of which I am a proud 4th degree member):

Nun ministering to transgender women 
gets thumbs-up from Pope

There's just one problem: the individuals the nun is assisting are not women.

OK, so maybe don't focus on the headline; headlines have to be brief. So let's look at the body of the article. Surely at some point, this publication will explain that "trangender woman" means a man who believes himself to be a woman, and presents himself to the world as such.

No -- in fact, neither the world "men" or "male" ever appears in the article. But women appears a lot.

Just to be crystal clear: the issue isn't the nun, or the pope. (Indeed, the pope, with somewhat convoluted language, actually makes a little clearer what Crux cannot bring itself to clarify.) I'm not objecting to the nun helping these individuals; she seems to be doing wonderful things.

And, this doesn't have to be handled in a heavy-handed way. Here's what you do:

- Put "transgender women" in quotes whenever used. And use that term sparingly.
- Explain early on what this term means, perhaps as I did, above.
- If you don't want to refer to these individuals as males or men in subsequent references (admittedly, it can be confusing or cumbersome), then refer to them as "individuals" or "people" or "the group" or "the participants in the program."

Look: I understand that our society is marching along in this fools' parade, embracing a lie about basic biology, because that's what compassion supposedly requires. But tell me why a Catholic publication needs to go along with that? Why do the Knights of Columbus need to pay for it?

To put it another way: if Catholics start participating in the lie, what hope does truth have?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The wheat and the weeds: two ways to understand the parable (Sunday homily)

There are two ways to take this Gospel passage: 
as it applies to each of us personally, 
and as it applies to society as a whole. 

Let’s start with the personal sense, 
which is to see the field as our own lives. 
And you and I, by our choices, sow either good seed or bad, 
so that we struggle to see whether the field of our soul 
will be full of virtue, 
or will it be crowded out with the weeds of vice and sin.

I was reading a book by Father Basil Maturin, 
an Irish priest from a century ago, who talks about this parable. 
It was he who saw the field as our own lives. 

Father Maturin asked, “How often, as we look into our souls, 
and wonder at the evil we find there, do we not ask ourselves” 
where do these tares – these weeds – come from? 
Where do our sinful habits and the trials that go with them, 
come from? 

You and I struggle with laziness, with wrath, with lust, with greed, 
and it seems as though these sins crowd out virtue in our lives. 
And the answer is, “An enemy has done this.”

Now, the point is not that the devil makes us do it. 
No matter what anyone says or thinks, 
no matter what you see in movies, 
the devil cannot make anyone choose evil. 

The enemy makes suggestions, even very alluring suggestions – 
but you and I make the choice, and the evil seed is sown in our lives. 
So there seems an obvious point to be made: 
that you and I cannot be too careful about what evil 
we allow the enemy to sow in our lives. 

It doesn’t take much time given to the Internet, 
going to dark places, to allow a foul habit to take deep root. 

There are folks who think this isn’t any big deal. 
Let me tell you: there is a growing number of people – 
more men than women, but women too – 
who are finding it harder and harder to have a healthy relationship with the opposite sex 
because of pornography. 
It is damaging marriages and contributing to divorce. 

So it’s vital to guard our eyes against what is degrading; 
our ears from gossip and poisonous words of envy; 
our heart from envy and wrath; our stomach from gluttony.

Of course, a lot of us would say, too late! 
These weeds are already in my life! 
We are frustrated to face these same weeds, 
week after week throughout our lives. 
Why doesn’t the Lord simply tear them out, when we beg him to do so?

Sometimes it happens: we have a moment of conversion 
and we receive the grace to completely overcome that bad habit; 
the weeds are, indeed, ripped out. But guess what often happens? 
The person who, with great effort, overcomes a bad habit, 
only to slowly slide back into it. 

As much as we hate it, for virtue to grow in our lives, 
you and I often need this struggle; 
just as it takes hard, physical labor to build our lungs and our muscles.

When you find it discouraging to go to confession, again, and again,
with the same sin – realize, that is exactly the medicine you need. 
It is the enemy who says, you can’t fight the weeds, 
just let them grow.

Now, there is a more familiar way to take this passage. 
That is to see the field as the world, 
and some people are wheat, to be gathered into heaven, 
and some are weeds, who do evil and face the fire of hell.

No doubt you have had a similar reaction as I have. 
We will be confronted with some terrible evil, 
or people who seem devoted to evil, and we wonder: 
why, God, do you allow it to go on? 

And one answer comes from the first reading: 
God is very patient, way more patient than we are. 
God has plans for quite a lot of the weeds to become wheat. 

And that patience isn’t just for others – it is for you and me as well. 
If we are honest, at any given moment, which are we? 
You and I want to be wheat, 
but we like being with the weeds a lot more than we care to admit. 

