Corned beef dispensations. Seriously!


File this one in the “REALLY????” file. Bishops in the United States are making official statements on whether the faithful in their dioceses will be allowed to eat corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day. (St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year.) Word of Caution. This is not a nation wide dispensation, people!  Check your local listings for the rules and regulations in your area, or read this informative article from CNA (Catholic News Agency).

Where it’s OK to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day this Lent

This is not the first article I read on the topic this week. I tried to avoid the discussion, knowing I had nothing to add except snark. But, after spending the day trying to wrap my head around deeper, more serious issues to write about, this topic was simply too delicious!

Obsessing over rules hearkens back to pre-Vatican II days. We laugh about some of them now. Remember when women pinned a kleenex on their head if they came to Mass without a hat? Silly, right? Not so silly if you were raised to give blind obedience to the church and her priests. Not so silly if you were told, over and over, that breaking these rules would put your soul in immortal danger.

The concept of fasting is good and holy. Jesus did it. It helps us to discipline our bodies. It’s a spiritual practice that can help focus the mind and body on prayer. Feeling physical hunger also unites us with those who are hungry every day, reminding us that those who have are called to share with those who don’t.

Fasting is a simple, biblical discipline.

Sadly, the church has too often taken simple biblical teachings and wrapped them up in increasingly complicated rules and regulations. The Communion fast is an excellent example of Catholic obsessive-compulsiveness at its best.

Fasting on Fridays became focused on not eating meat. More specifically, the flesh of warm-blooded animals. Hence, the ecclesial thumbs up to fish and all their shellfish cousins.

The absurdity of the fasting rule is obvious. A simple bowl of beef broth? Not fasting. A plate of fish and chips? Fasting. Weiners and beans? Not fasting. Coquilles St. Jacques? Fasting.

Years ago, I was attending a meeting in the States. We visited a local church in a wealthier neighbourhood for their Friday Lenten Fish Fry dinner. The menu selection rivalled Red Lobster! If this is fasting…bring it on!

I gave birth to baby #5 in the morning hours of a Good Friday. As we were heading to the hospital, hubby cheerfully pointed out the happy timing of our upcoming adventure.

“What a perfect way to spend Good Friday. With some pain and suffering!”

He’s still my husband.

Later in the day, my parents stopped by with our four older children to meet their new sister. My Mama, bless her heart, had packed a small basket filled with Easter kielbasa and pierogi. She knew her daughter well. I was always FAMISHED after giving birth! Did I think twice about eating the glorious, ham sausage? Did I fret about getting a bishop’s permission to break the Good Friday fast? Hell, no! Welcoming new life into our family overshadowed the gloom of Good Friday. And, I think Jesus understood. And smiled.

So, back to our St. Paddy’s Day corned beef.

The absurdity of the issue is shown in the inconsistency of the dispensation. Eat it in one diocese and no problem. Eat it in another diocese, as long as it’s part of a parish or diocesan event, again no problem. Eat corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day in Denver, Colorado or Lincoln Nebraska? Bad Catholic!





arrogant catholics

Love is not boastful

It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who are less knowledgeable about the faith, weak or less sure in their convictions. At times the opposite occurs: the supposedly mature believers within the family become unbearably arrogant. (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia 98)

Pride and arrogance are never pretty. Pride and arrogance in a Christian are not only ugly, but also go against all that Jesus modelled in both word and deed. Pope Francis often echoes Jesus’s zealous criticism of the Pharisees of his day, challenging modern Catholics to judge less and dialogue more.

The recent death of Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, has prompted a discussion on the legacy she has left behind.

On the one hand, this conservative nun built a media empire that was the envy of many American bishops. This anti-feminist woman showed that women can, indeed, be a powerful voice in the church.

On the other hand, her brand of ultra-orthodox Catholicism rankled many. Behind her folksy speaking style was a harsh, judgmental view of Catholics who did not live up to the high religious, cultural and moral standards promoted on her network.

Many years ago, I used to watch a lot of EWTN. There was some good, solid catechetical programming. The daily liturgies and prayers are, I’m sure, beneficial to many shut-ins. But, I was quickly turned off by the zealous orthodoxy of some of its presenters, including Mother Angelica herself. Interviewers and interviewees fed each other on a constant diet of “spot the heresy” and “point out the sin” in liturgical practise, doctrine, and the daily lives of ordinary women and men.

There is a big difference in seeking perfection in our own faith lives, and spending our lives scrutinizing the imperfections of others. Self-appointed heresy hunting is seldom wrapped in a cloak of charity and humility.

Father Thomas Rosica C.S.B. is also a founder of a Catholic media network, Salt and Light TV here in Canada.  (In my humble opinion, Salt and Light TV is to EWTN what BBC News is to Fox News.) Father Rosica is a respected scripture scholar and communicator, and also works for the Vatican Press office as a spokesperson for English speaking media.

On May 11, 2016, Fr. Rosica received the St. Francis DeSales Distinguished Communicator Award. His Keynote Address is a brilliant synopsis of the change in tone and “branding” of the Church under Pope Francis. You can watch or read the full speech online at Salt and Light TV.

In his address, Rosica describes the culture of encounter and dialogue promoted by Pope Francis. Francis is showing to the world what we, as Catholics, stand for rather than repeating a long list of things we are against. Our pope preaches about the need to care for the poor, the marginalized, the migrants and refugees. He promotes care for the environment and the need for mercy in both the world and the church.

When speaking about the “Digital World and Catholic Blogosphere”, the usually calm Rosica gives an emotional observation of the harm being done by some overly zealous Catholics online.

It (the internet) can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space. In its wake is character assassination, destruction of reputation, calumny, libel, slander and defamation.

Instead of using the internet as a graced platform for evangelization, those who partake in this character assassination have,

…turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around. Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners! In reality they are deeply troubled, sad and angry people. We must pray for them, for their healing and conversion!

These are harsh words coming from a man skilled in diplomatic communications. For this reason, his words aren’t to be taken lightly.

I’ve written before about the heresy hunters that troll Catholic sites looking for victims for their inquisitorial endeavours. (I’ve been a victim myself.) The wonderful discussion boards at the National Catholic Reporter are often high-jacked by these self-righteous souls.

Pope Francis continues in Amoris Laetitia,

In family life, the logic of domination and competition about who is the most intelligent or powerful destroys love. (AM 98)

The logic of domination and competition about who is the holiest or purest destroys love in the church.


See also: EWTN: The Legacy of Mother Angelica  by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)

Can Catholic TV move beyond Mother Angelica’s legacy? by Raymond A. Schroth (National Catholic Reporter)

dedication of lateran basilica in rome

Source: a woman in the church | catholic dialogue

The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome can be baffling. I remember priest after priest trying to share the historical story and significance of St. John Lateran. It is the cathedral of Rome, the “home church” of the pope as Bishop of Rome, and considered to be the “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world”. (Here is more information on it’s history.)

When I began travelling to Rome for the Marianist Family, I visited the Basilica regularly. It was within walking distance of where we were meeting. Sometimes the feast day took place during our meetings, so it took on a new significance for me.

I have a love-hate relationship with our grand churches. Their beauty and majesty can both inspire and lift my spirits. Knowing their darker history saddens my heart. The “in your face” monuments to a patriarchal leadership deflate my hopes of gender equality in our church.

While each church has a story, we weave our own stories when we visit them. Here is my St. John’s Lateran story, from a blog post written four years ago; a woman in the church.