Open Thread on Open Thoughts

cropped-cs-advent-header1.jpgAs we move from one shade of Advent to the other (I don’t mean violet to rose and back) I thought I’d indulge with a few reflections. If I were in the university community, the days of stress and completion would be done, and about two-thirds of my faith community would be gone or soon departing.

In a mainstream parish, it’s a bit different for the first time in eight years. We had big celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Simbang Gabi. The usual Nativity festivities await in my new parish also: three Masses next Thursday evening, and two Christmas morning.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve finished writing up the series on Laudato Si’. All that remains is for the scheduling mechanism to work and drop the daily posts in each morning at 6, more or less.

There are about a dozen posts on the Lectionary options for the Rite of Penance. It won’t ever be as popular as the series for weddings or funerals, but it will get completed sometime. Maybe into Lent. Then I think you will notice less than daily bits on the site.

Pretty sure these will be the last series you will see on this blog. Ten years ago, we were looking at Vatican II documents regularly, if not yet daily. Over the past few years, the WordPress platform has enabled a writer to put together several pieces in advance and schedule them for later. I confess a sense of relief when I wrote a few sentences on Laudato Si’ 246. The end.

Still testing myself. I find I have little feeling these days to write up even brief armchair liturgist bits on how, for example, to end a form II reconciliation liturgy. I would have been hopping all over that a few years ago. Also testing writing in different markets and genres. What I will be writing in a few months you may not be seeing online.

My professional writing gig with Ministry & Liturgy comes to an end with the shutting down of that magazine this month. What began with writing reviews in 1993 moved to “pithy” (smart-a**, as my editor requested) commentary on news items a few years later in the column Worship Times. You can read an early one here. I’m a skeptic on getting picked up elsewhere. The internet has made my old column a dinosaur, but for the commentary. And one can go online to get more acidic opinions. Plus, my efforts to pitch various web and print series on things like religion+science, or discipleship, or evangelization and liturgy have not been well-received. And when I find no inner impulse to push, I think it’s time to turn to composing and preparing librettos for future projects.

computer_monitor blahThis month I was also indulging a bit of nostalgia, reading over some old posts and reader comments on this site. The commentariat used to be more diverse here. I’ve either outlasted or alienated a lot of people. Maybe both. I find I don’t have to make the same mistakes in real life than I made here in the earlier days. As I read through the occasional blog elsewhere, I see some similar struggles, at least from the viewpoint of various commentatiats.

For the next several weeks, I’ll still be checking the site daily for comments and good behavior. WordPress screens almost all spam, so I’m far less worried than I was ten years ago on blogspot.

Meanwhile, blessed remainder of Advent to you readers. Talk to you soon.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to Open Thread on Open Thoughts

  1. Atheist Max says:

    “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” – JESUS (John 15:6)

    This sounds very violent to me.

    • It’s getting late in the game, Max. You’ll have to find another site in the near future and bug new people with your misperceptions.

      • Atheist Max says:

        You respond to my questions about Jesus as if he were a nasty nephew in prison somewhere who you would rather not hear about.
        Attacking the messenger is not very nice.

    • Chris says:


      John is using an agricultural analogy; as the NAB commentary puts it:

      “[15:6] Branches were cut off and dried on the wall of the vineyard for later use as fuel.”

      I can see how that SOUNDS violent, especially looking back thru the distorted lens of medieval Christianity, Dante’s fires of hell etc, but the point here is that unless we remain in love and solidarity and goodness and kindness and decency, we will wither. Which is a helpful warning to us all, religious included. One can imagine Pope Francis using this text against certain withered branches in the Church.

      Merry Christmas and thank you for raising searching questions.


      • Atheist Max says:


        Merry Christmas and blessings to you also. Thanks for the honest attempt at an answer.

        But I remain unconvinced:
        “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” – JESUS (JOHN 15:6)

        I think many people have been burned alive expressly because of this line which can be interpreted easily as a command.

        Today I sang 20 Christmas very religious Carols (which I love) at a party and had a great time: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Angels We have Heard on High, etc…
        And I have no problem saying “Merry Christmas” and “Blessings” even though I do not believe in God or Jesus at all.
        When asked how an Atheist could do this I explain I also love to sing “The Monster Mash” at Halloween though I do not believe in monsters. The beauty of the expression is more enough without believing in any of it.

      • Atheist Max says:

        My example of “If a man not abide.. is cast…and they are burned” – JESUS (John 15:6)
        Is King James Version.

  2. Max, everybody bugs somebody sometime….
    I don’t recognize Todd’s response as an attack at all. Contextually I know his take on your antics here amounts to his regard for your provocative mission and tactics. That’s not an attack, it’s respect. Todd, like all good people of faith, always strives for reconciliation without condition. In a g*dless universe, there would be no impetus, need or benefit of that inclination and behavior. I’m good with that.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Charles Daniel Culbreth,
      “In a g*dless universe there would be no impetus [for moral] behavior”

      Sorry but that is nonsense. We apparently have a g*dless universe presently and yet we still manage to define morality without it. The golden rule needs no gods.

