Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Picture of Uncle Ted and Revealing the Truth





Suppose a man was presented the opportunity to live a double life filled with both esteem and vice, dignity and debauchery. Would the man jump at the chance? Glaucon, in Plato's Book II of the Republic, argues that if a just man held possession of an invisible ring, he would undoubtedly live only for self-seeking pleasure and power. On the other hand J.R.R. Tolkein, in The Hobbit, commends the innocent Bilbo Baggins for using an invisible ring only for heroic reasons. And then there's Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, whereby a painting becomes a possible vehicle for living a hidden life of sinfulness.

The handsome Dorian Gray is urged by his modernist friend Lord Henry to "Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing... A new Hedonism." Gray jumps at the chance. His depravity grows daily, matched only by his rise in narcissism. When love struck Miss Sibyl Vane embarrasses Gray with a poor acting performance, Gray flies off in rage: "You are shallow and stupid. My God! how mad I was to love you! [...] You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again. I will never think of you." Sibyl Vane kills herself. Yet Gray continues his path of personal destruction, shocking vanity, and eventually murder. All the while Gray appears forever young and beautiful to his fellow Londoners.

Now suppose there was such a man actually presented with an opportunity for a double life. Only instead of a painted portrait as a shield of cover, it would be a graceful robe and ecclesial hat. The man would appear sublime, set apart, and holy, but in reality have license to use, abuse, and influence whomever he wished. I speak of Uncle Ted, ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick was the real life Dorian Gray. He impressed upon politicians, celebrities, and fellow Churchmen an influence and charisma which won himself immunity from justice. His carousing and deviance was shocking, his reputation unblemished. That McCarrick ascended the ranks in the Church is most disturbing. That his peers claim no knowledge of his evil deeds is unbelievable; in the literal sense that one simply cannot believe such claims. McCarrick had free reign on vice, all with the freeing appearance of virtue. His life was a lie. It was as Plato spoke in his Republic: “…if we do wrong we shall get the profits and, provided that we accompany our sins and wickedness with prayer, be able to persuade the gods to let us go unpunished." Such was McCarrick’s ecclesial life.

Return to the story of Dorian Gray. As the portrait of Dorian Gray secretly grew horrid with blood and grotesque manifestations, so too the human component of the Church secretly grows in moral depravity and deceitfulness by covering the misdeeds of McCarrick, and not investigating how he ascended in the Church. Sin has real consequences. Grave sin by high ranking Church prelates has serious consequences for all Church members. McCarrick was a spiritual father abusing his children. He wounded his flock deeply. Yet he was aided and abetted in his crimes. Through the McCarrick story the bishops have lost the trust of their flock. For who can trust the Church to protect the children now? Or be righteous? Or be honest teachers of the faith? Indeed, it is the Church which becomes the hidden portrait of hideous deformity when it fails to publicly reveal the crimes of its prelates.

Sadly the portrait of disguise which McCarrick so maliciously employed still exists today. It has not yet been taken away. That bishops can safeguard other bishops is most probable. That other ecclesial McCarricks could still be prowling free in the Church is completely imaginable. That the odorous sins of spiritual fathers are currently begetting sin in their spiritual progeny is likely. That suffering will continue, and despair heighten, is certain.

The end did not bode well for Dorian Gray. The end will not bode well for those in the Church who partake in their own portrait of concealment.



Painting Titled: His Honorable Theodore Edgar Cardinal McCarrick. By Carolyn Egeli. 2003.

Monday, March 4, 2019

1985

In 1985 men such as Americans Bernard Law and Roger Mahoney received promotions in the Church. Also, 1985 was a pretty hot year for abuse in Buffalo, NY. Meanwhile, faithful Catholics were treated as second class citizens. The following was posted by Una Voce, the Traditional Latin Mass Society for Buffalo, NY:
Back in 1985, the Diocese of Buffalo, granted 4 Traditional Latin Masses to be said a year, on a Saturday afternoon. 

Before each of these Latin Masses, everyone attending, was made to fill out one of these surveys. 

This practice was probably used to intimidate those in attendance, but at the first Mass, we had over 600 people show up!

So many showed up, had to move the Mass from St. John Neumann chapel, to the main church.

In 1990, we were finally granted a Sunday Mass at St. Vincent de Paul, and no longer were required to fill this out.

Through the grace of God, we have 3 Latin Masses in Buffalo, and are growing and thriving. Praise be Jesus Christ.





Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Time to Play: Guess the Church Musician

I often pose Guess the Band pictures for my grade 5 students. It's both fun and depressing. It is fun to see them try to figure out the band. It is depressing to note they know nothing of music. "Rolling Stones? Eric Clapton? John Denver?..."

Let's make the game more Catholic. I present to you: Guess the Church Musician. Figure out the writer of sacred, and not so sacred (hint), music that you might hear at Mass.





1)





2)


          
   




3)




4)

"I'll be..."


5)





6)





7)




8)




9)








10)



Bonus:









Answers:

1) Palestrina (polyphony)
2) Franz Gruber (Silent Night)
3) Dan Schutte (City of God)... Actor's name is "Daniel" who threatens to "shoot" in Sound of Music.
4) Johann Sebastien Bach (Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring)
5) Bob Dufford (Be Not Afraaaaaid)
6) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Requiem)
7) Georg Friedrich Handel (Messiah)
8) Carey Landry (The Spirit is a Moving)
9) John Henry Newman (Firmly I Believe and Truly)
10) Ludwig van Beethoven (Ode to Joy tune)

Bonus: John Foley (One Bread, One Body)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Good Old Hockey Game and the Unhappy Child




Late last year I wrote an article, later published at OnePeterFive, on the demise of religion and culture in small towns. In it I explained how hockey was woefully being employed as a pseudo-replacement for God and community, given the absence of living a true teleological purpose for life. That the rink is full of unhappy participants and spectators on a Sunday morning, and the churches are sparse with worshippers, says it all.

