Saturday, April 10, 2004

Easter Vigil 2004 

I'll write about the Easter Vigil below, but first...

Our sump pump gave up the ghost today, we were lucky to discover it before it overflowed and damaged our basement. So I spent the day kneeling and bailing and and doing plumbing to replace the old sump pump. My dad was kind enough to come over and help me glue the PVC together. Now, all is well, but it was a long day. I talked to Dad about the Masters. It's Arnold Palmer's final Masters. My Dad used to watch Arnold all the time. If I was to pick two famous figures my dad identified with it would be Mickey Mantle and Arnold Palmer. I saw my dad cry when his mother died and they played her favorite hymn (How Great Thou Art) in the church. Today I saw him cry again, trying to describe to me Arnold's final approach up the 18th green after 50 Master's tournaments. The fans gave him a huge ovation and Arnold was crying, covering his face with his hat. I think my dad saw Arnold's youth in himself and now he is realizing Arnold's age in himself, too. How it's all been so wonderful, how it's so soon gone. Shoot, he got me cryin', too.

OK, after a long, long day, the Easter Vigil began at 8pm. It was 9 readings, 9 hymns, 9 prayers followed by 4 baptisms, acceptance of 8 new members and then a mass. Three hours, and then a reception afterward.

Really, it was beautiful. We began outside at a bonfire. The priest blessed the fire, made cuts into the candle with a small knife (what's that all about?) and then lit a large candle from the flames. Then we all went inside and lit individual candles. The church was dark but for all the candles. The readings were:

1. The days of creation from Genesis
2. Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son (as God did on Good Friday)
3. Moses splitting the red sea (compare going through the water to baptism)
4. Isaiah 54:5-14
5. Isaiah 55:1-11
6. Baruch 3:9, 32:4
7. Ezechiel 36:16-28
8. Romans 6:3-11
- incense was then put all about the church
9. Luke 24:1-12

The baptisms were wonderful. A young boy, a teenage boy, a late-teens woman and an older woman. They walked into the font one at a time and knelt, the Priest poured three pitchers of water on them for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Smiles and tears all around. Then they all got dressed in white while the Priest threw water from a pine branch all over everyone to remember our own baptisms (we had a minister in our methodist church do that once... quite effective!).

The new members were presented by their sponsors and given the chrism (oil) on their foreheads. Then we had mass. (I crossed my arms and received a blessing).

I stepped into the reception long enough to see the cakes and punch and smiles. When I was leaving, the bell was ringing, loud, cool and clear. Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed.

Friday, April 09, 2004

The Stations of the Cross was the worst attended event I've been to at our new church. The highlight, for me, was the end when our priest read "The Lord's Descent into Hell."

This was really my first opportunity to see the 14 plaques on the walls of our parish, but even though the event was lightly attended, there were too many for me to have a good view. The priest said a few words at each station and then we all knelt and spoke in response. But no one was assigned to start in response to our priest started us out each time and I got the feeling he wanted us to begin ourselves, but no one would.

It was interesting and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't as good as it could have been for me.

One of the things I enjoy about Catholicism, that perhaps helped draw me to Catholicism, is the worth of icons. Even while I was Methodist I collected Holy Cards and studied miracles (especially modern miracles) and enjoyed reading about the Catholic saints. Sometimes, on All Saints' Day, we Methodists would bring in candles to church to celebrate a saint in our own lives (like a grandmother or parent who had passed away). But overall, the lives of the saints, their experiences, their writings, etc. had nothing to do with Methodism. When I would, on occasion, hand out Holy Cards with prayers for Guardian Angels to the kids in the nursery, or hand out Crucifixion Holy Cards with the 23rd Psalm to friends or family I would get kind of a strange glance and "What are you trying to tell me with this?" comments. Personally, I have Holy Cards all over the place and use them for bookmarks, reflection and as an aid in prayer.

Read here about what the All Saint's Day celebration is like in the Methodist Church:

Yesterday's worship was one of those holy
moments. The celebration of All Saint's Day saw us light
candles to remember those who had illuminated our path.
As the worship drew to a close, we were surrounded by
the soft glow of candlelight, as we were reminded that
we were surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.

I recall a story about a pastor who was sharing with
children in worship. He asked them a question (often a
mistake!). He asked, "What is a saint?" There was that
silence that sometimes follows a question like that.

Now I am looking into my first rosary. I'd like to design one that has black beads, maybe Czech glass and Cocoa wood. First, though, I need to advance in my RCIA classes to the point where I understand when and how to pray the rosary.

Christ Died Today 

Christ Died Today

Christ died today
not to fuel liturgical debate.
Christ died today,
oblation to the Father in our place,
completion of His promise to create
an open door to Heaven for our sake.
Christ died today.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I wonder how many people have heard of the "Urantia Book." The Urantia movement, if there is such a thing, claims the book was the product of supernatual beings influencing Wilfred Kellogg (of the corn flake family) between 1912 and 1955. The book describes the organization of the Universe and God/Jesus. The section of the book that covers the New Testament reads like fan fiction, filling in all the gaps in the Gospels. Read a critique, if you want. There's a lot of fan fiction out there, written over 2000 years, to read about Jesus. Check out "The Infancy of the Lord." And the earlychristianwritings site also contains many books that never made their way to the Bible.

