Sunday, January 19

In the bulletin of the Toledo parish we attended this weekend was a note from the pastor regarding a new church building being dedicated in the town of Findlay - the parish is called St. Michael the Archangel, and it seems to be a most impressive place, and get a load what they say about their new church.The photos don't say that much, but the schematic's nice and the description will give you an almost shocking sense of relief from church design consultants who will tell you that you know, the focus really should be the community gathered....

Yes, Virginia, it appears that it just might be possible to build Catholic churches that draw from the best of the past and are still attentive to contemporary needs and sensibilities.

A report on Ray Doiron, the purported visionary at National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL

(I've noticed that the St. Louis paper changes its article URLs pretty quickly, so catch it before it disappears...)

An excellent statement from Bishop O'Malley of Palm Beach on life issues. Covers all the bases. Every one of them.

Archbishop Rigali leads hundreds in protest outside abortion clinic.

A nice look at monasteries in the Salem,Oregon area.

Priest is rabid Eagles' fan

You might have seen Mike Matveenko at a recent Eagles game, wearing the winged helmet and green No. 12 jersey, joining his buddies in ritualistic chants from the 700 level of Veterans Stadium.

What you might not have known - unless you are a parishioner at the Church of the Assumption in Pomona - is that the Rev. Matveenko led a very different type of ritual earlier in the day. He is a Roman Catholic priest, a man of the cloth who answers to a higher authority than Andy Reid.

But that's not to say Matveenko can't mix the two faiths. He ends each Mass on Sunday morning with a heartfelt "Go Eagles!"

...Several of his parishioners jumped to his defense recently when another in their midst sent an anonymous letter to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Camden diocese, complaining of Matveenko's "childish" behavior. Matveenko joked that the malcontent is "probably a Giants fan," but he defended his right to bring the Birds to God's attention.

"I never invoke the Lord to give us a win or anything like that," Matveenko said. "In my personal prayers, I pray that the spirit will inspire them to play their best and to avoid any serious injuries."

Two words:

Go Bucs.

Costa-Garvas adapts "The Deputy" for the screen

Mr. Costa-Gavras, who was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church but now describes himself as a nonbeliever, insists that his purpose is not to attack the Roman Catholic Church as such, but rather to look at the misuse of the church's immense power. And in the absence of public access to the Vatican's still-secret wartime archives, he remains convinced by his reading and research that only moral failure can explain Pius XII's silence.

But having dealt with both right-wing and Communist repression in previous movies and even indirectly with Nazi death camps in "Music Box" (1989), he said that he still could not grasp how Europe, with 3,000 years of civilization, could have spawned the Holocaust. It was this question that led him to probe what he called "the other side" — the German side — of the genocide.

He and his co-writer, Jean-Claude Grumberg, therefore created another character crucial to the story: an SS doctor, played by theGerman actor Ulrich Mühe, who variously befriends, manipulates and threatens Gerstein. With his mixture of charm, intelligence, cruelty and cynicism, he symbolizes both the gross perversion of German civilization and the ignominious role played by many doctors in the death camps.

"Movies have usually shown the Nazis as crazy people; you know, `Heil Hitler,' the swastika, clicking heels all the time," Mr. Costa-Gavras said. "But I believe they were people like us, like everyone who becomes trapped by an extremist philosophy, like yesterday's Stalinists and some of today's Islamists. What was unique about the Nazis is that they created an industry to destroy a whole people."

Rather than portraying the Nazis as, in his words, "insane people running around screaming," he shows them going about their daily business of death, their main concern that of meeting official targets for extermination. Similarly, having decided he was incapable of recreating the true horror of the death camps, Mr. Costa-Gavras chose instead to use the constant traffic of deportation trains to convey the scale of the operation.

"It was not a hidden thing," he said. "The trains going back and forth were seen by millions, there were thousands of trains crossing Europe, everyone saw them. People were leading their normal lives and the machinery kept turning. You'd be driving through the countryside and you would stop to let a train go by."

Hartford paper surveys priests

Recent sex scandals have severely tarnished the halos of Catholic priests. In the wake of one scandal after another, the image of the genial, saintly cleric has given way to that of a lonely, dispirited figure living an unhealthy life that breeds sexual deviation.

But Cesaro, who looks far younger than his 73 years, is upbeat about his profession and his health, including a good diet, regular exercise and a vibrant social life.

"I don't know how you can miss being happy," he said. "There are very few people who have this much impact on people's lives, this much trust, this much being able to affect people - to be with them from the time of birth to death, and everything in between. So, it's a very satisfying thing to do."

Cesaro's view reflects those of many priests in the Archdiocese of Hartford. Priests who responded to a Courant survey acknowledge the impact of the recent scandals, and report that there is no end of work - especially with fewer priests to share the load. Yet, by and large, they count themselves healthy and happy.