Fast forward to today; the hockey season is mercifully nearing completion. I had the great pleasure of coaching my seven year old son through his season of novice hockey; I had the grave misfortune of coaching more than a dozen other seven and eight year old children through a season of tears, misery, exhaustion, and overall displeasure. To be fair, there were some wonderful children in the bunch, but the general takeaway for me is that most hockey children cry far too much. They cry over missing a shot, taking a penalty, being told to pay attention, arguing with teammates, having their skates tied too loose and, every once in a blue moon, they cry over being legitimately hurt. More disturbing than the tears I encountered were the frequent misbehaviours, attitudes of entitlement, and loud frustration towards anything that does not go perfect or easy for them. Hockey can be a great school for life lessons, yet it felt like these lessons were being lost on the deaf ears of a younger mob. I do not blame the kids. They are but a product of our cultureless insanity.

The hockey season was hectic. It seemed God angrily bestowed snowstorms and extreme cold temperatures onto every game involving travel. Trips were taken three hours away for the sole purpose of playing "a different team." Meanwhile, there was a local team that we never played. Better to drive three hours on a Sunday morning than roll out of bed and tumble straight to the local arena. Did I mention Sunday morning? It seemed that games were sought out far and wide to fulfill the new Sunday morning obligation: Hockey. My family and I went over four months without making the drive to the nearest Traditional Latin Mass. Hockey, already four plus days per week, always climaxed each week with a Sunday morning game. What else is a person to do on a Sunday morning after all? The arena of worship must be satisfied; our children's wellbeing acting as the sacrificial victim. Thankfully, in my community the Saturday evening Mass is the more conservative Mass (i.e. no St. Louis Jesuit ditties), and the liberal Sunday morning Mass is for "gathering" as a "people of God" in our "worship space" so that we can be "sent forth" to "go make a difference". Therefore, my family easily fulfilled our twofold weekend obligation of Saturday night Mass and Sunday morning hockey. 

With a chance to finally take a breather, this past week brought a much needed school break. The respite meant a much needed family trip to the Latin Mass, and an opportunity to relax from all organized hockey. It was also a chance for me to take my seven and four year old boys to the local outdoor rink to play hockey. I did not have to sell a single 50/50 ticket, dry tears from a child whose life was shattered at the news of having to play left wing and not centre, or research the top crossover skating drills. We played hockey. At the rink there were other boys present, ranging from ages 6 to 12. None of these boys were the best on their respective teams. They went to the rink simply to enjoy the outdoors, the game, and their friends.

Daily over the break we would gather to partake of this play. The teams always changed based on fairness. The boys playing graciously ensured my four year old would touch the puck from time to time, thus building their own character and sportsmanship. Rules were set and maintained. Post shots were counted as goals. There was to be no raising unless the path to the net was clear. Intermissions to escape the cold were to be agreed on by everyone. Occasionally a mom would drive up to the rink, only to have her child plead for "just one more hour!" The games went on happily. Best of all, there was no crying.

At one point two boys showed up. They are what you might call the "elite" players in the community. They belong to an upscale travel team, separated from their lesser brethren. I asked if the boys would like to join in the game. Surprisingly they declined, saying something about the need to practice instead. Simultaneously there was a hockey game being played while these two "elite" boys engaged in the new national pastime of practicing. While the "lesser" boys passed the puck with the purpose of scoring a goal, the "elite" players artificially passed the puck with the sole purpose of making the National Hockey League. While the "lesser" boys skated back and forth eagerly with the intention of stopping a goal, these "elite" players skated back and forth strenuously simply for the reason that it is good for their development. While the "lesser" boys made creative plays, sometimes successfully and other times not, the "elite" boys created in-game situations to work through, though the possibility of practicing these situations in an actual fun game was lost on them. While the "lesser" boys played, the "elite" boys worked.

When the natural desire to play a game is supplanted by the unnatural call to work at a game, the death of childhood and culture has been achieved. The teleology is striking. Boys inherently wish to play, to roughhouse, and to engage in activities which they enjoy and benefit from. When boys do so, their boyhood desires to play and develop into manhood are quenched. Conversely, the boys who willingly remove themselves from playing a game in order to work at a game are stunting not only their joy, but also their proclivity to be free and to delight in youthful pleasure. They become, in a sense, less human, and thus less fulfilled. Making the NHL is not, in and of itself, part of the boyhood teleology. I do not fault the "elite" boys. They were taught to neglect their inner yearnings to play, and they were disciplined enough to obey. I do feel sorry for them though. Our godless society has removed youthful pleasure and innocence and replaced it with artificial tasks; whether they be enjoyable or not is inconsequential.

I love the game of hockey, but I do not love what it has become. As the organized season of hockey winds down, it once again has replaced what should be natural in a child, play and worship, with unnatural activities and Godlessness; thus, producing an unhappy and stunted society. Further, organized hockey is helping to create a cultureless society, for true culture tends the heart and soul. What the current hockey system is doing is destructive: Our children are given work, travel, and freedom from religion, all in the name of a game. Our children deserve to play, feel at home, and love God, all within a culture which fosters such a game. To summarize, Saturday nights should be for playing hockey, and Sunday mornings for attending Mass; not the other way around. Then, and only then, will the game of hockey find its proper place.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

You Are the Guilty Mom



I write this for the guilty mom. You know who you are. Guilt surrounds you like a spider spinning thread around its prey, or like a jumble of toys growing rapidly on your living room floor, threatening suffocation and feelings of uselessness. You bear a sense of guilt for many things. Indeed, the guilty verdict is always before you, and it shows on your face. Of this guilt St. Anselm says: "To lie hidden, will be impossible; to appear will be intolerable." You cannot hide it, nor hide from it. You are the guilty mom.

