Saturday, June 22, 2002
Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet Illinois, believed to be the first US bishop to suggest that Bernard Cardinal Law should resign because he shuffled pervert priests from one parish to another, himself shuffled a pervert priest from one parish to another. After Rev. Lawrence Gibbs was accused of molesting a young boy in one parish in the early 1990s, Imesch moved him to another, where he allegedly molested others. The diocese has settled with Gibbs' alleged victims there. Gibbs has since left the priesthood. Imesch now says that he regrets having suggested that Law resign. Didn't the Lord say something about not complaining about the splinter in another's eye, when there is a log in your own? What hypocrisy! Bill Clinton could do little better!
Today, the reformed calendar of the saints celebrates the feasts of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher. Before the reforms, their feast day was July 9th. Frankly, I find the moving around of saints' days one of the more foolish exercises the Church has engaged in since 1970. It is disruptive, and pointless, probably designed just to unbalance the faithful even more, as if the change in the Mass, changing the manner of receiving Holy Eucharist, introducing so many new hymns, watering down Catholic education, etc., etc., etc. wasn't enough. But the movement has the official imprimatur of the Church, so I will duly note that today is the feast of these saints.
John Fisher was the only bishop in the English hierarchy who refused to go along with Henry VIII's "reform" of the church in England. His steadfast refusal to accept the new order led to his martyrdom. The American bishops, if they can take some time off from fundraising, lunching with politicians, and taking the places of honor at public gatherings, should read about John Fisher. I can think of no better example of steadfast adherence to the Faith than John Fisher, and no time when his example was more sorely needed. Are there any John Fishers in the American hierarchy? The only possibility that I know of is Fabian Bruskewitz. John Cardinal O'Connor had something of the spirit, too.
Thomas More, of course, needs no introduction, thanks to the wonderful play by Robert Bolt (A Man For All Seasons), which became a movie starring Paul Scofield in the 1960s. He, too, preferred to lose wealth, high office and even his life than be unfaithful to Rome. These early martyrs of the English "Reformation" need to be remembered. More importantly, the lessons they gave their lives to teach need to be understood, and followed by hierarchy and laity today.
Friday, June 21, 2002
Helen Hull Hitchcock, writing for Adoremus, highlights the fact that Michael Spillane, executive director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions was defrocked in 1991by the Archdiocese of Baltimore for, guess what, molesting six youths at a boys' high school. Spillane has been seen wearing a Roman collar at meetings with bishops.
Although Spillane is resigning, he would have been left in place, because the position does not involve contact with children. While the position on the liturgies commission did not involve contact with minors, Spillane also is associated with the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministers, and a homosexual activist organization, New Ways Ministry.
Father John Burton, the chairman of the liturgies commission, replaced a priest, Father Kenneth Martin, who had to resign after being arrested for molesting a teenage boy when he was teaching at a Xaverian Brothers' high school in Maryland.
Looks like we have another loophole in the national charter approved by the bishops just last week-nonpriestly ministry that does not involve contact with children.
Rod Dreher called our attention 2 days ago to this important warning for US women, issued by the US State Department but withdrawn because of Saudi objections. If you know any lady thinking of marrying a Saudi national, or any Moslem Arab, please let them see this. You could be saving her life. Check it out here.
According to a warning issued by the FBI this afternoon, new terrorist attacks may come in the US. The method this time is the use of oil tank trucks as truck bombs, especially in Jewish neighborhoods, or near synagogues. We see once again, as if we needed more proof, that the Palestinian terrorists are just a local branch of al Qaeda. And the Administration wants a Palestinian state.