I did a final project once, when I was working toward a Masters in English (gave that up), that different arts, reflecting the talents of the artist, are used to reflect the same thought, the same truth. So if a person is a poet, she perhaps writes a poem about God, like Louise Gluck. If a person is a novelist, perhaps he writes a little fiction about what Jesus was like as a child. If a person is a painter or a sculptor... well, you get the idea. We sift through all these writings and poetry and artistry seeking inspiration and truth. Sometimes we find it, sometimes the connection just isn't made.

But faux religions like Urantia and Scientology go beyond fan-fiction. They propose to be the divine word and they end up turning people's heads away from God instead of enlightening.

Matins (from Louise Gluck's "Wild Iris")

Not the sun merely but the earth
itself shines, white fire
leaping from the showy mountains
and the flat road
shimmering in early morning: is this
for us only, to induce
response, or are you
stirred also, helpless
to control yourself
in earth's presence -- I am ashamed
at what I thought you were,
distant from us, regarding us
as an experiment: it is
a bitter thing to be
the disposable animal,
a bitter thing. Dear friend,
dear trembling partner, what
surprises you most in what you feel,
earth's radiance or your own delight?
For me, always
the delight is the surprise. -30-

I enjoyed "Wild Iris" more than most modern poetry books. Gluck (pronounced "Glick") writes poetry between nature and man and God in the book and most of it is really well done. In a poem called "Harvest," Gluck writes from God how we should view the yearly harvest.

Look at you, blindly clinging to earth
as though it were the vineyards of heaven
while the fields go up in flames around you--

Ah, little ones, how unsubtle you are:
it is at once a gift and the torment.

If what you fear in death
is punishment beyond this, you need not
fear death:

how many times must I destroy my own creation
to teach you your punishment. -30-

I really enjoyed reading this, that we shouldn't fear death because we see it in the harvest and winter every year.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


OK. Let's say some kids claim they have been talking with Mary, the mother of Christ. Mary tells them secrets, shows them visions. Let's say to prove it, the kids invite the whole town to witness a miracle and then, with 70,000 people standing around waiting, the sun whirls around in the sky and appears to zoom down toward the earth.

The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima Portugal in 1917 is a supernatual event witnessed by many thousands of people. Jesus performed supernatural events, miracles. Prayer is a supernatural activity. The whole concept of God and the Devil and Heaven and Hell are supernatural.

One thing about getting older, you know yourself a lot better than you used to. I have had periods of religious intensity in the past and quite often they are accompanied by interest in other supernatual phenomenon. Is Art Bell on the radio silly? It's full of strange callers, strange events and theories, and strange ideas. But to be a Christian is to accept the supernatural as real . . . to be a Christian one has to develop the ability to discern between good-supernatural, evil-supernatural and just plain silly-supernatural. I actually spoke to my Methodist pastor in the past about this and I think he thought I was joking. The Catholic faith seems to have a much firmer base, a more complete understanding, which I hope will keep me on the path.

One of our friends from our Methodist church tried several times through voice mail and personal contact to ask our Methodist pastor how to apply what she's reading in the Bible to her daily life, to her family, to her job. It is, perhaps, a decent reflection of the state of the church I left that she gave up trying to get that answer from that pastor. You can say that I gave up trying to get that answer from the Methodist Church.

I have, however, run across several Catholic sources during my conversion that I've found interesting, even if they are rather large. Pope John Paul II's "Familiaris Consortio," for example, describes a family as "The First and Vital Cell of Society." I like that, especially now with all the news of Terrorist cells... JPII describes the social and political roles of families. It's good reading, worthy of much more study.

Another place which has some practical value to parents is "The Domestic Church" -- though what it has to do with the Ken's Men (World War II Bomber Vets), I don't know.

And, of course, the Catholic Catechism has large sections devoted to Family Life, the development and use of your conscience and morality.

The Methodist teachings on morality are all outward looking, focusing on people in society, while the Catholic teachings are inward, focusing on a person's relationship with God. Perhaps this a reflection of the "faith and works" vs. "by faith alone" conflict between Catholics and Protestants. An example from the Methodist "Book of Discipline:"

"Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes
us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to
respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother,
for whom devastating damage may result from an
unacceptable pregnancy."

A self-centered statement of belief, where neither conscience nor God has a place.

Aside: speaking of Protestants. I often see Baptists lumped in with Protestants. I don't think Baptists agree with that... here's one of many sites that take exception.

"Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object present to your senses."
--- C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Mr. Kerry became combative when told that some conservatives were criticizing him for being a Roman Catholic who supported policies, like abortion rights and same-sex unions, that are at odds with Catholic teaching.

