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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Insert your own caption!

1. See the new Fontanini Pope Benedict XVI for your Nativity!

2. Honey, I shrunk the Pope!

3. The Pope on Wonkavision.

The Feast of the Circumcision

On January 1st we will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. This day used to be known as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ because it took place eight days after Christ's birth. Indeed devotion to the Holy Prepuce used to be very prominent in the Catholic Church as it was believed to be one of the few relics of Christ's earthly body that the Church possessed.

I'm not sure why the Catholic Church chose to change the name of this day, perhaps because the idea of circumcision cut some people the wrong way [sorry!] - perhaps to give greater attention to the Blessed Mother and her role in salvation. But I think that we are missing some important theological messages that were carried by the Feast of the Circumcision worth restating.

Christ's willingness to become circumcised, even though he did not have to, gives an important sign of the importance of obedience to God. The blood shed during the circumcision serves as an important sign of the Crucifixion where again out of obedience to the Father, the Son will give up his life. The Christmas season is full of images of cute, happy baby Jesus but this is a child who is born to suffer and die for our sake. The Feast of the Crucifixion forces us to ask whether or not we are also willing to be obedient through suffering and even obedient unto death.

In a world where some people deny the Jewishness of Jesus, the Feast of the Circumcision served as another way to re-emphisize that the salvation of the world came out of the Jewish people.

There are also some nice hymns to be sung in honor of the Circumcision:

From the hymn, "The Ancient Law Departs" :
His infant body now
Begins the cross to feel:
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the Victim seal.

From the hymn, O Happy Day, When First Was Poured:
O happy day, when first was poured
The blood of our redeeming Lord!
O happy day, when first began
His sufferings for sinful man!


Lord, circumcise our hearts, we pray,
Our fleshly natures purge away;
Thy Name, Thy likeness may they bear:
Yea, stamp Thy holy image there!

I don't know whether you could start a movement called "Bring back Circumcision" but perhaps priests might mention something about it in their homilies on the 1st of January and others might bring it up in casual conversation.

This is the time when we remember how Jesus lived a truly human life in faithfulness to the Father and that we who have found the Child Jesus in Bethlehem are called to follow his example.

New podcast up

The newest Catholic:Under The Hood is up with a tour of some of the impressive artwork of Kansas City's Plaza and a look at what the Catholic Church has to do with New Year's Day.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What happens when the world goes upside down?

What does it mean when one can no longer mention the name of Jesus because it is offensive, but one can curse and swear because it is daring?

What does it mean when one can no longer show a cross because it is offensive, but one can show that which is sacriligious because it is progressive?

The Sacramentality of the Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Let me preface this post by saying that it contains information which may make watching the movie - The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe less enjoyable if you have not seen the movie or read the book. So if you don't wish to have part of the plot spoiled, please read the book and/or see the movie before reading the rest of this post.

Having finally seen the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - I was struck not only by the Christian imagery, but also by some strong Catholic imagery.

The movie presents a really good theology of the Sacrament of Confession in the encounter between Edmund and Aslan after Edmund is freed from the White Witch. Edmund made poor choices and even though he had suffered for those choices, he still needed to approach Aslan [Christ] to really be brought back into the community. When his encounter with Edmund is finished, Alsan tells the other children that the events of the past were not to be brought up again. Aslan had forgiven Edmund and that is the end of the matter.

However, forgiven sin still has consequences - Edmund's actions had caused pain to many others and the White Witch tries to claim Edmund as hers by right. It is only by Aslan willing to take upon himself Edmund's punishment that truly removes any claim that evil may have upon Edmund and Edmund's willingness to atone for his past misdeads through acts of virtue that truly address those consequences.

In the same way, sin in Catholic theology creates a rupture between the sinner and God - between the sinner and the Church. To repair that rupture, the sinner comes before Christ to hear the words of the priest, "Your sins are forgiven". To know that because Christ forgives the sinner - no one will mention the past wrong again. But as the forgiven sinner knows, the past deed can continue to have effects - Christ has freed us from any claim evil may have upon us through his sacrifice but we are still called to make amends for past wrongs through repentence and conversion. This repentence and conversion is not a punishment - instead it is a grace making us more into the persons that we have been called to be just as Edmund's conversion helps make him into the person who can be called king.

As the movie demonstrates, confession is a means of healing - not a means of punishment.

Friday, December 23, 2005

New podcast up

A new podcast is up over at Catholic:Under The Hood with an interview with Damien Lenshek of Project Damian and a commentary on the Icon of the Nativity. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What would our founders think?

