Sunday, February 22, 2009

Extraordinary Form Mass to be celebrated weekly at Sacred Heart in Robbinsdale, MN

Excerpts from today's bulletin article by Fr. Bryan J.B. Pedersen, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Robbinsdale, MN:

Over the last few months I have been praying a great deal about pastoral generosity. This is so because I have been receiving requests in written form and also verbally from some parishioners, and other Catholics who live in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, for me to celebrate a weekly Sunday Mass in Latin. ...

Because of the requests made by our Holy Father to be generous to those who desire the older form of the Mass, and because I am one of the few priests in the Archdiocese capable of responding to such requests. Therefore for these reasons and in a spirit of generosity I have decided on an experimental basis to add a third Mass to our Sunday Schedule in the extraordinary form of the Mass. ... The additional Mass on Sunday will begin on March 1st, which is the first Sunday of Lent, and will ordinarily start at 11:30 am. The additional Mass will be in the extraordinary form using the Roman Missal in use in 1962 per the instruction of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. One of the reasons the additional mass will be on an experimental basis is due to the fact that I must determine if the requests I have been receiving do in fact constitute a stable group who will respond with generosity to our parish. The additional Sunday Mass will initially be celebrated at the Side Altar of St. Mary in the transept. If the number of people attending the older form of the Latin Mass is greater than initially expected then I will shift to using the main altar in the sanctuary. For the time being the Mass will be a low Mass, which means that it will be without music.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade a clarion call: "We shall not weary, we shall not rest!"

From Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, July 2008:

We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.


The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called “A Life Worth Living.” He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one’s potential. These were among the measures of what was called “a life worth living.”

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu’s list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.

In that moment, I knew that I had been recruited to the cause of the culture of life. To be recruited to the cause of the culture of life is to be recruited for the duration; and there is no end in sight, except to the eyes of faith.


In the midst of the encroaching darkness of the culture of death, we have heard the voice of him who said, “In the world you will have trouble. But fear not, I have overcome the world.” Because he has overcome, we shall overcome. We do not know when; we do not know how. God knows, and that is enough. We know the justice of our cause, we trust in the faithfulness of his promise, and therefore we shall not weary, we shall not rest.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Eliminating the retarded

Two articles I've read in the past few days have coincided. Amy Julia Becker writes on the First Things blog a response to new prenatal genetic screening for Down Syndrome:

In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, William Motley, a geneticist of Oxford University, writes, “Fighting Down syndrome with prenatal screening does not ‘border on eugenics.’ It is a ‘search-and-destroy mission’ on the disease, not on a category of citizens. . . . ” Similarly, a pediatric cardiologist writes about Down syndrome: “Tremendous social, medical and monetary burdens are inevitable parts of this disorder . . . these (prenatal) tests are invaluable, should be made available to all, and may help individuals possibly avoid a very significant life-changing illness.” Much as Mr. Motley might want to claim that prenatal screening is not about a category of citizens, the practical result of what he advises is indeed to eliminate an entire group of persons.

In a recent collection of essays titled Theology, Disability, and the New Genetics, Hans Reinders states a countervailing claim: “Life is good as it is.” Life is good as it is. It sounds simple. Theologically, it rings true. And yet the vast majority of individuals in our culture choose to terminate a pregnancy if they learn that their baby will be born with a disability. Why? If life is good as it is, why is it considered good by many in our culture to ensure that children with disabilities are not born at all?

As Reinders writes, “many people with disabilities resulting from genetic disorders experience their own lives as good.” I can certainly affirm this statement in the case of our daughter Penny, who has Down syndrome. Penny is nearing her third birthday, as she would proudly tell anyone who cares to ask. Her days consist of playing with blocks and balls and running to the playground, of reading books, of entertaining those around her with proclamations like, “Uh-oh spaghettios!” and “Okey-doke!” She loves her little brother “Wilwum.” She loves bagels and music and school. In general terms, we aren’t concerned about her health or development, and neither is she. Her current challenges include learning to swallow her drool instead of letting it dribble down her chin and learning to tell us before she needs to use the potty. In other words, there is very little that is “not good” about Penny’s life.
Today we hear that Guinness World Records has recognized Bert Holbrook, 80, of Waseca, MN as the world's oldest man with Down Syndrome.

“He understood the excitement” but not the specifics, [Bert's nurse] said.

Foley said Holbrook’s health coincides with that of most 80-year-olds.

“He’s definitely slowing down and tires easily but maintains his same daily routine.”

