Apr 282017
 

This is happens when you don’t know what aspergillum means.

The ceremony took place before a bunch of asparagus was taken to the European Parliament as a thank you for granting it protected status

Worcester Cathedral has hit back at criticism over a service that included a man dressed up as a spear of asparagus.

A packed congregation on St George’s Day saw asparagus from Evesham receive a blessing to mark the start of the British Asparagus Festival.

Gus the Asparagus Man was part of the procession- dressed in a giant green asparagus costume.

Pressure group Christian Concern said the scenes in the Cathedral “made a mockery of Christian worship”.

A post written on the Archbishop Cranmer blog site continued the criticism: “Why only adoration of asparagus? Where’s the sprout liturgy, or equality for mushrooms?”.

However, Canon Precentor of Worcester Cathedral, Reverend Michael Brierley, said in response: “I think the inclusion of the figure added a bit of colour”. Source

Well the colour green to be specific.

The jokes write themselves.

  • Lettuce pray.
  • Did the Aparagus Man receive a celery, or was it part time?
  • Did they sing A-Maize-ing Grace?
  • What are you giving up for Lentil?
  • Peas be with you.

Gus the Asparagus Man was part of the St George’s Day service at Worcester Cathedral.

Apr 262017
 

When I heard the Pope had released a TED talk, I was not expecting this.

OK that was only in my head and my graphics program.

His real TED talk can be viewed here.

And here is the transcript from the Vatican’s site.

Video message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of the TED conference in Vancouver

VIDEO MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
ON THE OCCASION OF THE TED CONFERENCE IN VANCOUVER

[26 APRIL 2017]

Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there.

Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference.

I very much like its title – “The Future You” – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a “you.”

“The Future You:” the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others.

Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: “Why them and not me?”

I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s “discarded” people.

And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?”

First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.

We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.

Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world.

Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.

And this brings me to my second message. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.

How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.

Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the “culture of waste,” which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.

Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone. Yes, a free response!

When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?

In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of.

There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who’d rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you have heard it before. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

When Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbor?” – namely, “Who should I take care of?” – he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren’t even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves “respectable,” of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.

Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”

We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day?

Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts.

Now you might tell me, “Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.

To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow.

Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life.

And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist.

And that individual can be you. And then there will be another “you,” and another “you,” and it turns into an “us.” And so, does hope begin when we have an “us?” No. Hope began with one “you.” When there is an “us,” there begins a revolution.

The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness.

What is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other.

God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.

Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.

There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.” You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.

Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.

The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.”

We all need each other.

And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us.

Thank you.

Apr 242017
 

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played quite a few roles as a gifted person who is also very arrogant. His Sherlock Holmes portrayal in the excellent BBC series, playing Kahn in Star Trek Into Darkness, and more recently Doctor Strange in the movie of the same title. Add to that as the voice of Smaug in the Hobbit “Trilogy”. He pulls of these roles quite well portraying someone deeply intelligent, but flawed with a arrogance that mocks those who can’t keep up.

In most of these roles there has not been a character arc where the character comes to grips with this flaw, much less acknowledge it. Well at least until Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange is a brilliant surgeon, and he knows it. Until an accident renders his hands incapable at the surgery he was so adept at. His desperate search leads him to the Ancient One hidden in the Himalayas. Where after much struggle eventually he learns to overcome his pride and to learn to serve others.

There has been much discussion regarding Rod Dreher’s series of posts regarding The Benedict Option, and his recent book “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation”. I am waiting to actually read the book, which I have on hold to comment on what he has to say.

I titled this post “The Benedict Cumberbatch Option” partly as a joke on Rod Dreher’s title. Well actually the title came to me as a joke first, and then I started to think about it as it regards to Doctor Strange. Last year I read through some of the major story arcs of the original Doctor Strange comics and some of the later ones. I especially enjoyed the original as done by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko. Often I just enjoyed the whole tension of his being a “Sorcerer Supreme” using dark magic and invoking all sorts of creatures while being good and doing good. I feel this was all done as a gag as this tension is never explained or explained away.

Still I think there is a “Benedict Cumberbatch Option”, that is you admit and then repent of your flaws and work to overcome them as in the story arc of Doctor Strange. How we do this might take us to Nursia or for that matter the Himalayas. It might also just take us to deeper prayer in our homes, serving others, or all of the above.

