Sunday, August 27, 2006

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Good evening.

Today is, as the title indicates, the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Ordinary time simply means 'ordered' or 'numbered'. It does not mean 'unremarkable' or 'boring'. Sundays which are not in Ordinary Time are in other seasons of the Church calendar which would be Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter seasons. In that case a Sunday would be called "The Fourth Sunday in Lent" or something like that.

It comes as a surprise to many that there is no 'First Sunday' in ordinary time. I do not know why. Many a new liturgical minister has been befuddled by this!

Today is the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, but we were blessed today with a Mass that was not at all ordinary.

We had three priests and a deacon celebrating Mass. And it wasn't a wedding or funeral. This is rather unusual at any rate, but in our military chapel it is exceedingly rare for many reasons. The priest who was the main celebrant even commented on how unusual it is for all these men to be ANYWHERE at the same time!

This is the first time I"ve seen our new deacon, who is still in the process of moving in. He was ordained less than a month ago. It is also the first time I've seen a deacon 'in action'. There are specific parts of the Mass reserved for deacons.

I will also add that there are two types of deacons. Temporary deacons are men on their way to Ordination as a priest. Permanent Deacons are men who may be married with families. By their ordination they make the statement that they will not re-marry if their wife dies. This is similar to the priests in the Eastern Rite churches. Once they are ordained, they may not marry.

It was a lovely Mass today. Father commented that it would be hard to claim a vocations shortage here.

With our one altar server, who is also an adult, it made for an all-male team in the sanctuary, which is all too rare.

We in the choir numbered only four, and even then that was only when both my husband and I were not being called upon to tend to our little one! Nonetheless, I gather we sounded pretty good. We got applause after Mass.

I do NOT like getting applause. The glory is to be to God. We are not entertainment. But still, it feels nice. Did that make any sense?

Our music leader has been making heavy use of a few songs over the past couple of weeks. The small congregation is slowly learning them and starting to sing better. There was a fellow here this week visiting his daughter who was a wonderful, if temporary, addition to the musical side of the congregation. We decided he had to join the choir, but unfortunately it would be too long a commute!

All in all I came away feeling particularly blessed today. I hope this feeling oozes out to the community so they will join us!

God Bless

Monday, August 21, 2006

AIDS boondoggle

Happy Monday!

What follows is some disjointed mental meanderings...

Well, the Aids conference held in Canada is over. Deep Breath. What a mess this seems to be.

The devil is tapdancing in some pretty high places it would seem by some of what has surfaced in the "fight against AIDS"

I've heard it called a pandemic. What is a pandemic? (the first definition that showed up) says this:

Widespread; general.
Medicine. Epidemic over a wide geographic area and affecting a large proportion of the population: pandemic influenza.
A pandemic disease.

The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 is listed as a pandemic. It killed 20 million people world wide in ONE YEAR.

AIDS deaths worldwide since 1981 (that would be twenty five years) is 25 million, according to Another site says 20 million, yet another 23 million.

Let's say that there are 900,000 deaths each year since 1981.

This is what the WHO says about cancer rates worldwide:

Cancer by the Numbers
Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.2 million new cases annually; followed by cancer of the breast, just over 1 million cases; colorectal, 940,000; stomach, 870,000; liver, 560,000; cervical, 470,000; esophageal, 410,000; head and neck, 390,000; bladder, 330,000; malignant non-Hodgkin lymphomas, 290,000; leukemia, 250,000; prostate and testicular, 250,000; pancreatic, 216,000; ovarian, 190,000; kidney, 190,000; endometrial, 188,000; nervous system, 175,000; melanoma, 133,000; thyroid, 123,000; pharynx, 65,000; and Hodgkin disease, 62,000 cases.

How come AIDS gets as much attention as it does? It isn't such a big deal compared to cancer.

We hear a lot about AIDS prevention. Usually, the other word seen with that is 'comdoms'. Condoms are too porous to stop a virus. There has to be something better than that.

There is.

Uganda managed to get it's AIDS rate down below 6%. The employed the chastity principle. This is, I believe the best progress yet made. Ah. Yes, but chastity is so unpopular! And no one makes much money off of it. And by golly, it calls for self control. Can't have that!

If all these people talking about AIDS really cared about lives, they'd do what worked.

I think there's an agenda or two, or ten, at work. Apparently sex trade workers (I think we used to call them prostitutes?) used the opportunity to ask for more rights or something. Huh?

I guess I get tired of the shrillness, the intolerence that seems to be associated with this movement. We need to find treatments for those who are ill, but also, we need to prevent this disease.

I guess I'm not the only one. Tony Clement said there was no point saying anything at the conference. He said it was not a place for rational discussion, and that it had become too political.

When will there be rational discussion? The Catholic Church is very active in hospices which help people dying of AIDS and other diseases. They are also promoting prevention by calling for chastity. This means abstinence from sexual relationships if you are not married, and faithfulness to ones spouse if you are married. Oh, and of course to be married means that there is one man and one woman involved.

