There's no improvising mass

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends, with some a bit odder than others:

Stick to the script: When last we heard of His Excellency The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D, S.T.D., Bishop of Belleville, Illinois he was a mere Rev., pastor of St. Catherine-St. Lucy's over at Washington and Austin boulevards.

He was in the news back then — the early 1990s — because he had just ejected a nun, Sr. Teresita Weind, from the pulpit at St. Kate's and she landed all the way in Michigan. Now, Sr. Teresita was pretty popular at St. Kate's. A charismatic black nun with plenty to say, she had somehow cajoled a previous pastor into letting her preach, a role reserved, then as now in the Catholic Church, for men, not because women are lesser, mind you, but just because, so far, the men can get away with it. Getting to stand in a raised podium in front of a big crowd every Sunday is kind of a rush. So why share?

Having mastered the art of being a pastoral minister to the flock at St. Catherine-St. Lucy, Braxton, who is a rare African-American priest, was returned to the fast track in the Catholic hierarchy. He already had a batch of degrees, had served on all sorts of influential committees, been a "personal theologian" to some Cardinal, "a scholar in residence," worked in Rome and across Europe, so, it was time for him to be a bishop.

These days he is the bishop of Belleville, which sounds like a grim way to spend time, after Rome and Harvard and Belgium. Maybe that is why he is so cranky. General crankiness has to be the primary reason he turned up in the Sun-Times on Monday in a piece headlined "Downstate priest with a flair for prayer at mass resigns."

Resigns before he was ejected to Michigan sounds more like it. What sin did the Rev. Bill Rowe commit during his almost 20 years as pastor of St. Mary's in Mount Carmel, Illinois? He didn't touch kids. Didn't borrow from the collection plate. He did, however, improvise a bit while saying the prayers during Mass. Rowe said he tried to tie in that week's gospel and modified the formal prayers in the process.

His Excellency was having no part of this nonsense. In a letter to parishioners last week, Braxton wrote, "All Catholics have the right to expect to experience the same rites and prayers when they participate in the Eucharist. I mean you go to McDonald's and the secret sauce on the Big Mac always tastes the same. There, that's the magic of Mickey D's. And at the Holiday Inn, why over your bed there's always that same picture of the cows in the pasture. Steady. Dependable. That's what we offer Catholics. You start changing up the prayers, and you don't know, maybe the people in the pews actually start to listen. And then what have you accomplished. They listen. They think. They talk back."

OK, I made up the last part of that quote. You figure out where Braxton left off and I started.

About that TIF: The village has no more TIF dollars. But they still are contemplating spending $100,000 they don't have to make a plan for streetscaping Lake Street from Harlem to Euclid. That is a project that, based on the cost of doing two blocks of Marion Street, I am roughly estimating would cost a whole of money. And did I mention they don't have any money. My advice, which is free, is to save the $100,000 and then to campaign on having saved $100,000.

Or, the village could just borrow a whole lot of money from OPRF, which I haven't yet mentioned this week, has over $100 million of our money in their vault.

Baseball's back: White Sox pitchers and catchers report this week. This makes me inordinately happy. Sad really.

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Carlos del Prado from Anna IL  

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 8:00 AM

Dan, have you actually meditated on the words of the Mass and what the rituals are actually communicating?

Consider Becoming Episcopal from OP  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 9:01 PM

Dan, rather than complain so loudly about the Catholic Church every week, perhaps you should just find a new church? I mean, no one is keeping you catholic except you....just let go, and become the Protestant you apparently truly want to be....

Dave Barry Enthusiast  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 1:50 PM

Is this a Dave Barry column?

Kimberly from River Forest  

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 12:59 PM

Dan seems to have quite a hostile and mean-spirited attitude toward Bishop Braxton who has not served in the Chicago area since 1995. I wonder why? Dan, did you ever deal directly, personally with Edward Braxton? Did you/ do you attend St. Catherine-St. Lucy's? I just read Bishop Braxton's response to the issues surrounding the Belleville priest in question and believe that the Bishop was doing his job--a job that includes a vow to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church.

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