Saturday, February 28, 2004

Allow Me To Advert Your Attention...

To this very important nugget Diogenes posted on CWN's Off the Record.


Next week is the Ember Week in Lent.

Another "Weeping" Statue of the Blessed Mother

In Medford, this time.

I don't put a lot of credence in these things. If they enhance the faith of some people, that is for the good. While I doubt that the statue is actually weeping, if popular devotional occurances like this serve to remind people who may hae fallen away from the Faith about the reality of the World beyond this one, I see no harm in them.

The Daily Lenten Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Readings: Isaiah 58:9-14; Luke 5:27-32

Isaiah encourages us to put aside our selfishness and our self-centeredness, to move from self-seeking to justice-seeking. A person who is justice-seeking understands Jesus’ call to “Follow me.” Responding to this call to follow Jesus leads us to change our hearts and our lives.

Followers of Jesus remove from their midst false accusations and malicious speech. They give bread to the hungry and comfort to the afflicted. Their hearts are intent on proclaiming the Gospel-love that is exemplified in the words of Mother Theresa Weber, foundress of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon: “Every person is precious, as precious as the Blood of Christ.”

Matthew is a powerful example of a person who responded to Jesus’ call by changing the focus of his heart and life. Matthew re-focused his heart on Jesus and left behind what was not of Jesus in his life.

How are we called to change our hearts this day?

Reflection by: Sister Catherine Wagner, C.PP.S. (O’Fallon, Missouri)

Daily Lenten Reflection

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Another Pervert Priest Victim Dead

This time, it is a victim of Boston and Anchorage's Monsignor Frank Murphy (a Boston-trained priest who spent years in Anchorage, and baptized my wife).

Pat Podvin appears to have committed suicide. Requiescat in pace.

Not A Good Day For John Forbes Heinz Kerry

Most liberal voting record in the Senate.

Wife mouthing off about Walmart, where Americans who don't have hundreds of millions of dollars love to shop.

Some Key Points

From Fox News:

—"The overwhelming majority" of U.S. priests have lived "honorably and chastely" but molesting allegations were made against 4 percent of clerics serving from 1950 to 2002.

—The "serious failings" of bishops "have been shameful to the church," harming it as "a moral force in the secular world" and adding to the harm suffered by victims.

—Church leaders "did not act effectively" to prevent abuse "or respond appropriately when it occurred."

—Some bishops "placed the interests of the accused priests above those of the victims," did not speak with victims directly, relied on misleading advice from therapists and lawyers or emphasized "institutional concerns" that fostered "secrecy and concealment."

—Church law "made it too difficult to remove a predator priest from ministry."

—Leniency toward predators may have been "a misguided act of forgiveness."

—"Celibacy did not cause the crisis," but the church did not effectively screen out "many sexually dysfunctional and immature" priests or train seminarians for the celibate life.

—Though "many outstanding priests of a homosexual orientation" maintain celibacy,
it's significant that more than 80 percent of abuse incidents involved males under 18.

—"Effective measures have been taken" to protect minors by the U.S. bishops in recent years.

—The bishops' toughened abuse policy must be vigilantly maintained and "more must be done" in education, response to cases, accountability of bishops and "meaningful participation" by lay Catholics.

The effectiveness of the measures taken depends upon how well they address the root cause of the problem: active homosexuality in the priesthood. With even the Vatican wavering on the issuance of a decree forbidding the ordination of known homosexuals, it seems no one in power wants to grasp the true nature of the crisis.

The USCCB Report

The links are pdf files.

Courtesy of Amy Welborn's Open Book.

One Out of Every Fourteen Boston Priests Was Accused of Abuse

That is stunning and far in excess of the numbers nationally. The national numbers are about 4%.

Why so many concentrated in Boston? Why so many graduating between 1960 and 1969? Why did abuse peak in the 1980s?

The answer requires a careful examination of the culture of the priesthood and of St. John's Seminary in the 1950s. This was the time of "rising" expectations, when the traditional barriers that had defined the Catholic life were being railed against by the cognoscenti. It was the time when Cardinal Cushing, in order to service a growing Catholic population, wanted every able body he could get into a Roman collar.

And apparently, a ring of perverts were coming through St. John's at the same time. They fed off the uncertainty as to what Catholic teaching would be that pervaded the Church before the Council. Birth control would surely be allowed, they thought. Meatless Fridays would go, as would objections to homosexual acts, and Latin, and the virtual pariah status of the divorced. All the things progressives hated would be pushed aside soon. Then we could all walk on into that happy utopia on earth liberals dream about.

So, in the permissive and uncertain atmosphere of the late 1950s-1960s, the collective leadership of the seminary and the Archdiocese decided to look the other way and push a Birmingham, a Geoghan, a Shanley, and a few others through the seminary. Sure in some cases questions had been raised about suitability for the priesthood. Of course they knew that Shanley was a homosexual, and one with a predilection for young boys. But the way was made smooth for Geoghan by a monsignor uncle. Likewise, the others had friends in high places.

Boston Catholicism at the time was the epicenter of the phenomenon we have come to know as the Democrat Party At Prayer. Cardinal Cushing was virtually the house chaplain of the Kennedy Family. If you were anyone important in Massachusetts (and not an old Yankee Republican), you were Irish, Catholic, a graduate of Boston College, (or one of the few local Irish allowed into Harvard), and, naturally, a Democrat. Inbreeding does not even begin to describe the situation. This was and remains for all intents and purposes a Democrat one-party state.

The unnatural closeness of the most liberal political party and the most conservative, traditional, and hierarchical Church created a "bleed-in" effect. The political agenda of the Democrat Party became the social agenda of a large part of the Catholic Church in Boston. More welfare, sexual libertines, little punishment for serious violent crime, an overfondness for what might be charitably called "minority culture," disregard for property rights, abortion on demand, birth control, the ERA, were all simultaneously demanded in the political arena by the left-wing of the Democrat Party, and became the "social gospel" of "with-it" Catholics. No place was this more the case than in Boston.

