Pomp and Circumstance

April 27, 2009

From Scattering Flowers:

I’ve heard more than once that the Catholic Church is all “pomp and circumstance”. What does this mean to those who say it, and are they correct?

First of all, what is “pomp and circumstance”? Well, technically it’s a piece of music, the music that is played at graduations while the graduates walk down the aisle in order to be recognized for their achievements. Since this music is played at pretty much every graduation in the country, people must not have that much against it. So I went to the dictionary.

Pomp, according to Webster, is a stately or brilliant display; splendor; magnificence. But also can be an ostentatious show or display.

Circumstance means several different things, the definition that most seem to fit was one of the last given; it was ceremony or show.

So, I guess what people are trying to say is that the Catholic Church is putting on a show, an ostentatious show. Lots of glitz and glamor without any substance. Where do they get this idea? I keep looking back at Webster’s first definition of pomp, and I can’t help but think, “doesn’t God deserve a stately display? Splendor? Magnificence?”

Where do folks get the idea that God wants simplicity? That God doesn’t want ceremony and beauty in worship?

When the President of the United States walks into a room, everyone stands. Why? Standing is a common form of respect. When we remain seated while the President enters we are making a statement. We are saying that we do not respect this man or his position and we refuse to show him respect. In other words, we disrespect him.

When the Queen of England walks into a room there is quite a bit of ceremony involved. Standing, saluting, kneeling, and all to music playing. Anyone who refuses to follow tradition here will be thrown out on their ear!

As a general rule, we have no problem giving head’s of state their due. Why do we think God deserves less? Shouldn’t He get more pageantry than some Queen or President? In the Old Testament, God was pretty specific about worship. Where is should be held, who should preside, what they should wear, what the surroundings should look like. So what did God prescribe for himself?

Exodus 31:1-11

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled h im with a divine spirit of skill and understanding and knowledge in every craft in the production of embroidery, in making things of gold, silver or bronze, in cutting and mounting precious stones, in carving wood, and in every other craft. As his assistant I have appointed Oholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. I have also endowed all the experts with the necessary skill to make all the things I have ordered you to make: the meeting tent, the ark of the commandments with the propitiatory on top of it, all the furnishings of the tent, the table with its appurtenances, the pure gold lamp stand with all its appurtenances, the altar of incense, the altar of holocausts with all its appurtenances, the laver with its base, the service cloths, the sacred vestments for Aaron the priest, the vestments for his sons in their ministry, the anointing oil, and the fragrant incense for the sanctuary. ”

Exodus 36:8-19

The tent coverings were made of fine linen twisted, having cherubim embroidered on them with violet, purple and scarlet yarn… Then fifty clasps of gold were made, with which the sheets were joined so that the dwelling formed one whole… Fifty bronze clasps were made (to join the sheets of goat hair)… A covering for the tent was made out of ram’s skins dyed red…”

I know this is a lot of quoting, but I hope I’m making my point. Exodus continues with the description of the Ark: made of acacia wood, inside and outside were coated with gold. The propitiatory was made of pure gold. Two cherubim, made of beaten gold, covered the propitiatory.

The Table was made of acacia wood, plated with pure gold. The vessels to go on the table were also to be fashioned out of pure gold.

The Lampstand was to be made of beaten pure gold.

Altars were made of bronze.

And all of this was while the Israelites were wandering around in the desert! God said, “get me the very best artisans and materials that can be offered, and worship me with those.”

When Solomon built the Temple, he built it out of stone. The inside was lined with cedar that was carved in the form of gourds and open flowers. The interior of the temple was pure gold. The altar was pure gold, in fact the entire temple was coated in pure gold. In the sanctuary were two cherubim made of olive wood and overlaid with gold. The walls on all sides of both the inner and outer rooms had carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. Everything overlaid with gold. (1 Kings chap 6, chap 7 goes on to describe the Temple furnishings)

Now lets move on to the New Testament. In Revelation, John has a vision of the throne room of heaven, in this throne room there is an altar, golden incense bowls, and creatures who fall to the ground before God and sing his praises. John’s vision also includes a glimpse of the “new heaven and new earth”. The New Jerusalem is described as having foundations decorated with every precious stone, gates made of pearls, streets made of gold.