How German monasteries and convents are surviving:

Some monasteries simply allow guests to take part in daily prayers, while others offer meditation and bible classes, physical exercise courses and spiritual counseling. "The cloisters have realized that they have a product they can market: a meaningful way of life," says Arnulf Salmen, press spokesman for the Association of Superiors of German Orders, an umbrella organization for German monasteries.

The people who come to Frankfurt's I-Punkt, an information center run by the Catholic Church, are in search of a meaningful way of life — at least for a long weekend. At I-Punkt, clients "wish to have some quiet and peaceful time to find themselves," says Sister Dolores, a Franciscan nun who works at the shop. Several hundred people book a cloister stay each year, she says, but demand has increased so much that some monasteries have begged to be taken off the agency's list.

Monastic entrepreneurs are using the Internet to reach customers. The busy Benedictine monks at the Ettal monastery in Upper Bavaria are not only selling their famous beer and herb liqueur online, they are even planning to install a couple of webcams so customers can see the splendid Baroque basilica. "We live on tourism," says Brother Georg, the website's administrator. "That's why we want to show people the beauty of the monastery."

The five brothers at the St. Franziskus monastery in Dietfurt, Bavaria, offer a variety of Zen, qigong [a form of Chinese exercise and meditation], and tai chi classes as well as Christian contemplation. Father Nathanael, St. Franziskus' guardian, thinks Eastern wisdom and Christianity go well together. "Zen is a form of meditation that can lead to other levels of consciousness," he says. "We supply the spiritual basis."

Critics argue that making a business out of spirituality demeans the faith. But the clergy say there is much more than their own financial welfare at stake. The mission of the Dominican nuns, for example, is "the salvation of the world." If saving the world means a convent needs a pub, phytotherapy sessions and a jacuzzi, then Arenberg's Sister Maris Stella says so be it. "We tried to find out what people need today and then offer them new forms of spiritual guidance and assistance to find it," she says. God does work in mysterious ways.

Some more on LeBron questions.

Still, no one will tell me what the school is doing with their take...

Yesterday, we took an impromput road trip up Toledo way. Road trips in the middle of winter might not be the wisest ways to spend a Saturday, but except for a brief scare around late afternoon, when snow started coming down pretty hard, we had no problems.

We're doing a booksigning at a Catholic bookstore in Toledo in March - part of an evening the store owner is putting on featuring Pat Madrid as a speaker and several others, including us, signing books. We figured it might be good to see where the place is beforehand, so after a few wrong turns - mostly my fault, probably - we found it, if you must know, in the same shopping mall we'd stopped at to find a restroom before we drove about 4 miles north...oh well.

Anyway, the bookstore owner was very nice and runs a good little store. After our stop there, we headed to the Toledo Museum of Art, which has a fine collection, including a special exhibition of medieval gold-leaf pieces. It wasn't the most leisurely visit, what with Joseph fully awake, alert and demanding "down" most of the time, but nonetheless, it was a pleasant mid-winter excursion. Then it was off to find a Mass - we wanted to go to the Cathedral, but we didn't have an address, and so we drove around heading towards promising spires and domes, finding each time, not the Cathedral, but, more often than not, one more shuttered Catholic church..We eventually ended up at this parish, and I swear, every time I vow to be positive and stop being so critical, I have an experience like this. No, it wasn't wretched, but still:

*Was there any liturgical music written before or after 1974-1982? From the evidence presented in many parishes, including this one, you wouldn't know it.

*Ushers: do not shake people's hands as they are in line for Communion - sure, you see it all the time when ushers are glad-handing people they know as the spill out the pews, but here, our usher insisted on shaking everyone's hand as they shuffled past him. It didn't help that with his aquiline nose and long black hair tied back in a ponytail, he reminded me of Furio on the Sopranos. I was afraid he was going to reach out and swat me and say, "You have bee on your head."

Finally - the church had a large crucifix hanging from the ceiling. But I didn't know this until we reached our first seat (in our quest to find a spot where Joseph wouldn't disturb anyone) in the choir loft where I could see the crucifix - behind the huge banner of the risen Christ that had been hung up in front of it.

Now, I don't think it's swift too replace an already present crucifix with something else, but it seemed to me to be almost shocking to just blatantly hang a big ol' banner right in front of it, hiding it from view....

And through it all, Jesus still present, still Real...focus. Focus.

A research request from a reader:

I am in the process of writing something in honor of the Annunciation. I am looking for a quotation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He wrote a series of sermons that have been collected under the title of "The Gospel of the Annunciation." I believe one of them is called, "In Praise of the
Virgin Mother." Anyhow, in his mystical prayer, he was speaking to Mary during the interval between Gabriel asking her if she would be the mother of God, and
her answer. St. Bernard reflects that we really don't know how much time elapsed before she gave her "fiat." Bernard said something to the effect,"oh beautiful, lady, all the angels in heaven await your answer. Do not keep us all waiting any longer."I know I read that somewhere, maybe in the Magnificat. Can anyone help me
with the complete quotation? With any leads on how to locate this work of St. Bernard's?


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