And one of the little interest groups that tags along in the Democrat wave (mostly under the surface, though they may hope of surging to the forefront soon, now that gay marriage seems likely to become the law of the land) is NAMBLA and its related fringe groups. Is it such a huge coincidence that a 1960 graduate, Irish, Catholic priest from the Boston area sat in on the founding of NAMBLA (or that NAMBLA and its allies raised the bail money to get him out of jail)?

Why did the abuse peak in the 1980s? Well, the network formed by the ring of perverts had managed to gain a bit of power by then. The Lavender Mafia, Boston Division, had a great front man, one perfectly placed to sweep unpleasantness under the rug, a great fixer: now-Bishop John McCormack.

Cardinal Medieros appeared to be a personally holy man trying to keep the Archdiocese together in the wake of Vatican II, complying with what came down, and soothing the dissidents as they did not get all that they wanted. In the early 1980s, he was not a well man, and something of a power vacuum developed.

When he died, and Bernard Law was appointed in his place, one might have thought a shake-up was coming. It was clear by then that the Church was split into conservative and liberal factions, and that a conservative Pope had reached out to a back-water to appoint a conservative bishop to dissenting liberal Boston.

The shake-up that might have broken the power of the Lavender Mafia never came because of the nature of Cardinal Law's conservatism. It was not the activist conservativism that would translate in political terms to a Ronald Reagan, the sort of conservatism that seeks ideological unity above all else, pushes those who don't agree 100% out of office at every level. This is the sort of conservatism practiced by a Bishop Bruskewitz. But Cardinal Law was (using the political analogy again) a Nixon conservative, one who stood with the establishment, tried not to rock the boat, tried to keep everyone on the team. He continued to give McCormack a lot of responsibility. And McCormack's protective attitude towards his seminary classmates, demonstrated as early as the late 1960s at my own parish of St. James in regard to Father Birmingham, percolated up to Bishops Daily, and Banks. All along, Cardinal Law was content with this, as long as his own authority and perogatives were recognized.

So with a protector in high places, the boys could get themselves into trouble, and get out of it easily in the 1980s. No more of that harsh punitive approach to their perversions. Instead they had a fixer who made problems go away, or at worst got them sent to a friendly clinic where caretakers sympathetic to homosexuality would affirm them in their OKness (to use Mark Shea's term). Then back into another parish to bugger more teenage boys. That is why it peaked in the 1980s.

There you have it. Why Boston? Because of the close interchange here between the left-wing of the Democrat Party and the Church, and the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the liberal wing of that party. Why so many perverts graduating in the 1960s? Because they fed off the atmosphere of uncertainty and anticipated liberal changes in the Church at that time. Why did abuse peak in the 1980s? Because there was no real control of the situation from those appointed to the See of Boston, and because by then one member of the lavender coterie was in a position to fix any problems that came up and make sure his friends were able to go on with their perversions. That's a nutshell answer each of those questions that people in Boston are reportedly scratching their heads over this morning.

Lenten Friday Stations

Lenten Reflection From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference

Friday reflections from St. Blog's own Father Keyes.

Readings: Isaiah 58: 1-9; Matthew 9:14-15

St. Gaspar
“God, indeed, who brings things to maturity, requires us to be patient for his works are generated and cultivated through thorns, crosses, and all sorts of hardships that accompany a ministry of the primary and essential relationship in the Church of Jesus Christ. “Faith comes through hearing...” St. Gaspar (Letter 946 to Cristaldi, August 20, 1824, Strokes of the Pen, C.PP.S. Resources 8, page 26)

On this the first of the Friday’s in Lent, the readings emphasize the ancient discipline of fasting. Jesus relates fasting to a primary relationship with him. The readings and prayers from the tradition ensure that we know the meaning of these ancient practices. These are not practices to be pursued so that we might be perfect in penitential practice, but as a means to our on-going conversion to the Lord. It is less important that we fulfill ancient discipline than that the fasting lead us to this essential relationship. It is more than abstaining from food and drink. It is also sharing that food with the poor, and acting on behalf of justice. The presence of Jesus in our lives has enormous consequences for how we live, and St. Gaspar invites us to take up the hardships that accompany the building of the Kingdom of God. Fasting is not easy, and we shy away from it in this land of plenty. Relationships are not easy either and we can be tempted to shy away from the hard work. St. Gaspar assures us the way to heaven is strewn with thorns and crosses, but they lead us to the primary relationship. We enter more deeply into our Lenten fast, knowing that this practice must also include practical help for others, establishing the justice God's heart desires.

What am I giving up for Lent this year?
How do I direct this fast toward God?
Do I want to hunger for God alone?

Reflection by: Rev. Jeff Keyes, C.PP.S. (Province of the Pacific)

Daily Lenten Reflection

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

No, I Haven't Seen It Yet, But...

I did read the photo-heavy companion volume. I hope to see it this weekend.

We knew it would be pretty bloody. The photos alone prove that. The impact of those photos with action and sound (in the original languages, no less) on a big screen must be pretty intense.

There was the woman who died during a screening in Kansas. May her soul rest in peace. One gets the feeling that critics of the movie will latch on to this incident to say, "See, we told you it was too bloody, too terrible, too out there." Of course, that is just a handy excuse they can use to bash the movie. Equally bloody movies they have nothing to say about. Only movies made by "right-wing crazies" like Mels Gibson concerning topics of interest to tradition-minded folks are worthy of being dumped on.

I don't want to sound callous about that lady's death, but don't people die in movie theaters from time to time? Did anyone die watching Saving Private Ryan? The Patriot? Braveheart? Die Hard? Titanic? The Deer Hunter? I think we just never hear about it because very few movies are scrutinized so closely. Even if this death was utterly unique, one has to ask why someone with a weak heart went to a movie that everyone has known for months was quite violent?

