Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seattle priest calls Pontifical Mass at National Shrine "offensive...silly...indecorous"

The full takedown is here at Father Z's blog. I don't think I can add any more to that, except to say that after what I witnessed at my grandfather's funeral Mass, I don't know that a priest from the Archdiocese of Seattle is qualified to speak on matters of liturgical import. Among other things, I had to listen to the priest describe the Eucharist as a "family meal" - a woefully inadequate description! - and watch the Body of Christ be consecrated in what appeared to be a salad bowl from Target. (It was white stoneware, and I very distinctly saw a large barcode on the bottom when it was lifted up for the consecration.) Oh, and did I mention we had the Precious Blood in wineglasses? I cringed because I really did feel that my grandfather deserved better.

I try not to play "let's spot the liturgical abuses" because I went through a spell of that and then realized it was not only distracting me from the focus of the Mass, it was turning me into a real snob. But honestly, Jesus in a salad bowl? Maybe it's just the churches my family attends but every Mass I have been to out there in Seattle has been a little on the weird side.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nunc dimittis servum tuum

I've had a host of experiences in the past year that have made me realize I've entered adulthood - some pleasant, others less so. Doing my own taxes, buying a house, making a budget, paying a mortgage - the usual stuff that belongs to the "grown-up" world. I don't think any of these have made me feel that my childhood is now behind me, as much as the death of my grandfather has made me feel that way.

I've written about my father's father before - a stern, silent man. As a little girl I was always more than a little terrified of him. He was far from being the jolly grandpa of movies and story books. I don't ever remember being held on his lap. His hugs were always a bit stiff, and there weren't many of them. To a casual observer he and my grandmother would have seemed like an oddly matched pair. She was warm, vivacious and energetic even in her old age. Grandma was the provider of hugs, milk and waffles with powdered sugar on top. Granddad was the one you didn't annoy. I say this not with any kind of resentment - but just to tell you how it was.

On Holy Thursday I received word that my grandfather had passed away after suffering a stroke at the age of 95. Right away I felt I had to go to the funeral. I missed my aunt's funeral in November due to a bout of the flu, and I'll always regret that. I wanted to go to my grandfather's funeral - not out of some particular affection for him, but out of a desire to be there for my father, and a sense that his age and status as the family patriarch demanded this respect.

I think almost everyone reaches a point in life when they realize their parents are mortal - and it's a sobering thought. My aunt's death was that point for me, and my grandfather's funeral drove the message home again. As I watched my dad and his siblings place the pall on my grandfather's casket, it struck me that suddenly everyone looked older, more fragile. No one lives forever, but somehow when you're young you think the people who have been around your entire life will always be there. Not so - and the absence of my aunt as the remaining six children spread out the pall made that sharply clear for me.

After the funeral, during the time spent with my extended family, I was able to discern why my grandfather was the way he was. Encouraged by his mother to get an education, he left the farm at the tender age of 12 to board with another family who lived near the school, and did farm work to pay his board. He attended high school and graduated as valedictorian, in the days when a high school diploma actually meant something. He graduated from college then went on to Navy service in World War II and a long distinguished career in the federal government. In many ways he was, to use that cliched phrase, a "self-made man." Life was difficult then. It demanded that men be strong, unyielding, flinty. Is it any wonder he showed little tenderness in his relationships with his children and grandchildren?

My grandmother was the great love of his life. It takes a lot of energy to be the mother of nine children (two died young, sadly) but she did it all with grace and good humor. I heard this weekend that four hundred people came to her and my grandfather's 50th wedding anniversary, and that she knew every single one. She died when I was about 12 and since getting married I've often missed her and wished I could have her support and advice. My aunt told me that when she was dying, she worried aloud about how my grandfather would take care of himself. She might have worried more had she known it would be so long before he would join her. I hope and believe that they are, or will soon be, reunited - and there's comfort in that. Death does not divide us forever, but only separates us for a while. 

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.
For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
 The last enemy to be destroyed is death [...] (1 Corinthians 15:19-26)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Grad student petition for improving ND policies on family life

Some anonymous soul left a drive-by link to this Petition for a Family-Friendlier Notre Dame on my previous post about grad student life at ND. (Anon, if you're out there still, I'd love to know who you are and how you found my humble blog. I violated my usual rule of not posting anonymous comments because I was intrigued by the link.) I like most of the proposals therein, although there are a few I might modify (but perhaps the authors of the petition are thinking big?) I thought they were overreaching themselves at first, but as I read I realized that what is being proposed is not radical - but simply policy changes that would bring ND up to par with the much-vaunted "peer institutions."