As a member of a religious order, I am always wondering how much of what I am doing is in conformity with the life of the one who founded my community. I know that it's not just me. Indeed, whenever some members of a religious community misbehave, the quick response is "St. X would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what his community is doing." Not surprisingly, many of those quick to voice such statements are themselves members of religious communities.

If anyone looked at the way I live my life, it would be easy to say that I do not live the level of austerity that St. Francis lived - I'm writing on computer to offer one big example of what I mean. Francis had trouble with his followers having breviaries, I'm sure that he probably wouldn't have wanted them to have Thinkpads.

So, does this mean that I'm not living my Franciscan life faithfully? I certainly am not in 100% conformity to Francis but the Christian life calls me to become like Christ - not to become like Francis. Francis is holy only because he imitated Christ. In this sense, Francis repeats the words of St. John the Baptist "I must decrease so that he might increase". This is the way with any saint - their lives and examples are proclaimed so that they might direct us to Christ, and through Christ to the Father. In this sense, one statement I hear quite a bit "There was only one Francis is correct". Francis had is call from God to which he responded faithfully, but the rest of us are not called to live in the same way. If we protest because certain religious do not follow the examples of their orders founder, should we not first protest against ourselves because we do not follow faithfully the example of Christ?

This doesn't mean that I shouldn't strive to live more Franciscan each day, indeed I should - just as I should strive to live more Christian every day. This doesn't mean that I can and do behave in ways that are opposed to the charism of St. Francis - in those cases I need to be corrected and challenged. The reason why we have a charism of conversion is a recognition that we are not the way that God wants us to be - but we also know that through God's grace and the prayers of St. Francis that we can be. So, please be kind to this unreformed Franciscan and pray that this unreformed Franciscan can become kinder to others - even the Jesuits.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Signs of the Advent Apocalypse - Part 6 - Santarchy

Welcome to the Santarchy, a movement that apparently involves getting drunk and causing disruptive behavior while dressed up as Santa Claus - all in the name of "protesting the commercialization of Christmas". Yeah, right.

The rampage, dubbed "Santarchy," began early Saturday afternoon when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an overpass, said Auckland Central Police spokesman Noreen Hegarty.

She said the men then rushed through a central city park, overturning garbage containers, throwing bottles at passing cars and spraying graffiti on office buildings. [source]

Perhaps we need a new group protesting the protestors.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Podcast up

I have a new podcast up at Catholic:Under The Hood. We interview Joe Campo of Grassroots Films about their work promoting John Paul II's call to evangelize through the media. We also listen to the story of St. Francis and the Christmas Creche.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

St. Michael and Willy Wonka

Having taken the religious name of Seraphim, I tend to get a little upset over the contemporary trend to wimpifying the Angels. Perhaps when the devil ceases to be a concern, it's not too surprising that the Angels cease to be great forces for good but instead become faint shadows of their glory, just look at the entire Seraphim Angels line of statues for example.

If Angels really looked like that, Gabriel wouldn't have told Mary to "Be not afraid" but instead "Here, have a hug". But, I have to admit that seeing the Chocolate Angels produced by Sarris Candies really got my ire going. This is the description from the box of the "origin" of Chocolate Angels -

It must have been divine intervention.

Humming an aria as soft and sweet as the confections he was creating, Michael gently stirred the sweetened vanilla cream. Delicately he dipped into the whipped white peaks, dropping dollops of whisper-light clouds onto the cool marble, and then covering them in pure milk chocolate.

Suddenly a faint fluttering caught his ear. Michael looked upward to see fresh pecans drifiting downward as if guided by unseen gossamer wings...

Agh! Apparently the war against evil has died down enough so that St. Michael can retire and make candy.

Bring back the real Angels with armor and swords beating up dragons and the bad guys. That's what I want for Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Abortion in an Orwellian world

The City Council of Pittsburgh voted 5-3 to extend the "bubble of privacy" [you just have to wonder who comes up with these words] around abortion clinics to 15 feet from the clinics entrance and 8 feet from any patient who enters a 100 foot zone around the clinic.

The Council appeared to be swayed by the usual pro-abortion arguments accusing the protestors of harrasment and intimidation. An odd sort of argument considering that on December 1st, two Franciscan University students were assaulted by a group of ten teenagers angry at their presence in front of a Pittsburgh Abortion clinic. The students were beaten and threatened with a box cutter.

