View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Startling Ark developments

A team of Archeologists have claimed that they may have found Noah’s Ark, and the reason for mass extinction of a number of species.

The Texas team located what appears to be the remains of the Ark in Iran's Elburz mountain range.

In the suspected Ark, they also discovered a pile of bones, with signs that the animals had been butchered.

“As near as we can figure, it appears that the people on the Ark did not bring enough food for themselves or the carnivores they had on board, so they had to eat some of the animals,” says Dr. Clem Whingnutt.

Dr. Whingnutt says that not only was there physical evidence of knife and teeth marks on the bones, but there were also artifacts that suggest the animals had been eaten.

“There were empty clay jars labeled `Babylon Barbecue Sauce' right near the bones,” he says.

Scientists will be examining the bones to determine what species they represented, but Dr. Whingnutt says one set of single-horned horse-like skulls suggests one of the species that did not finish the trip.

“I think this proves that that song about the unicorns missing the Ark was wrong,” he says.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thinking of Britney at Mass

At Mass yesterday, Father Gerry commented on the Gospel reading (Mt. 7:6 – “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw you pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.” RSV).

He gave it the traditional interpretation. The pearls are the Christian faith, and the swine/dogs are those who cannot or will not accept faith.

Perhaps the saying was originally aimed at the scribes and Pharisees. Father Gerry broadened it. He cautioned that we should not expect everyone to accept or believe. While we might hold our faith in reverence, they treat it as the butt of jokes and the object of mockery.

All well and good.

But as he was talking, I was thinking of Britney Spears.

(No, not that way)

(Bet Father Gerry never thought he’d inspire anyone to think of her.)

What if we consider the “pearls” as more than the gift of faith? What if they are all the gifts we are given?

Talent. Skill. Beauty. Creativity. Intelligence.

We are given those gifts to use for the good of the kingdom, not for cheap gain and exploitation.

That’s when I thought of her.

She has physical beauty. She has some singing and dancing talent. Yet she uses it for shallow pop that conveys negative messages.

She exploited her gifts and inspired others to follow her path. She fed the dogs.

And what has happened to her lately?

The “swine” have turned to attack her. She is mocked, hounded, exploited.

I feel sad for her.

Then I thought of all the other people who have been given gifts, and waste them on films, books, songs, images, that are devoid of merit, or that promote ideas and beliefs that mock what God has given us.

They waste what they have been given.

They do not use their talents to advance the kingdom.

Hmm. I’m getting into another Gospel reading now.

The sad thing is that we allow them to do this. We support them in their waste. We buy their books and records, we go to their movies, we even buy the periodicals that they exploit and that exploit them in return.

So – maybe we need to be more careful about how we spend our time and money. We should read and view and listen, but maybe we just need to be more selective.

And maybe we should pray for Britney. Yes, she helped to create her situation, but she is a victim of it and our skewed values.

As for Father Gerry, he can take comfort. He inspired me to edifying thoughts.

Morning Mass visitors (haiku)

early arrivals
for funeral awkwardly
sit through morning Mass

Monday, June 26, 2006

Proud papa

Here’s some pictures of me (the fat guy), my lovely wife, the valedictorian, and her sisters.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Choir haiku

back in the pews
choir done for the summer –
I sing quietly

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bishops drop ball on abortion

The US Bishops as a national body have ended their debate over whether to deny pro-abortion Catholic politicians Communion, leaving it up to local bishops to decide.

I was initially split over this decision.

I am strongly pro-life, and I think anyone who supports abortion is complicit in homicide, and, for those who are Catholic, are, under certain circumstances, automatically excommunicated.

(How’s that for strong!)

Yet I also understand why the bishops as a national body want to leave it up to the local bishops to decide how to proceed. The local bishops presumably know their people better.

On the other hand, think of what a powerful message it would send to Catholics and Catholic politicians: If you choose to go against a clear teaching of the Church, you are not in full communion with the Church.

And cutting them off from Communion and participation in Mass does eliminate one way they might acquire the grace to change their hearts, minds, and positions.

I went back and forth, until I read some of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s remarks.

"My concern is the fear that the intense polarization and bitter battles of partisan politics may be seeping into the broader ecclesial life of our Catholic people and maybe even of our Conference."