We know God’s great harvest is coming someday; 
we just hope it doesn’t happen 
before we get to church and get in line for confession!

And that is exactly how to get out of the weeds and back to the wheat: 
and the more frequently we get to confession, the better.

Since we know that our Lord desires to turn weeds into wheat, 
then we know that he wants us to help in that mission. 
And we do that best by letting people see virtue in our own lives; 
when they see that we strive to be people of virtue, 
our example gives them courage.

In a few minutes, you and I will be given the gift God’s Wheat, 
the very Body and Blood of our Lord. 
Jesus gives himself to us, day by day, week by week, 
so that you and I can become what we receive. 
Not without struggle, but with abundant grace 
and far more patience than we can tolerate, 
he will make us what he wants us to be.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Spadaro, ISIS and the Knights of Columbus

You have probably heard about this article by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor-in-chief of the influential Rome-based Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica, and Marcelo Figueroa, the editor-in-chief of the Argentinean edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Father John Zuhlsdorf has done a great job aggregating lots of critical commentary, which his most recent item here. Scroll down his page for more items.

One one side you have "progressives," led by the National "Catholic" Reporter, applauding this "blockbuster" attack on American Catholics (that is to say, those the writers deem the wrong sort); on the other side, you have a pretty wide range of voices, the most prominent being Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, pointing out the profound problems with the article. Sad to see Mark Shea jumping on the progressive bandwagon, but all the rest are what you would expect.

Here's an item in Crux -- funded by the Knights of Columbus -- that compares two points of view. But here's just one quote from Austen Ivereigh, who used to be the editor of the Tablet -- the UK version of the N"C"R. After he admits the many errors of the article, here's what he identifies as the heart of it's analysis of how the wrong-sort Catholics in the U.S. see the world:

"Frankly, it’s a narrative that’s very close to that of ISIS."

Get that? When you and I seek to oppose the secular push to remake society, to impose a new vision of human nature (which is what the redefinition of marriage and "gender theory" is all about), we are "very close to...ISIS" -- ISIS being those folks who throw gay people off the tops of buildings and give 30 lashes to schoolboys for playing soccer and sell girls into slavery.

Oh, and let me say something to my brother Knights of Columbus. Figueroa and Spadaro were pretty clumsy in their screed, but they were clever enough to avoid two targets that would have blown the whole thing. One of them is Ronald Reagan, as Fr. Z points out in the link above. The other is you, Knights of Columbus. The authors know it would be suicide to attack you directly, and by name. Why? Because the Knights of Columbus' prosperity and success generates a lot of money that pays the bills in Rome. A LOT of money.

But make no mistake, they are including you, brother Knights, in this smear. The authors attack those who seek to bring Catholic teaching into public policy, particularly regarding ending abortion and opposing the redefinition of marriage. The authors warn ominously about patriotism that talks too much about God, rolling their eyes, for example, at the national motto, "In God We Trust."

They are hitting the Knights of Columbus, but they don't dare come out and say so. Read the article and tell me you don't agree.

Update: I fixed one of the links, and corrected the name of the former Tablet editor.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Something new for dinner...

Tonight I have some seminarians coming for dinner. It started with one seminarian from a former parish, calling to invite me to dinner, and I persuaded him to let me be his host instead; when he's a priest, he can take me to dinner. Until then, he belongs to, and benefits from, the "Feed-a-seminarian" program.

I invited the two seminarians from this parish to join me -- one could not -- and then another seminarian sent me an email about something else, and I invited him as well.

So, what to cook?

I looked through some recipes I'd saved from Facebook, and found this one. So on Monday, I got what I needed at the store, and a bit ago, I started on it.

First I whipped up the marinade:

I was going to show more pictures of me pouring things in, but I had trouble with the camera on my tablet. It helps if you mash the correct button! I did substitute some garlic paste I already had, for the grated garlic called for. (FYI -- if you click on the video at the link, it will take you to the recipe.) I also goofed and used table salt instead of kosher salt. Oh well.

After mixing up the marinade, I sliced and pounded out the flank steak:

When I was doing it, I got the sinking feeling I'd done it wrong; but now that I see the video, it looks pretty much the same. So next, the meat and marinade go in a big, plastic bag:

I squished it first to get almost all the air out, and then to distribute the marinade; then it went into the fridge. After that?

 First round of dishes. Always clean as you go, if you can.

Now to make the Herb sauce...

Whoops! Not yet. When I came back to the kitchen, I saw the potatoes all washed and ready to go, so I decided to finish preparing them. I worked from this recipe, but modified it a little; I threw in some garlic and red pepper, just because. Here are the cut up potatoes, which I'll spread out on a baking pan after Mass.