The Massachusetts Democrat Party has been spending some effort before the state Ballot Law Commission to convince it that Romney is not qualified to run for governor because of his dual residency for three years in Massachusetts and Utah. They have also been spending some money on some rather heavy-handed, Goebbels-like radio ads lampooning Mitt's residency positioning. But it is not having the desired effect. After a week of Democrat ads, Romney is now leading Democrat front-runner Treasurer Shannon O'Brien 45%-35%, and former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich 54%-30%. He leads the other Democrat candidates, Senate President Thomas Birmingham (who was just endorsed by the AFL-CIO) , former State Senator Warren Tolman, and former DNC chairman Steve Grossman by between 23-30%. The poll was commissioned by the Boston Herald, and has a margin of error of 4.8%.
Keep it up, guys. You are making Mitt look really good with your childish tantrums and foolish ads.
The principal of the Franklin Elementary School, in Santa Monica, CA Pat Samarge has begun a policy of banning the playing of tag in the playground on "self-esteem concerns". What planet is this woman from? Dodge Ball has been banned in many places. Kids have been suspended from school for playing Army & Aliens. Now it is tag. What is next, hide-and-seek? Will checkers be proscribed because someone wins and someone loses? Will spelling bees and math contests cause "self-esteem concerns"? Someone, make this principal sit in the corner with a dunce cap on!
To me, at least, it seems like a very slow day in blogdom. Not much is happening that has grabbed my attention. Amtrak may shut down, but I haven't ridden it in 12 years. Not much news on the Scandal. The Palestinians or al Qaeda haven't killed anyone today (at least not that we have heard of yet). No war news, except for a small victory in the Phillipines- the death of Abu Sayyaf's most visible leader (and even that is not certain). Even Rush has been out all week. Could never tell that it is a Summer Friday, could you?
Thursday, June 20, 2002
We really are getting to the point of having one of these a day. This time, two Palestinian gunmen invaded a Jewish home in a settlement near Nablus. They murdered three children, their mother and two men, one of whom was a security guard who arrived just too late to stop the atrocity (presumably, the other man killed was the children's father). The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was today's featured performer, yesterday, it was the al Aqcsa Martyrs' Brigade. The day before, it was Hamas. "Islam is a religion of peace", and child murderers. These bastards got away to murder again another day. What's the matter, a temporary shortage of candidates for their 70 virgins?
A Middlesex County grand jury indicted Rev. Paul Shanley on 10 counts of child rape and 6 counts of indecent assault on a minor. The allegations include instances of anal and oral penetration of at least 4 teenage boys at the former St. Jean's parish, Newton. One of the victims was taken out of religious education classes at Shanley's instigation and abused in a confessional, in the rectory, and in the school bathroom. The deeds of Shanley, and his brazen public defense and attempt to make his perversions acceptable and mainstream by advocacy cry out for some signal punishment.
Somehow, this had slipped by my notice before, but Shanley is also facing 3 counts of child rape in California. Those he abused there can blame not just Shanley, but Cardinal Law directly for making that abuse possible by recommending Shanley to the bishop there. Those instances where the Archdiocese lied about the records of pervert priests so that they could take jobs in other parts of the country are the most disgraceful part of this mess. Law, Banks, McCormack, and Daily face no ecclesiastical penalty for it. They should. Repentance is possible, but permanent retirement to a monastery is a necessary first step at reconciliation.
The protestant Church of England will name as Archbishop of Canterbury another low church fellow, this time a Welshman. This candidate openly favors the ordination of active homosexuals to the Anglican ministry. He not only favors it, he has carried it out as a bishop. Of course, this comes with the blessing of, and probably at the instigation of the Labour Government.
Rod Dreher, in The Corner, opines that this may be the beginning of a schism in the Anglican communion. If I am correctly infomed, Roman Catholics now outnumber CofE members in England. Of course, that does not make England a Catholic country once again, because of the other protestant denominations. But it does say something that the Church , which was a hated anti-nationalist symbol a hundred and fifty years ago has today more adherents than the official state church. The New Oxford Review reported in its May issue on the flood of conservative Anglican ministers taking Roman Holy Orders. More than a schism in the Anglican church, I think this may be the practical end of the Church of England, because those conservative dissenters really have no place to go but Rome.