G.K. Chesterton is famous for having replied:

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,”

Although he did go on to write a book of essays with that title that wasn’t about “I am”. Still we live in an age of reformers who never think about reforming themselves first. Although that is really not new. It is so much easier to opine than to actually take up the harder work of repentance. Really writing this blog post suggesting what you should do is pretty easy. Still my “preaching” in writing is mainly towards myself. We do live in a toxic culture where living the faith is not easy. It is almost as if Jesus telling us that we would have to pick up our crosses was not just rhetorical.

So I am putting the “The Benedict Cumberbatch Option” out there as my hopeful character arc of acknowledging my sins and repenting of them.

Apr 172017
 

In what started as a friendly competition between parishes in Archdiocese of San Antonio has quickly spiraled out of control. Each year the size of the Pascal Candle was getting taller and wider requiring more and more effort in processing the candle to the sanctuary during the Easter Vigil. John Wick a parishioner of St Antonio in Elmendorf joked “Everything is bigger in Texas!”

Still the parish councils of St. Antonio was shocked to see the bill from a mastercrafter in the art of candlemaking for a MOAC (Mother of all Candles). This Pascal Candle delivers the equivalent of ten thousand lumens from 9,800 kg of pure beeswax.

Complaints to the bishop soon followed as a special crew was flown in to help to deploy the MOAC through the roof of St. Antonio’s in preparation for the Easter Vigil. The start of the Easter Vigil was spectacular and will be long remembered, at least positively by those who did not experience flash blindness at the lighting of the candle.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

“That was one heckuva pillar of fire we got this year” said sometime parishioner Bryce S. Thomas. If they keep up these pyrotechnics I might show up next Sunday.

Apr 162017
 

While Catholics don’t believe in a rapture as expounded by a segment of Protestants, there is indeed a seeming Catholic rapture.

You can observe this on Sundays when the Mass is longer than an hour. Catholics can be very literal about the scriptures. When Jesus asks us if “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Catholics will grudgingly allow one hour, but don’t expect any more.

I observed the Catholic rapture today. Coming back to the pew I was sitting in after Communion I found that the pews around me were mostly empty and stayed empty. Previously the church was packed. Apparently some Catholics after receiving Communion are so enraptured that apparently they are taken up there and then. Amazing to be around such holy people. In fact even there cars are holy as I find that the parking lot is also emptied out after I wait for the priest to process.

Now I know Scott Hahn calls it the Judas Shuffle when Catholics leave early. I prefer the more charitable explanation of the Catholic Rapture.

Mar 152017
 

Via Wesley J. Smith:

Now, a proposal is being pushed in the UK to give “rights” to the Frome River. From the SomersetLive story:

The River Frome could soon be capable of bearing the same rights as humans and companies, if proposals to establish a nature rights by-law go ahead.

Sustainable Frome is campaigning to get Frome Town Council to create a new type of by-law which recognises the river as a legal system capable of bearing the same rights as us humans.

The key elements of a nature rights by-law for the river were laid out at a town council meeting last July. These would be:

1. That the river be given appropriate rights stemming from the function of rivers within the wider whole of nature.

2. That local people and the council be granted the power to enforce these rights on behalf of the river. Currently anyone trying to defend the nature of the river has to show sufficient interest in order to bring a case.

3. That the river must not be subordinated to the rights and interests of companies of natural persons, whose property claims must respect the rights of the river.

Now I like Fantasy stories just as much as my favorite genres. Always liked sentient rivers that struck deals in such stories. This is all just fine for fiction.

Now if rivers are sentient and has rights, Old Man River is due some Social Security back payments.

Ol’ man river, that ol’ man river
He don’t say nothin‘, but he must know somethin’
He just keeps rollin‘, he keeps on rollin’ along

Although they might consider all the back taxes rivers must owe since they have the same rights and thus duties as humans.

Jan 122017
 

Saw the following article THIS IS PROOF THAT DRIVE-IN CHURCHES WERE A REAL THING IN THE 40S and this did not surprise me. Although I did like the photos. I knew that the late Rev. Robert Schuller started his ministry having services at a Drive-In.

He went from Drive-In to eventually building the Crystal Cathedral. This is of course now Christ Cathedral for the Diocese of Orange. Can’t say that I am a fan of the design, although if Superman ever needs a new Fortress of Solitude maybe the diocese can turn a profit.

Still what if had had continued at a Drive-In? Perhaps the previous bishop would have bought that instead.

