Introducing Ollabelle (Music for Mondays)

Since hearing them last year on Pandora Radio, I have been a big fan of the largely invisible musical quintet “Ollabelle.” Here’s their Wikipedia page, which has about as much info as I’ve found anywhere. The notable member, perhaps, is Amy Helm, daughter of The Band drummer Levon Helm, though I’m not really a music junkie, so Glenn Patscha, Byron Isaac, Fiona McBain, or even Tony Leone may be somehow more important. Anyway, what is it with these people? There’s nothing overtly Evangelical, and certainly nothing Catholic, about their story, but tell me they aren’t “religious”!

Sorry in advance for the poor video quality, but these people have been flying under the radar—

What could be more Lenten than a song called “Get Back Temptation”?

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Do you have “Jesus on the Main Line”? Ollabelle does.

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Listen to this cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Soul of a Man” (with a momentary change of scene) and tell me these people don’t know something about the Holy Spirit.

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And how about my favorite Ollabelle tune, “Down by the Riverside,” one of the great Negro Spirituals?

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Let’s finish with a “band of angels” in “Gone Today,” taking Ollabelle to heaven, where I say they belong.

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For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 5)

I  can’t imagine living without the saints—real men and women who have proved the Christian claim for 2000 years—and yet that’s just what I did as a Protestant for the first 56 years of my life. I didn’t pay them any attention. How could I have lived without St. Joseph alone? On what grounds? He is the model of fatherhood (I have two daughters whom I adore), of what it means to be a husband (and a wife I double adore), of working hard (don’t we all?), and of a happy death (in the arms of Jesus and Mary). Why would I not be interested in St. Joseph? Why would anyone not?

Continuing my running account of how the devotion to St. Joseph developed from the late middle ages through the time of St. Teresa of Avila, we come to St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622). According to Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life (1609) “develops a positive and practical spirituality for married people and families” by focusing on the Holy Family and, by extension, on the centrality of St. Joseph. “Who can doubt,” he wrote, “that when this holy father came to the end of his years, he in turn was carried by his divine foster Child on his journey from this world into the next, into Abraham’s bosom, from there to be translated into the Son’s own bosom, into glory, on the day of His Ascension?” Just 300 years before St. Francis de Sales, no one in Christendom would have placed St. Joseph, the “silent man” of the Gospels, so close to the center of Salvation history.

And to continue the homily for the Feast of St. Joseph by Karl Rahner, SJ, here’s the next installment:

Three times the scripture says of Joseph: “He rose up.” He rose up to carry out God’s will as he perceived it in his conscience, a conscience that was so alert that it perceived the message of the angel even in sleep, although that message called him to a path of duty that he himself neither devised nor expected.

According to the witness of the Bible, this insignificant man’s humble routine concealed a further object of value: righteousness. Joseph was a just man, the Bible says, a man who regulated his life according to the word and law of God. Not only when this law suited his desires, but always and at all times, even when it was hard, and when the law judged to his disadvantage that his neighbor was right. He was righteous in that he was impartial, tactful, and respectful of Mary’s individuality and even of that which he could not understand in her.

[To be continued tomorrow]

St. Joseph, most blessed of all male saints, model for fathers and husbands and workers everywhere, pray for us!

Personal Thoughts on the Scandal on a Sunday

To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy assault by fire and close combat.

That short, terse statement is the mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad. I learned it long ago. It was seared into my memory at Parris Island, never to be forgotten. It comes readily to my mind now as more stories of abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests continue to come to light.