And just what are you guilty of? You are guilty of wasting time. What on earth did you accomplish this week, much less today? You are guilty of failing another supper, complete with overcooked veggies and undercooked meat for one child, and undercooked veggies and overcooked meat for another. Perhaps you should not have left the cooking to the last minute? You are guilty of spending too much time on Facebook, and the pain of regret devours your conscience, especially when your perfect friend is posting continuously on her perfect life and perfect family. You are guilty of ignoring your children. Deep down you believe this was better than simply yelling at them all day. You are guilty of jealousy towards your husband and his career. His recognition of achievement, and his ability to have a break from raising children throughout the day, is so far removed from what you do. You are guilty of going out in public with unsightly clothes, ignoring the dirty bathroom, leaving a mess of greasy dishes for your husband to do when he comes home (that selfish blockhead), spending too much money on children's clothes, not exercising regularly, forgetting to pay the water bill, finishing the chocolate, and finally of beginning the next day without any hope of change.

The guilt of the mom is further weighed by the guilt of living the status quo. Idleness is the devil's workshop, and sadness and regret its instruments. Fear not. You do not have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Can it not be that change can begin in small ways?


What if children were prayer-trained? When you first wake up they could have a bisquit and a book, and be taught to be quiet while you pray. Perhaps five minutes to start, and onward and upward. Would this not help? What if a quick load of laundry, with the selfish need of getting yourself a clean shirt, could be actualized from time to time, rather than doing all seven overwhelming loads at once? What if meals were planned out, or at least you knew that on Tuesday was pasta night, Wednesday brunch-for-supper, Thursday stir fries, and so on? Would the consistency be of benefit? What about making to-do lists? Checking off accomplishments? Limiting Facebook to certain times? Knowing that a break from your children is ok? That yelling at them should scream to you: "Go have a nap woman!" What about asking your husband for some alone time instead of resenting his career? Seriously, just ask (politely!). You see, the guilt requires but a small step, and then another, and before long you no longer need to feel inferior to Mrs. Facebook-Perfect and her cavity-free perfect children.

Guilt must not freeze your efforts. Start small, but go the distance: “You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all,” (St. Therese of Lisieux). Guilt might never leave, but it must not leave you paralyzed.


Finally, know that you are guilty of other actions which must not be forgotten. You are guilty of nurturing a home and not a house. Did not Christ Himself will to be dwell in and sanctify a home? You are guilty of raising children to be responsible, happy, and faith-filled. When your daughter walks around with a baby doll, she is telling you that what you do is dignified, worthy of imitation, and all around amazing. You are guilty of pushing yourself beyond what you thought capable, with little to no recognition. That extreme fatigue is anything but the devil's workshop of idleness. You are guilty of pride; pride for the gift of life God has bestowed on your family.  You are guilty of love. It is a love that sacrifices, hurts, cries, and keeps moving forward. It is a love that changes diapers in the night, holds a sick child with no thought towards contracting the illness, worries for their future, longs for the husband to be near, dries tears, laughs and sings, and ultimately brings joy and peace to the home; perfect supper or no perfect supper. Yes you are guilty of love, and in the end you will only be judged by how much you have loved.


Photo Credit: criminaldefenselawyers.com.au

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Dark and Stormy Few Nights

Picture a quiet and peaceful Sunday evening. It would involve watching the end of the football game, a snack and story with the kids, and then saying our prayers and getting them into bed. Such an evening would inevitably involve me laying down with my four year old and settling him down to sleep. He would snuggle in close, probably chat too much, and drift off with heavy and contented breaths.

The reality for that Sunday evening was that he was taken to the hospital once again to deal with an impetigo which, we were convinced, was not actually impetigo. Our suspicions were confirmed, and the young lad was given a large dose of antibiotics. We were told to bring him to the hospital every eight hours for more medicine. However, by 1:30pm the next afternoon his condition had deteriorated, and his sick body was filled with a painful rash. He could hardly move. We were stunned.

Now life in small town Saskatchewan can be wonderful, but a drawback is that it is nearly impossible to attract doctors to live a rural life. The doctors who do come work staggering hours. However, generally speaking, diagnosing ailments is not their strong suit. Mending broken bones and assigning medicine is one thing, dealing with a mysterious and serious rash is another. It just so happened that our town has one exception to this general rule. We have a doctor who is several cuts above the rest, and has saved many lives because of it. Thanks be to God this doctor was on duty when our four year old's rash became serious in nature. Immediately he was put on the correct medicine, and arrangements were made to transport him to the nearest pediatrics unit, some 150 km away.

With that our family's life was turned upside down. Scary hardly seems apt to describe it, but seeing our sweet but fiery four year old swelling up in pain with an unknown illness was scary beyond imagining. Later that night he was airlifted away. My wife went with him. The last I saw of him he was being raced through the hospital towards an ambulance. He looked terrified. I went back home for the night, but promised to leave for the new hospital as soon as I could the next morning.