A British banker working in Saudi Arabia was murdered by a car bomb today. This is clearly a part of bin Laden's drive to rid "holy" Saudi Arabia from foreigners and foreign influences. "Islam means peace."
As I have been telling you, whatever the American bishops have agreed to regarding the defrocking of pervert priests, it means nothing until the Vatican signs off on it. Now, according to a source quoted by both Amy Welborn and Mark Shea, the Vatican is telling the American hierarchy to put a hold on any action against pervert priests until the Vatican has reviewed the policy.
It is sad that no one in the Vatican seems to be up to speed on this issue. The glacial pace at which the Vatican customarily conducts its business, the lack of comprehension of issues in the American Church, the failure to keep informed about what is going on in the US, uninformed decisions about who should be appointed bishops (so that, under a fairly conservative pope, we have flaming liberals appointed to sees in the US), and the inability to discern who are the Vatican's true allies in the US are all troubling trends. But these problems are nothing that a change in management and communication style can't change. We need some orthodox American Catholics who keep up on American developments, including on the Internet, and can translate these for the Holy Father, so that he does not have to rely on the American bishops for information, right there in Rome and in the inner circle of the Pope. Again, Hilaire Belloc had it right. "An institute run with such knavish imbecility that, were it not the work of God, it would not last a fortnight."
Massachusetts Senate President Thomas Birmingham succeeded in preventing the defense of marriage initiative from being voted on in yesterday's constitutional convention. Despite polls showing easy passage, and that fact that the initiative had the support of many more than the 25% of the convention needed to send it to the next convention, Birmingham decided it was better to kow-tow to the powerful homosexual lobby in the Massachusetts Democrat Party. The signature-gathering effort has come to nothing because of his slick parliamentary maneuvers. Those readers who live in Massachusetts and still vote Democrat- remember this betrayal of the public trust. File it along with the legislature's contempt for the will of the voters on the tax cut, on the Clean Elections law, and on the death penalty. Remember it, and act on it when Birmingham puts himself forward as a candidate for governor in the Democrat primary in September. It would almost be worth taking a Democrat ballot to vote against Birmingham.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
The death toll in the Jerusalem bombing is up to 7. The number of injured is up to 35.
I can't locate Governor Keating's full text on his view of his board's role. But the valuable Domenico Bettinelli has re-typed it into his blog. Check it out here.
At least two innocent civilians died in the bombing with the barbarian. I can feel free to describe these suicide bombers as barbarians. The Holy Father, in condemning yesterday's bombing, termed them "barbarous." Developing...
A bomb went off minutes ago in a Jerusalem neighborhood near a bus stop. At least 20 injured, at least 8 seriously. No word on deaths yet. "Islam means peace." Developing...
Retiring Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating has agreed to serve as chairman of the lay commission established by the national conference of bishops to police implementation of the sex abuse policy. It is interesting to note that Keating sees a large role for his board in disciplining bishops. I agree with Keating that this needs to be done, but I don't see how his review board can do it. All the board can do is heap (deserved) opprobrium on offending bishops. The sole power to discipline or remove bishops who have betrayed their trust lies with the Holy Father. I hope Governor Keating realizes this. I hope he is not gravely diasppointed the first time the board recommends the removal or resignation of a bishop, and is told by the bishop, or the Vatican, to take a flying leap. Cardinal Law could well be the test case.
According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Attorney General Reilly has convened a grand jury to probe the extensive documentation in the priest sex abuse cases. This makes Cardinal Law, and other present and former top archdiocesan officials, essentially targets of a grand jury investigation. The prospect of an indictment against the Cardinal is remote. But then, in November, who would have thought to see all that has transpired so far?
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
According to National Review's Stanley Kurtz, blogging in The Corner, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, condemned by the provincial of the Jesuits to a hospital chaplaincy for fostering scholarship, orthodoxy, and traditionalism on a Catholic campus, has been permitted to accept the chancellorship of Ave Maria University in Florida. What additional stumbling blocks the Jesuits choose to put in Father Fessio's path, time will tell. I think one can safely predict that the cold war between the now ultra-liberal Jesuits and Father Fessio is not over. For his own peace of mind, I hope quiet overtures have been made to other orders, like the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.
