Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It's Good To Be The Pastor, Part II

One of the things that has been keeping me busy over the last few weeks is trying to address some of the needs I have identified in the parish, and making preparations for the Solemnity of Christ the King and the season of Advent.

I've been re-training my altar servers. In so many parishes, the servers are really not properly trained, and consequently just sort of shuffle and bumble their way through the liturgy (not the case here, BTW). I resolved a long time ago that in any parish I pastored, I would personally devote time and attention to training my servers. Not only so that they will make the bella figura in the liturgy, but so they can really take pride in what they are doing, and see the true importance of their ministry. A good friend of mine remarked that the priest needs to see himself not just as teaching the servers what to do, but as forming them in God's service. So I've been trying to do just that. I think that here, as in any other ministry to young people, we need to challenge them with a high standard, with something they have to invest themselves in, and help them rise to the challenge.

I've also been re-training the Lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. In this case, for the most part they didn't need to be taught what to do. But there were a few aspects in which those ministries had not been carried out in complete harmony with either the GIRM or the "Instruction on the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest". So my goal is to bring our practice into conformity with the Universal Church.

In addition to those things, I have been spending a lot of time planning for the big solemnity, Advent, and Christmas. I've been thinking about music, decorations, etc. I'm starting to introduce some chant in the liturgy, so I've begun working with the choir on that. In my previous assignment as associate in a big parish, the director of liturgy and pastor took care of such things, and I didn't really have to worry about them. Here, we have me. It's a lot of work, but this is really the fun part of the job for me. I want our Christmas liturgies in particular to be as solemn and beautiful as they can be.

I'm also going to be shopping for new vestments and altar hangings for my two churches in the near future. We're really in need of these things - most of what we have is of '70's and '80's vintage, and are overdue to be replaced. That's fun stuff for a priest as well!

Next Sunday night I'm going to be visiting with our 8th and 9th grade CCD kids, and fielding their questions. I'm deliberately making it a sort of free-for-all. So say a prayer that I can answer their questions well, and help invite them to get to know Jesus and the Church He founded a little better!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Test For George Bush and The Republicans

By now, you probably know that yesterday The Washington Times revealed a letter by Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito in which he stated that "the constitution does not protect a right to abortion". The letter, dating from 1985, was part of Alito's application for a job in the Reagan administration.

The Washington Times article predicted that the letter is "likely to inflame liberals who oppose Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court". As anticipated, the acolytes of The Sacrament of the Left are lining up to denounce Alito:

Ralph Neas of People for the American Way (yes, the right to slaughter defenceless infants in the womb is an integral part of the American Way) decried Alito's opposition to "a woman's constitutional right to reproductive freedom". Of course, Neas doesn't mean a woman's "freedom" to reproduce, but her "freedom" not to reproduce, even if that's just tough luck for the child involved.

Of course, the Catholic senior senator from Massachussetts, Ted Kennedy, solemnly intoned that he found Alito's "extreme statements" to be "very troubling". Interesting that he doesn't seem at all troubled by the millions of innocents whose death he has facilitated by his singleminded advocacy of abortion.

And, of course, Senator Charles Schumer of New York declared that Alito's remarks create "a perception of bias". Never mind his bias against the right of the most innocent and defenceless to ever draw breath.

Judge Alito's remark was, in reality, a simple statement of reality. The constitution does not, in fact, contain in any way, shape, or form a "right to abortion". Only a Court embarking on an "exercise of raw judicial power" could find one in "emanations and penumbras" undiscernible until Justice Blackmun's hieratic powers went to work on the document. And while even liberal legal scholars like Alan Dershowitz have admitted that Roe was badly decided, the abortion-besotted senators have become blinded to a fact which any first-year law student can plainly see. They are living personifications of the Shea dictum "Sin makes you stupid".