The tragedy of this decision grows because those who are in a position to help prevent abortion not only do not work to prevent it, they encourage it. For example, Rev. Bebb Stone of the Presbyterian Church of Mt. Washington escorts women to the abortion clinic. There have been some "Catholics" who have also done the same.

Thanks to the use of double speak those who speak for life are called "intimidators", those who take life are "couragous".

NARAL says, "Every child a wanted child". God says, I want that child. What more needs to be said?

New podcast up

The latest episode of Catholic:Under The Hood is up with an interview with Fr. Michael Scanlon, TOR about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Twelve Days of Kitschmas

Having trouble finding a gift for that special person? Take a look at some of the gift selections over at Ship of Fools. I'm really looking at the Flogging Lights for the friary.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christianity, the Media and Evangelization

I was reading an article in the Village Voice about the place of Christian themes in contemporary film and was struck by this paragraph:

But there is no explicit mention of Christianity in Anschutz's speech or Walden's materials [about the Narnia movie], reflecting another strategy among members of the Christian right that involves cloaking their goals in secular language. As Didi Herman explains, "The [Christian right's] more sophisticated elements quite consciously avoid religious rhetoric; they know it doesn't work. The language of sin, apocalypse, redemption results in them being 'loonified' by the media." For example, Mel Gibson, in discussing his latest project Apocalypto (also to be distributed by Disney), rejected rumors that his new film was an end-times narrative inspired by sacred Mayan texts, saying at a press conference that it is "not a big doomsday picture or anything like that."

Is it really necessary that in order for Christianity to get its message out that we need to "hide" the very language that is Christianity, i.e. the theme of sin and redemption? Can we preach Christianity without preaching Christ?

I have trouble understanding why the very message that has brought people to Christ for thousands of years is all of the sudden something to be avoided. People don't come to Christianity because it entertains them, nor should we be "cloaking" our message - though some may indeed find the message subversive.

This doesn't mean beating people over the head with the Bible, but it does mean not being ashamed of the very message you seek to spread.

There seems to be a fear that if a movie is advertized as "too Christian" that it will keep people away. This is the real tragedy, the belief that an authentically Christian message will be unappealing. But if you speak to a convert, they always say that they became Christian because they came to know Christ, that he came into a fallen world and redeemed it.

It's easy to be nice, what is the real challenge and the real desire is to be holy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Newsflash! Narnia is about Jesus

The Sunday Times of England offers us this groundbreaking news - "Narnia's lion is really Jesus" according to an unpublished letter by Lewis which provides "conclusive proof of the Christian message in his Narnia children’s books." [source]

I was wondering, is there anyone who denies this. Both supporters and detractors seem to agree on this point. Christian Churches here in the United States are preparing to turn out their members in full force to see the film. Those who are hostile to Christianity are warning people to stay away from its blatant Christian themes.

Apparently one person who denies the Christian themes is Lewis' stepson David Gresham. However, David's own religious wanderings make me wonder whether he ever really understood where Lewis was coming from - or whether he is worried that the strong publicization of Narnia's Christian message may keep some viewers away.

As for the Times, I wonder if it isn't also trying to fan the flames of controversy. Perhaps we will get a headline tomorrow - "Christian messiah is really Jesus" and conclusive proof of the Christian message in the letters of St. Paul.

Catholic Podcasts

The new revised directory of Catholic podcasts is up at

I hope to continue to add to the site - information on subscribing to podcasts and perhaps some information on making your own podcasts. Right now it is intended to let people know what podcasts are out there and about news in Catholic podcasting.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Who will speak for Haleigh?

I can still remember the struggle to keep Terri Schiavo alive earlier this year. One issue of special concern was the motivation of her husband in seeking her death. In Boston, there is now another hard case that is similar to Terri's but with an even darker twist.

Haleigh Poutre is an 11 year old girl in a comotose state from which doctors assert she will never recover. She is currently in the custody of the Massachusettes Department of Social Services because her aunt, who had adopted her, has committed suicide. The DDS wants to remove Haleigh's feeding tube but is being opposed by Jason Strickland. Mr. Strickland lived with Haleigh and her aunt for four years and wishes to be declared Haleigh's de-facto father.

As one of Mr. Strickland's lawyers said, "Without the intervention of this court, this child will die."