That includes lunch twice a week at the Waseca Area Senior Citizens Center.
Amy Julia Becker admits the real difficulties and suffering that can accompany a severe disability, but also notices how often the person is viewed as a burden not because of a specific challenge but rather just because they exist in a certain way.

Much of the alienation and stigma people with disabilities experience is a product of societal norms rather than of problems intrinsic to the disabilities themselves. Take the mainstream media. The New York Times reports: “The 5,500 children born with Down syndrome each year in the United States suffer from mild to moderate mental retardation, are at high risk for congenital heart defects and a variety of other medical problems, and have an average life expectancy of 49.” Suffer. High risk. Defects. Problems. This reporter goes on to write, “One doctor asked about studies suggesting there is a higher risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome, potentially saddling parents with another caretaking burden as they themselves age.” Again, the language is telling—saddling, another burden. [...]

The medical establishment demonstrates a similar prejudice. Penny, according to technical language, was born with a birth “defect” or “abnormality.” And she was presumed to be unhealthy, even though we left the hospital on time, two days after she was born. She had scored an eight out of ten on her Apgar test, an echocardiogram indicated that her heart was sound, and she had no other medical issues. Nonetheless, we took with us a list of all the things that might go wrong, including leukemia, celiac disease, thyroid problems, crooked teeth, and spinal instability. None of those, by the way, were even potential immediate concerns. If our social perceptions changed, much of the supposed suffering that comes from disability would be eliminated. (emphasis added)
Around 92% of women who have their child diagnosed with Down syndrome through prenatal screening choose to abort the child. How many lives would be different today had Mr. Holbrook's mother had this option? Would the world be a better place without him, or without people like him? Is the compassion of Bert's caregivers misspent, better to have been given elsewhere to someone who "deserves it"?

I know that it can be very difficult to care for a person with a lifelong disability. But is the solution to engage in a seek-and-destroy mission against those who are created different?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ring in the new year with Christ!

And His mother, too, I should add!

Hugh Henry has made available a booklet for Vespers of New Year's Eve (1st Vespers for the Octave of the Nativity according to the extraordinary form) ending with Benediction and the singing of Laudes Regiae (Christus Vincit). But coolest of all is the recording of Christus Vincit by Juventutem. The strength and energy of this hymn in praise of Christ Our Lord and King blew me away! Have a listen, and then sing along.
Christus vincit. Christus regnat. Christus imperat. Exaudi Christe.
Christ is victor, Christ is ruler, Christ is Emperor. O hear our prayer, Christ.

Monday, December 29, 2008

THIS JUST IN: December in the Twin Cities is SLIGHTLY above average!

Wow! Stop the presses!

December could be 8th snowiest of all time

This is news? Not THE snowiest, but the COULD BE THE 8TH snowiest December "of all time," meaning in the short number of years we've been keeping records (since about 1884, ~125 years). Let's check the stats (image courtesy of Charles Fisk):

As of today the Twin Cities has 16" of snowfall for December. IF we get the possible 3.2" of snowfall in the next few days, then we'd have 19.2" for the month, a datum that falls well within the upper quartile for December. It's not even considered an outlier! So, about 25% of all Decembers could make the cut of newsworthiness for "above average" snowfall and similarly another 25% could be considered "below average" months. So, a full 50% of Decembers could have a news blurb talking breathlessly about how much snow (or lack of snow) we're getting.

THIS JUST IN! MN snowy in winter! MN cold during the winter! Some measured quantity is not EXACTLY average!

I hate these kind of "news" stories.

Edit: I suppose that being the 8th snowiest out of 124 years would make it about the 94th percentile. That is a bit more rare, but perhaps we should wait until the snow is actually on the ground before busting out the confetti.

A tale of three clergy


From Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing:
All deeply unfortunate, but a warning for serious clergy: beware now about the way you put anything before the public, unless you want to provide an occasion to make it seem you are saying the exact opposite of what you believe.

Finally, our third clergyman, Pope Benedict XVI, also offered a Christmas message in which he yoked concern for the world’s ecology and what he calls the threatened human ecology that depends on marriage and family. Nowhere did he mention homosexuality, but some media were happy to extrapolate for him and to hold the coats for the fight. It didn’t work and the story soon died. But it was amazing how the initial reports all drew on the same circle of commentators from gay and lesbian organizations, who in virtually every story, referred to this mild and learned man as Papa Ratzi (which, you see, rhymes with Nazi).