Wait a minute. Where is his concern about giving an ambiguous message concerning a serious sin? Where is his concern about permitting someone to promote or endorse killing innocent beings, then run around proclaiming he or she is a Catholic in good standing?

"Our concern is not politics, nor just particular policies, but their faith and even their salvation. These dialogues are not about winning votes, but saving souls."

By allowing them to continue to think they are not sinning by supporting abortion?

McCarrick said the church needs "more, not fewer Catholics in political life."

Are we willing to water down something just to keep the numbers up? Wouldn’t we be better with fewer, but more faithful Catholics?

If I were a bishop, here’s what I’d say immediately.

“Abortion is a serious sin. In this diocese, anyone who publicly supports, promotes, or votes for abortion is hereby put on notice that they should not receive Communion until they cease their pro-abortion actions and public contradiction of Church teachings.

If they persist in receiving, rather than cause disruption during the Mass, I would ask the local pastor to take the person aside privately, and ask them to either repent, or to tell them to stop receiving Communion.

If they still persist, then I request that their names be submitted to my office, and I will contact them and ask them to repent or to stop receiving Communion.

If they continue to receive even after that and have not repented, then I would order their names to be published in the diocesan newspaper and parish bulletins so that other Catholics in the diocese will know that these politicians are violating Church teachings, are choosing to receive Communion while they are not `in good standing’ in the eyes of the Church, and, by their disobedience and support for a serious sin, are endangering their immortal souls.”

That’s probably why I’m not a bishop!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mass movement

Here we go again.

The bishops are messing with the Mass.

The bishops voted June 15 to approve a new English translation of the Order of the Mass, along with some U.S. adaptations.

According to a cns article, the changes are intended to bring the wording in line with the original Latin Roman Missal, in accordance with a rules issued by the Vatican in 2001.

The U.S. had been using a looser translation permitted in the wake of Vatican II.

So now we have to get used to the new version (or the old version, depending on your point of view) after we had gotten used to the Mass we’d been using for the last 30 years.

Unless, of course, you’re a Tridentine sort, in which case no matter how close it is to the Novus Ordo, it would still be wrong.

A couple of the changes strike me as strange.

The current response to “The Lord be with you" is “And also with you.” Makes sense. Now it will be "And with your spirit."

And with your spirit??

Groovy, man.

During the offertory prayers, instead of the priest praying that “our sacrifice will be acceptable,” he will pray that "the sacrifice which is mine and yours will be acceptable."

The sacrifice which is mine and yours? Isn’t that an awkward way to say “our sacrifice”?

And now the Nicene Creed will begin "I believe" instead of "We believe."

So much for community.

There’s more. But I wonder why we have to mess with it now. Why throw new things at the people in the pews (and the choir) that are not absolutely necessary? Don't the bishops remember what happened when they made wholesale changes too abruptly and without enough preparation after Vatican II?

I suppose it’s better to putter around with stuff like this than to address the sex scandals and the priestly vocations crisis.

And who knows, maybe this translation that is mine and yours will be acceptable.

That’s the spirit.

At least that’s what I believe.

Monday, June 12, 2006

It pays to blog

A bit of happy news. The local daily contacted me to come in and interview for a community blogger position.

I’d be the blogger for my town, Gates, New York. I just have to write one entry a week about the community, and I’ll get a stipend.

What I write about is up to me. It just has to be of interest to my readers.

Knowing me, it will be more than once a week. I've already got some ideas.

Wow. A paying blogger gig!

Now if I just do well in Ironic Catholic’s haiku contest, my week would be complete!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

two more contest haiku

summer resort Mass –
lector loses his place thanks
to front-pew cleavage

liberal bishop –
in his see the orthodox
are the heretics

Robertson chuckles

It’s like something out of Weekly World News (one of my favorite publications).

72-year-old man with prostate cancer leg presses a ton!

Except in this case it’s Pat Robertson, who instead of putting his energy into calling for executions and saying people are being punished for their misdeeds with illnesses and disasters, put his energy into this weighty feat.

He claims to have done it once back in 2003, and that he still regularly lifts 1,200 pounds with his legs.

He must be auditioning for a spot as one of the Superheroes of the Bible.

He’s mightier than Florida State Football players, whose record is a mere 665 pounds. (Less than the 700 of his 700 Club!)

But then, he has the strength of the Lord behind him. (Though he does admit he didn’t do it in a way regular weight lifters would, as explained at the CBN site -

So, which superhero might he be?

