Saturday, November 22, 2003
Father Flaherty came to St. James a week after our first visit to it, while we were in the process of deciding which of Salem's many Catholic churches we would make our own. Our first impression was that the church was wonderfully beautiful, the music a little too modern, and the congregation aging. The old pastor, who had been at Sacred Heart in Malden at the time of one or more family funerals in the 1970s, was having his last Mass there. The parish was about to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
Father Flaherty came from St. Bernard's in Concord, a parish I was familiar with superficially as we used its parking lot to form up for the re-enactment of the battle at Concord Bridge every year. He came from a wealthy parish to one struggling financially. But he had grown up in South Boston. His mother lives in Quincy.
He was a Boston Irish priest of the old school, serious about the Faith and traditional devotions. It was his misfortune, and our gain, to take over a parish that was not just financially struggling, but had been the hunting grounds of two of the more notorious of Boston's pervert priests. There are many people there hurting, and in need of reconciliation.
So he had a great deal to work through in the last two years. Needless to say, revenues dropped off markedly, while the property needed repairs. This fall, the sity stopped using the old poarish school, and paying rent on it, He did well with a very difficult situation.
Aside from St. Bernards's he had been at St. John the Baptist in Peabody, and had been in hospital chaplaincy.
He did what he could with what he had. He put candles back on the altar. He started a training program for altar servers. He re-opened the Tabernacle in the reredos (altar-piece) behind the new altar. He restored the use of Sanctus bells during the Consecration. One year, he had the common musical responses in Greek or Latin during Lent. Some of these reforms did not sit well with the more "progressive" elements in the congregation. But Father Flaherty's devotion to the Eucharist was genuine and deep, and cried out for this expression.
He was a warm and friendly man with a gruff exterior. He was escorted about by an absolute sweetheart of a French Bulldog named Spud, who greeted every visitor to the rectory warmly. He had a love for history and custom, as well as great learning. He was a compassionate pastor and guide to the souls of those entrusted to his care. His sermons were good, and to the point. He did not mince words about perverts corrupting the priesthood
He worked with terrible disabilities. When he came here, he was recovering from a broken foot. He re-injured it while he was here slipping on our tree-root-tossed brick sidewalks. He has been using a cane to get around ever since he came here. More significantly, about the time he was celebrating his 30th anniversary as a priest, he suffered a major stroke, which left him with slight aphasia and futher balance and mobility problems. Yet he soldiered on.
He might have been shifted to lighter duties, but for the shortage of priests and the Scandal, as well as the complete parlysis of the Archdiocesan bureaucracy from January 2002-July 2003.
He did get relief from time to time from Father Vincent Gianni, of the emergency team, who had been associate pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption parish, Lynnfield, when I was a student at its school. Father Gianni was a seminary classmate of Father Flaherty.
I will miss Father Flaherty's wisdom, his courage, his warm, and his kindness. May dear Spud find again so kind a master. A good pastor has gone to meet The Good Pastor.
It has been a terrible year for us. This is another awful blow, and one that I did not expect. Please excuse me if this entry is ill-edited. I'll fix it later when I have my composure back.
The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing.
He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment.
He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for His own name's sake.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me.
Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and Thy chalice which inebreateth me, how goodly is it!
And Thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.
Requiescat in pace.
Chris at Maine Catholic & Beyond offers some thoughts on spiritual preparation for Advent.
He also has a list of Catholic reading suggestions just in time for the Christmas shopping season.
It is that time of the year again. RC at Catholic Light says, "No." His reasoning still seems pretty solid to me.
If the political leadership on Beacon Hill had allowed a vote on the amendment to the state constitution that would have banned gay marriage, the SJC would have had only the US Constitution to use to invalidate it. That probably wouldn't work without the support of the US Supreme Court (though that may come in the absence of a federal amendment).
One always wonders which parishes will get the axe.
The Sixth Penitential Psalm
Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord:
Lord, hear my voice. Let Thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of Thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord. My soul hath relied on His word:
My soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with Him, plentiful redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
The Fifth Penitential Psalm
Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to Thee.
Turn not away Thy face from me: in the day when I am in trouble, incline Thy ear to me. In what day soever I shall call upon Thee, hear me speedily.
For my days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire.
I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forget to eat my bread.
Through the voice of my groaning, my bone hath cleaved to my flesh.
I am become like to a pelican of the wilderness: I am like a night raven in the house.
I have watched, and am become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop.
All the day long my enemies reproached me: and they that praised me did swear against me.
For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my tears with my drink .
Because of Thy anger and indignation: for having lifted me up Thou hast thrown me down.
My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.
