Monday, January 31, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The...Aw, Who Am I Kiddin', It's All Ugly

I have been meditating on The Cult of Ugliness in America, a thought-provoking talk transcript by Fr. Anthony Brankin, all morning. Our world is flying at breakneck speed toward what can only be called a diabolical reality. How many of us are in tune to it and preparing ourselves? Have we been so dulled by post-modern culture that we can't see what direction the wind is blowing?

...when I say that you live cheek-by-jowl with this ugliness, I mean to say that in coming to and going from this hall you are surrounded by miles and miles of unyielding ugliness: McDonalds and Burger Kings sandwiched between Amocos and tenements. You do not mistake that for beauty, but it is so ubiquitous that you may no longer recognize it as specifically ugly.

You may never even make a mental note of the ugliness of all the malls with their false fronts and even falser interiors, or of the condominiums that are just as empty and sterile on the inside as they are on the outside. That’s just how everything looks now.

And, of course, that’s just for starters, for there is likewise in our world a spiritual ugliness no less all-pervasive than and somehow related to the visual ugliness all about us.

You will turn on your car radio only to hear of some new school shooting, and you won’t even be sure if this is the eighth or ninth such massacre in as many months. You will, however, be able to form a mental image of the alleged perpetrators, for you have seen the look and the fashions on your own block and maybe even within your own families: the chopped, colored hair, the mutilations, the tattoos, the rings in the nostrils and eyebrows, the baggy clothes, the backward baseball caps, the surly looks and the sullen grunts. You’ve even heard their music — God have mercy on us; we’ve all heard their music.

Then, of course, when you finally reach home, you will turn on the television news to hear of our scientific culture’s progress in the harvesting and sale of babies’ body parts. You will see news bytes of the political candidates trying to outdo each other in their dedication to killing babies.

Perhaps then, after supper, you will turn the channel to a show where you are treated to hour after hour of actors and actresses spewing vile lines in ever more tawdry productions. Could television programming be any less accurately described than by saying it consists of ugly, mean people doing ugly, mean things to each other? Indeed, the ugliness is so universal, so part and parcel of our lives, that it hardly registers in our minds anymore.

And having drunk fully of this awful cup, you go to bed.

I know this all too well. I'll bet you do, too. There are weeks that I just can't wait to get to Mass at my beautiful Church where I can kneel before the tabernacle and gaze upon the Crucifix from my pew; gain encouragement from the saints in statues and stained glass who all help me pray; hear a beautiful, no-nonsense pro-life sermon by Deacon George; take communion on my tongue, server with paten at the ready.

I also know (all too well, as you do, too) that what I experience when I walk into my church is NOT the norm:

 Yep, a Catholic Church in Spain.

Now, you might think that at least on Sunday you could be rescued from all of this visual and spiritual ugliness by going to church; but ugliness is there, too, for chances are that your church has already been despoiled by modern Catholic barbarians who haven’t even the artistic sense of the Unitarians who sit on your towns’ historic preservation boards.

The modernists will already have removed the tabernacle to a closet and the crucifix to the rectory basement. They will have torn up the sanctuary and torn down the shrines; and they will have done their expensive best to ruin whatever vision of spiritual loveliness the first parishioners and the first architect possessed. But, again, you are so used to it by now that what they have done to your church in the name of reform barely registers anymore in your minds — at least not until you have to confront what they have also done to the Mass — ever-perky, ever-childish, ever-changing, ever-boring, ever-therapeutic, until you are no longer sure who should be more embarrassed, you for still being there or the liturgists who invented it all.

No, the cult of ugliness is so pervasive, so all around us, in every nook and cranny of our lives, that we stand the risk at every moment of missing it, of no longer being able to see it or even be repelled by it.
 *Sigh.*  A time machine would sure be nice right now; but THIS just might work better.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thomas, Erica and The Ultimate End

We do not enjoy all the things that we have; and this is either because they do not afford us delight, or because they are not the ultimate goal of our desires, and so are incapable of satisfying our yearnings or affording us repose. But these three things the Blessed have in God: For they see Him, and seeing Him they hold Him ever present to them, for they have it in their power always to see Him; and holding Him, they enjoy Him, satisfying their yearnings with That Which is The Ultimate End (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I., xii. 7, ad 3m).