So how could Catholics adapt a Drive-In Mass? For one I guess Catholics would have to buy Lowriders so that they could go from kneeling to rising and vice versa.

For the offering they could have a car tag system where they photograph the plate and send the bill. Although postage could be more than the $1 bills collected.

Communion would be a problem though. Maybe they could have a track where people board a train. Yes, bring back Communion Rail.

Imagine the time savings. Many people already leave right after Communion to get to their car. This would eliminate that step.

Dec 152016
 

People in Spain have an “Uber” version of the Confession and it’s awesome

There is now an app whereby a Catholic in Spain can find a priest to meet him or her in order to be offered the sacrament of reconciliation (also known as “penance” or simply “confession”). The new app is called “Confesor Go” (note that, yes, there is one “s” in the Spanish word “confesor”), and there is also a recently-launched Twitter account (@ConfesorGo).

The app identifies the location of the user, and indicates where priests are located nearby, as well as introductory details about the priest, including his name, age, and year of ordination. Confesor Go also includes a list of the Ten Commandments, so that the penitent can examine his or her conscience in preparation for receiving the sacrament.

The app was developed by Father Ricardo Latorre, who has expressed his hope that the app will likewise become available in the Spanish-speaking nations of Latin America sometime within 2017. Of note, Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of the Diocese of San Sebastián in Spain has made himself available via the app, and his brother bishops around the world would do well to consider supporting the use of such an app within their respective dioceses, in order to inspire more of the faithful to make recourse to the sacrament.

This app is not to be confused with a different app launched last month.

(Vatican Radio) In an impressive move to introduce a legacy of the Year of Mercy, a Scottish archbishop has launched what is thought to be the world’s first GPS-powered Sacrament-finding app.

Leo Cushley from the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh announced the launch of ‘The Catholic App’ outside St Peter’s Basilica on 22nd November 2016, surrounded by pilgrims and seminarians from his archdiocese, accompanied by the sound of the Scottish bagpipe.

The app will allow users around the archdiocese to find the nearest and soonest opportunities to go to Confession and Holy Mass, as well as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The archbishop called the app “a little bit of smart technology that could make a big impact on how the Catholic Church brings the mercy of God and the joy of the Gospel to our contemporary world.”

This app was labeled “sindr” by the media.

As for it being “world’s first GPS-powered Sacrament-finding app” that is not close to being correct. Masstimes.org had an early iPhone app out for finding a Mass near you. Although it has hardly been updated, but still works.

Now if only someone in the U.S. would launch a similar app. Although confessional times are fairly universal here. Usually on Saturday before the Vigil Mass or “by appointment”. I only know of one parish in my diocese that has confession before each Mass.

Getting all the data for such an app would be quite the undertaking. You couldn’t just scrape data from parish websites since finding times for confession on may sites is not an easy task.

Now what would I want in a confessional app beyond what you would expect?

  1. Picture of the confessional. Often times its hard to tell a “Reconciliation Room” from a closet from the outside. Usually need GPS just to find it since it is often not in a prominent location.
  2. Ratings of how hard the penances given out are. Because of course I want to find the priest that gives out more severe penances. Seriously though my late-pastor would sometimes give people lighter penances because he would take on a heavier penance himself for them.
  3. A built in voice recorder. This way if I was trying to remember the sins I committed I could just ask my wife to remind me.
  4. If you are still having a hard time determining what to confess, the app could review your Twitter/Facebook/etc feed for helpful reminders.
  5. An Audio Decibel Meter to make sure you are quiet enough to only confess your sins to the priest and not the people in line.
  6. An included calendar to log when you have been to confession. This way you could be like Spock and say “I last went to confession on 15 December 2016 at 4:32 PM”. Reminders to nag you if the time since your last confession starts to get a big long in the tooth.
  7. Displays the text of the Act of Contrition automatically dimming the screen so the priest doesn’t know you still haven’t spent the time to remember it.
  8. A Hail Mary counter to keep track of number of Hail Mary’s assigned that you could then tap to countdown.
  9. A handy compass to display that your confessed sins are now as far from us as the east is from the west.” Nice to know that our confessed sins are the equivalent of GPS not found.

Now the Epic Pew story called it a “Uber” version. Now that would be cooler to have the confessional come to you.

Perhaps like this actual van from the Diocese of Lafayette.

Or possibly something like this done by a non-priest hoaxer.