Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, September 30, 2002

If Fraud Makes You an Unfit Parent...

...why aren't they taking away the kids of Enron executives and lying politicians? Oh, I'm sorry. I guess that only counts if you're a small-time criminal.

*annoyed look* The hypocrisy of Madelyne Toogood's prosecutors just gets more and more bizarre. But what can you expect in an election year?

Sunday, September 29, 2002

People in Montreal Are Lucky

Father Frank Leo is a really neat young priest from Quebec who got sent to the University of Dayton to finish up his doctoral research over at the Marian Library. The rest of the time he was stationed over at St. Albert's (my church). We were very lucky to have him. In this difficult year, Father Frank's wonderfully funny (but to the point) homilies explained the Gospel in a way that made you think, and remember what had been said.

So now Father Frank is no longer ABD, and he's going back home to Montreal. We had a huge farewell party for him, and everybody came, old and young. (It was really cute to see the little kids decide that the only way they could see what was going on was to sit on the far side of the dais. Which they did, very quietly.) We ate Italian food and sang Italian songs that were slightly rewritten to refer to Father Frank. (He was intensely embarrassed.) People gave him presents (like the Godfather movies, since Father often joked about them) and advice (our pastor, Father Manning, told him not to let his administrative duties interfere with being a good priest). But then he gave our parish a gift, which I didn't expect -- a chasuble for Ordinary Time, with a band running down the middle that was woven into pictures of little kids from all over the world. It'll be a really nice thing to use for the school masses. It was also a typically bold but well-judged gesture, since this summer Father Frank had to help us deal with finding out that one of our priests, now taken away altogether, had been originally been assigned to our parish to keep him away from kid-related duties, as he'd done some scandalous things as a high school principal down in Cincinnati. Giving the chasuble to the parish and to Father Manning said that we were going to get over this. And in fact, at that point I didn't even think about it; I just thought how beautiful the chasuble was and how nice it was to give the parish a present. I think everybody else thought so, too.

I do regret that I didn't know, until people revealed (much to his embarrassment), that Father Frank plays several different instruments. (You could just see the parish musicians mentally saying, "D'oh!") They also dug up the info that he was a big Trek fan. Well, geez. If I'd known that, I would've been able to talk over some stuff that was bothering me, and not had to explain everything. can't know everything about a person, can you?

Next week, Father Frank becomes pastor of St. Joseph's Church, somewhere in Montreal. Those people don't yet know what kind of pastor they're getting. But by this time next week, they'll know how lucky they are.


In case anyone's wondering, I usually use italic for headings because -- for some reason -- Netscape doesn't show bolded fonts done with Blogger's stuff. At least not in this template.


I forgot to mention that my brother Kevin joined the Knights of Columbus last week. Kev possesses a fairly decent number of the virtues of chivalry and he's interested in the Church, so I think this is a good fit.


I keep seeing bloggers say that the small number of religious vocations is due to overly liberal religious and clergy. I don't think so. They've also said it's because of the sexual abuse scandals. Again, I think not.

My mother, scarcely a representative of liberal Catholicism, never badmouthed nuns and sisters for being overly liberal. I'm sure there were sisters like that in the seventies and eighties, but not in our area, as far as we knew. What I heard about, whenever my mom wanted to threaten me, was "I could do like the nuns, and make you wash steps upside down." "I could whack your hand with a ruler, like the nuns."

Again, when my brother Kevin went on retreat at St. Meinrad's (and lots of people do retreats at St. Meinrad's -- it's no big deal), my mom got convinced that Kevin was going to become a priest and panicked. (Just like she'd done when he thought about joining the Air Force, actually.) She likes priests and thinks they're a good thing, but she doesn't want her baby joining up.

I've already talked about how few kids ever get to interact one-to-one with priests or nuns, thanks to big suburban churches that only have people around on the weekend. Heck, I went to Catholic school and still didn't really get to talk one-to-one with anybody. If a nun was talking one-to-one with you, it meant you were in trouble. Hardly the time to ask about what it was like to be a nun.

If you do ask anything, it's a big deal. People think you're going to become a nun or a priest if they see you checking out a book on mysticism, so of course they're going to freak if you actually ask word one. People will either go ecstatic or horrified; there's no middle ground to just let kids think about it. And, as we all know, once you've expressed the barest passing interest in a religious vocation, you're some kind of heretic, sinner or wuss if you don't immediately join the seminary or profess vows.

Of course, the biggest reason we don't have more religious vocations is probably symbolized by the fact that our archdiocese's Vocations office has no toll-free number. Sometimes orders have open houses, but they're always orders out in Missouri or Alabama or Tennessee -- somewhere hundreds or thousands of miles away. You can't drop in; you have to register and stay the night. In other words, you have to make a big deal of it. Considering how difficult it was (before the Web) and is (since you have to know an order exists to look it up on the Web) to find out anything about becoming a priest, brother or nun, this is asking a great deal.

It's all asking a lot. No doubt the people with unmistakable callings are able to cut through all this guff. But in the past, most people didn't have unmistakable callings. Most people figured out that they had a religious vocation the same way they'd figure out they were suited for any other job. If that majority of people are blocked from joining up...well, there's your vocation shortage.