Leg Man?

Nah, too suggestive.

Press Man?

He’s certainly been getting that with his statements and claims in recent years.


Hmm. He is also promoting "his age-defying protein shake."

The CBN website offers a free recipe for the shake, with ingredients including soy and whey protein, flaxseed oil and apple cider vinegar. (Just go to the CBN site - - and scroll down to Resources. The shake is down there with the “age-defying protein pancakes” and the “age-defying antioxidents.”)

Robertson has also licensed his name to Columbus, Ohio-based Basic Organics Inc., which makes a similar product called Pat's Diet Shake.

Robertson is quoting in an AP story as chuckling, "We're selling the thing like crazy. There are thousands of people who want to get it. They think the shake had something to do with my ability to lift weights, and I don't think it did."

Yep, chuckling all the way to the bank, er, heaven.

Weighty issue 2

I’ve now lost 14 pounds - one third of my goal!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Gay marriage vote correct

The failure by the U.S. Senate to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was expected.

It was a cheap political ploy anyway.

Now, I oppose gay marriage on moral grounds.

But as a student and teacher of history, and a respecter of the U.S. Constitution (a strict constructionist?), I think they made the right legal decision.

The Constitution clearly spells out that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people" (10th Amendment).

One of those powers is the regulation of marriage.

Thus the issue of gay marriage is a state issue, not a federal one.

The only ways the feds should intervene in a state matter is when the courts (and ultimately, the Supreme Court) decide that a particular state's marriage regulations violate the Constitution in some way, such as old laws prohibiting interracial marriage, or if they determine that a particular practice is a threat to the nation in some way.

To be realistic, given it's track record of two centuries, rather than supporting prohibitions on gay marriage, it is more plausible that the Court could someday determine that prohibiting gay marriage is unconstitutional.

As for being a threat to the nation, we are already pretty morally corrupt when it comes to issues of sexuality and marriage, so I think it's difficult make the argument that banning gay marriage is vital to our wellbeing at this point. Indeed, I wonder how many of our good senators would pass the morality sniff test when it comes to their own sexual activites and respect for marriage vows.

So I think that based on the Constitution and two centuries of practice, the Senate was right to vote as it did.

This particular part of the cultural war needs to be fought on the state level.

Unless they want to change the Constitution to remove the power to regulate marriage from the states.

That would be an interesting fight.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A weighty issue

I have long been a fan of G. K Chesterton (as evidenced by my current happy involvement with Chesterton and Friends -, and have considered him as a role model in many ways.

Alas, one of those ways is in terms of girth.

I have padded my 6’ frame with 40-50 more pounds than it should ideally carry.

The last year has been a bad one for gain. With all the deaths, illnesses, twists and turns in my life I have gained quite a bit. One of my ways to seek comfort is, unfortunately, by eating.

This has caused not only tighter pants, but also back problems.

So about four three weeks ago I decided it was time to go cold turkey.

No more sweets (except small pieces of birthday cake when appropriate). Small portions at meals. No between-meal snacks or at bed time. And now that my back pain has eased a bit, more exercise.

So far, I’ve lost 12 pounds. If the current pattern continues, I will leave the realm of the obese and just be overweight in about two weeks.

My goal is to get back to where I was 13 years ago: 190 lbs. (in the acceptable range for my height and build).

Then maybe I’ll finally post a picture of me.
(Be afraid!)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Haiku contest

The Ironic Catholic ( is running a haiku contest (with an emphasis on humor).

I’ve entered few – some of which have appeared previously in this blog.

Enjoy. Enter some of your own.

priest’s first homily –
parishioners now have taste
of Purgatory

Endless heat wave –
on days like this even
atheists pray

St. Patrick Father
preaching about the missions
seeks gold for his pot

young cantor
stands on stool to reach the mic
to reach the notes

Jesus called a thief
to be among his chosen –
there is hope

I'll forgive seven
times seventy-seven times –
just don't you forget

St. Rose of Lima’s
recipe for vanity –
add some pepper

reading the Gospel
the old priest loses his place –
Mass for vocations

air conditioner
breaks during August Mass -

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday joke

A boy was looking through the family Bible when a leaf fell out of it.

His mother noticed that something had fallen and asked, "What fell out of the Bible?"

The boy answered, "Adam's underwear."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Good bye Mollie

Mollie died Monday.