The real motive behind the criticism is that the movie is faithful to the Gospels, and that such fidelity does not advance us down that golden road where we all (RCs, Protties, and Jews, plus Moslems, Buddhists, and Hindus, Wiccans, pagans, atheists and agnostics) just march along singing Kumbaya and We Shall Overcome en route to some sort of impromptu liberal paradise.

Hard reality: the leaders of the Jewish state, and the Romans, were the direct agents of Christ's death.

But more to the point than who did the deed itself, He died for the sins of all of us. Our sins crucified Christ. The sins of all of us, even apostles and saints like St. Martin and St. Peter, St. Thomas and St. Patrick, even the sins of those not yet born crucified Him. That brutal death was necessary to redeem mankind of Adam's sin ("O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, that gained for us so great a Redeemer...").

But yet, the hard reality is that the Gospels say the leaders of the Sanhedrin brought Jesus of Nazareth to trial, and pressed the Roman procurator for execution. And that hard reality is not fudged, but is depicted, in the movie, as it has been in every account of the life of Christ, including Jesus of Nazareth, and The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Was there such vehement criticism of that TV miniseries or that movie? I seem to remember that there was a little about Jesus of Nazareth, but that it was quickly ignored. Is it that even 26 years ago, our society was better able to dismiss the cranks and perpetual malcontents, and had more assurance of its bedrock values than it does now? Is our popular culture that much more dumbed-down that we can no longer dismiss meritless complaints on their face and ignore them?

In a side note, don't we see the same thing in the courts, where litigation that would have been summarily dismissed with a laugh 70 years ago is taken seriously today?

In any case, Mel Gibson is reportedly doing very well off the opening. This could turn into a $100 million movie.

I hope many see it, and many reflect on that awful (awe-inspiring) act of redemption.

Daily Lenten Reflection

From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference. It can't be linked to directly, so here it is.

Readings: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; Luke. 9: 22-25

Today's readings speak to us of choosing life or death. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses urges the people to choose life by obeying the will of God, loving God and walking in the ways of God. Jesus in the Gospel of Luke tells us that to be one of His followers it is necessary to lose our life in order to have life. He indicates that this means denying ourselves, taking up our daily cross and following Him.

As Precious Blood people we know that blood also has to do with life and death. We need blood and sufficient blood in order to live. When blood is infected or too much is shed we die. Our concern as disciples of the Blood of Christ is not only for physical life but also concern for meaningful life. The Blood of Life calls us, like Jesus, to risk our lives, to leave the comfortableness of personal pursuits and accomplishments to live radically our religious commitment. As Jesus indicates in the gospel reading, we need to deny ourselves, to take up our daily cross and follow Him in order to bring life to others. Just as He fed the hungry, healed the sick, raised the dead, challenged the Jewish leaders, we, too, are called to center our lives on God and on His people.

How did our founders and foundresses come to choose life and not death, to carry their cross each day, to lose themselves in order to have and give life? They did it by spending time in contemplation before the cross/the Blessed Sacrament. Let us take time today to contemplate the cross or Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and ask for the grace to choose life, to carrying our daily cross, to share life with others.

Reflection by: Sister Edna Hess, C.PP.S. (Dayton, Ohio)

Daily Lenten Reflection

From the Franciscans at AmericanCatholic.org.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Recipe For Legal Seafoods' Terrific Clam Chowder

4 quarts littleneck clams (about 1-2/3 cupscooked and chopped)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup water
2 ounces salt pork, finely chopped
2 cups chopped onions
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
4-1/2 cups clam broth
3 cups Fish Stock
2 cups light cream
Oyster crackers (optional)

Clean the clams and place them in a large pot along with the garlic and water. Steam the clams just until opened, about 6 to 10 minutes, depending upon their size. Drain and shell the clams, reserving the broth. Mince the clam flesh, and set aside. Filter the clam broth either through coffee filters or cheesecloth and set aside. In a large, heavy pot slowly render the salt pork. Remove the cracklings and set them aside. Slowly cook the onions in the fat for about 6 stirring frequently, or until cooked through but not browned. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the reserved clam broth and Fish Stock, and whisk to remove any flour lumps. Bring the liquid to boil, add the potatoes, lower the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved clams, salt-pork cracklings, and light cream. Heat the chowder until it is the temperature you prefer. Serve in large soup bowls with oyster crackers on the side.

Serves 8

Recipe from: Legal Seafoods Cookbook by George Berkowitz, Jane Doerfer (Doubleday)

Courtesy of the archives of Mark Sullivan's Irish Elk.

I love Legal's clam chowder. It might be rank heresy to say this, especially since at this season of the year, I can't have any, but I love their steaks, too.

Dies Irae

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla:
teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptum proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit:
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me fons pietatis.

Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae:
ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
redemisti Crucem passus:
tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus:
supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae:
sed tu bonus fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
et ab haedis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis:
voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.

Huic ergo parce, Deus:
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

Day of wrath and doom impending,
David's word with Sibyl's blending!
heaven and earth in ashes ending!

Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,
when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
on whose sentence all dependeth!

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
through earth's sepulchres it ringeth,
all before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its judge an answer making.

Lo! the book exactly worded
wherein all hath been recorded;
thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the judge His seat attaineth,
and each hidden deed arraigneth,
nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

King of majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us
fount of pity, then befriend us.

Think, kind Jesu,, my salvation
caused thy wondrous incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation.

Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,
on the Cross of suffering bought me,
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous judge, for sin's pollution,
grant thy gift of absolution,
ere that day of retribution.

Guilty now I pour my moaning,
all my shame with anguish owning;
spare, o God, thy suppliant groaning.

Through the sinful woman shriven,
through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
yet, good Lord, in grace complaying,
rescue me from fire undying.

With thy favoured sheep o place me,
nor among the goats abase me,
but to thy right hand upraise me.

When the wicked are confounded,
doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
call me, with thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart submitting!
See, like ashes my contrition!
Help me in my last condition!