Okay, so obviously God likes the ornate, the beautiful, the rare, and He likes it to be fashioned by experts, by those who can give the material its due. What about ceremony? Do we have any picture of God being casual? Of God not caring how He is approached? Of God saying, “worship me any old way you want”? We are told to worship Him in spirit and truth, but does that mean the material is no longer important? Then what is God doing mentioning it again in Revelation?! Does spirit and truth equal the fundamentalist understanding of simplicity?

In the OT, God again was very specific about ceremony. So specific, and so serious, that when the prescribed rituals were not followed death came to those who profaned God by not following his ordinances (see Leviticus 10). Everything was ordered in the minutest detail. Why would this God, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, suddenly change His preference for worship? And then change it back again in the end (with Rev)? If the worship that God prescribed for Israel was to be completely thrown out with Jesus, then why did the Apostles continue to meet in the Temple on the Sabbath? Even after Sunday, the Lord’s Day, became the meeting day of Christians? Why are things in heaven (at least according to the glimpses we’ve been given in Isaiah and Revelation) so formal? Why do much bowing and singing? Why are there altars in heaven? How does the fundamentalist explain these things?

When they want to argue that the “early church” met in people’s houses, I will agree. In fact you can tour some of these homes if you visit Rome. But inside you will find altars (like the ones in heaven), you will find evidence of ceremony. They had no buildings or fancy accouterments while the Roman government was persecuting them purely for being Christians! They also met in the catacombs to avoid this persecution. But how does this speak to ceremony? Do you really think that the Apostles, who were steeped in the symbolism of Judaism, didn’t see the parallels between what they were used to and the new revelation they were given from Christ? Where is the idea that the Apostles led worship in homes and later in cemeteries with no ordinances, no ceremony? And you will also notice, if you read Eusebius, that as soon as the persecutions died down (not completely, but by around 200 AD) you find Christians worshiping in buildings. Buildings that were dedicated to the worship of God (this was why they were destroyed by the Roman Emperors who liked to persecute Christians).

Is the Catholic Church full of “pomp and circumstance”? I certainly hope so. God deserves whatever finery we can come up with. God deserves much more pomp than we give to mere Heads of State. I want to worship Him in the way that most closely matches what He reveals in Scripture to like. Why should our churches not resemble the New Jerusalem?


Declining Notre Dame: A Letter from Mary Ann Glendon

April 27, 2009

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Pass It On!

April 26, 2009

Mantilla the Hon

April 26, 2009

Fr. Longnecker’s humor:

Famous ecclesiastical fashionista, Mantilla Amontillado comments on her particular headgear

OK hon. You asked me why I wear the mantilla. It’s easy. I wear the mantilla first of all because it looks good and because it is ridiculous. You think hats are simply to keep your head warm? You’re crazy, then everybody would just wear a woolen stretchy hat.

No a good hat is something, you know, slightly crazy. A good hat stands the world upside down. A really good hat is totally useless and reminds everyone that not everything has to be useful and that useful is usually another word for ugly.

Still. This is not ugly. No. This mantilla is to look good. So what’s wrong with looking good? Also, it is for something else. The Bible says women should cover their heads in church. When I wear the mantilla I’m saying, “Look here. I believe the Bible.” In this day and age, that’s ridiculous too. You see, it is the way I fly the flag. It is my way of saying, “I’m a Christian, and what are you going to do about it?”

Third reason I wear the mantilla is because it is Catholic. Do you think you’ll ever see one of those Protestant gals at the mega church wearing a mantilla? I don’t think so. They’re dressed in sloppy jeans, flip flops and slurping a latte. You call that church? I call it slouch. My mantilla is my Catholic badge of courage.

Fourth reason: I met this Amish girl once. She was wearing one of those little bonnets that look like the thing you collect strawberries in, but it was white and upside down on her head.

I say, “Why are you wearing that crazy thing on your head?”

She looks me in the eye and says “It is the sign that I am submissive to God and to men.”

I nearly punched her in the eye. “Are you crazy? You want to be submissive to God and men? What’s wrong with you? I think I’m going to slap you girl!”

She says, “Well, you got to be submissive to something. Everybody’s got to take orders from someone. Who you going to take orders from? Yourself? Who do you think you are? God? Get over it.”