But Thou, O Lord, endurest for ever: and Thy memorial to all generations.
Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Sion: for it is time to have mercy on it, for the time is come.
For the stones thereof have pleased thy servants: and they shall have pity on the dust thereof.
All the Gentiles shall fear Thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory.
For the Lord hath built up Sion: and He shall be seen in His glory.
He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble: and He hath not despised their petition.
Let these things be written unto another generation: and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord:
Because He hath looked forth from His high sanctuary: from heaven the Lord hath looked upon the earth.
That He might hear the groans of them that are in fetters: that He might release the children of the slain:
That they may declare the name of the Lord in Sion: and His praise in Jerusalem;
When the people assemble together, and kings, to serve the Lord.
He answered him in the way of his strength: Declare unto me the fewness of my days.
Call me not away in the midst of my days: Thy years are unto generation and generation.
In the beginning, O Lord, Thou foundedst the earth: and the heavens are the works of Thy hands.
They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall grow old like a garment: And as a vesture Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed.
But Thou art always the selfsame, and Thy years shall not fail.
The children of Thy servants shall continue and their seed shall be directed for ever.
On this date in 1963, C.S. Lewis died. Children remember him fondly as the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia. But he was also a stalwart Anglo-Catholic and Christian apologist. His specialty was Medieval and Renaissance Literature. His Preface to Paradise Lost is a classic of literary criticism.
His Christian apologetics, if not always perfectly sound from a Catholic perspective, were an effort at the preservation of Christianity, which is nothing to sneeze at. He even wrote science fiction (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength). The Abolition of Man, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, Surprised By Joy, A Grief Observed, and Reflections On the Psalms are all essential reading.
He lived a quiet life as a man of letters and sometime friend of J.R.R. Tolkien. His death was unfortunately overshadowed by the murder on the same day of President Kennedy. Lewis' reputation has grown since 1963. That of the other famous person who died that day has declined.
If you have the time, peruse the C.S. Lewis Foundation's site.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
"Arise, ye more than dead!"
Then cold and hot, and moist and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And Music's power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
The trumpet's loud clangour
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries "Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat!"
The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.
Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion
For the fair disdainful dame.
But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.
Orpheus could lead the savage race,
And trees uprooted left their place
Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her Organ vocal breath was given
An Angel heard, and straight appeared -
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.
Today the Church honors Saint Cecilia, a Roman martyr. Most of what we know about her is legendary. We cannot even specify when she lived. She was married, but appears to have converted her husband and lived in continence with him. He was martyred along with his brother. She was executed for burying them. She was beheaded after an attempt to suffocate her failed. Because she is said to have had a song in her own heart while her wedding was going on, she has become a patroness of musicians and artists.
Friday, November 21, 2003
A Harvest Home ballad by Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823). Offered for the similarity between Harvest Home and Thanksgiving.
What gossips prattled in the sun,
Who talk'd him fairly down,
Up, memory! tell; 'tis Suffolk fun,
And lingo of their own.
"We did so laugh; the moon shone bright;
"More fun you never knew;
"'Twas Farmer Cheerum's Horkey night,
"And I, and Grace, and Sue----
"But bring a stool, sit round about,
"And boys, be quiet, pray;
"And let me tell my story out;
"'Twas sitch a merry day!
"The butcher whistled at the door,
"And brought a load of meat;
"Boys rubb'd their hands, and cried, 'there's more,'
"Dogs wagg'd their tails to see't.
"On went the boilers till the hake
"Had much ado to bear 'em;
"The magpie talk'd for talking sake,
"Birds sung;--but who could hear 'em?
"Creak went the jack; the cats were scar'd,
"We had not time to heed 'em,
"The owd hins cackled in the yard,
"For we forgot to feed 'em!
"Yet 'twas not I, as I may say,
"Because as how, d'ye see;
"I only help'd there for the day;
"They cou'dn't lay't to me.
"Now Mrs. Cheerum's best lace cap
"Was mounted on her head;
"Guests at the door began to rap,
"And now the cloth was spread.
"Then clatter went the earthen plates--
"'Mind Judie,' was the cry;
"I could have cop't them at their pates;
"'Trenchers for me,' said I.
"'That look so clean upon the ledge,
"'And never mind a fall;
"'Nor never turn a sharp knife's edge;--
"'But fashion rules us all.'
"Home came the jovial Horkey load,
"Last of the whole year's crop;
"And Grace amongst the green boughs rode
"Right plump upon the top.
"This way and that the waggon reel'd,
"And never queen rode higher;
"Her cheeks were colour'd in the field,
"And ours before the fire.
