Monday, December 29, 2008

Behind the Collar ~ An inside look at life as a priest

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond has a fine new website called "behind the collar - An inside look at life as a priest" This is a new promotional site that will be extremely helpful for young men who are discerning a call to the priesthood because it answers many of the basic questions a person might have concerning such a vocation.

You will find an interesting article written by Steve Neill in the December 29, 2008 issue of The Catholic Virginian concerning this new online campaign by our diocese. Apparently it is the first of its kind in the nation.

behind the collar contains videos with comments shared by Richmond seminarians on a variety of topics pertaining to their journey toward priesthood. The site also links the prospective candidate to the social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace, where you can be in contact with Fr. Michael Renninger and others. Fr. Mike is Vicar for Vocations for the Diocese of Richmond and can be reached there with this email address:

Take a look! What do you think?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

For unto us a Child is born...

"For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scientist Reacts to Vatican Bioethics Paper ~ National Catholic Reporter Article

The National Catholic Reporter has just published an article by William B. Neaves, who is president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo. Neaves is responding to the bioethics paper, Dignitas Personae, that has just been released by the Vatican.

Here are a few paragraphs from the NCR article:

"Dignitas Personae catalogues the consequences of actions derived from a moral framework based on a point of view about personhood — a view that is not shared by all. This point of view accords the dignity of a person to the first cell that results from fertilization of an egg by a sperm. If this premise is accepted, all the consequences detailed in Dignitas Personae logically follow."

and further along:

"An alternative point of view to the Vatican’s, embraced by many Christians, is that personhood occurs after successful implantation in the mother’s uterus, when individual ontological identity is finally established. This way of thinking about when a person comes into existence reconciles another otherwise troublesome reality of normal, natural human reproduction: in many (and probably most) instances, the single cell resulting from fertilization of an egg by a sperm perishes in the woman’s reproductive tract and never implants in the uterus. Only after implantation does a birthed baby become highly probable. Would God have ordained that most people should die in the first two weeks of existence, long before seeing the light of day? No human being can know, but it seems unlikely."

Please go
here to read the complete article before responding.

I thought this was a very thoughtful article and an important one to consider. What say you about this alternative view?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Excesses of the Pre-Vatican II Church?

There is a lively discussion taking place on Fr. Z's blog about this picture of the new Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera...

Would you like to comment on this Cappa Magna? Needless to say, this is a bit much for me! Do we as a Church have to go back to this triumphalism?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Creches from around the World

I came across a very inspiring website this morning. Since we are now in Advent and are awaiting the coming of Emmanuel, I would like to gift all of you with an opportunity to see how our Savior's Birth is depicted all over the world.

The website, Creches From Around the World, can be found here. Enjoy!

The picture above is my own family's Nativity Scene, using Fontanini figures that I bought many years ago.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Praise and Worship Music

There is an interesting article on the New Liturgical Movement about Praise and Worship Music and its place in our Mass settings. Since this website is a proponent of traditional sacred music, the slant is for the removal of praise and worship music (a.k.a. music by Marty Haugan, etc.) from our liturgies.

However, the article and the resulting comments are interesting and so I present the article here:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Priest urges confession for Obama supporters

The McClatchy Tribune carried the following article on November 30, 2008:

Priest urges confession for Obama supporters
Homily singles out president-elect's stance on abortion

MODESTO, Calif. - The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Modesto, Calif., has told parishioners in a homily and in a follow-up letter that if they voted for Barack Obama
, they should consider going to confession because of the president-elect's position on abortion. (Read More)


It appears that Fr. Illo's bishop, The Most Rev. Stephen Blaire of the Stockton Diocese, disagrees with him. "Blaire said Catholics who carefully weighed many issues and settled on a candidate, such as Obama, who favored abortion rights, were not in need of confession. He said confession would be necessary 'only if someone voted for a pro-abortion or pro-choice candidate - if that's the reason you voted for them.'"

Our bishops are not speaking or teaching with the same voice, it appears. Is this what happens when the hierarchy enters the political arena.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Moving the Sign of Peace

The Associated Press reported yesterday (November 21, 2008) that the Pope Benedict XVI is considering making a change in the Liturgy by moving the Sign of Peace from its present location just before the reception of Holy Communion to the Offertory of the Mass .

Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, interviewed by the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, announced that the Pope has asked the bishops for their opinion of this change and then will make a decision. Cardinal Arinze said the change could create a more solemn atmosphere for those preparing to receive communion.