The horrible twist in this case is that the reason Haleigh is in a coma is that she was severely beaten and Mr. Strickland has been accused of this terrible crime. Moreover, if Haleigh dies, Mr. Strickland will likely face charges of murder. [source]

Do we fight for Haleigh's right to live even if it benefits the one accused of abusing her? I think we do. A lawyer for the DDS has argued that this case is about allowing Haleigh to die. But no one can know Haleigh's wishes - especially a "wish to die". Indeed it would be better to say that the state wants to be allowed to do what Mr. Strickland stands accused of and failed.

One thing stands clear - Haleigh was betrayed once by the system that was supposed to protect her and it seems likely that she will be betrayed again.

I saw that Haleigh's biological mother is still alive. However, presumably, she renounced her parental rights when Haleigh was adopted by her aunt. Who will speak for Haleigh today?

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Internet - Friend or Foe

A few weeks ago, I commented on a piece by Jonathan Last entitled God and the Internet within one of my Catholic:Under The Hood podcasts. In that capacity I have been mentioned by First Things within the context of a debate over the article and the article's conclusions regarding whether or not the Internet [particularly Internet blogging] should be seen more as something dangerous to Catholic community or something beneficial to the same. Even though my comments appeared on my podcast, I am speaking about this here as I think it will be easier for those who wish to comment and respond to do so.

Many of those mentioned in Last's article are justifiably upset with the way that Last presents them in the article. I did not address that issue in the podcast primarily because of the quick reading I made of the article. For just some of the negative responses, one can look at Amy Welborne's post and its comments.

I come at this issue both as someone fascinated with the possible applications of new Catholic media - as can be quite obvious with the fact that I blog and podcast. As a teacher I am interested in seeing how this new media can be used as a real tool for learning. I am also a Franciscan and so see the promoting of authentic human relationship as part of my religious charism.

My current thoughts:

The Internet is a tool for good and for ill. There is a lot of information available on the Internet much of it beneficial and much of it detrimental. In terms of the faith, there are indeed many good blogs, podcasts, videocasts available to present the faith in terms of sermons, apologetics, and other means which were unthinkable just a few years ago. The new media is definitely a great tool for evangelization and is being used in wondrous ways particularly by the Catholic laity.

However, the I have found that blogging can also be uncomfortable and I often wrestle with the question of whether my blogs or podcasts or whatever are more about making myself feel important [leave comments! say that you like me!] and less about promoting the glory of God. I find that there can indeed be something narcisistic about all of this. This is not to say that all [or any] blogger is acting only or primarily out of ego, just that this is a danger. I wonder whether the postings I choose for posting are designed to promote a real educated Catholicism or are more appropriate in some sort of "Catholic Weekly World News". It's easy for me to find things to complain about, it's much more difficult [though necessary] to put forward a constructive response.

As a blog reader/podcast listener - I find that there is much good out there that I certainly would not have been aware of if these media forms were not available. But I also feel the danger of "Internet Addiction" - of moving from blog to blog to blog seeking out the newest interesting post, concern that there may be something important that I might be missing.

As for the issue of community and the media - there are certainly good communities available for those involved in this new evangelization - St. Blogs for Catholic bloggers and Disciples With Microphones for Catholic podcasters, for example. Prolonged reading of a particular bloggers posts or listening to a particular podcaster can indeed give some insight into a person's character. I think also of the large number of comments on the blogsite of seminarian Matty Molnar after his tragic death as a sign of the many connections that can be made in cyberspace. But I find that there are limits - I can respond to a particular post/podcast with comments or e-mail but relationship building seeks more than that. It seeks an authentically human interaction of the human face, the human voice, the human body.

Catholic blogs/podcasts can introduce people to the faith, educate people about the faith but the source and summit of our faith is found in the celebration of the Eucharist. This is why I felt the need to ask whether or not my work was directing people toward Christ or toward myself. That is why, especially as an educator and a priest, I need to ask whether I am helping people to use the tools of the Internet wisely.

I guess the best way to put it is that I am excited about the possibilities of the Internet but I am also cautious. However, I will also say that I am happy to see the many posts and comments on other blogs about this issue - whether they specifically agree with my view or not. It means that as a faith community we recognize the importance of this question and are willing to take it seriously.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Signs of the Advent Apocalypse - Part 5

I guess with the difficulties facing Priests, it's not too surprising that Santa Claus is facing some of the same difficulties. What a terrible thing when the symbols of good are presented as symbols of evil.

Disillusioned by a growing list of rules imposed by recruiting agencies and shopping centres to guard against litigation, men who have brought smiles to the faces of thousands of young West Australians for decades are reluctantly deciding to call it quits.

