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One of the best things about fall in New England is visiting pumpkin patches and picking apples. We did a little of both the other day.
I had forgotten how amazing the simple pleasures are.

Yeah, this is a few days late, but I spent most of Monday in Boston and all of yesterday in school.

I had a great time hanging around outside Fenway park waiting for the Rex Sox to return. Gerald was there too, but I didn’t see him. He got a much better spot than I did, so check out his blog for great pics.

The World Series banner wasn’t up yet.

Have a great night, remember to celebrate All Saints Day tomorrow, Go to Mass, and enjoy Fr. Rodericks Halloween Story.

From the Fall River Spirit

Norman Gingras really is one of an almost lost breed. He is one of the most skilled organists in the diocese and he plays one of the most beautiful organs in the diocese.

Given the trend these days for people to change their employment paths every few years, it’s hard to imagine someone staying on in the same job for half a century. But Normand Gingras has enjoyed every moment of the five decades he has served as organist and choir director at St. Anne’s Church and Shrine.

Despite his years of formal European music training, Gingras still sets aside time each day to practice on the grand pipe organ in the choir loft of St. Anne’s Church that he oversaw the installation of more than 40 years ago. And at 80, he wouldn’t even think twice about going out of the house without his signature jacket and tie.

He’s traveled around the world, and makes regular jaunts to New York’s Metropolitan Opera. So does he ever think of retiring?
“Why, if I can still do it? I don’t know what I’d do with myself,” he says.

He says he will keep on playing at his requisite five Masses a week and numerous weddings and funerals throughout each year as long as he can continue to ascend the 40 steps leading to his perch high above the pews with ease.

Read the rest here.

Bishop Thomas Tobin, from the Diocese of Providence, is featured in a four part series in the Providence Journal. Although Bishop Tobin is not my bishop, I attend school in his diocese, so I am happy to say his is almost my bishop.

The series includes information on episcopal regalia, such as the zuchetto and crozier.

Check it out here and remember to check back each Sunday for updates.

Even the Church needs to be wary of contractors.

From the Herald News:

A local man has been arrested and charged with stealing $25,000 from the Diocese of Fall River after he allegedly took the money as an initial payment to install air conditioning but never did the work, police said.
Jeffrey A. Aubry, 43, of 1323 Slade St., is charged with larceny of more than $250.
Sgt. Thomas Mauretti, police spokesman, said Father John Perry, pastor of St. Jude the Apostle Parish, Taunton, contacted Aubry to complete installation of central air conditioning in the church.
“It was agreed to have the work done for the summer,” Mauretti said.
Aubry requested a first payment of $25,000 and was paid that amount on March 14, 2007.
“As of this time, no work has begun,” Mauretti said Thursday.
He said Aubry cashed the check and “made himself unavailable.”
Detective Thomas Chace of the Police Department’s Major Crimes Division arrested Aubry after contacting him.
“Mr. Aubry said he used the money to finish other jobs, and that he intended on filing for bankruptcy,” Mauretti said. “He is unable to provide any of the $25,000 given to him.”
Bishop George Coleman, representing the Diocese of Fall River, had signed the contract for the air conditioning work, Mauretti said.
“St. Jude Church is at a loss of $25,000,” he said.
Mauretti said Perry told police that Aubry had done work for him previously when Perry was at St. Joseph’s Church, Fall River. Perry said Aubry also had done work at Holy Name Church, Fall River.

Following today’s general audience, the Holy Father announced the names of 23 prelates who will be created cardinals in a consistory due to be held on November 24, the eve of the Feast of Christ the King. The consistory will be the second of his pontificate.

Following the November 24 consistory, the College of Cardinals will number 202 members of whom 121, under the age of 80, will be electors.

Given below is a list of the new cardinal electors:

– Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

– Archbishop John Patrick Foley, pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

– Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

– Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum.”

– Archbishop Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican, vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City and president of the Fabric of St. Peter’s.

– Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

– Archbishop Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church.

– Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente of Valencia, Spain.

– Archbishop Sean Baptist Brady of Armagh, Ireland.

– Archbishop Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain.

– Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, France.

– Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, Italy.

– Archbishop Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal.

– Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India.

– Archbishop Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey, Mexico.

– Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, U.S.A.

– Archbishop Odilio Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

– Archbishop John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya.

Having pronounced the names of the new cardinal electors, the Pope then indicated that he had also decided to elevate to the dignity of cardinal “three venerable prelates and two worthy priests,” all over the age of 80 and hence non-electors, for their “commitment and service to the Church.” Their names are:

– His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq.

– Archbishop Giovanni Coppa, apostolic nuncio.

– Archbishop Estanislao Esteban Karlic, emeritus of Parana, Argentina.

– Fr. Urbano Navarrete S.J., former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

– Fr. Umberto Betti O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.

He added: “Among these, I had also intended to confer the dignity of cardinal upon the elderly Bishop Ignacy Jez of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg, Poland, a worthy prelate who died suddenly yesterday. We offer a prayer for the repose of his soul.”

“The new cardinals come from various parts of the world,” said the Holy Father. “And the universality of the Church, with the multiplicity of her ministries, is clearly reflected in them. Alongside deserving prelates who work for the Holy See are pastors who dedicate their energies to direct contact with the faithful.”

