All hallows eve enchanted dark
A stroll I took in chill
To see the children on their lark
And thus a pipe to kill
The sunset orange watching pass
And night on coming strong
When deep from Mission hill and grass
I heard a haunted song
Then followed I this tunèd curse
Until i found the source
And deep beneath Dolores firs
I saw a morbid course
And dancing came the doomèd mob
In pairs of flesh and bone
A line was paced to plaintive sob
And cold as chiseled stone
Now though i thought in fright to flee
Before my feet would fly
Their rhythmed steps came round me
That each might pass me by
And silent were the corpses all
But skeletons well said
Without the breath or fleshy pall
Upon their bony head
They spoke addressing me by name
Well done to find us here
And will you make our chorus fame
In gruesome verse appear?
I nodded silent as I typed
In thumbs upon my screen
unbidden verse my phone had striped
In pixeled eerie sheen
The first pair came in courtly swirl
And round me then to go
The bone man led a regal girl
Whose years made dancing slow
An empress grand she ruled the globe
A century bears her mark
Now unamused in weeds her robe
Death has a Victory stark
The second pair now came aside
In black and white a boy
The bones and he hob’d horses stride
With a candle as a toy
At altar knelt he near the south
And well he served the priest
But now for prayers he has no mouth
We take both great and least
The third pair came a man in suit
With marching hails the chief
and wearing chains of free world’s loot
The leader of their grief
We get them all said clacking jaw
In top hat or in none
No leader yet the world has saw
Who has this dance not done
And next there came in sleeves ore long
A song book in her hand
The lead soprano with her song
And shin bones for her band
Her voice ere piped on eagles wings
Her hands on guitar strummed
But deeply buried graved things
Like songs have her made dumb
Up came an athlete with a bat
A beard and muscles slack
The dodger blue upon his hat
Was fading now to black
In leaving Brooklyn bone man said
The team betrayed their home
And round the world the cursed dead
as traitors made to roam
A priest came next his back to me
His robes arrayed for Mass
In Dance his face I n’er did see
Tho him did thrice me pass
His liturgy was drama trim
The showman ever played
And so in death his penance grim
His face away is staid
A tech bro came: lyft, scooter, vape
And options like the dew
the ghosts of start ups round him drape
and dreams are all askew
A Jesuit next came down the pike
Accompanying his charge
No heresy he didn’t like
His tent was mighty large
A politician found her mark
and made a Arabesque
So firm her planks her promise, hark!
To voters now addressed
An Abbot tall with croizered hand
was further down the queue
A skeleton did by him stand
as with all the others too
Then Death herself the reaper grim
astride the path did stand
and all around her they raised a hymn
this morbid bony band
We get them all We slay them all
And none can say us nay
We wake them all we take them all
as night ore-takes the day
And last alone some lonely bone said to a novice he was sent Tis I I said and dropped this phone and dancing off we went
The Readings for Tuesday in the 30th week of Ordinary Time (B2)
A list of reasons not to use hand sanitizer before distribution of Holy Communion:
1 It only kills the germs in your hands in the moment. If you’re sick you shouldn’t be giving out communion, and this will not stop you from passing germs to those you touch, breathe on, etc.
2 It contains alcohol which removes the oils from your skin. These are the first defense you have against germs from others. You will kill the germs on your hands now… And weaken your defenses just as you are about to touch many other hands.
3 Unless your congregation is a sterile environment (think surgery ward) this is all for show. By the time you pass the chalice back and forth to one person, the benefit is over. When your finger tips touch the first palm or tongue, all the magic is gone.
4 It’s unliturgical and it smells bad. Nothing says “take me Jesus, take me now” like the smell of hand sanitizer as you come near to the Holy Mysteries.
Wash your hands before Mass and pray.
The Readings for Monday in the 30th week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Fornicatio autem, et omnis immunditia, aut avaritia, nec nominetur in vobis, sicut decet sanctos : aut turpitudo, aut stultiloquium, aut scurrilitas, quae ad rem non pertinet : sed magis gratiarum actio.
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks.
The NABRE takes a dodge here… it says “Immorality or any impurity or greed” which is not what the Latin says, nor is it what the Greek says. The Latin refers to “Fornicatio autem, et omnis immunditia, aut avaritia”. That first word is fornication. We’re not talking about “immorality” in general but about sexual sins. The Greek is even more direct. The word used there is πορνεία porneia. It is the origin for our word “pornography” but its meaning is derived from the verb “to sell off”. We trade off our sexual morals for other things – money, yes, but also acceptance, entertainment, self-gratification. This is made even more clear by the words selected in the next verse (which are not so obscured by the NABRE) obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility make it all very clear, and also eliminate about 80% of the internet and 95% of comedic content since WW2.
Why is St Paul so opposed to us having fun?
Matushka Frederica Matthews has this great line in one of her books, I honestly forget which one, discussing our cultural abuse of irony and making everything funny, she says, “Can we stop smiling now? My face hurts.” As a culture we make a joke of literally everything. This has gotten worse in successive generations – what was once sacred is now ribald humor. And as this area gets burned over, we move on to the next one… we can now joke about literally anything religious, because no one cares about it – and those who do don’t deserve our sensitivity. Only in jest can we talk about such things.
Paul is warning us against doing that to one of the most sacred acts God has given for humans to do – to participate in God’s creative generation of space and time by bringing a new human soul, enfleshed, into the world. Making jokes about this cheapen it.
But there is a second reason as well. We are spiritual athletes. We are in training. There is a time and place for everything. Yet there is never a place for baseness, or scurrility. We have no reason to “keep in practice” for the things we used to do.
A friend of mine called me out for using as a self description a word which has become synonymous with a sexual subculture. I hadn’t realized how important that word had become to me. I may not use “gay” to describe myself, but I have a “totem animal” anyway, right? Why? Do I need that? Do I still need that word to be part of me? Do I still need to get all those in jokes? Those brain cells might better be left from something else, I think.
Chrysostom reads both of these meanings…
Have no witticisms, no obscenities, either in word or in deed, and thou wilt quench the flame—“let them not even be named,” saith he, “among you,” that is, let them not anywhere even make their appearance. This he says also in writing to the Corinthians. “It is actually reported that there is fornication among you” (1 Cor. v. 1.); as much as to say, Be ye all pure. For words are the way to acts. Then, that he may not appear a forbidding kind of person and austere, and a destroyer of playfulness, he goes on to add the reason, by saying, “which are not befitting,” which have nothing to do with us—“but rather giving of thanks.” What good is there in uttering a witticism? thou only raisest a laugh. Tell me, will the shoemaker ever busy himself about anything which does not belong to or befit his trade? or will he purchase any tool of that kind? No, never. Because the things we do not need, are nothing to us.
Moral. Let there not be one idle word; for from idle words we fall also into foul words. The present is no season of loose merriment, but of mourning, of tribulation, and lamentation: and dost thou play the jester? What wrestler on entering the ring neglects the struggle with his adversary, and utters witticisms? The devil stands hard at hand, “he is going about roaring” (1 Pet. v. 8.) to catch thee, he is moving everything, and turning everything against thy life, and is scheming to force thee from thy retreat, he is grinding his teeth and bellowing, he is breathing fire against thy salvation; and dost thou sit uttering witticisms, and “talking folly,” and uttering things “which are not befitting.” Full nobly then wilt thou be able to overcome him! We are in sport, beloved.
There is a counter point, I think. One that is important for us in this age – that was not so important for Paul. While everything is funny – because it’s meaningless – everything is also taken far too seriously. CS Lewis and others have noted this tendency in our media, to stir up excitement for things that happen hundred and thousands of miles away while ignoring the things right out side. We get anxious over meaningless things about which we can do nothing, and then make light of things that are actually important.
So what would life look like if we took everything only as serious as it warranted, and yet took everything exactly as serious as is needed? What would life look like if one lived as if one’s salvation in Christ was the most important thing? Mindful that St Paul says that salvation entails a lot of things: obedience, humility, civic responsibility, passivity before abuse, charity, etc. What would life be like to live in that way?
The Readings for Thursday in the 29th week of Ordinary Time (B2)
In caritate radicati, et fundati, ut possitis comprehendere cum omnibus sanctis, quae sit latitudo, et longitudo, et sublimitas, et profundum : scire etiam supereminentem scientiae caritatem Christi, ut impleamini in omnem plenitudinem Dei.
That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.
The Readings for Tuesday in the 29th week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Quoniam per ipsum habemus accessum ambo in uno Spiritu ad Patrem. Ergo jam non estis hospites, et advenae : sed estis cives sanctorum, et domestici Dei.
For by him we have access both in one Spirit to the Father. Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God.
We’re so very used to our modern “classless” society that we tend to think the idea of class is bad. As we play that assumption we forget to note that class is a very real part of our world: it is only the obligations of class that we have done away with. Rich and poor are treated equally before the law as is proper in things criminal, but in things civil there was a notion of noblesse oblige, the idea that one’s higher position required an assumption of charity, of noble largess to those in a lower station. We still have classes of folks in America, we’ve just done away with the idea of an obligation entailed by participation in that structure.