When I arrived the next day our little guy was unrecognizable. The swelling had taken over his face. We had to show one of the nurses pictures of him so that she could see what he really looked like. He was finding it hard to open his mouth to talk. Yet bravely did he take all his medicine, swelling, and blood pricks. In fact, he still found time to beat his parents at card games, though he was unable to use one hand to due swelling and an IV insertion. What an amazing boy. I bought him a Lego set later that day to cheer him up, though he was still unable to hold it. He didn't seem to mind though.

That night it was my turn to stay with him in the hospital. He was itchy and very uncomfortable so I crawled into his bed with him. I held him. The machines he was attached to beeped and dripped and reminded us that not all was right. But he snuggled in nevertheless. His breathing got heavy, and in the dark he drifted into a heavy but contented sleep. Some things never change. For perhaps the thousandth time that day I began whispering the Hail Mary prayer.

The next morning Our Mother indeed took over. By lunchtime the doctor had a diagnosis for us, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and even suggested that we could leave the hospital sooner than expected. The recovery that day was miraculous. Also miraculous was when I left to make the 150km drive back home that afternoon. My wife and I decided to leave our one phone at the hospital with her. I packed my bags and started driving out of the hospital parking lot. Another lonely drive. Perhaps not as scary as the previous day's drive, but haunting nonetheless.

As I went to the exit my little parking ticket told me I hadn't paid. Ugggh! This was annoying. I had paid, the darn the just needed to be reset by the security people in the hospital. And so I re-parked the van and began running back towards the hospital. Little did I know that, like a scene from a movie, my wife was running towards me. We met right at the hospital doors.

"Thank goodness!" she exclaimed breathlessly. "We can go!!!!"

"What?! Seriously!?"

"Yes!" she gasped. "The results came back early. We can go!"

I was stunned. I should have been on the road. Instead Our Lady saved one last special blessing for us. Within minutes I was driving my wife and young boy home. He was still ailing, and his skin was peeling, but clearly he was returning back to normal. To go from fearing the worst to driving home together was too much. Thank you Lord.

Later I sat with him on the couch. His skin was peeling all over. So what. He was home. I held him, and his breath grew deeper. He was contented. So was I.

And now it approaches Sunday evening once more. I look forward to a relaxing evening. Perhaps some games and snacks will be had. Then, after saying our family prayers, we will put the kids to bed. I will hold that little four year old in the dark and marvel at the miraculous gift of life we still have. Never take a day for granted. Life is too precious for this. If the darkest hour approaches, be still and remember:

"Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, 
for darkness is as light to you" (Psalm 139:12)

Amen.



Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Long Road of Peace Goes Through Covington

"Peace, man."

The existential cry of the hippy lives on in the Catholic Church. While prolife, male, white, Catholic teenagers from Covington are subject to virulent unicorn-esque condemnations from the liberals of America, a large portion of Catholics are guilty of having joined in on the mob attack. Some Catholics have since retreated, perhaps grasping at some natural reality that black is not white, up not down, and receiving death threats because of one's prolife, male, white Catholicity is not actually criminal, at least not this time. Yet rather than take the next logical step of actually defending the Covington teens, many Catholics are simply content to offer a "peace, man", and let those prolifers fend for themselves.

For instance, at Bishop Barron's ingratiating website we encounter the typical hippy Catholic mantra. Writer Elizabeth Scalia opines that we must do better at being peaceful, and that we should just appreciate the anthem: "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me"? I am not making this up. In other words: "Peace, man", unless of course you are a prolife, male, white Catholic.

This is not what peace is. Peace is not simply an absence of war, all the while possessing inner serenity. Peace requires justice. Justice requires order. Order requires action. When seventeen year old pro-life, male, white Catholics are attacked by racist and hateful bigots, it is not peaceful to retreat in order to find one's inner strength and harmony. Life happens in real time. Virtue must be habitual and readily applicable. Evil must be immediately fought when presented. How long must people retreat before they decide they are personally peaceful enough to defend an innocent person? One day? One week? One year? Justice at times demands immediate action. Inner peace is not achievable while omitting one's Christian duty.

The Mirror of Galadriel by Alan Lee
Consider Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. He is presented with a glimpse into the future by the Marian-like Queen Galadriel. Sam observes that the Shire is not what it should be, and he even shouts out: "There's that Ted Sandyman a-cutting down trees as he shouldn't. […] I wish I could get at Ted, and I'd fell him!"
Sam demands to return to the Shire. His aiding Frodo in conquering the powers of evil is lost on him; he would rather save some pleasant trees near his home. Sam's demand is ultimately for personal wants, and not for true peace and order.

Galadriel gently reminds Sam that he is pressed into service for a greater deed, and that if he chooses to reject his duty he will never encounter true peace in his own land of the Shire. In other words, peace in our own lives is fettered to fighting evil.

The story continues with Sam sitting on the ground in deep thought. Shaken by his vision, he becomes at war with himself. Finally, he offers: "I wish I had never come here, and I don't want to see no more magic,' […] and fell silent. After a moment he spoke again thickly, as if struggling with tears. 'No, I'll go home by the long road with Mr. Frodo, or not at all.'"

Inner peace is needed; however, inner peace requires we fight the injustice presented to us. Peace is not simply retreating to one's pseudo-harmonious life, but rather it is, as Sam discovers, a long and difficult road of fighting for what is right. Indeed, in some cases the long road of peace goes through Covington.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Legacy of St. John Paul II: Is It Time to Be Afraid?

"His name is John...   ...Paul."

