Monday, December 22, 2014

Kilpatrick: The Sensitivity Movement was Damaging to the Catholic Church

As an American Protestant born in 1951 and converted to the Catholic Church only in 2008, I missed a lot of the “good stuff” that cradle Catholics of my generation had to endure.

Like Vatican II. Like priests and nuns marrying each other, strumming guitars, and feeling OK/OK about themselves. Like much of the abortion wars. Like the abuse scandal that began to rock Boston and then the entire Church in 2002.

Missed all that. Came to the Church in 2008. Said, “Hey, wassup? Golly, this is a beautiful place.”

One thing I did not miss on my long and winding road to the Roman Catholic Church was the sensitivity movement that began carpet-bombbing the American landscape with love, love, love in the 1960s and 1970s. Several chapters in my memoir, excerpted above as Lilliput, Europe, and Dulcinea, show that I got both sensitized and bombed.

Seveteen Things We Know About Joseph

The day is approaching once again for St. Joseph to grab his staff and take up a post by the manger while Mary gives birth to the baby Jesus.

Thinking this morning about my own favorite saint, I wondered what we really know about him from Scripture.

Many books have been written about Joseph, the patron saint of the Universal Church. Shrines have been erected in his honor. Devotions, litanies, and novenas have been developed over centuries of Catholic worship.

But what documented facts do we have about him? I counted seventeen facts in Scripture, all of them from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

We Three Kings: A Sacerdotal Selfie

My wife and I attended a small dinner party of church friends last night. Three of the guests—the most honored guests—were priests who formerly served in our parish.

I gather that the photo above is a sacerdotal selfie, taken by Fr. Kwang Lee, featuring (l to r) the priestly photographer, Fr. David Barnes, and Fr. Ixon Chateau.

Our former pastor and my first, Father Barnes is now the Catholic chaplain at Boston University. He posted about the event in his wonderful blog, “A Shepherd’s Post.”

You can read his words here.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Meanwhile, on the Road to Montreal, Week 3

As explained in previous posts for week 1 and week 2, I am plotting my path to Montreal on foot next spring, hoping to attend mass every day possible.

The third week (map left) is pretty cut and dried, taking me from Plymouth NH on the weekend of May 16-17 to St. Johnsbury VT the following weekend.

On each of the four weekends so far (beginning May 2-3), I believe I have accommodations for two nights, which will allow me one complete day of rest each week, preferably Sunday.

Towns, churches and mass times for week 3 are shaping up as follows:

Word for the Day: Onceness

Writing about death, judgment, and hell in his book on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Karl Rahner S.J. says, “Our death is a culmination of the unrepeatable onceness of our personal human existence.”

That single, singular word onceness (in Greek hapax) brought me up short this morning. It snapped many things into focus. One word seemed all at once to distinguish Christianity from other so-called paths and to explain for me the meaning of pilgrimage, as well, as my pilgrimage on foot to Montreal grows near.

Onceness, as a distinctly Christian way of seeing the world, stands squarely, resolutely between the nothingness of the atheist and the everythingness of the Buddhist or Hinduthat Eastern sense blithely embraced by  so many of us Westerners that tells us “God is everywhere,” we are “spirit,” and our lives will somehow “repeat” themselves (get better probably) in this “spiritual” universe, as we turn in a cycle of reincarnation or eternal return or something or other.

This cyclic vision of life is buttressed by Joseph Campbell’s great, flawed work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which we’re all wannabe heroes on a sacred journey that will only bring us home again.

Christians don’t go home again. After death, we go to heaven or we go to hell.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Reading Year at a Glance

I love Goodreads. Too bad it’s owned by Amazon, which has all but destroyed the book business as I once knew it, but— Anyway, too bad. I love Goodreads.

With the Goodreads Challenge, you are encouraged to read more than your lazy-ass self would ordinarily read. With reviews, you are urged to think about and judge your reading experiences. All good.

The illustration here is a collage of the 38 books I have read in 2014, straight from Goodreads, which sent me a congratulatory message. I had set my Challenge at 35 books. The image is a snapshot of my reading life and, to some degree, my intellectual life during 2014.