 Then I worked on the herb sauce, but I am rushing a bit, so I didn't take any pictures. It's all ready, too. Now I wait for the meat to continue marinading, and then I'll prepare it, before I head over to church for Mass. My plan is to have everything ready to throw in the oven, or on the grill, as soon as I get back from Mass.

So what's left? I have some squash I'm going to saute with some olive oil, salt and pepper; I'll cut that up before Mass if I have time, otherwise I can do that while everything else is cooking.

(Time lapse while I work at my desk...imagine theme from "Jeopardy"...)

OK, now it's 5:40 pm, so I have a few minutes to add a little before Mass...

I just got the flank steak mopped up, layered out, rolled and tied up, thus:

It's a little messier than I wanted; the meat tore a little when I pounded it out, so we'll see what happens when I grill it. For the time being, I covered it with foil and shoved it into the fridge. Right after Mass we'll cook it all up, plus the squash, still to cut up and saute. Check back for more pictures (maybe)!

Update, next day...

Sorry, no pictures. When everything was ready, there was no time to fool around with the camera. But everything turned out pretty well. I left the roast on the grill a few minutes too long, but it was pretty tasty. If I do this next time, I'll marinate it longer. The potatoes were done a little early, so they ended up a little crispy, but still good. The zucchini and squash was just right. We had some leftover wine. And, if any of this seems too pricey, I'll just point out that this was flank steak (a cheap cut), potatoes (cheap), zucchini and squash were donated. The wine was probably about $14, and I paid for that. The one real extravagance was the cheesecake, but that'll last several days. I did buy too much basil and parsley; the basil I'll use later this week, as I plan to make some sauce. The leftover parsley will probably go to waste -- it cost 50 cents a bunch.

One seminarian didn't make it for dinner; he was baling hay with his family until about 10 pm.

Mysterious lights and shadows in the sky!

Father John Zuhlsdorf finds the coolest stuff...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Vatican says what 'bread' and 'wine' mean for communion; liberal heads explode

I hate to admit this, but I regularly visit the website of the so-called National Catholic Reporter (perhaps better titled, National Schismatic Reporter, or National "Catholic" Distorter--you get the idea). If it's so bad, why do I read it? Well, two reasons: first, because as bad as it is, it does actually "report" some stories; two, because it's helpful to get different perspectives. And, I confess, for a third reason: sometimes the progressives' unconscious self-parody is hilarious -- if not in the actual articles, then certainly in the comments.

So, today, I read an item there about the Vatican reiterating what has been true for as long as anyone knows: the bread and wine for Holy Communion must be, respectively, wheat bread and grape wine, with nothing added. Mindful that some people have health issues with gluten, and others with alcohol in wine, the document spells out that it is legitimate to use bread with extremely low levels of gluten -- but not without gluten; and similarly, something called mustum, which is wine in which fermentation has begun, but then immediately stopped, so as to yield an infinitesimal alcoholic content. But, the Vatican insists, if no alcohol, it's not wine; grape juice is not wine; and wine made from other than grapes is not the wine Jesus used, so that's a no-go as well. Similarly, if no gluten, it's not wheat bread; and if it's made from other than wheat, it's not the bread Jesus used, so no-go again.

And to be very clear: that means not only is it naughty; it means, it is invalid matter for the sacrament, meaning no sacrament at all. If at Mass tonight (I would never do this!) I brought over a loaf of, say, cornbread, and a bottle of elderberry wine, my praying the Eucharistic prayer would have no effect; there would be no transubstantiation, no sacrament, no Mass. Which is why I wouldn't do it, and if I did, I most likely would never have a chance to do it again.

Here are some choice comments from the N"C"R item (there are nearly 200 comments -- that itself is sadly comical):

Frankly, I am fed up with the insistence that gluten is a required element, but the health and well being of the recipients is irrelevant. These men are not medical experts. Do I actually need to explain the non sequitur here?

...its authentic spiritual validity has nothing to do with its ingredients. It minimalizes the Eucharist by focusing on its earthly matter rather than on what matters.

It never ceases to amaze. These men in the Vatican seem to have no clue whatsoever as to the meaning of the eucharist - of Jesus' meaning when he asked his followers to remember him in this particular way. One hopes that someday at least a few of them will make the breakthrough and begin to understand Jesus' message.

If Jesus had come to 21st century US, He probably would have consecrated pizza and coke. In 1st century Palestine He used the familiar items at hand. I defy anyone to tell me that God does not accept gluten-free hosts as the Body (and Blood) of His Son. It is the faith of His children which confirms the Sacred Mystery, not the grain content of the materials (Emphasis added.)  And...that's Calvinism!