The Jesuits were once the gatekeepers of Catholic orthodoxy. Anyone claiming such a thing today would be laughed at. It is now the exact opposite. The order was disbanded in the 18th century by the then-current pope, and unwisely reconstituted by one of his successors. I think it is time for that remedy to be used again. Father Fessio, who has made stirling contributions to the restoration of serious scholarship and Catholic teaching at the Catholic universities he has touched, deserves a better home.
Mitt Romney's ridiculous ad claiming that Kerry Murphy Healy should be the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor because she has a Ph.D. still rankles. "When was the last time we had a Ph.D. on Beacon Hill? We sure could use one," is an absurd claim. Aside from the famous quip from William F. Buckley, Jr. about being governed by the Harvard faculty, look at the Democrats in the race. Robert B. Reich is a genuine university professor, Ph.D. and all. Is he Mitt's second choice for governor with his ultra-liberal record? Then there is Senate President Thomas Birmingham (though you would never know it from his Joe Palooka personality and agenda), a Rhodes Scholar- the next best thing to a Ph.D.
Mitt, give up this absurd drive to dictate the choice of the Republican Party (just because your polling tells you that you have a better shot with a woman on the ticket than with Jim Rappaport). Kerry Murphy Healy has not paid her dues. She is Jane Swift without any apparent personality advantages, and even less experience. She does not belong on the ticket, and I think Massachusetts' Republican voters (both of us) will make that plain in September.
On another front, it is time for the Democrats' hack lawyers to give up their absurd effort to "prove" that Mitt Romney, better known to Massachusetts' voters than any of the Democrat candidates, has not really been a Mass. resident for the last 30 years (Castle Romney in Belmont notwithstanding). Yes, there is a 7-year residency requirement to run for governor. It is an anti-carpetbagger provision to keep highly mobile flotsam and jetsam (which is she, flotsam or jetsam?) like Hilary Rodham Clinton out of the corner office. Romney never sold his house in Belmont, even when he was running the Olympics in Utah. He is a Mass. resident, and meets the requirement. For 3 years, he was also a Utah resident. For a few years in the last 7, Robert Reich was a resident of Washington D.C., while he was Secretary of Labor, but he has also never ceased to be a Mass. resident. May common sense prevail.
The Massachusetts legislature will meet in constitutional convention tomorrow to consider the ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. If a recorded vote of 25% of the legislators approves the initiative, it comes before another constitutional convention next term. The earliest it can be voted on by the electorate is November, 2004. Watch out for slick parliamentary moves, especially by Senate President and gubernatorial candidate Thomas Birmingham (D-Lynn), to kill the initiative without a vote. Massachusetts residents- call your legislators and demand a fair vote on the marriage initative.
Minnesota's oddball governor, former wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura has announced that he will not seek reelection, citing personal reasons.
OK, so they arrested 13 al Qaeda members recently. But they also released 160 former allies of the Taliban and al Qaeda who returned to Saudi Arabia via Iran. These are the Saudi extremists who volunteered to fight against us and the forces that liberated Afghanistan. These are the people we hoped would be quietly done away with once back in Saudi, if for no other reason than for the security of Saudi Arabia. Who knows what damage these individuals will cause now that they are at large! With regard to the Saudi government, I am slowly moving closer to the "Ann Coulter solution".
The jury considering the charges against Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci is in its fifth day of deliberations. I didn't ecpect them to be out this long.
Saudi security forces have rounded up 13 apparent members of al Qaeda. Information that led to the arrests came from the "cell leader" picked up in Sudan last week, who confessed to his part in trying to shoot down US aircraft in Saudi Arabia with man-portable SAMs. According to the radio news report, explosives and more SAMs were picked up in the dragnet. What will they do with them?