I would certainly welcome this change in the Liturgy. I find that the Sign of Peace interrupts the prayerful moments before we receive Communion. By moving the gesture of peace to the Offertory, it could also emphasizes the need for reconciliation with each other before coming to offer our gifts.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Article about St. Benedict's Chapel in Tidewater

I thought you might be interested in reading an article from the New Liturgical Movement blog regarding the design of the new church building that is being built for this traditional Latin Mass congregation. The article can be found HERE.

As I mentioned before, I am interested in all that is going on in our diocese; not just progressive or moderate news. I routinely check out a variety of blogs. The NLM is quite a prestigious one with lots of beautiful photographs that is even appreciated by a progressive eye. :) I may even have scooped our own diocesan newspaper!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Christian Education in Our Parishes

The conversations going on in the comment section of the previous article have made me curious about the types of Christian formation or education that are occurring in our parishes. Perhaps in this thread, readers of this blog can comment on the types of programs your parish offers and whether they are successful in teaching about the Catholic Faith.

If you name specific programs, please explain a little about their content. Some of us may not know these programs. Give us your success stories or what you consider failures. I invite people from other dioceses to add their comments also. We can learn from each other. Include programs for both children and adults. And describe your parish.

My own parish is a small one and has many elderly people. Several times each year there will be a Christian education week for adults in the parish. Speakers are brought in to speak on many different subjects; primarily on peace and justice issues. There is a yearly parish retreat that is very well attended. There is also at least one scripture-sharing group that meets on a regular basis. Homilies are a teaching tool in our parish.

The few children we have, receive formation pertaining to the sacraments as they reach the appropriate age. There is a newly formed youth group where prayer, participation in ministry, and scripture reading is encouraged. We have lost many of our young people to other Christian churches because we have not been able to provide a consistent Catholic education program for them.

It is really quite sad. One problem is that we did not have clergy available for many years and so our priority had been simply to keep the church open. We look to have some relief in the future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

USCCB and Liturgical Translations

The Bishops have been debating translations again. I can remember as a child hearing the word, gibbet, a strange and ugly sounding word whose meaning I could never figure out. I was too young to check the dictionary. So I have done so now...

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Pronunciation: \ˈji-bət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English gibet, from Anglo-French
Date: 13th century

1 : gallows 1a 2 : an upright post with a projecting arm for hanging the bodies of executed criminals as a warning.

Comment: Do we really need to use a 13th century word in a 21st century world?

Pronunciation: \(ˌ)i-ˈne-fə-bəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin ineffabilis, from in- + effabilis capable of being expressed, from effari to speak out, from ex- + fari to speak — etc.
Date: 14th century

1 a: incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable b: unspeakable

Comment: Believe it or not, with all the reading that I have done over many years, I doubt if I have seen this word more than 3 or 4 times and it apparently was never important to the meaning of the sentence because I never knew what it meant until now.

We'll be seeing more of ineffable since it was voted to be used. I don't know about gibbet though.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opening of the Bishops' Conference in Baltimore

This excerpt of an article about the opening of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Baltimore is from Catholic News Service and was written by Chaz Muth.The complete article can be found HERE.

Bishops' conference opens with nod to historic presidential election
By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The historic significance of the election of President-elect Barack Obama dominated the Nov. 10 opening address of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore."Symbolically, this is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional legal order should come to elect an African-American to the presidency," said Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the USCCB. "In this, I truly believe, we must all rejoice."

Aren't Cardinal George's words today in marked contrast to his sharp November 5th remarks that Mark quoted in a comment in the previous article? I'm curious as to what will come out of this meeting of the bishops.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kansas City Bishop Finn's Homily on the Eve of the Election ~ Requested by Mark

Mark has requested that the blog publish one of Bishop Robert Finn's homilies concerning responsible voting by the Catholic electorate for your comments. Bishop Finn is the Bishop of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph. This homily was given on November 3, 2008 - the eve of the election.

Because of its length, I will only include the first part of the homily but give a link to the DIOCESAN website where you can read the homily in its entirety.

Dear Friends,

Over the next 24 hours, millions of Americans will go to the polls throughout our country to cast ballots for the leaders of our nation, state, and community. We will make decisions about amendments and propositions. This is a wonderful process and privilege of citizenship in a country that values the ideal of freedom.

But let us have no doubt about this: through this process we are more than participants in a democratic process. We are becoming participants in life and death. The candidates we choose do not arise merely on their own. We place them in office.

Clearly, all these leaders are imperfect men and women like ourselves. They will make decisions day by day, and many of the circumstances of war and domestic work are not able to be known until they happen. Nonetheless, when they tell us specifically what they will do and we are therefore able to foresee some of the likely consequences of their leadership we share in the responsibility of their acts. In this sense an election is about even more than physical life and death. It is also about your eternal salvation and mine. This is the first reason to pray. Pray that we will take seriously – that every other voter will take seriously – the meaning of our choices. In a country where we have made choice an absolute, we must remember that underlying every choice is a value; that flowing from every choice is a consequence; that we must give an accounting to God for what we decide.

