Biden: The lesser of two "bad Catholic" evils?

Outside the pope and God himself, I don’t know if anybody really has the right to call anyone a “bad Catholic.” (That said, I am the first person to call myself one.) But Fr. Whitfield makes some very good points in his piece:

Biden, undoubtedly, represents a highly educated but poorly catechized, barely converted, cultural Catholicism, formed quite nobly but equally vaguely by a faint account of social justice but which is as substantially Catholic as having once gone to parochial school or Notre Dame. Which is to say, very little. Yet it is a bad Catholicism that differs from another bad Catholicism, a religion itself deformed, principally economically. These, of course, are the bad Catholics of the political right, but who didn’t win. …

… as we welcome this new president, we shouldn’t make much of his Catholicism. Biden shouldn’t make much of it himself; but instead, like me and his fellow bad Catholics, work out his own salvation in fear and trembling. It’s also why Catholics must resist the cheap identarian pride of having a co-religionist in the Oval Office. That, and because the religious veneration of politicians always deforms the venerators. Of this we have had enough.

I am definitely to the right of Biden on the abortion issue. (I’m not sure what Fr. Whitfield is talking about when he mentions Biden’s “willful refusal to embrace the integral moral vision Catholicism describes,” but I’m willing to find out and explore what that means.) I wish he didn’t feel the need to ditch what had once been a clearer-cut opposition to abortion for the sake of political viability.

That said, I appreciate the breath of fresh air that is Biden’s clearly deep and sincere faith, however “poorly catechized” it might be. (I cringed when he mused at tonight’s COVID-19 memorial about “if there are angels in heaven.” A lame, tossed-off line, probably, but still.)

If I agree with Fr. Whitfield on anything, it’s the point about resisting “cheap identarian pride” – something that I am guilty of in recent weeks – about having a fellow Catholic in office. It’s that kind of ideological and allegedly faith-based pride that fueled the Trump train for years. (”Baby Christian,” my ass.) If we’re looking for role models to emulate, best to look to the saints and not, say, politicians.

This weekend’s Sunday Mass video from Holy Name Cathedral opened with one of the few contemporary Catholic hymns I actually like: “Here I Am, Lord.”

The hymn reminded me of when I drove 3 hours from Raleigh, North Carolina, to see Mother Teresa speak in 1995. The song was featured after her talk at the Charlotte Coliseum, and I remember weeping throughout.

I was thrilled to find Mother Teresa’s talk on YouTube. I look forward to viewing it again; I confess that I was so absorbed in the moment and the experience of seeing a living saint that I only remember a small handful of snippets from it (namely where she spoke up against abortion and pleaded to give her a child poised to die in a clinic). So delighted to be able to see her speech again and actually listen closely.

Right-wing extremists destroy the Church

So, I ended up on some right-wing Catholic organization’s mailing list and got a magazine in my mailbox today. Between the articles and the accompanying letter listing in detail the way the current pope is destroying the Church (not to mention the world), I was done with this mailing in all of 2 minutes.

I took the letter (addressed to “Mr. Joyce Garcia”) and promptly scribbled, “PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST” across the top, added the postscript “God bless Pope Francis,” signed it MS. Joyce Garcia, and put it in the included envelope — with my own stamps so I pay for my own enraged reaction — for mailing tomorrow.

(I think I also tucked into the envelope the little form they included to accommodate banking information to allow them to siphon donations from a bank account.)

Look, I may have my differences with the present pope (as I have with every pope of the past several decades), but the level of vitriol and calumny leveled against him is out of control. And calumny and its sister sin, detraction, are cut from the same cloth of evil. Both are sins when directed against anybody, but especially against the Holy Father.

The Church has enough problems without having to deal with divisive conspiracy theorists among its members spewing rage and hate.

At the end of the prayer of Spiritual Communion, the priest in today’s video Mass from Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago added, “And may the Bears beat the Packers.”

I’m not sure that’s what St. Alphonsus Ligouri had in mind when he composed that particular prayer.

Our parish has confession time for the CCD kids Saturday morning. Time to help F brush up on the sacrament. Hoping that starting with this video – a light, kid-friendly skit that is more endearing than I’d expect an “SNL” bit about confession to be – makes that process less daunting.

Joined Frannie yesterday for her CCD homework: Watch the 2012 film “For Greater Glory,” a drama about the Cristeros uprising to fight Mexico’s violent crackdown on the Catholic Church in the 1920s.

I was iffy about the idea of a 12-year-old watching a bloody 2.5-hour tale of martyrdom. But this one was a deeply affecting, powerful story of faith that was worth every minute of viewing. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Today’s Google search, crux of agonizing soul-searching, and journal prompt: “How Catholic do I have to be?”