Perhaps it is wrong for me to have these feelings, but my first reaction is to fix bayonets and start rooting out these enemy saboteurs. Whispers in the Loggia? I would argue that bullhorns and flashlights in the Loggia are in order. I feel like St. Peter when he whacks the right ear off Malchus when the authorities came to arrest Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.” (John 18:1-10 RSV)

Obviously Peter was attempting to protect Jesus by cleaving the head of this Malchus fellow in two. Quick reflexes saved Malchus, while costing him his ear. In His last recorded miracle before being crucified, Jesus heals Malchus by restoring his ear to him,

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51 RSV)

Our Lord then explained that if He were about to take over the world at that time by force of arms, He wouldn’t need the help of humans to do it:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:53-54 RSV)

What does this scene have to do with pedophile priests? Perhaps I just needed to let you know that I am thoroughly disgusted with this ongoing scandal. I feel compelled to wield the sword at them much the way that other regular guy named Peter tried to do there in the Garden of Gethsemane. Call me Joe Sixpack, USMC of the Catholic blogosphere. I pray that Catholics the world over will insist on a thorough and uncompromising investigation of these latest allegations. No one should be immune from investigation and/or  prosecution.

I definitely did not become Catholic because of pedophile priests. When the scandal first broke in the United States in 2002, I wasn’t a Catholic yet. My oldest son was attending our parish school though and as the allegations came to light nationwide, I personally thought that this could be “game over” for the Catholic Church. Not my problem though because I wasn’t a Catholic.

That was my attitude then maybe, but not now. Now my attitude is 8 years of this crap has been long enough. Sure, the barque of St. Peter maneuvers as nimbly as an aircraft carrier, but 8 (others say it’s 10) years to make a course correction?! But wait a second, the ship is on the right course.  The problem is that some of the hands have gone rogue on us and need to be dealt with ASAP. And just when you thought the situation with the crew was under control, up came more allegations of shipmates behaving badly. And not just any shipmates, but officers of the line. In Ireland late last year and now in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Like dandelions in my yard, or zombies…Run!

Wait, on second thought don’t run. Sure zombies aren’t real, but only one thing works on them in the movies. Fire, like from a flame-thrower or a torch. And only one thing works on dandelions in my yard: forcibly extracting them from the ground, root and all, and tossing them in the trash can.

You need to extract them while they are still in full bloom and before the flowers become seeds. If they seed over, you still have to pull them while being very careful that none of the seedlings drop to the ground. Good luck with that. I’ve found that clipping the seed head first and then extracting the weed works best in this case. Ever considered transplanting dandelions removed from one part of your yard to another? Me neither.

I don’t mean to offend anyone’s sensibilities by talking about pedophile priests and associating them with punitive actions like fire, maneuver, forcible extraction, and other harsh words and phrases. But like the warrior King David, my hands are trained for battle and my fingers for war.  I realize that we are talking about sinful human beings just like ourselves. But what of the victims and the anguish and remorse they have endured and are still enduring?

And what of the damage to the Church, the Body of Christ? No one’s reputation or standing is more important than that of the Church as a whole. These words from the book of Isaiah ring loudly,

The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion:

The wisdom of its wise men shall perish and the understanding of its prudent men be hid. Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the LORD! Who work in the dark, saying, “Who sees us, or who knows us?”

Suggestion: let the sun shine in.  You don’t protect the integrity of the ship by ignoring holes in her hull, you repair them. And you don’t allow malefactors to run amok within your ships crew either. You court-martial them and bust them to private and throw them in the brig.

You see, something else was seared into my brain while I served in the Marine Corps. It’s from the Code of Conduct (bold emphasis is mine):

Article VI: I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

I’m a rookie lay Catholic, but I bet if I tried hard enough I could find a similar Code of Conduct for priests and religious. Yep, here’s one.  Not quite as hard corps as the one in the military. For instance this line from that code (4.5) should really be up there in section 2, Conduct with Minors

All instances of alleged harassment (insert abuse) must be reported at once to the immediate supervisor, Pastor, Parochial Administrator, Principal or the appropriate Diocesan Official.

Um, I suggest calling the police first.  Serious people with guns and badges looking for bad guys tend to get things done a little quicker than the average bureaucracy.  Also, simple stuff like no child left alone with an adult works wonders in Scouting. Is this the protocol in your parish?