With that our second child was entrusted to the benevolent intercession of the only Pope my wife and I knew for the majority of our, then young, lives. Exactly one month later this same Pope was canonized to the heavenly hall of fame. An estimated four million pilgrims arrived in Rome for the canonization ceremony. I will be so bold as to proclaim that these pilgrims did not come simply to honor John XXIII's canonization (the second miracle perhaps being that he was in fact canonized). Pope Saint John Paul II was enshrined as a saint in heaven, and the rest is history.

Or so I thought. History takes time in revealing itself. 

But it is best to start at the beginning. Pope John Paul II was a celebrity Pope much admired by Catholics such as myself. His personal holiness was inspiring. Knowing that the Pope said three rosaries daily, confessed most frequently, had a tender devotion to Our Lady, and even miraculously survived an assassination attempt, was a source of comfort and inspiritment. It did not hurt that even the impeccable Padre Pio once revealed that this Karol Wojtyla was destined for greatness in the Church. The Pope was not just a rock but a rock star.

This greatness was unabashedly promoted by Catholics throughout his pontificate. I recall hearing a homily by a priest who eagerly told us young Mass goers: "Do not be afraid!" To add zeal, the priest spoke these words in a pretend Polish accent. We listened fervently to the saying of our living saint. It never occurred to me that the priest was attempting to reach the people not through Christ's words to His apostles, but rather by John Paul II's introductory words of papal election. As if Our Lord was unable to reach our hearts the way that the Pope could. Admittedly there was a grain of truth to this. Nevertheless, the Pope's words, even as taken from Christ Himself, were of inestimable value and truly changed young people's lives.

A further consideration of Pope Saint John Paul II's esteemed greatness was found in his admirable writings. The depth and wisdom of Fides et Ratio, Veritatis Splendor, The Theology of the Body and many others works were sorely needed in the Spirit of Vatican II Catholicism which pervaded throughout his pontificate. I remember the intellectual wonderment I experienced as I first studied his writings while I attended Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Northern Ontario. I would open up Fides et Ratio and immediately encounter: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth." With but a half sentence Pope John Paul II could forcefully counter the tenets of Luther or modern philosophy. Indeed, his writings were, and still are, fresh air to the Church. It seems like forever since we read the works of a Pope and immersed our minds in deep intellectual and spiritual truth, versus reading an encyclical in search of potential heresies.

It is during my undergraduate studies at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, located on a road called Karol Wojtyla Square, that Pope John Paul II passed from this world. I was instructed to ring the church bells to inform the local community. It was the second time I rang the bells for his death. The first time, if you remember, was when false reports came out of an earlier death. As a wise man once said: "I'm not dead yet!" But when I rang the bells for the final time it was a haunting feeling. A snowstorm was growing. The power was knocked out. The air felt electric. I congregated around a fireplace with some other male students late that night and we apocalyptically discussed the end of an era, and what would become of the Church. Our naive youthfulness believed that the Church would only ever have saintly pontiffs to guide us through these apprehensive times. Perhaps this wide-eyed belief was upheld weeks later, but not years later.

At the time of Pope John Paul II's death a student remarked that we now had a great intercessor in heaven. A wise and respected professor was nearby and he immediately took up issue with this claim of a guaranteed beatific vision for the Pope. The professor explained carefully that no man on earth has more responsibility than the Holy Father, and that even partial errors of judgment could have immense and far-reaching adverse effects on the Church and world. While initially being bothered by these comments, they nevertheless clung to me. Deep down I knew the professor was right. There were always lingering doubts about the changes in canon law, ever-present liturgical abuses, abhorrent bishop and cardinal appointments, and the sexual abuse scandal of 2002. Always these concerns were sidestepped. The Pope had been old and sick. He was not perfect.

Life flew by. I immensely enjoyed the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Pope Francis arrived. So did a shiny little pill, red in color. This brings us now to the present. It is in the midst of Francis' pontificate that the historical view of Pope John Paul II is now truly being revealed. Those many "lingering doubts" seem to be, in this year 2019, about to be brought to light. The corruption and filth within the Church is already being revealed at a torrential rate. How long until we discover why the Pope allowed Marcial Maciel immunity as head of the Legion of Christ until 2005? How long until we ascertain the true story of ex-Cardinal McCarrick, with the full revelation of his money trail and cover ups? How long until we grasp the changes in the 1983 canon law which relinquished treating consensual adult relationships of clergy as canonical crimes? It is only out of respect for Pope John Paul II that I limit these questions to three.

Inevitably we must ask: What should we do? I believe we must let it all play out. We just do not know enough. I have heard people argue that the old and sickly Pope John Paul II was simply used, like how Grima Wormtongue used King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings. Yet the profundity of Pope John Paul II's writings in and of themselves contradict the idea of his being lacking in mental capacity. I have also witnessed people argue that Pope John Paul II was used, willingly or unwillingly, by the infamous St. Gallen's Mafia, with claims going so far as declaring the Pope in partnership with communists. The spiritual works of the Pope also carry themselves contrary to these radical claims. Not to mention the fall of communism throughout his pontificate. No, I believe we simply let it all play out. Believe what you will for the moment, and I personally want to believe the best, or at least the best intentions, for the Polish Pope. Yet the truth must come out, whatever the truth may be.