The Church is more than willing to help those attracted to members of the opposite sex develop a lifestyle of chastity. There are many who have done it and continue to do it.

But it still comes back to self control, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On preparing a dresser for painting

Today I gained a deeper insight into our youngest daughter. She is eleven and is currently more than half way across the country from us.

Dh has decided to paint her dresser in the fashion he is painting her desk and bed. My part in this is to clear out the clothing and scrape the stickers off of the outside.

I must give a little background to this girl. She was homeschooled last year in part because I knew her socializing during class was giving the teacher a pain. I also know that she has a little trouble staying 'on task' which didn't help either.

In my daughter I had also seen a flash of spirit time and again that I did not want extinguished by the wear and tear of constant harping by a teacher, regardless of how necessary the chastising might be for classroom peace.

I expected a challenge as I proceeded to work at home with our daughter.

Yes, staying on task was a challenge, but with fewer distractions, this got better. Dd got to the point where if she knew she was easily distracted that day, she'd go and work in her room. By the end of the year she was turning in very good Math and grammar assignments. This was progress!

She is also 'artsy' Nearly everything in the house has paint on it, from her being struck by inspiration, but not remembering (yet again) to protect her work surface, or clothing.

As I took clothes out of her drawers, I was first struck with her organization. Her clothes were sorted by colour rather than purpose! I suppose this makes it easier for her to make sure she matches!

I was surprised at how little detritus there was at the bottom of the drawers. Given that I frequently find her socks stuffed in strange places around the house, I figured I'd find odd things stuffed in her drawers. Not the case at all.

I did, however, find an exacto blade in one drawer and a pair of pliers in another. Not so odd for this gal. She loves to fix things and do woodwork.

Her mind is always working. She often has ways to fix things I am ready to throw out. I know this is why she can't focus sometimes. She's thinking about something far more interesting.

As I worked to clear off the dresser, things got a little tougher. What is trash and what is treasure? Beads, pretty stones, tiny dolls' shoes. Dead tissues I took the liberty of throwing erasers, math erasers, crayons...coloured craft (aka popsicle) sticks. Coloured glass. A keychain with the Blessed Virgin on it. Her crucifix from the Chapel when she was confirmed (so she DID still have it!)

There were few stickers on the dresser when it came down to it. I was thankful for that!

My girl is growing up. I can catch a glimpse into the woman she will be. Probably not like me. She will paint, drive nails, and 'putter'. She will do crafts and draw as she is already doing so well.

I do hope she remembers what she teaches herself so well now. Her prayers, her catechism, and how to appreciate little things in pieces of coloured glass.

God Bless

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Culture Crisis

Happy Sunday!

Dh and I recently returned from a brief trip to New Brunswick to drop our eldest daughter off for her first year at university.

We did the 'to' part of the trip as quickly as we could, given that we also had our 2 year old with us.

The 'from' trip took a little longer. We stopped just to look at some of the lovely things we saw.

The bulk of our travel time was spent going through the province of Quebec. We were mainly on secondary highways, so there were many small communities along the way. It was easy to find a place to stop when we needed to.

Something that is very notable as one passes through Quebec is that it has been strongly influenced by Catholicism. Even tiny villages contain lovely old church buildings. These are often well preserved and look now much as they did when they were built, sometimes 200 or more years ago.

Along with these church buildings are names...St. Eustache, St. Simon, St. Louis de Ha! Ha! (no, I'm not kidding). Many of these saints are obscure, at least to a 21st century Anglophone. But in among those are St. Jean Chrysostom, St. Thomas d'Aquin, Notre Dame de/du (and here you may fill in the blank...du Lac? de Grace? All titles are referring to The Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Christ, Jesus, God. There are personal names like Rosaire (rosary).

As I listed the saints' names, I saw as well references to sacraments and other religious themes.

I would venture that in North America only California boasts as many religious references in its geography as Quebec. Think carefully: Sacramento, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Junipero Serra...

Sadly, the Church has lost much, perhaps almost all, of its influence on the people of this province. Attendence at Mass is very poor. Some historic churches have started charging admission in order to keep them up. As far as I know no one is so crass as to charge to attend Mass, but sightseers can be charged. There are not enough parishioners to support the churches. I understand that sometimes there really is no parish at all...just a building relegated to a historic spot.

Even among the other Canadian provinces, Quebec ranks about the lowest for birth rate, which means it is well below replacement level. What happened to the Church here? You know...the Church that demands its followers not use birth control?

It is not in good shape...that is for sure.

How did this happen? Well I think it is self evident that European and North American cultures seem to be actively trying to shed any semblence of a Christian society. But Quebec was built around Catholic influence more than almost anywhere else.

It is a case, and I put this succinctly as I claim no deep knowledge of the province's past, of government and Church getting more than a little cozy with each other. I have spoken to people who would have been only children at the time of the end of the Duplessis era. The resentment of what had gone on was deep and strong.