A faith whose Founder was crucified should not expect gentle treatment by the world. But when the very people who repeatedly tell you that “hate is not a family value” indulge in this degree of childish name-calling, you don’t expect it to be picked up in respectable journalism, any more than you’d expect professional journalists to indulge in angry partisanship or crude misrepresentation about the major faith of the West.

Or do we now?

Friday, December 26, 2008

The unique contribution of Judaism to the dignity of women and family life

Michael Novak at First Things:
In the temples of its neighbors near and far, Israel saw that ritual acts of prostitution and sacral couplings between religious leaders and women (or men) were routinely performed. Sexual activities were placed at the core of worship ceremonies in virtually all cultures, even including pre-mosaic Israel. Only in Israel did the prophets rail against these activities, and repeatedly drove them from the temple. The ancient world considered sexual “normality” to be fulfilled in the ungoverned sexuality of males, to which women were merely instrumental. In many of the cultures surrounding Israel, sexual acts between males were given equal or even superior value to those between males and females. In those cultures, little differentiation was made between homosexuality and heterosexuality. The important difference to people then lay in who did the penetrating and who was penetrated, not in which gender played which role.

Against this common vision of sexual normalcy stood the towering Moses. He taught Israel, virtually alone, to embrace a new standard for human sexual life. This standard gave its blessing solely to sexual acts between a man and a woman in the covenanted relationship of monogamous marriage. What a great channeling of sexual energies this provision achieved. What a great concentration of energies it brought to the world. What great, non-instrumental dignity it gave to women.

Many elites in other cultures continued to exhaust their energies in polymorphous sex. They expended whole days on the arts of pleasure—the smells, the scents, the music, the languorous bodies of dancers. And in this sexually saturated world, women remained mere instruments. As Norman Sussman wrote, “The woman was seen as serving but two roles. As a wife, she ran the home. As a courtesan, she satisfied male sexual desires.” When sensory pleasures are considered the highest aim of life—not study nor inquiry nor civic virtue—economic and cultural development is heavily retarded.

Is sexual activity the highest end of life? For Moses and the people of Israel, it assuredly was not. It was of course a great good, and one essential to the perpetuation of the human race. Sexuality was not meant to be repressed. But it was meant to run—and to run deep—in only one channel.

From this sublimation there arose two great social consequences. First, women achieved sexual equality with men in the holy union of marriage. “In His image [God] made them, male and female He made them” (Genesis 1:27). This text says clearly that the divine radiance in human life shines through the marital union of man and woman. Therein, each person finds completeness. Only together, fully one, does the married couple bear the image of the Creator.

The second great consequence is to channel immense energy into society through its fundamental unit, the family—and not just energy, but also a continuity of consciousness, and the dream of a more perfect future. Thus Judaism gave birth to the idea of progress. Judaism introduced the ancient world to the reality of progress. Judaism sees itself as always unfinished, always unsatisfied. “Next year in Jerusalem,” when “the lion will lie down with the lamb” and the Messiah will at last appear. Each family, at the family table, carries these hopes forward into the future. Making progress is always, in time, an unfinished business. (continue)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let my verses go!

Jeffrey Tucker at the NLM:
From the instant that the USCCB announced that the Revised Grail Psalter would become the new standard for Psalms in the ordinary form of the Mass, musicians in the UK privately issued warnings along the lines of “welcome to our Hell.”

The problem is not the translations of the Psalms, which are said to be an improvement over what is in use today in the U.S. The problem has to do with the law, copyright, permissions, expenses, enforcement—and the problems are so pervasive in the UK that one of the least spoken about aspects of liturgical life in the UK is the proliferation of samizdat Psalms.

What are samizdat Psalms? These are Psalm settings written by composers attached to parishes and cathedrals, by composers and directors who are required to use the Grail text but cannot bear to sing the musical settings published by the mainstream publishers. They write their own, but understandably fail to jump through the copyright hoops and pay the exorbitant fees associated with the texts themselves. So they are copied, handed out, kept under wraps, delivered from parish to parish in brown envelopes, and spoken about in hushed tones. It’s like a sector of an underground Church.

The same situation could happen in the U.S. when the Revised Grail becomes official here too. The Psalm that are currently made available online will be forced down. The settings made available by independent composers will have to go underground. The job of setting the Psalms to music will fall to the “Big Three” music publishers who provide the mainstream fare today. Incredibly, one of those publishers, a for-profit company, has actually been named as the literary agent to decide the terms and conditions under which people can publish the Psalms. (more)