For all that I have written, it is perhaps fitting to end by examining a story shared by James Grein. Now many now have seen Dr. Taylor Marshall's interviews with James Grein, Grein being the man who very courageously came forward with allegations of having suffered sexual abuse at the hands of "Uncle Teddy" McCarrick, starting when Grein was only eleven years old. In Dr. Marshall's January 3rd video Grein speaks of a private meeting he had with Pope John Paul II in 1987 concerning McCarrick:
"I told him [Pope John Paul II] everything I know. He had a moment of quiet. Said he'd do something about it. Gave me a crucifix. And a letter for my father. Blessed me. We sat there. Quiet meditation. Ten minutes. Quietly praying for what we just went through." 
Grein then goes on:
"The Pope was pretty sick that day. His mind's not all there. He told me that. He was having a hard time. And it was very difficult for him to do a lot of things by himself a lot. So we... I have compassion for him for that. And he said to me basically in his broken English, he says: 'Son you are a very strong man and some day this will all come to light for you, and you will be blessed. You have courage to come here, imagine what you're going to have when Jesus really enters your life.' And I've been living that. Waiting patiently for my day to come."
As a caveat, James Grein admits to suffering PTSD stemming from the abuse he received, and at times his thoughts are not in perfect order. Yet I do believe the veracity of Grein's story, for it fits both narratives described above. One of a Pope who actually did little or nothing to stop abusers, nor punish them. Another of a holy man well acquainted with suffering and prayer who, for whatever reason we cannot say, was having a "hard time" getting things done. James Grein's little account reveals much, yet also speaks volumes for how little we do know. 

In the end, I say stay watchful and continue to pray fervently this 2019. Additionally, remember that our own lives also will one day be revealed in the final judgment. As I glance over at my four year old, sweet but fiery John Paul, I understand now more than ever that these are gut-wrenching times to be a Catholic. All I can do is recall words long-echoed in my mind from my youth, words spoken first by Our Lord Himself: "Do not be afraid." 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Story of Craven Arrest

Today is a great treat for you. The music is so existential, yet so accessible, that you'll be hitting repeat all day. I bring you the music of Craven Arrest, a band so legendary that no one even feels the need to talk about them. That's just how legendary they are.

So the story goes that someone I don't even know was mistakenly arrested for crowd surfing at the then Craven Valley rock concert at Craven Valley, SK. I'm told the band playing at the time was my favourite, Collective Soul. Anyway, this dude was arrested, but released, and therefore the name of a band was born. I mean, you can't make this stuff up.

The band began late in the year of 2003 at a rental house near the University of Saskatchewan. Musical chemistry was almost instant. A guy. A brother. A cousin. A couple of other guys. Practices were a mix between discussing cool things to say on stage, writing songs while trying to look super cool, and occasionally even playing some music. Some band members were even known to go to the gym and do certain back exercises in order execute the perfect bow. Creativity was never an issue for Craven Arrest. Young minds. So many ideas. So many dreams. It's been said that one person could play a single note, and everyone else in the band would know exactly what song to join in on. What a golden age for music.

The band practiced and got better. In fact, they got pretty good. As I said, there was chemistry. One night they played, as part of a battle of the bands competition, at the famous Louis' Pub on the U of S campus. The pub had several hundred people in attendance. The band sat in a back room in anticipation of the upcoming moment. Other musicians, evidently, had also once waited in this same room. There were pictures and autographs from such musicians as Neil Young, the Dave Matthews Band, and Finger Eleven. These soon to be legends finally appeared on stage. Overcoming some technical difficulties, Craven Arrest put on a performance for the ages. These boys, the ones who practiced so hard and worked so well together, finally became rock stars! Never has Louis' Pub seen such a performance. Sadly, never will Louie's Pub ever again see such a performance.

The story goes that the next morning the drummer went to the an early Mass in Latin. Apparently the choir began singing Adoro Te Devote. But the drummer couldn't hear the beautiful hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas! There was an incessant ringing in his ears from the concert the night before. At that moment, as if God Himself spoke directly to him, the drummer realized he would not be able to be both a rock star and devote himself to God and the Church as he so wished to. The drummer quit the band. Better to forfeit rock music for the Rock who is Christ.

Craven Arrest more or less fizzled out, though not entirely. They got back together a few months later and, despite a great financial cost, had four songs professionally recorded. The songs recorded will forever cement Craven Arrest's legacy to music. The songs themselves picked up some local air time on CJNE 94.7 Storm FM radio. But there was no need to push it further. The story of Craven Arrest was to be one of hope, glory, and ultimately letting go. The boys in the band are doing well. They've acquired real jobs, and have growing families. Their story lives on through their music. Their story will be passed on to their children. Craven Arrest will, in a way, always be.

As for that drummer who quit the band? He's doing well. He has a wonderful wife and three beautiful children. He still has his drum kit, though he plays mainly guitar, piano, and organ these days. He loves to perform for children at the school he teaches at. And yes, he still loves the Church, and the Latin Mass. You could say that his life still rocks.

Here is Faceless:






Bonus! Here is Without You:




Friday, December 28, 2018

The "Midnight" Mass: Christ was Born to Save

"No you can't open presents yet. Hop in the van. It's time for Christmas!"

My wife and I load our three excited young children in the van and drive out for a brisk sparkle tour before Midnight Mass. It is -20, a definite improvement from last year. We are excited that we should get 15 minutes of looking at lights before the rear windows ice up completely. However, the sparkle tour is disappointing. It seems that large sections of streets this year have zero lights for display. So we trundle off to Midnight Mass.

It's 7:50pm, of course. Midnight Mass is a thing of the past. Yes, our seven year old asks why Midnight Mass is not at midnight. "Because Jesus is born early this year I guess," is all I can muster in reply.

The church is half full (to be positive). Just fifteen years ago it was necessary to arrive thirty minutes early in order to ensure a seat. My wife asks me why there are giant blue and yellow streamers in the sanctuary. "Maybe it's for Ukrainian Christmas?" I offer.