Nonetheless, the liberal denunciations and ejaculations of outrage were utterly predictable. They are a set piece, like the patter song of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. The real question is, what will President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate do in response? The President is perceived as being politically weakened, and some RINOs, such as Susan Collins and Arlen Specter, may try to cut and run, leaving Alito hanging in the wind. Will the President and the other Republicans enforce party discipline? Will they be faithful to the conservatives who put them in office? Or, in the face of angry Democrats and the tongue-clucking of the New York Times' and Washington Post's editorial boards, will they cave in and allow Alito to be "borked"?

What happens between now and January is a test. We have been given ample evidence to doubt the sincerity and seriousness of the Republican pro-life committment. If they abandon Alito, or even passively allow him to go down to defeat, they will send an unmistakable signal - one which conservatives will receive with absolute clarity - and stay home in droves for the 2006 election.

By The Way, A Belated Thank You

One of my readers sent me a much appreciated gift about a month ago. He's a regular reader and knows my likes and foibles all too well. He sent me a bottle of 15 year-old Laphroaig (the really good stuff) and a couple of good cigars.

Thanks very much, D.C.! I'll be raising a glass in your honor very soon!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Speaking of Hunting...

The other night, as I was cleaning my shotgun, I was brought to mind of the phenomenon of people either blowing holes in their walls, or more unfortunately, in their limbs or heads, while "cleaning their gun". It struck me at that moment that, in order for such a thing to really happen, the victim/perpetrator would have to exhibit an almost mind-boggling degree of stupidity. (I leave aside situations where the "gun cleaning accident" is a euphemism for suicide.)

This should be obvious to anyone familiar with how guns work. For those of you unversed in the arcana of firearms, let me explain: You see, in order to clean a gun, the action (that is, the parts which move the shell/bullet into the firing chamber and actuate the firing pin) must of necessity be open. And a gun simply cannot fire if the action is open. Not only that, but it is inconceivable to me how a shell/bullet could remain in the chamber once the action is open. I suppose someone could attempt to clean a gun without opening the action, but once again you enter the realm of extreme stupidity. Trying to clean a gun without opening the action would be rather like trying to go to the bathroom whilst leaving your pants on: one could do it, but it should be intuitively obvious that the result will be unsatisfactory.

That should give you a little insight with which to understand "gun cleaning accidents" in a new light.

So Where Have I Been This Time?...

Well, I haven't really been, anywhere, except busy - if that's a place. In a sense it is a place. At these times I feel "removed" from the wider world in the activity of my parish and my priestly ministry, and while I listen to the news and read some of the other bloggers, I don't really pay more than cursory attention. Then I emerge, as I'm doing now, with a few observations and things to say.

But I've been having some fun as well. Last Thursday I went out for a few hours and did some pheasont hunting with one of my parishioners. He owns some property a few miles outside of town, and we walked the fields, following the trained nose of his chocolate Lab, Buck. A couple of times the dog got too far ahead of us and flushed a bird out of range, but otherwise he did his job well. I, on the other hand, did not hold up my end very well. Buck flushed 3 or 4 birds in my field of fire, and while I had good shots at them all, I must confess I failed to hit any of them. I do have the excuse of not having been out hunting for two years, and therefore being a rather rusty shot. After the third missed bird, the dog came back to me, and I'll swear he was giving me a quizzical look, as though he were saying "what's your problem?" I felt embarrassed enough to apologize to the dog, saying "Sorry, Buck. You did a good job, I just couldn't hit the broadside of a barn today." I'm going to have to go out and shoot some clay pigeons so as not to let the dog down again.

But my host did shoot a couple of pheasants, and, much like fishing, even a bad day hunting (or a day hunting badly) is a good day. And the following evening I joined him and his wife for a lovely dinner, featuring the pheasants he had shot, with some rice and a nice bottle of Italian wine.

This week the deer season opens here in Michigan, so half of the male population of my parish is off to various cabins and camps in hope of bagging that big buck. I've never been much interested in deer hunting myself. I like the getting out and walking around that pheasant and quail hunting entail. The idea of sitting in a blind or stand waiting for a deer just doesn't do much for me. But I wish the guys well.