Our Lord instructs us in the Gospel we have heard, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” The enormity of this election is founded, in part, on the radical determination of some who would lead our country deeper than ever before into the darkness of the culture of death. This is a path that would certainly mean the death of countless more innocent lives. As shepherd of this Diocese I am also deeply saddened by the prospect of the cost in people’s souls, the souls of those who would place a candidate’s promise of economic prosperity above the life of the most innocent of our brothers and sisters.

Most perilous is the fate of those Catholics who, with hardened hearts, decide to create for themselves, and preach to others, a false gospel that the “right” to an abortion must not be challenged, or that the humanity of the child need not be protected...

Homily continued here. As I have said from the beginning, I am willing to publish articles for discussion from the entire Catholic spectrum, whether we all agree or not. However, I ask for respectful comments.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Academic Freedom on Catholic Campuses...

You will find an interesting article by Kate Childs Graham who has written the November 6, 2008 article in the Young Voices column on the National Catholic Reporter website. The article concerns several incidents that have occurred on Catholic universities campuses where the debate on academic freedom is raging.

You may have read that this week, despite strong objections by Cardinal Edward Egan, the Fordham University Law School awarded Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer the 2008 Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. Cardinal Egan and The Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative group, objected to the award being given to Justice Breyer because of his pro-choice stand.

On the other hand, because of her progressive idealogy and theology, the University of San Diego canceled Rosemary Radford Ruether’s appointment to the Msgr. John R. Portman Chair in Roman Catholic Theology. The action was brought about through pressure by a conservative Catholic group.

I think this is an important issue. Must Catholic universities teach only the Catholic view of things or should Catholic universities be allowed to present all sides of an issue, so that a Catholic student can form their conscience through analyzing opposing viewpoints.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Be careful tomorrow when you go to vote

Overheard on Saturday:

One man was bragging to another, "I just bought 300 rounds of ammunition. If Obama wins, I'm going out and buy 500 more rounds

Friends, whichever your candidate is, please VOTE! But by the same token, please be careful. As you can see, there are crazies around.

Whoever our next president is, he will need our prayers to bind up the wounds of our country.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vatican Evolution Congress to Exclude Creationism, Intelligent Design ~ Catholic News Service

Sep-16-2008 By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

Speakers invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate will not include proponents of creationism and intelligent design, organizers said.

The Pontifical Council for Culture, Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana are organizing an international conference in Rome March 3-7 as one of a series of events marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species."

Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian, told
Catholic News Service Sept. 16 that organizers "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific" and that discussed rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries.

He said arguments "that cannot be critically defined as being science, or philosophy or theology did not seem feasible to include in a dialogue at this level and, therefore, for this reason we did not think to invite" supporters of creationism and intelligent design...

READ entire article:


Supporters of creationism and intelligent design won't be too happy about that!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Opening on Women Lectors ~ John Thavis, CNS Blog

This interesting proposal came out of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible that has been meeting at the Vatican during the past couple weeks or so.

We all know that in most parishes in our diocese, women have long been proclaimers of the Word. So what's this about anyway?

Well, it appears the proposal is to formerly recognize and install women and men in the ministry of lector, a position that was originally considered one of the "minor orders" on the way to ordination to the priesthood. Those "minor orders" were abolished after Vatican II and it is now seen that women and men actually have the right to proclaim the Word because of our Baptism.

There will surely be opposition to this proposal in some circles and it is not known if Pope Benedict will approve the proposal or not.

What do you think? Or does it even matter...

An opening on women lectors?
Posted on October 25, 2008 by John Thavis

VATICAN CITY — Probably the most newsy — and somewhat unexpected — item in the final propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible was a proposal to allow women to be officially installed in the ministry of lector.

The issue was raised in Proposition 17 on “The ministry of the word and women,” and on Saturday morning it passed with 191 votes in favor, 45 opposed and three abstentions, according to our sources.

“It is hoped that the ministry of lector be opened also to women, so that their role as proclaimers of the word may be recognized in the Christian community,” the proposition states in its final sentence.

What Pope Benedict XVI will do with that proposal is unclear, according to Vatican people I spoke with shortly after the synod vote.

The issue, of course, is not whether women can act as lectors, or Scripture readers, in Catholic liturgies. They already do so all over the world, including at papal Masses.