I petted her and stroked her head as the vet’s injection took hold. Her troubled breathing slowed, her eyes went out of focus, and her head dropped onto my hand.

I asked the vet if she was gone, and he said yes.

I kissed her on the head, then went to my wife who was sitting in a nearby examining room.

Mollie was not my dog, but I was there with her.

She deserved that.

I refer to her as my wife’s dog, but she was not that really.

She belonged to my mother-in-law. We’d found her at a shelter, an already grown dog, and got her to replace my mother-in-law’s previous dog, which had died.

When my mother-in-law went into a senior complex that would not allow dogs, Mollie came to live with us.

Mollie was a mixed breed. Labrador and spaniel, and who knows what else.

She had short legs, a short tail, and a large torso. She was clumsy and slow.

I affectionately called her “Oafus.”

She was overweight when she came to us – 70 pounds or so – but that dropped as she started getting regular walks and my dog, Maggie, forced her to play.

Mollie was never one for playing much or for long. After a few minutes of romping with Maggie in the yard, she’d simply flop down and wait for us to let her back in the house. The most athletic thing she did was to jump up on the picnic table to sit or lie there.

As for walks, she did not like long ones. She’d waddle along on her short legs, panting, resigned to her fate.

But she did love to be petted and rubbed. If we were petting the cats or Maggie, Mollie would come over and nose the recipient of affection out of the way until she was getting the attention.

We referred to her as the “love pig.”

And she loved to eat. She’d devour her food as if it were her last meal, then scrounge for more. Any food left in Maggie’s bowl of the cat dishes was unsafe. She’d beg mercilessly if we were eating anything.

She was also easily spooked. If I raised my hand at all, she’d cower. She was afraid when I brought in the rolled up paper in the morning.

We think she must have been mistreated, probably by a man.

When she lay down, she’d always try to stick her head under a chair. I never figured that one out. Safety?

Last year, we noticed she was beginning to gain weight again. She seemed to have less energy than usual. We attributed that to the weight.

Her nose became dry, she began to breathe noisily, and she started to get watery, red eyes. We took her to the vet, who attributed some of the symptoms to allergies. He prescribed medications, and advised us to get her to lose weight.

We cut down on her food, and she simply raided more of the other animal’s food.

Her weight did not drop.

We also noticed she was drinking huge amounts of water.

As she got bigger and more ungainly, I started calling her “Moose.”

We went back to the vet a couple of times, but he kept diagnosing allergies.

This spring, Mollie stumbled while going up the steps into the house. She limped noticeably, so we took her to a veterinary hospital. They said she had torn a ligament in the leg, and would need surgery.

But the vet at the hospital also looked at her eyes, listened to our stories of weight gain and water drinking, and did some tests.

Mollie had Cushing’s Disease. It’s a disorder of the adrenal gland that causes ravenous appetite, excessive drinking, and so on.

All of Mollie’s symptoms.

Further tests revealed a tumor. It would cost a lot to remove, but we needed to take her to a specialist to determine if it could be removed.

We didn’t know if we had the money to do it.

I checked all the money I’d budgeted for the summer (as a teacher, I don’t get paid over the summer, so I have to save enough to get by without a paycheck for two months). I managed to scrounge up enough if I pinched pennies and worked some extra shifts at the radio station where I work part time.

But last Thursday, the day I was going to tell my wife I’d be able to cover most of the bill, she took Mollie to the specialist.

The tumor was a bad one, the cost had doubled, and at Mollie’s age, the chances of success were slim.

We decided that she had to be put to sleep, but hadn’t picked when. We were waiting until this week to make the final decision. My mother-in-law was coming over for Memorial Day, and we wanted to give her some time with Mollie.

Mollie’s breathing became more and more labored over the weekend. By Sunday night, it had become so loud we almost could not sleep. We had to make Mollie sleep by the back door and not near our bedroom.

Monday night, my wife woke me at 11. The minute I woke, I could hear Mollie’s breathing had gotten much worse. It sounded as if she could choke any minute.

We took her to the animal emergency room.

Mollie had decided for us.

We’ll get the ashes back in the next week or so and put them in a spot by the back gate where she liked to lie while waiting to be let back in to the house. We’ll plant some flowers there.

Mollie’s Garden.

She wasn’t my dog.

But I’ll miss her.