When the Vanderbilt family moved to Asheville, NC, in the 1880s, they built a huge estate… railroad money, you know… but that was not all that they did: they reforested much of several counties that had been greedily logged after the Civil War and left barren. This actually became the seed (root?) for the first national forest, the Pisgah National Forest. They imported experts to decorate the house… whom they hired to teach the locals how to be artisans. They built housing for their growing family and, in the area known as Biltmore Village, they even built a church.
This is noblesse oblige.
In a similar situation today – if someone owned say a Palace or a Casino, or a Tower with their name on it – these folks would all be thought of as “employees” and may not even get them health insurance or a living wage. It’s not just folks who have the trump card in the economic world, either. At one time a single man of my paygrade would have employed a valet and a cook, quite possibly a maid as well. And these would have invested in my success as much as anyone: for my success was theirs as well. Today I do my own laundry and turn out my own lights.
We’d call that a smart business decision. The Vanderbilts would call it greed, sin, and would think it beneath their station to act is such a way.
Why this lecture of the cultural morals of another time?
Because it was the same in St Paul’s time. Because to be a wealthy member of the society in which Paul lived was to have servants and one could judge the quality of the person by they way they treated their servants or those less fortunate who lived around them. This was true in the Roman world just as a matter of culture, but in the Jewish world it was a matter of God’s law. The latter dictated how the wealthy were to leave the corners of the field for strangers to harvest for free, how temple sacrifices were shared with the poor, how an entire society was built around property and yet sharing at the same time.
All this to explain when St Paul uses one Greek word οἰκεῖος ekeios to describe the position of Gentiles and Jews united together. On the one hand it means “members of the same household”, but on the other hand it’s the same word used for what we would call today, The Family, and The Help. Folks upstairs and down are equally part of the same οἰκεῖος.
Paul is using this word on purpose to show that there is no difference between classes of people in the Household of God, for we are all one people. All one household – no matter what our classes are “in the world”. In this household we are all together and all servants. Even our Lord and God washes our feet. So much so should we to each other. Rich and poor, Jew or Greek, in the household of God we are all there, all with our parts to play, all with our obligations to each other fully in place. None of us can claim to be above the other, for we are all in need in someway, all rich in some way, and all called to share in humility in all ways.
The Readings for Monday in the 29th week of Ordinary Time (B2)
The sins of the rich, such as greed and selfishness, are obvious for all to see. The sins of the poor are less conspicuous, yet equally corrosive of the soul. Some poor people are tempted to envy the rich; indeed this is a form of vicarious greed, because the poor person wanting great wealth is in spirit no different from the rich person amassing great wealth. Many poor people are gripped by fear: their hearts are caught in a chain of anxiety, worrying whether they will have food on their plates tomorrow or clothes on their backs. Some poor people are constantly formulating in their minds devious plans to cheat the rich to obtain their Wealth; this is no different in spirit from the rich making plans to exploit the poor by paying low wages. The art of being poor is to trust in God for everything, to demand nothing-and to be grateful for all that is given.
Jesus asks, “Who made me the judge (literally, the divider) over this?”
In the first person singular and plural the Gospel offers no justice at all. In talking to Christians the only thing we’re promised is hate and eventually death. However we are to do justice – by which the Biblical writers do not mean “pass laws, march in the street, fix things”. We have a huge problem with those sorts of activism. Because we know God wants to save everyone: rich and poor, men and women, all races, all religions, all tribes, nations, and tongues. God doesn’t have time to care about our political squabbles.
The Readings for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
This came up last night at St Dominic’s. It was a surprise to realize, but the Apostles – in fact James and John, two of the “Big Three” insiders – were making a secular power grab here. Could have been one of the Borgia Popes for this moment. And so they thought that Jesus was going to be a secular king… and these Fishermen and sons of a fisherman, wanted to be on either side of the throne. Just not getting it: God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. Fr James, the preacher, used it to point out that the Church has been dealing with sinners in leadership roles from the very beginning.
They want their share. You know, Jesus doesn’t yell at them. This is not like when Peter said, “Don’t go to the cross”. They are mistaken – but only in some part of the equation. Jesus is a king. And he will drink a cup. And they, too, will drink it… They will get their share.
So… I want to suggest something: that being wrong in the application may not be as bad as taking the cross out entirely. James and John don’t get the same response as Peter.
There are those who think their faith requires them to make political actions and movements. There are those who feel their faith urges them to take out civic power. Jesus has some hope for them that, in fact, they will drink his cup with him. James, you know, dies a martyr’s death. John lives a long life of martyrdom, caring for Jesus’ mother, going to prison, exile… but he dies an old man praising Jesus.