As you are male, you never had to wear a Kleenex on your head in church when you forgot your beret/beanie/hat/scarf!  NB: this tells you what all the caterwauling is really about.

OK, that's enough to give you a sense of things. Along the way, one commenter, without intending to, actually explained quite well why the Church does this:

The Last Supper was a Passover meal, which required the use of unleavened wheat bread.

And, of course, wine made from grapes. And that's all this is about: determining some definition for what counts as "bread" and "wine."

What fascinates me is the "it doesn't matter" argument some used: in effect, who cares what is used for the Mass; why not "pizza and coke"? But then I have to ask: why does the Eucharist matter...at all? If the Eucharist can be anything, then it doesn't actually have to be...anything--right? It can be water; it can be air. If definitions are exclusionary and "scrupulosity," then of course, we must get rid of definitions.

Yeah, it makes my head hurt too.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Three lessons from a friend's sudden death

Every few weeks, I get an email from the Archdiocese regarding the death of a priest. Because I know of many elderly priests facing difficulties, such emails, while sad, are not surprising. But I was positively shocked to get one with the name of Father Chris Coleman, my friend who was in the seminary with me, and who was ordained in 2006. The last time I talked to him, a few weeks ago, we had vague plans to get together for dinner. He was 50.

The news reports indicate that he had just finished a round of golf on Sunday afternoon -- it was a beautiful day! -- and he was riding in a car with someone else driving. The driver lost control of the car, it flipped over, and Father Coleman died of the injuries. I don't know anything more about the circumstances, and nothing about what follows is in any way a hint or suggestion about what I think those circumstances are.

Yesterday afternoon I was out driving myself, after learning this terrible news, and three lessons in particular came to the fore:

1. Driving is serious business: respect it.

Nothing defines freedom quite like having a driver's license and a car. We all know older friends or family members who have had to give up driving, and it's a very difficult thing to do. I can remember when I first began driving, and I was a nervous wreck. My first few years driving, I wasn't that great a driver: I had several speeding tickets and few fender-benders; thankfully, nothing too serious. In my more mature years, I have managed to leave all that behind.

So it's easy to get to become blase about driving, forgetting that we are behind the wheels of something weighing close to a ton, capable of being propelled at speeds well over 100 miles per hour. In my lifetime, this casualness has been abetted by a succession of safety measures and conveniences. When I learned to drive in 1978, the car didn't have power steering or power brakes; it was an automatic transmission, but this was still deemed an upgrade from "standard" (i.e., clutch) transmission. Only in 1968 were seat belts mandated for cars, and I can remember riding in cars that didn't have them. Airbags seem like an "only yesterday" sort of thing; and there are many other ways cars are so much safer than they used to be. Injuries and deaths from car accidents were far more common in the past than today. It is very easy today to think of the car practically driving itself (and that's not science fiction anymore), and to allow bad habits to creep in.

Just because bad things don't happen most of the time, doesn't mean they won't happen to you. There used to be a thing called "defensive driving." If you don't know what it is, look it up: it can save your life. The techniques I'm talking about, I learned in driver's ed almost 40 years ago; and while I confess I don't always follow them, I know I'm stupid not to. Things like keeping alert behind the wheel, all the time, keeping an assured distance between your vehicle and whoever is in front of you, and paying attention to what's going on further down the road. Common sense stuff.

Driving is awesome, in all senses. Take it seriously.

2. Driving and alcohol don't mix. It's no secret that in this rural part of Ohio, drinking is a favorite pastime, even for many in their teenage years. A lot of adults wink at it. It's how a lot of folks spend their weekends.

I might point out that getting drunk is a mortal sin, because you are doing serious damage to your ability to make right judgments. To put it simply, drinking causes bad decisions to cascade; and it makes it a lot more likely you'll end up in a situation you may regret the rest of your life, or even seeing your life dramatically altered...or simply ended.

Also, realize that the legal limit for alcohol if you are driving is .08% blood alcohol, which is notably below what it takes, for many (if not most) people, to be "drunk." That is to say, you stop being legally qualified to drive a car well before you sense that you are snockered. Just because you know people who drove "buzzed" or drunk, and came out OK, doesn't confer any magic on you. Only a few months ago, a young man died along Versailles Road one night after drinking too much, and driving.

3. Death can come anytime for anyone. Be ready. Although airplane travel is far safer than driving, there is something about take-off and landing to focus the mind, at least for me. I have been on a plane when I knew I needed to go to confession, and made the most heartfelt act of contrition when it started shaking a bit from turbulence. On the other hand, there is nothing like the feeling of being absolved and being in a state of grace.