Mass begins. The choir director invites us to join in Go Tell it On the Mountain. We live on the prairies. It is sung by a choir of six heavenly angels. These ladies are old. Some very old. But they have their sway all worked out. They rock in unison as they sing. Active participation indeed. "Don't look," I remind myself. Otherwise I am sure to smirk, and that would be rude. You cannot control what you hear, but you can control what you see. Custody of the eyes is important for Catholics. Especially in these desperate times of modern worship. But deep down I am pleased. At least it is not Mary Did You Know? Not this year.

As the Mass continues my wife and I quickly notice that our two year old daughter, usually quite sweet at Mass, is flying off the wall. It is my parent's parish, and so perhaps she does not interiorly connect that this too is Mass. Or she joins in the playfulness of the mood. The homily involves the children in the church by the sanctuary while the priest asks them questions. "What do you do on your birthday?.. Do you get presents?.. Do you have friends come over?" In an instance the homily becomes comedy hour. However, the cuteness soon wears off, the priest/children session becomes awkward in length. It is too much for my daughter, and so my wife makes the walk of shame (or glory, for the daughter) to the back of the church.

The children return to their pews. Father continues his Q&A with the entire congregation. We are asked for a show of hands for several intense questions. "Who here has ever driven to ________?... Have you ever stepped on something in the middle of the night?... Do you like light better than darkness?... Who here thinks they will live longer than 120 years?" The profoundness is lost on me. I will not ever understand the point. Not if I live past 120 years. Mercifully the homily ends. My daughter returns with her mom. Two minutes later I am forced to remove the same daughter. She never talks this much at Mass.

At the back of the church I gently walk her around. There is another toddler present. He is knocking over ornaments on a tree while his mother tries to reason with him. From the once choir loft which now is for overflow seating (in the improbable event of a full church) I hear loud dance music blasting from someone's phone. The consecration begins. I note that the front half of the church kneels down. The back half sits. "Don't judge," I once again remind myself. "They could maybe all have knee problems. And that might not be gum they're chewing... it could be necessary pain medication."

Communion time. I mistakenly look up once. There strolls a fine young man sporting a smart looking ball cap as he approaches our Lord. My eyes snap back down. "Stop looking man!" I angrily scold myself. Before long the strife, er Mass, is o'er. Well, almost. There is time for a couple more minutes of comedy from the priest. The night is young, after all. We will surely be back at the house before 9:30pm. The final hymn begins. A combination of Joy to the World and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Again, I am thankful that it is not All I Want for Christmas is You, or worse, the ever offensive Baby It's Cold Outside.

I bring my family to the creche scene. Baby Jesus lies in his manger. He looks absolutely perfect. He positively radiates with beauty and joy. His mother is gazing at Him with a loving affection never before seen on earth. The chit chat from the church pews is blocked from my mind. Finally I can open my eyes and soak in the enormity of what is happening. "Kiss baby Jesus, please?" asks my daughter. My wife lifts the babe to her lips. She gives the sweetest kiss. One only a two year old girl can give. Jesus is placed next to His mother once more. With one final genuflection we file out of the church and into the frigid van. Our Dominican friars Christmas album turns on automatically. The tender words echo: "Christ was born to save. Christ was born to save."

It is sobering to watch a parish fade into oblivion with nothing more than a whimper. To look on in silence while the entire night screams triumphantly: "It cannot be fixed! It is over!" Perhaps it cannot be fixed. Not this. An inauspicious fifty years of toil has reaped somberness of spirit and waves of darkness. Yet the light will never be totally extinguished, for reasons that the dark can never comprehend. The little girl who kisses Jesus so sweetly will bear this light forth. And the boys who love solemnities because they can wear ties to Mass. Families, few and far between, will pass on the faith in the home, if it be lacking in the church. Traditions, and their "dead" language of praise, will survive the scourge. Reverence will be returned to the sacrifice of the Mass. Perhaps only in an extraordinary form, by a future generation. This much is certain: Christ loves His Church, and all the dear children. He was born for these times. Christ was born to save.

William Kurelek's "Ancient Beauty Ever Old and Ever New"

Thursday, December 27, 2018

What I Read in 2018

Seeing as I wrote a "What I Read in 2017" post one year ago, it now must be a tradition to give an annual list. Though I told myself last year that I would write down what books I read so that I wouldn't forget, this inner voice of reason was disregarded. Hence, the list is probably absent of some literary selections. Years ago I came to the conclusion that a book takes a long time to read, so what I do read had better be good. Having kids suck up most of my time has only strengthened this belief. I expect the books I read to be of a high standard. Occasionally they are not, but not too often. So sorry, you will not see any Chicken Soup for the Soul, or New York Times best sellers here. Alas, lest I suck up any more of your time, let us begin...



The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

I wasn't sure how to approach this novel. You hear... stories... about Oscar Wilde. The book is dark. It gets into the heart of fallen humanity. Dorian Gray's situation is reminiscent of Plato's Ring of Gyges, or Tolkien's Hobbit (more on that later). What would you do if you could get away with anything? How would you live? We are not hobbits. Sin wounds humanity deeply. Wilde, whom many claim converted at the end of his life, produced a masterpiece with this novel. It is highly recommended.



Number the Stars - Lois Lowery

Yes, this was a grade five novel study book. The story is most excellent. It takes place in Denmark during World War II, and illustrates the plight of the Jews, and the brave resistance work done to combat the Nazis. The title of the book is a wonderful play on words. The stars (Jews) were numbered in concentration camps. In the psalms God numbers those who are close to Him. It suggests that God watches over His faithful, even in the midst of the greatest sufferings. The book is a tremendous story, but unfortunately is written at about a grade five level, and so does not offer the most profound use of the English language. I believe grade five students could stand to be introduced to fancy words and expressions.



Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Revisited indeed. This was the second time I read Waugh's classic. It is my favourite novel for a reason. Everything about it is of the highest quality, be it the characterization, actual story, or the gentle workings of grace in the midst of a disastrously selfish humanity. Hmmm, this book must be prophetic. Read this book. Just read it.



Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child - Anthony Esolen

I often say that Esolen could write a cookbook and I would read it with great delight. He is, in my opinion, the best pure writer in the world today. His command of the English language reminds me of those great English novelists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As for the actual book, Esolen takes a Screwtape approach to explaining the failings of culture. Be warned, these are difficult times to raise a child. Yet Esolen offers much hope as well. Get your children off of the Ipads and kick them outdoors. Then, when they come inside, read great books to them and let them play. All the while letting God work his grace. I recommend anything written by Esolen (probably even a cookbook).



Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness - Peter Kwasnieski

Why do so many people, especially young people, love the Latin Mass? What makes it so special? Kwasnieski intrigues as he explains why. For those who are opposed to the Latin Mass, or just don't get it, I challenge you to read this book. Whatever your objections are, Kwasnieski will take them, argue your point with the greatest skill, and then proceed to destroy these arguments. This book impacted me greatly this year (in a good way). 



The Mass of Brother Michel - Michael Kent

Great books beget great books. In reading Kwasnieski I found that he frequently referenced the little known novel The Mass of Brother Michel by Michael Kent. Kent's story takes place in the early days of the reformation. He shows what the Mass meant for those who were persecuted for the Catholic faith. Catholics take note, to be willing to suffer means one must be connected most intimately to Christ's suffering, which in turn means a deep connection to the sacrifice of the Mass. And the Mass must actually portray this sacrifice, and not some table chit chat. It was an outstanding novel.



One Beautiful Dream - Jennifer Fulwiler

My dud on the list. Becca borrowed this book to read, so I gave it a quick go-through. Fulwiler takes the readers through the life of a working mom who wants it all, but must learn that there are consequences to this (especially if you are racing past God's plans). It seemed every chapter had a paragraph about her being out in public with a multitude of crazy children, and then she realized she was wearing an old dirty shirt. Haha... Jennifer: just put on a new clean shirt. Her book does have a fun little ending about how she ultimately realizes her family should be brought along on her journey. How shocking. Hopefully that wasn't a spoiler for you. 



Hard Times - Charles Dickens

Dickens once again proves his status as a legend in literature. Hard Times is a great look at education and government control, all the while weaving in a stirring story filled with Dickens' usual perfect characterizations and in depth critiques. I really enjoyed this book. On a side note, Dickens, who wanted to divorce his wife, let his disdain be known for the English laws which prevented his divorce.



Hatchet - Gary Paulsen

Another grade five novel. The survival aspects are very well done. The underlying storyline is subpar. I do this with my class because it gives us a good excuse to watch Survivorman episodes.



The Good Master - Kate Seredy

I was looking for books to read for my grade five class. I gave this one a run though. It had some enchanting stories within, sort of in the vein of Farmer Boy or Little House on the Prairie. Ultimately I decided not to read it to my class (though I will have my own kids read it some day). My only dislike was at the end, as part of the story, gypsies show up. I don't like gypsies. 



The Heresy of Formlessness - Martin Mosebach

I learned about this book from reading Kwasnieski's. Indeed, Mosebach has an essay as a foreword to Noble Beauty. In The Heresy of Formlessness we read stunning stories and remarkable theological explanations which comprise the Traditional Latin Mass. I feel as though I am just scratching the surface of what the Usus Antiquor has to offer. Mosebach knocks this book out of the park.



Very Good Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse

When reading heavy theological works it is important to add some balance and humour. Enter P.G. Wodehouse. As the cover says: "Light as a feather, but fabulous." That sums it up nicely. I am always up for a quick Wodehouse novel. Though I do believe he does offer very insightful social commentary within his light tales.



Come Rack! Come Rope! - Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson

The author of the fabulous The Lord of the World presents a chilling and thrilling story of life as a secret priest during the persecution of Catholics in reformation England. Did martyrs always sing as they went to their death? In this book we get inside the mind of one. It's not all sunshine and rainbows after all. Wow! Did I just say we get inside the mind of a martyr? Buy this book and read it!



Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls

I read it every year to my class. It's one of the best books I've ever read. Written by a man who was so poor as a child that he would write stories in the dirt. Rawls weaves in tales of life with his dogs, faith in God, death, and what it takes to become a man. This is a must read for all 10-14 year old boys.



The Cricket in Times Square - George Selden

I do read stories to my kids, so I thought I would add one such selection. Oddly enough, this is the one story I didn't actually read. It was an audio book we listened to on our trip to Jasper. Obviously, then, I will always associate this book with beautiful memories of the best family vacation ever had. Oh, it's a fun and well written story as well. It makes one ponder the important things in life. Hint: Not fame and success.



The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

That's John Ronald Reuel, of course. The truth was, I had never read The Hobbit until this year. And then I promptly read it to my class once I completed it on my own. It was an eye opener for my students. "He uses fancy words!" Yes he does. Oh, and by the way, don't bother with the movies.

If you haven't noticed yet, my website is named after a passage from the book. Bravest Thing is somewhat of a tribute to the impact that Tolkien, and all great thinkers, have had on me. Tolkien and others captivate and enthral. They inspire and teach. In the end The Hobbit is a testament to what literature can and should be. All for the greater glory of God.