The Church, according to Hilaire Belloc, "An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God, it would not last a fortnight." It was true a hundred years ago. It is even more true now.
But I'll say it again, since it has slipped into the Archives. If you don't trust the bishops and their minions to do the right thing (I sure wouldn't), and you or your family are confronted with a sexually predatory priest in the future (or if this is somthing that happened to you in the past) , don't take it up the Church's chain of command. Your first complaint should be to the district attorney, or the police or the attorney general. Also, talk to a competent attorney, who can advise you about the conseqences of going even more public- to the press.
Sexual contact with someone under the age of consent is a crime, regardless of what the canon law says about it. Make the complaint first a matter of public record. Then the diocesan bureacracy will have no choice but to take appropriate action. Be a good citizen. Don't take the chance that this could happen to someone else again. Just because a pervert priest works for the Catholic Church does not mean that he will abuse only Catholics. Do the community a favor, and work to get the guy off the streets, not just out of your parish.
I don't often quote Father Andrew Greeley. I suppose even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The first instance was years ago, when he coined the term "lavendar mafia" for the homosexual cliques that dominate the Church's bureaucracy and seminaries. Now he has a great, apparently recent quote that Michael Novak (see below) picked up. The Church should, "Clean out the pedophiles, break up the gay cliques, tighten up the seminary, and restore the good name of the priesthood."
One wonders if by "pedophiles" he means the larger definition, or the clinical one. Is he including the priests who have conducted homosexual predations on teenage boys, or only the monsters who meet the technical definition of pedophilia- those who abuse pre-pubescent children. For this purpose, I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Good one, Father Greeley!
A lengthy blog is coming soon on the curiousity of the liberal nun mucking up the works of the Church. She appears again and again in Goodbye, Good Men. I myself have seen her at work in a couple of different places. It appears to me that the lavendar mafia (female division) is sowing as much damage as the pervert priests. This needs a full-length treatment, when I have the time.
Michael Rose publishes a reply to Father Johansen's rather tendentious review of Goodbye, Good Men. I think Johansen's objections have been given a little too much credence. Sure there are problems with methodology in G,GM. But Rose, or anyone else studying the subject has no reliable objective data to deal with. It is not compiled. If it was compiled, would you trust it? The only method available was to interview those who "survived" the process, and verify as much as possible independently. Given the nature of the subject matter, independently verifiable facts are hard to come by. But the story needed to be told. If the seminaries are a little better today, they are not perfect. There is still much work to do, and many people in the process who need to be sacked.
Michael Novak has this wonderful take in today's National Review On Line on the role of dissent (the camel) in the Scandal, and how the bishops have shirked their responsibility of eliminating the problem. The "elephant" of homosexuality in religious life and the "camel" of dissent work together. This is stronger than usual for Novak.
A Palestinian mass murderer blew himself up on a crowded bus in Jerusalem. This time, 18 civilized people, and the barbarian died, and 40 civilized folk were injured. Most of those on the bus were children on thier way to school. The bomb was packed with nails to inflict massive casualties. The picture of the bus on Fox appears to be a scene from hell. Just keep telling yourself, Mr. President, "Islam means peace" and "We really want to see a Palestianian state." No it isn't, and no we don't.
Monday, June 17, 2002
The judge in the coming John Walker Lindh trial has rejected defense motions that the traitor will not be able to get a fair trial anywhere in the US and that he had a constitutional right to associate with the Taliban. This clears the way for trial to commence later this year.