When told conservatives are questioning his Catholic faith, John Kerry says,

"Who are they?" he demanded of his questioner. "Name them. Are
they the same legislators who vote for the death penalty, which is
in contravention of Catholic teaching?"

He added: "I'm not a church spokesman. I'm a legislator running for
president. My oath is to uphold the Constitution of the United States
in my public life. My oath privately between me and God was defined in
the Catholic church by Pius XXIII and Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II,
which allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to
these choices, and that is exactly where I am. And it is separate. Our
constitution separates church and state, and they should be reminded
of that."

OK. So now I have a subject for my next Pre-Catechumenate class. Vatican II says that each individual Catholic person has the freedom to decide for themselves whether abortion is right or wrong? Is Kerry relying on the ignorance of Protestants about Vatican II?

Update: George Neumayr at the American Spectator chimes in.

The First Cut of the Scourge to Come 

We Seek Forever

We seek forever what we lose in birth --
warmth, shelter, food, peace -- connectedness
through trust and love.
What's left of that connectedness but navels
and the memory of pain?
And yet, that too, those navels and that pain,
are what connect us all . . .
are what connect us all, once more, to God --
for the first scar of Jesus,
the first cut of the scourge to come,
created His belly button --
disconnecting him from Mary
and connecting Him to all Mankind.


I'll be going to the stations of the cross tomorrow. I don't know what the stations are other than the picture plaques that line the wall of our parish. I've heard that Gibson's movie followed the stations, so perhaps I know more than I think. I don't plan to read up on it beforehand.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Bokononism: The Smart Man's Scientology 

I'm reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" right now because my son needs to do a Vonnegut report for his Junior project. We're both reading it. I tried a Vonnegut book a long time ago and didn't like it, but Cat's Cradle has really kept my interest. Vonnegut creates a religion in the boook called Bokononism. As far as I know, Vonnegut's religion has never taken off.

I sent all three of my older kids through public school. I believed at the time it was the right thing to do. If good, strong, religious families start removing their kids from public school, then the rest will not be exposed to good, strong, religious ideas. But my young five year old is enrolled in a Catholic school and that's where we'll be keeping her. The public schools have just become too dangerous, mean spirited, and general awful places -- especially for girls. I can't deduct my daughter's tuition, but there is a religion that can deduct the religious ed of their children from their taxes: Scientology.

So L. Ron Hubbard creates a religion based on his own freakish science fiction and the IRS allows people like John Travolta and Tom Cruise and others like them to deduct the "cleansing/training" of their kids, but we Catholics get no such deduction. Kurt Vonnegut would have made a lot more money if he would have given up writing and gone with his fake religion. Hubbard did.

Why is it that when people like Travolta or Cruise talk about their religion the whole country doesn't just laugh in their faces? They believe an alien in some volcano in the Pacific leaves stick-em spirits on people like 3M notes that have to be cleaned off. They believe wierd, cultish things... and people respect them? Where is the respect for Christianity? Remember when Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher? Where was his respect?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Christian Hawk? 

Is it wrong for a Christian to be a hawk on the war? I see the pictures from Iraq and want nothing more than our Marines to clean house in Baghdad and Fallujah. I've been reading from many sources on the "Turn the other cheek" lesson of Jesus.

If it is within your power to stop a beating or a murder but you would have to fight, should you do it? WWJD if he saw a woman pulled from her car at an intersection and saw her being brutally beaten? Would he tell her to turn the other cheek and walk on?

I don't know if it is within the power of the USA to stop terrorism, but I don't think it's unchristian to try. Some think we should fund schools and hospitals in the poorer countries. It is the "we" part that shows them for what they are... why not "I." If all of those people who say "we" (the USA) should fund the poor would instead take out their own money purse and do so, perhaps they wouldn't have to say it anymore.

My thanks to Michael Dubruiel, a fellow Hoosier, who sent me a copy of his book, "The How-To Book of the MASS." Sometimes I don't even realize what I don't know yet about the faith journey I've begun. Michael's book explains the hows and whys of some of the most basic things I haven't even thought to learn yet. How and when to cross yourself, how and when to genuflect, how and when to bow.

Michael also sent me a small pamphlet called, "Praying the Rosary" which he wrote with Amy Welborn (yet another Hoosier -- when will a Hoosier Pope be selected? ). The pictures in the pamphlet are outstanding and I have begun a search trying to find them on Holy Cards. Several of the pictures are from the Dionysiou Monastery.

This morning, at Mass (I usually go to Saturday Mass, but today went to early Sunday morning), a women near the front of the church began praying the Rosary out loud. Soon the congregation joined in with response to her prayers. Perhaps Catholics are used to this, but to me it was a first and very beautiful. I know my Hail Mary and my Our Father, but I did not know all the responses, nor could I keep up with the congregation.

The Priest and two or three others read the Passion and I found the service very touching. Easter is so important, I wonder, as Mark Roberts is discussing today, why we all listen to music over Christmas, but not so much over Easter. Which season is more important for our salvation? I think I will follow what Mark is recommending so I'll have some music for Lent for years to come.

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