Whew! talk about radical statements? That one knocked me for a loop. Then I start to think about it, and I think maybe she’s right. So I got my own version of the Amish bonnet which is my mantilla, and I’m happy about the submissive to God thing, but I want to argue with her about the submission to man thing because so many of the boys are beasts.

But never mind that. Another reason: I wear it because it annoys liberal Catholics, and that is always fun, you know?

Finally there is this: I wear it to remind the men in my life that I am submissive to God, and I’ll tell you a secret, I’d like to find one of them I could be submissive to as well, but they better watch out because if they take advantage of that they’re going to be sorry, because if they think ‘submissive’ means I’m going to be some kind of Minnie Mouse doormat they’d better think again.

Bishop Robert Finn: “We Are At War!”

April 24, 2009


Warriors for the Victory of Life
Key Note Address for the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention
April 18, 2009 – St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear friends,

Thank you for coming together for this second annual Gospel of Life Convention, co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is a privilege to welcome you and greet you this morning. I am grateful for the encouragement of your presence and – as a Bishop it is my solemn and joyful duty to do all I can to fortify you in your own faith.

But as I speak a word of encouragement today I also want to tell you soberly, dear friends, “We are at war!”

We are at war.
Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.

But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors – members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).

But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.

The ultimate promise of the Gospel.
Before I go any further I must proclaim a most important truth – a truth that we have just been celebrating throughout the last week: Jesus Christ, in His life, death, and Resurrection, has already won the war: definitively and once for all. He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is now played out in each human heart with a free will to love or not, to be faithful or to walk away from the life which has been offered as God’s most wonderful gift.

Every day the choice is before us: right or wrong; good or bad; the blessing or the curse; life or death. Our whole life must be oriented toward choosing right, the good, the blessing; choosing life.

If you and I fail to realize the meaning and finality behind our choices, and the intensity of the constant warfare that confronts us, it is likely that we will drop our guard, be easily and repeatedly deceived, and even loose the life of our eternal soul.

As bishop I have a weighty responsibility to tell you this over and over again. This obligation is not always easy, and constantly I am tempted to say and do less, rather than more. Almost everyday I am confronted with the persuasion of other people who want me to be silent. But – with God’s grace – you and I will not be silent.

This work of speaking about the spiritual challenges before us is not just the responsibility of the Bishop. I am not the only one entrusted with the work of faith, hope and charity. You are baptized into this Church militant. You are also entrusted with the mission of righteousness. You have the fortification of the sacraments, and the mandate to love as Jesus loved you. You share in the apostolic mission and work of the Church.

What can we say about this constant warfare?
Our battle is ultimately a spiritual battle for the eternal salvation of souls – our own and those of other people. We are not engaged in physical battles in the same way military soldiers defend with material weapons. We need not – we must not – initiate violence against other persons to accomplish something good, even something as significant as the protection of human life.

But it is true that we might have to endure physical suffering to prosper the victory of Jesus Christ. He carried the Cross. He promised us that – if we were to follow Him – we also would share the Cross. We must not expect anything less. When you stand up for what is right – you will be opposed. The temptation will be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of soldiers we are.

Who is our enemy in this battle of the Church Militant?
Our enemy is the deceiver, the liar, Satan. Because of his spiritual powers he can turn the minds and hearts of men. He is our spiritual or supernatural enemy when he works to tempt us, and he becomes a kind of natural enemy as he works in the hearts of other people to twist and confound God’s will. In our human experience people deceived by Satan’s distortions and lies may appear as our “human enemies.”

But, in his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul makes, for us, a very important distinction. “Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power,” He tells them and us. “Put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” “For, our struggle,” St. Paul tells us, “is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the rulers of this darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph 6:10-12).

So let’s be clear: Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it. When we, in our sinfulness, put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success; political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary spirits who war against God. They want you and me for their prize. When we forsake God and outwardly reject His law and what we know to be His will, we make an easy victory for our supernatural enemies. We fall right into their hands.

