17 April 2014


Have a happy and holy triduum, everyone.

11 April 2014

I remember The Passion Of The Christ

Shea has a post up about how wrong he was in his predictions about the movie, and his own little second degree of separation of involvement with it. It brought back my own memories of the hoopla from the weeks leading up to the release of the movie. (By the way, pray for Shea. His mother is dying.)

Like Shea, I was completely wrong in my predictions about the movie's chances of success. I thought that it had one advantage over the large budget blockbusters in that it was made on a relatively cheap budget, and therefore would not have to make much money in order to turn a profit. I couldn't foresee it making much more than that.

But there was a firestorm of controversy (aka free publicity) about the movie in the weeks leading up to its release,and there was a lot of hand wringing on the part of Catholics about whether or not they should go. It was anti Semitic, dontcha know. It was brutal, dontcha know. We knew that because a bunch of people who never saw it said so. It was also going to be brutal and in funny languages. No one would want to see it.

I myself was indifferent. Neither the language nor the brutality particularly bothered me. I had read medical descriptions of crucifixions and knew just how brutal they could be. I had been learning Latin as part of the degree I abandoned a year or two earlier, so that was no big deal either. I was neither hot nor cold for the movie, and unlike many around me at that time, I did not view either attending a movie or boycotting it to be an expression of my faith, but only an expression of my tastes as a consumer.

But others did, and inadvertently they helped me decide to see the movie. You see, many people in my old parish were searching for guidance on whether or not to see this movie, and they began writing e-mails to the priest and deacon, neither of whom were privy to any secret knowledge or previews of the movie, and therefore knew only as much or as little as did the congregation themselves.

And so it was that I took my mother to Mass one Saturday evening, the weekend before Ash Wednesday, that the deacon took to the pulpit and used the homily to give us his opinion of the movie.

I never did much care for this Deacon. He gave many of the worst homilies I ever heard. He ha a colloquial and informal style that I didn't care for, although others in the parish liked him. He supported women's ordination, and I am told that he predicted during the pontificate of John Paul II that the next Pope was going to allow married men to become priests at which point he would become a priest along with thousands of other men and the priest shortage would be over. In short, in response to "How wrong could this guy be?" the answer is: "Quite wrong."

On this day, however, he outdid himself. He delivered what has come to be, for me, the worst homily I ever heard. And that, dear friends, is really, really, saying something. I have heard homilies in favour of gay unions, in favour of female ordination, and a thousand other things to the point that it sometimes seems I have heard everything preached but Catholicism. But this one stands out in my memory as something special.

He was not going to the movie, he said, and he encouraged us all to do the same. Put the money into our Sharelife envelopes instead. He knew all about the Crucifixion, he said, and in fact he broke down weeping during the stations of the cross every Good Friday. He felt Mel Gibson did not need his money, was undeserving of our money, as he was Not One of Us, and iterated that if it was up to Mel, we would all be hearing Mass in Latin, the language of his brutal soldiers. Mel paid too much attention to the sacrifice, the old style, and not the new way.

The sermon went on and on, and as it grew I remember becoming angrier and angrier. I came here to give worship, hear the word of God, and offer once again the sacrifice of Calvary, not hear an amateur movie review. But here was this man was preaching one error after another in the context of discussing a movie which he had never even seen. Buddhists, I am told, believe that regarding knowledge as ignorance is noble, but to regard ignorance as knowledge is evil. And here we were.

And once again, after Mass, my fellow parishioners disappointed me. I thought that I could not be the only one who thought this was a farce, but no. One after another they greeted him on the way out and thanked him for helping them put the movie into perspective. Yes, they saw more clearly now. Thank you, Deacon, thank you.

I, however, and my mother as well, reached a different conclusion. I may have been neither here nor there before, but now I had made up my mind. I would go and see the movie, if only to shove it in this man's face. He did bring me clarity: if he was against it, there had to be something good in it.

So my mother and I saw a matinee some time afterwards. We were in crowded theatre filled with the most polite people you could meet. I did not find the movie either terribly shocking or enlightening. I was familiar with the Gospel accounts and with Roman executions. The movie was pretty much what I expected. I suspect that without the uproar and the ensuing free publicity it probably would not have done as well as it did, but that's only my opinion.

So that's my story about the movie. As I said, I didn't find it to be anything too revealing. The acting was alright, mostly. The filming was alright. I already knew the story. I saw a couple of historical inaccuracies, but nothing too earth shattering. On the whole I found the movie to be competent and adequate, but not much more than that. But for a fit of pique on my part... actually, I still would have taken my mother to it when she asked me. But even so. This was not about my faith. My faith lies in God, not in men and their works.

8 April 2014

Liberals win majority in Quebec.

Surprisingly, that's good news.  At least it will put the neverendum on hold for another election cycle.

If any of you ever thought to yourself...