Taking another stab at a faith community online

Created a new faith-based Twitter list of only nuns, consecrated virgins, a handful of priests and bishops, and maybe a layperson or two. This is in an effort to build an online Catholic community of prayer I can tap that isn’t cliquish or politically charged. Most online priests are awfully mansplainy, overly opinionated, and far more full of themselves than the nuns, I’ve noticed. Too many priests and bishops on social media leave me disheartened and deeply annoyed.

I’m still craving a sense of religious community that I left when I returned to Rome. Diocesan Catholic culture is bereft of coffee hours and bonding among parishioners, especially in this time of pandemic. It’s clear that individual Catholics have to build that sense of community themselves, which explains in part why I see a lot of effort to bond among folks in the world of #CatholicTwitter.

That effort, for me, is undermined these days by the QAnon Catholic conspiracy theorists who are dividing the American Church. I destroyed a previous faith-based Twitter list because too much political and conspiratorial uproar was infiltrating the conversations.

The minute I see any political tweets or supportive retweets from the likes of the Daily Caller, Trump, Catholic extremists like Taylor Marshall or the Church Militant crowd, or any number of right-wing (or far left) sources, I’ll 86 the list member. I’m disheartened enough by the secular political climate; I’m trying desperately to maintain a sense of hope and civility about my Church. And so far, I’m not doing very well.

Trading one set of anxieties for another

Been disinclined to blog much lately. I post sporadically on Twitter and, to a lesser degree, on Facebook and Instagram.

In recent weeks, I’ve tended to direct my energy outside work and family to following a Twitter list I created with political feeds. I called it my “Doomscrolling” list. I came to my senses this week and deleted the list, leaving my other Twitter lists focusing on faith, sports, and video gaming.

This is the third Doomscrolling list I’ve deleted on my Twitter account. I created this last one as the last weeks of the presidential campaign heated up. I even clung to it during my private retreat a couple of weeks ago, a few days after the election.

I’ve been steeped in anxiety and anger for months now, alternating my attention between the pandemic and politics; sometimes the two areas would overlap. Sometimes my thoughts about faith would in turn overlap with these other areas. But more often than not, the pandemic and politics would suffocate my attention to faith.

I’m long past the point where I’ve burned out on politics. (At this point, I pray to be secure enough in the knowledge that God has got this, and that the transition crisis will be resolved.) But I remain anxious – and am perhaps more so than ever – about the spread of the coronavirus. This, too, needs to be entrusted to God, but not without action on our parts: We will certainly continue to be masked and sanitized and close to home as much as possible. That said, it’s easier to weave faith into our pandemic life; I find myself praying a lot for people, particularly those who have lost loved ones to the virus or are otherwise in the thick of this latest wave of infections. Even on Twitter, I pray along a lot more as I come across requests for prayer and other needs.

But I have a long way to go in keeping my anxieties in check, persisting in prayer, and trusting in God.

One of the purchases from my first visit to an honest-to-God, brick-and-mortar Catholic bookstore in months. Eager to dive in this weekend.

Happy feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I received my first brown scapular a year ago at my local parish, and upgraded to this plain wool one from a maker on Etsy. (Forgive the worn, pilled look; it’s actually nicer-looking in person – albeit still worn and only slightly pilled.)

I’ve not persevered in the devotion much in recent months, aside from wearing it. This is probably a good day to start anew.

Celebrating the Word on our own

Looks like Magnificat has ended its free “Celebration of the Word” PDF distribution to help families pray along with the Liturgy of the Word on Sundays. I can understand why: More dioceses are allowing public celebration of Mass again, and it’s understandable to encourage Catholics to return to Sunday Mass. Many of those same dioceses (including ours), however, haven’t reimposed the Sunday obligation, given that plenty of people remain wary of collective worship for fear of COVID-19 infection.

As I mentioned last weekend, I’m starting to return to Sunday Mass at our parish; however, with no Sunday obligation for now and all the COVID-19 complications, I had resolved to keep F home for now and set aside time for us to go through the Celebration of the Word together.

The end of the Celebration PDF distribution complicates that plan, of course. So, I went ahead and created a Celebration of the Word document template, based on the basic Magnificat-created PDF structure, and added this Sunday’s readings and several prayers to align with the liturgy (but not replicate all of it word-for-word, as much of the Mass liturgy requires a priest). Included are the Apostles’ Creed, an Act of Spiritual Communion, and the Hail Mary and prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end. F needs to learn the Apostles Creed and the St. Michael prayer anyway, so it seemed a good way to introduce her to those.