What is left of the Church in Quebec is struggling. A friend who is a seminarian in Montreal tells me that seminarians who wish to follow what Rome teaches, as opposed to the disobedient version they are expected to learn, are forced to hide their orthodox tendencies and play along with their misleading shepherds. As they are ordained, they can be obedient to Rome...if they are strong enough and stealthy enough to survive their seminary time.

God be praised that there are such seminarians. There is hope.

Another church worker I know who is also from Quebec, told me that in Quebec everyone is baptized. The pity is that the Church is still a cultural entity...families have always had their children baptized...but in recent times they seem to have forgotten why. There is no follow up. No catechesis (religious education), no attendence at Holy least not until it's time for First Communion. Perhaps it is because of the bad taste left in the mouthes of les Quebecois at the end of the Duplessis era. They are ignoring the Church at a higher rate than even other Canadians. And the Church for the rest of us isn't so healthy either.

We who are somewhat (or perhaps much) better off as far as our parish situations go must not be complacent. The Church that Christ left us which is to last for all time will not necessarily last everywhere for all time. Ephesus, the place where tradition tell us the Blessed Virgin ended her earthly existence, does not have a Christian community to speak of at present time. Check out the present condition of the Church in many of the places mentioned in the New Testament. Not pretty.

My family was recently in Bosnia and Herzogovina, a place where Christianity was first introduced by St. Timothy, the same one mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. One priest we met there said it was the last generation for the Catholic Church in this area. This would be the same Church St. Timothy taught.

We must all realize that the Church is bigger than the weak, sinful humans who work and worship in it. Duplessis may not have had his head on quite right with regards to how his government worked with the Church, and whichever clerics cooperated in what went on were obviously not representing the Church to the people the way they should have. They will have a lot to answer for, I'm sure.

You know that a Church has really fallen when you see ciboria (cups, usually golden, which hold the hosts, the Body of Christ, in the Catholic Mass) in antique stores and flea markets. There is so much of this consecrated material in such places that to purchase it and return it to parishes which are still vital would by impractical, if not impossible.

God Bless

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Madonna House (part 2)

I'm back!

From the lakeshore, we went to the chapel and vespers (Evening Prayer). My friend had suggested I take one of the few seats around the chapel's edge. She would sit with most of the residents on the floor.

I had only seen the chapel before when it was empty. Now, it was very full of life. I was handed a binder and psalm-book as I went in and found a seat. I would have had great difficulty getting myself up and down from sitting on the floor!

As my friend had warned me that she would not be sitting with me, she jokingly added that I'd better not embarrass her. About the first thing I did when getting settled was to drop my psalm book on the wooden floor!

The chapel is lovely. There is an iconostasis at the front of the chapel behind the altar. The glimmer of the sanctuary lamp can be seen only dimly from where we are. Icons of the apostles line the wall above the iconostasis. There are also icons of The Blessed Virgin and Jesus, of course.

I see a series of brass bells hanging from a T-shaped pole near the altar. I assume these bells would be rung at the Consecration during a Mass.

The ceiling of the chapel is a mesh of wooden beams rising to the point of the roof. Everything seemed to gleam. This chapel was well loved and well cared for. The wood was heavily varnished and spotless.

Vespers were a treat. There were no instruments but the human voice. Psalms were all chanted in what seemed to be perfect four part harmony. It was truly lovely. The chants were simple enough for me to follow, even with this being my first time here. The woman I sat beside actually commented that I must have been here before. When I said I had not, she said "Well you must be a musician then!" I 'fessed up. I do love being able to sight read music!

After vespers, everyone trooped over to the main house for dinner. I kept on the jacket I had put over my rather bare shoulders when we were in the chapel.

We were seated at a table set for 6 people. There were two priests already seated and they stood up as my friend andI came to sit down. We were later joined by the woman I'd chatted with in the chapel and another woman.

Conversation was pleasant. I was jokingly chastised for not being up on my GK Chesterton readings. We spoke a little about Beloc. It turned out that one of the priests and the woman from the chapel had spent a good deal of time in a couple of MH missions in York, England and in Russia respectively. Having been to Europe myself for the first time last year. We shared a lot of our observations.

The meal was simple but very good. We had cold roast beef, new potatoes, carrots, zucchini salad with a cold strawberry and walnut pudding for desert. I am told that meat is only eaten on Sundays here. After dinner we had tea.

Conversation was a big part of this time for all the diners it seemed. Everyone seemed very relaxed and happy.

By the time dessert was served, I was beginning to melt. There were no bare shoulders in the room so I didn't take off my jacket...

After dinner, the Rosary was recited. Although it began and ended in English, the three 'inside' decades were in French, an African language, and Russian.

After the Rosary, good-byes and thank-yous were exchanged and we went on our way to return home.

It was a lovely relaxing day. I do hope to be able to do it again and perhaps bring other friends. My friend has a list...

God Bless