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Pope: world needs good Christian families more than ever June 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, North Deanery, Papa, sickness, Society.
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I heartily agree:

In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever,” [Pope Leo XIII said: “The family may be regarded as the cradle of civil society, and it is in great measure within the cricle of family life tha the destiny of states is fostered.”  Strong family life is vital for a strong culture.] Pope Benedict XVI told the people of Croatia on Sunday at a Mass before a crowd of hundreds of thousands. 

Celebrating the Mass for the for the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, the pope said “we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe.” [Perhaps especially in Europe, but in many other locales, as well.  Certainly, North America is not much different.]

We are called to oppose the mentality of love reduced to sexual gratification without marriage and openness to life,” he said. [This is the cruxt of the matter – sex separated from the marital embrace and oriented towards sterility, not procreation.]

The pope called on families to “be courageous.”

Alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them,” he said.

Strong Christian families provide a visible witness to the broader culture.  Our actions and behaviors should distinguish us as Christian, with the practice of virtue and obedience to the Truth Christ revealed.  It is difficult to be countercultural over time. There are many temptations to compromise or simply give in to the ways of the world.  But the witness is so necessary we must persevere, and pray that we may be given the Grace to give a witness to the Faith and virtues and effect some small changes in the culture. 

I pray that individual leaders in the Church stress Catholic family life more and more.

The Conformity of a Devout Soul with its Crucified Lord June 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, General Catholic, Interior Life, North Deanery, Society.
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More gold from Vera Sapientia, Book III Chapter VI:

Hear, O son, when you are in trouble and grief of heart, then you are with Jesus upon the cross; and when you are consoled in devotion and rejoice in hymns and Divine canticles, ehn you arise with Jesus in newness of spirit, and, as it were, come forth from the sepulchre of sin, and singing joyfully, Alleluia!

But when you pray on bended knee for your sins, feeli internal sorrow and supplicate for them, then you knock violently at the gate of Heaven.  But when you neglect all earthly things, and meditate only on the heavenly, then you ascend with Jesus to Heaven, and are associated with the angels.

Be therefore meek, humble, and penitent, for God’s sake, on every occasion and in every trial that befalls you, and carry your cross patiently with Jesus, because every affliction of the flesh patiently borne is a medicine for the soul, a satisfaction for sins, and a hope of future happiness and glory.

And then a few thoughts on being poor, from Chapter VII:

Blessed is the poor who has God for his helper in every tribulation, his comfort in every anguish, his only hope and confidence in difficulties, and his crown of glory in the kingdom of eternal happiness.  Voluntary poverty is a precious virtue practised by Christ, the eternal rewardof which is with the angels in Heaven, where neither the theif can enter to steal it nor the robber to kill the possessor of it.

The rich of this world (ulp) are surrounded with many dangers and daily anxieties from which the servant of Christ is free, by the renunciation of all things in the world.  Great is the freedom of a faithful soul that has no property in anything on account of the Kingdom of God and the love of Jesus Christ, but possesses all in Christ, who became poor and afflicted for us………..

Oh good poverty, unless God had first assumed thee, thy severity would not be despised by all!  Blessed poverty of goods, which takes away the pride of eyes and the occasion of many sins! 

He is truly poor in spirit who does not take pride in any word or act, and who does not desire to be in a higher place, lest he should grievously fall.  Oh, great is the virtue of poverty!

This last bit makes me think.  Jesus said the poor would always be with us.  Of course, we are called to be as generous as possible in aiding the poor.  My family and I make many efforts in this regard. But at the same time, the Church has extolled poverty in material goods as a positive good in the attainment of a life of virtue, a taking up of the Cross to follow Christ through material deprivation.  Thinking on this, I have a hard time reconciling how many in the Church seem to want to reduce it to an global anti-poverty organization, and use the Church’s enormous clout to seek radical changes in governments and economies in order to redistribute wealth.  Efforts to aid the poor done privately have much merit, they garner much Grace.  But I am not convinced such efforts done under government fiat are healthy, spiritually or materially.

How to turn a parish around June 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Interior Life, Latin Mass.
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The blog Unam Sanctam Catholicam has had an ongoing series of posts (4 in all), detailing how a parish in the Diocese of Lansing, MI, went from a haven of dissent, abuse, and generally poor practice of the Faith to a far more vibrant, orthodox, and spiritually focused parish with monthly TLMs and vastly improved standards across the board.  They make for quite interesting reading.  I will list all the posts in order below.  This process of transformation has taken some time – over 4 years, and is by no means complete (Ecclesia Semper Reformanda!), but they show what a determined pastor can do, even with a Bishop who is not entirely supportive.  In fact, the relations between the bishop and pastor are alluded to with some frequency, and one element here seems key – the new, orthodox pastor got the parishes finances in order, which led to him gaining wide latitude for his reforms from the bishop, even in the face of a fair number of complaints and internal resistance. 