Meanwhile, I’m registered for tomorrow’s 7 a.m. Mass. (Registration is intended to help the parish ensure manageable, socially distanced attendance.) Not my favorite time to attend, but I’m still looking forward to it. Then, Lord willing, I’ll come home and F and I will have our own Celebration and connect with God together. Pray for us.

In New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton says that retreating into solitude should not be used as an escape from the world but as a means to live more fully in it. “Go into the desert,” he wrote, “not to escape other men but in order to find them in God.”

~ John Dougherty, “Don’t feel guilty about taking a retreat from Trump,” America

A good time for comebacks

It somehow seemed appropriate to return to Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi (or the eve of Corpus Christi, as I attended the Saturday vigil Mass). Our parish, under guidance from the archdiocese, began offering Sunday Mass last weekend, but I didn’t feel ready to return then. But it was time this weekend.

Started out my Saturday afternoon at church in a makeshift confessional, set up in the parish cry room, I guess to allow for easier disinfecting after each confession. After four months in an inert spiritual state, it felt good to “get back on the wagon,” as the priest put it, and start fresh with God’s grace.

I was allowed to stay for the 5 p.m. Mass, and that gave me a half-hour to sit and realize how much I missed being in church. I also realized how much I need a more breathable mask.

The experience wasn’t ideal in a few respects: I couldn’t really hear the priest well, I forgot to wear the beret headcovering I use in church, I forgot to bow before receiving, and I received in the hand (like the archdiocesan rules said I had to) when it turned out that plenty of people were able to receive at the communion rail on the tongue, as I prefer. I felt out of practice. But I was still glad to be back.

The Sunday obligation remains suspended in our archdiocese, but I’m going to try to keep going – and I might even try to hit a weekday Mass here and there. In the meantime, I’m not going to take F with me until the obligation is in place again and the pandemic rules are relaxed a bit. And then I have to set up time with the pastor to see when she can begin receiving the Eucharist.

F and I have been using “Celebration of the Word” handouts and her new subscription of Magnifikids! from Magnificat magazine each Sunday morning to read through the Liturgy of the Word, pray, and learn a bit about feasts and other things that I thought she learned in her Episcopal Catechesis of the Good Shepherd lessons (but didn’t!). She seems to be connecting with this Sunday time more than she tended to at services in our old Episcopal parish, so I’m in no hurry to stop it.

It’s been a good weekend to contemplate God and start over with Him. Deeply grateful.

Hunkering down this weekend to make sense of the world with Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and the Psalms. My brain needs a little peace right now.

Very happy to see this statement on the death of George Floyd from top leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, including Auxiliary Bp. Joseph Perry of Chicago, one of the highest-ranking African-Americans in the Church.

For what it’s worth, Bp. Perry is one of my favorite church leaders. He’s a liturgical traditionalist and a fine advocate for African-Americans in the Church. My everyday rosary was blessed by him at St. John Cantius parish in Chicago about two decades ago. God bless him.

I can’t stomach Catholic social media right now. Too many people getting on the “open our churches immediately” bandwagon. Hey, I miss Mass and adoration chapels as much as the next observant Catholic, but the anger behind so much of the new clamor is disconcerting.

That anger: Is it driven by a desire for spiritual sustenance or rage over being inconvenienced by a pandemic you don’t necessarily care about or believe? All it does is drive people away from the God you say you worship.

God bless this nun who’s just trying to keep our Lord’s spot tidy during live-streamed Adoration from her convent.

Outside of YouTube and a printout of the Liturgy of the Word, this is as close as I got to Mass today.

The work station doubles this morning as a focal point for the Mass readings and morning prayer. (And I found a shard of old palm that we hadn’t brought to the parish for Ash Wednesday.)

I forgot that Palm Sunday means the lengthy Passion reading; forgive me, God, for going with the shorter version this morning.

So delighted to see my Roman Catholic parish offering video of Sunday Mass now. (It’s offered in Spanish as well.)

(Camera work still needs finessing, but this is Holy Mass, not a Scorsese movie. Works for me.)

From @millinerd in The New York Times (!) on this Feast of the Annunciation: “God became human once, for all, in the womb of Mary. Then, through the Eucharist, he enters human bodies over and over for as long as time endures.”

My Ten: Favorite things I can't live without

I’m a sucker for a light regular feature. The New York Times’ Sunday Routine is an example of this: a weekly feature that profiles New Yorkers and how they spend their Sundays. The Times also puts together an irregular feature, My Ten, that asks celebrities about the 10 favorite things they can’t live without. It’s not an original concept; I’ve seen it in other places, usually as an excuse to work in overpriced merchandise links.