This is the anniversary of the bloodiest single battle of the American War of Independence. It happened quite early in the war, and its outcome colored British tactics for the next 8 years. Penned up inside the town of Boston after the retreat from Concord, the British under General Gage and the newly arrived Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne planned to make thier position more secure by seizing the heights of Charlestown and Dorchester, and then converging on the main rebel force at Cambridge. The New England rebels pre-empted this plan by fortifying Breed's Hill in Charlestown. The next day, with frigates and shore batteries bombarding the rebel positions and burning Charlestown, General Howe landed on the Charlestown shore with an eventual force of 2,500 redcoats. The New England rebels under Massachusetts' Colonel William Prescott, New Hampshire's Colonel John Stark, and Connecticut's General Israel Putnam were not impressed and held their ground. Two frontal assaults were driven back with huge British losses. Howe's third assault only succeeded when the rebel defenders ran out of ammunition. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting erupted in the redoubt as the Massachusetts men there withdrew. Doctor Joseph Warren, the leading figure of the Massachusetts rebel government was killed at the end of the battle as he and other volunteers tried to cover the retreat. Howe, who had lost 1,054 killed and wounded, including 10 of his 12 aides, found his troops too decimated to pursue. The rebels lost some 300 killed and prisoners and a few hundred wounded.
Howe, who succeeded Gage in the supreme command later in the year, was transformed by the bloody experience. He would win a knighthood and much praise for his handling of the army, driving Washington from position after position in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Never again, even when his aides told him that all he need do was press an attack on a dispirited American force crouching behind makeshift entrenchments to finish Washington off, would he commit his forces to a direct frontal attack. He would use flanking movements, coups de main, amphibious landings. But never again would he hurl his army against defended positions. Because of that, the Continental Army would live to fight another day, again and again.
Today, the battlefield, except for the block-sized area where the monument is located- the site of the redoubt- is covered over by highways and row houses. Authentic re-enactments of the battle on the site are impossible because of this, and because of National Park Service regulations. But a perversion of the spirit of Bunker Hill is perhaps the battle's most enduring living legacy. Many state workers and city workers in Suffolk County have long had the day off as a result of union contracts. So Bunker Hill Day is primarily comemmorated in Massachusetts as a Hack High Holy Day. It is most unfortunate that this is the most we do to remember the bravery of those Yankee rebels and the intrepid redcoats, whose descendants are now our staunchest allies.
National Review On Line's Rod Dreher wraps up his coverage of the Dallas conference. His summary is gloomy, but I think quite correct.
In the final round of parliamentary elections, the French Center-Right parties won a large majority, giving President Chirac more clout. While Chirac is a member of the Center-Right party UMP, he has, since the last elections, had a socialist majority in parliament and a socialist prime minister. The Center-Right parties gained 388-399 seats in the 577 seat lower house (on 55% of the vote). UMP alone has between 360-378 seats. If the cheese-eating surrender monkeys can muster this much chutzpah, won't we Americans look silly and divided if we fail to get President Bush similar majorities in our congressional elections this Fall? Friends don't let friends vote Democrat.
Sunday, June 16, 2002
Two gasoline tanker trucks which service a US air base at Kandahar, Afghanistan exploded in the desert near the base. The owner of the service station that operates the trucks told reporters that anti-tank missiles had been fired at the trucks in the last week. No one was injured in the explosions of the trucks. Investigators have indicated that someone attached bombs to both trucks. The most likely plan was to detonate the trucks once they reached the US air base. This attack fits into a pattern of recent al Qaeda attacks designed to disrupt US operations in the area. This war is a long way from over.
Saint Pio's canonization today has put me in mind of something. We have established through historical and medical evidence that the Roman method of crucifixion involved driving nails through the gaps in the wrist, not into the palms of the hand, where there is not enough bone mass to hold the subject on the cross. The Lord was, undoubtably, crucified in this manner, not through the palms as it is almost always depicted. This is an undisputed historical and scientific fact.
Why is it then that stigmatists recieve the wounds of the Lord in the palms, like Saint Francis and Saint Pio? My own view is that stigmata appear from a complex combination of divine and psycholgical phenomona. The stigmatists, until recently, believed that the Lord received His wounds in the palms. When their stigmata appeared, they appeared on the palms. I think, now that most know better, future stigmata will appear on the wrists. I don't think that the stigmatist does anything physically to make the stigmata appear. But I do think what they believe about the stigmata has a great deal to do with where they appear.
