Friday, August 28, 2009

"The melancholy, long, withdrawing roar" claims another fine old church

Catholic Culture noted the closing of 170-year-old St. John the Baptist church in Schenectady, NY, by the Diocese of Albany, which is boldly spreading the Faith by closing 33 parishes in the next three years. Bishop Howard Hubbard has presided over the collapse of Catholicism in his diocese since 1977, closing 36 parishes previously.

With considerable irony, the date of SJB's closing was June 24, the feast of -- as the lone commenter (a priest) pointed out on the Albany Business Review's story -- you guessed it, St. John the Baptist.

The parish still has a forlorn little website up. You can see the stained glass windows here. The altar had long ago undergone the mandatory wreckovation, though most of the basic architecture was still to be seen. Behind the altar is a huge wooden carving depicting St. John (I guess) being engulfed by a tidal wave on the Jordan or possibly consumed by a large carnivorous plant. The last worship schedule listed a single Sunday Mass, a "folk Mass" at 10:00 AM.

"Folk Mass"?? When did "aggiornamento" get defined as "keeping the Church tied to the pop culture of 1964"?

At least it won't be torn down. It's going to become the new performing home of Schenectady Light Opera. Maybe they'll treat St. John better than the diocese did.

Some things don't change

It seems to me that, in a sense, the Cross of Calvary was no anomaly, no betrayal of Christ unique to its place in time, or the people who actually took part in it. The Cross is always what happens to Jesus, to the Word Made Flesh, whenever He appears in this world we chose in place of the one He made; either in His full form in Jesus of Nazareth, the Second Person of the Trinity; or in His partial form, in His followers who, now and then, trust Him with their lives. Jesus could have dropped in anytime in human history and our charming species would have done Him in just the same.

More than that: if God's plan of salvation had been different, and Jesus had re-entered time every year somewhere on January 1, every generation would still have found a reason and a way to get Him to someplace like Calvary by 11:59PM on December 31. And probably much sooner: it was a quick five days from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, after all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Progress without Pause

From an article by Gilbert Meilaender in the February 2009 First Things:

"What does it profit a man," Kierkegaard writes, "if he goes further and further and it must be said of him: he never stops going further; when it must also be said of him: was there nothing that made him pause?"

Meilaender is writing in the context of recent reports of a successful human cloning in, of course, California. It used to be that a sensible fear of science overreaching itself was a staple of the common culture, expressed in the standard "mad scientist" character. Now, it seems, scientists who are inclined to indulge their lust for experimentation without moral boundaries are permanently excused from any scrutiny, as long as they clothe their work in the mantle of a search for knowledge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Could the "reform of the reform" finally be starting?

This article from the website mentions unconfirmed reports (unconfirmed by the Vatican, that is) that there may finally be some progress toward the much-needed "reform of the reform" in Catholic liturgy, to convey more of a sense of the sacred. Ideas that have been suggested by the Congregation for Divine Worship include (gasp!) an end to the practice of receiving communion in the hand, and (double gasp!) a return to the celebration of the Mass ad orientem. That is, with the priest facing God and leading us to Him, not facing us to tell us what terrific people we are.

It can't come too soon.

Missions? Really?

Yesterday, most of the homily time at St. Thomas Aquinas was taken up by an appeal on behalf of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur -- specifically their missions program in third world countries. Our priest called it the best mission-oriented message he had heard.

Yet I noticed something that left me very uneasy. The nun who spoke described quite a few charitable efforts going on at Notre Dame missions: teaching their African students to raise their own food, for example, so they wouldn't have to sit through their classes hungry.

Laudable, yes. But I kept waiting for any mention of the main thing that I thought missions were supposed to be for: bringing the Catholic Faith to those who don't have it. I waited. And I waited. And then the speech was over.

I have no doubt the Notre Dame sisters do many charitable things in foreign countries. But really, how is this different from what many secular groups do, like the Peace Corps? And frankly, often do better?

Why don't they want to emphasize -- or even mention -- the one thing that Catholic religious orders have always been proudest to do -- tell the world about Christ and His Church?

Monday, August 03, 2009

A teachable moment

After the recent Beer Summit, the White House published this photo of the three men leaving the Rose Garden. Pretty unremarkable at first glance. But then you notice something...

Self-described victim of racial profiling Henry Gates, who walks with a cane, is being helped down the steps by the supposedly racist officer who arrested him. President Obama, in the meantime, strides ahead, appearing unconcerned now that most of the political advantage to be gained from Mr. Gates' arrest has been harvested.

On to health care! And when all the political advantage has been wrung out of that "emergency", it'll be on to something else. But you'll have to depend on someone else to show you some actual kindness.

Quite a "teachable moment", indeed.