Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Feast Day and Anniversary

Today we celebrate the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We ask Our Lady to watch over and guide her Son's Church, especially in these days.  Mary, our hope and seat of wisdom, pray for us.  

It was also 23 years ago today, March 25th, that the founder of the Society of Saint Pius X passed from this life.  Eternal rest grant to him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.  
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, died on the morning of March 25. This year’s first day of Holy Week is also one of the great feasts of the liturgical year, the Annunciation, the day when, by the fiat of Mary the Incarnation comes about.” [From ‘Tributes for a Catholic Bishop’]
“... it would be wrong not to acknowledge that without him the struggle for the preservation of much of what we cherish would probably have been lost. ... the global movement for the advancement of the Traditional Roman Rite is inseparably linked to the life of this passionate man“ [From Rorate Caeli]

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meet Me at a ... Fish Fry?

So, through the amazing charity of HSMom, I am given the opportunity once again to post on My Morning Cup.  Wow, twice in one year .... I may need to get my own blog.

Probably like all Catholics in the archdiocese we receive the Saint Louis Review every week, and in this week’s issue there was a ‘Living Our Faith’ insert entitled ‘meet me at a fish fry’.  Not that long of an article actually, and quite a number of nice shots of people enjoying each others company in Catholic fellowship in their local parishes ... heck, there is even a picture of a couple of musicians who serenade with mariachi music.  Lenten fish frys, as the article says, is ‘a tradition that brings together Catholics who abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent’.  I guess in the strictest sense, perhaps, but then I noticed towards the bottom of the inset a link to an article by Father John Mao entitled ‘Why do we abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays?’.  Father brings up several good points, but to me it seemed incongruous to the Fish Fry article I just read.  

I have always thought it was odd ... fish frys, that is, to have such a festive, joyful celebration not only in Lent, but on Fridays in Lent.  Saint Paul says that we must ‘live by the spirit while mortifying our sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:13).  Father expands this further ... “... (Paul) is saying that we need to put ‘sarx’ to death.  This is the sensual part of our body that gets cravings to indulge in food and pleasures: some of which are good, others of which need to be limited or eliminated altogether”.   I started to see a dichotomy between what he said and what I just read, in the framework of Lenten fast, abstinence and penance.  I did a little more digging and came across a helpful article entitled ‘Six Reasons Why I Don’t participate in Friday Fish Frys’ written by Marge Fenelon several years ago.  No doubt, some will read this and find it as appealing as stink on socks, but put in the light of our Catholic faith, there is much to be taken from it.  From her article:

1. Our Lord fasted for 40 days…he did not take time off. We’re called to follow his example in all things, which is why the Church promotes strict observance of the Lenten liturgical season. 
2. When I was a child, our parish pastor encouraged us to hold the fast prescribed by the Church for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday on all Fridays – especially during Lent – to deepen our unity with our Suffering Savior, strengthen us against sin, and as a symbol of our love and gratitude for him. This so inspired me, that I’ve kept the resolution throughout the years. 
3. Fish frys normally are “all you can eat”, thus encouraging the very gluttony and over indulgence we’re supposed to be avoiding. Additionally, those who go, go because fried fish appeals to them, and to me, that doesn’t seem to be much of a penance. I know, I too love fried fish. 
4. Fish frys have the tendency toward carousal and, when the beer starts to flow too freely, debauchery. I’ll agree that many fish fry events are family-oriented and that we can and should enjoy all the marvelous things in God’s creation. But it seems to me that the atmosphere at fish frys collides with the atmosphere of penitence we’re asked to foster on Fridays. 
5. Fish frys are often used as fund raisers. It strikes me as morally wrong to capitalize on our Lord’s suffering and death, on a sacred season of the Catholic Church, in order to make money. 
6. This puts the groups that use and promote fish frys as fund raisers — whether intentionally or unwittingly — in the position of contributing to the weaknesses of the Christian faithful, opening them to the possibility of the sin of gluttony and breaking the Lenten Friday fast.

A blessed Lent to all of HSMom’s readership ... meet me at the Stations (the Stations of the Cross).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lenten Viewing

During Lent we usually cut back on 'screen time', which means no computer (play) time for the boys during the week and no DVDs unless they are religious.

Over the years we've collected a nice library of religiously-themed movies which our family enjoys watching at this time year. Some are undoubtedly better than others, but we have some variety and even the more cheesy Hollywood productions can evoke thought and some good conversation.

Among those we've watched already this Lent are Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and The Scarlet and the Black.

Jesus of Nazareth is usually the first one we go to soon after Ash Wednesday. We've been watching it for years with the kids and they know it so well it is not uncommon to hear one of them humming one of the various themes in the musical score (usually it's Herod's Theme for whatever reason!) There are parts of this 6-hour film that we all feel are a little over-done, especially the scenes of the Blessed Virgin at the Nativity, as well as the treatment of her reaction at the foot of the Cross.   But overall it is well-done. It is enjoyable to watch the multitude of big-name stars in their various rolls, and in keeping a respectful atmosphere for viewing, it is always an exercise in resisting temptation to not breathe in Darth Vader style when James Earl Jones makes his appearance as one of the three Wise Men. 

The Passion of the Christ is usually our choice for the evening of Good Friday, and it might be again this year, but we have watched it once already. If Zeffirelli's Blessed Virgin is over-dramatic for our taste, Mel Gibson's is very much to our liking. She is portrayed beautifully throughout in such a way that the viewer knows that Our Lady believed and lived accordingly Simon's prophecy of her in the temple: "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce..." Heart-wrenching.

Gregory Peck is very good as Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty in The Scarlet and the Black. This is an exciting adaptation of the true story of Msgr. O'Flaherty's work in the Catholic resistance to Naziism during the German occupation of Rome under Col. Herbert Kappler in WWII. A favorite of our boys, I'll not give away the ending, but it is worth watching. 

Our latest movie that we are in the middle of watching is Becket, starring Peter O'Toole as King Henry II and Richard Burton as future martyr and saint, Thomas à Becket. This one is new to us this year and we are enjoying the story of the roguish Henry II and the increasingly more virtuous Becket. We all look forward to finishing it this evening. It is so important that as Catholics we know and commune with the saints and what an entertaining way to learn a little about them, even if just enough to do more serious reading of their lives later on. On a side note, it was most pleasing to this mom's ears to hear her sons make the responses in Latin during the scene in which the sacred liturgy is intoned by the newly consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. 

Other religious film watching may include A Man for All Seasons with Paul Scofield as Thomas More. This will be fitting considering our youngest will take this saint's name at his Confirmation in May. We also have other perrennial favorites including Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Robe and the more recent For Greater Glory, about the Cristeros war in Mexico in the earlier part of the 20th century. I would also like to add to our collection The Song of Bernadette, about St. Bernadette of Lourdes.

Lent is an especially good time to turn off the electronics and screens, and we certainly don't watch every movie every year. Indeed we've spent, and plan to spend more screen-free evenings chatting together, playing board games and just enjoying each other's company. But on those nights when we do watch something, it's nice to have religious choices in our library.

I'm sure there are other good movie choices out there. If you have any good religious film recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the combox.

Our Lord grant you a Blessed Lent!