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning,
man for judgment must prepare him;

spare, o God, in mercy spare him!
Lord , all pitying, Jesu blest,
grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.

Litany of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins,
pray for us.
Mother of the Crucified,
pray for us.
Sorrowful Mother,
pray for us.
Mournful Mother,
pray for us.
Sighing Mother,
pray for us.
Afflicted Mother,
pray for us.
Foresaken Mother,
pray for us.
Desolate Mother,
pray for us.
Mother most sad,
pray for us.
Mother set around with anguish,
pray for us.
Mother overwhelmed by grief,
pray for us.
Mother transfixed by a sword,
pray for us.
Mother crucified in thy heart,
pray for us.
Mother bereaved of thy Son,
pray for us.
Sighing Dove,
pray for us.
Mother of Dolors,
pray for us.
Fount of tears,
pray for us.
Sea of bitterness,
pray for us.
Field of tribulation,
pray for us.
Mass of suffering,
pray for us.
Mirror of patience,
pray for us.
Rock of constancy,
pray for us.
Remedy in perplexity,
pray for us.
Joy of the afflicted,
pray for us.
Ark of the desolate,
pray for us.
Refuge of the abandoned,
pray for us.
Shield of the oppressed,
pray for us.
Conqueror of the incredulous,
pray for us.
Solace of the wretched,
pray for us.
Medicine of the sick,
pray for us.
Help of the faint,
pray for us.
Strength of the weak,
pray for us.
Protectress of those who fight,
pray for us.
Haven of the shipwrecked,
pray for us.
Calmer of tempests,
pray for us.
Companion of the sorrowful,
pray for us.
Retreat of those who groan,
pray for us.
Terror of the treacherous,
pray for us.
Standard-bearer of the Martyrs,
pray for us.
Treasure of the Faithful,
pray for us.
Light of Confessors,
pray for us.
Pearl of Virgins,
pray for us.
Comfort of Widows,
pray for us.
Joy of all Saints,
pray for us.
Queen of thy Servants,
pray for us.
Holy Mary, who alone art unexampled,
pray for us.

Pray for us, most Sorrowful Virgin,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of grief pierced through the most sweet soul of Thy glorious Blessed Virgin Mother Mary: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of her Seven Sorrows, may obtain the happy effect of Thy Passion, Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

Pope Pius VII

The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
4. Mary meets Jesus Carrying the Cross
5. The Crucifixion
6. Mary Receives the Dead Body of Her Son
7. The Burial of Her Son and Closing of the Tomb

Reflection From the Franciscans

At AmericanCatholic.org.

Reflection For Ash Wednesday

From the Precious Blood Leadership Conference:

Readings: Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Corinthians 5: 20-6:2; Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

“A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.”

I’ve always found it interesting that on Ash Wednesday, the day we sign ourselves with dirty, messy ashes, we sing in the psalm for a clean heart. Yet, isn't that what we really long for? The entire Lenten season is a journey. It is a journey in search of a clean heart.

In classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man goes in search of a heart. Over the years he has become rusty and stiff. This does not sound too different than our own lives. As we go about our daily activities, we too become rusty and stiff. We may not seize up and need oil, but our heart grows weak.

Ash Wednesday, and in fact the entire Lenten Season, is a chance to allow God to renew our spirits and create a clean heart for us. As we ponder the great mystery of God's love for us, love which knows no bounds and is expressed in the Precious Blood, we ask God not only to forgive our sins, but to truly renew us through the blood.

The Tin Man’s journey did not lead to a new heart, but in fact it led him back to his own heart. God, the heart of our Christian life, is calling us back. We are being called not to chastisement and punishment, but to God's love. There were many twists, turns, and detours on the Tin Man’s journey to Oz, but in the end, he found his heart, right where he left it. As we follow Christ on his journey this Lenten Season, we might get turned around and lost for a little bit, but in the end, we too will find a clean heart and a renewed spirit.

How can I prepare myself for the Lenten journey which Jesus is calling me to undertake?

Reflection by: Deacon Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S. (Cincinnati Province)

Lenten Customs

From the Holy Trinity parish website.

Some Things I Have Learned In Lents Past

A re-print from last year.

1) My memory is not what it once was. Last year I set out to memorize Psalm 50/51 during Lent. The objective was to include it in my daily prayers without having to read it off a card. Roughly 20 lines in 61/2 weeks? Should have been a breeze. After all, I took Latin and everyone knows that the secret of doing well in Latin is to memorize large blocks of translated text, so that you can regurgitate them on the test. Besides, I was a history major (and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key for my work in history). Memorizing is the sine qua non of the successful history major. But non sum qualis eram. By Good Friday, I had a tenuous grip on most of the Psalm. But I never got to the point of being word-perfect in it. Now it is mostly gone. I'll have to start over beginning Wednesday. By the way, I never remember to dispose of last year's palms in a timely manner so that they can be used to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. I'm just as guilty on this count this year as in every other.

2) The audience for traditional devotions in Salem is tiny. Actually, I learned that a couple of years ago. The turn-out for Stations and Friday adoration is miniscule. It is depressing that so few turn out, and that of those who do, Mrs. F. and I are the youngest by 20 years or so.

3) I have to leave the curry powder and cayenne pepper out of the tuna salad. Sliced onions and black pepper are enough. Enough said.

4) I get really tired of hummus and pita bread very quickly. I bought a half dozen tubs of various flavors of hummus. I ended up throwing it away. I'm better off sticking to the pasta cheese, egg, and potato dishes I grew up with.

5) I won't lose weight during Lent. Despite all the things I abstain from, I never lose weight during Lent. I'm lucky if I don't gain weight. Exercise would be necessary for weight loss. While I may take some walks around the Common in nice weather, exercise is otherwise a foreign thing. Besides, I am not abstaining in order to lose weight, though it would be a nice side effect. I'm abstaining to mortify the flesh.