"I wrote something in the snow,” Erica said to me as I was heading to my car last night. She gave me a quick hug and a smile, then disappeared inside. On my way to my car I got to see a glimpse of her satisfaction with "That Which is The Ultimate End", written right there on the sidewalk:

Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WHC of New York Shocks America

re: Margaret Sanger, I don't think anything written could say it better than this:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Harvest Is Great

...but the Laborers are few.

"There is something else about the life of the shepherds, dearest brothers, which discourages me greatly. But lest what I claim should seem unjust to anyone, I accuse myself of the very same thing, although I fall into it unwillingly – compelled by the urgency of these barbarous times. I speak of our absorption in external affairs; we accept the duties of office, but by our actions we show that we are attentive to other things. We abandon the ministry of preaching and, in my opinion, are called bishops to our detriment, for we retain the honorable office but fail to practice the virtues proper to it. Those who have been entrusted to us abandon God, and we are silent. They fall into sin, and we do not extend a hand of rebuke.

"But how can we who neglect ourselves be able to correct someone else? We are wrapped up in worldly concerns, and the more we devote ourselves to external things, the more insensitive we become in spirit.

"For this reason the Church rightfully says about her own feeble members: They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept. We are set to guard the vineyards but do not guard our own, for we get involved in irrelevant pursuits and neglect the performance of our ministry.

(an excerpt of a Homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great.)


Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Grandma's Relic

"Gina, Look! Zgin, see? Liz-bet. See?" My grandmother was responsible for my first real encounter with a first-class relic. I remember my mother being very impressed, but it wasn't until recently that I really got a grip on the treasure that Grandma was trying to show me so earnestly, and not because of her muddled, unclear speech.

In spite of her handicap, my deaf Grandma was one of the best communicators I ever knew. It may not have come out all that clear to someone who didn't know her, but we understood her perfectly—that is, when we were really listening. "It's her," she would say. "She's in there," she would say. I knew she was showing me a very small, dried-up shaving of skin, labeled S. E.A. SETON in very small print, encased in a very small silver reliquary on a very small silver chain.

Of course, my 13-year-old sensibilities (or lack thereof) assumed she was talking about the sliver of skin, not the actual person. I was curious at the time—why would Grandma want to carry around a sliver of skin with her? Did it smell inside that little sliver case? Was that dark brown speck in the middle of it dried blood? Part of me was a bit grossed out, and it would be many years before I understood exactly what Grandma was trying to tell me. Honestly I hadn’t thought about Grandma’s relic at all over the years until this past Tuesday, the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, when Grandma’s voice came blasting out of the past as I read my Magnificat: “It’s her; she’s in there.”

A relic, tiny though it may be, is a piece of a saint. To paraphrase a rather controversial contemporary figure, Christopher West, in one of his presentations on the Theology of the Body: when we say, “look at him or her”, what else is there to look at but their bodies? The body is the vessel of the soul, but the body is not just a shell. The soul isn’t the fullness of the human being apart from its body. We are a living, breathing being, BODY AND SOUL. What was once fully united death now divides, and the body remains behind in the world.

Hence the relic. Even though the soul has gone off, the vessel—the body through which the saint touched the world—remains behind in the world. It won’t channel the essence of the saint, and is not worshipped as a god. It doesn’t contain magic powers, or supersede the will of God. What it contains is the holiness of the saint, because it is a piece of that person. A saint is holy; therefore a flake of his skin, chip of his bone or clipping of his hair is holy. The relic, then, is a tangible piece of holiness to which we can look for inspiration in our own walk with the Lord.

Grandma was—is right: it IS her; she IS in there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

False Accusations, Rampant Fraud

In a stunning ten-page declaration recently submitted to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, veteran attorney Donald H. Steier stated that his investigations into claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have uncovered vast fraud and that his probes have revealed that many accusations are completely false.

Counselor Steier has played a role in over one hundred investigations involving Catholic clergy in Los Angeles. In his missive Mr. Steier relayed, "One retired F.B.I. agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the Clergy Cases told me, in his opinion, about ONE-HALF of the claims made in the Clergy Cases were either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported a prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse" (capital letters are his).

Mr. Steier also added, "In several cases my investigation has provided objective information that could not be reconciled with the truthfulness of the subjective allegations. In other words, in many cases objective facts showed that accusations were false."

Read the rest of this stunner of an article HERE.
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