"The laughing harvest-folks, and John,
"Came in and look'd askew;
"'Twas my red face that set them on,
"And then they leer'd at Sue.
"And Farmer Cheerum went, good man,
"And broach'd the Horkey beer;
"And sitch a mort of folks began
"To eat up our good cheer.
"Says he, 'Thank God for what's before us;
"'That thus we meet agen,'
"The mingling voices, like a chorus,
"Join'd cheerfully, 'Amen.'
"Welcome and plenty, there they found 'em,
"The ribs of beef grew light;
"And puddings--till the boys got round 'em,
"And then they vanish'd quite!
"Now all the guests, with Farmer Crouder,
"Began to prate of corn;
"And we found out they talk'd the louder,
"The oftner pass'd the Horn.
"Out came the nuts; we set a cracking;
"The ale came round our way;
"By gom we women fell a clacking
"As loud again as they.
"John sung 'Old Benbow' loud and strong,
"And I, 'The Constant Swain,'
"'Cheer up my Lads,' was Simon's song,
"'We'll conquer them again.'
"Now twelve o'clock was drawing nigh,
"And all in merry cue;
"I knock'd the cask, 'O, ho!' said I,
"'We've almost conquer'd you.'
"My Lord begg'd round, and held his hat,
"Says Farmer Gruff, says he,
"There's many a Lord, Sam, I know that,
"Has begg'd as well as thee.'
"Bump in his hat the shillings tumbl'd
"All round among the folks;
"'Laugh if you wool,' said Sam, and mumbl'd,
"'You pay for all your jokes.'
"Joint stock you know among the men,
"To drink at their own charges;
"So up they got full drive, and then
"Went out to halloo largess.
"And sure enough the noise they made!!
"But let me mind my tale;
"We follow'd them, we wor'nt afraid,
"We'ad all been drinking ale.
"As they stood hallooing back to back,
"We, lightly as a feather,
"Went sideling round, and in a crack
"Had pinn'd their coats together.
"'Twas near upon't as light as noon;
"'A largess,' on the hill,
"They shouted to the full round moon,
"I think I hear 'em still!
"But when they found the trick, my stars!
"They well knew who to blame,
"Our giggles turn'd to ha, ha, ha's,
"And arter us they came.
"Grace by the tumbril made a squat,
"Then ran as Sam came by,
"They said she could not run for fat;
"I know she did not try.
"Sue round the neathouse squalling ran,
"Where Simon scarcely dare;
"He stopt,for he's a fearful man
"'By gom there's suffen there!'
"And off set John, with all his might,
"To chase me down the yard,
"Till I was nearly gran'd outright;
"He hugg'd so woundly hard.
"Still they kept up the race and laugh,
"And round the house we flew;
"But hark ye! the best fun by half
"Was Simon arter Sue.
"She car'd not, dark nor light, not she,
"So, near the dairy door
"She pass'd a clean white hog, you see,
"They'd kilt the day before.
"High on the spirket there it hung,
"'Now Susie--what can save ye?'
"Round the cold pig his arms he flung,
"And cried, 'Ah! here I have ye!'
"The farmers heard what Simon said,
"And what a noise! good lack!
"Some almost laugh'd themselves to dead,
"And others clapt his back.
"We all at once began to tell
"What fun we had abroad;
"But Simon stood our jeers right well;
"He fell asleep and snor'd.
"Then in his button-hole upright,
"Did Farmer Crouder put,
"A slip of paper twisted tight,
"And held the candle to't.
"It smok'd, and smok'd, beneath his nose,
"The harmless blaze crept higher;
"Till with a vengeance up he rose,
"Grace, Judie, Sue! fire, fire!
"The clock struck one--some talk'd of parting,
"Some said it was a sin,
"And kilch'd their chairs;--but those for starting
"Now let the moonlight in.
"Owd women, loitering for the nonce,
"Stood praising the fine weather;
"The menfolks took the hint at once
"To kiss them altogether.
"And out ran every soul beside,
"A shanny-pated crew;
"Owd folks could neither run nor hide,
"So some ketch'd one, some tew.
"They skriggl'd and began to scold.
"But laughing got the master;
"Some quack'ling cried, 'let go your hold;'
"The farmers held the faster.
"All innocent, that I'll be sworn,
"There wor'nt a bit of sorrow,
"And women, if their gowns are torn,
"Can mend them on the morrow.
"Our shadows helter skelter danc'd
"About the moonlight ground;
"The wondering sheep, as on we pranc'd,
"Got up and gaz'd around,
"And well they might--till Farmer Chcerum,
"Now with a hearty glee,
"Bade all good morn as he came near 'em,
"And then to bed went he.
