Monday Morning Arm-Chair Quarterbacks on WYD

Some Catholic bloggers are pretty upset about this:

One blogger, a priest, posted the video above along with a Nazi “don’t be this guy” photograph. Another blogger, a layman who I highly regard, indirectly attacked the blogger priest because of the imprudent comparison.

The principal reason (far as I can tell) why people are upset is because they feel that it is “undignified” for bishops to dance silly dances with or for young people.

We as Catholics are going to need to grow accustomed to being “incompatible” with culture. We continue to expect that a certain level of deference should be paid to bishops by virtue of their office alone, and we expect that not just “us Catholics” but other Christians and even non-Christians owe the bishops this honor. But the example of Pope Francis is disarming to the secular culture AND many traditional or orthodox Catholics, for different reasons.

We hear the Holy Father encouraging clergy (especially bishops) to stop thinking that it is acceptable to stay in their chanceries and residences, keep their cassocks clean, and stay away from reaching down to lift someone else up (if it means becoming less dignified). He’s saying the same thing to us, the laity, too. He’s saying we need to go out.

We don’t look far before we find good examples of what Pope Francis is encouraging us to do: was St. Peter always dignified, even when our Lord wanted to wash his smelly dirty feet, or when he denied our Lord and ran away, or when he rotted in a hole of a cell in Rome, or when he asked to be crucified head-down?

We can all sit here and say, “That was really stupid. They’re not fools for Christ; just fools.” But the bishops weren’t there for those of us reading or watching from the sidelines. They were there to meet part of the living Church and to attempt to connect with it. Calling a bishop a fool for waving his arms is a pretty low threshold for the foolishness of the rest of us. So the bishops got silly dance lessons. Shame on them for trying to connect with the young people who they have an obligation to pastor.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that silly dancing is necessary for effective outreach or pastoring to the youth. But some comments made concerning this issue truly epitomize an “arm-chair quarterback” mentality, calling it all folly and superficiality. My point: it wasn’t FOR you. I think hymns from Marty Haugen and the other guy are folly and coated in saccharine too, but rather than believing there’s something wrong with Haugen-lovers, I try to remind myself that since the Church is supposed to be universal, there has to be room for many forms of spiritual and liturgical practice, and it does not unify or edify to constantly complain about the ones that we think are dumb.

Jesus knows what each of us needs, and we must thank Him for giving us a Church that He established to hold it all.



How Compatible are You?

It will take weeks — even months — to completely unpack all of what occurred at WYD in Rio and all of what Pope Francis said. Right now, many have seized upon a few choice soundbites: telling a group of Argentinian youth to “make a mess” in their dioceses (and apologizing to their bishops!), speaking about solidarity and the need for those with adequate resources to remain sensitive to the needs of those suffering social injustice, speaking against clericalism and the inclination to be oriented toward the sanctuary in an effort to avoid going out and being of service to others.

Hopefully all that Francis said and did will not be overshadowed by the press flash from a statement the Holy Father made while being interviewed on the return flight to Rome concerning the fact that it is not okay to judge homosexual persons, which, despite the major news outlets’ efforts to make it appear somehow different from what the Church teaches on the subject, is not a change in anything at all.

I think that Pope Francis knows that the only way we can offer authentic Christian witness is by discerning our “compatibility”. On July 27, as St. Sebastian Cathedral, he said:

“Read the first book of the Maccabees. It describes how they wanted to be in tune with the culture of the time. They said, culture, sure let’s take a bit of everything like everyone else. Laws? Sure, just as long as it’s not too much. But in time, they began to lose their faith because they tried to be compatible with the culture of that time.  Have the strength to go against this. Stand up against a culture that only accepts what’s convenient and throws out the rest.” 

The only authentic version of Catholicism today is the version that is not compatible with the culture of our time. We Catholics should be experiencing a personal incompatibility with mainstream culture now. It should not be too easy to watch television or choose a movie. It should not be perfectly joyful to shop at the mall. We should not be undisturbed when we throw away food. We should not automatically choose to buy the most expensive car we can afford. We should not happily consume all the advertising messages delivered to us.

