Catholic Church: January 2009 Archives

An election is always difficult for those whose candidate has not succeeded. This is particularly true in the last election when the stakes seemed so high. For the unborn they are high indeed.

And yet, if Obama is a principled, thinking man, as his supporters argue, and if he is indeed a man to be president to "all of us"--those who voted for him and those who did not--as he has promised, the time for carping and complaint is over and the time for engagement has begun--at least until the man has an opportunity to take office and give us a sense of how he intends to occupy it.

This man, for good or ill, is now our president for at least 4 years. His ardent supporters expect things from him that no man yet has ever been able to accomplish, and there are early signs that Obama is significantly aware of this. Washington will continue to be politics as usual.

And yet, I do think that the man about to enter the office is of quite a different sort than what we have become accustomed to over twenty years of mismanagement and duplicity. He is something of a cypher--the product of his own propaganda machine-- and so it is difficult to discern how he will serve the people of the United States. By his own words, it seems clear that he will serve the weakest and most vulnerable among us very poorly indeed.

That is a matter for two courses of action. The first is prayer--each of us should be storming heaven each night praying for this man and this congress that will shape the years ahead of us. Rather than complaining and throwing up our hands in disgust, it is even more imperative to become involved in supporting the causes of good and opposing evil. To this end, we also have incumbent upon us the responsibility to make clear to this obviously intelligent man that as leader of the free world, he does not have the luxury of having any "question that is above his pay grade." (This was his famous response to people questioning him about the morality of abortion.) It is now part and parcel of his job to wrestle with each of these questions and to deal with it with integrity and with something more than a lick and a promise. Because if he is to lead us all, he must lead a divided country and he must come to some terms with that division that does not simply dismiss half of its constituents. Will he do this? I suspect not. But without the combined effort of prayer and engagement, it seems certain not to happen.

I was very pleased in this last election when both California and Florida voted to define marriage in the traditional way--Florida within its state constitution. (That's not such a big deal as it may sound--apparently the FL State constitution can be altered on a whim--a few years back we inserted an amendment about conditions in pig-pens.) I was pleased not because I support the causes themselves. I was pleased because at a time when the American people expressed their disgust and aggravation with the present regime and voted for some sort of nebulous and unreliable "change," they also sent a clear message that they are not interested in the entire agenda. We do not wish to have an agenda crammed down our throats. There needs to be a time of discussion with real engagement and real listening rather than talking past each other and dismissing points as though no points have been made. We need to hear what the people who support marital rights for gays have to say and on what they base their reasoning and argument. We need to recognize that both sides have not so much reasoned with one another as they have fumed at one another. Is the "slippery slope" argument against the validation of gay rights reasonable and logical? If the matter is a matter of sin, is it also a matter for legislation? Must everything sinful also be illegal? It is not presently so, etc.

Obama is our president for the next several years. Perhaps through our prayers and through our frequent (let us say constant) vigilance and willingness to inform the government, perhaps we can bring about some of the justice we seek and some of the real change that he has promised--change that is meaningful, right, and which makes us a stronger nation, more dedicated to the principles upon which we were founded and more dedicated to doing always what is right, not what is convenient. We must acknowledge that we are likely to see much good as well as much bad from the next administration. There is little that is unmixed. We will need to pay attention to everything that he says and does and we will need to react to it, not with the nearly senseless vituperation I have seen in some quarters but with constant reasoning and argumentation.

[note: I am dissatisfied with this entry because it fails to capture the spirit of what I'm trying to say. I guess in part that I am arguing that we have now assumed the character of the "loyal opposition." Rather than doing what seems to be the case in recent politics, carping and tearing everything down, it seems we would better serve everyone by engagement and active amd thoughtful conversation. We may not achieve all of our goals, but we can hope to maintain the infamous Washington gridlock that keeps us from progressing too rapidly in the wrong direction.]

Update: entry altered for accuracy. Obviously, this statement proved untrue, and I must have misunderstood my source in reading: "His buckling on Rick Warren is just one such sign." This statement has been removed. Mr. Warren spoke at the inauguration, there could have been no buckling. My sincere apologies.

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Some Liturgical Thoughts

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A couple of points before I begin--first, it's amazing the way Satan finds things to distract us during Mass. You'll be sitting there and suddenly, wham, this thing pops into your head that you can't seem to dislodge. What follows is my attempt to dislodge it so it doesn't hijack another Mass.

Second, I think it's important to note two things about the commenter. (1) I am not an expert on liturgy. (2) I am not particularly conservative when it comes to liturgical matters.

Yesterday as we celebrated the last day of the Christmas season I was looking at the nativity and at the priest behind the Altar (normally he is seated off to the side where the nativity set is presently) and it occurred to me how language can be so easily manipulated to further any given agenda. Particularly what occurred to me was the way Vatican II was presented to me as I entered the Catholic Church--and of that one particular liturgical innovation. It was presented to me as, "The priest no longer stood with his back to us, he turned around to face the congregation." This was presented as a triumph of civility and sanity.

Yesterday it occurred to me that there are no (or at least few) creatures in nature wherein the head faces the body. Generally the head and the body face the same direction. It would be evolutionarily counterproductive to always be looking at where you've been.

So, how is it a triumph to have the head suddenly face the body--the priest face the congregation? If he is leading us, shouldn't he be focusing our attention in the appropriate direction rather than facing the other way? How do we form one body of Christ with our head turned around and gazing back on us?

I don't feel strongly about this--I can understand the arguments on the other side. And I've never given much thought to the matter, mostly because when it is presented to me, it is packaged up with a lot of other extraneous items that do not necessarily have the same import--the Mass in Latin, the use of Chant, etc. (Again, not that I feel particularly strongly about either of those items except when they are used as goads and whipping rods. They just don't have the same importance as being one body and one people before God, with the Priest acting as Head in persona Christi.)

So there you have it--a summary of my distractions. Nothing important, nothing earth-shattering, nothing even particularly innovative or thought provoking. But I think it would be nice to have a Mass spoken or sung in English with the Priest at the head in the appropriate way. I wonder how I would react to such a thing. I wonder if I would be just as distracted at that as I was at these unwelcome intruding thought? Perhaps the first time, but afterward, I think it would be welcome. I don't honestly know.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from January 2009.

Catholic Church: December 2008 is the previous archive.

Catholic Church: February 2009 is the next archive.

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