"Then off we stroll'd this way and that,
"With merry voices ringing;
"And Echo answered us right pat,
"As home we rambl'd singing.
"For, when we laugh'd, it laugh'd again,
"And to our own doors follow'd!
"'Yo, ho!' we cried; 'Yo, ho!' so plain
"The misty meadow halloo'd.
"That's all my tale, and all the fun,
"Come, turn your wheels about;
"My worsted, see!--that's nicely done,
"Just held my story out!!"
Poor Judie!--Thus Time knits or spins
The worsted from Life's ball!
Death stopt thy tales, and stopt thy pins,
And so he'll serve us all.
The idea of Buddist facilities, or Moslem facilities at this site dedicated to the Blessed Mother is obscene.
That Moslems, or Buddhists might come there to pray is encouraging.
Parents sending kids to Catholic schools do not rate religious education as an important factor in the decision. In much of the country, personal safety and discipline are the determining factors. This help[s explain why most parochial schools do not do much of a job in instilling Catholicity in their pupils, and why three generations or more of Catholic school graduates move on to college knowing nothing about the Faith.
News flash: Huge numbers of kids in Catholic schools are not Catholic.
Further News Flash: Huge percentages of the "Catholic" parents of kids in Catholic schools are non-practicing. And the percentages are growing year by year.
We have lost 40 years' worth of kids to the Faith through ridiculously weak Catholic education. That is one of the big reasons there is hardly anyone between the ages of 20-50 in the pews on Sunday (and the feminization of the Church explains why there are so few men).
Still, some few come back almost in middle age to raise their families in the Church. These generally have experienced some formational event and a re-awakening of faith that brings them back to the institutional Church. But the Church has very little in the way of structure outside the Mass to keep them, or make them comfortable. There are scarcely any prayer groups, discussion groups, book groups, and, at the grass-roots level, nothing in the way of orthodox/conservative,/traditionalist Catholic organizations that provide a network for them. But the Church has been egregiously haphazard in fostering their return and strengthening their commitment.
Dom Bettinelli has been following closely the Cape Cod gay murder case that involves two priests. Here, here, and here are his most recent posts on this scandal.
At the same time, Mark Sullivan continues to explore the reasoning behind the SJC's endorsement of gay marriage, here, and here.
The Fourth Penitential Psalm
Have mercy on me, O God, in Thy goodness. In the plentitude of Thy tender compassion blot out my offense.
Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned, and I have done evil before Thee.
This I declare that Thou mayst be known to be just in Thy sentence, and correct in Thy judgment.
For behold I was born in iniquity; and in sins did my mother conceive me.
For behold Thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of Thy wisdom Thou hast made manifest to me.
Sprinkle me with hyssop, that I may be cleansed. Wash me, that I shall be made whiter than snow.
To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that Thou hast crushed shall rejoice.
Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a steadfast spirit within my soul.
Cast me not away from Thy face; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.
I will teach the unjust Thy ways: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood guilt, O God, Lord of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol Thy justice.
Open Thou my lips, O Lord, and my tongue shall declare Thy praise.
For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings Thou wilt not be delighted.
A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
Deal favourably, O Lord, in Thy mercy will with Zion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be re-built.
Then shalt Thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and burnt offerings, then shall they lay calves upon Thy altar.
I once tried to memorize this Psalm, with very incomplete success.
Like Psalm 37/38, this is the cry of a penitent deeply afflicted by his sins. But here, the Psalmist dwells more on God's mercy than in the previous penitential Psalm. And the language is hopeful. He does not dwell on his affliction. But anticipates the result of God's mercy. "Sprinkle me with hyssop that I may be cleansed. Wash me that I shall be made whiter than snow."
The Psalms were once a daily part of the prayer life of a great many Catholics. Their beauty and the facts that they are both divinely-inspired and that they cover the full range of human emotions recommend them to all Christians. Spend some time with the Psalms. You cannot do better than to start with the Penitential Psalms, and then work your way up to the Psalms of thanksgiving and praise and petition.
The Third Penitential Psalm
Amazingly, it is Friday again, and time for another of the Penitential Psalms.
Today, since I want to finish up our discussion of sin, death, judgment, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory for November before Thanksgiving and Advent (which starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving), I'll also publish one of my favorites, Psalm 50/51 in the next blog. For Advent, i want to explore and discuss the concept of Agape.
At the outset, let me note two things. First is the richness and majesty of this translation (Douay-Rheims) compared to the thin, trite, overly colloquial translation in use in Catholic liturgy today. I understand from a link I read last week in Seattle Catholic, that the Vatican wants to do something to elevate the English translations of Scripture and the Mass. Let us hope that they are serious about it, and succeed.
