Monday, July 21, 2014

Blasphemy at Fox News prompts boycott


I was watching a Fox News report from Gaza during the beginning of the Israeli assault. There was the sound of a loud explosion and the reporter ducked and yelled out, "Jesus Christ," not as a prayer, but like an expletive.

That is blasphemy. A violation of the Second Commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Now given the circumstances, I can sympathize with someone reacting unthinkingly out of fear, so while what he did was wrong, at least there were mitigating circumstances. What he should have done at that point is apologize for his language. It's possible he may have later and Fox did not carry it.

The larger fault lies with Fox News. They broadcast the comment, and did nothing to apologize for it. Again, as a live report it might have slipped through - but they should have then said something about it. They did not. Moreover, they broadcast the comment again later - unedited, unapologized for. There they clearly had some control. They seemed not to care.

There's no excuse for that.

It may be that they are totally oblivious as to the wrongness of the comment. Let's put it in a way the Fox folks might understand: Imagine if someone had similarly used the name of Mohamed. There would be an outcry, and maybe even a death threat against the person. The network would likely have said something. The reporter might even have faced suspension - or loss of job.

But since it was Jesus Christ, and it's a swear a lot of people use without thinking, it seems not to matter. Not to the folks at Fox, anyway.

Well it does to me.

Call me a crank. Accuse me of blowing it out of proportion.

I don't care.

I expect an apology.

Until I hear something, Fox News has joined MSNBC on my "Do Not Watch" list.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 20, 2014

No more lay preaching in the Diocese of Rochester


As I expected, our new Bishop, Salvatore Matano, has made it clear lay people (including women religious) should not be preaching during the time for the homily.

This has been an ongoing abuse in this diocese. The most blatant examples included lay people speaking the entire homily time - that was partly curtailed by our previous Bishop. But priests tried to get around it (with diocesan "acceptance," or least lack of enforcement) by having the priest or deacon speak for a minute or two, giving the "homily," then letting the lay person speak the rest of the time.

The abuse has always bugged me. I got caught in one situation last year where I was asked to lector, and then the priest engaged in a "dialogue homily" with a seminarian residing at the parish. The seminarian - not yet a deacon - was asked questions, and spent most of the homily time responding to the questions. A fudging of the rules, and, to my mind, a clear violation. That was the last time I agreed to lector.

I wonder what other changes/corrections are coming? I know at my parish the priest wants us to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. The national norm is to kneel unless there's a good pastoral reason to stand - such as lack of kneelers, or Masses in places like gyms (we had to do that while our church building was being repaired). The other weekday the priest stopped the Mass and told those of us who were kneeling to stand. I did, but I have not been back since.

I play with the contemporary music group at that parish, but we'll only play once a month. I'll show up for that, but I will not rejoin the regular choir or attend that church until the kneeling is instituted. I'm hoping the Bishop will instruct the priest to do that; the Bishop is scheduled to say Mass at the parish in August, and if he sees people standing he might say something. I hope.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping the Bishop will join us for one of our pro-life events. 40 Days for Life this fall would be good!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Word Crimes - He's back!








I might be able to use this one in school.




Pax et bonum

Monday, July 14, 2014

Haiku and Franciscan Spirituality


I've noted this before, but it remains true: There would seem to be a natural link between haiku and Franciscan Spirituality.

The sense of something more, something deeper, something that flows through all and connects us all.

The love of nature.

A feeling of compassion for others.

Humor.

Humility.

I could go on.

Yesterday, I experienced that link again.

Our local haiku group had scheduled a ginko - a gathering in a natural setting where, hopefully, we would be inspired to write haiku. The ginko was to take place in a city park - the Maplewood Rose Garden, which, as the name suggests, is full of different varieties of roses (and other flowers).

We arrived to be greeted by ... rain. At times, the rain was heavy, accompanied by strong winds. The larger gazebos were all full of people, including some of the local homeless who use the park as a campground, and, we suspect based on the reputation of the park, entrepreneurs carrying on their drug trade. There was one small gazebo that was unoccupied, and we used that one as a base, jamming in to escape the rain and to write.

In between heavy downpours, we wandered among the roses. They had a variety of names, like Golden Showers (appropriate yesterday), Gemini (to my amusement, just a single plant), and those of famous people, including a spot for Dolly Parton roses (which, I noted with a chuckle, was bereft of rose bushes and hence "flat").

The was a fountain, dedicated 18 years before, that was empty of water (except for that provided by the rain) and not working. That inspired me to write:

rose garden fountain
empty except for babbling
haiku poets

When the wind and rain and thunder drove us into the gazebo for shelter and to write, I watched some of the other park visitors. There was one group that huddled in one shelter, looking at us occasionally and keeping their backs to us. In another shelter, several people were sleeping. Three young men were laughing and throwing a football in the pouring rain. There were several people who eyed us nervously - haiku poets inspiring unease? - and wandered from tree to tree. There was one woman who was dressed in mismatched clothes. She stopped periodically, talking to herself, gesturing, even dancing. I wondered if she was troubled, perhaps mentally ill, possibly even on drugs. I said a prayer for her.

On of our poets noted. laughing at herself, that here she was a haiku poet who seeks inspiration in nature, yet she is sensitive to the sun, allergic to bees, and nervous about ticks. She had on wrist and ankle bands to keep insects away, and rummaged through her bag for something lotion to rub on as she watched the bees floating in and out of the gazebo also seeking shelter from the rain.

nature poet
intently searching bag for
insect repellent

We shared haiku the ginko inspired - I had none (the two that I included above were written later); I was just enjoying the moment and the others' creations.

