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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Big Think: Fr. James Martin

A good interview with Fr. James Martin, SJ on being a Jesuit, Priest and Catholic today:

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Annoyed Man in White

So, OK, maybe I shouldn't have preached about those "annoying men in white," but I was advised to keep it short, and was hoping to get people's attention. That I did (or didn't), but not exactly in the way I'd hoped.

Back in the days when I was an altar boy, I used to find it a bit shocking that the priest could get angry about what did (or didn't) happen at Mass. Priests weren't supposed to get angry. I was reminded of this, because I almost lost it yesterday. The new lavalier microphone wasn't switching on and off properly. I had to keep pulling it out to check it, because the switch was jamming and then, even still, it didn't seem to be working right. So, the congregation, and the web audience, were only able to hear some of that part of the mass. This was distracting enough.

Add to that that twice in the course of the mass, I was informed that we were going to do this, instead of that (presumably because of the significant number of latecomers arriving). This largely involved Communion, so suddenly the altar was crowded with vessels that weren't originally supposed to be there, leaving me to have to try to organize the mess in some way. And did I mention that I was told before the mass that they wanted to finish in about 35 minutes?! Pressure, distraction and disruption made it very hard to celebrate the Ascension. Instead, I was frustrated and angry. It took a grand effort not to shout at the liturgy coordinator after mass. Instead, after making the strong effort to pleasantly greet people as they left, I more or less just got out of there, and tried to collect myself.
Up there with those "annoying men in white," was one annoyed man in white. Me.

These days I understand better why, when I was a young altar boy, Father wasn't always perfect, and sometimes not even nice.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Those Annoying Men in White

A brief reflection for the Feast of the Ascension:

You’ve no doubt heard of the “Men in Black,” that elite team that saves the world from aliens. But in today’s readings we hear not from them, but from the men in white, or as the beginning of the chapter from where today’s Gospel reading is taken has it, the men in “dazzling garments.” The men in white ask annoying questions. In the last chapter of Luke, they ask the shocked women who have arrived to find Jesus’ tomb empty, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” In the first chapter of the book of Acts, also thought to have been written by Luke, they appear again, just after the Apostles have watched Jesus ascend into the sky in a cloud, asking, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” As if it wasn’t obvious!

As annoying as these questions seem, they also serve as a challenge to the people to whom they are posed. Yes, you have just seen something amazing, they seem to be saying, but it’s not like you weren’t told to expect this. So, don’t just stand there, you’ve got work to do!

They—and we—are being reminded of what our second reading today also seeks to remind us, “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for Jesus, who made the promise is trustworthy.” In these days after our celebration of Easter we have been holding on to this hope given us by Jesus’ resurrection. Today, in the Ascension of Jesus, we are invited to take a step further, to trust that in the gift of the Holy Spirit, given after Jesus’ ascension, God was and continues to be with us. And when we see God’s Spirit active in our lives, as we all can if we just look into the faces of our family and friends and at the things that we’re thankful for, we should stand in awe and wonder. But not for too long. Otherwise, those men in white will come along, with their annoying questions, reminding us, “Don’t just stand their twiddling your thumbs.” Now that you’ve seen God’s spirit working in your life. Now that you know that Jesus has kept his promises. It’s time to get out there and share this with everybody else!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Edited Out

I've spent a good part of the last week looking over the initial galley proof pages of my forthcoming book Already There: Letting God Find You, which now even has it's own Library of Congress catalogue number! It's exciting to start to see what the book will actually look like! But the process is a little bit like an emotional roller coaster! This is the first chance to see the edited version. And, of course, I realized that I have NO objectivity with regard to what has been changed or left out from my original manuscript. Has my voice been taken away? How could the editor change that! That doesn't even sound like me! Then, of course, you look back at the original manuscript, which you haven't read in a while (it was finished almost a year ago at this point), and you realize about some of these things--Oh, I did write that. Then you feel embarrassed, and a little guilty for those thoughts you had (briefly, of course) about your editor. But realizing my lack of objectivity, I sought the aid of my friend who knows my writing well, and who is also not afraid to be brutally honest, if necessary. We sat in a diner yesterday, and went through the pages together. She commiserated with me over some of the changes, pointed out a few things she didn't like, but also kept repeating, this is really good. That's what I really needed her for, and needed to hear. I just needed somebody to read it and tell me it would be OK--even more than OK.

I keep trying to remind myself that the book is not for me. It's for the young adults for whom I wrote it. So long as it speaks to them, and helps them, it doesn't really matter if one of my favorite parts is missing. That, of course, doesn't mean I didn't do my share of saying things like, "we really need to do this." But I was also able to let several things go. It also helped that a certain writer friend of mine told me of his best-selling book, "my editor took out some of my funny stories. And it probably made it better." So, I can breathe. Especially since, as of this morning, the corrections are in the mail!

Looking forward to seeing how it's all going to turn out. But the neuroses are not over yet. I'm still terrified that I'm going to hate the cover when I finally see it! But I'm asking God for patience, trust, and humility. All will be well. Repeat.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

V's Father Jack

I've been watching the show "V." It intrigues me, though I can't say I'm a huge fan. But one of the things that is most interesting and novel about it is that one of its main characters is a priest. Unfortunately, while they try to make the character interesting, he's more of a cliche than anything else. Not to mention a bit unrealistic.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "C'mon, Father, it's scifi--it's not meant to be realistic!" Sure. But it can't be totally ridiculous either. For example, how does Father Jack take care of his pastoral duties, when he seems to be spending all his time being an insurgent against the Vs? The occasional scene of him holding a rosary doesn't quite do the trick. True, he does serve as the conscience of the group sometimes, but the character needs to be filled out!

And I have to mention the most ridiculous thing of all. One can only conclude from his wardrobe, that he's not very bright. If I were engaging in subversive activities, like he and his rebel group are, you can be sure I wouldn't be wearing my collar all the time, like he does! Just think of the report from the witnesses to an attack by the insurgent group: "I didn't get a good look at them, but one of them was a priest." That narrows down the list of suspects quite a bit. You can imagine someone asking the obvious question: "What kind of idiot wears a Roman collar to a bombing?" Indeed. Father Jack needs to wise up, instead of just getting weepy-eyed every time they come up against a morally questionable situation.

But here's where the V producers could really do something interesting, which they haven't. So far, really, it doesn't matter that he's a priest. He could just as well have been a social worker. What they need to do is make the fact that he's a priest mean something. For example, wouldn't the arrival of aliens sort of rock the world of many people who are deeply religious? Shouldn't he be questioning how this fits in with his faith in God? Since they have a priest character, they ought to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the theological issues involved. For example, might he be wondering about the status of the Vs within his theological worldview? And what about the V-human baby, can and should it be baptized? What are the implications of his involvement in the fight against the Vs for his priesthood? Might it mean that he might have to take time off from being a priest? Should he have a spiritual director/friend of some sort with whim he an take up such questions?

I guess part of my frustration is that priest-characters usually come off one way or another. They are either one-dimensional, or being lured away from their vows. Refreshingly, so far it is not the latter, but the character needs some help. Father Jack needs to be more a priest, and less the weepy-eyed conscience figure. And for God's sake, Father Jack, if you find yourself bringing a gun along somewhere, lose the clerics! You could bring down the whole resistance by being so identifiable.

And while we're on that subject, why hasn't the savvy terrorist they've recruited to help them told Father Jack this already??!! You'd think he would have realized the problem from day 1, mate.