G.K. Chesterton says that only something that is alive can swim against the current. If we are without a feeling of resistance to the things found in secular culture, we have a severe crisis of faith. Since Pope Francis is pointing out that our incompatibility with culture is a preservative of faith, we must ask ourselves, “How compatible am I?”. Step one is recognizing the need to ask the question.

Pope Francis has a Message for Us

“I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources [you, and me!], to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not, I repeat, not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: rather, it is the culture of solidarity that does so; the culture of solidarity means seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters. And we are all brothers and sisters!”

Visit to the Community of Varginha (Manguinhos)
Rio de Janeiro
Thursday, 25 July 2013

Read the rest here.

Awesome Report on WYD from a Reporter on the… BEACH?

That’s right. Mass at Copacabana Beach:

“The sights, the sounds, the smells, the sheer old-fashioned excitement of it all: Woodstock (the music), the Olympics (the flags), and a massive beach party (the surf), all rolled into one.”

“I saw a disabled young man being carried over the heads of the crowd like a rock-star – because his wheelchair got stuck in the sand. Then the Mass began – and suddenly it was prayer-time, with an attention and participation worthy of any open-air cathedral.”

I’m not much of a beach person, but I’d go to that. Read the rest here.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Double Dubbel


Bottles of beer typically enter the house as gifts, and I am appreciative, because as a homebrewer, I spend way too much money on my hobby. My ego can’t take it if I’m buying commercial beer on top of the grain, hops, yeast, cleaners, kegs, and other needed equipment for brewing. Receiving a bottle of beer allows me to venture out of my comfort zone and try styles that I might like to brew in the future myself.

Enter Sierra Nevada Double Dubbel, a gift from a great friend and holy priest (sorry Fr., I know I said we’d open it together, but then you went to WYD and it was in my beer fridge, and I was between kegs, and I needed something to blog about, and… couldn’t resist opening it).

This beer is described as a “Belgian-style Dubbel – Ale Aged Two Years in Brandy Barrels.” Let’s cover a couple terms.

The Belgians, like the rest of Europe, make their own styles of beer. They have low- and high-alcohol styles. But on the label of an American craft brewer, “Belgian-style”, no matter what follows in the description, probably means you’re looking at higher than average alcohol content. A “dubbel” is generally a fairly dark and malty, high-alcohol beer that has been aged for some period of time. Dubbels are frequently barreled or casked during aging. In this case, the ABV is 10.5%, compared with most beers which land between 4-6%.

This beer is another labor of love for Sierra Nevada. What strikes me most when I visit the brewery is how much they love beer. The highest degree of attention and craft goes into all the styles that Sierra Nevada makes. I’ve tasted a number of their “Beer Camp” beers that could easily become part of the regular roundup. They constantly make great beer. They also sponsor projects, like Sacred Stones and the Abbey of New Clairvaux, by making their Ovila series beers in the Trappist tradition.

Sierra Nevada calls this a “Double” Dubbel, which makes me think hardcore, high-alcohol, concentrated flavors. After spending two years in oak casks used to mature brandy, you know that it’s going to taste like something. Indeed, it exemplifies the style of a tripped-out amped-up dubbel.

“The flavors are incredibly complex…” True, there’s a lot going on. It’s what you would call a “sipping” beer. The aroma has a sweet ketone or “paint thinner” smell, not unlike a tawny port. There is a slight astringency from the maturation process that obscures the natural malt and hop flavors, overwhelming the palate slightly. It would be an interesting experiment to allow a few bottles to age another year or two and see if some of the roughness smooths itself out.

Verdict: Sierra Nevada Double Dubbel is a triumph of technical achievement. Beers like this one are incredibly difficult to produce, and require a commitment of time and attention that even most craft brews do not receive. It’s definitely worth picking up, if you like the style. If you’re a beer novice and want to know what the beer craze is all about, you’re going to need to try a few things first to acclimate, before you try Double Dubbel.