They can't hand out lollies, they can't pat children on the head because of religious beliefs, they can't put children on their laps unless they get permission from parents and they can't have photographs taken with youngsters unless their hands are in full view.

So frightened have some Santas become of being sued that they are demanding extra helpers to act as witnesses just in case a complaint is made.

Santas are even being told not to go around saying `Ho, ho, ho' because they may frighten children.

One Santa told The Sunday Times he walked through a shopping centre in silence because he was worried he'd be sacked if he appeared too jolly. [source]

There is always an uneasy relationship between freedom and safety. And while the desire to protect children from predators is laudable, what about the need to be able to express genuine love without fear of a jail sentence or a lawsuit?

Signs of the Advent Apocalypse - Part 4

This is a picture of members of PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment Animals] in the Phillipines urging that people adopt a vegetarian diet for Christmas.

Perhaps they were singing the Twelve Vegetarian Days of Christmas.

One the first day of Christmas, my diet permitted me one piece of crispy celery.
One the second day of Christmas, my diet permitted me two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.
On the third day of Christmas, my diet permitted me three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my diet permitted me four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my diet permitted me five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my diet permitted me six baked potatoes, five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my diet permitted me seven pounds of mushrooms, six baked potates, five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my diet permitted me eight bowls of rice, seven pounds of mushrooms, six baked potatoes, five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my diet permitted me nine carob brownies, eight bowls of rice, seven pounds of mushrooms, six baked potatoes, five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers and one piece of crispy celery.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my diet permitted me ten boxes of pasta, nine carob brownlies, eight bowls of rice, seven pounds of mushrooms, six baked potatoes, five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers, and one piece of crispy celery.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my diet permitted me eleven heads of lettuce, ten boxes of pasta, nine carob brownies, eight bowls of rice, seven pounds of mushrooms, six baked potatoes, five soy milks, four cups of lentils, three ripe bananas, two tofu burgers, and one piece of crispy celery.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I had a steak.

Signs of the Advent Apocalypse - Part 3

Virginia Voiers thought she was taking part in a rambunctious holiday custom, but a carriage driver thought differently and called police when he saw the 70-year-old grandmother stealing the baby Jesus from the city's nativity scene. [source]

Apparently, Mrs. Voiers decided to participate in a particular town custom involving stealing the baby Jesus. Normally, the baby is returned - in this case, Mrs. Voiers - a Sunday School teacher - told her pastor what she had done. Her paster told her, "Go and sin no more" and "You didn't tell them you were a Methodist did you?"

While I normally come down on the side of putting Jesus in the manger at the beginning of Advent, this may be a good reason to hold off.

Podcast Update

New podcast over at Catholic:Under The Hood with an interview with Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR auther of "Sower Seeds" and more on the Krampus!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Signs of the Advent Apocalypse - Part 2

Now this is a festival that might have some possibilities for the Bearded Seraph. The pictures are of a Krampus - one of the companions of Saint Nicholas.

According to Wikipedia -

Often the subject of winter poems and tales, the Companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom) and a sack. They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.

Some of the companions take on more monstrous forms. Krampus and Klaubauf are variously depicted as horned, shaggy, bestial, or demonic. In many depictions the Krampus looks like popular images of the Devil, complete with red skin, cloven hooves, and short horns. It is unclear whether the various companions of St. Nicholas are all expressions of a single tradition (likely Knecht Ruprecht), or a conflation of multiple traditions. Various texts, especially those outside the tradition, often treat the companions as variations on a single Knecht Ruprecht tradition.

According to tradition, the Krampus' job is to punish bad children and/or give them an "incentive" to behave before Christmas. How much better than just a simple, "You'll shoot your eye out!"

Signs of the Advent Apocalypse - Part 1

I'm pretty sure that this is what St. Francis intended when he pushed the Advent nativity:

LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Britney Spears new son, Sean Preston, is to play the baby Jesus in his very own nativity scene this Christmas.

The pop princess, and husband Kevin Federline, have transformed his bedroom into the nativity setting in celebration of his first festive holiday.

The beautiful singer has splashed out on the lavish decorations - which include six waxwork models and several life-size toy donkeys and cattle.

The 23-year-old singer is so excited about her first Christmas as a mum she has even bought a cherrywood style manger for her baby.

A source close to the star is quoted by Britain's Daily Star newspaper as saying: "It cost an absolute fortune. But at least she didn't have to buy a baby Jesus - because Sean is playing the part." [source]

I thought about parodying this, but where to begin?