Apparently, not enough people are reading my blogs. Today at Mass, I happened to notice the manner of genuflecting of part of one family. A mother and son entered the church from the side door, and decided to sit up front. They had little choice since the family's daughter was the lector today, and needed to sit close to the front. As this mother and pre-teen son came in, the mother dutifully made her genuflection facing the American flag in the front of the church. Yes we are at war, and owe patriotic duty to the flag. But you don't genuflect towards the flag. Not even on Flag Day weekend. The young son, as far as I could tell, was facing the first stained glass window on the side wall of the chuch as he genuflected. Like Rush Limbaugh, I intend to keep at it until everyone in America is thinking and doing things my way. Looks like we have a long way to go.
I was strongly tempted by what I experienced at Mass this morning to veer away from my plan of discussing pre-Mass reverence and bring up the topic of children at Mass. But I think I shall ignore that provocation and address it in a more dispassionate moment at another time (perhaps next week, when my blood pressure is back to normal). I'll stick to my previous plan.
I should state that these reflections on problems one experiences at Mass are just expressions of my own thoughts. They are in no way mandatory (though they should be!). I have no power to dictate (would that I did!). I have, though, plenty of power to express what I prefer and what I dislike. In other words, take them as they are offered, as my views on what would be the best way to experience Mass.
Proper attitude and behavior before Mass is an essential ingredient in the reverence due to the Holy Eucharist present in the Tabernacle. Sadly, proper behavior before Mass begins has been in decline for about 20 years. At least in my experience, for the first 10-15 years after Vatican II ended, people remained fairly reverent before Mass. Sometime in the mid-late 1980s, a serious decline in behavior became noticeable. And young people are not necessarily the worst offenders. People who ought to know better have been just as guilty of irreverence before Mass as their juniors.
What We Should Do Before Mass
1) Arrive 10-15 minutes before Mass is scheduled to start.
2) Silently bless yourself with your right hand after you have dipped it in Holy Water, and silently proceed to your seat.
3) After genuflecting (see last Sunday's blog in my Archives), depress the kneeler and (unless you have physical limitations) kneel in silent prayer. If you don't have specific petitions to bring to the Lord's attention, a decade or two or three of the Rosary would be a wonderful idea.
3) If you are lucky enough to have fewer things to ask of the Lord than I do, and have spare time after your prayer, silently familiarize yourself with the first, and second readings for the day, the Gospel reading, the responsorial psalm, and all of the hymns to be sung during the Mass.
4) If you still have time before Mass, silently read the bulletin.
5) Stand quietly as Mass starts.
You will notice a common theme in what you should do- silence. You have entered the special dwelling place of the Lord on earth. A reverent attitude is essential. Mass is neither a cocktail party, nor a company function. You do not greet everyone you know. It is not an opportunity to exchange juicy tidbits of gossip with the other old biddies. If you feel compelled to acknowledge the presence of a special friend or neighbor, a silent nod or quiet smile is more than adequate for the occasion. Save the greetings and chit-chat for after Mass and outside the church. That is what parking lots are for, after all.
What We See All Too Often
1) Noisy chatter is very common. I was reading in someone's reflections on Masses he had attended that the priest in one parish had to come out before Mass and ask for quiet. Even that only brought the noise level down a little bit. Gentle readers, consecrated Hosts are present in the Tabernacle at all times. Catholics believe that the Lord is actually, really present in the Eucharist. You can chat anywhere else at any other time. Be quiet in the Sacred Presence. In my observation, this is a special failing among older parishioners. When I first brought my wife to Mass in my home parish, she was stunned by the old ladies busily gossiping away until Mass started. They should know better. They once did.