I also thought of St. Francis. I could imagine him sitting there listening to the others, enjoying and celebrating their efforts, chuckling, wondering about the other park denizens. Caring about them. I could imagine him wandering over to some of the others  - like that dancing woman - sharing God's love. Maybe he would have danced with her.

I was not so brave or full of love.

Would Francis have written haiku if that form had been invented centuries earlier than it was and if it had reached Italy? I'd like to imagine he would have.

in the rose garden
St. Francis praises the rain
embraces the thorns

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday morning Mass


Many of our local parishes used to have Saturday morning Mass (my old home parish didn't). As the number of priests decreased, parishes began to give up on the Masses.

Near me, there's only one parish within a reasonable drive (about 15 minutes in good weather) that has a Saturday morning Mass, so I go there. I've noticed a number of people from other parishes, and from the other Franciscan fraternity, there. (There were four Franciscans there this morning!) It's nice to have that contact.

I know daily Mass is not required of lay people, but it's a nice spiritual practice. During summers I try to get to daily Mass; during the school year, I can't get to weekday Masses, but I can make it on Saturdays. So this parish is an oasis for me year round. It's also where they have a Saturday morning (7 a.m.) men's group I attend; breakfast, prayer, discussion, followed by Mass. Nice.

Maybe some day there will be more priests and more Masses available on Saturday morning. For now, I'm content.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stand. That's an order.


I went to morning Mass at my home parish. I don't always go to daily Mass there during the summer (as a teacher, I have the time to go). Part of it is the time - the Mass is a bit later than one at another nearby parish. But there's also the problem of an older retired priest who sometimes goes off on tangents during his homilies and criticizes the Church. Rather than taking a chance of getting upset I go elsewhere when I think he might be saying the Mass.

But today the pastor was saying the Mass.

He and I have had a few disagreements over liturgical practices. One of them is over standing during the Eucharistic prayers. The parish had begun the practice during a construction project when Masses were celebrated in the former school gym. Standing made sense in that situation. But when we went back to the church, even though there were kneelers available, the practice continued.

I respectfully spoke to him about this, pointing out that the norm in the U.S. is to kneel (aware, however that this is not the case in Europe, for example), but he said we would continue to stand. I wrote to our former bishop - he's since retired - seeking guidance. He wrote back to say it was up to the pastor and to follow his directions. In the spirit of obedience I did so at Sunday Masses.

At daily Masses, though, I noticed some people knelt, including some old-timers and active members of the parish. I did so in conjunction with them, figuring it was okay. This has been going on for a couple of summers.

This morning, though, when several of us knelt at the beginning of the prayer he suddenly stopped and instructed us to stand as that is the practice at the parish and as a sign of unity.

I stood. But I felt troubled. Why did he have to stop the Mass to say that? Why did he have to single us out? We were not trying to be disrespectful.

I'm not sure what to do. My ties to the parish are tenuous these days - I play with the contemporary liturgical group - which I love to do - and I was planning this fall to rejoin the regular choir after a year's break. Plus, the parish allows us to use meeting rooms for our Franciscan gatherings.

But now I'm feeling as if it might be time for me to move on.

I need to cool down, think, and pray.

Pax et bonum

One myth of homosexuality


Repeat a myth enough times and some people come to believe it – but that still does not make the myth true.  Such is the case with the myth that when it comes to homosexuality people are made that way. It makes for a catchy line in a Lady Gaga song, but it doesn’t make it true.

Indeed, researchers have been digging for years to find some physical cause for one to be “homosexual,” – a so-called “gay gene” in the popular shorthand – but have been unable to do so. The evidence, in fact, counters that theory (some of the studies of identical twins, for example).
While there seems to be within humans a range of sexual inclinations/predispositions, the evidence indicates that a variety of environmental factors play the main role in determining whether one identifies oneself as homosexual. Those factors include where one is raised, the home life, the models one has (or lack), societal and peer pressure, and so on. Again, studies of identical twins provide some strong support for this. Medical, psychological, anthropological studies all support this.
The norm in nature is to engage in heterosexual activities. While there are individuals in a number of species that engage in homosexual activities, such activities are not the norm – they are not “normal” – and are often linked to environmental factors.
Beyond environmental factors, whether one chooses to engage in homosexual activities is in the end just that, a choice. All sexual activity is a choice. One can choose to be celibate. One can chose to marry and engage in sexual activities with one’s husband/wife. One can choose to engage in sexual activities with as many partners as possible (the playboy/playgirl). One can choose to engage in homosexual activities. But it’s a matter of conscious choice. Surely you are not arguing that the individual who identifies himself/herself as homosexual is somehow less able to control his/her sexual activities?
And, one’s sexual activities do not define who one is. Indeed, defining oneself by sexual activities limits who one is. I am not a heterosexual – I am a human being.
To use an example: In my family there are a number of individuals who are addicted to alcohol and nicotine, and, to a lesser degree, other drugs. There seems to be in the family a predisposition toward addiction. But environment plays a role in shaping whether one engages in that behavior – pressures in the family, role models, availability, and so on. Alcohol and tobacco were legal and readily available, unlike illegal drugs, so those are the addictive substances of choice among most of my family members who have become addicts. But in the end the individual chooses whether or not to consume. Being aware of the tendencies in my family, I have always been careful about where I choose to go, with whom I choose to associate, how I choose to deal with pressures and difficulties, and what I choose to consume. I limit how much I drink. I chose early on not to smoke.
Right now, society is promoting/reinforcing various myths about homosexuality. People believe these myths because they are popular and accepted, they are cool, and so on.
But that does not make those myths any more true.
Pax et bonum