6) On the days I abstain from chocolate, I get really cantakerous. If Verus Ratio has been a little bland since Christmas, it is probably because of the presence in the house of a huge supply of chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Keep me away from chocolate, and my mood is negatively impacted.

7) Don't read Cigar Aficianado or Peter Mayle during Lent. My tastes are highly influenced by what I read. If I start reading good articles in Cigar Aficianado or Peter Mayle, for whom good cigars are a daily thing, I develop a craving for cigars. It is, in fact, almost the only time I develop a strong craving for cigars.

8) My Lenten devotional reading is pretty thin stuff. I own a few booklets, published by various priests, that contain daily reflections and prayers for Lent. They have titles like Repent, It's Lent, and God's Love In Good Times and Bad. The reflections are very commonplace and highly driven by the PC imperative. But even worse are two by a Father Donders, With Hope In Our Hearts, and Give Me a New Heart. I am still looking for something more substantive and traditional. I have Bishop Sheen's Seven Words To the Cross, but it isn't quite the thing. I read the Lives of the Saints and part of the Psalter everyday already. I may head to the Carmelite Gift Shop at the Northshore Mall tomorrow afternoon to look for something else. If I don't find something that works, I may end up just re-reading My Imitation of Christ. Suggestions welcome.

9) People have very little patience with and openess to deprivation and suffering. A couple of years ago, I saw a lovely crown of thorns for sale in a Catholic gift shop (Andrew Lane in Peabody). It was a life-size crown, and looked quite sharp. I'm not an Opus Dei type who believes in flagellation or even putting such a thing on my own head. I see it as the sort of thing one puts on one's coffee table as a daily reminder of the Lord's suffering. But even Mrs. F. didn't want it in the house (and we shroud all our crucifixes and images of the saints and the Blessed Mother with purple cloth for the duration of Lent). That crown was still in the store on Maundy Thursday. I have not seen it since. People just don't want to have that sort of thing around the house. Reminders of suffering, pain, and deprivation are very unpopular in our materialistic society. Remember how American Catholics as a whole reacted to the ending of year-round meatless Fridays? It was a gigantic sigh of relief, if not cheering. We don't want to feel limited in any way. Even if the limit is very minor.

10) Getting to Church on all three days of the Triduum is not easy. Every year it seems that we determine to get to Mass on Maundy Thursday, the Passion on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday evening. Inevitably, though, one of them drops off the list. Either one of us is not feeling well, or is too tired for it, or a schedule conflict comes up. The best we can do is to resolve to make all three, and hope for the best.

11) What I look forward to most is the Easter Proclamation or Exsultet. Even more so than the Gospel reading, perhaps even more so than the Chirstmas gospel reading, I find it a cause for rejoicing. I anticipate it eagerly.

12) It feels like cheating to have a meal with meat after the Easter Vigil Mass. know. Once I attend the Vigil Mass, I have met my Easter obligation. Lent is then over for me. Technically, it is Easter for me, and I am free to chow down on whatever meats and other things I have given up for Lent. But it doesn't feel right. I've been abstaining for almost a full 47 days at that point. By the time we get home from the Vigil or get to a restaurant, it is near 10:00 pm. Easter morning is a couple of hours away. I don't want to end my abstinence until after sunrise on Easter morning.


By George Herbert

Welcome deare feast of Lent : who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now :
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and layes the burden there,
When doctrines disagree.
He sayes, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandall to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unlesse Authoritie, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it lesse,
And Power it self disable.

Besides the cleannesse of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulnesse there are sluttish fumes,
Sowre exhalations, and dishonest rheumes,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodnesse of the deed.
Neither ought other mens abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It 's true, we cannot reach Christ's fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior's purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev'n as he.
In both let 's do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast
As may our faults control:
That ev'ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

"Remember, Man, That Thou Art Dust, And Unto Dust Thou Shalt Return"

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I Just Updated The Big Lenten Reading/Prayer Blog Below With Lots of Links

I was too lazy to put the links in on Sunday. But they are there now. Enjoy.

It's About Time !!!!

My Penances Look Mild

Compared to these.

Just the word "anthills" has a chilling meaning in this context.

Well, This Makes Hash of The Notion That Parish Closings Have Nothing To Do With the Archdiocese's Debt

The Archbishop has decided that parishes that are closed under the procedure outlined previously will be suppressed, rather than merged, so that the proceeds from the sale of the realty will go to the Archdiocese to pay its debts, not to the merged surviving parishes.

I recall several occasions on which spokesmen for the Archdiocese have said that the parish closings have nothing to do with the settlement of the litigation and the resulting debt. But if the closed parish property is going to the Archdiocese to pay the "debt" (mostly caused by the pervert priest litigation), then the parish closings are, in fact, all about and the direct result of the litigation.

Yes, the number of priests is declining. But there are still more than enough diocesan priests to have one in every parish, and that doesn't even touch the number of priests in orders some of whom also staff parishes. So the decline in the number of priests isn't the real reason why parish closings are so important.

The very rapid framework that the Archbishop has put in place for the closings means only one thing: the closings must take place quickly, so that the Archdiocese can sell the property and pay down its debt.

Of course it makes sense that this should be done. We as a Catholic community have a huge outstanding debt. Never mind the fact that we in the laity are not the parties most responsible for the situation. We knew, sort of, that a lot of this stuff had gone on, and we never pressed in the 1980s or 1990s for full and complete disclosure or a change in policy regarding personnel placement of pervert priests. It didn't occur to us.

So we have a big collective debt to pay. Closing parishes is one way to do it.

But what rankles is the insistence of the Archdiocese early on in the process that the parish closings would have nothing to do with the settlement of the litigation. In other wordfs, they lied to us again. Did they think we were too stupid to connect the dots, or that, after our brief period of anger we had all nodded back off to the sleep of the "sheeple" we normally are?

If you are going to close parishes to pay the debt, fine. There are better ways to do it, but, fine. However, please just tell us that is what you are doing. Don't compound a bad situation with a lie, especially one so obvious.