To keep up with the news, I suggest you check in with the good folks over at New Advent for the latest stories from the Catholic blogosphere. And there is a news feed over at this site too, which probably won’t win me any admirers either.  So be it.

In closing, even though I haven’t ever personally stooped this low in my own sinful life (there, but for the grace of God, go I), I know that these priests deserve our sympathy, prayers, compassion and love. But they need to be arrested, tried and convicted (if found guilty by a jury of their peers), and then sent to jail for their crimes. This is necessary not only for good order and discipline aboard His Majesty’s Ship but for the good of the entire world.

Now is the time for accountability and transparency. “No more of this!” St. Joseph pray for us!

Semper Fidelis

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies IV

This is your trusty co-pilot checking in again. We are continuing our slow descent and are currently at 17,000 feet with good visibility, but with reports of some heavy weather up ahead. So for your safety, please keep your seat belt fastened when you aren’t moving about the cabin. [Read more...]

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 2)

As a reader commented yesterday, when I began a novena in anticipation of his feast day, March 19, St. Joseph is the silent man in the Gospels. He speaks not a word, although Matthew and Luke both show him acting decisively in response to the Word of God. Much of what we “know” about St. Joseph is apocryphal; many images of him, for example, the old man holding a staff from which a lily sprouts (left), are derived from the Protoevangelium of James and other texts discredited by Church Fathers. Most modern scholars seem to agree that Joseph was in fact a young man, making his virginal marriage far more impressive.

St. Joseph was silent and pretty much unnoticed for the first 1200 years of Christian history. There is little record of devotion to him during that period. In his essay “Theological Reflections on Devotion to Saint Joseph,” Michael Griffin, OCD, writes: “Though the Church from the beginning was aware that Mary was given to be the spiritual mother of all, it is a fact that consciousness of Saint Joseph as the spiritual father and protector of every Christian was only gradually arrived at.”

As I will be telling in subsequent posts, devotion to St. Joseph and, by extension, to the Holy Family began at the time of the Franciscans (13th Century) and St. Joseph alone has been an increasingly important figure for Popes since the late 19th century. I’ll conclude this short post today with the next paragraphs in a homily for the Feast of St. Joseph written by Karl Rahner, SJ, which began yesterday. It reflects a consensus that in some way the Holy Spirit “reserved” devotion to St. Joseph for our troubled times:

The blessed men and women with whom we have fellowship in the communion of saints are not pale shadows. Rather, they have brought over into the eternal life of God the fruits of their earthly life, and thus have brought with them their own personal uniqueness.

Their God even calls them by name in the one today of eternity. They are ever the same as they were in the unique history of their own lives. We single out one individual from among them to honor him as our heavenly protector and intercessor, because his own individuality means something unique and irreplaceable to us. We mean that between him and us there exists a specific rapport that makes him a special blessing for us and assigns a special duty to us, if we are to be worthy of his protection.

From this point of view, is it possible to think that Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin and foster father of our Lord, is particularly suited to be a patron of a twentieth-century person? Is it possible to think that anyone living today will be able to see himself reflected in Joseph? Are there not people today who, if they are true to their character as willed by God, are a people of small means, of hard work, of only a few words, of loyalty of heart and simple sincerity?

[To be continued tomorrow]

Oh blessed St. Joseph, virginal husband of Mary, pray for us!

Because Catholics Can Take a Joke

Guest post by Allison Salerno
Know any good, tasteful Catholic jokes? On Sunday, the fourth in Lent, our Church will celebrate Laetare Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday. Among the signs of joy you may see at your local parish this Sunday are: the use of flowers on the altar, and of the organ at Mass and Vespers. You will also see your priests robed in rose-colored vestments. One parish friend suggests we think of Laetare Sunday  as “halftime for Lent,” a chance for us to pause and feel joy during our Lenten Journey. How wise our Church and its liturgical calendar are!