It shows that—

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joseph’s Third Day

St. Joseph is honored by two official Catholic feast days, March 19 and May 1. That’s twice what most saints get, though still a fortnight or so short of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Joseph’s first day, March 19, is his official feast, observed traditionally in the Roman Catholic Church for eleven hundred years and officially for nearly 450 years. In 1570, Pope St. Pius V made it standard for all churches celebrating the Roman Rite. It was on this day in 2008, four days before my confirmation as a Catholic, that, hearing the day’s liturgy, I decided to take the name Joseph when I was received into the Church.

From 1870 until 1955, the Church celebrated a feast honoring St. Joseph as Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, also known as the Solemnity of St. Joseph. In 1955, that observance ended and a new one replaced it: the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. May 1 (May Day) was chosen because it was International Labor Day. This is St. Joseph’s second day. I have chosen it for the start of my pilgrimage to the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal.

Today’s Gospel chronicles St. Joseph’s big moment in salvation history. Thus it marks a sort of third day for the patron saint of the Universal Church. Joseph is also the patron of fathers, carpenters, social justice, and the dying.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why Pilgrimage? Why Today?

Each episode of PBS’s new series “Sacred Journeys” begins with a challenging statement. In a cheery, inquisitive voice, host Bruce Feiler says, “Today organized religion is more threatened than ever, yet pilgrimage is more popular than ever.”

The juxtaposition is puzzling and meant to be. It’s what you call a teaser.

First of all, good for Feiler for pointing out religion’s precarious position in today’s culture. He does not expand on the thought. He only posits it: “Organized religion is more threatened than ever.” The second statement, about the popularity of pilgrimage, clearly is meant to make us wonder, to evoke interest, to get us to watch. 

I am convinced of Feiler’s goodwill and bona fides. He seems a genuine enough searcher. But I wonder whether, as he states the circumstances, pilgrimage’s popularity is such a good thing.

Is it necessarily ironic that “pilgrimage is more popular than ever” in a world that threatens organized religion? Or is it a symptom of our new, relativistic, necessarily shallow approach to religious devotion that we happily substitute a two- or three-week experience in “cultural tourism” for the real, arduous, day-by-day, lifelong adventure that is discipleship? In the case of the Christian, I mean the adventure of following Christ.

When to Publish, and When Not

My decision to fictionalize my encounters with a sexually abusive guru has drawn fire from left and right, as the media commentators say.

There is a loud minority that would rather I publish nothing at all about my experiences with “Gulliver” when I was nineteen. I have heard from one by e-mail; I am dreading meeting another in person this weekend. He’s an old friend. He means well. He just wants me to shut the hell up.

These folks, whether they like it or not, are in the same camp with the mainstream media, which has failed to report on the sexual shenanigans of a key Obama adviser. Like the press, these silence-is-golden folks seem to think that it’s OK to give a pass to those who prey on others, especially older gay men who prey on youths.

On the other side, there are those who want me to go whole hog, pardon the expression. These hail from the 16 percent who voted “Publish but only with real names” in my recent poll. Expose the bastard! Destroy his name! they shout at me. Never let anyone think Gulliver did any good!

Meanwhile, I sit huddled amidst the hue and cry, making up stories about places that may never have existed like Dulcinea, the antiquarian bookshop and floorshow. But I know what I’m doing. Dumb I ain’t. My parents didn’t rear stupid children.

Let me explain with a recent exchange. A dear old friend—definitely one of those in the whole-hog camp—wrote me last night:

“Sacred Journeys” Worth Taking

There’s a lot to move you in the first installment of PBS’s “Sacred Journeys,” a series of six one-hour documentaries hosted by Bruce Feiler. My wife and I watched last evening—our first side-by-side, beneath-one-blanket viewing experience since a recent “Breaking Bad” bingeathon.

As St. Ignatius might have, I discerned a different quality of experience. More consolatory on balance, I would say.

The series follows American pilgrims on six forms of pilgrimage observed by six religions: Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Yoruba (in order of the installments). Two installments are being shown on three consecutive Tuesday evenings: December 16, 23, and 30.

Wisely, the series begins in Lourdes and will take viewers to Jerusalem next Tuesday, during Christmas week.

Powerfully, the first segment follows a group of American war veterans to Lourdes. All bear wounds, physical, psychological, emotional. Only half are Catholic. Many are visibly changed by the experience.

A few notes: