Altar Server Materials

Thank you for your interest in serving at the Altar at Holy Rosary Church. Here is information you should look over before taking your final exam:

Keep in mind that these notes do not cover everything we did in our training sessions.

In case you misplace your copy of the final exam, here it is:

If you have any questions, you can reach me mark.romer [at] romers [dot] org.

+ Mark Romer

Take the D Out of Danger


Isn't it interesting that "danger" and "anger" do not rhyme? You look at "danger", and the g is soft, tentative, afraid almost. Then you rip away the "d" and the "g" gets mad and hardens, and you get "anger".

Names That Could Have Been

I've been told that it was once common for babies to be named after a saint on whose feast day they were born.  Yesterday, July 20, was my birthday, so I looked up the saints I might have been named after.  I might have been: ElijahElias (or Elias), AureliusBarhadbesciabasWulmarSabinusFlavianJohnJoseph, or Paul.

I'm going to assume that, since I was a boy, my parents would not have named me MargaretWilgefortisSevera, or Etheidwitha

I am perfectly happy with Mark. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

An interesting note on Joseph is that he was also known as Barsabbas, and was the one who lost the drawing to replace Judas when the lot fell to Matthias. I could have been named for the runner-up to take over the traitor's post. Well, he ended up a saint, so it turned out OK for him.

Incarnation Carnivorousness

This year, I gave up meat for Lent. As it is Friday, Church law would normally require abstinance from meat anyway. However, today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, and on solemnities we are not bound by the law of abstinance. It also seems appropriate to suspend my personal fast to celebrate the Incarnation. Since today we celebrate the moment that God took on flesh, I believe it proper that some sort of flesh be involved in our commemoration of it. So at lunch today, I intend to order a meat dish.

The question is, which meat would be most appropriate? I'm leaning toward beef, mainly because I could never associate Christ with a chicken, and it would feel tacky to celebrate an observant Jew by eating pork. I don't think they serve lamb at Patrick's.

Mother Theresa Postage Stamp Consternates Atheist Group

It's funny to hear two people or groups talking past each other. Take the US Postal Service and the Freedom From Religion Foundation going at it about the upcoming Mother Theresa commemorative postage stamp. Both sides get the issue partly right, partly wrong.

The FFRF complains that by issuing a Mother Theresa stamp, the USPS is violating it's regulation against honoring people who are primarily noted for religious undertakings.  I did a little digging, and found this page on the web site.  The relevant section would appear to be:

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.

So what was Mother Theresa known for?  Ask anyone on the street who has heard of her, and the response would probably be "working with the poor".  That's it in a nutshell.  Mother Theresa was not primarily known as a preacher, although she spoke with strong religious and moral conviction.  Although she was the foundress of a great religious order who has missions all over the world (including here in Memphis), she is not known primarily as such.  She was known primarily for going out into the streets of Calcutta and gathering up the forgotten people, showing them compassion and supporting their dignity.

It seems to me the FRFF would have more of a leg to stand on if they protested on the fact that she was not really a US Citizen, although she was given honorary citizenship by President Clinton and the US Congress in 1996.

However, they do have a valid point.  "You can't really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did," said FFRF spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor to Fox News.  She's right about that.  You cannot separate Mother Theresa's humanitarian work from her Catholicism, because religion drove everything she did.  Even if the humanitarian work is what she's being honored for, that work came about because of her love of Christ.

The USPS countered by pointing out they've honored people before with religious backgrounds, such as Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Father Flanagan.  These men were honored for civil rights or humanitarian work, but they were all informed by their religion.  The USPS is splitting hairs pretty thinly when they say they are not honoring the religious work of these men.  For Dr. King and Fr. Flanagan particularly, while their work might be recognized as good on a secular level, it was religious work built on their faith in God and in Christ.  To deny that is really to deny the work as a whole.

The FFRF really goes off-axis when responding about these previous honorees.  They opposed Fr. Flanagan's stamp but not Dr. King's.  Gaylor is quoted saying that "Martin Luther King 'just happened to be a minister'".   Really?  A man who referenced the Lord time after time in his speeches, who waxed eloquently using language straight out of the Bible (anyone remember the "I have been to the mountaintop" speech--a clear reference to Moses and the Hebrews?), and who helped found the Southern Christian (there's that word) Leadership Conference, "just happened to be a minister".  It seems to me that most of what he did stemmed from his ministry.

If you think about it, it's pretty silly to say that Mother Theresa is not being honored for religious work, because all her work was religious.  At the same time, the USPS is technically still upholding its regulations because most people would recognize Mother Theresa less as a religious figure and more as a humanitarian.  While it's walking a fine line to claim that your not honoring a religious figure for her religious activity, the FFRF is really the group out on a limb with their desire to suppress honoring someone who did great humanitarian work because that work was religiously based.