Second is to recommend Saint John Fisher's An Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms, which is a modern English rendition of Fisher's difficult pre-Shakespearean prose. It was published in 1998 by Ignatius Press and is available in trade paper either on-line or at any good Catholic bookstore, and some good libraries. Fisher was the leading preacher and theologian of Tudor England, and gave his life for the Faith.
These essays on the seven Penitential Psalms were originally sermons, apparently preached for the grandmother of Henry VIII. Fisher is an optimist, stressing God's mercy and the availablity of forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance. The way he deals with these Psalms is enlightening and heartening. Priests and theologians could not do better than mining the long-neglected wealth of Fisher's Exposition for sermons and lectures.
Rebuke me not, O Lord, in Thy indignation; nor chastise me in Thy wrath.
For Thy arrows are fastened in me: and Thy hand hath been heavy upon me.
There is no health in my flesh, because of Thy wrath: there is no peace for my bones, because of my sins.
For my iniquities are gone over my head: and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me.
My sores are putrified and corrupted, because of my foolishness.
I am become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end: I walked sorrowful all the day long.
For my loins are filled with burning pain; and there is no health in my flesh.
I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly: I roared with the groaning of my heart.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee, and my groaning is not hidden from Thee.
My heart is troubled, my strength hath left me, and the light of my eyes itself is not with me.
My friends and my neighbours have drawn near, and stood against me. And they that were near me stood afar off.
And they that sought my soul used violence. And they that sought evils to me spoke vain things, and studied deceits all the day long.
But I, as a deaf man, heard not: and as a dumb man, not opening his mouth.
And I became as a man that heareth not: and that hath no reproofs in his mouth.
For in Thee, O Lord, have I hoped: Thou wilt hear me, O Lord my God.
For I said: Lest at any time my enemies rejoice over me: and whilst my feet are moved, they speak great things against me.
For I am ready for scourges: and my sorrow is continually before me.
For I will declare my iniquity: and I will think of my sin.
But my enemies live, and are stronger than I: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.
They that render evil for good, have detracted me, because I followed goodness.
Forsake me not, O Lord my God: do not Thou depart from me.
Attend unto my help, O Lord, the God of my salvation.
This Psalm is quite plaintive in tone. The Pslamist is afflicted by the weight of his own sin, but also by outside oppressors. He is forthright in admitting his sins, though he does not specify them. And the effects of sin are heavy upon this penitent.
"My sores are putrified and corupted." "...My loins are filled with burning pain." These are hard images to face. But the wages of sin are indeed death, the death of the soul.
In confessing his sins, the Psalmist hopes for redemption. "Thou wilt hear me, O Lord my God." He puts his faith in God, the only entity capable of restoring him to health through forgiveness. We should all seek escape from the traps of sin in the Sacrament, as Saint John Fisher points out in discussing this Psalm. That is what the Sacrament is there for. It is really the only hope for man, sinful by nature, to avoid eternal damnation.
Today, the Church remembers the Presentation of the Blessed Mother. It is the belief of the Church that the Blessed Mother was presented as a child at the Temple at Jerusalem so that she would be consecrated to God. This feast began in the East, and was extended to the Latin Church in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V. Also, historically, the Church of Saint Mary at Jerusalem, near the site of the Temple, was dedicated on this date.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Domenico Bettinelli tells us about a former pastor of his parish, and the havoc he has created. The latest involves solicitation of a young boy.
Even I could not read the Blogrolling links on the left. Now they are on the right, along with all the archives. The archives will be easier to use in this format. Once Blogrolling is fully operational again, I hope to group the links into more reasonable chunks, and alphabetize within the subject matter headings. For now it's a promiscuous hodgepodge of stores, blogs, music groups, and news sources.
I preferred the way the old template looked, but this is more readable. Unfortunately, all your comments, and mine, were lost in the transition. That is a shame as you guys really leave some pertinent, and impertinent, information in the comments box. So we have to start commenting over from scratch.
The Franciscans maintain an excellent site at AmericanCatholic.org where you can submit prayer requests. The larger site also has a great many useful things, such as on-line greeting cards, saint of the day information, Catholic Q&A, and meditations.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
The Second Penitential Psalm
As this is Wednesday, and I'm running out of time in my month devoted to sin, death, judgment, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, here is another of the Seven Penitential Psalms from the Douay-Rheims Bible On Line, with the line numbers and introduction edited out:
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Because I was silent my bones grew old; whilst I cried out all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: I am turned in my anguish, whilst the thorn is fastened.
I have acknowledged my sin to thee, and my injustice I have not concealed. I said I will confess against my self my injustice to the Lord: and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.