Continue Reading …

Archbishop Chaput’s Call

April 21, 2009

Archbishop Chaput’s book, Render Unto Ceasar, is a MUST READ! Here is a sample of this monumntal work:

“The Church claims no right to dominate the secular realm. But she has every right – in fact an obligation – to engage secular authority and to challenge those wielding it to live the demands of justice. In this sense, the Catholic Church cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay ‘out of politics.’ Politics involves the exercise of power. The use of power has moral content and human consequences. And the well-being and destiny of the human person is very much the concern, and the special competence, of the Christian community” (pp. 217-218).

On Beyond Jesus

April 20, 2009

From Red Cardigan:

Many people have already posted excerpts from this, reported by the Catholic Key, which helps explain why some women religious are being investigated:

When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism required encountering the holy “other,” and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed. The works of Thomas Merton encouraged an exploration of the nexus between Eastern and Western religious practices. The emergence of the women’s movement with is concomitant critique of religion invited women everywhere to use a hermeneutical lens of suspicion when reading the androcentric Scriptures and the texts of the Tradition. With a new lens, women also began to see the divine within nature, the value and importance of the cosmos, and that the emerging new cosmology encouraged their spirituality and fed their souls.

As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative for these women. They still hold up and reverence the values of the Gospel, but they also recognize that these same values are not solely the property of Christianity. Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Judaism, Islam and others hold similar tenets for right behavior within the community, right relationship with the earth and right relationship with the Divine. With these insights come a shattering or freeing realization—depending on where you stand. Jesus is not the only son of God. Salvation is not limited to Christians. Wisdom is found in the traditions of the Church as well as beyond it.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of a story:

On Beyond Jesus (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Said Sister Androgina Guevara Mao,
(An old friend of mine who worships the Tao):
You start out by studying Adam and Eve
(Though I find that story too hard to believe)
Then you go through the prophets; you study the kings
Who all hated women (misogynist things!)
Some poems called psalms, and some proverbs, and then–
You get to the Gospels; and that’s where it ends.
You read about Jesus, you learn His whole story,
With good bits with women, and other parts gory,
And then you should know, from the very Creation,
The whole of the story of humans’ salvation.

I was nodding–because that is how it should go–
When she frowned and said sternly: No. Oh, dear, no!
That’s what they tell you, that’s what they try
To make you believe while you live till you die.
But some of us know this is no place to stop!
I could keep finding prophets and myths till I drop!
You can stop, if you want, with the Lord Jesus Christ.
But not me!
I won’t stop here, not at any price!

If you stop here with Jesus, you’ll never explore
The non-androcentric religions galore:
The ones that have goddesses, holy and wise
With perhaps a bit more than their fair share of eyes,
The one around Buddha–you really should try it!
If nothing else Buddhism’s good for your diet.
And then there are legends of spirits that come
When you carve a big totem or beat a big drum.

So, on beyond Jesus! To Zeus and to Hera!
Don’t let a word like “heretic” scare ya.
There’s so much empowerment you’ll never know
If you stop at Jesus. So go, go, go, go!
Go on to the Norse Gods, to Freya or Thor
You’ll learn so much more than you could have before.
Cosmology, circles, spell-casting and chant–
But not the old sort. No, that kind we can’t.
We’ve forgotten the words, if we ever did know them,
Besides, we worked hard so we could overthrow them.

On beyond Jesus! There’s so much beside Him!
The gods of the Romans, (though they crucified Him)
Are interesting sorts, like the two-headed Janus.
We’d put up an altar to him, but they’d ban us,
Those narrow suspicious ones coming to check–
They’ve seen our free writings, but called them all dreck.
They stopped at Jesus, and now you can see,
Just what would happen to you–and to me!
If we stopped at Jesus, and never went past Him.
We’d be just like them–but we will outlast them!

Oh, maybe some orders are doing quite well,
Who stopped at Jesus. It’s hard to tell.
They have new members, and growth, and much joy.
But what we have is better. Oh boy, yes, oh boy,
We went beyond Jesus! Our convents are empty,
Young Catholics avoid us, or say things contempt-y.
We have no future, we turned from our past,
We built nothing permanent, nothing that lasts.
But we did explore all the gods ever prayed to!
Except the real God, unless we were paid to.

So what if our convents are left now in tatters?
We went beyond Jesus. And that’s all that matters.

I shook my head sadly as she finished talking,
Said my goodbyes, and quickly left, walking
Straight through the big labyrinth inside her foyer,
She shouted at me, but I just ignored her.