Inspired by reader Michelle, who emailed Webster a very funny joke, we will post  some Catholic jokes on Sunday afternoon—all in good taste and respectful of our Church because Catholics do have a sense of humor. Just check out the photo (above) of Sister Rosalba Garcia, one of the twenty-three nuns of the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province in San Antonio.

Because Webster and Frank don’t know a whole lot of Catholic jokes (they seem to have little sense of humor), and I know few jokes of any denomination, we need your help. Send your suggestions to me: allisonsalerno@optimum.net and I will compile a list. Looking forward to some giggles.

Here’s a little more about Laetare Sunday from my friend, who says he “plagiarized shamelessly and paraphrased from the Catholic Encyclopædia”:

“Strictly speaking, the Thursday before Laetare Sunday is the middle day of Lent, and it was at one time observed as such, but afterwards the special signs of joy permitted on this day, intended to encourage the faithful in their course through the season of penance, were transferred to the Sunday following. The fourth, or middle, Sunday of Lent, gets its name from the first words of the Introit at Mass, “Laetare Jerusalem’—‘Rejoice, O Jerusalem.’”

Because of The Stations of the Cross

One of the dreams my wife and I have is to go on a tour of the Holy Land. We want to make a pilgrimage there and see the sights and holy places where the greatest story ever told took place. That is a trip we are really looking forward to.

There are many sites outside of the Holy Land to make a pilgrimage to as well. Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe come to mind. So many places, so little time, and dare I say it, so little cash. But there is a way to go to the Holy Land this week right in your local parish. [Read more...]

Because Breast is Best (in honor of International Women’s Day)

Guest post by Allison
Quick: Who said this about breastfeeding? “Mothers need time, information and support. So much is expected of women in many societies that time to devote to breast-feeding and early care is not always available.” The answer: Pope John Paul II.

Most of us don’t expect a priest, much less a pope, to be weighing in on breastfeeding. But the late Pontiff made a compelling case in a 1995 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of Britain:

In normal circumstances these (advantages of breastfeeding for mother and child) include two major benefits to the child: protection against disease and proper nourishment. Moreover, in addition to these immunological and nutritional effects, this natural way of feeding can create a bond of love and security between mother and child, and enable the child to assert its presence as a person through interaction with the mother.

After I married, I decided to breastfeed any children I would bear. My mom, born in the 1930s, was part of a generation of American women discouraged by physicians from breastfeeding. To give a sense of the prevailing attitude of those times, one friend’s mom asked her obstetrician about breastfeeding. He told her, “Breastfeeding is for peasants.”

My mom became pregnant six times in seven years, and told me she loved breastfeeding her oldest child for a couple of months and regretted she had not had support to continue with my oldest brother and her subsequent babies.

Pope John Paul II rightly traced the decline of breastfeeding to “a combination of social factors, such as urbanization and the increasing demands placed on women, to healthcare policies and practices, and to marketing strategies for alternate forms of nourishment.”

Before I had babies, I read up on breastfeeding in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. One of its authors is Edwina Froehlich, co-founder of La Leche League International, the breastfeeding advocacy group that provides education and support to mothers. It didn’t surprise me to learn Froehlich was a devout Catholic, as were all the women in that first La Leche Group. Even the organization’s name has Catholic roots. The group had been intrigued by the first Marian shrine in North America, dedicated in 1598 by Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, Florida. It is called Nuestra Senora de la Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of Happy Delivery and Plentiful Milk) (left).

Breastfeeding did not come easily to me. In September 1996, during the early hours of our first son’s life, I eagerly awaited for him to “latch on” and begin nursing. After a few false starts, I thought we both had figured it out. Imagine my terror as I held Gabriel in my arms to feed him and he turned purple and stiff and stopped breathing. I called for the nurse, assuming our baby had just died.