...'that Bear fellow is a real jerk. I'd like to see him get his butt handed to him on a plate,' this may be your chance. I have inadvertently kicked off a combox debate with noted author S.M. Stirling over at Dale Price's blog on, of all things, World War One. I'd like to think I have been holding my own, but I think I will almost inevitably have to eat some crow on this one. We are both well read on the War (we even both had grandfathers who fought at Passchendaele) but he is more familiar with overall history and tactics of the war, whereas I tended to read more about the Canadian experience, books about particular battles, as well as memoirs and letters of the soldiers. The gist of it is that he thinks the generals in WWI were competent but stuck in an impossible situation. I am arguing that it was a situation made impossible by the incompetence of High Command which resulted in the pointless slaughter of millions. Fun ensues.

7 April 2014

Note to D&P: when you hit rock bottom...

Don't pull out a pick axe and keep going.

A few years ago we had the Development and Peace scandal, which some at D&P claimed was false, some admitted it happened, but has now been cleaned up. The scandal was that D&P, the foreign aid arm of the Canadian council of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) gave aid to many excellent foreign causes, but also to a few groups in Central and South America that in addition to other works of charity supported supported and promoted abortion rights, and possibly even provided abortions. We knew this, because bishops from Central America contacted the Canadian bishops and asked them to stop giving money to those groups, and offered them lists of several other charitable organizations that could do the same good works without also the bad.

Many of us were furious. Thanks to that group, we had supported a grave, intrinsic and objective evil. Some told us our reaction was overblown, and the bishops, who should have been overseeing this and making sure that this never happened in the first place, assured us that this would never happen again.

For my part, I had completely lost faith in D&P, and resolved to never again give them a cent. But some of my conscience weighted upon me. We are not supposed to refuse to give aid to those who need it, Jesus tells us. By refusing to give them money now, after they have sworn to have cleaned up, was that not what I was doing?

Then came this weekend at Mass. Reps from D&P spoke to us, and asked for our aid. They wanted us to give money, natc, but also to sign cards protesting the actions of some companies whose practises run contrary to the dictates of Social Justice. They also wanted us to purchase fair trade coffee and chocolate, and read a page or two outlining some of D&P's goals in Central and South America.

For fair trade, I am afraid I am far too cynical. How does one know that these products were made fairly? Whose word do we take for it- the people who took our money and lied a few years back? And what is fair? Is it really an improvement when sweat shops use air conditioners?

And then there was the sheet they wanted us to read. I wish I had kept it and could post it, instead of tossing it into the trash in disgust.

Among the stated goals of D&P was increased protection of "Mother Earth". Yeah. Gaia. While I believe in protecting Creation and caring for it, Mother Earth is a loaded term, and the only Catholics I know who use it are either deceived or deceiving. Then there was another point: To support and encourage traditional self government. That almost always is in reference to aboriginal populations.

It comes up every now and then in Canada. One of the last times the idea was raised, I was surprised to see that one of the groups that opposed it were women from certain tribes, mainly out west. For some reason, many white Liberals have curious ideas about the natives: They were free, egalitarian, peaceful, earth loving, etc etc. The first mistake in this way of thinking is that they are treating the Aboriginals as if they were a homogeneous group.  Each tribe was different with different customs and different ways of ordering their affairs.  Some tribes almost fit the liberal description of them.. Almost. Others, not so much. The women from, say, the Iroquois, were all for self government: In traditional Iroquois society the women are quite powerful. However, in some other tribes, a man's wife was a possession, of less value than his horse. Other groups fall somewhere in between. It was not shocking, therefore, that some women of a few tribes did not particularly want to go that far back into the way things were before.

So support of traditional self government in Central and South America depends upon whom you are speaking. Does D&P realize that for some groups this would mean the right to enslave other tribes, put them to work building pyramids to the sun, and then have priest kings cut out their hearts on said pyramids so the sun will rise tomorrow? Or does D&P think all traditional native cultures were nice, misunderstood people?

One way or another, do it with someone else's money. For all the good you do, you poison it with this foolishness.

3 April 2014

What is possible

A while back I found myself wrestling with the storytel documentary on St John Cantius in Chicago.  I worked over and over with the idea that all this, as Fr Philips said, could be done anywhere.  It was daunting, because I saw an awful lot of "this" in that video, and I was skeptical that all of it could be done anywhere, or even if it should.

I recently watched another of Storytel's documentaries, this time on St Peter's church in Omaha Nebraska.  The young priest there watched the video on St John Cantius, and even traveled to St John Cantius, and began applying the basic principles of Fr Philips, namely restoring the liturgy and finding out who can do what and putting those talents to good use, and has had a remarkable success in turning his parish around from the brink of closure.  That indeed is a "this" that may indeed be done "anywhere".  And it can lead to some amazing results.

But it does give rise to an interesting, and at the same time sad, question: Why isn't the principle of finding out who has what talents putting them to use already in use? Why do we need videos to tell us that this is a good idea?