Shrove Tuesday

Fasting's Eve, Mardi Gras, Carnival, or Shrove Tuesday are names for this day before the beginning of Lent. The great fast of Lent begins tomorrow. Since pre-modern Europe observed what we would call a stringent fast (no meat, or dairy products from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday) the last day before the fast was a time for eating up meat, eggs, cheese, and drinking.

The names reflect that reality. The French "Mardi Gras" means "fat Tuesday." The Latin "Carne Vale" means "good-bye meat." The name "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the expectation that the pious would seek to be shriven (to confess) before undertaking the Lenten fast. "Fasting's Eve" is fairly clear.

Shrove Tuesday celebrations are continued to some extent in New Orleans' Mardi Gras, and Rio's Carnival. Drinking, feasting, and lewd behaviour were common.

But some Shrove Tuesday pastimes have passed away. This used to be a great day for cockthreshing. A cock would be tethered to a pole, and selected participants would hurl stones at it in an effort to knock it down or kill it. It was also a good day for cockfighting, which continued to be popular into the 18th century. PETA-types would probably immolate themselves to stop that if it were common today (common, at least at the top of society).

Football games (we would call it soccer) were common on Shrove Tuesday in England. The difference was that in the 15th century, there were no teams and no rules. A football game was, therefore, a free-for-all. With the participants fueled by large amounts of alcohol and fresh meat, lots of people were injured. But it was all in good fun.

The Shrove Tuesday pancake is a slightly later tradition. The pancake requires milk, eggs, and butter, all of which had to be consumed before Lent started in that age before refrigeration. So the eating of pancakes became a Shrove Tuesday custom. Pancake races started at least 100 years before the Reformation. The Tossing of the Pancake at England's Westminister School is a natual development of the pancake tradition (a large pancake is tossed in part of the refectory, and the boy who comes out of a general scramble with the largest piece is given a reward).

Enjoy this last free day of Carnival. Tomorrow things take on a more sober cast.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Jonesing For Spring

It is about 45 degrees today in Boston, with bright sun. On a day like this, especially with the threat of colder weather for the rest of the week, one is inclined to wish really hard for spring.

I was reminded of the lyrics to an old Tommy Makem song:

Rambles of Spring
Words and Music by Tommy Makem

There's a piercing wintry breeze
Blowing through the budding trees
And I button up my coat to keep me warm
But the days are on the mend
And I'm on the road again
With my fiddle snuggled close beneath my arm

I've a fine, felt hat
And a strong pair of brogues
I have rosin in my pocket for my bow
O my fiddle strings are new
And I've learned a tune or two
So, I'm well prepared to ramble and must go

I'm as happy as a king
When I catch a breath of spring
And the grass is turning green as winter ends
And the geese are on the wing
And the thrushes start to sing
And I'm headed down the road to see my friends


I have friends in every town
As I wander up and down
Making music at the markets and the fairs
Through the donkeys and the creels
And the farmers making deals
And the yellow headed tinkers selling wares


Here's a health to one and all
To the big and to the small
To the rich and poor alike and foe and friends
And when I return again
May our foes have turned to friends
And may peace and joy be with you until then

Patrick McSorley: Requiescat In Pace

One of the most visible of the pervert priest victims, Patrick McSorley was found dead this morning in his apartment. No word on the cause of death yet. But McSorley has had a troubled time since his abuse (perhaps even before it). He was arrested on drug charges last year, and nearly drowned at Pope John Paul II Park on the Neponset River (which was said not to be a suicide attempt).

Requiescat in pace.

I Have Long Suspected That There Was A Subculture In the Priesthood That Regarded This As An Acceptable Perk

It is the only way to explain the guilty-hands-in-the-cookie-jar incomprehension and cluelessness that the bishops continue to show towards this issue ("You mean this is wrong? Who knew? It's been going on for time out of mind..."). Evidence from Monsignor Richard Sniezyk, Administrator of the Springfield Diocese:

Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, 66, the leader of the Springfield Diocese until the Vatican names a bishop to replace Thomas L. Dupre, said that as a seminarian and then a young priest in the 1950s and early 1960s he heard of priests who had sex with young men, but "no one thought much about it" because priests didn't recognize how mentally and emotionally damaging their behavior was.

"They did good ministry, they were good to their people, they were kind, compassionate, but they had no idea what they were doing to these young men that they were abusing," Sniezyk said. "It was that era of the '60s -- most of it took place from the mid-'60s to the early-'80s -- and the whole atmosphere out there was, it was OK, it was OK to do."

There was probably also a subculture that thought sex with young boys was OK: you were still celibate, as long as you had nothing to do with women. What a sick perversion of the concept of chastity and celibacy.

My darker suspicion, of which there is no evidence yet, but who knows, is that there existed, or exist secret societies within the priesthood in which buggering teenage boys is a sort of initiation ritual, even more wicked and closed precursors to St. Sebastian's Angels. We have seen individual priests use sexual contact with teenagers as initiation in the flood of stuff that came out in 2002-2003. These secet societies that may or may not have existed need not have been large (5% of priests apparently were abusers). They were probably very closely guarded secrets. But their existence would explain a great deal of the old-boy network of abuser-enabling that dates back before Vatican II.

A Hell Fire Club of priests? I don't think it is beyond the possible. And if there was a Hell Fire Club operating at least in the Boston priesthood, one becomes very curious as to just how long it existed. How far back in Catholic history do things like this go?

Collop Monday

Originally, "collop" meant only a dish of fried eggs and bacon. But it came to mean slices or steaks or chops of meat of all kinds. Because of the stringent fasting and abstinence requirements of pre-Vatican II Lents, traditional European society consumed the existing meat and dairy stocks in a huge celebration known as Shrovetide or Carinval, the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The meat and dairy products could not be eaten for six and a half weeks, and could not be frozen or refrigerated as we would do today. So, a huge feast was held to finish off meats so that they would not go to waste. Monday before Ash Wednesday was a day for eating collops of meat, especially, though eating as much meat as possible would have taken place on all the days of Shrovetide.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Quinquagesima Sunday

This is also the feast of St. Peter's Chair and a memorial for St. Paul. This is the last Sunday before Lent starts.