Although I've been thwarted in my hope that we might see real healthcare reform that lowers costs, instead of a massive federal government takeover, I think there is much ND could do to make sure its grad students get adequate healthcare. As much I admire the work of the Women's Care Center, I really think ND grad students shouldn't have to resort to charity in order to get maternity care. The latest WCC flyer I received in the mail told the story of an international graduate student whose wife unexpectedly became pregnant during his time at Notre Dame. They worried about not being able to afford the baby - and considered abortion. They were able to get the help they needed from the WCC, but the fact that ND grad students even have to think about abortion due to financial distress is sad to say the least. The situation for international graduate students is especially dire as their spouses are usually here on visas which don't allow them to seek gainful employment!

There are a host of other "quality of life" issues that are addressed in the petition. The condition of married student housing is one of them. Frankly I wouldn't live in any of the on-campus housing that's designated for married students, either with or without children. Apartments off-campus are a much better value for the price. I've heard that the apartments for married students with kids are aging and not really in good shape. The gouging on rent is especially heinous in light of the size of a grad student stipend. I'm lucky as an engineering student to receive about $20,000/year (ish...I'm not telling you how much I really make!) Students in Arts and Letters have to make do with much less. In my program's handbook we are told, in a tone of admonition, that the stipend is only intended to support one person. But that doesn't at all match up with reality - for international students whose spouses can't work, or even for American citizens whose spouses can't find a job in this recession. (Been there, done that!) Even a cost-of-living  increase from year to year would help.

The University's trumpeting of its "pro-life" policies contrasts sharply with its shabby treatment of grad student families. I'm not sure if I'll be joining this group in front of the Dome - I'm not really the protesting type - but I fully support their efforts to improve conditions for graduate students and their families.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Abuse scandal - I have to get this off my chest

Some things that must be said before I can talk about my Holy Week and Easter experience. First, I entered Holy Week with a heart churning with worry. Not only was I overburdened with work, my mind was very much occupied with the awful scandals that have again erupted in our church. In spite of Pope Benedict's stern rebuke of the Irish bishops who turned a blind eye to abuse, some were determined to implicate him in a "cover-up" in the case of a notorious molester priest in Wisconsin, while Benedict was still a cardinal and head of the CDF. Of course, this brought about a spate of anti-Catholic screeds in the media, particularly painful during Holy Week.

It was tough work to separate fiction from fact. Two things stood out for me - first, that the local diocese should have taken action on their own to get rid of this priest (why did they never bring the force of civil law to bear on this man?). Second, even if Pope Benedict is guilty of a cover-up (and I doubt it - having looked at the facts of the case, at worst he did not treat the case with due urgency, and that may not even be the case, considering how slowly the wheels of canon law turn), it doesn't change anything for me. We've had bad popes before. Catherine of Siena is an ever greater inspiration for me at this time - after all, she remained loyal to Christ and his Church in spite of a succession of sometimes greedy, weak, fearful and venal popes. It doesn't change the fact that the Catholic Church preaches Truth.

But how can you tolerate the horrors of child abuse, you may ask? It's simple. I don't. I believe, as does our Pope, that the "filth" must be rooted out from the Church. I also believe that molester priests should definitely be dealt with appropriately under civil law. If there's anything about the whole thing that makes my stomach turn, it is the fact that some bishops and church officials did deliberately protect molester priests. But I don't see any evidence that Pope Benedict is one of them. He's not a man who would turn a blind eye to evil. But even if he was, it doesn't change the truth of the Church's teachings. I put my faith in Christ Jesus and the Church he founded, not in any individual pope, much as I might admire him.

I also don't doubt that this scandal is ultimately diabolical in origin. (I can only imagine the reaction of my secular friends and colleagues if I expressed that sentiment to them.) Think about it: What better way to neutralize and diminish a great force for good and for Truth in our world, than to implicate its leaders in one of the few perversions our oversexed society still finds revolting? Make no mistake, this is the end goal, whether conscious or unconscious. Shame on those who would use victimized children as a club with which to beat the Church. I wonder if these activists, who are being widely quoted in the media (one on NPR today was openly agitating for democratically elected bishops) actually care about these children at all?

I'll leave you with some excellent links I've gathered over the past week as I try to deal with this issue:
New York Daily News: Fairness for the Pope A Response to Christopher Hitchens' The Great Catholic Coverup
National Review, Fr. Raymond de Souza: A Response to the New York Times
The Anchoress: Why I Remain a Catholic (I love the Anchoress' blog, by the way. She's a fantastic blogger - she cuts to the heart of the matter without ranting or vitriol. I wish I had just an ounce of her grace and patience, not to mention writing skill.)