For this shall every one that is holy pray to thee in a seasonable time. And yet in a flood of many waters, they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me: my joy, deliver me from them that surround me.
I will give thee understanding, and I will instruct thee in this way, in which thou shalt go: I will fix my eyes upon thee.
Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding. With bit and bridle bind fast their jaws, who come not near unto thee.
Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory, all ye right of heart.
A good move from just about all points of view.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
And it is time to examine at least one Thanksgiving legend. There have been many claims to the title of "First American Thanksgiving." Let's take a quick peak at some of the more famous ones.
I know there are historic claims from Texas and Florida. But the Spanish presence in Texas was not what this country was built on. It was, in fact, a nuisance that needed to be overcome in the Mexican War. The claim is not well-documented. And there does not appear to have been a feast involved. A Spanish expedition was looking for fodder in the Texas desert, and stopped at a river bank to refresh themselves.
And the French protestants in Florida were wiped out by the Spanish for unlawfully setting up a settlement on Spanish territory. So the settlement was not a permanent one. Also, there is no documentary evidence of any kind of feast.
*The Popham Colony
This early Maine settlement claims the honor of the first Thanksgiving. Apparently, in 1609 the colonists there gave thanks in a day of prayer. There is no record of any feasting in honor of God's bounty. The colony itself did not last. It was wiped out by the combined effects of starvation and disease.
*The Berkeley Hundred
The settlers of this short-lived community in Virginia also gave thanks to God on their safe arrival. This, too, predated the Pilgrims' 1621 Thanksgiving. But again, there was no communal, or even family feast recorded, merely a day of prayer. The colony was wiped out by Indians in 1622.
Jamestown's settlers, too, gave thanks to God in 1610, on the arrival of a supply ship. Only a small percentage of the original colonists had survived the "starving time." Again, there was no feasting (supplies where still in too short supply).
This claim which has been embraced by most historians, has a couple of drawbacks. It would appear that this was, despite the Pilgrims' dislike for the pre-Christian custom, an English Harvest Home celebrated in September or October. There is little doubt that the pilgrims gave thanks for their harvest, and for their alliance with the local Indians. But they did not set this up as an annual custom. There was no 1622 Thanksgiving.
The pilgrims in the spring of 1623 suffered from a severe drought. In June, rain finally came, saving most of the withered crops. A day of prayerful thanksgiving was declared by the governor that June. But this was not a harvest feast. Without the harvest feast aspect, this can have little claim to be the First Thanksgiving.
Even though 1621's celebration was not in November, was in fact an English Harvest Home, and did not create the immediate precedent for annual thanksgivings, it has the best claim. But that won't stop local chauvinism.
We'll look at the 1621 bill of fare at another time. But I'll tell you now that there was probably no cranberry sauce on the menu.
He and his family have had a close encounter with a dangerous criminal.
The SJC has ruled that banning gay marriage is a violation of the Massachusetts constitution. Under the ruling, the legislature has 180 days to craft some sort of solution. The legislature, under heavy pressure from gay activists, has refused twice in the last 18 months to deal with adding a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution.
A federal solution is possible, though it would probably fare no better in the federal courts than the ban on partial-birth abortions has so far.
That sound you hear is the last vestige of morality going down the drain.
God help us.
Monday, November 17, 2003
It only took me 16 months to add links to this site! I'm using Blogrolling, but it doesn't seem to be working quite right. Half the links are invisible unless you run the cursor over them. Those are the seemingly empty spaces you see on the left. Sometimes, it seems as if there are no links there at all. But there are. Trust me.
But at least I have made this one baby step into the 21st century.
Granted, these are not the Cowboys of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. But beating any team coached by mercenary Bill Parcells is sweet, after what he pulled when he was here (taking the team to the Superbowl, and creating a disruptive controversy just before the game with leaked speculation about leaving the team).
My prayers are with him. He has a lot to deal with. But his absence from the airwaves while in rehab is just proof, I think, that he is the best in the business and has a very loyal audience. I've been listening for more than 12 years, as have many others.
The Rush audience is a giant family pouring forth prayers and good wishes for him. To have so many people praying for you must be a wonderful thing.
Lord, bless and keep him. May Your face shine upon him. Be gracious to him. Help him overcome his addiction. And help all of those crying to You for help.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Chris at Maine Catholic and Beyond has a post up on the rushing of Christmas by the merchants, and the crowding-out effect that has on Thanksgiving.