We are deep in Carnival now. Eat, drink, and be merry, but in moderation, of course.

A Lenten Reading/Prayer/Fasting Program

I've been threatening this one for a while. Well, I've finally put it together. Maybe reading it can be one of your lenten sacrifices this year.

Lent is a time for heightened commitment to doing what we can to resolve our sinfulness and come closer to salvation. It is a time, first to recognize our sinfulness, second to make amends as best we can, and third to confess those sins and be free of them before Easter starts.

We have a dramatic gesture at the start of Lent, the ashes smeared on the forehead with the reminder that we humans are dust, and that we will return to dust. And Lent ends with the death and burial of the Lord and us "creeping to the cross" to venerate it. In that act, we symbolically enter into the Lord's death and burial. And then life begins anew with Easter.

The Church prescribes certain minimalistic gestures of lenten sacrifice to prepare oneself. The current regulations stipulate fasting (defined as a single meal and two small "snacks" during the day) and abstinence (from meat) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat (as all the Fridays of the year used to be. Once should confess one's sins in order to make a good Communion for Easter. One must attend Mass on all the Sundays of Lent. One should give alms, and Operation Ricebowl is the encouraged medium. And there you have what the Church currently demands of us for Lent. Pretty light. Almost pathetically light and undemanding, isn't it?

But you can, of course, do more than this bare minimum. In fact, you should. Mortification of the flesh in the form of a more rigorous schedule of sacrifices helps better prepare the soul for Easter. Daily reading and reflection on the Lord's sacrifice, and the fact that it was made for our sins, and on those sins themselves (and on the consequences of sin) can only deepen one's lenten experience. Attending Mass and other devotions in the Church, or having an at-home devotion time each night during Lent makes the experience more prayerful. The deeper and more effective one makes the lenten experience, the more joyful Easter will be.

So we should look for ways to surpass the sacrifice demanded by the Church. We have some easy guides, in that not so very long ago, more rigorous fasting and abstinence was the norm. If our parents or grandparents could have done it, so can we. We hate the idea of sacrifice in this materialistic culture. It is anathema to it, which is why the sacrifices demanded by the Church have been scaled back so dramtically.

What to give up? This is what I do without for the duration of Lent (Ash Wednesday-Easter Sunday morning):
*meat (including duck and goose: I don't go in for the old excuse that they are "waterfowl," and therefore seafood)
*tobacco (I like cigars, and am not a stranger to a pipe)
*hot cocoa
*cola beverages
*cake-like things (cake, muffins, donuts)

If I had more willpower, I would add chocolate and ice cream to the list. But I don't. So I only abjure them on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent (and Ember Saturday in Lent and Holy Saturday (and from noon-on, on Maundy Thursday).

And I make a generalized exception to my lenten fast and abstinence that, in honor of St. Patrick, the 36 hours from noon on March 16 until midnight March 18 are exempt from all of my lenten sacrifices. That way I can have my champ with Irish back bacon, or ham, and whisky with a clear conscience (since St. Patrick's Day always falls within Lent). When St. Patrick's Day is also Good Friday or Holy Saturday, the Good Friday/Holy Saturday abstinence wins out.

What I don't try is the "Black Fast" which would entail giving up dairy products. I could not get through Lent without cheese, especially cheddar. This is Especially so since I dislike most seafood (except clam chowder, fried clams with no bellies, tuna with plenty of mayonnaise, and shrimp).

And you don't have to deny yourself food alone. Television or radio are good things to give up for Lent, especially if you are listening to too much of one or the other. Blogging or the internet are other things. Playing golf, or playing cards, bowling, video or computer games are all likely sacrifices. Or you can try to give up personal habits you don't like in yourself, like complaining.

Of course, there are lots of things you can give up. You could also drop down a level in consumption. If you always use Cabot Private Stock cheddar in your household, switch to American processed cheese food for Lent. If you always buy Starbucks' best coffee by the pound, switch to Maxwell House.

Denial has always been the key to lenten mortification of the flesh, as we have always been a materialistic people. But you have to decide what is best for you to give up, and when. If you make your lenten sacrifices realistic, you have a better chance of living up to your pledge. Cigarette smokers who try to give up fags for Lent rarely make it without professional help. And alcoholics who try to give up alcohol also seldom make it, unless they are checked into a facility to dry out for the duration (which would be very expensive).

Giving alms is an established lenten custom. There is Operation Rice Bowl. But if you are like me, you are very likely to raid the cardboard container for quarters to do laundry or for the subway. Instead, write a check to the parish or the local food pantry. Don't give to beggars on the street. What you give them will only enrich the liquor store or your local drug dealer. And it won't help the people you are giving to. And if you give them a gift certificate instead (say to McDonald's), you'll probably just make them angry that you did not trust them with cash.

Direct giving was how one gave alms in the Lord's time on earth. But today, you are better off giving to a social services agency with a low overhead, like a local food pantry. Forget "Catholic" Charities or the United Way.

There is an old Catholic custom of veiling all sacred images, crucifixes, images of the Blessed Mother or the saints, in purple cloth on Ash Wednesday, and not unveiling them again until Easter. Thus you are denied the comfort of the images of these blessed persons. I like this custom and have done it in years past. I bought a few yards of cheap purple polyester cloth for, I think, a dollar a yard at Walmart a few years back, and carefully fold up the cloths to re-use them the next year.

Here is a suggestion: Some years ago, I saw in the Andrew Lane Catholic goods shop in Peabody, a genuine, life-size crown of thorns. If you can procure such a thing during Lent, I recommend it. Clear the coffee table of flowers and bric-a-brac, and put the crown on a purple cushion in the center of the table with nothing else on it. Be careful, those were real thorns on the crown I saw. It is not a conversation piece, but is designed to bring our thoughts back to the Lord's sacrifice for us on a daily basis.