The question is whether women can be officially installed in such a ministry. Until now, the Vatican has said no: canon law states that only qualified lay men can be “installed on a stable basis in the ministries of lector and acolyte.” At the same time, canon law does allow for “temporary deputation” as lector to both men and women, which is why women routinely appear as lectors.

The reasoning behind church law’s exclusion of women from these official ministries has long been questioned. For centuries, the office of lector was one of the ”minor orders,” generally reserved to seminarians approaching ordination. While seminarians still are installed formally as “acolyte” and then as “lector” before being ordained deacons, since the 1970s service at the altar and proclaiming the readings at Mass have been seen primarily as ministries stemming from baptism and not specifically as steps toward ordination.

“It’s important to emphasize that any proposition for women lectors would simply arive from their baptism and not from any presumptive opening for orders,” said one Vatican source.

The synod took up the question because some have suggested that in promoting greater scriptural preparation and presentation, the church designate “ministers of the word.” Lectors were seen as natural candidates.

It’s interesting that this proposal, while passing overwhemlingly, drew the greatest number of “no” votes than any of the other 54 propositions, most of which passed with fewer than five opposing votes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vatican Suspends Indian Bishop ~ CNS

Vatican suspends Indian bishop after he adopts young woman

TRIVANDRUM, India (CNS) -- The Vatican suspended Bishop John Thattumkal of Cochin Oct. 23 amid controversy over his adoption of a 26-year-old woman as his daughter. In its statement, the Vatican also ordered a probe into the adoption controversy, asking Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly to set up a three-bishop committee to conduct the inquiry...

...Father Stephen Alathara, spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, said the inquiry might take a few years. Kerala is a state in southern India. "The communique says a final decision would be taken only after the inquiry report is submitted and till then (Bishop Thattumkal) remains suspended," he said, adding that the bishop will have no administrative or religious responsibilities.

Oct-24-2008 By
Catholic News Service

Why can't a bishop adopt? Do you remember some years back, Fr. George Clements, a priest in Chicago, adopted two young boys and raised them? Wasn't he the same priest who began the One Church, One Child project?

Was it because the adopted person was a young woman? Was it an inappropriate action in a country like India?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Change of Plans? Pastoral Planning ~ standing maryanna

I was surprised to read this new twist in the Bishop's Question and Answer session (AND THE BISHOP SAYS) with Steve Neill in this week's Catholic Virginian. Here was the question put to the Bishop:

Q. Regarding the long-range planning process in the diocese, does it appear that people can expect changes beginning in January regarding more collaboration among neighboring parishes?

A. First of all, there are some misperceptions about the planning process. In January, all things being equal, a plan will be in place. It does not necessarily mean that the plan will take place. In other words, we’re making a distinction. We are adopting a plan that is like a time-released capsule in the analogy of medicine.

The pill dissolves in stages in order for one to receive the benefit. This is similar to our plan.
It won’t be triggered in a particular area unless the number of priests starts to decline. If the number of priests declines, the plan we adopted will be triggered.

The plan is there to be kept available if you need it.

(The Catholic Virginian, October 20, 2008 Volume 83, Number 26)

That certainly isn't what those of us who are interested were lead to believe. Sounds like there has been enough feedback (grumbling) by many influential parishes that drastic change will not be welcomed. The threat of a drop in collections, perhaps?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Filling the Void

Okay, I've changed my mind!

Despite the fact that I already take care of two blogs, I decided that it's very important to set up a Catholic blog about religious and spiritual issues; and to make it available to the People of God in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. So here it is!

This blog will be what you folks make it. I am asking the Richmond Catholic blogging community to send me articles about things you are concerned about. I will place those articles on the blog under your blogging name. Email articles to me at

I will not allow name calling or uncharitable articles to be posted on this blog either. Those previous Richmond Catholic blogs died because of the unacceptable comments that destroyed any possiblilty of a reasonable discussion. I reserve the right to delete anything that violates these norms. I have reconsidered the use of anonymous comments and will allow them; though I hope you will use a blogging name so that your comments can be replied to more easily.

That having been said, I would like this blog to serve both progressive, moderate and traditional Catholics. I am very open to all types of religious subject matter. Just because I am a progressive Catholic, doesn't mean that I am not interested in all aspects of our common Faith. Just remember, keep your articles to a reasonable length. Most people give up on long involved articles (like this one)!

If you wish to post an article and don't want to use your real name, get a gmail account that you will only use for this blog. If you post an article from some Catholic or secular source, please give the source so I can reference it.

If you have any suggestions, let me know. That's all for right now...

I hope this effort will be welcomed by the Richmond Catholic Blogging Community.