'Twas two weeks before Thanksgiving, and all around the North Shore, homeowners were putting up Christmas decorations. Now I can understand the desire to make use of the relatively clement weather to put up outdoor decorations in November. Who wants to be up on a ladder stringing lights along the top of the gutters in a December ice storm? But one can already see numerous Christmas trees in house windows up, decorated, and lit.
Yes, they are pretty, and when you use artificial trees you can have them up longer. Much longer. But aren't we putting the cart before the horse? Isn't there supposed to be a holiday between Halloween and Christmas? Did we not once celebrate it as something significant in and of itself?
It used to be that the long Thanksgiving weekend was the kick-off for Christmas. That has been the case since the late 19th century. Families would gather around the traditional holiday groaning board in a way that would make Norman Rockwell smile. Santa Claus would arrive at the malls and downtown on the day after Turkey Day.
The North Shore Mall has had Santa Claus at his station for a week now. The malls would be jammed on the day after Thanksgiving.
My sister-in-law's late sister was known as an early-bird for getting her tree up and decorated about 18 hours after the pumpkin pie was sliced up. Now folks have the tree up on Martinmas. If Patty were alive, I wonder...
Thanksgiving was led up to with a number of holiday specials (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Mouse on the Mayflower etc.). There were never as many Thanksgiving specials as Christmas specials, but there was a respectable number.
People left up their fall decorations and added pilgrims and turkeys to the pumpkins, Indian corn, apples, leaves, and cornstalks. People used to think about and remember the sufferings of the pilgrims and their determination to build a new society in a new world.
Thanksgiving menus were designed around the model of the fare of colonial New England. And if the gathering of family for a feast to thank God for His blessings wasn't enough, there was always plenty of football to watch. In fact, in the days before cars, there was some conflict between the desire to watch or play a football game, and the traditional family dinner.
Now, the menus for many Thanksgiving dinners are, shall we say, "nontraditional," because of the presence of so many wimps who are wet on the subject of eating meat or fats. Oh, that tofu turkey is so delicious! That nondairy whipped cream on the pumpkin pie really hits the spot! And the non-alcoholic wine really complemented the all veggie feast!
Give me a break, and pass a plate of white meat with a little stuffing and real gravy.
Try to find a football game on TV on Thanksgiving Day. Oh you can sit in the stands and freeze your buns off watching the local high school. But aside from municipal bragging rights, how much satisfaction (or enjoyment) is there in watching Malden play Medford, or Peabody play Saugus? Where are the pros and colleges? Why don't they add extra games for Thanksgiving Day and weekend? Are we becoming Euroweenies yearning for a "good" soccer game? Are we no longer tough enough to appreciate a good hard-fought football game?
Thanksgiving is in serious danger of being overwhelmed by Christmas. People have long hit the stores early on the day after Thanksgiving. Most reasonable employers give their employees the day off. But now, with Internet shopping, and people shopping on Veterans Day weekend, the stores are less crowded, giving the ubiquitous TV news crews nothing to report on the "first shopping day of the Christmas season." Since Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving has become serious, Thanksgiving has become an interruption in Christmas. As time goes on, it will become as less and less notable interruption.
People are decorating for Thanksgiving less than they used to. You used to see lots of pilgrims in house windows. At A C Moore this fall, I noticed that there were plenty of Halloween gee gaws available, but very little in the way of turkeys, pilgrims, and cornucopias.
Bring back the goofy looking pilgrims!
We have at least had the satisfaction of seeing the pilgrim re-enactors re-live the Pilgrims' Progress in Plymouth. But now they have to fight their way through a horde of "Native American" protestors (most of whom are 90% or more European since the original inhabitants of New England were largely wiped out by war and disease).
Glorifying the pilgrims is unpopular, since they are dead white male-dominated Europeans. Many students are taught that the pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians for saving their sorry butts from starving. They have no idea that they were giving thanks to God for his blessings in establishing what John Winthrop would call the shining "City On a Hill."
So I urge people to buck trends.
Put a ceramic pilgrim on your mantle.
Put Indian corn on your door, and a pumpkin beside it.
Don't touch those cornstalks. Don't turn the Christmas lights on until after Thanksgiving Day, even if you put them up before.
Start your Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
Serve a real turkey (they are not hard to cook) with stuffing, gravy, squash, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and mince pie.
Put a little Cointreau and orange rind into the whipped cream.
Ditch the pumpkin mousse, vegetable casserole, and tofu "turkey."
Watch a football game, even if it has to be the Detroit Lions.
Most importantly, give thanks to God for His many blessings (I'm sure you can think of something). Remember the pilgrims celebrating being alive and able to worship God as they saw fit.
And save some of that turkey breast for me. I like turkey sandwiches on nice fresh white bread with a little salt and a decent amount of Cain's mayonnaise. Yummy!
