Monday, August 28, 2006

the great ones

The Exorcist must admit that, his general disenchantment with all-things-media-driven notwithstanding, there are certain events and personalities that still hold his interest.

Tiger continues to amaze, bringing excitement and diversity to a sport that the Exorcist long thought was only for retired white guys.

Andre says farewell on center stage and manages to turn a first round match against an aging opponent into a nail-biter. His grand finale carries over at least to the second round. Good for him.

It's only entertainment and has little or nothing to do with real life, but it doesn't mean we can't enjoy excellence when we see it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I know it's barely been 24 hours, but I miss Pluto already. The solar system just isn't the same without him.

Paramount dumped one of the few stars sans engrams in all of Hollywierd. Tom was clear. He was enlightened. And just like that, he was erased.

And finally, to cap a week of emotional struggles,
Mel Gibson is no longer our idol.
Not even Jonathan Morris, assuring us that his bosom buddy, his brother-from-another-mother really is deserving of our fawning adulation could keep Mel on the LC's constantly shifting hero list.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I began today's homily by describing Steven Carter's 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning photo. Few images have engraved themselves as permanently in my memory. I was sure lots of the folks at church would remember it too. Some didn't know, however, that Carter took his own life a few months after receiving the prestigious award for his photo.

A Sudanese child slowly making her way to a UN relief camp at the height of the famine. The girl, skin and bones, is being stalked by a vulture, patiently pursuing its next meal. No one knows what became of the child. The picture would suggest that her fate was not a dignified one...

My one fleeting experience with hunger - medically induced at that - was in Guerrero, Mexico about an hour south of Chilpancingo. I was on missions among indigenous communities during the summer and the water was bad. I got typhoid and was VERY sick. Wasn't allowed to eat anything for nearly a week and by the time it was over I could have bitten the arm of the nurse that was looking after me.

I consider that experience an 'artificial hunger' because there was food available, I just couldn't eat it. Nonetheless, it was enough of a hint to help me imagine what millions of people around the world suffer daily, with no permanent relief in sight.

That piercing, obsessive, all-consuming need to eat, to drink, to satisfy the most basic premise of human existence...

It's hard for us to even envision. We throw away more food in one day than lots of folks eat in a week. Yet the human experience of hunger and the capacity of bread to satisfy it serve our Lord as a point of departure in his 'bread of life' discourse which the Sunday liturgy has been doling out to us recently.

"You seek me out not because you have seen the signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your hunger satisfied."

All Christ's words are self-revelatory. His parables, his preaching, his admonitions are meant to tell us who he really is. He speaks of hunger, thirst, bread and drink so that, by analogy, we may see what he conceives his relationship with us to be. He fully considers himself the fundamental condition and source of life itself. What physical hunger and thirst can turn into for people - overwhelming, burning need - is but a premonition of what Christ esteems our relation to him to be.

All human need, therefore, in Christ's mind is a reflection of man's true origin and nature. The need for rest when we are tired, the need for medicine when we are sick, the need for friendship when we are lonely, the need for freedom when we are constrained, the need for food and drink when we are hungry and thirsty... all our deepest needs have their origin and their raison d'etre in our radical dependence on the source of our being.

From there to sacramental theology is but a small step.
And that brings us to next week's homily...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

copla del día

Recuerde el alma dormida,
avive el seso e despierte
contemplando cómo se passa la vida,
cómo se viene la muerte tan callando;
cuán presto se va el plazer,
cómo, después de acordado, da dolor;
cómo, a nuestro parescer,
cualquiere tiempo passado fue mejor.

- Jorge Manrique

Ain't it the truth?
Hardly seems like it's been four years already...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


A point is made in Dominus Iesus, the CDF document that stirred up such a fuss exactly six years ago, that the Exorcist has pondered long and hard. One of the principal obstacles to belief in our times - not belief in this or that doctrine, but the very act of belief itself - is the refusal to accept the possibility that something could happen only once in the course of human history.

Everything we know is fruit of repetition. If it happens again and again, if we observe it multiple times we can analyze it, study it, wrap our scientific minds around it and intellectually own it. The universe is full of sameness and whatever 'novelty' we encounter is evolved novelty: a series of small changes, a recognizable chain of events, known causes, forseeable effects.

What Dominus Iesus(4) says, exactly is,

"The roots of (the problem) are to be found in certain presuppositions of both a philosophical and theological nature, which hinder the understanding and acceptance of the revealed truth... (Among other things) the difficulty in understanding and accepting the presence of definitive and eschatological events in history..."

Christian belief is predicated on the premise that something truly new happened. 'New' meaning absolutely without precedent, unforseen and unforseeable, radically and permanently surprising. No external point of reference. Unrepeatable and, therefore, outside the scope of our science.

Jesus Christ is the event by which all other events are to be measured and understood. A one time happening whose uniqueness gives it a trancendence and a revelance claimed by no other day in history.

The marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are a proclamation of the unbridled novelty of the Christian event. The dogma seeks to conserve the mystery of it all in the shameless face of science and skepticism. The dogma guarantees that, as long as one true believer still walks the earth, newness will be within reach.

This is where the Exorcist plans to go in tonight's homily.
Wish me luck.

Monday, August 14, 2006

deaf ears

Since the new outbreak of hostilities between Israelis and Hezbollah fighters, Pope Benedict has called for an immediate and universal ceasefire. He has taken a lot of heat in the national press because of it. One side is outraged because the Pope doesn't call Hezbollah a terrorist organization and blame it for the renewed violence. The other side is enraged because the Pope hasn't explicitly condemned Israel for the disproportionate use of force in attacking its foes in Lebanon.

Fox News, O'Reilly in particular, has taken issue with Pope Benedict because he demands that no more blood be shed, but offers no specific solution for the problem.

It would seem that even the media people that refer to themselves as Catholics have a hard time understanding - or remembering - what message (whose message!) the Holy Father is called to proclaim to the world.

A passage from Luke's gospel comes to mind.

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me." He replied to him, "Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?" Then he said to the crowd, "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions." (12, 13-15)

When asked to take sides, when pressed to negotiate a settlement between people at odds with each other, Jesus refuses. He instead enunciates a moral principle, he enlightens man's conscience with revealed truth and leaves the task of its practical application to the parties involved.

The Pope's role on the world stage is to speak for Christ. He cannot take sides, he cannot broker political compromises for international grievances. He is right to condemn the violence, to decry the killing and to urge for peace. As Vicar of Christ he can do no less.

The Pope is to be as a lighthouse on history's turbulent seas: illuminate, show the way to safe harbor. But the rowing, steering and maneuvering is left to each ship on the horizon.

That said, those called upon to explain the Church's stance or the Pope's statements in the media should refer constantly to the fundamental mission: to speak the truth of Christ even when it falls on deaf ears.

The Exorcist gets royally peeved when Catholic media folks are fuzzy or downright contradictory. One favorite example: Fr. Jonathan Morris, who reports and writes for Fox News, is presumably on board to enounce and clarify the Catholic message. It's bad enough that on most subjects his fatuous, feelgood approach barely skims the surface of true Catholic thought. But on issues such as the present conflict in Lebanon he prefers to adopt the network's agenda over the position laid out by the Pope and other Church leaders. He seems to enjoy playing TV reporter so much that he abandons the far more challenging role of intelligently and eloquently giving voice to the Catholic mind, to Christ's teaching. His embarrassing attempt at an interview with Muslims gathered outside a London mosque a few days ago is a glaring example.

The Exorcist won't deny the soothing therapeutic effect occasional Morris-bashing has on his psyche, but it goes beyond that.

"He who hears you, hears me."

We, of all people, cannot remain silent. But we must ensure that the message is His and not something of our own fabrication.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I heard the homilies of the Masses celebrated for him in Chile. I wasn't overly impressed. Our finely honed skills for rewriting history, understating the essential and overstating the trivial, seem to have kicked in far before the occasion to preach actually presented itself.

Some congratulate themselves for a spin well spun and perceive, perhaps, the unspoken relief of having one less pebble in their shoe. Others, MANY others, I know remember and miss this great man and exemplar priest for who he really was and what he taught us all.

Fr. Jose Maria Escribano V. A sage and a friend, he had time for everyone who needed it and never failed to put any soul back on the path to eternity. Unencumbered by the sham and the noise, his words centered, calmed and oriented. Folks felt they NEEDED to hear him.

I miss his deadpan rejoinders, his laser-sharp wit and his keen eye for the absurd - which found constant subject matter in the institution we both belong to. I'd like to think something of Fr. Jose Maria rubbed off on me in the nearly ten years we lived together, seven in our own unlikely extension of paradise. He was a mentor and a guide. He saved me from myself more times than I care to remember.

Requiescat in pace.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


The story goes that as the artist was walking with friends late one afternoon down Oslo's chilly streets, he suddenly stopped, halfway across a bridge, unable to take another step. His companions hardly noticed him lagging behind.

Munch describes what happened next.

"I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."

Historians claim that his panic attack/epiphany took place in 1883. The skies were a lurid blood red because of the volumes of volcanic ash launched into the stratosphere by Krakatoa. Ten years later, Munch depicted this and other expressions of the anxiety that filled his life on canvas.

Some of his other paintings - Anxiety, Despair, portrait of Nietzsche - also have the bridge as the location for his subject. The man on the bridge: caught between the past and the future, his beginning and his end. Suspended between the sky above and the depths below.

You gotta love it. A fabulous gift idea for that special someone. Emphasis on 'special'.

Have you heard the scream? Has anyone not heard it? It is especially piercing and sustained in our troubled times. Perhaps that's why this work is so universally appealing.

That, and the artist's cool last name.

E. Munch is definitely up there with the other greats. Tedy Bruschi. Coco Crisp. Kevin Mench.

But I digress.