Then there are additional prayers that can be said daily during Lent. I recommend a daily reading of the Dies Irae, an Act of Contrition, and the seven penitential Psalms. But you can also add the Divine Mercy Chaplet (which Chris at Maine Catholic and Beyond has been discussing lately), or saying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary daily. You can either do these in the early morning before sunrise as a form of keeping vigil, or as family time before bed.

As a special devotional practice on Ash Wednesday, why not try reading the short Book of Lamentations? It is only 5 chapters long, and very much in keeping with the theme of recogntion of sin and repentence for it. Catholics don't read enough of the Old Testament. There are some gems to be found there.

If you can make daily Mass during Lent, that is a wonderful thing. I have never had the discipline to make that pledge and keep it.

Most parishes have Stations of the Cross every Friday in Lent. Many parishes have played around with them. I recall as a child at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Lynnfield using the same stations booklet with very PC pictures of a Vietnamese child with burns, and dead children being carried from a school bus after a fire on the bus (for Jesus being taken down from the cross). And there are many modern forms of the stations that are less extreme.

But one thing I loved about my pastor, the late Father Flaherty, was his constant devotion to the Stations as written by St. Alphonso Liguori. This is the most beautiful and traditional form for the Stations. Booklets of the Liguori method are readily available (and generally cost about $1) , many with wonderful illustrations. It is also in my links on the right, under "Stations of the Cross," but without illustrations. Try to attend Stations at your parish, or a parish that uses the traditional format, every Friday in Lent. This is something we could never quite manage, always missing a few weeks due to weather, illness, or exhaustion. But you can say them at home as well. The indulgence, I don't think, is quite the same as it is for saying them at Church in a group, moving from station to station. But I think you still get a partial indulgence.

Even though they are not Holy Days of obligation you should get your ashes on Ash Wednesday, attend the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday, and do Veneration of the Cross and Stations on Good Friday. The best Easter Mass, in my opinion, is the Vigil Mass after dark on Holy Saturday. This means getting to church 3-4 times in three days. That may not be possible (we often missed one in the last few years). But give it a try anyway.

Sacred reading, or what monastics call Lectio Divina, is an important part of Lent. Reading combined with meditiation on the readings bring the message of God's word to us more clearly.

Even if you can't get to Mass every day, try reading the readings for the day's Mass. If you have the time and the resources (and everyone with a computer has the resources) read the readings for the day from both the old and new missals.

It goes without saying that confession should be part of your lenten routine. I have just recently brought myself, kicking and screaming usually, into a more regular schedule of confession. It does wonders for one's peace of mind.

With the raw material of the readings digested, you might use something to help understand them in context. I am fond of a booklet (cost: $1) called Repent: It's Lent! by Father thomas Connery (could not find a link). He has a page on every day's readings, with a short (often humorous) anecdote, a meditation, and a prayer for the day. There is also Father Lowery's Day By Day Through Lent, with a little more extensive take on the day's redings, also with a meditation and prayer for the day, and a suggested practice as well.

But Lent also calls for more meditative reading. Last year, I bought and greatly enjoyed two works. One was The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross by Redemptorist Father Christopher Rengers, a Tan reprint from the 1957 original. I read a chapter from that book every Friday in Lent.

Also in my once-a-week reading was When They Crucified My Lord, by Anglican Franciscan the late Brother Ramon. He looks at characters of the Passion story on a daily basis (I did all the week's reading on Friday: the book is designed for daily reading, but I switched it to weekly because Brother Ramon's suggested scriptural readings are not consonant with the daily readings from either the new or the old Roman Catholic Mass).

A book I became acquainted with this past fall is Saint John Fisher's Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms. The work has been translated into understandable, but still stately modern English through Ignatius Press. Since I recommend reading the Seven Penitential Psalms every day in Lent, why not read what this great preacher had to say about each one on the Wednesdays of Lent (including Ash Wednesday and the first half-week). That way you have a half of each week to digest each pslam with St. John Fisher's help.

The very end of Lent demands its own reading. I have long liked Jim Bishop's The Day Christ Died for Maundy Thursday-Holy Saturday reading. I noticed last night that it available in a new trade paper edition at Barnes & Noble. I have long wanted to try out A Doctor At Calvary.

If you have spare time during Lent, there are two other books I recommend. Father P.J. Kelly's So High the Price is a good Redemptorist offering on sin and Hell. It is long out of print, so you may need the help of a good librarian in finding it. Scott Hahn's Lord, Have Mercy, just published last year, is a reminder of how to make a good confession, and the need for it.

And of course, lectio is broader than merely reading books. It can include watching movies, or contemplaqting statuary, or stained glass, etc. We all have an opportunity for lectio coming this week with the opening of The Passion of the Christ. I suspect that the DVD will end up on the shelves of many families and become annual Holy Week viewing.

And then, there are still older motion pictures that are still good lectio. Jesus of Nazareth is the best to date. The Greatest Story Ever Told is second best. Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Day Christ Died, and The Robe all have a place in family viewing during Passiontide.

You may like King of Kings, though I don't see how you could (I found it hokey and badly acted, with an improbable plot line of premature large-scale armed rebellion running through it). Forget about The Life of Brian or The Last Temptation of Christ, or the inevitable movie of The Da Vinci Code. Orthodoxy, not heterodoxy is the key to making it good lectio.

The important thing is that you take away from the movie (or sacred image) a deeper appreciation for some aspect of Christ's sacrifice and mission. At the Consecration during Mass, I find myself going back to the crucifixion scene in Ben Hur, and recalling the saving properties of the Blood of our Saviour, as it ran down from the cross (probably too much blood, but it was Hollywood in the 1950s). Viewing of appropriate and orthodox cinematic representations of the life and Passion of the Lord have an important place in Lenten observance.

Well, that ought to keep you busy for Lent.

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