      To say we cannot have Morality without Yahweh is like saying:
      we cannot have lightening or thunder without THOR.
      We cannot have love without Venus.
      We cannot have the Seven Seas without Neptune.

      Are you contending all these gods still exist to support their realms of influence?

      • charlesincenca says:

        Max, how charitable and moral of you to dismiss the profundity of my faith as nonsense. And you think that Todd offers offense.
        Your own rhetoric disables your premise. Defining morality is easy, the golden rule is easily understood. Compelling people to practice morality is quite another thing. It has as much success as does the public schools’ “Character Counts” propaganda, namely zilch. If there ain’t no existential karma and dharma in whatever belief system to which you subscribe, you don’t have any moral imperative to practice the golden rule. And the daily news feed proves you wrong as well. Don’t worry, be happy Max, irrelevance is bliss.

      • Atheist Max says:


        The charge was directed at me – the claim being that my “g*dless universe” is de facto somehow immoral. Sorry for not laying down like a doormat yet again by this tired red herring, but it is even more tiresome than an Atheist.
        And what about my own “profound” personal story? Why is it so reflexively inferior to yours? I see no sign of any gods and this presents obligations which you may not have considered.

        The so called “morality” of the Christian injunction to forgive at all costs caused the vast racket of enablers known as the Boston Priest Pedophile Network guilty of 22,000 known crimes of child rape. The direct (and deeply immoral) injunction of Jesus Christ himself was invoked by Archbishop Bernard Law at his public defense explaining how the catastrophe had grown out of control under his watch:
        “We are in the forgiveness business” – Cardinal Law, 2001

        He is of course referencing such things as:
        “Forgive…. not seven times but seventy-seven times” – Jesus (Matthew 18:22)

        I cannot be silent when people tell me morality is somehow the purview of the Godly as long as the Godly follow such fundamentally immoral directives from Jesus.

        Todd was speaking above with some melancholy
        about his losses and frankly they mirror what has happened to Christianity in the last 20 years as the internet has expanded:
        Christian magazines dying, Catholic writers fading, lack of interest by the laity, a clergy grasping at straws for new ideas …..The authority of testimony is failing.

        That is what threatens the “profound faith” experiences of religious people. Not me.

  3. Melody says:

    Todd, you said, “The commentariat used to be more diverse here. I’ve either outlasted or alienated a lot of people.” I don’t think that you alienate people. I have noticed that you tend not to engage with people unless they want to argue. It doesn’t matter to me, because I am pretty “zen” about internet conversations, I don’t get into a lot of them; people either want to discuss or they don’t. But some people want more back-and-forth if they comment. And some people are “my way or the highway” and arguing with them never goes anywhere. Of course you have to do what works for you, and go in the direction you feel God is leading you.

  4. charlesincenca says:

    (No reply button under Max’s last comment)
    Max- Re-read my observation, please. 1. There was no possessive attached to “g*dless universe” as it is a hypothetical. Consequently there was no attack upon your self-identification with one. 2. There was no advancement of the hypothetical with an outcome of “immorality” presumed. Amoral would be more logical. 3. There is no condemnation intended in my dialogue with you, never has been. You have a sort of burden that you yoke upon your shoulders, it seems to me, as you appear to take everything very personally (something of which I know a great deal.) Point out to me anywhere I suggested your “gestalt” is inferior to mine. To my eyes, there was none.
    I am sorry that you feel trampled upon by Jesus Christ and the Trinity. But unlike certain atheists I very much appreciate in the public forum, I see no profit for you and your crusade to confound the faith of believers due to your intellectual constructs.
    I do not condemn you.

    • Atheist Max says:


      A g*dless universe is exactly what we appear to be living in. I’m still waiting for any evidence from anyone which would refute this.

      Moral impetus is irrelevant to the existence of a god. To claim otherwise is to connect a thread which has not been demonstrated to exist. The only moral code of any use is the ancient, ubiquitous Golden Rule: “Do not do to others that which you would not done to yourself.” It is completely rational and requires no gods and no religion of any kind. It’s source is evolution and we share it with all other animals on earth.

      You had insinuated, intentionally or not, that true morality is ultimately impossible without a god. I would submit that the grossest immorality is only defensible with a god.

  5. FrMichael says:

    Wow, talk about thread diversion. Good on Charles for a charitable response to Max.

    “Pretty sure these will be the last series you will see on this blog.”

    I take that comment along the lines of “This is the last drink/cigarette I will ever have.”

    There will be some future Church document of note that will attract your interest and we’ll be off to the races again. Happily!

    I think the online Catholic world is much bigger than the early days of St. Blogs, so assuming a similar number of online Catholics that have a greater number of platforms to post on, one would expect a lesser number of comments and visits per individual site. But any site that draws Liam as a frequent commentator should be kept in operation for that reason alone. I’ve already expressed my personal investment in your disciplined document review. And you have mentioned over and over that the Lectionary readings are the most-viewed pages of the blog. Three reasons to keep this place going.

    If you need a spike in readership for a morale booster, just host a clown Mass at one of your Christmas Masses, put the YouTube link at the blog, and you’ll be fine. I say that with tongue firmly in cheek.

    Quality not quantity.

    Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you!

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