As for me, I'll be getting my Mother Theresa stamps because I think she should be honored, both as a humanitarian and as a Christian.  So there. - Atheist Group Blasts Postal Service for Mother Teresa Stamp

Seeing Faces and Seeking the Face

Have you ever been driving, looking at the car in front of you, and suddenly the tail lights, license plate and bumper look like eyes, a nose and a mouth? I'll bet you have. Or have you sat in a chair doing nothing, looking at the wallpaper or the ceiling, and suddenly you can make out a face in the pattern? You've probably seen pictures of rocks in the desert that are famous for looking like a human profile when viewed from just the right place or when the light hits it just right. There's the famous Face on Mars, the sticky bun that looked like Mother Theresa, and the Faces of Jesus and Mary have been seen in everything from clouds, to frost-covered windows, to slices of toast, to candy bars.

We humans seem to be hard-wired to see human characteristics in just about anything. More than anything else, we can see a human face just about anywhere we look. Is it any wonder that ancient peoples found gods everywhere in nature? Stare at a lake or a rock or a tree long enough, and you are bound to see a face in it. It's not a human, so it must be the face of the lake itself or the face of the god that dwells therein. Over time, stories develop about this god. He or she is given a name, an origin, a personality. The god becomes more real to the humans by becoming more human itself. No religion I'm aware of ever developed around worship of an object or a mindless force. The god always had to be built up into a human-like creature before it became worthy of worship. Man created gods in his image.

Perhaps this talent to find persons wherever we look was planted in us by our Creator. We have a personal God who wants us to look for Him, so he planted in us an innate desire to seek out a person when we look around. But God knows that this instinct alone isn't enough. Left to ourselves, we can work out the existence of some sort of god, but we can only cast him into a mold of our making, ultimately ending up with a God that is only a pale reflection of ourselves.

Fortunately, God has not left us alone in our search. In His revelations to Abraham, Moses and so on, God took on a human characteristic such as a voice so that He could tell and show us more than we would figure out on our own. In Jesus Christ, God the Son went beyond assuming a human characteristic or two by becoming fully human Himself. He could teach us, show us, and lead us directly. He gave us a face that satisfies our innate longing to find a person wherever we look in the universe. And He helps us to go beyond our homemade gods and see the glorious truth that, rather than God being a person we've made in our image, we were made in His.

Welcome the Last Year of the Decade

I sparked a little conversation on Facebook recently when I insisted on pointing out that the current decade did not end at the end of 2009, but will end at the end of 2010. Some would call it nit-picking, but I simply call it standing up for facts. There was no year 0 A.D., so the first decade A.D. was from the years 1-10, the second decade was 11-20, and so on down to our present decade of 2001-2010. The same thing happened with our transition from the 20th Century to the 21st. Most of the millennial celebrations took place at the beginning of the year 2000, when they should have occurred at the beginning of 2001.

My understanding is that we can largely thank Dionysius Exiguus and St. Bede the Venerable for the year-numbering scheme that references the Incarnation as the central event, but leaves out a zero or null year.

Now, we like to refer to our decades with names, such as "the Roaring 20s" or "the Naughty Oughties" (I saw that last one in a British publication, and I like it.) However, such a naming convention tends to make the mind thinking of, for example, all the years ending in "0n", thus grouping 2000-2009 into a decade.  This is a perfectly reasonable social convention, but it is no cause to mislabel the decades, centuries or millenia when numbering them.  The "Whiny 90s" might have covered 1990-1999, but the 200th Decade A.D. was 1991-2000.

Again, some don't see any importance to getting it right.  But facts are facts.  To deny them is to slightly loosen your grip on reality.

Today, I read a column by Walter E. Williams, where he touched on this.  I liked this paragraph particularly:

Many reporters and talking heads will read this column and will still refer to 2010 as the new decade. My question: What is the most suitable characterization we can give them? I think it's the same characterization we would make of a person who's shown that an object is white and he insists upon calling it black – stupid. Then there's the person who agrees that 2010 does not begin the next decade but prefers to say it's the next decade anyway. For that person, reality is optional. Then there's the person who steadfastly holds that 2010 begins the next decade because that's what most people believe. He might be a politician.

So, we'll see you at the beginning of the decade, a year from now.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia Entry: Year Zero

Walter E. Williams: The Myth About U.S. Manufacturing, on World Net Daily

Cleansing the Mind With Music

I had not heard Franz Biebl's Ave Maria before, but now I'm in love with it. Here it is performed by Chanticleer:

If you prefer the sound of female voices, may I offer this performance by the Pro Musica Girl's Choir. I don't know who they are, but I like the sound, and the setting is beautiful, too.

I haven't heard a male-female choir that I thought sounded as good as a single-sex group, but this one is still good (De la Salle University Chorale in Manila).

Cosmetics Based on Aborted Fetal Tissue

I couldn't believe it when I first heard about this, but this company produces a skin cream whose key ingredient was harvested from an aborted child:


NEOCUTIS technology platform relies on the use of cultured fetal skin cells obtained from a cell bank for treating differing skin conditions.

The dedicated cell bank was originally established for wound healing and burn treatments using a single biopsy of donated fetal skin following a one-time medical termination.

Now, to base medical treatments on the death of the innocent is horrible enough, but to base cosmetics on it?  That is just sick.

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