He went on: “There are other persons, very dear to me who, for their dedication to the service of the Church, well deserve promotion to the dignity of cardinal. In the future I hope to have the opportunity to express, also in this way, my esteem and affection to them and to their countries of origin.”

Benedict entrusted the future cardinals “to the protection of Mary Most Holy asking her to help each of them in their new tasks, that they may know how to bear courageous witness in all circumstances to their love for Christ and for the Church.”


Is up and running at 50 Days After.

Followers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for a certain theology professor, Fr. David Lewis Stokes. Fr. Stokes recently wrote an article for the Providence Journal which has been picked up by newspapers across the country. The topic was how the decline of the funeral portrays our changing view of death.

Only Fr. Stokes could make the analogy that we view death as a cruise ship and heaven as “the predetermined destination of a cruise ship”.

Of all the elephants galumphing around our culture’s living room, none is more significant than the change in our rhetoric of death. By this I mean the metaphors and similes by which we speak of the dead.

You have only to listen to a funeral homily, squirm through a eulogy, or read “verses” offered in memoriam to realize that there has occurred a seismic shift in our cultural imagination. Heaven now lies before us devoid of geography. Death has ceased to be a drama.

I’m not suggesting that our fascination about “spirits” and the “spirit-world” has diminished. Far from it. The trend of TV shows about angels, etc., reveals that this fascination with the “beyond” flourishes. Mary Roach’s Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife remains a bestseller. You have only to drive through a suburban neighborhood to see how Americans have transformed even Halloween into a bizarre kind of dia de los muertos.

To name the specific elephant in question, let me be blunt: However fascinated most Americans are in the “afterlife,” the fact remains that those grand themes, once the raison d’etre of mainline churches and pulpits — that is, death, judgment, heaven and hell — have vanished from the very religious communities that first articulated them. They are just plain gone. Preachers and theologians, politicians and toastmasters may trot out the occasional words — but now for ornamentation, not out of any necessity.

To understand just how dramatic this shift in our rhetoric, consider three examples. When a dying John Donne crawled into his pulpit in 1631, he preached a sermon entitled “Death’s Duel.” What makes it one of the greatest sermons in the English language is its rhetorical force. It is an explosion of metaphors and images of incredible specificity. Donne rendered life as a perilous journey and death as our foe “even from the womb.” He left his congregation in no doubt that each individual’s appointment with death is the most serious engagement in life.

When John Bunyan’s stalwart Christian of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) finally reached sight of the Celestial City, he finds himself plunged neck-deep into a river of dread. “And . . . a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him.” There was no immediate entrÉ into heavenly bliss. Heaven was a city to be won after arduous struggle, not the predetermined destination of a cruise ship.

As late as 1865 Cardinal Newman could publish The Dream of Gerontius, a dialogue between a dying man, angels and the demonic, which became something of a Victorian bestseller. Far from being a pious bit of Catholic triumphalism, he rendered death as no less than “this emptying out of each constituent / And natural force, by which I come to be.” The poem expresses a dread of death worthy of Dante or even Jean Paul Sartre.

Contrast these with the following contemporary tropes — gleanings typical of American pulpit: “Tom may be gone, but he will live on in our hearts.” “Aunt Bertha is in a better place.” “After years of hardship, Uncle Fred is finally home.” “We don’t know why Sally was taken from us so young, but someday we will.” Or, my own favorite, proclaimed over a woman who had made the lives of her children and grandchildren absolute hell, “For Edith the great symphony of life continues now among the stars.”

I have no doubt that many people have found comfort in such statements. The significant thing, though, is that compared with the specific rhetoric of a Donne, Bunyan or Newman, these tropes refer us ultimately to … well, uh … nothing.

They point to a landscape without topography or content. They imply that a human life is not so much a drama to be acted with the utmost ethical seriousness but a pleasant odor that will eventually dissipate. The only traditional image that seems to have hung on is that when we “pass” we enter into a bright white light. But within this light … who can say? (Frankly, heaven for me has always been autumnal and filled with deep shade.)

But why should it matter? We forget. How a society renders death and the “beyond” says everything about how it renders life and the here-and-now. The ways in which we picture what happens to the dead determine the ways in which we picture our own lives — the ways in which we engage in ethical reflection.

A life pictured as a cruise that will encounter the occasional storm is very different from one whose destination is pictured as fraught with demands, uncertainties, and the abiding shadow of possible moral failure.

The reason that most mainline churches have ended up focused on politics or sexual expression or “an aesthetic experience,” is simple. Without a rhetoric of the “beyond,” what else is there to talk about?

And the reason that sustained ethical reflection is scarce among most theologians is obvious. Now that life’s drama has no final act of any depth, life itself cannot but be pictured as one discrete scene after another.

Sadly, our modern dilemma is that we cannot return to a lost rhetoric without making it artificial. Those well-meaning preachers and speakers who try to “follow an antique drum” have come to seem to me about as “genuine” as a costumed guide at some colonial theme park.

No doubt we may rediscover the rich and mysterious topography of the “beyond.” But if we do our rhetoric will be decidedly different.

Poets and novelists, painters and artists, as well as the itinerant mystic, are always stumbling into it. Just don’t look for it to come from the American pulpit.

h/t to the Cardinal.

Cardinal O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, gave an excellent talk this week at a Theology on Tap session. Here is a video of his talk.

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