(My Ten is so irregular that it doesn’t have its own page yet; examples include lists from Questlove, David Chang, and Emma Thompson.)

I’ve been wanting to write a Sunday Routine of my own for a while, but it takes time for me to figure out. (Besides, if I wrote one now, it’d be basically a whole lot of sitting around steeped in cabin fever and chronic anxiety.) Right now, a My Ten is easier to slap together.

PEPPERMINT GREEN AND “TURMERIC BLISS” TEAS. I can’t drink coffee as much as I used to, but I still need my caffeine fix. I’ve largely weaned myself off diet soda (except for the occasional diet root beer, which isn’t usually caffeinated, or diet Cheerwine, which is), and I wanted something relatively healthy. So, I found myself turning to tea. I started with peppermint tea, which is not caffeinated, but found several green tea blends with peppermint for my caffeine; Traditional Medicinals and local retailer Nuovo Tea produce my favorites.

I also get my favorite turmeric blend, Turmeric Bliss, from Nuovo (the blend is actually produced by Adagio Teas, not to be confused with a Tazo Tea product with the same name): turmeric combined with ginger, peppercorn, mango, apple, and other fruit and floral ingredients. I credit my daily two cups of this turmeric blend with helping me break my dependence on ibuprofen for pain management, and it’s become a tasty way to wind down my day after dinner.

PILOT G2 PENS, BLACK BOLD (1.0). Austin Kleon turned me onto these. I used the 0.7 fine point version of the G2 for a while, but I find the bold tips much smoother to write with.

INDEX CARDS. I carry around a small Field Notes-type notebook, but I rarely use it for reasons I can’t quite explain. I also carry around index cards (usually of the 4-by-6-inch variety), usually in a small plastic holder intended for photos, that I do use for lists, doodling, and notes; they especially come in handy when I need to give my tween something to draw on during Mass.

MAGNIFICAT and HANDBOOK OF PRAYERS. As I’ve been in Catholic re-entry mode over the past year and still haven’t fully memorized the order of the Mass (I still stumble over the “consubstantial” thing in the Nicene Creed), having the Magnificat to follow along with has been absolutely essential. Paired with my monthly Magnificat, the Handbook of Prayers – produced by Midwest Theological Forum – complements it perfectly with a robust set of prayers and practices, including Marian devotions, the Stations of the Cross, and a good confession guide.

WORKS BY ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA. St. Josemaria’s three books of maxims – The Way, Furrow, and The Forge – provide me with inspiration and encouragement in my spiritual life.

ROSARY. I think the red glass-beaded rosary I carry around was a freebie from one of the numerous Catholic orders or charities that received donations from my mom when I was growing up. But for a freebie, it’s been pretty durable. More importantly, Bp. Joseph Perry kindly blessed it for me when I asked years ago after a Tridentine Mass at St. John Cantius parish in Chicago. It’s been a constant companion the past few years.

“WAIT WAIT … DON’T TELL ME.” I wake up early on Saturdays to listen to the first airings of this NPR news quiz program on the Internet, then download the podcast to listen to it during the week. Some shows are better than others; I’m a little weary of the new hit-or-miss (mostly miss in recent months) panelists that it’s been rotating into the show in recent years, and I miss original panelists like Charlie Pierce and Sue Ellicott. But “Wait Wait” is still a huge part of my weekends.

“LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT.” Colbert’s show is a tonic of sanity in the cultural and political hellscape of the past three years.

SPALDING BOOTLEG YOGA PANTS, BLACK. This $20 wardrobe essential of mine is no longer on Amazon, for some reason. (I just ordered a similar product, at the same price, and I’m crossing my fingers that it’s wearable.) I was smart enough to buy two pairs, but I wish I had ordered more when I had the chance. It’s the closest I get to a uniform item a la Steve Jobs’ turtleneck, especially now that I’m working from home full-time. Comfy and durable.

CROCHET BERETS. This item has become another essential part of my daily uniform. I started wearing these as a head covering for church (chapel veils don’t work on me), and ended up wearing them to work and anytime I had to go out. My hair has been thinning for years, to the point where no amount of gel, volumizer, or other “product” will make a difference in covering bare scalp. These are light enough to wear in warm weather, work in casual contexts, and can class up an otherwise blah outfit.

Social distancing? A cloistered Franciscan nun has advice for that.

Followed along with the vigil Mass live-streamed this afternoon from Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. I may be better focused when I pray with a radio Mass and read the Liturgy of the Word with F tomorrow morning.

Sigh. It’s gonna be a long plague.