As it turned out, Gabriel was having a seizure, the first of several in his early months. The purple color was vasoconstriction, not a sign of death. (Of course, the breastfeeding had nothing to do with the seizures.) Gabriel spent his first eight days in the neonatal intensive care unit of Saint Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, while neonatologists tried to sort out what was wrong with him. Did he have a cerebellum? Did he have anatomical brain damage? Brain bruising? Mental retardation?

With our son attached to feeding tubes and breathing monitors, I could not breastfeed; I could not hold him; I could not take him home. In fact, neither we nor the physicians knew if he would come home at all.

Thank God the nurses at this Catholic hospital immediately encouraged me to pump my own breast milk. They sent my tiny bags of expressed milk via a pneumatic tube from my hospital room to the neonatal unit, where they were put into his feeding tubes, along with infant formula.

When I returned home from maternity ward, I pumped breast milk every four hours, including through the night, so that I would be ready to nurse our baby when he was ready. This enabled me to nurture Gabriel even while he was in neonatal intensive care.

Throughout this ordeal, it was reassuring to know that my Church “got it”—understood my efforts meant I could nurture our infant. I was able to nurse Gabriel when he did come home—medicated and with a diagnosis of Benign Transient Neonatal Seizure Disorder. (In other words, these benign seizures had no known cause.)

This experience made it clear to me that God designed women’s bodies so we could bear children. What a blessing my body fed my unborn child and through breastfeeding, the son I had just delivered into the world.

As Pope John Paul II put it in his Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: “Motherhood implies from the beginning [from creation] a special openness to the new person. . . . In this openness . . . the woman discovers herself through a sincere gift of self.”

A Dirty Little Secret (Music for Mondays)

I have a confession to make, a secret to make a Catholic blush. It’s not about what I watch or say or do, it’s about what I listen to. Sometimes! Just sometimes! When I’m out walking and I have Pandora Radio on my iPhone and have my ear buds plugged in, I listen to a wide variety of music. I have a station called Stile Antico Radio (mostly 16th-century polyphony, very Catholic). I have another called Folky Stuff (self-explanatory) and another named for my favorite guitarist, Knopfler Radio. So I listen according to mood. My dark secret?

I also have a station called David Crowder Radio. For those unfamiliar with the man (pictured here), he’s an evangelical Jesus Rocker. OK, there it is, my secret’s out: I really dig loud, soaring Christian Rock. Now, don’t all jump ship at once.

It’s Monday, so open your hearts and let me give you a taste, but beware: It’s habit-forming and pretty soon you’ll be using valuable confession time telling the priest about the sinful joys of Hillsong United, Darlene Zschech, and Third Day.

Let’s kick off this MFM segment with a quiet start from Casting Crowns and “Praise You in This Storm.”

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Let’s kick it up a notch with David Crowder live, singing “Oh Praise Him!”

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Before the big finish, let’s hear from Third Day, with “God of Wonders.”

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Time to put your hands in the air, brothers and sisters! It’s time for music from Australia’s biggest megachurch, Hillsong United. The song is “Hosanna!” C’mon, Catholics, you can say “Hosanna!”

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For just one night before I die, I want to be crazy enough to go crazy in one of these arenas when Darlene Zschech, Hillsong’s diva, sings “How Great is Our God!” Hold me down, brothers and sisters!

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Now you can take me home, Lord, now you can take me home!

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies III

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your co-pilot speaking.  The weather is great from what we can see here in the cockpit, and we are cruising at 24,000 feet now.  Your pilot Webster has asked me to kindly inform you that we have reached the half-way point of our Lenten journey. For dinner tonight, we will be serving penne pasta with smoked salmon and fresh peas along with freshly baked rolls. Just an hour and a half to wait, so hang in there!

Our inflight entertainment this evening is Joan of Arc starring Ingrid Bergman. And I have a confession to make, I have never seen this classic in its entirety. I just never got around to it. It won two Oscars in 1948 for best cinematography and best costumes. We hope you enjoy the show and thanks again for flying YIM Catholic Airlines.

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