And when the others hear about it, they get all uppity and in each other’s faces. Jesus has to shut them up with a teaching moment: You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
This was also true among the Jews as well in Jesus time: for they had several generations of Maccabees who were a Theocracy – where the king was also the high priest. Then they had client kings who were Jewish at least by birth, but had no sense at all of stewardship or shepherding over the people. The Herods were the most recent of these kings, Jewish in name only and despised by the people.
Christian leadership requires the Cross. This leader is there not as a pusher and mover, not a cowboy with a cattle prod. A Christian leader has to woo, has to call by name, has to give his life for the sheep. Leadership in this role is about sacrifice. It’s about self-emptying. It may be next to impossible to be a Christian Civil Servant, but it’s not forbidden.
In some cases a Crown worn right has made a King a Saint.
But there are those who take the cross out of Christianity. Peter said the cross wouldn’t sell. They don’t mind the politics (as long as they agree) but they don’t want any, you know, sacrifice or conversion. Penance doesn’t play in Peoria. It doesn’t pay well in DC. There are those who ignore the cross even as they use it as a label for their own purposes. They too, don’t want any conversion or sacrifice. They want prosperity and “justice” rather than kenosis. Their politics leads to victory for “us” and an end to “them”. The Cross is for all – or else it is for none. These would not drink the cup of Jesus if they had a choice. It has no meaning, in fact, it may be opposed to all they stand for.
To see us all in glory spread
Across all ages sown
On Trinal throne our risen head
His members gladly own
Seen thus can demons terrify
By the very brilliance
But focused only through one eye
You see but this demense
How gleeful is the evil host
To make you yeild
‘Gainst gates of hell you will not boast
If but this sword you wield
So close your eyes at mass today
And hear not the baleful sounds
Of ag’d sopranos as they flay
And hymns the organ drowns
See not the siblings squalling there
Who torture while at play
And pay no heed to clothings fair
Best worn another day
But open up your soulful eyes
And see the glorious vision
Of heaven’s strikes through earthy skies
And Satan’s forces riven
The Son of God who’s son you are
Has vict’ry ready done
And child of earth though it seem far
The Church is ever won
And we here in this earthly place
Share already now in love
With those whose light we daren’t face
As they pray above.
Heed not the stammered hymns and gloom
Of those who fail and strive
With demons hear the martial boom
And know God’s church alive
From Trinal throne our risen head
His members gladly claim
United all in glory spread
Across all ages flame
The Readings for the Feast of St Luke, Apostle and Evangelist
Thursday in the 28th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way.
I hear lamentations that some clergy – especially the newly minted sort – don’t know what “real life” is like. Why would we wish that on them, these men who are supposed to stand as physicians for our souls?
Should we not rather take their sacramental daze and build it out? Should we not rather work to be in their world?
Can we forget what the “real world” is like?
Can we recognize that even the folks from whom we steal wages by shopping at Amazon are God’s children?
The Apostolic life. What must it be like us in this day?
Can we in this day of technology and free sex find a way to abandon all goods and live the Gospel?
Is there a possibility of freedom in this world as slavery catches us in on every side?
Can we accept that the sins of the many do not permit even one extra sin?
Can we grant that it’s possible to have too much stuff?
Where will they hear the Gospel if they don’t want to hear it? Who will live that picture book for them?
If the Gospel only means treat your employees like dirt, your coworkers like tools, your bosses like kings, and your families like a chore, what makes us any different from anyone else who may rank the order differently… but will use the same words?
We are in the world and we are of it, can we not forget it?
Can we not realize that “all things in common” means “no one need be poor”?
Can we love without lust?
Can we lead without judging even those who lust to what is real love?
Can we forget what the real world is like and live the Gospel?
Can we let go of a mentality of porn so ubiquitous that we fail to see when “food porn” and “motor porn” and “shopping porn” are all real issues; can we realize that all “advertising” is just porn – designed to stir lustful passions for stuff that isn’t ours?
Can we let go of the pain, the cries of “What about me?” and the demand for “my fair share” and “what’s coming to me”?
Can we untangle the gospel from petty cries for merely worldly “justice”?
Can we redefine Justice as God’s Rule and not man’s rules?
Can we stop our theft from the future, our massive credit debt we owe to our children, our fellows, our neighbors?
Can we learn the very meaning of “to have” is “to share”?
Can we drop out of the social net without disconnecting from those we are called to save?
Can we forget the calls of “honor” and “respect” and “patriotism” that the world puts on us?
Can enough silence be made to give us time to hear God’s heart?
Can we leave behind the “real world” so as to save the real people who live in it?