Also very interesting to read was the necessity for the pastor to either remove, or reassign, a number of lay people from various roles in the Church, in order to improve the quality of all the aspects of the Faith as practiced in this parish – this included the music minister and others.  A little more on this:

The very first thing my pastor did to renew the parish was to make alterations to the staff. This was two-fold: first, for fiscal reasons, he eliminated a lot of superfluous staff, such as the DRE’s “secretary”, and consolidated positions. Second, he hired a few key staff members who shared his vision and would be supportive. This meant letting go some older staff members, but in most cases they were ready to go. The old parish secretary was actively undermining the pastor and speaking ill about him publicly; she was consequently let go and replaced with a devout woman supportive of the pastor and his vision. I’m not sure how the old DRE was let go, but for this key position the pastor sought out a young person (all previous DRE’s had been old, people who had made a life out of it) with a background in solid, Thomist theology. This happened to be Anselm, my co-blogger. With some superfluous positions cut and two solid people hired, the pastor was forming a core team. A loyal staff of two in a parish of 600 families might not be a lot, but it was important for him to have somebody to go back to, somebody he could be confidential with and that would support him and back up his actions. This was just as much for emotional support as it was for strategic purposes.

So, the first thing he did was hire some loyal staff. The Youth Group, music and other staff positions were still in the hands of progressives, but this would change.

In my experience (limited), this is hugely important.  Having heterodox staff can dramatically lessen an orthodox pastor’s ability to execute his reform.  In some cases, they can completely block it.  In all the cases I’ve seen where a pastor sought to make a parish far more orthodox, staff had to be let go – sometimes just a few key folks, but at times wholesale turnover is necessary (or just eliminate the positions and move on – you’d might be surprised how less than vital many parish staff positions are, at least at some locales). 
Other key efforts to make this reform successful were orthodox preaching (this cannot be underestimated, it is absolutely vital, and must be constant), carefully managed public relations (although, I would favor a somewhat more bold approach than occurred in this Michigan parish), very thoroughly reviewed staff for critical positions like religious education, and gradual changes to the Liturgy to make it more orthodox, but always moving in right direction. 
It’s a very interesting set of posts.  The approach outlined is fairly conservative and generally designed to make as few waves as possible, and I might prefer a more bold approach, but do note that throughout the process folks did leave the parish.  The progressives simply would not stand for orthodox catechesis and a reverent liturgy, which is sad, but at the same time, they were presented the Truth, and conciously rejected it.  It is more important to present that Truth clearly and unapologetically (but with due charity), than to cater to those so deeply mired in the cultural mindset that they insist on poor or even heterodox formation, and watered down protestantized liturgy.  Those who remained (and the many who have come seeking this Truth) are much better for it.  We must stop allowing the discontented and the, sorry to say, ‘catholic in name only’ crowd to dictate the standards in our parishes (and dioceses), the sort of ‘lowest common denominator’ Catholicism that has been tried for decades but yielded very bad fruit.  We must constantly, with great love and passion, share all that Truth that Christ has revealed through His Church, no matter how unpopular or countercultural it may be.
Posts in order below:
Part 1 – interesting run down of the status of the parish upon arrival of orthodox pastor.  It was a disaster.  One quote regarding the finances “The trend was to spend lavishly on idle frivolities while refusing to spend for the upkeep of the facilities…” 
Part 2 Initial stages of reform.  Key staff changes. 
Part 3  Further along in the reform.  Concentration on improving the Liturgy, including the gradual addition of Latin preceded by much catechesis.
Part 4  Current status.  Monthly TLMs.  Chant.  Versus Deum (Ad Orientem).  Generous Adoration and Confession.  Public Processions of the Blessed Sacrament.  In short, a vibrant Catholic parish with a distinct Catholic IDENTITY. 
It can be done.  It only takes prayer, God’s Grace, and the will to make these changes.  I have been in parishes where this transformation has taken place, and I have been in some where it is still more in progress.  But those parishes are still too few and far between.  Let us pray.

Sick skill, or immense luck? June 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, Basics, silliness, Society.
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Neptunus Lex seems to vote for the latter:

He cleared the ground by maybe 3 feet.  If those guys hadn’t run and ducked, they could have been killed. 

Then, to top it off, he does a max-G roll at less than 1000 ft AGL!  As I said, either that pilot is immensely skilled and knew precisely what he was doing, or he got incredibly lucky.  Having said that, the Brits can attest that the Argies do have some skilled aviators.