2) Priests(!) interrupting silent prayer to introduce themselves I know they don't teach reverence at most seminaries anymore. But common politeness would, I think, tell them that they should not interrupt someone's prayers. Few things are more annoying than to be in the middle of a lengthy prayer on your knees with your chin resting on folded hands and eyes closed and to hear, "I don't think I've seen you here before. I'm Father Flapdoodle. Welcome to St. Bozo," in your very immediate vicinity. The social conventions of introduction must give way at this particular time and place to the higher call of prayerful meditation. If I told you that the first time this happened to me, the priest in question had been for a great many years assigned to Boston's St. John's Seminary before getting a pastoral assignment and even serves as a regional vicar for the Archdiocese, would you be surprised? You can only wonder what he was teaching his seminarians about reverence in the Presence before he took a parish assignment.
3) Getting out of the pew to use the facilities has become an epidemic. This gets dangerously close to my soon-to-come rant on children at Mass. But don't parents train and school teachers expect children to exercise bladder control anymore? What ever happened to going to the bathroom at home before you leave for Mass? Why is it that the serenity of Mass is constantly disturbed by a parade of youngsters getting up and making their way to the bathroom? Pastors, just make an announcement one week that the bathrooms will be locked from the beginning of Mass until the end, when they will be open for 15 minutes. A little bit of this potty parade is acceptable, as long as it is done quietly and discreetly before Mass. It has gotten out of hand.
4) Why is the organist and choir rehearsing before Mass? Doesn't the choir have a regular night each week for rehearsals? When one is praying in the Presence, one does not want to hear from up in the organ loft, "OK, let's try that Great Amen again," or, ""We're a little too slow on the Our Father." At my old home parish, the "Music Minister" takes a few minutes before each Mass to run through the hymns and psalm for the Mass. If he wasn't adverse to just using the same old tried-and-true hymns handed down from generation to generation, instead of the latest offering from David Haas, he would not need to put the congregation through its paces every week. Catholics don't sing, anyway. One would think that, after 33 years, the "music ministers" would get the message, and stop flogging a dead horse.
5)Announcements read by the lector We will, I think, agree that Catholics don't sing. But they do read. Most parishes go to great lengths to print up parish bulletins and newsletters with everything you could possibly need to know about upcoming Masses, and social events in the parish. Some tech-savy parishes even put this information on their web sites. Literacy in this country is really at a very high level. historically speaking. One would think that the days are long past when the congregation needed to be told what was going on in the parish via the spoken word. The lector reading the relevant parts of the bulletin to us is condescending and unnecessary.
6) "The opening hymn is Number 715 in the Music Issue, On Jordan's Bank. Please stand." Most parishes have invested in boards on which dutiful ushers post the hymns for the week before the first Mass for Sunday (Saturday evening). Catholics, as I said, can read. Most of them even know what the little hymn boards are for, and can connect those numbers to the numbered hymns in the music issue, amazingly without the prompting of the music minister. Beginning Mass this way is particularly deplorable in that it replaces the much better practice of ringing a bell as the procession leaves the sacristy, and the organist duly starting into the first hymn. Besides, Catholics don't sing. If the congregation knows the hymn, they will join in, if they like. Hymns the congregation does not know should be avoided. But we are too close to a coming rant on liturgical music.
If the period before the Mass were observed as I have specified, a more reverential atmosphere would envelop the congregation. It would be much easier to remember that we are in the Sacred Presence before Mass. After all, the Mass is about the Lord's sacrifice and His True Presence in the Eucharist. If we truly believe that, we will act in a reverent manner. It is astonishing what a small change in tone can accomplish.
Padre Pio, a 20th century Franciscan and stigmatist was raised to the altars of the Catholic Church today in Rome. As he died September 23rd, I assume that will be his feast day. Aside from continual reverence, piety, mortification and charity, he is best known for establishing the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956. He has been held up as an extraordinary example of piety by the three popes who have reigned since his death in 1968. Many miracles are attributed to his intercession. Saint Pio, like Saint Jean Baptiste Vianney, is a much needed example of holiness and piety in consecrated life in general, and the priesthood in particular.