Mincemeat pie is, of course, traditionally associated with Christmas. But in New England, where the celebration of Christmas was relatively restrained for the first 150 or so years of our history, it was adopted as a Thanksgiving food. Thanksgiving tables in Massachusetts from 1740-1870 often boasted a mince pie.
Just goes to show you that you can't keep a good mince pie down (or a bad one, but that is a different matter).
Today, when you go out picking apples in September or early October, one of the things you can do with the bushels that come home is to make mincemeat, and thus you can begin making ready for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can either freeze the mincemeat in ziploc bags, or bake into pies, and freeze the pies until needed. I prefer the former method. In either case, it is a good thing to beat the holiday rush by getting your mincemeat ready now.
If you double-bag the mincemeat, it should keep in the fridge for many months. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, nothing says "home" like a warm mincemeat pie.
This pie was actually outlawed in New England during the earliest period of Massachusetts history, as it is a symbol of Christmas, the celebration of which was also against the law. The pie has been variously known as Neat's Pie, Shrid Pie, Christmas Pie, Mutton Pie, and of course, Mince Pie (which was more or less common by the end of the 18th century). As a staple of English and Irish cuisine, it dates back to medieval times at least.
Little Jack Horner's Christmas Pie, was, of course, mincemeat. The plumb he pulled out with his thumb was, in fact the deed to a plundered parcel of Church property, the deed to which, along with many others, was inserted into a huge Christmas Pie to be delivered, by Horner, to Henry VIII. Somehow, the property found its way into the possession of Horner, rather than Henry.
This would be a good time to try to correct a modern misconception. Raisins were known by various regional words in England and Ireland. In parts of England, they are called "figs." In other parts, they are called "plumbs" or "plums." In no case were either figs or plums as we know them ever included in traditional mincemeat, or plum pudding, or fruitcake. All those recipes you see for plum pudding that call for plums? Rip them out of your cookbook. The same with "Figgy Pudding" recipes with figs. All you want are raisins and currants.
Got it? Figgy Pudding does not have figs. Plum Pudding does not have plums. They are, in fact, the same thing, and both have raisins.
I am a firm believer that the better the quality of the ingredients you use, the better the finished product will taste. That is why I use sirloin tips rather than suet or stew beef. This recipe will make many pies. If there is a lot of liquid, drain it off and freeze it separately, as it can be served by itself either hot or cold as plum porridge. I suspect that the extra liquid from making mince pie was how that soup got started. Eat the plum porridge in small amounts, as even I would say it is very, very rich.
10 cups chopped apples, preferably freshly picked
4 cups diced sirloin tip meat fried or broiled (I pan fry)
2 cups of beef stock (your own, or canned)
2 cups of fresh sweet apple cider
8 cups of sugar
1 cup of molasses
3 tablespoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground cloves
4 lemons, rind and juice
3 tablespoons of salt
3 pounds of seedless raisins
1 pound of currants
1/2 pound of citron
1/4 pound candied or fresh orange rind
1/4 pound candied or fresh lemon rind
1 cup brandy (don't use "cooking brandy")
1 cup Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
at pie-making time
orange flower water to taste
brandy to taste
Captain Morgan's to taste
freshly ground nutmeg
cinnamon-sugar to taste (No, your teeth will not fall out, at least not right away.)
Chop the apples and beef finely and place in a large pot with all the remaining measured ingredients. Simmer slowly for up to three hours, stirring every few minutes. The aroma is incredible, and will make the house smell like the holidays in no time.
Once the mincemeat has cooled, drain the excess liquid for plum porridge, and freeze it in a separate container (that won't leak in your freezer). Put the mincemeat into gallon Ziplocs, and freeze.
There should be enough mincemeat for 6-8 mince pies. But the mince pie is so rich, you might want to serve it in tart or individual serving-size pie pans.
When it's time for making the pies, thaw the mincemeat in the refrigerator for a day or two. Make two short crusts for each pie. Line the pie pan with crust. Add the mincemeat. Pour on some orange flower water, Captain Morgan's, and brandy, and a grating of fresh nutmeg to taste. I use fairly liberal doses of all in my mince pies. Put on the top layer of crust, and seal the edges, leaving ventilation slits in the top crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees (you may want a drip tray under the pie in the oven), and then for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, but watch the crust carefully.
When the pie is fresh out of the oven, sprinkle the top with a generous portion of cinnamon-sugar. Once baked, the pies keep in the fridge for a week. They taste terrific warm or cold. Vanilla ice cream is great on top. Eggnog Ice Cream would not be too much.
You expect to put on some weight during the holidays. Live a little.